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Office Romance Policies

by Kristine Tucker

Ignoring affections you feel for a co-worker might not be an easy life choice, but refusing to do so could mean heartache in the work place. Some companies have official office romance policies to reduce risks associated with misconduct, office scandals and poor work performance. You can't always control whom you fall in love with, but you might have to choose between the relationship and your job if your company has strict dating policies.

Types

Some office romance policies completely forbid employees from dating co-workers, while others disallow only subordinate-supervisor relationships. Love-contract policies require dating couples to sign contracts agreeing that the relationship is consensual and both parties understand sexual harassment laws. Regardless of the type of policy, employees are expected to follow all of the guidelines in their employee handbooks. Romance-policy violations can lead to supervisor reprimands, job relocation requirements, position changes and even termination.

Benefits

Dating policies at work protect employers from sexual harassment lawsuits, scandalous affairs, biased promotions, low office morale, decreased productivity, co-worker jealousy and emotional workplace tensions. Even though some of these negative conditions exist even with romance policies, rules and regulations make employees think twice before engaging in such behavior. According to "Workforce" magazine, problems arise when supervisors date subordinates and other employees claim favoritism. Or, if one of these couples breaks up, the subordinate might claims coercion, harassment or unfair treatment. Office romance policies seek to ward off some forms of workplace drama by forcing subordinates, managers and co-workers to consider the negative consequences of workplace dating.

Disadvantages

Employers can't enforce a workplace romance policy if a relationship is kept secret. A couple might not show a hint of affection at work, closely guard public appearances together, avoid company-monitored phone calls, text messages and e-mail messages -- and maintain their relationship privately. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, employers can't control human nature or monitor private non-workplace interactions, so a romance policy is difficult to enforce. As a result, a boss must be careful not to reprimand or punish one couple while another couple's love affair goes unnoticed. Co-workers might also undervalue the importance of other official policies if the romance policy isn't taken seriously.

Love-Contract Policies

Love-contract policies are a positive alternative to zero-tolerance dating policies and policies that aren't effectively enforced. "Forbes" states that love-contract policies entered the workplace in about 2004 and provide measures that protect employers against harassment suits. If a couple separates and one accuses the other of unfair treatment, sexual harassment, defamation of character or career advancement disadvantages, an employer can stand on consensual agreements signed by both parties. It puts dating responsibilities in the employee's hands -- a torrid love affair isn't the boss's problem.

About the Author

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

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