With most people spending more than a third of the day at work, workplace romance is hotter than ever. Roughly four out of 10 workers have dated a co-worker, according to a survey by Spherion Corporation.
Employers aren’t nearly as enamored. When office romances sour, scorned lovers often sue, alleging that their former lover was a sexual harasser. And even if the lovers are happy, workplace romances can cause problems in the office or on the shop floor.
Employees recognize the potential problems: 47% of women and 36% of men think openly dating a co-worker could jeopardize their careers. And most people surveyed agreed that dating between supervisors and subordinates is taboo, even though nearly 20% of employees in a Vault.com survey admitted to having dated a supervisor.
While workplace romance policies are growing increasingly common, only about 30% of companies currently have them.
Based on all of these legal risks, should your organization forbid office romances? Legally, you can, but it probably isn’t the wisest move. A “no romance” policy could be nearly impossible to enforce, and affect employees who already are involved in relationships with co-workers. It also might be taken as an affront to employees’ privacy.
Instead, look at the larger picture. Charges of favoritism, discrimination and conflict of interest are the real problems. Handle those issues well and you will prevent most of the love’s workplace pitfalls.
The cardinal rule in managing workplace romance—and all discipline—is to treat everyone equally and according to your well-established policy.