No matter how much of a fairy tale concept we have built around love, the ups and downs that come with a romantic relationship are often a lot to handle. Positive or negative, it has its impacts on our daily life. So when talking about romantic affairs at workplaces, the ones involved in it are sure to show some impacts of the relationship on their office work. How do you, as the boss or the HR manager of your company, deal with romantic affairs between employees? How important do you think it is to know how to manage workplace affairs?
The two sides of the love coin
A romantic relationship between two employees can have a lot of positive effects. It can improve their communication skill, increase energy levels and enthusiasm and the desire to come to work. However, the cons are there too. Problems can arise in the form of conflict of interests, complaints of favouritism, spreading of gossips and rumors in the workplace, disturbance to other employees, wasting work time, unethical behaviours in some cases or even sexual harassment complaints in extreme cases. All of these can have negative impacts on work of the persons involved.
The law protects privacy
If there is a law for it, it is pretty common! Research shows that more than 65% of employees have said that they have been involved in at least one inter-office romantic relationship at some time. Although there is obviously no direct law regarding how to manage workplace affairs, here is what you need to know.
Although workplace affairs may create some problems, you actually don’t have the rights, either legally or morally, to stop people. Yes, you do need to keep in mind the broader interest of your business, so deal with issues regarding workplace affairs with care. According to the Human Rights Act (HRA), 1998, your staff have the right to a private and family life, and that includes their relationships. Anything you do to interfere in it could potentially cause a breach of Human rights.
Also, if you do impose a ban on workplace affairs, there is no guarantee that you can stop people from being romantically engaged without your knowledge.
When work relationships break down, in some extreme cases, there might be complaints of sexual harassment. Such grievances are intolerable in the eyes of the law and should be so under your company’s rules as well.
Have a company policy
The company leaders and HR managers need to understand that workplace affairs are a part of work life. So, like everything else, there needs to be some basic company policies on how to manage workplace affairs properly and lawfully.
An open-minded approach to a structured policy regarding workplace romantic relationships should include the following:
- Anyone involving in such a relationship must inform the managers or HR heads of it, at least before it becomes common knowledge. In such case, the company will know how to manage these matters in future.
- The organization should reserve the complete rights of deciding on behavior that will not be tolerated during work hours in the workplace and these should be clearly mentioned.
- Though many companies are strict against workplace relationships between anyone, many only restrict relationships between managers and employees directly reporting to them. Whatever your policy, make it clear that that you have the rights to relocate one of the two people involved to a different team or department- especially if there is a conflict of interest or complaints of favouritism by fellow employees.
- If there arises a problem due to a relationship between a senior and junior employee of a team, make it clear in your policy that you will take appropriate measures and avoid any sex discrimination in the decisions you take.
- Unless there are serious accusations of misconduct, for example sexual harassments, there is no proper justification to terminate someone’s employment just because they involved in a relationship with a colleague. If you know how to manage workplace relations properly, such situations are not likely to arise.
- Educate your staff about what constitutes consent, assault and harassment. Consent given once does not hold for any and every kind of sexual advance henceforth. Company policy should be very strict in matters of sexual harassments.
Manage staff, not couples
You may find that the office couple are taking extra minutes to spend time with each other which is hampering your work hours and lowering the morale of others. Be this the case, or any other issue, talking openly is the key to how to manage workplace affairs. In an informal chat with the couple, point out that they need to take time management at work more seriously. You may find it easier to begin the conversation by congratulating the couple on their relationship when you want to talk about maintaining professionalism at work. Remember, you only need to manage your staff, not the couples. Your interest is in the welfare of your business, not in their love life. As long as the relationship does not hamper the office work, there isn’t much to worry about.