Workplace Relationships

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Workplace Relationships

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What do super couples Brangelina, Bennifer, the Obamas, and even Fifty Shades of Grey lovers Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey all have in common?

They all fell in love in the workplace!

According to a survey, couples who meet at work are the most likely to get married.  But as Shakespeare pointed out in his comedy ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, “The course of true love never did run smooth”.  So while employers can’t prevent eyes from meeting over the water cooler, they should take steps to ensure that workplace romances don’t lead to the following messy issues:

  • Inappropriate sexual behaviour or harassment
  • Accusations of favouritism
  • Abuse of power
  • Conflict of interest
  • Distraction from work

Several couples who met their spouses at work have given their view.  Helen Meighan who met her husband Dan while working at the same leisure centre together, thinks employers should mind their own business.  “I think as long as it has no impact on their work, they shouldn’t have to say anything.  People are just nosey!”, she said.

Lindsey Gage and Joanne Pierce, who met their husbands Andrew and Dave in an office environment, have similar views.  Lindsey said, “It depends if your relationship and possible splitting up would impact on your working environment”.  “I think couples have the right to keep it quiet until it becomes serious”, added Jo.

But Kieran Harry, who met future wife Ceri at work, pointed out that mixing business with pleasure isn’t always necessarily a good idea.  “I think it depends on what positions are held, ” he said.  “I’ve seen managers dating your average employee frowned upon.  It also depends on what kind of business you’re in.”

“William Rogers, the Chief Executive Officer of multi-media company UKRD, agrees.  “Generally speaking, life is made much more difficult if it is a manager and a member of their team who have the relationship, ” he said.  “Irrespective of how careful they are, human nature is such that it can create real problems.  If there is the slightest sense of any favouritism, you are in big trouble.”
But maybe a romantic at heart, Mr Rogers also sees the positive aspects of love in the workplace. “HR tends to focus on the negative aspects of colleagues falling in love, but in my experience cooperation between different departments can markedly increase when there’s an ongoing relationship spanning different job roles, ” he said.

Bosses have a delicate line to follow in respecting their employees’ privacy but also ensuring that any relationships don’t have a detrimental impact on their business.  Nobody wants to feel like Big Brother is watching you at work, which is how staff at Ipswich borough council must feel after being told that all relationships, including short term sexual flings should be declared! However, other employers might want to follow suit to some extent and ask their employees to declare any serious relationships between colleagues.

For more expert advice on this and other HR issues, contact aible on 01656 630 010 for a free, no obligation chat, or email people@aible.co.uk

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