The approach of Valentines Day reminds us that romance can bloom anywhere…even in the office.
CareerBuilder released their annual office romance survey, which found that 37% of workers have dated a co-worker and 30% of those relationships led to marriage.
While the workplace may appear to be somewhat of a dating pool according to this survey, HR professionals tend to be a bit wary of office romances. There are a number of potential drawbacks that could occur, including office gossip, reduced productivity, inappropriate behavior or banter, and worse, accusations of harassment or favoritism.
As with any employee issue, each situation is unique and deserves individual consideration. Not all office romances are problematic.
To combat potential problems, many workplaces will develop a formal policy regarding romantic relationships. The policy typically takes a stance; either outlawing romantic fraternization among coworkers or only allowing it under certain circumstances among colleagues who are on equal footing. When choosing the latter option, the policy may require both parties to enter into a contractual agreement, or love contract, with the company.
A love contract usually includes the company’s expectations regarding displays of affection at the workplace, parameters for maintaining professionalism, and a plan for what happens if the relationship ends. These contracts are useful in limiting the liability the company may experience as a result of the relationship.
The CareerBuilder survey, unfortunately, found that 24% of those surveyed had engaged in office romances with a superior. Romantic relationships should never exist between an employee and a superior who has the ability to hire, fire, promote, demote, or control the worker’s rate of pay. Accusations of harassment, favoritism, poor ethics, or decreased morale can be especially relevant in this situation and often lead to transfer or termination of the superior.
Nextep’s HR Department can provide case-by-case advisement for employee issues, as well as assistance in crafting employee handbook policies unique to your company’s needs.