Romance in the Workplace

Following the #MeToo sexual harassment protest movement, romance in the work place has fallen under sharp scrutiny. According to a survey by Namely, 40% of surveyed workers shared that they had intimate relationships with a coworker. Workplace romances can be positive, but they can also lead to poor judgement, accusations, sexual harassment claims, breach of ethics or even workplace violence. How can you best respond to romance in your workplace?

Read further on how you can handle romance in the workplace:

1: Workplace Romance Policies

A SHRM survey on workplace romance found that in 2013, 42% of companies put in place a formal workplace romance policy.  Comprehensive Sexual harassment policies and training compliance have also increased as companies strive to limit liability and provide safe workplaces. With sexual harassment laws and policies becoming stricter, companies without stringent fraternization policies are turning to “Love Contracts” if a relationship does arise, especially between managers and subordinates.

2: Romance and Productivity

Many question the effect office romance has on productivity and the culture of the workplace. According to the Namely survey, 15% workers who had engaged in a relationship at work said it decreased productivity, 14% said it increased productivity, and 70% said it had no effect on their productivity. In most office romance cases the liability of a negative outcome outweighs the positive. If the relationship comes between a manager and employee, favoritism and jealousy may be hard to avoid. If a relationship doesn’t work out or ends badly it can also be disruptive for coworkers. Make sure your policies on fraternization are clear and that they are uniformly enforced to keep gossip and drama out of the workplace.

3: HR’s Role

It is important for HR to make sure that all employees are aware of any policies in place regarding fraternization and sexual harassment. Advise employees that workplace romances that are disruptive or negatively affect company culture will not be tolerated. Also clarify that your organization will not tolerate sexual encounters or sexual behavior at work and those found engaging in such behavior will face strict consequences.

Workplace romances can be tricky, however they can also be inevitable when majority of the day is spent with co-workers. A recent Vault survey states most common office romances are between those working in the same department or in nearby cubicles. Having clear policies and open, communicative relationships between HR, managers, and employees can help clarify excepted conduct in the workplace and avoid any gray areas.