00:04 Office romance…it’s a story nearly as old as the office itself, and it’s becoming increasingly more common. But whether or not workplace romances lead to wedded bliss, they must be handled with care.
00:52 First and most simply, office romances can become a distraction. They can harm the productivity of both the parties involved and their immediate colleagues. Nobody is immune to office gossip…and a budding romance makes for compelling water cooler chat.
01:08 More seriously, an office romance can lead to the perception—real or imagined—of favoritism. When a romance occurs between colleagues at different levels of the company, or when one is in a position to positively influence the career, compensation or opportunities for advancement of the other, the perception of favoritism can arise.
01:57 Next, consider what could happen if a workplace romance turns sour. With a breakup comes the possibility of hard feelings, a stressful environment, disruption of work and productivity or even the potential loss of a valued employee who seeks employment elsewhere to distance him or herself from a former romantic partner.
02:16 Most seriously, an office romance that ends less than amicably can have significant legal consequences. Let’s take a moment to discuss sexual harassment, which is illegal under federal law and the law in most states.
02:59 So what can you do as a supervisor or HR manager to minimize these pitfalls? First, develop a policy on interoffice dating and relationships, and publish it in your employee handbook.
03:43 Finally, draft, publish and distribute a zero-tolerance policy for sexual or any other kind of harassment in the workplace, including threats or intimidation. Remember, in some instances, the liability for charges of sexual harassment or a hostile work environment could land on the employer…so you must work to avoid these situations.