Let’s be honest, workplace relationships are a common and sometimes unavoidable occurrence. According to a poll from the Society for Human Resource Management, 1 in 3 U.S. adults are or have been in a workplace romance. No laws ban the act of office dating, but a lot of employers may set in place policies against this due to potential issues of productivity and other possible legal claims that dating can cause.
This topic has been in the spotlight due to the firing of McDonald’s CEO, Steve Easterbrook. The board of directors came to this conclusion after investigating a romantic relationship with another employee that was said to violate company policy and show poor judgment on Steve’s part. Steve was fired as CEO on November 1.
Regardless of the rules set in place. Relationships inside the office are going to happen, it is human nature. When you are around the same people all day, there is potential for dating to occur and it can be tricky for employers to handle issues when they arise. “58% of employees have engaged in a romantic relationship with a colleague,” and almost half of employees don’t even know their company’s policy concerning office romances, according to a survey done by Vault.com. By the same token, even if the employees knew the office policies, most would keep their relationship a secret anyway.
Any relationship has the potential for disagreements and arguments. Office relationships are also subject to this fact. Arguments can cause productivity issues in the workplace and can be very disruptive and detrimental to business, especially if the relationship is between two higher ranking individuals. This can not only be disruptive for the two involved, but also to the employees that work alongside them, by way of feeling uneasy about the relationship or being involved in office gossip. Another issue that may arise is a sense of favoritism especially if there is a large gap in balance of power.
So, what can HR do to prevent possible disastrous issues from arising? We must realize that regardless of rules, people are going to act how they want, for the most part. Completely ousting relationships between coworkers would only intrigue people more to act against the rules. Relationships should be allowed, but there can be boundaries set and if they are not followed, and consequences should be set in place. Disclosure should be the number one priority. Making employees know it is acceptable to be involved in an office relationship should be a goal of HR. This welcoming of relationship just might help to enable the employees to be more open about it.
Relationship boundaries also need to be set in place to avoid issues. One major rule that should be enforced is not allowing a relationship with a significant imbalance of power. Between, for example, a supervisor and subordinate. As stated above, this can lead to favoritism that can be real or perceived. Relationships with an imbalance of power can also produce the potential for harassment claims.
Workplace relationships and the potential of problems to arise is always going to be a factor in the workplace. Setting rules and boundaries is the best course of action to limit as many problems as possible. For HR services concerning any workplace issue, contact Axiom Human Resource Solutions at 317-587-1019 or HR@axiomhrs.com.