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The heart wants what it wants…

iFacts_Newsletter_FEB 2016_Perils of the office romance


What do you do when love knocks on the boardroom door? The issue of the workplace romance is as old as time itself, and still there are no clear cut answers on how to approach this delicate matter.


The month of love is upon us once more. And while some may see Valentine’s Day as nothing more than a commercial trap, others see it as an opportunity to spoil a significant other. Then there are those that seize the opportunity to confess their concealed affection for someone that they may have been admiring for some time.


Sometimes these budding romances start to bloom in the workplace. In many instances this makes sense. A close-knit group of people all working towards a common goal. Late nights, early mornings and tight deadlines could lead to a person’s highest level of social interaction being with the people they work with.


We are not talking here of taboo – illicit affairs between married colleagues or sexual harassment. We are talking of the good-old-fashioned attraction between two unattached individuals.


Now as the boss, you may not like the idea. When you’re not experiencing the inexplicable knee buckling and hormone raging high of new romance, its far easier to see some of the possible future pitfalls, including reduced productivity while the romance is developing, and worst of all – a nasty atmosphere in your once peaceful organisation, if and when romance goes south.


Workplace romance has often been a taboo subject, limited to water cooler conversations and office gossip. While an office tryst might seem like a good idea at the time, it can lead to complications, a breakdown of relationships, and even have a negative effect on employees’ ability to conduct their responsibilities in an efficient manner.


As the company leader it is once again your unhappy task to set up the boundaries and policies for how this type of potential situation should be managed.


Consider though that a broken down workplace relationship has far-reaching consequences that can make an employee’s life and that of his or her colleagues, very difficult. A number of situations can arise that can put strain on both personal and professional relationships, such as one party being promoted to a superior position. In such a case other employees may begin to distrust or even hold contempt against one or both parties as they might consider there to be a degree of favouritism in everyday dealings, whether there is any or not.


Should an office romance end badly, one scorned party might involve HR with claims of harassment, a devastating claim that could derail the career of any professional.


Don’t discourage the building of platonic relationships. The power of comradery can have a highly positive impact on productivity. Relationships of this nature can foster a willingness to engage with colleagues in an effort to work more efficiently.


The key to maintaining a professional workforce is to actively discourage the forming of romantic liaisons between employees. Highlight the potential pitfalls that could result from a worst-case scenario in order to demonstrate to employees that you are acting in their best interests.


Your company may decide to include a clause on workplace romance in an employee contract. The next best thing is to encourage an open and transparent environment. Chances are the parties involved will be working overtime to hide the relationship from you, but if you start to notice an impact on work performance, you have every right to address the issue and its route cause.


Romance need not be a dismissible offence. Some of these liaisons even turn into long-term relationships and marriage – but when its starts to impact on your company, it is no longer a private matter, but one that needs to be addressed immediately.

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