Romance in the Workplace
Our careers are important for us as we aspire to work hard to get promotions and noticed for our hard-work and our ideas. Some of us work long hours at work, and this leaves little time for us to go out into the dating scene.
In the office, you are dealing with people consistently among your colleagues or customers. As a result, it is just normal to see people showing interest in one another as you get to know each other closer as you work with each other all day.
Romance at work is not necessarily a bad thing as no one can prevent people from falling in love with another as even the law respects such a right. They say that love knows no boundaries. However, this might not be the case at work as there are specific workplace regulations and there could be possible dangers.
Today, we will go further into romance in the workplace in depth to give you the bigger picture. Let’s get started!
The Dangers and Pitfalls of Romantic Relationships at Work
When it comes to romance, we don’t know when and where we might fall in love with someone. In fact, with the introduction of longer hours, the office has become the most natural place to find a partner.
Sociologist Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D of the University of Washington states, “There was a time when men and women were linked economically as well as for emotional survival. Now we think of couples as just emotional units. But before that, they were a survival unit. Well, the world has taken another rotation, and we’re back to being economic partners-by preference as well as necessity.”
Sometimes, many people consider the workplace as the best place to look for their partner for life. In the workplace, you can be assured that the person whom you might fall in love with has the same interest and passion. Moreover, he or she might also be looking for a person just like you.
It seems that the workplace is a perfect place to get into a serious relationship. However, there is always a danger in every opportunity. It is true that the workplace offers more advantages for possible romantic relationships with someone, but there pitfalls in such situations.
At work, you are expected to accomplish specific tasks. Most companies are aware that romantic relationships among their employees can have both a negative impact on their productivity and profitability.
When one employee falls in love with a colleague, there is a tendency that the person in love would focus on this person at the expense of their work. Although many couples who are into such a relationship insist they get more inspired to work, the reality speaks differently.
Both men and women should really question if it’s truly worth putting their career on the line if something goes wrong. HR should help their employees go over these nine questions from Psychology Today to make sure they’re on the right track.
Many companies recognize such risks. This is the reason why most of them do not allow their employees to be in such a relationship, especially if they work in the same department.
Consequently, employees who are caught being in romantic relationship with co-workers in the same department might be re-assigned in another department. If there is no vacancy in another department, the company has the right to ask someone from the couple to resign from the job.
How to Deal with Co-Workers Dating Each Other
If you are assigned to the human resources department, you might be asked to evaluate and manage employee relationships to boost the productivity of the company as a whole. The challenge is when you need to address certain issues that employees are violating the company policies.
What if the policies they violate are theoretical and not legal? For example, a company has a policy to separate two workers having romantic relationship by assigning one of them to another department. The problem is when their relationship is a secret relationship, which may have been revealed by rumors. This needs to be investigated thoroughly as there is a chance, the party in question will deny any allegations.
Another case is when two workers are already dating each other, but they perform their job well, and their relationship doesn’t affect their work. However, you know there is a policy that you need to enforce or implement.
To deal with this matter, you will have to take note and document everything, so you know your scope and limitation. You don’t need to go beyond certain boundaries by trying to meddle with co-workers that are in romantic relationship. You can submit such documents and reports to your immediate supervisor.
What if your supervisor has such a relationship with his or her subordinate? This is perhaps the most difficult situation you might face as an HR professional. If this is the case, you can directly talk to your supervisor’s immediate superior. Just make it clear that you have no intention to bypass your supervisor’s authority, and all you need to do is accomplish your work.
The best way to deal with this situation is to release a circular or memo to warn all employees and supervisors to refrain from explicitly having a relationship with a co-worker within one division. You can do it if this is one of your tasks as an HR worker. However, if your task is only to evaluate employees, all you have to do is to make an honest evaluation or assessment without any bias.
When Is It OK to Date a Co-Worker?
It seems that dating a co-worker is prohibited in many companies and for good reasons. What makes a relationship bad is when the work of the employee who is in a romantic relationship with co-workers gets compromised. The worst scenario is when such couples are also affecting the work of other employees.
