Office romances: How employers should deal with them

Moira Grassick - Chief Operating Officer

February 14 2024

First published: February 11th 2020
Last updated: February 14th 2024

On Valentine’s Day love may be in the air, but workplace romances and office relationships can happen any time of the year. If either of these scenarios blossom in your workplace, it can sometimes cause complications, ranging from increased gossip to complaints or grievances.

To maintain control of your workplace, your business, and to continue fostering a healthy and safe environment for your staff, our experts have collected the following ten tips for employers:

Check your existing policies and procedures

Are your existing policies and procedures appropriate for dealing with any problems that might arise from workplace romances? It’s sensible to have a confidentiality policy or conflict of interest policy that requires workers to notify their employer of any change in their personal circumstances that might give rise to a conflict of interest.

Encourage staff to notify management of a workplace romance

Requesting this level of communication about this particular subject might seem awkward or over the top. Still, it’s important for management to be aware of any romantic relationship in the workplace. Then, they can decide if appropriate steps need to be taken.

If you learn about a workplace romance, don’t ignore it

Not every employee will be comfortable reporting their new relationship if it falls in the category if a workplace romance. However, if it becomes known to management that a personal, romantic relationship between staff has developed, it might be time to act. Therefore, it’s important to stay aware.

Think about changing the work environment

It might be sensible to consider whether the structures for reporting relationships or for management practices need to be revised. This should be discussed with the people affected. This can help address any suspicions of favouritism that may arise.

Watch out for favouritism

And, speaking of favouritism…make sure that members of staff who are engaged in relationships with a colleague are not involved in any management decisions involving their partners. It’s important that such decisions are taken impartially and that the impartiality of the decision is clear to everyone involved.

Don’t be afraid of taking action

Treat any complaints seriously and take action. This is especially important if these complaints relate to bullying or harassment.

Training for managers

Most managers lack training and knowledge on how to tackle workplace romances. Managers need to be aware of how to manage such situations, as well as what the potential risks can be, and how to manage said risks. Managers should also have regular training on how to respond to harassment complaints that may arise from a workplace romance or from the aftermath of a workplace romance.

Be especially alert around work social events

Christmas parties or work social events are often the source of workplace romances. It’s a good idea to remind staff that they are still expected to abide by company policies, even if the party is outside of the workplace. If something goes wrong, you, as an employer, could be liable.

What about when things go wrong?

Of course, not all love is made to last. Problems might arise if a workplace romance or relationship ends, and especially, if it doesn’t end smoothly. These situations could impact an employee's work performance or professional relationships at work. This might require thinking about moving staff members involved in a relationship.

Be mindful of your obligations to maintain a safe workplace

Sexual harassment and bullying can often arise in the context of workplace romances. Employers should have policies and procedures in place to deal with any such incidents and related complaints. Love may be in the air…but it doesn’t have to poison the workplace. Be proactive, set expectations around conduct, and enforce your workplace policies.

Need our help?

If you would like further advice on office romances from an expert, at any time of day or night, and for free, our advisors are ready to help you. Call us on 1800 719 216 or request a callback here.

For further information on how to manage similar staff issues, including poor performance, download our free Staff Behaviour guide. 

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