How to deal with dating in the workplace
Workplace love connections
I say that because we’re not just employees but people. And being human, we’re all looking to make a connection in every human interaction. This extends to our desire to find romance, love and more.
Today, the question is where can people connect with one another socially, emotionally and, when desired, form a love connection?
There are still bars and nightclubs for socializing but more often, fewer people drink or even like what these places symbolize. Plus, at the end of a brutally long work day, not many of us have a lot of free time and energy to be out late drinking and socializing.
The Internet is proving to be a growing way people are meeting. And the opportunity (or obligation) to get fixed up on a date by family and friends is still a option.
Often the new dating place is the workplace.
Increasingly, we’re working longer and longer hours and have less time and energy to meet people outside of the business world.
Besides, a coworker can understand the long hours and the devotion to your avocation. Also, it can be an inviting place to bond.
It makes a lot of sense if you look at it, but what seems innocent enough can become an issue if there is a strict prohibition against dating in the workplace. It also can become an issue if a supervisor and employee are dating. It can get even more complex if an owner and an employee are in a relationship.
Well, I’m not a lawyer and I don’t even pretend to play one on TV, but I’ve been around enough of these cases to know that the answer about whether this prohibition against dating will stand up in court is a giant “it depends.”
The consensus of opinion is you have a stronger case against intra-office romance if you have a written dating policy in plain English and preached in meetings. This makes it abundantly clear what the corporate policy is.
Most progressive shops have moved from trying to legislate against it to creating a regulatory policy. Their goal is to make sure people dating don’t supervise one another. If a company is large enough, accommodations can be made if all parties are willing to move someone to another division or another supervisor.
Otherwise, it has the potential to turn into a subjective nightmare as to how much favoritism is being shown to the person supervising his or her love interest. Even worse, it can be about how much punishment is being dished out when a relationship is ended.
It’s tough enough when two employees are dating. It’s much tougher when the owner is dating an employee. My father schooled my brothers and me very early in life about pursuing our dating opportunities outside of the company because his policy strictly prohibited us from dating any staff members or we’d be the ones asked to leave. I thought it was old-fashioned but I can see why he felt so strongly about this. He wanted to avoid the potential muddiness that comes along with dating staff members.
Please understand this isn’t a moral judgment but rather an opportunity to see the potential pitfalls. I do know that with careful planning, clear written communication and guidelines, you can help defuse an otherwise powder keg that can blow up in everyone’s face and leave the company mortally wounded. Many successful relationships have formed among coworkers, even owner and employee.
But for the vast majority, it can be a troublesome thing when two people are in a romantic relationship in the workplace without good guidelines and rules to play by.
If you want to be proactive, this issue should be addressed by a labor attorney who will help you create a policy for your Employer-Employee Manual. This way you’re compliant with current legislation and court rulings that will give you a higher percentage of your policy being upheld.
Just know that even this policy rarely bans this activity since it would be tough to enforce. What it does seek to do is require all parties disclose the relationship and state that they can’t work in the same department (almost impossible at small companies, in which case someone would have to go) or they agree that one can’t supervise the other.
Here’s a link from a quick Google search where there’s tons written about this: www.employer-employee.com/dating.html.
One example of a cautionary tale to ponder: A technician was dating the company’s dispatcher and together they conspired to steal the company’s precious calls. It takes two in more ways than one. That’s why some companies allow dating as long as there is no supervisory relationship that could cause injury to the company.
All I know is that love is a many splendored thing — and sometimes super complicated!