Just recently, I had a friend ask me what I felt about having an affair or a relationship in the office. You see she was attracted to her boss who was equally attracted to her. Oh and by the way, the boss in question is single(are there still single men out there?), very sexy and of course, searching. She did not think there was anything wrong with it and besides, her biological clock is fast ticking away. The sad thing was that there was a strict policy against any sort of romance in the office. Her question got me thinking and I decided to do some research as to why organizations, some not all, have policies against dating.
I came up with this.
First, we should start by summarizing the reasons why you wouldn’t want to allow dating or romance in the workplace:
1. Potential cases of sexual harassment
2.possible cases of retaliation
3.Impact on co-worker morale
6. Drama resulting from the breakup
7. Rumor mill
8. Decline in productivity etc.
The list is endless. If it is such an unpredictable and dicey issue, then why do so many employers tolerate office romance?
To begin with, it will be very difficult if not impossible for an employer to stop love in the workplace. No man has the ability to dictate the working of love… well, unless you are ‘cupid’. Even that is a myth. This only means that the odds are definitely in favor that someone will meet the love of their life at work, it may not exactly be that endless love but one that gives you fond memories. Oh where were we, I am a hopeless romantic so I sometimes can get carried away with such issues.
Another thing is that at work, we are more ourselves than we are at the bar or that social gathering; at work, we have little or no room for pretense as we are faced daily with trials that constantly grate on our weaknesses. It is at the work place that we can gauge a man’s personality, values and behavior. Now if so much is revealed at the office, give me one good reason why love won’t be in the air.
Even if you forbid romantic relationships in your organization, you still can’t stop it nor can you control what someone does after work hours. While reading up on this issue, I learnt that some companies discovered that their employees tend to be more loyal, happier and creative if they meet and fall in love with someone at the office. According to Andrea Poe in her expose titled “Office Romance: HR’s Role,” she stated that Southwest Airlines is a typical example of a company that supports office romance. Of 26,900 employees in their payroll, 1,600 are married and the surprising thing is that they actually met and courted on the job. So here is my question-If you are going to marry and stay with someone for the rest of your life, wouldn’t you want to spend as much time as you could with them?
Personally I think the solution to managing workplace romance is for the concerned parties i.e. the individuals and employers to set guidelines. I’d like to start with the individual. If it ever crosses your mind to consider dating someone at work, try to use CLEAR common sense. I lay emphasis on CLEAR because when you are “in love” you are mostly blind because of your rose-tinted glasses and your foggy brain, you don’t always approach issues with a CLEAR mind.
Before delving deeply into the strong grips of love, you need to set your guidelines and here are some things to reflect on:
1. Dating your boss or subordinate is a NO No!
2. Save the public display of affection (PDA) for after work
3. No slacking or compromising on the job
4. No pillow talk at work
5. No sexual behavior at work(even after hours when you think the both of you are alone.)
6. Come to a decision on how you will handle breakup (there is no beating around the bush on this one; you need to consider this because it the probability of it happening is great you have to come up with a contingency plan.)
7. Decide if you want to keep the relationship a secret.
Furthermore, beyond the individual, the employer (human resources) needs to set up some laid down rules which will undoubtedly vary from one organization to the next depending on the values and ideology of the company on romance in the workplace.
There are some things they’ll need to address and they include:
1.What is acceptable and what is not as regards office romance?
2. How will “monitoring” the policy be implemented?
3. What are the consequences for problems caused by ‘office romance gone bad’? Slap on the wrist? Reassignment? Termination of appointment?
4. What measures will be taken to confirm if the relationship was one of mutual consent and not sexual harassment of any form?
5. Will couples be asked to create a “love contract” establishing their relationship is not forced, how it will be handled on during work hours and what will be done if there is a break-up?
What I am trying to say is-you need to ask yourself where your company stands on the issue of office romance. For situations like the one at the beginning of this article, I’d advise that both parties sit down and consider all of the points mentioned here and decide on the best line of action. Sometimes, we have to give up on ‘love’ for love, other times we close our eyes and jump (Jumping can include quitting the job or damning the consequences).
However, whatever line of action you decide to take make sure you set clear guidelines and follow them. Of course we are all adults and should know how to behave appropriately and professionally on the job, but when cupid casts his spell on a couple, common sense can quickly go out the door unless clear guidelines are in place.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Bobby Deal