IAN FERGUSON: How to handle office romance


Ian Ferguson

Many people meet their lifelong partners at work, yet dating someone in the office is often frowned upon. Most companies even have explicit policies - either documented or understood - against it. So, what should happen between two flirting colleagues who might want to explore a relationship? Should they steer clear? Should what is right from a professional perspective override what is best for your personal life? Is it even possible to separate the two?

There are perfectly good reasons why co-workers fall for one another. With the amount of time team members spend at work in close proximity, working together and having open, vulnerable conversations, there is a good chance there are going to be romantic relationships. Before a person acts on their feelings, though, it is important to think through the risks, the major one being what happens if the relationship does not work out and there are hurt feelings on both sides.

This week, we provide managers and company leaders with some quick tips on how to manage office love.

Know your company’s policies

The rules are the rules. While they can be amended, try to understand the reason and history behind why the romantic rules were put in place.

Discourage boss and direct report dating

No matter what your intentions are, it is usually a terrible idea for people to date their managers or subordinates.

Do not encourage secrecy

It is probably not a good thing to carry on a secret love arrangement with a team member. If there is a loophole for dating a team member, make sure to inform team members to be as transparent about it as possible.

Set boundaries

Consider having rules about when, and how, dating employees should behave and conduct themselves. Public affection may be offensive to other team members and stir unnecessary strife, especially if it is being done by the office flirt who has gone through a high percentage of the team.

Accept it

People meet romantic partners at work every day, and rather than rant or fume about it, a smart manager will accept that reality. You cannot stop people from being attracted to one another, so keep a level head and sense of humour about the whole thing. Just be sure to establish those boundaries.

Do not snoop or pry

Your team members are entitled to their privacy. Do not go into the business of private investigator on the job. Somethings you can openly confront, but some things you simply do not need to know unless it adversely impacts the work space.

• NB: Ian R Ferguson is a talent management and organisational development consultant, having completed graduate studies with regional and international universities. He has served organsations, both locally and globally, providing relevant solutions to their business growth and development issues. He may be contacted at tcconsultants@ coralwave.com.


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