Must-Have Guidelines For Office Romance

Workplace Romance involves two members of the same organization who experience mutual attraction. As individuals spend increasing time in the workplace, they begin to build relationships with co-workers. According to a recent survey of 8,000 workers on office romances, four out of ten employees have dated someone at work; 17 percent have done it twice. An office romance can either be lateral or hierarchal, the latter having more serious consequences for the company.

Effects of office romance in the workplace

Workplace romance is a highly sensitive subject. It can decrease the productivity of the people involved and also affect their fellow workers. A 2009 study published in the Western Journal of Communication notes that most employees have negative perceptions of workplace romance. It may color everyone’s judgment with respect to promotions, raising a sense of favoritism or discrimination. This may in turn cause the couple to be targets for those colleagues inclined to use office gossip as a means to get ahead themselves. Outsiders seeking work may not choose to work for a company if there are uncertainties surrounding its ethics. If the office romance ends badly, one of the two involved may accuse the other for making unwanted advances, resulting in a harassment suit which will impact one’s career and the company’s repute.

Policies to develop

In order to avoid these complications, it is legally possible and for a company’s own interests that it should frame and have some policies and rules regarding office romance and its consequences. It is essential to make the same clear to all its employees by means such as a handbook.

Implementing a strict policy against sexual harassment and discrimination that every employee is aware of is a must.

An anti-fraternization policy is one of the many options a company can resort to, wherein one has to define and describe the conduct one wants to prohibit, and whether the company completely curbs office romance. A less restrictive policy that several companies have is one preventing nepotism – prohibiting spouses or relatives from working at the same company or preventing employees from supervising related co-workers. This is because many such workers tend to take their work home and find it hard to gain a work / life balance.

Commonly known as the “Love Contract” approach, a signed document confirming a consensual relationship between two workers who are fully aware of their actions and the company’s policies, providing additional notice of the understanding of the sexual harassment policy can help prevent lawsuits against the company, in case the office romance turns sour. The parties should also agree to no open displays of affection while on company premises as it can create discomfort in others at work. Informing the employees that they have a right to talk to a lawyer before signing such a document is essential.

A firm can also have them report a romantic relationship to a company representative, like an HR official, who understands that they can’t disclose the existence of the relationship to anyone unless it’s necessary to respond to complaints.

No matter what policy a company chooses, it is important that it follows and enforces it. Failure to fairly enforce a corporate policy is often worse than not having one.