The mixing of work and pleasure is a controversial issue that has been handled differently in various organizations all over the world. This is due to the limited legislation that exists on this issue. The professional society is thus seemingly oblivious of the repercussions of romance in the workplace and there are alarming statistics of romantic relationships in the professional arena. It is estimated that about a half of the personnel in organizations have had a romantic relationship in an office at least once in their career. Given the undesirable effects that such relationships have proved to have on organizations, there is need for implementation of organization-wide strategies to mitigate the effects these relationships have on organizational performance (Shreeram 1).
We should therefore appreciate the presence of romantic relationships in the workplace as a reality and find ways of getting the best out of healthy romantic relationships in the workplace. On the other hand, we should find ways of limiting or phasing out the occurrence of unhealthy romantic relationships in the workplace.
Therefore, organizations should make sure that they are equipped with sufficient tools to fight unhealthy romantic relationships in the workplace and mitigate the effects of healthy romantic relationships that emerge unsuccessful. These tools include sufficient policies related to romance in the workplace and implementation of communication strategies to ensure that all employees are aware of the policies of the organization related to romance in the workplace (Mende 1).
Effects of romance at work
With the contemporary commitment of people to their careers, little time has been left for socialization. This has led to many incidences of romantic relationships in the workplace. From the fact that people working in the same organization share a lot in common, most of these relationships are genuine. However, the intricacies of romantic relationships in the workplace make it difficult for people to have a successful romantic relationship at work. Of course there are exceptions like the Bill and Melinda Gates case but most of these relationships have disastrous effects on the individuals and the organization as a whole. Let us have a look at some of the negative effects that a workplace romantic relationship may have (Mende 1).
Although a healthy and well-planned romantic relationship in the workplace may prove to add to the productive capacity of the parties involved, workplace romantic relationships mostly have negative effects to the individuals involved and the organization as a whole. First of all, it is very difficult to hide such a relationship and therefore, the relationship will eventually be known to other employees. This will most likely lead to gossiping which may substantially affect the performance of employees. The gossiping may also lead to employee conflicts, especially, if derogative things said in the gossips reach the involved people. This may affect the performance of employees and discourage teamwork (Mende 1).
In a case where a junior employee dates a senior employee, there may be claims of favoritism and bias which may have a substantial effect on the morale of employees. In this case, the senior employee could be the one overseeing the work of the junior employee. This may lead to irresponsible behavior by the junior employee since the employee may have the guaranteed protection of his/her senior. This will in turn lower the performance of the company and may make the company money if the junior employee’s irresponsibility is financially oriented. An example of such a case is a manufacturing firm in which a woman was the accounts manager and her lover was a sales representative in the same firm. The man’s travel expenses were always the first to be paid, and eventually the man started cheating on the expenses. Both the woman and the man were fired (winning 1).
In the case where interdepartmental dating occurs, the companionship may lead to lack of interdepartmental privacy and this may affect the company as a whole. For instance accounts departments may have reasons to conceal certain information from the other employees in the interest of the welfare of the company. For example, if the future performance of the company is under threat, the accounting department and the management may need to keep this information a secret to avoid employee resignations. If an accountant is dating another employee, he/she may be tempted by the trust he/she has on his/her partner to disclose such information. This may lead to a lot of employees getting this information followed by resignations. An example of something that happened is a female Human Resource manager who started dating the vice president of sales in a company. She told him salaries of other employees and information related to promotions. He went ahead telling everyone in the company. This led to a lot of chaos in the company (Winning 1).
The worst effects of workplace romantic relationships are felt if a breakup occurs. A break up will most definitely affect the performance of the partners. It may even lead to unreasonable behaviors in the workplace aimed at tarnishing reputation. This mostly occurs in cases where one of the partners is senior to the other. For instance, the junior partner may destroy company property publicly to tarnish the reputation of the senior partner, especially, if the senior partner has a managerial position. Breakups may also lead to fights in the workplace which will distract other employees and create a hostile working environment. It may also have a tremendous effect on teamwork, especially, in the case where the two are members of the same team. Breakups may also lead to sexual harassment claims which may take substantial company time and lead to substantial employee distractions. Sexual harassment claims may also tarnish the image of the organization, especially, in cases where the claims are made against a senior employee (Beck 1).
The working environment is not conducive for romantic relationships and will most likely lead to breakup. Thus a romantic relationship in the workplace is likely to have a negative effect on the personal lives of the involved parties. Some of the reasons why the working environment is not conducive for romantic relationships include possible ego tussles between the partners. Consider a situation in which one partner is made to feel inferior to the other partner e.g. in the case of a promotion or performance awards. This may not be received well by the other partner. Similarly, consider a case in which one partner is supposed to answer to his/her partner. This may potentially lead to problems. Other problems may occur in the case of undesirable events like a breakup or transfer. Office gossip may also have a lot of impact on the relationship, personal lives of the partners and the company as a whole (Kulkarni 1).
From the above discussion, it is evident that most romantic relationships in the workplace will necessitate the firing of one or both partners. It is also clear that the stress that follows after a break up may lead to resignation of one or both partners. This will lead to high employee turnover and consequently, the organization will spend a considerably large amount of resources in recruitments and training. This will have a substantial effect on the productivity of the organization. It is thus apparent that any organization would wish to completely ban romantic relationships in the workplace (Kulkarni 1).
