How to manage a workplace relationship

Written by Martha Mitchell
14 February, 2022
a couple looking at eachother

How to manage a workplace relationship

 

This blog focusses on how to manage a workplace relationship. Love is in the air…especially in the workplace! More so than most people realise, a 2019 survey by vault.com showed that:

  • 58% of employees are in a workplace relationship;
  • 19% of employees admit to have an affair with a work colleague; and
  • 18% of employees report that they have had a random ‘hookup’ with a colleague.

 

In previous years workplace relationships would have been met with scorn and worry by an employer.  Of course, affairs and hookups can make some waves of disruption but are workplace relationships all that bad?

Benefits fo workplace relationships

Workplace relationships often cause no issues whatsoever, in fact, there are many possible benefits to romances in the workplace. 

 

1- Increase workplace energy

Everyone knows that when in a relationship those involved are in a happy place.  That happiness can be infectious and benefit the general work environment, a positive work environment benefits everyone and can improve productivity, communication and reduce stress allowing for creativity and profits to flourish.

 

2 – Motivation

That traditional view that workplace relationships are negative encourages those involved in the relationship to work harder to break those traditional views/stereotypes and not to be seen as the negative force within the office.

3 – Constructive feedback

Employees in a relationship and within a positive working environment are more likely to work together effectively and provide feedback, not just to each other but to the wider team and business.  Positive feedback allows for growth and development across an entire organisation. 

queen parade

What can I do to protect my business from workplace relationships?

 

In reality, and looking at the statistics, no business with a large team will ever prevent workplace relationships from occurring.  However, for those business owners who are concerned about workplace relationships, there are several practical steps they can take.

 

1- Training 

Managers are of course the front line of protecting the business against any risks.  Managers should be aware of the company stance on relationships and work with their teams to ensure that they are not disruptive by enforcing any policies as required by the business.

 

2- Policy

It wouldn’t necessarily be wise to have a policy that prohibits workplace relationships, the statistics suggest that this is pointless after all.  However, by establishing the expectations and boundaries of workplace relationships the benefits can thrive as opposed to the risks.

 

3- PDA’s

Although banning relationships in their entirety will probably not work, a sensible prohibition would be on public displays of affection, or PDAs.  Of course, PDAs come as part of the course but, they can of course be quite the opposite making people feel uncomfortable or awkward.  A ban on PDA’s may seem harsh to some but creates a very clear boundary that prevents colleagues from ever being put in an uncomfortable position. 

 

4- Mitigate

Of course, the traditional fears over workplace relationships are more likely to come to fruition should the relationship break down.  

 

A breakup can completely undo all of the potential benefits so keeping an ear to the ground is always wise.  Create a space that is safe for team members to confide in their line managers, look for support and communicate any potential risks from a break up early on in the process to mitigate the fallout.

 

Annual Leave

What about a workplace relationship between customers and my team? 

This is a concern for all businesses and managers, it would be wise to ensure that confidential information, for example, profit margins, is protected and that anti-bribery policies are robustly enforced. 

In the care sector, a very particular concern is relationships between care staff and vulnerable people.  This is one of the few occasions where a  prohibition is advisable and that staff should report any concerns that they may have to their managers or the CQC.  In these cases, businesses need a robust response to ensure the additional risks to the service users and business are managed.

 

A senior manager is in a relationship with a junior employee, what should I do?

Workplace relationships that develop across management levels very particular concern.

Where a manager enters into a relationship with a junior employee or someone who reports directly that there is a heightened risk to the business.  It may be that there is some element of coercion, perhaps the promise of a pay rise.  Although it is unlikely to be the case, where there is an element of coercion or control the impacts to the business can be huge, one of which is the increased risk of sexual harassment claims.

In order to mitigate against what could be a disastrous situation, business owners should ensure that relationships are consensual and that there is no element of coercion.

It is clear that the key to dealing with relationships in the workplace is management.  Whether that be to enhance the benefits or mitigate against the risks proper management will allow a business to thrive.

Employment Law Solutions can help

If you have a question you would like answered, our lawyers are here to help. Email us your question and we’ll love to get back to you. 

Employment Law Solutions offer Employment Law advice and can cure your HR headaches. By offering a monthly retainer service you are able to benefit from legal advice and employment contract reviews 24/7, 365 days, all while spreading the cost over 12 monthly payments.

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