With Valentine’s Day upon us and given the percentage of time spent at work, it’s hardly surprising that around 70% of employees have had a personal relationship or office romance with a colleague. 

But what happens when this relationship breaks down and leads to allegations of harassment or a manager’s relationship with a subordinate leads to allegations of favouritism or results in matrimonial problems that impact on their work performance?

This guide explores what you can do to maintain the smooth-running of your business, when issues relating to conflicts of interest, favouritism or unprofessional behaviour arise as a result of an office romance.

1. Communicate that unacceptable conduct will not be tolerated – For example, if performance has been negatively impacted by a relationship, this will need to be investigated and may result in disciplinary action.

2. Consider other options – For example, changing the reporting structure if there is a conflict of interest between a manager and subordinate.  A consultative approach to this will avoid any repercussions.

3. Ensure a grievance procedure is in place – If a relationship turns sour and creates issues at work, this will protect your business from allegations of sex discrimination or sexual harassment, since the employee will have the opportunity to make the complaint known to the company, so action can be taken.

4. Dismissal should only be considered as a last resort – To dismiss one of both parties because of an office romance is likely to be held as unfair dismissal.  Serious breaches of confidentiality, rather than the relationship itself, can of course have serious consequences and should be carefully investigated.

5. Is a ‘Relationship at work policy’ necessary? – Although office romances and the associated problems are fairly common place in companies of all sizes, the vast majority do not have a formal policy which gives guidance on professional standards and behaviours. 

Understandably, many business owners do not wish to interfere with their employee’s personal lives or relationships but this position becomes untenable when serious issues surrounding favouritism and unprofessional conduct arise. 

Having guidance in place to help you effectively manage these issues, could save you considerable time and aggravation, so is worth thinking about.

For more information, contact Ramshaw HR @ https://ramshawhr.com/contact-us/

 

By Bruce Ramshaw

Principal Consultant

ramshwhr.com

 

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