Keys to Avoiding Risks of Workplace Romances

heartsDespite all of the cautionary tales, every year countless employees wind up in whirlwind office romances. According to a recent article from, a new survey by CareerBuilder revealed 39% of workers said that they had dated a co-worker at least once during their working lives, some with fairly high rate of success. Of the 39% of people surveyed that dated a co-worker at least once, 30% went on to marry that co-worker.

So, what’s one to do? Here are a few options from Legal Life Coach, Chas Rampenthal of Inc.:

1. Allow it — with written disclosure. An employee socializing with another doesn’t generally become an issue until a relationship ensues, at which point you can require written notification. “A signed document will confirm a consensual relationship and provide additional notice of understanding of the sexual harassment policy.”

2. Allow it – except within the chain of authority. Some of the same issues, such as defining at what stage it is “technically” considered dating and what types of behaviors are acceptable (such as, public displays of affection or public displays of disdain should the union dissolve). Rampenthal recommends having a HR representative be at the very least aware of the relationship so that you can better respond to possible complaints of favoritism or discrimination.

Two to avoid:

1. No formal policy. Some companies choose to go without a formal dating policy and leave it under the blanket of harassment and sexual discrimination. This could become problematic should a situation arise and there is no clear policy to address the situation.

2. Ban dating entirely. This could become problematic seeing how approximately a third of our employees are going to date anyway. Some companies adopt what is commonly known as an “anti-fraternization policy.” This comes with many issues in that the specific behaviors have to be defined. Will you restrict socializing or just dating? What differentiates one from the other? One less restrictive policy to consider is one avoiding nepotism—a policy prohibiting family members from working in the same company or acting in a supervisory role for a relative.

We know love develops everywhere. The key is to remove the stigma of romantic relationships in the workplace. That way the temptation to hide such relationships is all but eliminated. When you create a safe space for employees to alert you to what’s happening, you’ll be able to plan, react and respond to protect your firm and by extension your employees.

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