How to Handle Office Romances


Employees spend a majority of their lives at work. When they find like-minded people, it’s only natural that love may bloom.

But for companies, office romances are fraught with risk when romantic partners are also co-workers.

Sexual harassment with the #metoo movement has brought harassment claims to the forefront and make workplace relationships hazardous, not only for the participants but for the company.

A clear harassment policy with mechanisms to address allegations is key. A good policy may protect the organization from lawsuits and employees from unwelcome advances and worse.

Best practices call for:

  • A comprehensive and clear harassment, discrimination and retaliation policy
  • An understandable personal relationship policy
  • Scrutiny of existing relationships
  • Apply policies consistently – treat all workers fairly in the relationship and also give credence to employees who witnesses romantic expressions around them
  • Communicate policies on a regular basis to every employee
  • Train managers to spot harassment or inappropriate behavior
  • Reduce social media risks by limiting access to personal accounts and dating apps
  • Ensure proper workplace conduct – if a couple violates this policy, there should be clear consequences
  • Ask couples to sign a “love contract” that spells out a consensual relationship and that the participants know the company’s policy on workplace behavior and consequences if not followed

Check the pulse of other employees. Most colleagues don’t begrudge unmarried co-workers who date, but object with one or both are married to someone else or if one part of the couple is a direct supervisor of the other.

According to one SHRM survey, 43 percent of HR professionals say they experienced office romances. A survey in 2014 found 42 percent of companies have already developed a formal policy that covers dating co-workers. Ninety-nine percent of these policies prohibit relationships between supervisors and staff, up from 80 percent a decade earlier.


Of surveyed organizations, 33 percent prohibit relationships between employees who report to the same supervisor, while 12 percent don’t allow any co-workers to date. Eleven percent forbid relationships between employees and competitors of the organization.

The reason some HR departments don’t allow dating at all is potential sexual harassment claims, retaliation, civil suits, disruptive gossip within the ranks and losing valuable employees and disharmony in the workplace if/when a relationship ends.

A SHRM study discovered 12 percent of surveyed companies provided managerial training regarding workplace relationships.

Within a policy, make sure employees know what is permitted in the workplace. Emphasize no encounters or sexual behavior at work and convey the consequences if the relationship impacts the couple’s work or bystanders in the workplace.


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Tamera Shaw is a freelance writer for Insured Solutions based in Louisville, Kentucky. She writes fiction and enjoys amateur photography. She happily shares her life with husband Ron, daughter Cate and sage cat, Sophie, who grudgingly shares her home with the newest member of our family – Nieko, our new kitten.
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