10 tips for handling an office romance

Last updated: February 15th, 2024

First published: February 12th 2020
Last updated: February 14th 2024

It’s estimated people spend a third of their life at work, so it’s no surprise that workplace romances are common, too.

Despite their prevalence, though, there’s no easy formula for how employers can easily manage them.

In fact, they’re often a source of stress for small business owners, bringing risks of potential complaints around favouritism, abuse of power, conflicts of interest, and more.

Still, there are certain steps you can take to reduce the risk of an office romance fallout.

1. Policies and procedures

It’s important that your existing policies are appropriate for dealing with office romances. Policies requiring employees to notify you of relationships or change in circumstance that might give rise to conflicts of interest, for example, can save you from a HR headache. Your policies can also be adjusted to address potential issues with confidentiality, dignity and respect, harassment, and more.

2. Encourage staff to notify management

It’s important that management be made aware of workplace romances. Knowing if your employees are romantically involved may enable you to take action, if needed, and to understand how to best stay in control of the situation so you can help keep everyone safe.

3. Don’t ignore the issue

Understandably, not all employees may want to disclose their new relationship to their employer. However, if it becomes known to management that a romantic relationship between staff has developed, it’s best to take stock of the situation and not to ignore it.

4. Establish communication in the work environment

A workplace romance can highlight potential vulnerabilities in your existing structure around reporting relationships or managing the resulting situations. If you decide to revise your systems, it’s advised you discuss the best approach with those affected. This could additionally help address any potential suspicion of favouritism that may arise down the line.

5. Watch out for favouritism

Office romances can raise a few eyebrows. For complete clarity and transparency, ensure that members of staff who are engaged in relationships with their colleagues are not involved in any management decisions involving their partners.

6. If needed, take action

Workplace romances can bring complaints – be it from the fallout of the relationship or even from colleagues who are affected. If these land on your desk, investigate each complaint and, if needed, take action. This is especially important if the complaints relate to bullying or harassment.

7. Train your managers

Unfortunately, many managers are often unsure how to tackle workplace romances. To address this, we recommend providing your management with regular training on how to respond to complaints, such as ones involving harassment following from a relationship ending.

8. Keep your eyes peeled during work social events

Work-related social events are often the source of workplace romances. Because of that, it’s wise to remind staff that they’re still expected to adhere to company policies, even if the event is outside of the workplace.

9. Be prepared to deal with a relationship ending

As they say, love hurts, and not all romances go smoothly. If a workplace relationship ends, it could impact anything from an employee’s performance to the general workplace mood. The employees involved in the relationship may even need to be moved between departments or have their shifts rearranged.

10. Be mindful of your obligations

Sexual harassment and bullying can often arise in the context of workplace romances. Be proactive, set expectations around workplace conduct, and adjust and enforce your policies if needed.

Need our help?

Acting as soon as possible will help to maintain a professional environment for all your staff.

If you would like further, complimentary advice on dealing with an office romance, our expert advisors are ready to help. Call us on 01 886 0350 or request a callback here.

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