Love: A Fine Thing (But Maybe Not at the Office!)
To quote John Paul Young, “Love is in the air, everywhere I look around,” and that holds true even at the office. People can fall in love, flirt, and meet future partners anywhere they go and (un)fortunately, that also includes the workplace.
Romance has always presented its share of hurdles but there’s no place like work to bring out those obstacles and issues. This is why it’s important to institute policies to deal with “workplace romance,” not to mention being clear on the company’s Unlawful Harassment Policy—whatever it may be.
If you don’t have one (and you really should), get on it ASAP. Most businesses will already have one in place, but if you don’t, create one: it won’t just protect your employees from unwanted attention, but your company as well. Harassment lawsuits can be levied against employers for not implementing the appropriate protocols in the first place, placing blame on both the culprit and company for allowing the harassment to happen.
If you’re still wondering how to go about relaying the information in your unlawful harassment policy or coming up with one, that’s a great excuse to consult an HR professional or firm. In fact, it’s a wonderful reason to have a trusted HR resource on hand—helping companies manage inter-employee relationships is what they do best!
What to do when you find a couple of lovebirds nesting at the office
They say love is a many-splendored thing, and it is—until it’s not. The idea of romantic entanglements at work may seem mysterious and intriguing, ‘but it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.’ When hearts are broken, that’s when the trouble starts.
Think of it like this: Two people in the same office flirt, start something, and then it ends; so long as those two employees remain employed, they have to learn to continue to work together without the awkwardness or bitterness of an expired relationship. For some people, that’s asking a lot.
When a relationship in the workplace ends, it’s the company’s job—hopefully with the help of HR—to make sure that those involved weren’t on the receiving end of unwanted attention, because let’s face it: what might seem like a mutual attraction on the outside could be one person receiving unwanted advances from another. A romantic relationship that has ended should spark a conversations with the participants to protect both employees and the company itself, from legal issues and from allowing a potential problem from going unaddressed.
Accepting a workplace relationship and establishing boundaries at the office
You can’t really control what two people do outside of work on their own time, but there’s plenty you can control if it’s happening in the workplace.
As part of your general unwanted harassment policy and basic office conduct, it’s necessary to set boundaries. These usually entail making sure that any relationships or couples that exist in the office aren’t making their coworkers uncomfortable. Public displays of affection, commonly known as PDA, can and sometimes do offend or put others off, so as the employer it’s important to make sure that doesn’t happen.
For example, it’s perfectly reasonable and within your power to ask them to keep the hanky-panky out of the office.
If someone was witness to PDA, it’s also your job to check with them to make sure they weren’t offended. Or if someone comes to you with a complaint, you should take it seriously and reassure that the witness and couple know that the PDA was unprofessional, and that you’re taking the matter seriously—as should the offending couple.
Unsurprisingly, one of the individuals in the relationship could also be made to feel uncomfortable being affectionate while at work. Everyone is built differently, with some having a harder time than others showing affection around strangers or in public places. Regardless of who felt uncomfortable about the display, take charge of the situation, ease discomfort the best you can, and have an honest discussion about how to move forward without causing any additional tension or unease.
Still, plenty of office relationships can work and grow, eventually turning into a marriage, but what then?
It’s not a bad idea to consider amendments to your policy concerning relatives working together, regardless of whether their relationship started at the company or if one was hired after the other. The same rules should apply to all couples no matter how advanced or far along they are in the relationship.
Remember that it’s your job to ensure everyone at the office is happy and comfortable, but that not every pairing results in a happily-ever-after. Having documented policies in place and disclosing them to employees is the surest way to maintain a safe, productive work environment.
Good or bad, relationships pose many challenges, both for those involved and those that surround them. If you need help ‘having the talk’ with your employees or your harassment policy needs work, give us a call. We’ll help you sort through the matter objectively but compassionately!