Love at Work: Managing Workplace Romances

leadership Feb 14, 2023
Couple in a workplace romance

Workplace romances have increased since the pandemic, even as more workers went remote. With the #MeToo movement, attempts at workplace romances are even more precarious, notably if one employee alleges harassment or pressure from another who thought they were in a relationship, and the pursuer is a manager. It's just messy. If you're leading a team, you'll want to prepare yourself, whether it's inevitable or not.

In my segment on the AMNW Morning Show, I shared essential tips on how to prepare yourself and your team and avoid any potential liability. You can watch the entire episode below.

1. Be sure you have a policy and that ALL employees know it. Ensure you frequently remind them in training, at orientations, etc. Be sure to tailor the policy to fit your office's cult

2. Be specific. Some businesses can get very detailed about what employees can and can't do when pursuing romantic relationships. For example, can you ask an employee out? How many times? What if you don't know them? Specificity can prevent many problems down the road if they're accepted and the staff isn't resentful.

3. Be careful about requiring disclosure. Ideally, you want disclosure so you know the best way to proceed, but with if the disclosure requires someone to "come out" before they're ready? What if someone's cheating on their partner? What if they're in a non-traditional relationship? The rule of thumb is to encourage disclosure and protect employees' privacy so they feel comfortable about reporting.  

4. Be fair. Historically office romances have negatively impacted women or those in the junior role. This can open you up to scrutiny and a discriminatory lawsuit. Also, with LGBTQ relationships, you have to be careful not to treat those relationships differently from other relationships while not outing the pair. I highly suggest getting legal counsel to help navigate these issues.

5. Consider love contracts. This is when employees sign a document stating they're in a consensual relationship and agree on how to behave around the office. These can be tricky, may not always be able to be upheld, and don't always absolve liability. However, allowing the parties involved to set the terms of engagement provides good clear documentation that can be helpful if or when things go south.

Whatever you do, don't try to ban workplace relationships; it just doesn't work, but definitely consult HR or a labor/employment attorney to create or update your workplace romance policies.


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