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02/14/2019

Dealing with Workplace Romance (A Business Perspective)

Is there nothing more romantic than a blog about love and HR? In honor of Valentine's Day, we thought we should discuss some of the do's and don'ts of workplace romances. We wanted to cover this from the perspective of a business. Small and large companies need to have some policy in place to keep themselves safe.

As a business, workplace romances can cause quite a few problems. It is essential to have an official policy in place to steer clear of nepotism and time wasting drama.

Businessman hiding flowers behind back for colleague in the office

What exactly are the risks that business face and why do companies bother to have a dating policy?

Wasted Time

Gossip can hurt productivity and office morale. Not having an official policy regarding office relationships leaves a gray area for your office team to speculate on what is right and wrong.

Leaked Information

Paul in payroll is dating Sandy in sales. Your company has no policy against them dating. One night over dinner Paul mentions how much Sandy's coworker makes (which is much more than Sandy). Paul just told Sandy confidential information on another employee which is an ethical violation.

Another excellent example of where leaked information can cause problems for your company would be, a manager tipping off her boyfriend that the company is selling!

Legal Issues

In dating everything is sunshine and rainbows until it isn't. Break-ups are always hard but when two of your team members split-up things can get messy fast for your firm. Put on your HR goggles for a moment and think about all the different things the employees could do to hurt the company like harassment claims, revenge terminations, hostile work environment claims, and the list goes on. By not having a policy in place your company is opening itself up for potential problems.

What should your workplace dating policy include?

When developing your policy, you should remember that people will start relationships and your primary goal is to protect the company as much as possible. However, you do not want to lose talented employees because they would rather quit than violate a strict "no dating" rule.

We suggest setting a policy that states clearly what is acceptable and what is not. Define what types of relationships will and will not be tolerated. An example would be no managers dating their subordinates. Then explain why you have set these boundaries. In our case the why would be, because dating a direct employee causes a direct conflict of interest for both the manager and the company.

Your company should layout clear consequences for breaking the policy. Firing an employee on their first offense might be the right strategy for your company, but with the tight labor market we recommend a graduated scale of disciplinary action starting with a written reprimand, then a transfer, then demotion, then finally termination.

Your firm should consider creating a "Consensual Romance Contract." A Consensual Romance Contract is a contract that asks the employees engaged in a relationship to indicate that their relationship is consensual, that they will not engage in favoritism and they will not take legal action against the employer or each other if the relationship ends. The CRC should clearly state the companies sexual harassment and discrimination policies, and information prohibiting inappropriate conduct (such as PDA and pet names in the office) and the expectation that their relationship won’t affect others or their work.

There is no one size fits all policy and plan when it comes to protecting your company from love. We suggest getting the input from managers within your company, your corporate attorney, and industry leaders when trying to develop a plan that best suits your needs.

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