Cupid in the Workplace
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Recruiting 2011 – Are you keeping up? - By Robin Throckmorton
Just recently, I had a client ask me to meet with an employee who was getting "involved" with her boss, the client wanted to be sure it was clearly not sexual harassment or even perceived to be. Oh and by the way…her boss was married!
Do you allow romance in the workplace? According to SHRM, 72% of companies surveyed have NO written policy regarding dating in the workplace. But at the same time, SHRM also found that 66% of the employees surveyed know of a relationship that developed at work. Has your organization addressed this issue? Where do you stand?
Let me start by summarizing the reasons why you wouldn’t want to allow dating or romance in the workplace:
1. Potential cases of sexual harassment
2. Potential cases of retaliation
3. Impact on co-worker morale
4. Distraction to others
5. Claims of favoritism
6. Mistrust of management
7. Issues resulting from the breakup
8. Pillow talk
9. Rumor mill
10. Decrease in productivity
This list could just go on and on. Plus, a number of the potential disadvantages could be extremely costly to a business. Is this enough reason to forbid it? Only 28% of the surveyed employers had a written policy of which only 7% of them actually forbid workplace romance. If it is such a volatile issue, then why do so many employers allow romance in the workplace?
To begin with, it truly will be tough for an employer to stop love in the workplace…You cannot dictate who you or someone else falls in love with, unless you are cupid. People spend more time at work than any other place. This means the odds are definitely in favor that someone will meet the love of their life at work. Plus, at work, aren’t we more ourselves than at a bar or some other social gathering? We can get to know someone’s personality, values, and behavior much better on the job. Even if you forbid it, you can’t stop it nor can you control what someone does outside of work.
Some companies actually find their employees to be much more loyal, happier and productive if they meet and marry someone at work. According to Andrea Poe in her article “Office Romance: HR’s Role,” Southwest Airlines (LUV on the NYSE) is a prime example of a company that supports office romance. Of 26,900 employees, 1,600 are married and actually met and courted on the job. If you are going to marry someone for life, wouldn’t you want to spend as much time as you could with them? My parents think so…they have been married over 40 years and have worked side by side for most of those years and will retire doing the same.
The key to handling romance in the workplace is for individuals and employers to set guidelines. Let’s start first with the individual. If you ever consider dating someone at work, try to use CLEAR common sense. CLEAR is the operative word because when you are “in love” you don’t always have a CLEAR mind. You need to set your guidelines before you fall to deeply in love and here are some things to think about:
1. No dating your boss or a subordinate
2. No public display of affection (PDA)
3. No compromising your work
4. No pillow talk
5. No sexual behavior at work (even after hours when you think nobody is there)
6. Decide how you will handle the relationship if you breakup (you need to consider this because it definitely could happen and a plan will help overcome emotions)
7. Decide whether or not you will tell others at work you are dating.
Beyond the individual, the employer (AKA human resources) needs to establish some guidelines which will definitely vary from one organization to the next depending on the philosophy of the company on romance in the workplace. Some things you’ll need to address may include:
1. What’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable with regards to romance in the workplace?
2. How will you "monitor" the policy that is implemented?
3. How will complaints from other employees be handled?
4. What are the consequences for problems? Reprimand? Reassignment? Dismissal?
5. How will you confirm that the relationship is consensual and not sexual harassment of any form?
6. Will you ask the couples to create a "love contract" establishing their relationship is consensual, how it will be handled on the job and what will be done if there is a break-up?
Bottom line - you need to ask yourself where your company is on the issue of romance in the workplace. For situations like the one at the beginning of this article, lawyers will immediately recommend against any form of dating or romance in the workplace. However, my opinion would be to set clear guidelines and follow them. Of course we are all adults and should know how to behave appropriately and professionally on the job, but when cupid casts his spell on a couple, common sense can quickly go out the door unless clear guidelines are in place.
After twelve years of marriage to my husband, after meeting him at work, I’ll be the first to say that it can work out!
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Recruiting 2011 – Are you keeping up? - By Robin Throckmorton
About the Author: Robin Throckmorton
RSS for Robin's articles - Visit Robin's website
Robin Throckmorton, MA, SPHR is the President and Executive HR Strategist with strategic HR, inc., a human resources management consulting firm located in Cincinnati, OH. Strategic HR, inc. was a winner in 2008 and 2009 of the Regional Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce Small Business Excellence 10 under 10 Award and a finalist in 2010 for the Small Business Excellence award. Robin has been a generalist and consultant for nearly 20 years with healthcare, manufacturing, service, and non-profit organizations creating solutions to help them recruit and retain the best and the brightest employees.
Robin is the co-author of Bridging the Generations Gap. She is a frequent speaker for professional associations and conferences on the topics of generational differences, retention, recruitment strategies, and labor trends. She is a frequent expert speaker for BLR. Robin has been an adjunct faculty member of the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She was also recognized as an Enterprising Women of the Year Finalist.
Robin holds a BS from Purdue University in Management and a Master of Arts in Labor and Employment Relations from the University of Cincinnati. Robin is also certified as a Senior Professional Human Resources (SPHR) by the national Human Resources Certification Institute. She regularly volunteers for advisory and leadership roles to help serve the human resources profession.
Click here to visit Robin's website.
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