Even during COVID-19, love is in the air. In a February 2021 SHRM survey of employed Americans, 34 percent are—or have been—in a workplace romance. Among that number, 69 percent said they had dated their peers, 21 percent had dated their subordinates, and 18 percent had dated their superiors, SHRM found.
But…what are the risks of this type of romance?
Even when things are going well, a workplace romance can lead to gossip, favoritism, and distracted employees. When things end, there can be passive-aggressive behavior toward each other, claims of sexual harassment, and even in rare instances, workplace violence.
Gossip: If the relationship is covert, employees will pick up on it and speculate.
Favoritism: If one employee gets the plum assignments and promotions due to a relationship, it can create a rift within a department or business. The gossip will only intensify, leading to a hostile work environment.
Passive-Aggressive Behavior: The silent treatment or not acknowledging each other’s presence can make things uncomfortable for all employees.
Sexual Harassment: One party can claim the other targeted and treated them poorly when the relationship ended. They can state that advances were unwanted and rebuffed.
Workplace Violence: In extreme instances, violence might erupt due to a soured relationship.
Given this bleak outlook, what should an employer do? If you don’t have them in place today, work with your HR staff on romance in the workplace policies and procedures.
Common Sense Workplace Romance Rules
- Determine rules that make sense for your company.
If you work at a small business of fewer than 100 employees, you may wish to ban all workplace romances. For larger organizations, perhaps the ban is regarding supervisor-subordinate relationships.Whatever you decide to do, make sure all romances are transparent, reported to HR, and applied to all employees.
- Establish a love contract.
This is an agreement between two employees that states their relationship is consensual. Both need to sign the document and be reminded that when and if the relationship ends, HR also needs to know this.
- Conduct yearly sexual harassment training.
This training will remind employees about the love contract (what it is and what it is not), unlawful harassment behavior, and the consequences of sexual harassment.
- Let employees know their electronic communications are monitored.
If the relationship ends abruptly, it can be easy to send an email or fire off a text while using the company computer or phone, telling the other person what you think of their actions. However, if the communications persist, all of that data can be used to suspend or terminate one or both employees.
SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc. Provides HR Guidance
We have a suite of tools, including policies, procedures, contracts, and training to help employers implement preventative measures that allow for a healthy workforce and the ability to keep lawsuits at bay! So give us a call at 330-255-1101 and speak to one of our HR specialists today.