Effects of ignoring romance at work
Failure to take action to curb the effects of romance at work may have many undesirable effects to the involved individuals and the organization as a whole. Without a clearly stated policy governing romantic relationships in the workplace, romantically involved employees may waste a lot of time chatting, admiring each other in the office or even steal some time for some romantic escapades in the workplace. This may lead to a remarkable effect on the performance of these employees and to the whole company. The romantic escapades of employees, in this case, will also have an effect on the performance of other employees since they will be substantially distracted from their duties.
The ignorance of romance at work may also lead to the lack of a sexual harassment policy or the existence of a sexual harassment policy that is not clearly stated. This may lead to false claims of sexual harassment which may lead to victimization of innocent employees.
It may also lead to sexual/romantic relationships between managers/supervisors and their juniors. This may lead to unfairness in the operation of the organization which may lead to riots and chaos that may affect the performance of the organization and potentially tarnish the image of the organization.
The overall effect of ignoring romantic relationships in the workplace is firing of a number of employees and resignation of a couple of others leading to a high employee turnover. This will lead to the need for investment of the resources of the organization in recruitment and training. This will have an effect on the overall performance of the organization. The high employee turnover will lead also have an effect on the operations of the organization as new recruits will take time being recruited ad once they are through with the training, they will not be as efficient as the fired/resigned employees in their first days.
Ignorance of workplace romance will also have an effect on the personal and professional lives of the involved parties. A failed relationship may make one of the partners to resign to a lesser job thus jeopardizing his/her career. It may also make them lose confidence in themselves after the publicity that is bound to follow the breakup.
What should managers do?
Most organizations have limited legislations regarding romance in the workplace due to the desire by organizations to avoid interfering with the private lives of their employees. However, managers and Human Resource officials in organizations recognize the need for intervention in situations where romantic relationships in the workplace affect the effectiveness of an organization (Heathfield 1). It is therefore desirable for decision makers in organizations to implement the following strategies aimed at mitigating the effects of workplace romance.
First of all, training should be provided to managers and supervisors to equip them with the most effective ways of handling cases of romantic behavior in the workplace. For instance, the managers and supervisors should know how to talk to romantically involves employees if their relationship has lowered productivity or morale in the working environment. The managers should also be equipped with knowledge on how to deal with gay and lesbian relationships, incase they occur, since these relationships may have hazardous effects on the organization and individuals involved. Work relationships are characterized with intense gossip. Thus, managers need to keen on behavioral trends in the organization that could lead to low employee productivity. In other words, managers need to be aware if work relationships have undesirable effects on the organization e.g. when a break up affects productivity of the involved parties and their colleagues. They also need to be aware of the action they should take in response to sexual harassment charges (Heathfield 2).
Managers should also make sure that employees are fully aware of the sexual harassment policy of the organization. Information about this issue should be posted in organizational documents to ensure that employees are fully aware of the tolerance capacity of the organization and the repercussions of such behavior. It is also desirable for managers to ensure that employees understand the limits of the harassment policy of the organizations in order to phase out false claims of sexual harassment (Heathfield 2).
It is also desirable that managers, supervisors and decision makers develop an appropriate relationship policy handling romance in the workplace. The organization should not entirely prohibit romance, dating and sexual relationships but it should balance employee freedom with employee productivity. This will make the solving of work relationship issues easy (Heathfield 2).
It is impossible to completely stop the occurrences of romance in the workplaces but a lot can be done to ensure that its occurrence has minimum or no effects to the organization. Given the seriousness of the effects that stem from the occurrence of a romantic relationship and failure of the same, organizations should always be prepared to mitigate the effects of the occurrence of these two events and also limit their occurrence. Organizations should also make use of the advantages of having healthy romantic companionship among their employees. This may include assigning a healthy couple projects to work together since they understand each other better. They may also place lovers strategically in the organization to limit their interactions and thus reduce the attention they attract from fellow workers.
Since most of the workplace romantic relationships are unhealthy, organizations should ensure that their policies discourage dating in the workplace and advocate for romantic escapades outside the premises of the organizations if they have to occur. The strategies that may be used to limit the effects of romantic relationships in the workplace include outlining a clear sexual harassment policy, firing of ineffective romantically involved employees, training managers on how to handle office-romance issues, keeping employees informed about the policies of the organization related to romance in the workplace and prohibiting romantic relationships between managers/supervisors and their juniors. Romantic relationships between managers and their juniors should be banned because they pose high prospects of favoritism, tarnishing of the reputation of the organization, irresponsible behavior by juniors and lack of motivation in employees due to expectations of favoritism.
Beck, Rachel. “The pitfalls of workplace romance.” 2010. Web.
Heathfield, Susan. “Tips About Dating, Sex and Romance at Work.” 2010. Web.
Kulkarni, Arjun. “Romantic Relationships in the Workplace.” 2009. Web.
Mende, Barbara. “How to Deal with a Work Romance.” 2009. Web.
Shreeram, Ankita. “”Mixing work with pleasure?” 2010. Web.
Winning, Ethan. “Romance in the workplace.” 2000. Web.