Snatched conversations at the coffee machine can make romantic relationships at work feel exciting, but what about when things go wrong? Will the fallout from any arguments affect team members and the business?
YouGov research shows that nearly a fifth (18%) of Brits met their current or most recent partner at work. It’s not surprising relationships develop at the workplace, after all that’s where we spend most of our time. Naturally, we develop close friendships with our colleagues, bonding over customer idiosyncrasies and chatting about our daily lives.
It’ll be interesting to see what percentage of people meet their partners at work will be in a few years due to the increase of remote and hybrid working environments. There are fewer opportunities to rendezvous at the photocopier!
Although personal relationships at work aren’t against UK employment law, most companies will have a policy in place to protect the employer and the employee. By providing clear guidelines employees will know what behaviour is and isn’t acceptable, and therefore the risk of miscommunication is reduced.
Some couples like to be discreet and maintain professional relationships during working hours, but some romantic relationships may affect the rest of the team. When the relationship is in the honeymoon period any inappropriate PDAs (public displays of affection) may make other staff embarrassed and uncomfortable.
And when things go wrong, it’s unfair for the rest of the team to witness any arguments or bickering and then be in a tense atmosphere afterwards. The tension disrupts the mood in the office and distracts people from their work. The same can be said for when the relationship ends because any animosity will be felt by their colleagues.
Dating your boss or dating your employee can blur the reporting lines. If one of the couple is more senior than the other it may cause a conflict of interest when it comes to pay rises and promotions. Other employees may feel resentful of any perceived special treatment.
On the flipside of this type of relationship, a power dynamic could be at play where the less senior person feels coerced into having a relationship due to fear of consequences if they don’t. Having a work policy in place may help prevent this abuse of power from happening.
Imagine it’s the annual conference and the alcohol is freely flowing, and everyone is letting their hair down after a successful year. Some may use this opportunity to make a move on their crush, but is the attention welcome? If not, the employees could possibly find themselves in a sexual discrimination case at the employment tribunal.
The dynamics of relatives and friends who are also colleagues may be complicated to manage. As the saying goes ‘blood is thicker than water’, so relatives are likely to stick together which could cause friction with fellow employees. And friends will be loyal to each other.
If your company has an employee referral scheme and an employee refers a family member, but the recommended person doesn’t pass probation or there’s conflict, the original employee may feel stuck in the middle. Your company may end up losing two employees overall.
Like romantic relationships, any domestic arguments, and tensions that relatives and friends might bring into the workplace may have a negative impact on the rest of the team and wider company.
Banning workplace relationships won’t stop them happening, so having clear and open communication will help managers and employees know the boundaries of behaviour and conduct.
Some companies may have a ‘relationship contract’ where both employees state the relationship is consensual and neither will behave badly if the relationship ends. Other companies may have a blanket ban on workplace relationships and require that one or both parties move on elsewhere.
We can’t write your relationship policy (we know people who can), however we can help you recruit the right people at the right time. Give Maxine a call on 01256 236997 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to have a confidential chat.1
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