According to the World Health Organization, people spend about a third of their lives at work. So it’s no surprise when coworkers get romantically involved with each other. Fairytales happen all the time, just check the story of Prince Rainier III of Monaco and American Hollywood star Grace Kelly. However, this is a real minefield, especially now, in the era of #MeToo. Experts share tips on how to properly behave in such a situation.
In November, McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook was fired for having an affair with an employee. Workplace romances are prohibited by the company’s internal rules. To avoid the same consequences from a relationship with a co-worker, experts offer valuable advice.
Know your employer’s policy on employee love affairs
In 2018, outsourcing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas conducted a survey and found that 78% of companies disapprove of relationships between supervisors and subordinates. In January 2018, the figure was 70%.
Paula Branter, director and president of PB Work Solutions, notes that employers don’t have the right to fire employees because of race, religion, ethnicity or gender, but they can do so for making a connection with a colleague. This is especially true of supervisors having affairs with employees in the same chain of command.
PB Work Solutions advises companies on dealing with workplace harassment and toxic communication within the organization.
Be careful when using location-based dating services at work
British dating industry analyst Mark Brooks doesn’t know of a single app that helps users find coworkers and then block them. According to the expert, the easiest solution is to avoid logging into deiting services, even during your lunch break.
“This seems like a logical and valuable feature, and maybe dating apps will get into it right now. Asking where you work and whether the company allows you to date co-workers will help services protect users from the fate of the McDonald’s CEO,” Brooks says.
Draw up a “love contract,” but be sure to read what’s written in the fine print
Jessica Matt, associate professor of human resource management at Rutgers University’s School of Management and Labor Relations, says some companies can address romantic relationships between co-workers with a “love contract.”
The document confirms that the relationship between the parties is based on mutual agreement. The contract can shield the employer from future claims of sexual harassment liability if the couple breaks up. As Matt notes, the document “protects the organization, not the employee.”
Weigh the pros and cons before publicly disclosing a relationship with a coworker
Even if the company allows an employee relationship, it’s worth holding off on admitting it until you know it’s something you need to declare publicly, Matt says.
“If you hold a higher position in the company, do so in a way that doesn’t hurt your romantic partner in any way,” the expert advises.