How To Handle Relationships In The Workplace

A room full of cubicles may not be the most romantic setting, but workplace relationships are still pretty common. As HR professionals, we know that keeping all of your employees feeling happy, respected, and engaged with their work leads to stronger results for your business. Part of that engagement is having a strong team that works well together. So what are you supposed to do if a relationship between coworkers occurs?

HR Concerns For Relationships in the Workplace

The biggest concern about romantic relationships in the workplace from an HR perspective is how the relationship affects the other people in the office. HR Consultant Damona Barnes advises that relationships in the workplace come with the possibility of making an uncomfortable environment for the other team members. 

As HR consultants, it’s our job to make sure that employees are treated well, and feel comfortable in their work environment. If a relationship in the workplace leads to discomfort among the team members, it’s a big problem that can lead to low productivity and interpersonal drama.

A relationship between a supervisor and a subordinate brings another cause for concern – nepotism. “You want to ensure that all employment-related decisions are made on merit not based on the relationship status” warns Damona. Ensuring that there is no conflict of interest in a relationship is up to the HR contact at the office. 

Can My Business Mandate That No Employees Be In A Romantic Relationship?

It may sound like a plotline to a romantic comedy, but is there any merit to HR saying people in the workplace absolutely can not date? Our vote is no. “I think this approach is a bit extreme and sticking in more general terms that can be applied to a variety of relationships is a better way to go,” says HR Consultant Ashley Sorrells. 

“My recommendation would be to have terminology in an appropriate place, such as the employee handbook, saying workplace relationships should always remain professional and respectful while in places of work or when representing the company in public.” This wording covers romantic relationships, as well as friendships and everything in between. Focusing more on the effect of any relationship, as opposed to just romantic relationships is a more even-keeled way to ensure that all employees know they need to keep the workplace respectful. 

When To Notify HR About Your Relationship

It should come as no surprise that we’re all for keeping lines of communication open between employees and their HR contact. We don’t want you to feel like speaking with HR means you (or someone else) is in trouble. Keeping your HR contact in the loop from the beginning is helpful, especially because the word about coworkers dating tends to be revealed at some point. 

Our guiding rules for relationships in the office are easy! 

  • Always avoid one-night-stands or flings with coworkers.

  • No PDA should be shown at the office or when representing the company. 

  • Have a break-up gameplan. We know that when you’re in the honeymoon phase of a new relationship the last thing you want to do is think about breaking up, but it’s important to your whole team that you keep the possibility in mind. Both people in the relationship should consider the worst-case scenario, and take steps to minimize any negative outcomes that could impact their work or the work of the team. 

Want to learn more about how we help our clients?  Contact us today to set up a consultation to find out how HR can boost your business!

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