Work-world cupid has struck your people with his arrow and you notice employees coupling up in time for the holidays. As a people leader, what happens when you find out an employee fancies their colleague? Is it okay for workplace crushes to transpire? And, if these employees hit things off and decide to date, are they putting their jobs at risk?
Dating in the workplace can be complex, but an office romance doesn’t have to end badly. The changing world of work consists of remote employees and work-life synergy. So, we should expect two adults to consider taking the next step in a promising relationship. Luckily, the HR landscape is well-equipped to deal with matters of the heart. But, you can still proceed with caution by implementing our tips when dealing with inter-office dating.
#1: Oh, for the love of policy
First thing’s first. Sit down with each respective dating party and mull over any collateral on sexual harassment and dating laws. Be clear on all anti-discrimination and harassment policies, as well as the consequences of acting or behaving against them.
Might we suggest a love contract? A love contract offered to both work sweeties states the stipulations of engaging in an office romance, which can also serve as a plan for obstacles that may arise in the future. The contract should cover everything from the Equal Opportunity Employment Act to impact on work productivity and mutual consent. A love contract has the interest of both your company and each work sweetie at heart.
#2: Is all fair in love and work?
Point out that a new relationship isn’t worth jeopardizing a sound career or professional development. As a mediator in a “together” session, allow the work sweeties to share each others’ organizational goals and career paths before they make anything official. They need to assess whether dating could interrupt or deter them from an impending milestone at the company. If a relationship does put either party’s job at risk, gently advise they continue on separate paths.
Examples of when “it just won’t work”: if one party is a manager or superior to the other, they work closely on pressure-inducing projects, or a situation is likely to occur where favoritism or bias can be easily exercised.
#3: Seal it with a kiss
Once HR and the consenting parties have decided their careers face no threat, the work sweeties can move forward by taking things to a personal level privately. Recommend that your employees DTR: define the relationship. They need to discuss the current stage of their relationship and agree that any “next steps” be taken without rushing the dating process.
As an HR professional, all you can do is suggest that outside of the office they discuss boundaries at work and how much time they wish to spend together (to avoid intruding on anyone’s alone time or personal space).
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#4: Plan ahead over heels
Not to be a buzzkill, but here’s a subtle reminder that not all relationships last, and that’s okay. If the office romance you help mediate comes to an end because someone decided to call it quits, you might wish you had helped the coupling put a solid break-up plan in place prior. The same goes for standard disagreements that all couples have. If a work coupling is in it for the long-haul, they’re bound to experience some ups and downs.
Come up with a make-up plan that steers clear of confrontation in the workplace to avoid complicating or mudding their career with personal vendettas. Each plan, make-up or break-up, should consist of giving each other space, who to engage with on the daily, and how often you speak with each other at the office (and for what purpose).
Dating should be fun. As an HR professional, you can make sure that it’s free of workplace drama, and doesn’t stunt the growth of your hard-working people, as well. Signing off on love contracts, explaining policy and protocol, and mediating any couples’ sessions that allow the work sweeties to understand space and boundaries, can help you uncomplicate the otherwise complex world that dating can be… even on its own.