|Susan Solovic, The Small Business Expert is an award-winning entrepreneur, an attorney, a New York Times best-selling author, a media personality and a highly sought after keynote speaker.|
A Blooming Workplace Romance Could Wilt Your Small Business
February is the month of romance, but romance at work could be risky business. A survey by CareerBuilder.com found 39 percent of American workers admit they had dated a co-worker at least once during their working lives. Some of these relationships end up in marriage - think Michelle and Barack Obama, however; most of the time they fall apart creating a tense atmosphere at work. While a big company may be able to survive a bad break-up, it can be a disaster for a small firm.
Think about it from this perspective, a relationship gone wrong in a small work environment can cause serious morale problems and impact productivity. In a worst case scenario, your company could be hit with a sexual harassment suit or some other type of employee related civil suit as a result. In today’s economy, you don’t need the hassle or expense of fighting a legal battle.
So before two of your employees decide they are crazy about each other, make it clear what type of conduct is appropriate in your business. For example, dating between a supervisor and someone within his or her area of responsibility should be seriously frowned upon. Should such a situation occur, make sure the employees involved know to report the relationship to you immediately. Some companies require the parties to sign a consent agreement to avoid the possibility of future legal battles.
Also, counsel your employees that if a relationship develops, they need to be discreet while at work. Whether things are wonderful between the two or them or about to explode, they should clearly understand that their issues should be left at the door. While they are at work, they need to focus on their jobs, otherwise productivity can suffer. Furthermore, your dating employees shouldn’t draw co-workers, or worse customers, into their relationship drama. Can you imagine having one of your employees’ bad mouthing a co-worker to a customer because they had a fight the night before? You might as well walk that customer over to your competitor.
Then there’s the issue of a break-up. Co-workers shouldn’t be subjected to choosing sides and they don’t need to hear the gory details. Most importantly, you need to make sure the two parties don’t allow their animosity toward each other to interfere with their job performance.
The bottom line: You can’t prevent relationships from occurring. Office romances are here to stay. However, you can minimize the risk by clearly defining company expectations and consequences up front.
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