People Leadership

Stuck in the Middle with You: When Workplace Romances End

March 14, 2018

“The course of true love never did run smooth.” —William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Office Romance: A Potential HR Headache

Office romance. For some, the phrase suggests something wonderful—a new relationship, or an exciting change to the usual workplace dynamic. But to most HR professionals, office romances induce only a certain unsettled feeling in the stomach (and not the butterflies of budding love). Just the thought of two employees beginning to date—or even flirting with one another—starts the queasiness and the headaches. Nobody wants to be the fun police or re-organize reporting structures, but somebody has to think about the consequences of an office relationship, and that somebody is almost always whoever wears the HR hat.

The Challenge of Breakups

No matter how much two people might love each other, and might sincerely desire to keep their relationship alive forever, there is always a very real possibility that things will end, and maybe even end badly. And if the relationship does go sour, what then? The estranged lovers will still be colleagues; they’ll probably still have to see each other every day; they might even still work in the same department or on the same team. Breakups—including divorces—obviously generate lots of hurt feelings, and it can be difficult to work through those feelings of pain, anger, and resentment when their starkest and most glaring reminder is right before one’s face, day in and day out.

Professionalism vs. Personal Feelings

We all want to believe that we work with mature, rational, responsible adults who would keep their personal issues, no matter how acute, separate from their working lives. Of course, real life is never quite so simple, and our personal lives inevitably spill into the professional. Office romances present a particular challenge for any HR professional, so obey the cardinal rule and make any decisions based on the business factors alone, not personal feelings.

Download our FREE Workplace Romances Guide

Download our FREE Workplace Romances Guide to discover steps you can take to minimize the damage if relationships break down, and how you can make sure that employees can still be colleagues—even if they can’t still be friends.

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