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Office Romance

Office romance is fairly common these days as the office is where we spend so much of our time. Handled well it can lead to a relationship. Handled badly it can lead to a lawsuit for harassment.

It is not surprising that romance springs up at the office. We spend a third or more of our lives in the office or other places of work. It is a non-threatening environment where we have an opportunity to meet potential dating partners and learn more about them than just what they look like. Yet romantic involvement between employees is loaded with dangers for both the employees and for their employer.

Many companies tried to ban dating among their employees. Most have since abandoned that plan, because of legal restrictions and a recognition of the inevitable. Instead most now try to restrict such activities that are harmful to the business.

Is it appreciated?
If you are going to allow employees "coming on" to other employees, you have to first make very clear the company policy on harassment. If an employee is not interested in, or receptive to, an advance from another employee, it should end there. Playing around, verbal sparring, etc. are appropriate preludes to dating, but only if the receiving party is comfortable with them. If you have a harassment policy, make it very clear all employees. If you don't have one, you need to generate one right now.

Is it appropriate?

In most cases, mutually-agreeable relationships between employees pose no danger to the company. However, there are instances where they are inappropriate and may be harmful to the company and its interest. For instance, it is never a good idea for a manager to be romantically involved with a subordinate in their own organization. Situations such as this should be clearly spelled out in the company policy as inappropriate and subject to corrective action.

What are the downsides?
Some of the downsides are preventable. Others aren't. If two employees marry and have children, one employee may leave the company to raise the children. There is nothing you can, or should do, about this except be prepared to hire a replacement.

The downside with the biggest danger to the company is when a relationship between employees breaks apart. In many cases, the employees will handle it like adults and move on with their respective lives. In other cases, the resulting unpleasantness may require transferring one or both employees to new roles. An employee may file a claim of harassment, even if your policy is very clear and is enforced. In an extreme case, the emotional stress may lead an employee to lash out and commit an act of violence.

What are the upsides?

The upside to romance in the office is that you will have some happy workers. When people are happy they tend to be more productive and have fewer health issues. When partners work for the same employer, they have someone they can talk with about their activities and problems at work who understands and can help them resolve the issues

Guess companies should institute “love contracts” that ensure they are not responsible for the behavior that occurs within the context of the relationships.