You’ve got a lot on your plate as a manager, and you might think that office romances aren’t something you’ll regularly have to deal with, but they do happen. In fact, one survey discovered that roughly one-third of employees have been involved in an office romance.
Though they’re common, office romances are often complex, and as a new manager, dealing with them can be difficult. Your company might have a policy in place that either allows or “forbids” dating in the workplace, but if it doesn’t, it’s up to you to handle the situation and ensure everyone (and everything) remains as professional as possible.
So, what are some of the dos and don’ts of office romances and what can you do about them? Here’s what you can do to take charge and make sure everyone feels safe and comfortable.
Keep Communication Open
As a manager, communication with your employees is always important, especially when you’re facing conversations about a tricky topic. Be proactive with your employees when it comes to workplace relationships. Make sure you’re discussing things such as:
- Company policies
- Personal and professional boundaries
- Expectations for conduct
- Available resources, such as HR
By being as transparent as possible about expectations and boundaries, you can establish a healthier workplace environment for everyone.
Host regular training seminars to address topics such as sexual harassment, safety, and navigating uncomfortable situations. This will help all of your employees get on the same page about dating in the workplace, so no one is blinded by expectations or potential consequences.
Consider Your Customers
Even if your company is okay with office romances and you’ve talked about boundaries, your employees must use a different sort of professionalism with clients than they do co-workers. You might have a casual environment and positive culture, but setting professional expectations with customers is essential for maintaining and improving client satisfaction.
While it’s good to have a relaxed and vibrant workplace, it shouldn’t be at the expense of professionalism. Customers shouldn’t be surprised about what they get from your business. Just as they may expect a great product or high-quality service, they will also expect professional behavior. This means that your employees should avoid acting like a couple or engaging in public displays of affection in front of your customers.
Support Your Employees
One of the biggest risks of office romances is that they can end at any time. You might feel torn over what to do if a couple in your workplace breaks up. While communication remains critical, it’s also essential to be supportive of both parties in the wake of a split.
There’s a fine line between offering your professional support and a listening ear and involving yourself in people’s private lives. However, don’t be afraid to ask your employees what they need. Someone ending a casual fling will need different support than someone who is breaking up with a partner they live with. The former may need some moral support, while the other may need some additional leeway with projects or time off to find a new place to live after the breakup.
Remember to support your employees who aren’t involved in the breakup, too. When an office couple splits up, it can threaten the entire workplace environment and even impact employees’ ability to be productive. Addressing things early and making sure everyone still feels comfortable and positive will let your employees know you care about their well-being, making it easier to maintain a healthy company culture.
Relationships in the workplace don’t necessarily have to be off-limits. However, when you’re in a leadership position, it’s important to know how to navigate them. Guide your employees in the right direction, clarify boundaries and expectations, and ensure you provide the right kind of support to all of your employees, no matter the difficult situations they’re dealing with.