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Romance in the Office: How to Manage Workplace Relationships

Romance in the Office: How to Manage Workplace Relationships

The latest results of CareerBuilder’s annual survey on office romance revealed that three in ten workers who had office romances married their co-worker, and thirty nine percent of workers surveyed said that they have dated a co-worker at least once over the course of their career. Do these findings surprise you? More importantly, as manager and leaders, are you prepared and well-equipped to handle office romance situations? With employees spending forty or more hours each week in the office and connected to the office electronically even while away from work, it is no surprise that workplace relationships occur relatively frequently. But this can be a delicate situation for you as a team or department leader especially in trying to balance being aware of any specific workplace problems that can arise from a dating couple in your office while at the same time avoiding any overly intrusive interfering with the private lives of your employees.

What are some of the other findings of the office romance survey? Leisure and Hospitality topped the list of industries with the most workplace romance. In fact, its numbers were higher than the national average for workplace romance. Information Technology and Financial Services industries were also among the top five. Most of the workers surveyed reported a tendency to date people in professions or functions other than their own but twenty percent reported that they are more attracted to people in a job similar to theirs. Thirty-five percent of survey participants who have had office romances reported that they kept the relationship secret from their bosses and co-workers or under wraps, while the majority stated that they were open about their dating situation.

So what can you as an effective manager do when workplace romance situations arise?

Consider the following advice.

First, spend time on educating your employees about relevant guidelines and policies in place at your company. If your company does not have an organizational policy about sexual harassment or about workplace relationships, consider hiring a professional consultant to craft these policies for you.  A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that only fourteen percent of respondents said their company had a workplace romance policy.  More than half of respondents stated that there was no policy in their company, and twenty-nine percent did not know whether one was in place. Developing a formal policy can be extremely beneficial. Remember to educate your workforce about the policy and also make sure that everyone knows the rules (such as those prohibiting against dating one’s immediate supervisor) as well as the consequences for breaking them.

Secondly, stress professionalism among your employees. Dating couples in the workplace should be responsible for conducting themselves professionally when they are in the office and not allowing their relationship to interfere with work productivity or morale.  Encourage your employees to practice common sense and avoid overt romantic gestures at work. Remember that if office relationships begin to affect your company in a negative way, it is your job to intervene and troubleshoot the problem.

Thirdly, take measures to prevent gossip from spreading.  Workplace romances can frequently spark speculation and rumors among other coworkers.  While most of the gossip is probably innocuous, do stay alert for conversations and rumors that are inappropriate or disruptive to the work environment.

As a manager, have you had to deal with workplace romance situations involving your employees? What are some of the tactics that worked or did not work? Please feel free to share your tips in the comments.

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About Suzanne Updegraff

Suzanne Updegraff is the Founder and CEO of EDSI. EDSI has been helping organizations and their employees since 1979. The main initiatives include Professional Presence in a Casual World, Personal improvement/ professional presence, Increasing Personal Effectiveness, and Communicating to Manage Performance. EDSI is known as The accountability company. Their blog is at: blog.employeedevelopmentsystems.com

View all posts by Suzanne Updegraff →

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Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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