Menu Close

Navigating Relationships at Work

People spend more time with their co-workers than they spend with anyone else, so it’s no surprise that workplace romances occur frequently. Unfortunately, there are a lot of HR problems that can arise along with this.

Power Dynamics

There are clear differences when it comes to different workplace romances. Two people in a workplace that are peers when it comes to seniority and authority will have an easier time dating than most.

The trouble comes in when there’s a clear gap in power. Imagine an intern dating a manager. Sounds problematic, doesn’t it?

“Uneven power dynamics will open a can of worms that’s not worth dealing with, so it’s best for HR to have a policy against relationships like that.” says Hendrik Olsen, human resources co-director at Sambla.

Working Together

While peer relationships may not have the power dynamic issues mentioned previously, there’s still room for drama. If two people who are in a relationship are on a team together, other teammates can feel uncomfortable and are likely to complain about PDA (public displays of affection) to HR.

Human Resources Employment

When a situation like this arises, it will be up to one of the two to move to a different team. In the ideal workplace, couples should not be working together.

Bringing Personal Problems into Work

Imagine having a fight with your partner, then going to work, and they are there too. The fight continues. In the worst case, couples may loudly argue about their personal problems in the workplace. This makes everyone uncomfortable and negatively impacts morale and productivity.

Even in the best case scenario where both people involved do their best to be professional, it will still be awkward. Other people will inevitably sense the tension and it will once again lower productivity as people gossip over the office romance gone sour instead of staying focused.

This kind of situation can be avoided by banning couples from working on the same team or even in the same department. Minimizing the amount of time that a couple has to see each other at work is the best way to go.

The Breakup

Most relationships end with a breakup or even worse, a divorce. If there’s a recently separated couple working together in your company, you can expect some uncomfortable tension for a while.

It’s not completely uncommon for a bitter person to take any chance they can to complain about their ex. This not only wastes HR’s time, but creates a hostile work environment that can be detrimental in the long run.

Unfortunately, the only real way to avoid most of these problems is to ban relationships from occurring in the office at all. Many companies do have a policy stating that couples are not allowed to work in the same department or even the same office area.

Depending on the kind of business you have, you could make that work. But if you’re a small business with a close-knit team, it’s better to ban relationships from occurring altogether. In the event that your team members do fall in love, one of them will have to volunteer to leave the company.