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Dating in the Office: What's the Best Policy?

By Sammi Caramela
Business.com / Employees / Last Modified: June 28, 2018
Image credit: INFO4YOU-studio/Shutterstock

The Business.com community wanted to know common company policies for dating co-workers. We found answers.

Employees are still human. They experience emotions, form bonds and develop feelings. Sometimes, this happens in the workplace.

As an employer, you want your workers to get along; you want them to work together and enjoy doing so. But what happens when the lines blur and relationships stretch beyond friendly? What you don't want arising, though, is a "Grey's Anatomy" situation. So, you have a policy for that.

This is a common concern in the Business.com community. Kayla Desmond, a Business.com community member, asked, "What is your company policy for dating in the office?"

Businesses have a say whether an office romance can happen within the confines of the organization. While you don't necessarily have to ban dating altogether, often the answer to the question of whether romantic relationships are allowed is, "It depends."

"My companies, and my recommendation to others with which I consult, strictly limit relationships, whether dating, married or familial, in certain situations," said David Mair, managing partner and CEO of Soter Healthcare and member of the Business.com community.

For instance, Mair said, his company does not permit relationships between any worker and their subordinate. And in the age of the #MeToo movement, this couldn't be more prudent.

"We require that employees self-disclose relationships that develop," said Mair. "When possible, we reassign an employee in such a situation to separate the supervisory/oversight relationship. Failure to disclose a relationship has disciplinary consequences."

Jason Treu, executive coach and author of "Social Wealth" (Be Extraordinary LLC, 2014), said that lateral dating typically is not an issue in the workplace. But when two people of different levels form a relationship, you can almost guarantee there will be problems.

That's why, said Treu, both workers "should sign a dating contract that states the senior person isn't involved in any reviews, compensation or decisions on the other person. [There] can be no favoritism of any kind."

However, according to research by Jonathan Sutton for the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University, many workers sense a division in their team even when colleagues are laterally dating, as if there's an unspoken competition of "us" versus "them," with "us" being the work team and "them" being the couple.

Shared loyalty is a great asset to any team, but when a member values one worker over the rest, it can do more harm than good. If two workers are romantically involved, they must be considerate of how this dynamic affects their peers, and, as the business owner or manager, you must be aware of concerns your team has.

Find a way to allow employees to anonymously share their opinion on the matter. If you think the relationship is pitting employees against each other, then address it.

It might seem controlling or even cruel to force employees to discuss their personal lives with you, but there are risks associated with romantic work relationships, from encouraging unfair advantages, like wage increases, to causing distractions and hindering performance, said Mair.

At the end of the day, you want your company and its workers to be equal priorities. If you're not comfortable with the arrangement, and neither are your workers, don't be afraid to set guidelines or simply say no.

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