Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and love is in the air … and in the office, and it happens in companies of all sizes. Jeff Zucker, CNN President, recently resigned because of a consensual relationship with a colleague, “a flagrant violation of corporate policy” according to Tatiana Siegel. In his resignation memo to CNN staff, Zucker said, “ I was required to disclose it when it began but I didn’t. I was wrong.”
Workplace romances create challenges for business owners and supervisors, especially in the aftermath of #MeToo publicity. Some employers try to avoid the drama that occurs while employees are romantically involved and the repercussions when the romance ends by prohibiting such relationships. However, the reality, according to a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey is that 76% of individuals responding said they have dated a co-worker, 27% have dated a supervisor and 21% have dated an employee who they supervised.
Why should an employer care about employees’ personal relationships?
What employees do on their own time is private, right? If only that was true! Employee romances almost always impact the workplace by distracting the people involved and their co-workers from the job. Gossip about the relationship, complaints about favoritism (real or imagined) for one or both employees, tension when personal conflicts occur—these are just some of the problems that managers need to anticipate.
So, what should an employer do to prevent or manage workplace romances?
First, be realistic. Policies forbidding personal relationships don’t work and are almost impossible to enforce. Many small businesses rely on a workforce made up of family and friends so personal relationships already exist. Banning employees from having romantic relationships creates a restrictive environment and poor morale.
Second, implement a policy (written, in the Employee Handbook!) that prohibits romantic relationships ONLY between supervisors and the employees who report directly to them. When such a relationship occurs, simply move the employee to a different supervisor or, if your workforce is too small to do that, make sure that the relationship is consensual (no sexual harassment involved) and provide management oversight for decisions involving the employee’s performance reviews, job assignments, compensation, etc.
Note: This is also a good time to review your sexual harassment policy and procedures (written, in the Employee Handbook!), in addition to providing training for all employees and supervisors.
Third, implement a policy (written, in the Employee Handbook!) that provides guidance on workplace behavior. Clearly communicate management expectations that employees will conduct themselves in a professional manner in the workplace – no overt displays of affection, etc.
Fourth, should the relationship end negatively be prepared to intervene if it is affecting work productivity? Sadly, one or both employees may decide to leave their job because they are unable to continue working together.
On a more positive note, 31% of the employees who participated in an earlier SHRM survey reported that they ended up marrying their co-worker! However, married employees create a different set of workplace issues: joint reliance on an employer for wages and benefits, scheduling leave at the same time, impact on both employees when one has performance issues, etc.
An HR professional can help business owners navigate workplace challenges.
From hiring the right employees, running background checks, creating employee handbooks that include anti-harassment policies and procedures, and so much more, Next Level Solutions can work with you to provide the services that you need to run your business.
For more information about our accounting and human resource services, contact Next Level Solutions at firstname.lastname@example.org or (225) 330-8347.