I could not let Valentine’s Day pass without a mention – again.
The article here was published in 2017 and is still relevant. To add to it, I have come across a recent publication on the matter from HRGrapevine – and included an excerpt from the article at the end of this one.
We spend so much time at work with our colleagues, often sharing the same interests, goals, aspirations, and let’s not forget the space we share at work. So, it is not unnatural to find ‘chemistry happening’ … and people falling in love with their work colleagues. When the heart rules, the head has no chance!
Many of us also know that anything to do with love is not all butterflies and roses. And there are definitely pitfalls when the love of your life is your work colleague, and when those feelings start to deepen or, alas, to fade.
Try not to play Cupid!
I believe that we, as HR professionals, have a part to play in Love in the Workplace. No, I don’t mean as Cupid … look what happened in the case of Craddock v Fontoura t/a Countyclean … The boss tried to bring two people together and the employment tribunal found that his attempts to “play Cupid” with his staff constituted sexual harassment, despite his apparently benign motive – see No. 10 in the Personnel Today article mentioned below.
This article in Personnel Today highlights 10 potential problems with workplace romances. The issues are all too true and should be considered by every organisation, no matter its size.
The article mentions that many large corporates have in place policies to govern … L-O-V-E. I’m pleased to say that I have had direct experience in Small to Medium Sized Enterprises (SME’s) where it is even more important to have some guidelines about this sensitive matter.
To have or not to have a Romance Policy
Many years ago, the management in a company I worked with were very aware of the impact that workplace romances could have and we had a debate about whether to have a romance policy, or not to have a policy.
Whether a policy, or guidelines are decided, the main thing, as with everything to do when working with people, is communication. Early communication by a manager with the romantics concerned – usually separately – is a big YES. It is important to ask if there is anything in it, if it looks like rumours abound or if you can see or feel that there may be ‘something going on’. If it is confirmed, then the ‘talk’ would be about ensuring that their love-life does not interfere with work. To discuss the importance of maintaining a professional presence and ensuring that if there are problems between each other that it is sorted away from the workplace. It is also a good idea to tell the two concerned that if their relationship starts to sour and they find it is difficult to work together, they should let someone know – hopefully their manager. If the organisation’s guidelines or policies are open and freely communicated, your people will offer the information when they believe the time is ripe.
Managers have a very important role to play at work and need the skills to deal with sensitive matters such as this. I know that there is never a simple answer to most workplace issues and sorting things out often takes longer than you would expect. I take my hat off to the good managers who are around and are not afraid to deal with sticky workplace problems.
Often small business owners and managers do not have the time or prefer to keep out of dealing with sensitive issues and we, as HR professionals, work alongside them especially to take the hassle out of HR.
Chemistry at Work
I’m very pleased to say that I have seen Love blossom in the workplace. I have watched Love journey on to become a loving and caring relationship. I have witnessed Love ring out the wedding bells and I have beamed as Love produced tiny babies … all from the Chemistry at Work.
In the instances of which I am aware, those lovebirds did not make their colleagues feel uncomfortable at all. Congratulations!
When things are not going right, of course, it always causes a problem. The Personnel Today article mentions that when this happens, very often the couple sort things out themselves, even if it means one or both of them decide to move on. It’s always a tough time for all – who are you aligned with? Do you invite one out, or the other? Someone gets hurt. Someone draws the short straw.
For managers, this will be a very sensitive time because it may well affect productivity as well as the morale in the workplace. How do you step in? Do you take any action? Again, sensitive and open communication is needed. Managers are not counsellors, unless they have been trained, and they should not assume this role.
I say that when love is in the air at work, it is another instance where managers should not bury their heads in the sand but share the happiness and ensure that the couple know what the Romance Policy at Work is about.
Having said that I wish all at work a very Happy Valentine’s Day!
May you find your ‘lobster’* in your happy workplace if you haven’t done so already.
*Thanks to Phoebe from Friends!
14 February 2017
Republished February 2024 – excerpt from HRGrapevine:
Setting sensible rules
“Instead, employers should assess the likely implications of any romantic relationships according to the nature of their business and staffing structure and make the necessary provisions. Whilst there is no legal requirement for employers to adopt a formal office romance policy, it is a sensible approach for most employers to impose rules around personal relationships at work, with the aim of ensuring that individual members of staff are not open to allegations of impropriety, bias, abuse of authority or conflict of interest.”
“For example, one rule could require employees to disclose a relationship, particularly if it involves a manager and their direct report. Similarly, employers could mandate that employees in relationships with colleagues should always behave in a professional manner, paying due consideration to colleagues, customers and clients – no PDAs on the shop floor for example!
“We would advise reviewing your Employee Handbook and ensuring you have all the relevant policies in place, including a code of conduct, grievance procedure and rules on harassment. Crucially, make sure you have a plan in place to communicate these policies and make sure all employees are fully aware of them. On the same note, ensure that managers have had the right training and are equipped to deal with matters such as harassment claims.”
Striking a balance
“Workplace relationships are a notoriously difficult area for HR professionals to navigate. You want to respect an employee’s private life but also protect your business interests. It’s all about striking the right balance.”
If you would like to discuss how you can manage employee relationships, or have a chat about your general HR requirements, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR.
T: 07767 308717 or send us a message.
Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.