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HR Alert: Watch Out for Office Romance Brewing at Work

August 22, 2016

While employees are demanded to work cohesively in a workplace setting, sometimes overtly-close behaviours, especially evident between a male and female employee at work, (acts that portray way beyond friendship) requires HR managers to be watchdogs of the company. They need to maintain a strict vigil  to ensure that the workings of coworkers are not disrupted and that productivity is not affected because of this romance brewing in the cup of work.

Should HR take drastic measures to “ban love” at work since their personal interests tend to  collide with their professional workings? While there is every reason to do so, but better not.  Parties involved into a love affair at work are less productive, since their focus is on seeking attention and creating favouritism in the workplace.

“Junior-senior relationships in the office can hurt morale and even harm the company if people involved, forget their professionalism,” says Beth P. Zoller, legal editor at XpertHR. This romantic relationship on public display at work, can often lead to claims of favouritism or cause other coworkers to feel uncomfortable.

Through observations, we are certain of the facts on why romance between coworkers spring up in a workplace. These could include spending quality time during lunch breaks, working for late hours, frequent communication between two employees, these allow leeway for extending  the professional relationship and turning it into an intimate and extremely personal one.

Well, all employers would agree that they will have no problems if such display of affection is kept out of the office place, however not to blame – love is blind, and so do these signs of affection showcased by the lovey-dovey couple can never go unnoticed.

At times, when there is a sneaky love affair between the superior and a subordinate, then the work atmosphere allows room for gossips among coworkers, and creates sense of favouritism which is unavoidable. Discrimination then starts creeping its way into the workplace setting to lower employee morale of other staffers and hamper productivity.

Now how do HR managers smell something’s cooking in the love pot? Well, this just doesn’t end here. In case, the relationship between the “much in love” couple goes through a turmoil and for some reason the lovebirds at work, break-up with each other, then more issues pop-up such as – signs of being uncomfortable working with their ex-boyfriends, fights, mood tantrums, emotional outburst, irritability, anger – all leading to poor performance and productivity.

See also: Having a Healthy and Supportive Relationship with Colleagues

Hence, before this entire conundrum of problems spring up from an ignored love affair brewing in the workplace, HR managers should be on vigil and intervene when required to ensure that workplace decorum is observed and maintained at all time.

Staying back late, after office hours of an employee should be avoided in most cases, however if need be, the reasons should be clearly specified and actions monitored during the extra wait.

Here are some ways, HR managers could intervene (not as a cupid and neither as a spoil sport) to make sure personal and professional lives of an employee are not minced to impact performance and productivity goals. Things wherein you need to maintain a strict vigil are:

Decode the “Just Friends” Code in a Supervisor-Subordinate Relationship. A special relationship if observed between the supervisor and a subordinate are sure signs that the couple in love are losing sight of their career progression goals, and are more focused on cheering up their personal lives.

Any display of affection during the work hours, beyond professional context demands intervention from a HR personnel to either shuffle employee to another department or change the seating arrangements, move the employee to a new working area, monitor the online workings (such that the employee is not connected on Intranet chats) etc.

Establish an Official Policy. Companies should draft a fair policy that addresses the junior-senior relationship in specifics. When a company strictly prohibits “the love” relationship at work, the employee in love might feel organisational constraint and interference into their personal domain, which should be avoided by HR managers under all circumstances.

Instead, allow the couple to decide, if one of them would choose for a transfer, change in seating arrangements, location displacement and other ways as to not affect comfortability of other coworkers inhabiting in the same workplace setting.

Encourage Employee Relationship Disclosure. Employees are often afraid to confess their love, attraction in a workplace setting with their senior managers. Therefore, employers should try catching up on a casual conversation with the employee to understand if they are having a sneaky love affair at work.

This disclosure could bring to light the issue much early to an employer and they can take necessary action towards the couple. Furthermore, policies that prevent sexual harassment, physical assault, retaliation or showcasing intimate behaviours at work (such as holding hands and touch) should be avoided.

While everyone has a right to fall in love and there can be no “love ban” that can ever be imposed by organisations, unless the couple involved into a relationship cross the demarcated line of professional conduct to disrupt workings and influence the workplace culture with their odd behaviours that create discomfort among colleagues. Happy working!

Next read: How to Deal with a Slack Off Employee?

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