How to manage the office romance

Written by
Carol Stewart

14 Feb 2017

14 Feb 2017 • by Carol Stewart

But when this happens in the office, it can bring a host of issues which, if not managed appropriately can impact colleagues, performance, productivity and so much more.
Whilst things are sweet between the couple concerned, it may all be good. In fact, it may even be possible that it does not interfere with their work and the smooth running of the office. But if things turn sour, the fall out can have ramifications, making things difficult for all concerned.

In 2012, ACAS (The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) reported that UK companies that responded to a survey had lost an average of £65,000 the previous year, dealing with the fallout of office romances. 

For the manager who has to manage it all, it can be quite a challenge dealing with such a sensitive, often not talked about issue. But it does need to be managed and if you find yourself in a situation where members of your team have become involved romantically, the following 5 tips will help you to manage issues that may arise, enabling you to prevent disruption to your team and your team’s performance.

Refer to your organisations HR policies

Your first point of call is to find out what the organisation’s HR policy is on office romances. Organisations have workplace policies in place to protect the organisation and the employees. In some organisations, given the sensitive nature of the work, it can be frowned upon and in some instances, not even permitted, with romantically involved individuals not allowed to work in the same team.

The HR policy will provide guidance as to what is considered inappropriate and what would be considered a misconduct issue.

Undercover lovers

A couple may not be open about their relationship and may try to keep it under cover and that’s when office gossip and rumours may emerge.  Even though they may think they are keeping it under wraps, it may be obvious to their colleagues that something is going on, even if they are not openly affectionate with each other.

If it is obvious that there is something going on, as manager, you have a responsibility to ensure that there are no breaches of your organisations policies taking place. You will also want to ensure that it is not interfering with the day to day business, disrupting the office environment or getting in the way of them doing their jobs.

If the relationship is impacting on the office, a chat to the individuals concerned about their behaviour is required. They may be so smitten with each other, they may not even realise that their relationship is so blatantly obvious to everyone else.

Is it a distraction and source of disruptive gossip?

If the relationship has become a distraction to the team and a source of disruptive office gossip, this may have an impact on productivity and performance. Not to mention confidentiality, depending on the nature of the work that they do.

As manager, this is something that you will need to address. Let the individuals concerned know the affect their behaviour is having on the office and ask them to tone things down. Consider whether one of them moving to a different department is required, or if not, at least where possible, make sure that they are not working on projects and tasks together.

When things turn sour

Whilst the relationship is going well, there may not be any affect to the office, particularly if they are very low key about things. But if the relationship turns sour or there is a bitter breakup, it can lower the mood in the office and again, it could affect performance and productivity. Not to mention, a breakdown in the couple’s professional relationship.

Even if things are bitter between the two of them, they still need to remain professional and communicate appropriately with each other whilst they are at work. As manager, you will need to convey that this is expected of them.

If the situation does not improve, you will need to address the individuals concerned just as you would any other team member who is behaving inappropriately.

You are not a relationship counsellor

The last thing you want is to get caught up in their relationship. You are their manager, not a relationship counsellor and as such, will need to manage the situation accordingly, just like you would any other team member whose behaviour is impacting on the office, performance or productivity.

If members of your team become involved romantically, ensure that the necessary boundaries are in place and are communicated to them so they are clear about what is acceptable and what is not.

If the last annual survey on office romance by Vault is anything to go by, with 66% of baby boomers having had a workplace fling, followed by 59% of Gen X and 44% of millennials, chances are you may well find yourself having to manage a situation involving the fallout of an office romance between members of your team.

It is often a taboo subject and because it is not generally talked about, the office romance can leave managers unclear about what to do when members of their team become involved romantically.  Because of the sensitive nature, it can also leave managers feeling awkward about addressing issues that arise when the relationship starts to affect the business.  

But just like any issue involving members of the team that have an adverse impact on the business, it does need to be managed appropriately so that it does not interfere with productivity and performance, the office environment, as well as breach any of the organisation’s HR policies.