The percentage of people who have engaged in an office romance at some point in their career might surprise you—most surveys place that number at around 50%, but as high as 70%. It’s safe to say that a large portion of your staff has, is, or will become romantically involved with someone else on your team at some point. These relationships can naturally cause trouble when they don’t end well. As a business owner, here are some things you should do to minimize risk and fallout from inevitable inter-office romances:
1. Don’t ban office romances all together.
They’re going to happen whether you ban them or not, so we think it’s better to encourage an environment that fosters trust and accountability among employees. Banning them entirely can actually have a more negative impact because it forces people to be secretive, and this ultimately carries more risk for the employees and the business.
2. Talk openly (and regularly) about the benefits of disclosing office romances.
Whether you have 15 employees or 500, the benefits of disclosing office romances to management and HR are significant. Disclosing them lets both parties formally address that they are in a consensual relationship and this is important from many angles including protection from future conflicts of interest and potential sexual harassment, discrimination, or favoritism claims.
3. Communicate the risks and realities of office romances.
Data doesn’t lie—when office romances don’t end well, typical ramifications include one person being transferred to another department, or in many cases, one person being terminated (or quitting) all together. One recent survey claims that about 1 in 3 workplace relationships will end with at least one person being let go, and CareerBuilder recently took a survey that determined 70% of office romances do not end in marriage. So, for people in smaller businesses, the risk of losing your job or feeling the need to quit your job after a failed workplace relationship is especially high since there may not be options to transfer to other departments or minimize contact with an ex.
Have a specific question about inter-office relationships? Ask us your HR and employee relations questions via the online chat tool in the lower left corner of your screen. We love helping businesses solve their people problems and we love to share what we know!