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Office Romances: How they affect Productivity and how to handle them

31 August 2015

As we get older and busier, there are fewer opportunities to make new friends and meet potential partners. It is quite a natural process to look around at work for new connections because work is where we spend most of our time. An office romance may be a great solution when long days leave little time for a social life.

In fact, 43 percent of workers say they have dated a fellow employee and 34 percent of those reported it resulted in a marriage (survey conducted by CareerBuilder.com). Simply put, almost half of us have done it, and a third of those met our mates that way.

Developing a relationship at work can be a little dicey. The convenience is wonderful but the risks can be high. You could end up in a wonderful relationship, or seeing your ex at work every day.

Office relationships, like all new relationships can affect work. Loved up and floating on air, the new couple will be more interested in spending time with each other than doing work which lowers their productivity. Or relationship frustrations could spill over at work negatively affecting the rest of the office staff. This may sometimes require management intervention.

Whom to date: the risks vary
Even when dating a colleague, jealousy can arise, but at least there is no assumed power one has over the other.

Dating a subordinate is more risky. That takes greater care. The supervisor must never show any favouritism of any kind or it can damage other work relationships and could jeopardize their supervisory position.

Dating the boss screams danger. There is a greater potential that the mere existence of the relationship can affect company morale and invite complaints of inequality and favouritism. And then there is the fallout if the relationship ends badly.

Consider how it might end
People almost never consider the potential outcomes of a breakup at the outset. You should work out a plan, while you are still close and can never imagine it not working out, how you each will behave if the worst should happen. Those types of conversations are easiest early on and people usually end up doing what they say they would do when cooler heads prevailed.

Keep private communications private
Whether you are falling in love or breaking up, one thing to remember is never to use the company’s email or instant messaging systems. Anything you say can and will be used against you by everyone in the office. There is absolutely no privacy there. The rule of thumb is, never put anything in company email or messaging that you wouldn’t write on a post card and post on a wall.

Keeping your company clear of complications
Management should anticipate that office romances are going to happen. Having absolutely clear policies describing exactly where the line is drawn around legal issues, etc., and having them explained and posted will make it clear what employees can expect from management if the relationships begin to effect either productivity or morale.

Have a policy developed; then, enforce it
A policy of total opposition is impractical. Like other extreme positions, you usually live long enough to regret them. Of course, once you take a stand on a policy, you must enforce your position. You can offer help through an Employee Assistance Program for those stricken with broken hearts to assist them in getting help in healing. Look at each case individually, avoid any gender or positional bias, and act in accordance with the best interests of the company—and the law.

Be cautious with office romances. They could lead to marriage or a dismissal. Consider the different outcomes carefully.

Do you want to get romantically involved with someone at work or are you currently involved with someone at work and need some advice on how to best handle it? Book in your complimentary strategy session.

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