How to navigate romantic relationships at work

How should these be handled by both those involved and their employers?

Everyone who has worked with other people has a tale or two about office romances and how they can wreak havoc on the equilibrium of the working environment, particularly if they go wrong. With the workplace being one of the most common places to meet a partner, it is hardly surprising that many people start a relationship with someone they work with.

Working side-by-side with someone for eight hours a day inevitably leads to relationships forming and a recent survey of 550 human resources professionals by People Management found there are certain rules employers should adhere to if they want to avoid their office romance creating problems.

One of the most important of these is adhering to any office policies. While only one in five of those surveyed said their employer had a policy on office relationships, this does not give employees carte blanche on how they behave. Discretion is advised at all times – if you flaunt your relationship, you are likely to end up in trouble.

Canoodling in the stationery cupboard is a definite no-no – if your behaviour is likely to upset, embarrass or inconvenience your colleagues, you could find yourself facing disciplinary action.

Having an affair with the boss is also a bad move. If a manager is seen to be in a relationship with one of their staff, this can lead to accusations of favouritism and the resultant bad feeling between employees, potentially leading to teams falling apart and failing to act professionally. It is hard to believe that a manager can maintain a professional, detached attitude towards someone they are in a relationship with.

Another issue likely to cause problems is when workers start relationships with people who are already married or in a relationship. One in five of the people surveyed said they had been in this situation and it is obvious it can only lead to mistrust, secrecy and even a lack of credibility for those concerned. Lying and cheating, even if just to your own spouse or partner, is never a good career move.

Experts suggest that if you find yourself in a relationship with a colleague who is already taken, you should consider the impact it could have on your career in addition to the impact it will have on the other parties involved. If you really cannot stop your feelings, you should think about moving departments before the relationship gets out of hand.

It is always a good idea to try to keep personal feelings separate from work issues; however, this is not always possible in the real world. If you find yourself in this situation, making sure your relationship does not have a negative impact on either yourself or your colleagues is the professional thing to do.

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