According to HR Daily Advisor, “in most states, an employer can enact a policy that prohibits employees form dating one another.” These policies however, may dependent on your state and local laws.
On the other hand, there are also many reasons dating a co-worker would be acceptable, if it was allowed by an employer. One worker can date another outside work, which means they won’t have any problems if these dates happen off company grounds.
Try to imagine some actors and actresses who become lovers because they work together on a certain project. They are considered co-workers, but when you watch their films, what you can see is everything that the director wants you to see. They have also been able to finish such projects because they do exactly what they are expected to do.
On the contrary, they are not hesitant to let the public know about their romantic relationships. This scenario is one of the best examples of dating a co-worker. At work, all employees are like actors and actresses who need to perform certain duties regardless of their personal affairs as long as such personal affairs do not intervene in the workplace.
One can date a co-worker by simply remaining professional. It is also possible to let other co-workers know about the presence of such a relationship. Although these workers may be included on a watch list, the relationship may still remain on the watch list without any further actions from the company if such a couple remains professional.
There are several legal risks not only for a worker who is dating a co-worker but also for employers. There are times that employers are also going beyond what is legal. The problem is that every state has different laws on the matter of workplace dating. Moreover, every company has different policies.
What is only certain is that the court acknowledges the policies of a company that are signed by its employees in the hiring process. If a company bans any romantic relationship based on its policy and is signed by its employees, the company has all the right to implement such a policy but with the due process.
On the other hand, workers may sue their company when the policy is misleading. Words like “dating,” “relationship,” and “romance” are difficult to specify as legal terms since they can be subjective. This is why it is also very important for every company to include such definitions of terms in their employee’s contract.
Companies may face certain legal risks in implementing a policy of discouraging romantic relationship at work. This is because workers are protected by civil rights laws. Therefore, all company policies must be specific and fair based upon state laws.
The problem is when a worker who is terminated is of a different race. The case may become the issue of racial discrimination. In addition, workers who are being sanctioned may file a case against their companies on the issue of privacy. Relationships can also be a private matter, so this is also a sensitive issue which every company must carefully deal with.
There have also been many horror stories that happen because of romantic relationships at work. The reason for this is because relationships may not work in the long run. Sometimes, it leads to violent breakups at work, property damage, depression, and even suicides. The scary thing is that not all people are the same. Some people may take such breakups lightly while others may take it very hard.
If this happens in your workplace, it will have a negative impact on the daily operation of your company. This is what many employers are avoiding and keep workplace dating a no-no in their company policy.
There are also stories of murder at work because of jealousy. Although you may not hear such news all the time, other similar cases must have happened without having been sensationalized for privacy purposes.
One thing is for sure; relationships with a co-worker do not always become successful. In many cases, relationships of this sort end up in disaster. However, nobody knows whether or not a relationship will work as much as it is difficult to know if such relationship eventually became a horror story.
If there are horror stories that happen out of dating a co-worker, there are also success stories. Actually, there are a lot of success stories that started at work. This is evident in the profession of every family you may encounter along the way. There are many families of consisting of the same profession, whether they are doctors, lawyers, artists, photographers, or business professionals and they all work in the same office or company.
This is the reason why many young people have developed a mindset of finding a perfect partner at work. When they start working after graduating from college, they start thinking of building their own family. They believe that their work can bring all the things they dream of including a wife or a husband.
Most of them have found a perfect relationship at work, and their relationship ended up with them getting married. As a matter of fact, there have been many cases that two co-workers who have got married having invited their colleagues and their superiors in their wedding.
Companies typically stay out of individual’s private affairs. Businesses focus on their products and services and teamwork within their companies to get this accomplished.
What to Do When You Fall in Love with Your Co-Worker?
When you fall in love with a co-worker, the most important ideal is to keep your feelings to yourself. You should be focused on the work at hand and your daily tasks that need to done. It’s fine to have lunch with one another if that opportunity arises, but again all emotions should be kept at home and not shown at work.
