We all want our employees to get along, but what happens when close working friendships develop into full-blown personal relationships? Strong working relationships can result in loyalty, determination to pull together and succeed, and increased productivity.
Personal relationships are great when they are going well. When they go wrong, things can get complicated and the relationship could potentially become destructive. If this is all played out within the four walls of the office, the damage and disruption that it causes can be considerable. This is why all HR professionals need to manage relationships in the workplace carefully.
Workplace relationships are inevitable
Many relationships begin in the workplace. There is an air of inevitability about it. If people come into contact with each other on a daily basis, it’s no surprise that close friendships and relationships follow. Workplace relationships are not a problem, per se. However, it is important that HR professionals are mindful of the potential issues that can unravel as a result.
Tips for how to manage workplace relationships
You can’t stop employees forming personal relationships. An organisation that has if clear guidelines about working relationships in place can however prevent these from impacting on the business. Of course, no workplace relationship policy can cover every eventuality, but it can make employees aware of the company stance on workplace relationships. The aim is to strike a balance between an employee’s right to have a private life and an employer’s right to look out for its interests.
Employee guidelines about workplace relationships
It’s not unreasonable to expect employees to inform their manager, supervisor or HR director of any personal relationships, in order to avoid conflicts of interest, either genuine or perceived. It is then the job of management to review the situation. The objective is not to discourage or dampen a blossoming office romance, but to avoid any interference with work. Possible actions might involve an employee reporting to a different manager or moving to a different department. There is sometimes a thin line between workplace flirtation and sexual harassment. The potential issues for grievance grow if a workplace relationship ends. Anti-harassment policies need to be clear and understood by all.
Dealing with workplace relationships can be difficult. The crucial thing is that they need handling sensitively and with tact. Having a framework to manage workplace relationships when they occur is good practice.