It’s not surprising that relationships develop in the workplace, since many employees work together for eight or more hours a day, and usually share common interests. In fact, a workplace office romance survey conducted by Vault.com in 2016 reported that half of respondents confessed to having a relationship with a colleague.
Although some employers allow dating in the workplace, many do not have written policies in place regarding the rules on these types of relationships. Employers who choose not to implement policies on this topic may refrain because they want to avoid the spread of gossip, or avoid employees hiding their relationships in response to strict workplace guidelines. In some cases, employers simply do not wish to meddle in their employees’ personal affairs.
However, employers who take a “hands off” approach to office romances may find that they are not prepared if a relationship generates claims of favouritism or sexual harassment. An online survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management in 2013 surveyed 384 HR professionals and employees on the topic of workplace romances. Some highlights of the survey results included:
- 1 in 4 employees state that they have been involved or are currently involved in an office romance.
- 54% of organizations do not have a policy that addresses workplace romance.
- 72% of HR professionals were concerned about retaliation between co-workers after a relationship ends.
There can be benefits to allowing dating in the workplace. Employees who are allowed to date co-workers may be less likely to sneak around behind their manager’s back and hide what they perceive as an illicit affair. These employees tend to feel that their employer trusts them to be responsible enough to manage an office relationship, and this can boost their job satisfaction. Conversely, prohibiting workplace romances entirely could result in job dissatisfaction and damaged morale. If your organization does allow workplace dating, be sure to review your policies with your employees, and discuss how romantic relationships could affect their work and interactions with co-workers.
Editor's note: The article was originally published on July 20th, 2017 and updated on February 13th, 2018.
Sources: Society for Human Resources Management Research Report, 2013 Workplace Romance Poll Findings. Study conducted by SHRM.
Vault, Office Romance Survey 2016
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