Dating apps might often be considered as the modern way to find a romantic partner, but plenty of people still find love at work. According to a study by Approved Index, 65% of office workers have been involved in at least one workplace relationship during the course of their career. Something we at TheHRhub can testify only too well to, with at least two of us going on to marry the person involved!**
And of course, it’s hardly surprising. Many of us see our coworkers much more than we see our family and friends, so it’s natural that working relationships sometimes blossom into much more.
But as the boss, relationships between your coworkers can seem like a disaster waiting to happen. With Valentine’s Day coming up, it’s a great time to think about what your approach should be, and the challenges that you should be aware of. Here’s our advice…
Accept that sometimes things just 'Happen'
Don’t be the romance police and try and implement any kind of policy that bans romantic relationships between employees. It would be unreasonable to do so and it probably wouldn’t act as a deterrent. Possibly, if anything, you’d be doing the opposite by creating a culture of secrecy and mistrust.
Recognise that most workplace relationships have a happy ending, and in the majority of circumstances, you’re going to experience no problems whatsoever if your workers start seeing each other romantically away from the office. Your staff are likely to want to be discreet, and there’s usually no need for any intervention whatsoever on your behalf.
Nip any problems in the bud
No one wants to see canoodling by the canteen, or have to navigate their way through locked lips just to get to the kettle. And luckily, most couples will know this already, and will often do everything they can to make sure that there are no awkward moments for their colleagues and PDA's avoided.
But if you do feel that boundaries are being crossed though, take action quickly. And discreetly. Have a word with both individuals: explain your worries, and remind them of what’s acceptable and what isn’t.
If a manager starts showing preferential treatment to a team member because of their relationship outside the office, that’s a problem. Similarly, gossip could get out of hand and create a bad atmosphere.
Take harassment claims seriously
There’s a very big difference between a consensual relationship and unwanted advances, and as an employer, you have a legal obligation to ensure that you take harassment claims seriously, and act swiftly. If you don’t already have a policy that covers exactly how you’ll handle any such matters, then it’s absolutely vital that you get that covered.
The policy should be clear and well communicated, and it’s essential that line managers have the skills, understanding, and confidence to see that it’s enforced. If a member of staff came to you today and claimed that they were being sexually harassed, would you know exactly what to do? If not, this needs to take a top spot on your to do list.
Managing and leading human beings is complex business, and we all need to recognise that we’re not dealing with robots here. Emotions and relationships and affairs of the heart might not strictly be your line of business, but when you’re running the show, they’re things that you’ll probably have to deal with at one point or another. It doesn’t have to be a drama, but it does have to be something that you’ve considered.
**Full disclosure: my husband was my boss at the time of his proposal. He popped the question two weeks after giving me notice of redundancy: I'd like to see many try and repeat that!!
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Call us on 0203 627 7048 or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org for a no-strings chat about your HR needs.