Does and Don'ts of Office Romances

Valentine’s Day is almost here. And if cupid is unleashing his arrows in your small business, as the boss you should have policies in place about office romances. And if you’re the employee, you should know what the workplace policies are. Office romances are almost inevitable. Here are some suggestions to help navigate office romances.

Develop a Policy – As a small business owner you most likely don’t have an HR department to turn to, so you’ll have to come up with a policy on your own. Don’t wait until two of your employees are glaring and muttering at each other following a breakup, or worse, three of your employees are screaming at each other over a love triangle gone wrong. Breakup scenarios may have you tempted to ban office romances altogether. But considering a lot of us spend one-third of our lives at work, that may not be realistic. The Harvard Business Review reports that many companies are lifting bans, “both because they’re hard to enforce and they haven’t changed behavior.” Instead of banning office relationships, develop a policy that fits your office culture. The Houston Chronicle has this advice, “Small business owners can benefit from a clear workplace dating policy, set in writing and signed by each employee. Depending on the nature of your work and your workplace, you may want to consider guidelines for acceptable physical contact and for use of internal communication tools. If you choose to allow interoffice romance, set parameters that prevent personal relationships from affecting performance reviews, compensation or advancement.” And when developing a policy, keep in mind there are times when feelings aren’t mutual. According to the Harvard Business Review, Google and Facebook have policies that state you can only ask a person out once. If an employee is turned down or given an ambiguous “I can’t that night” type answer, that employee isn’t allowed to ask again.

Think Twice About a “Love Contract” – As part of your policy, you might be considering a so-called “love contract”. These documents are signed by the couple involved in a workplace romance and usually include some language indicating they won’t sue their employer for sexual harassment stemming from the relationship. HR Expert Jay Starkman notes in Business News Daily. “While this agreement may be effective in controlling liability, there is a negative impact on morale and culture given the workplace interference with personal conduct.” And according to the Society for Human Resource Management, “most HR professionals (75 percent) consider these contracts ‘ineffective and say that it actually encourages workers to hide the relationship from peers’.”

Advice for the Lovestruck – If you’re thinking about diving headfirst into an office romance, here are some tips from the Harvard Business Review:

Do:

  • Know the many risks of getting involved with someone at work
  • Familiarize yourself with your company’s policies – and the rationale behind them
  • Talk through what you’ll do if the relationship doesn’t work out

Don’t:

  • Pursue a coworker if you’re not serious about a relationship
  • Date someone who you have a reporting relationship with
  • Try to hide the relationship from your manager or colleagues – it will only erode trust

Developing an office romance policy is just one of the complicated things that small business owners have to deal with. VersaTel Solutions can help you navigate day-to-day problems so you can handle the bigger ones. Reach out to us and find out how we can help you.