Preventing Personal Relationships From Affecting the Workplace

by Thom Tracy

2 min read

An office romance between two of your employees can be difficult to handle. You can’t tell your employees who they can and can’t date, but relationships at the workplace often affect the entire office and cause costly problems. While you may not be able to prevent relationships between employees, you can take steps to minimize any potential issues.

Drawbacks of Office Romances

The effect that a relationship between employees has on an office depends on their respective positions. For two employees who work together, it’s difficult to keep a romantic relationship and a work relationship separate, which can lead to performance issues. Office relationships also cause gossip, and gossip reduces productivity.Even more dangerous is a situation where a supervisor dates a subordinate. Not only is this a serious distraction, but other employees could become upset if they feel the supervisor treats the subordinate better than the rest of them.There’s also the possibility of a breakup, which could lead to more drama at the office or even one of the employees quitting to avoid being around an ex. Then, you’re stuck with the cost of hiring a replacement for that employee.

Set Up a Written Policy

By writing a policy on employee relationships, you make it clear what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour at the office. You want to provide one copy of the policy for each employee to keep and one copy to sign and return to you. Standard items to have in your company’s policy include:

  • Public displays of affection are not allowed at the workplace.
  • Relationships between a supervisor and a subordinate are prohibited.
  • If a relationship develops between a supervisor and a subordinate, the individuals are to notify management immediately.

While you want to prevent supervisor and subordinate relationships whenever possible, if one does occur, your employees need to know they can tell you about it without fear of repercussion. That way you can transfer one of them to avoid a situation where a supervisor could abuse the balance of power.

Take Action When Necessary

Hopefully your written policy is sufficient, but situations may arise where you need to address employees who are involved in a personal relationship directly. If the two employees have made their relationship public knowledge, then you can talk to the two of them together. For relationships that are still private, it’s better to talk to each employee individually.Explain to the employees how their relationship is negatively affecting the workplace, taking it one issue at a time. Try to maintain a friendly demeanor, as you want your employees to feel like they can be open with you. Listen to their thoughts on the matter, and come up with a way to prevent further issues.Life at your business would be much easier without any dating employees, but that’s not always realistic. Putting a written policy in place and addressing issues right away can help prevent employee relationships from harming your business.

References & Resources

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