Advantages & Disadvantages of Having Organizational Policies That Deal With Workplace Romance

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Young man and woman working in office
Young man and woman working in office (Image: Jacob Wackerhausen/iStock/Getty Images)

Given the amount of time people spend at work, it’s inevitable that some will develop romantic feelings for co-workers. Many successful relationships trace their roots to workplace romances, but they have the potential to interfere with job performance and morale. Company policies addressing workplace romances can help avoid misunderstandings about what is and isn't acceptable, but they carry some potential drawbacks as well.

Advantage: Scandal and Liability Avoidance

Some romantic relationships are perfectly legitimate while others are fraught with problems. A common problem is a relationship between two people of different “rank” even if there’s no direct or indirect supervisory relationship between them. This situation can lead to accusations of favoritism, inappropriate behavior and damaged staff morale. A formal written policy addressing these issues can help avoid damaging gossip and scandals, as well as lawsuits. If employees are transgressing official boundaries, the situation is easier to deal with than if their relationships cause problems but do not violate any formal policy.

Advantage: Enhanced Clarity

By crafting a definitive policy on office romances, an employer can make the situation clear to new employees as soon as they are hired. By requiring them to read and understand the policy, an employer can be assured that all staff members know it. If the policy is then violated, the employer can assume that the employees did so willfully and can respond appropriately. People who are becoming involved in a new romantic relationship are not always behaving rationally; an official policy may help them to act more responsibly.

Disadvantage: Expanded Bureaucracy

Implementation of an official policy on workplace romances runs the risk of introducing further bureaucracy and expense into the organization. The policy itself may require a substantial amount of work and consultation to produce, and after it is implemented it must be enforced if it is to have any meaning. Organizations that have never had problems dealing with workplace romances may want to consider avoiding all of these potential problems by simply leaving well enough alone.

Disadvantage: The Nanny Employer

Depending on how the policy is implemented and enforced, employees can be left feeling as if they are under surveillance by an employer attempting to meddle in their personal lives. The implementation of a policy that is perceived by employees as being excessively intrusive may backfire and cause increased hostility toward the employer rather than smoother operations in the office.

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