Office Romance. Whether this term conjures up thoughts of fondness, anxiety or dread, it is an unavoidable reality in today’s workplace. This Valentine’s Day, here at Fierce, Inc. we have decided to set the record straight on the reality of inter-office dating. There’s a need to question the assumptions many of us have with the idea of dating a colleague—and to take the negative notions out of the equation.
Assumption: We have to keep this a secret; we’ll both get fired if anyone finds out.
Reality: In this day and age of social media and a need to overshare, chances are, people will find out. And you don’t want your boss or colleagues to find out via a tweet or Facebook post that you are dating their officemate. Even if you aren’t officially “friends”, news gets around (as do retweets). Instead, schedule a meeting early in the relationship, and come clean. Open communication is key here. If it happens, the goal is to be open and honest while sharing the perspectives, so you can figure it out as a team. Most companies acknowledge that relationships between colleagues occur and provide guidelines around what is acceptable and what is not. For example, relationships between supervisors and direct reports are prohibited and professional behavior is required at all times, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to date within the organization.
Assumption: It will be awkward for everyone.
Reality: A new couple should be open and honest about their relationship, however beyond that, if a couple is handling the situation correctly, you do not need to be reminded hourly, or even daily, of the fact they are dating. While once the news is out the couple may feel relieved to not have to sneak around, this does not give them carte blanche to flaunt their new love around the office. Sure, you may see them getting lunch together more frequently, but any and all visible romance should, and for the most part is, kept out of the workplace. If this isn’t the case, speak with your boss about how it’s affecting your work. Chances are they may not be aware of the impact they are having, and once brought to their attention, will cool it around the office.
Assumption: Productivity will drop- I am going to have to pick up their slack while they flirt all day
Reality: Often, the opposite is true. Couples just starting out are often very self-conscious of their reputation within an organization once people know they are dating someone at the office, and to avoid rumors or claims of slacking, will actually step up their game and work harder than ever. It is important that their relationship does not define their place in the company. Once the novelty of the relationship wears off, things will settle down and the grove of a team will go back to normal.
Assumption: Two co-workers dating is a recipe for disaster—it’s just a matter of time before the company will be sued for sexual harassment
Reality: By far the majority of office romances are not construed as sexual harassment, nor will that topic ever come up throughout the relationship. With that said, every organization needs to provide a sexual harassment policy that clearly states how a claim will be handled and the consequences for such behavior. Underscore that the company has a zero-tolerance policy and doesn’t discriminate on the basis of title or tenure.
So this Valentine’s Day, rest assured knowing that if you do feel a spark with the guy or girl down the hall, all is not lost. Or if you have two employees that seem to be hitting it off, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Being open and honest about these relationships is the best way to ensure the drama is avoided… at least where the office is concerned.