Valentine's Day is coming up this week, and love is in the air! Chocolates and cards are being bought, dinner reservations are made, and love is buzzing through - the workplace? According to a Vault's 2017 Office Romance Survey, 57% of individuals responded to having had a romantic relationship at work. Is it that surprising? We spend most of our day, and week in the office and it is where we experience some of our more stressful and celebratory moments in our lives. The people we work with understand the challenges and wins we encounter at work, and so it makes sense that we connect with our team members more so than many other people outside of work.
As an HR professional, our leaders look to us for guidance on matters like this. Luckily, we are not responsible for the personal choices our employees make, but we do need to acknowledge those personal relationships could and do happen in the workplace. According to a SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) article written by Theresa Adams, SHRM-SCP, an HR Knowledge Advisor for SHRM. , the best way to be prepared for this situation is to "be transparent and proactive by drafting clear guidelines."
When drafting a policy for workplace relationships, there are many things to consider.
What are the legal requirements at both the state and federal levels?
What is the position of the company on office romances, and whether they will be allowed, and if so, what specifications to consider in drafting such a policy?
Reporting structure considerations - for example, not allowing a supervisor or person in a position of authority to manage someone they are in a personal relationship. And if this situation were to occur, what would be the required steps for disclosing that information and department adjustments to be made if necessary.
What consequences exist for not following the policy. For example, do you terminate both employees, transfer employees, write the employees up, or some other action.
Most important, coordinate your policy for dating in the workplace along with your sexual harassment and retaliation policies to keep messaging consistent.
You can be flexible with your policies specific to your organization's business model and culture, but as always with policies and practices of this nature, it is best practice to have legal counsel review for compliance and structure.