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As if balancing work and life outside of the office weren’t enough, there’s a high likelihood you’ll eventually have to deal with employees who nurture romance in the workplace. This adds yet another ball to the work-life balancing act.

And let’s not let employers and supervisors off the hook either.

According to a survey conducted by Harris Poll, a quarter of office romances are with a subordinate.

In Vault’s 2015 Office Romance Survey results, 14 percent of over 2,200 respondents had career paths obstructed by an affair with a coworker. Of those who participated in office romances, the affair ended 23 percent of their marriages. Also, 10 percent of marriages and platonic relationships got their start in the workplace.

With such a strong connection between the workplace and home, it’s no wonder there’s a need to consider the effect a workplace romance has on balancing personal and professional roles.

First Things First – Put Policy in Place

Forty-five percent of more than 3,000 employees surveyed by Harris Poll were unaware of whether or not a dating policy exists within their organization.

Has your company notified employees of a dating policy?

The most noticeable negative effect on your company lacking a dating policy is the potential surge in sexual harassment claims. If one employee claims the other made an inappropriate advance, it’s one employee’s word against the other.

Having a dating policy set in place by HR can help preserve company culture, reduce turnover rates, and avoid legal ramifications.

The decision whether or not to implement such a policy is dependent upon the nature of work done and cultural standards fostered by your company.

Is a Contract in Order?

What happens if a romantic advance is rejected? Will a subordinate feel less comfortable completing tasks for their superior who they now know wants to date them? Will a supervisor set unrealistic expectations of an assistant who dismissed their advances? Will the awkwardness then cause that assistant to resign?

If you permit office romances, you may want to consider making relationship contracts a requirement.

There’s the possibility a dating policy will cause employees to feel as though they’re being micromanaged. Or, your workers might feel forced to share aspects of their personal life with management. In either case, staff might resort to secretiveness and sneak around instead.

But you protect employees and the company by requiring relationship contracts. By signing the contract, the couple agrees that:

  • The relationship is consensual
  • Promotions, demotions, or other moves within the company will not be influenced by their romantic involvement
  • Their involvement won’t impact job performance

In the Harris Poll mentioned above, they found that 5 percent of employees resigned from their job positions due to an office romance ending badly. You can attempt to reduce such lateral damage with a relationship contract in place.

Prohibit Damaging Forms of Workplace Romance

Psychologists found that employees who date their superiors are often considered untrustworthy, less approachable, and less credible by their coworkers.

These perspectives apply to opposite-sex and same-sex relationships. But contentious feelings are often directed towards women more than men.

Overall, though, coworkers feel left out when a office romances exists between one of their peers and a superior. They feel as though their peer is privy to information they don’t have access to, and this dynamic creates a toxic work environment.

Under these conditions, employees are more likely to feel entitled to bend the rules. This type of tension also creates communication barriers and causes workers to feel as though their job positions have been threatened.

Ninety-nine percent of companies surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management prohibit supervisors and direct reports from dating.

Coworkers reporting to the same superior and those with a large gap in rank are also prohibited from dating. Responses were significant for 35 percent and 45 percent of companies reporting such bans, respectively.

Considering the extent to which a company’s morale can plummet when employees date their superiors, setting firm parameters might inhibit interoffice contention.

In Closing

Since Americans spend more time working than sleeping, or on personal activities combined, (leisure, eating, household tasks, caring for others), office romances will continue to exist.

But as employers, you have some control over the influence workplace romances have on your company culture, and hence, your employees’ work-life balance.

Over to you – how do you handle workplace romance?

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