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Workplace relationships can land employers in hot water if they are not managed properly under company policy. As an office manager, I bet you’ve seen your fair share of office romances.  In fact, 48% of you and your colleagues have had an office romance according to Reboot Online in their workplace study ‘Office Romance Statistics for 2019’.

It is widely understood that workplace relationships can have a detrimental impact on the performance of employees, management decisions and the dynamics of the team. By following these tips created on behalf of myself and the HR team, we hope to minimise the risk of such events occurring.

How can romantic relationships affect office managers and the workplace?

  • Positive and negative bias in decision-making, appraisals, discipline and promotion

  • Discrimination

  • Sexual harassment

  • Adverse effects on the dynamic of the team and morale

  • Lower productivity

  • Conflict of interests

Romance in the workplace can be managed effectively as long as policies and procedures are in place to ensure that employees' personal lives remain personal and their work professional.

We strongly recommend not to forbid employees from dating, as this will only lead to secret relationships forming and, as an office manager, it is vital that you are made aware of relationships because they will directly impact all aspects of the workplace, especially if employees work in the same department.

To help avoid such problems, it is important that managers work closely with the HR team to establish clear guidelines on acceptable behaviour, the procedures to follow in terms of disclosing relationships and in terms of how relationships in the workplace will be managed. Your company should also have a policy that outlines the procedures in dealing with sexual harassment and discrimination claims.

Read our blog on how to manage sexual harassment in the workplace

Make disclosure of workplace relationships a requirement

It is likely that, as an office manager, you will be involved in the on-boarding and induction of new staff, therefore, it is important that you help drive a positive message.

The office managers that I spoke with told me that they highly recommend encouraging open communication between managers and employees at all times, as it is in your best interest to help safeguard the business. 

When employees do disclose their relationship, I am sure you will agree that looking like you’re prying for information and seeming judgemental will cause issues. As an office manager, you only need to be made aware of the relationship so that you can put the necessary protective measures in place.

Be clear on the types of workplace relationships you accept

If you have not done already, it is important that you and the HR team outline the types of relationships that are acceptable and unacceptable in your workplace. Our managers and the HR team often find that complications in the workplace arise when employees date in the same department or date an individual in a more senior position.

If you choose to allow such relationships, I recommend that you have protective measures in place to ensure that professional and personal lives are kept separate. 

Examples of protective measures our HR team recommend:

  • Changing reporting lines and management structures

  • Moving the couple into different departments

  • Ensuring that members of staff who are engaged in relationships with colleagues are not involved in any management decisions involving their partners

  • Creating and communicating a behavioural code of conduct

  • Having the right to dismissal of an employee if the relationship has shown to have a detrimental effect on workplace relationships (this should be a last resort)

Create a behavioural code of conduct for your employees

As mentioned above, my managers and HR team tell me that having a behavioural code of conduct can be a great asset to help manage office romances. By outlining the behaviour that your company do or don’t accept, this ensures that expectations are clear and this helps to minimise the risk of relationships affecting the business or indeed other employees.

Explore our guide to managing conflict in the workplace

While employers may not be able to stave away the romantic feelings between their employees, following the advice above will help to ensure that such office affairs are handled appropriately and ethically, thus minimising the risk of legal repercussions further down the line.

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