What happens when workplace romances go wrong

Last updated: February 15th, 2024

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

Love makes the world go round, or so they say. But what effect does love have in a workplace?

When employee romances spill over into business, they can cause additional stress for employers, even leading to complaints and grievances from staff.

So how do you manage relationships in the workplace? And what are some real-world examples of workplace romances gone wrong?

What should employers ask themselves?

Ranging from conflict after a breakup to sensitive information being shared, the consequences of and complications from workplace relationships can manifest in many different ways.

It’s therefore important for employers to be prepared for a variety of situations. Some questions that employers can ask themselves are:

  • Will my Dignity & Respect policy be strong enough to handle any negative fallout should an illicit relationship be leaked? What if an employee is a personal friend of the colleague concerned?
  • What if a relationship between management and their understudy breaks up? Will that employee still feel comfortable taking direction from that manager?
  • Will my Confidentiality Policy be strong enough to help me successfully manage such a situation?

What can happen during a workplace romance?

Below, our experts share some concrete ways that workplace romances can affect a business.

Workplace romances and grievances

In one instance, a workplace romance ended with a civil case being taken out and a safety order being put in place. While the employer had taken measures to ensure that this was respected, the situation escalated when the employer was away, resulting in physical force being used and grievances being raised.

Workplace romances and resignations

In another example, following a workplace relationship breakup, allegations of harassment were made by one party against the other. However, following an investigation, it was revealed the party making the allegations was actually the one harassing their former partner. The situation led to a written warning and, ultimately, a resignation.

Workplace romances and conflict

In another case, an employee’s performance was under scrutiny for being below par. After meeting with their employer and having a plan put in place, the employee’s partner, also a colleague, confronted the rest of the staff. During this confrontation, they blamed the colleagues for their partner’s stress and disclosed the performance review.

Are workplace romances common?

As it’s estimated that one third of a person’s life is spent at work, it’s perhaps not surprising that recent studies found workplace romances to be quite common.

And considering how frequently workplace relationships can happen and their potential for conflict, there’s a lot for employers to lose when love blossoms at work.

Are you dealing with a workplace romance problem right now?

If you’re currently dealing with a complicated workplace romance issue, our team of consultants at Graphite Face 2 Face are here to help.

With experience and expertise on HR practices and Irish employment law, we’re confident we can help you address issues in your workplace.

Want to find out more? Give us a ring at 01 886 0350.

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