Ahh, Valentine’s Day. Love is in the air. Romance is alive. But, is it appropriate in the workplace?
The truth is we often spend more time with our co-workers than we do with our real world friends. And, with so many companies focused on team building it is natural to expect us to form personal bonds with our fellow employees. Friendships are great but what happens when they go to the “next level”?
Let’s put aside, for the moment, any company policies that prohibit workplace romances. As the old adage goes – love will find a way. And, let’s say for the record that any romantic entanglements between a supervisor and a subordinate can get very messy. It can have an effect on their at-work relationship and cause problems with the rest of the crew.
How prevalent are workplace relationships? According to a 2017 survey quoted by The Society for Human Resource Management fifty-seven percent of those who responded reported having a romantic relationship at work. In a different study conducted in 2014 27% said they would be open to a relationship at work while 58% felt it could harm their career.
So, what should you do if the chemical attraction cannot be avoided?
First, know your company’s rules regarding fraternization. In some states, it is even legal for employers to enforce non-fraternization policies among their employees, which may go as far as to forbid romantic relationships. Educate yourself on sexual harassment and understand your workplace’s policies regarding sexual harassment. Be aware of what conduct is expected of you by your company as well as what is deemed unacceptable.
Second, understand that sometimes things do not work out. This person may be “the one”… until they are not. Break-ups can be messy and they are compounded if you still have to work with the other person on a daily basis.
Third, and this should almost not need to me said – do not engage in a workplace relationship with a married person. Or your boss. Odds are neither situation will end well.
Fourth, find out if your company has a “love contract”. This announces that you are in a consensual relationship and can help avoid any legal entanglements for you and your partner. It also puts everything out in the open.
Finally, be discreet. Let the relationship develop naturally and avoid prying eyes while you see if this is the real thing. Discuss with your partner how to handle it at work and who you are willing to share it with. Once you reach the point that both of you are confident this is going to last – then go public. (Chances are few will be surprised by the announcement.)
In the end rules, gossip and potential unhappy outcomes will not prevent love from blossoming. Go into it with your eyes wide open while hoping for the best. Love is hard but it’s worth the effort.