Workplace Romance – Right, Wrong, or Impossible?
Workplace romance is said to exist when two members of the same organization develop a relationship with mutual attraction.
If you work full time, you spend 8 hours a day, 5 days a week in the workplace , that’s a big chunk of your time in one place. There is a good chance that at some point, you’re bound to be attracted to a coworker. Office romance is a reality; different surveys have shown that 40-60% of workers have dated a co-worker at least once; and about 20% workers have had more than one office romance.
Love can be complicated even at the best of times; and when this ‘sweet romance that sours’ happens in the office, it can be downright impossible to navigate and the drama can turn ugly very quickly. A love gone wrong can negatively impact the entire corporate culture. But then, banning office romance altogether might not be such a great idea.
It has been argued that working for the same company is not a strong reason to prevent co-workers from dating and having long-term romantic relationships. What better place to meet someone than at the job? Employees spend long hours at their job and this reveals a lot about their person’s character – how they act, and how they respond to situations especially under pressure.
While the office should not be converted into dating service, but if romance happens on the job, it might be preferable to implement policies to mitigate the effect on your organizational culture, instead of cracking down on these relationships. And in an era of multi-million-dollar sexual harassment lawsuits, it makes sense for companies to worry about the implication of allowing uncontrolled romance in the workplace without placing limits on such relationships. Hence, companies these days have put policy on paper to insulate themselves from damages and protect their corporate cultures, and in the process, wind up with things like “dating bans” and “romance consent forms.”
Hierarchal versus Lateral Workplace Romance
Two types of workplace relationships have been identified. Hierarchal relationships are those that involve employees of different levels in the company involving a superior and a subordinate; whereas Lateral relationships are those that involve employees at the same or similar level in the company.
Hierarchical relationships have been known to introduce bias and favouritism as a result of relationship with an employee. Besides, legal implications are potentially far more severe than that of a lateral relationship, especially regarding claims for sexual harassment. Lateral relationships also has its complications, such as the issue of sharing confidential or sensitive work relation information between themselves.
Workplace Romance – It’s Pros And Cons
Generally, emotional attachments in both categories can generate awkward situations, with favouritism, suspicion, animosity, and litigation. It could even entangle the company in a sexual harassment, abuse or bullying lawsuit. Your office romance might distract you professionally; it could threaten career advancements, and complicate work relationships, not only for the couple involved but for the co-workers as well. It is also known to generate lots of conflict of interest.
Most office relationships end in a breakup. Breakups between romantically involved co-workers can have be especially draining and damaging emotionally. Some persons are unable to concentrate on work, and may even have to stop from work to cope. The breakup can not only ruin the relationship between the two co-workers involved, but it can also eliminate any personal connections that the employees involved had with exes department. Co-workers are often confused about how to react to the news of the relationship or the breakup, which can lead to awkward interactions in the workplace as well as avoided conversation.
Also, because the two employees will continue to see each other on a daily basis, the breakup can cause negative feelings toward the other individual as well as a reminder of one’s failure. All these can lead to a decline in the overall work performance and productivity of the office.
Workplace relationship is not all bad news! Romantic relationships in the workplace can have several benefits to those involved as well as to the work environment. Workplace romance can energize workplace morale. The attitudes of the two people involved in the romantic relationship are often uplifting, and they become happier individuals, which reflects back on their attitudes toward their work and their co-workers.
This can make the co-workers feel happy and positive as well. Workplace romance can also motivate employees; it can encourage creativity and innovation at workplace; it can soften work-related personality conflicts and can as well improve teamwork, communication, and cooperation.
Rules Of Engagement
It’s impossible to eliminate the possibility of romantic attraction between co-workers. But if it is well managed, the dangers inherent in nurturing love and romance at work can be largely avoided. Below are some ‘rules of engagement’ that have been found to be helpful:
For the Lovebirds….
1. Know your Company’s policy on office dating. Every Company is different and there may be consequences from the start. Although rules for interoffice dating are easing in general these days, it’s important to read up on your company’s full policy. Some will allow dating between co-workers only on the same level, and others will allow dating between any department or in any part of the hierarchy as long as the relationship is disclosed. Once you’ve researched the company’s policy — HR should be a great resource — you should begin to consider the consequences… You might find yourself in a situation where you have to quit your job or change locations for the fire to keep burning. Know your company’s policy!
2. Be discreet and keep it professional. It is important to let the boss know about the relationship before she/he finds out from someone else. Don’t use your boss’s time and resources to nurture your love life. Leave the following for when you are both away from work: hugging and kissing, hand-holding, collar- and hair-fixing, and long lunches and other PDA’s. This goes equally for the bouquet-sending, romantic telephone chats, texting and personal emailing. Your co-workers will appreciate you both for being discreet. Also, don’t schedule business travel or company social events as a clever way to spend time together. Don’t use the office facilities for after-work dalliances. Don’t use company email to make contact. Most companies monitor their employee’s emails, so if you have to send that sexy message, do so via text or your personal email.
3. Never use your position to play favorites. Don’t use your status to gain the favorable attention of an attractive co-worker or to grant rewards for sexual favors. This is risky, not just for you, but also for your company, which could be sued.
4. Stay within your hierarchy. Your company’s policy may allow you to date your boss or your subordinate, but you should really stick within your hierarchy. There can be all kinds of complications — both professionally and emotionally — when it comes to dating a coworker outside of your level. You might put yourself or your partner in a difficult position! Office romances are complicated enough, so make it easier on yourself.
5. Don’t discuss your office romance. When you’re happy and things are going well, resist the temptation to brag about how great he or she is in bed, or how special they treat you. When the relationship goes sour, don’t complain to your co-workers. Your colleagues usually know what’s going on, you don’t fool them one bit; so there’s no need to give them the juicy details to discuss behind your back.
6. Don’t allow your office romance to destroy your other work relationships. It’s silly to spend every free moment with your co-worker-lover while neglecting your other colleagues. The hottest romance will eventually cool off. Your neglected colleagues might then take pleasure in ignoring you, or sabotaging you professionally, as punishment for spurning them. Also, don’t let your moodiness, frustration or anger from a break-up or lover’s quarrel make you become easily irritable with your other co-workers. Maintain healthy professional relationships, regardless of what is happening in your love life.
7. Don’t flirt with marital infidelity. If either of you are married, simply forget the idea of having an office affair. This can only end one way – disastrously. Don’t go there.
And for the Managers….
6. Discourage PDA (Public Display of Affection)
Public display of affection, has no place in the workplace. No make-outs in the break room! While you have clear policies to guard your company against sexual harassment, you should also have equally clear policies about what is and isn’t appropriate workplace behavior. Suggest employees focus on their job and leave their affectionate displays for off-work hours in order to protect your organizational culture for those not interested in the public show.
7. Be Clear About The Rules
You want to protect the organizational culture you’ve spent hard work developing and maintaining. The best way to protect yourself against the bite of a love bug is to have clear rules in place for workers embarking on an office relationship. You went to a lot of trouble hiring great people, and training them into great workers. You don’t want to lose top talent because your rules on romance in the workplace aren’t clearly codified.
You want to make sure your company avoids any hints of sexual harassment, which is why having clear guidelines is so important. You might want to implement rules against employees dating superiors in their own department, for instance. You’ll want to make sure any relationship in the workplace doesn’t affect the actual work being performed or an employee’s chances of advancement. These policies should be clear for all workers, and you should stress their function to protect employees against sexual harassment and favoritism.