And if you are already in a romantic relationship, all you have to do is to talk to your special someone about certain issues at work. It is best if you agree on what both of you should behave in the workplace. You can also ask for legal advice to know your rights and obligations depending on your state laws.
When you fall in love with a co-worker, you won’t need to be in constant communication. You shouldn’t use the company resources for your personal relationship. All you have to do is to do your job, and spend the rest of the time together after work.
How to Deal with a Breakup at Work
Breakups are one of the hardest things to deal with, especially if you are the one directly involved in such breakup. When you’re down, the tendency is that you can’t focus on the important tasks at hand. However, filing a leave of absence is not the solution. In fact, it may augment your agony because there are fewer things than can make you forget your feelings.
Focusing on your work will help to take away the feelings you felt. After a while, you will become more productive than ever. It is just normal to become down or depressed, but life must go on, so you have to prove you are not the loser in this situation. Make your work your inspiration!
Never talk in a negative manner to other co-workers about what happened between you and that person as it’s nobody’s business, and you don’t want to add gossip to those busy-bodies around the office. When you do talk about these issues, you appear as an untrustworthy employee.
Treat that person with respect even though you don’t want to. Don’t shoot glares at them, and don’t appear to look angry. Other employees will pick up on this negative behavior, and it won’t be beneficial for you with other employees. They may see you as a negative person and leave you out of any future outings that you may have participated in with them before.
Look at the pros and cons of this dating experience and think carefully about whether you want to go through this experience at work again. You lived it and you learned from it, now it’s time to move on!
How to Deal with Awkwardness
Chiara Atik author of Modern Dating: A Field Guide states, “It can be extremely awkward to work with someone after a breakup. You’re going from being the most important people in each other’s lives to being mere co-workers again. Most people want to avoid their exes at all costs after a breakup, but if you work together, you’re forced to not only see each other every day, but interact. There’s no pretending they never existed; and depending on your office environment, you may even be somewhat privy to their post-breakup dating life. It’s not so much the end of a romantic relationship as it is a transition into a more distant, professional one. Your ex is still a part of your everyday life, and rewiring how you think of them and how you communicate with each other is challenging.”
Awkwardness actually happens only in the mind and not in the workplace. It is your paradigm that tells you are in awkward situation. You have to remind yourself that life goes on and there are tips out there to help you bounce back from your office breakup.
Why Romance Is Sometimes Inevitable and How to Protect Yourself and the Company
In the workplace, romance sometimes is inevitable. This is because you are socially exposed every day as you interact with people, and you see them every day. If two people are attracted to one another, the more you get closer you will become to each other. As a result, you can’t help entering a romantic relationship at work.
Nevertheless, there is nothing wrong with it. The important thing is that you still do your job, and such a relationship doesn’t cause any trouble at work. The only problem is when your employer does not interpret such a relationship the way you see it.
If this is the case, it is recommended you seek legal advice. You can also communicate with your employer and clarify everything. In this way, you can protect yourself and the company as well.
Romance at work sometimes can’t be avoided; however, keep in mind that the term human resources still has the word “human.” This means that every company should expect and allow their employees to act as human beings with discretion.
Of course, everything has a limit. A workplace is still a workplace and not a dating place. Employee relationships must remain professional, especially in the office. Therefore, the boundary between love and work must be managed properly within the appropriate boundaries.
Interpersonal relationships, even those that are not romantic in nature can be very complicated. Romance in the workplace can add to the stress of a team and can put in jeopardy the workplace climate of an organization.
Having a system in place that allows peer-to-peer feedback about this and many other aspects of your company can really help improve their engagement, happiness, productivity, loyalty and overall employee experience.
P.S. By the way, we would love to welcome you to our LinkedIn Group, HR Today: Employee Engagement, Workplace Climate and Company Culture. We have lots of great content dedicated to employee engagement, the employee experience, and other fun and interesting topics.