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Office romance and your business – why you need to know who’s cavorting with who

Office romances are certainly not dead, as one survey by Vault has confirmed

51% of the 2,000 people surveyed admitted to being involved in an office romance at some point, with 64% saying they would do it again. As an employer, do you need to keep your ear to the ground when it comes to office gossip and can this actually be useful for your company in the long run?

Some might argue that who’s dating who is none of an employer’s business; however, given that 20% of respondents to Vault’s study admitted to currently partaking in a bit of store cupboard kissing, it is probably in your interest to know. In this way, you can at least be sure that personal relationships are not interfering with the day-to-day running of your company.

While some office romances may be considered harmless flings, 6% of those surveyed agreed that love in the workplace was totally unacceptable. There are a number of reasons these relationships might be damaging to your business.

First of all, there is the distraction element; even if a couple doesn’t show affection at work, the rumour mill can run wild and distract your employees from actually working. More importantly, the potential for favouritism – particularly between a supervisor and someone more junior – is always a risk; indeed, 16% of those surveyed said they had been in a fling with a supervisor. Not only might this be perceived as an abuse of power but also the risk of jealousy from other employees can be damaging to office morale.

Things get more complicated where marriages are concerned. A shocking number (46%) of respondents knew of someone involved in an extra-marital affair. 19% admitted to being one of the guilty party, with this ending either their or their colleague’s career in 13% of cases.

These numbers only serve to underline the importance of honesty and transparency in the workplace. While it may not be an employer’s duty to inform a partner about a cheating employee, it is important that these situations are acknowledged before they cause long-term damage to your personnel and their careers. When things go sour, it can be disastrous for your business.

Where do you draw the line? It is worth remembering office romance may be the real thing. Many happy relationships have resulted from meeting in a workplace; after all, you are likely to share interests and pursuits with your colleagues. Nonetheless, it is important for an employer to suss out these situations discreetly.

If it comes to your attention that two of your employees are dating, take them aside quietly and remind them about professional boundaries. Their time outside work is their own; however, once they are on your turf, you need to set some gentle ground rules.

As cringe-making as this may sound, it is far better to be open with your employees than to let relationships fester or become sour. Even if it is a match made in heaven, it is up to you as an employer to ensure the workplace stays just that – a place for working.

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