Should the office romance be off-limits?

Should the ‘office romance’ be off-limits?

Managing a workplace romance can be a hassle and not just for the parties involved! While stolen moments behind the photocopier or deciding whether or not to go public are usually of prime concern for those having the affair, work colleagues often have issues that are rather more fundamental.

An office romance can lead to variety of allegations from favouritism and collusion to skiving and skulduggery. While few companies actually prohibit relationships in the workplace, many have policies in place to minimise any possible fallout.

Relationships should be out in the open without fear of reprisals. It should be company policy to ensure that a couple in a relationship do not report to one another, nor should they be jointly responsible for any decision-making be they business decisions or ones relating to performance and remuneration. Ensure that there are well-known consequences if the romance creates a negative impact on the workplace or the business as a whole; in many organisations the enforced resignation of one or both parties is considered entirely acceptable.

It should be made clear that the relationship must not affect the work environment and that professional conduct is expected, with clear boundaries between personal and business interactions.

In larger organisations, managers should be trained to identify any potential warning signs, be familiar with the office policy and ensure that it is consistently applied. It is also wise to discourage supervisor-subordinate relationships which can have extreme consequences be it resentment among colleagues or allegations of sexual harassment.

While office affairs may be an inevitable product of the modern workplace, the majority end in tears, making clear and consistent policies a life-line for those left to pick up the pieces.