When individuals join an organization, the job itself is the primary focus. Getting through a probationary period, building workplace relationships, learning the core job function, and fitting in on a social level are all necessary steps to success. After a period of time elapses and employees are comfortable with the surroundings, other behaviors may emerge and may even lead to office romances.
When workplace romance blooms, the romance not only affects the individuals involved, but it also impacts the rest of the organization. While some employees will be accepting of the situation, others will not. It is the reaction of those that do not accept the relationship that impacts the ability for the engaging employees to receive future promotions. Employees who begin workplace relationships must understand that their opportunity for promotion is not solely decided on technical skills. Decisions for who receives a promotion are also based on social skills and business etiquette with others in the organization.
Office Romances and Company Policies
It is crucial to find out before even considering dating a colleague whether one’s company has any policies relating to workplace dating and relationships. While some companies turn a blind eye others have strict rules such as ‘no-dating’ policies which lay out clearly behaviours that are acceptable or unacceptable and procedures to be followed if unacceptable behaviours are identified.
Reasons for No-Dating Workplace Policies
Clearly, there are many reasons as to why dating a colleague whether senior or junior can cause problems. The main issue is that it means both parties are likely to be considerably more distracted during working hours, particularly if they are seated near each other. An enormous amount of time may also be wasted in some instances on emailing or telephoning and relationships can result in favoritism, workplace conflict an even compromise important decision-making.
Positives of Office Romances
While it is clear that there are many negatives associated with workplace romance, it is fair to say that there are also some positives. As the average person spends around 40 hours+ per week in the workplace it would mean that coffee and lunch breaks could easily be spent together and that there would be greater opportunity to spend more time with each other. Commuting to work would also be simpler and cheaper and it is likely that those working in the same field would have similar knowledge and possible also similar interests.
Coping with Office Romance Fall-outs
There are several things one must avoid following a failed office romance and the most significant issue is to not talk ill or spread gossip about the other individual as this will also cause conflict and end up reflecting badly on both parties. Focus on getting work done to the best possible standard and it is important to keep professional distance and ideally to avoid being alone with the other person. Avoid talking about the situation at work as gossip can spread in many workplaces like wildfire.
For managers trying to help colleagues whose romance has ended, it is vital to stay as objective as possible and not make rash decisions about moving those concerned to different parts of the office. Avoid offering personal advice and especially try to be available to both parties without getting drawn into any arguments.
Office Romance Do’s and Don’ts
If two employees decide to engage in a relationship outside of the workplace and remain co-workers, there are some considerations to be taken into account. Listed below are some workplace dos and don’ts for engaging in a relationship with a co-worker.
Office Romance Dos
- Understand that actions of one employee affects others
- Realize that everyone is watching
- Consider that someone may report harassment to Human Resources
- Consider that other workplace relationships can be compromised by a workplace romance
- Try looking for romance outside of the workplace
- Understand that the relationship can be a distraction for other employees
- Consider that the relationship can impact credibility
Office Romance Don’ts
- Take for granted that other employees are accepting the workplace romance
- Engage in a romance which involves another co-worker
- Force people to understand the decision to engage in the romance
- Continue to work in the same department with a romantic partner if already doing so
As highlighted above, office romances are rarely a wise idea and this is why companies often try to discourage them to reduce workplace conflict and office politics getting out of hand. Workplace relationships may also do little to improve workplace morale when arguments and gossip is common when they fail.
Office romance can potentially stifle career progression. Leaders will look at how employees involved in a workplace romance interact with other employees not involved in the romance and look to understand the perception others have. All of these attributes will be taken into consideration when opportunities for promotions arise. Leaders need individuals who are not a distraction to the organization’s strategy, mission, and vision.