To date or to not date at the workplace? This Valentine’s Day learn how to best embrace workplace relationships with immaculately strategized coworker dating policy!
The love month is here! It’s February and Valentine’s Day is around the corner. It is also the time when many people will confess their feelings for each other and ask their crushes out on a date. And chances are, that both the parties are co-workers. Valentine’s Day 2021 may not be how typical valentine’s days are or have been, but it will still make the cupid shoot its arrow into the hearts of many. That might mean trouble for some organizations and HR teams, who do not have an appropriate coworker dating policy in place.
As we’ve said time and again, employees spend a lot of their every day time at the workplace, interacting with their colleagues. So when two people spend so much time together (even though it’s digital now), they understand each other’s perspectives, and may end up liking each other. Now, it is not wrong for two co-workers to like each other, even if it’s in a romantic way. But not managing their romantic relationship at the professional settings effectively can cause a ton of problems, not just in their work lives, but also their personal ones. And that is where the HR steps in.
We are living in an extremely open era, where people are pretty vocal about how they feel towards each other, even at workplaces. But having a relationship in office is different from having a relationship outside work. There are multiple parties involved and any friction between the couple may lead to loss of productivity, gossip, speculations, and disruption among teams. Hence, it is crucial that the HR team takes all the situations and variables into consideration and designs the best suited coworker dating policy.
Let’s take a look at how HR leaders can better manage coworkers dating, this Valentine’s Day.
The consensual Love Contract
So, the first and the most important thing to do is to evaluate the integrity of any relationships that you know of or may be brought to your attention.
By this, we mean, that all the relationships that exist in the office have to be consensual.
Coworkers may ask out each other, but what is significant to note is whether or not both the entities are in the said relationship by their consent.
For this, HRs may call each individual separately and in private to ask them if they are in the said relationship by their own will and wish, and not because of any kind of pressure, threat, or coercion. If the HR realizes that the opposite party is hesitant or ambiguous with their response, they may offer to arrange a session with the company counselor to make them more comfortable.
Once both the individuals agree that the relationship in consensual and mutual, the HR can make them sign a ‘Love Contract’ that states the couple are together by their own will and wish, will not let this affect their work or productivity in any way, will behave professionally in professional settings, and will not hold the company liable for any problems that happen in their relationship.
Love Contract may sound like a gift you give your partner on Valentine’s Day, but it is also a gift that you give to yourself and the organization that you are working with, as you agree to not let your personal feelings impact your work life.
The Honeymoon Phase
Once two colleagues begin dating each other, it is natural that they will want to show their affection to them, which is not necessarily an “appropriate” workplace behavior.
So, for that the HR leaders should follow one of the most effective ways of making people understand workplace code of conduct and that is – Training and Awareness sessions.
HR teams can arrange sessions for couples or even people who are not dating, to make them aware of the company’s code of conduct policy and train them to behave in a way that is acceptable in a working environment.
For example, Mike and Rachel are in a relationship and work in the same department. So the HR team can educate them on what behavior works in the office, what doesn’t.
So, holding hands outside the office is okay. But within the office premises, it isn’t.
Or, a more realistic situation keeping present times in mind, expressing your love and affection to your partner over your private messenger, after office hours is fine, but talking about your relationship over the workplace collaboration tool, is not.
If the couple is having problems, then passing any snarky comments in front of the other coworkers or in a meeting is not fine.
These are the type of scenarios that HR teams should talk about to all the employees. Establishing boundaries is extremely critical, especially with coworker dating policy.
The Sour Patch
Where there are relationships, there’s also a probability of them ending. Not all couples are meant for each other and make it to the end. So breakups and splits are a common possibility, and every day is not Valentine’s Day. Sometimes Valentine’s Day also ends up being the breakup day! Nut that shouldn’t mean employees badmouthing each other.
Sometimes co-workers from the same department split and talk ill about others and spill personal details about their relationship. Or sometimes when couples break up, it tends to affect their work and mental health.
In such scenarios, HR teams can offer counselling sessions, try switching the departments of the split couple, or even check to see if their insurance covers external therapy.
It is important to be supportive, but to not take sides or support badmouthing.
In case of subordinates dating superiors, HR leaders will have to take care that there is no abuse of power after the split to cause hindrance in the progression of any party.
One shot at asking them out – Workplace Dating Case Study
Coworkers dating in a professional setting can turn out to pretty nasty if things go south. It can also instill a feeling of discomfort and make the workplace look like a hostile environment.
To avoid that from happening, organizations such as Google, Facebook, and Airbnb give their employees guidance on shooting their shot, but not more than once. Even though it’s not a written rule or policy, these companies discourage coworkers from asking another peer out for a second time.
If they ask someone out and don’t get a ‘No’ in response, but also don’t get a ‘Yes’, it will still be considered a NO! Ambiguous responses or excuses indicate probable disinterest and there’s no second chance at it. So for example, if Jim asks Pam out, and she says she’s house-sitting for a neighbor, Jim can’t ask her out again.
These unwritten policies are a step towards eliminating sexual harassment cases and undesired flirting at the workplace.
Some other factors to consider –
– Educate all your employees about the sexual harassment policies
– Train your upper level employees to avoid relationships with subordinates
– Level the ground of decision for all couples alike, but treat their situations personally
– Do not discriminate on any basis
– Identify any conflict of interests early
– Make employees aware about the repercussions of revealing private information to anyone (including their partner)
– Discourage any gossips or rumors about any couple
– Encourage employees to be transparent with your about the status of their relationship
– Do not meddle into the personal specifics of any couple
– Talk to couples privately if you find them embarrassing each other or their colleagues
– Advice managers to document all the happenings, in case they are dating a subordinate.
– Keep a check on the productivity levels of the couple, as well as their teams.
With Valentine’s Day almost here, you have new couples emerging in your workplace. Do not discourage their personal choice, just make them aware of all the details and train them to act professionally. Because even if it’s Valentine’s Day, coworkers are still professionals of the organizations.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chandrima is a Content management executive with a flair for creating high quality content irrespective of genre. She believes in crafting stories irrespective of genre and bringing them to a creative form. Prior to working for MartechCube she was a Business Analyst with Capgemini.