3 Ways to Manage Office Romances

Posted on February 15, 2012.

Since Valentine’s Day was yesterday, it’s hard to not think about love. You’ve heard the saying, “Don’t mess where you eat”, but according to a recent survey by Glassdoor, 37% of employees say they have been romantically involved with a co-worker.  That’s really not such a shocking figure, but 1 in 10 admit to having sex in the workplace.  Not sure any of us really want to have that visual.  You can’t stop romance, but you can find ways to manage the outcome so there is as little disruption as possible.

  1. Start with a written policy.   The reality is that as a manager, you’re probably not even aware of half of the office romances that occur. But it can become a real problem if one person has some influence over the other. The obvious example would be a boss and his or her direct report.  Since this can create the appearance, if not actual favoritism, you should have a policy that makes it clear that this situation is not acceptable. Someone has to leave. It’s also important to make sure everyone is aware of the company’s sexual harassment policy, While it may be an honest relationship, when a manager or supervisor is involved, everyone should understand where the line is and what is acceptable behavior.
  2.  Confirm your suspicions.  Even if you’re the last to know, you likely have some inkling that two of your employees have a connection.  Don’t hesitate to ask them outright.  This will enable you to manage work assignments so the parties are working more independent of each other.  Other people have to work around the lovebirds everyday, which can make them very uncomfortable. Creating some distance should improve the couple’s productivity and the atmosphere in the office.
  3. Communicate your expectations.  Not everyone that has an office romance is going to end up happily every after.  If you think it’s awkward while they’re dating, imagine the impact if they break up, especially if it’s not mutual.  Make it clear to both parties that there is a level of professionalism that must be maintained- no matter what.  More importantly, make sure they understand the consequences if they do not, all of which should be spelled out in your written policy. Make it clear to everyone on your team that you want to be made aware of any bad behavior on the part of the couple.

Love in the office just can’t be avoided. And since 31% of office romances end in marriage, maybe we don’t want it to stop.  But turning a blind eye or refusing to see what’s in font of you is no way to manage through what could be an awkward  and uncomfortable situation.  If you manage through it with these three simple steps, you just might get invited to the wedding.