With Valentine’s Day just round the corner, how do you manage the thorny problem of relationships at work?
Romance at work is widespread – many of us spend a good third of our time at work, so it is not surprising that relationships often develop here.
And it is not all bad! Happy people are more motivated and more productive. Having a partner at work can mean couples have someone who can share the stresses and understand the strains.
But there are potential dangers. Most companies recognise it is unworkable, not to mention draconian, to try and ban interoffice relationships.
Better to focus on the risks that might arise, such as unwanted romantic attention, relationships between line manager and team member, managing the fallout from a broken relationship, considering how to manage confidentiality concerns.
Some companies have a specific Relationships policy, which will give guidance around what is appropriate and inappropriate for family relationships, as well as romantic ones. For example, ensuring managers are not involved in the recruitment of a close family member. This sort of policy can offer clarity on romantic relationships, such as whether the company tolerates relationships between line manager and employee, without it being solely focussed on romantic situations.
A Conflict of interest policy could broach similar issues, without it being seen as an attempt to “ban” relationships.
Relationship breakdowns are one of the trickiest areas to manage, particularly if one of the couple brings a claim of harassment, because of their ex partner’s behaviour at work. In this situation, the employer could be partly liable and needs to take steps to make it clear this is not acceptable behaviour. Your harassment policy will be vital here.
Most of all ensure your managers have confidence to deal with difficult situations arising from inter office relationships. If a couple’s behaviour is leading to problems - which could be anything from flirtatious behaviour making people uncomfortable to the relationship causing distraction and loss of focus for the people involved – then the manager needs to deal with it.
As always, it is these grey areas which often cause managers most angst. Having some guidelines written into a “Behaviour at work” policy and getting managers discussing these situations and how to handle them can go a long way to ensuring they are dealt with before they get out of control.
If you are interested in exploring the whole subject of Managing Appropriate Behaviour at work, come along to our free seminar run in conjunction with Penningtons Solicitors on the 21st Feb. It will be a chance to ask questions on any aspect of behaviour at work and network with like minded professionals.
Look forward to seeing you there!
And have a happy, conflict-free Valentine’s Day!