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Workplace relationships: A blessing or a curse?

As Valentines Day approaches, we look at the pros and cons of office romances – and what to do when Cupid infiltrates your team.

You can’t stop it happening

People are going to have workplace relationships whether you like it or not. Employees are humans with feelings and emotions, who spend a great deal of their time at work. And it happens all the time – a recent survey by TotalJobs found that two thirds of UK workers are up for dating a colleague and 22% had found a partner through work.

A blessing when all is well…

Workplace relationships, romantic or otherwise, can be great. They often inspire high levels of loyalty and engagement and foster a close family atmosphere. So far, so good.

…But a curse when it goes wrong

Without certain checks and balances in place, workplace relationships can open up all kinds of unforeseen complications. Accusations of favouritism or conflict of interest might arise from those outside of the relationship –which can very quickly turn into resentment if not addressed. And when there’s a breakup, the fallout can be devastating if it impacts behaviour at work or compels colleagues to take sides.

Take precautionary measures

You can’t stop people getting together – or splitting up. But there are ways to prevent it affecting your business.

We recommend putting in place a short policy, code of conduct or section of the staff handbook that sets out expectations around workplace relationships.

The policy should:

  • Acknowledge that workplace relationships happen;
  • Be clear about expectations around professionalism and behaviour in the workplace, regardless of what is going on outside of working hours.
  • Name circumstances where a relationship would need to be disclosed.

Removing potential conflicts of interest

The last point is particularly important to make clear that there is an obligation to disclose a relationship if there a conflict of interest within the working arrangement. Many will understandably want to keep their relationship private. But if one person has direct or indirect influence over the other’s salary, remuneration and/or job prospects, it’s vital that the relationship is disclosed so that efforts can be made to separate the reporting lines between those people.

Keep it professional

Remember that employers have no jurisdiction over issues or events that happen outside of the workplace. So even if an outside issue is brought in, it’s not your place to judge those issues; you are there to talk about and rectify unacceptable behaviour in your workplace.

Do you need help managing relationships within your team or setting out your expectations of professionalism and behaviour at work? Call People Puzzles on 0808 164 5826 to find out more about how we help businesses foster a happy and productive workforce.

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