Love & Liability: Workplace Dating

I got into an interesting conversation with a colleague the other day, and I must say, it was one of the few business topics that I haven’t formulated a strong opinion on: workplace dating.

It’s not news to me that many people find their romantic partners in the workplace. Many professionals spend most of their waking hours in their offices, and with 40 to 50 hour work weeks, conferences, and lunch meetings, it’s really not surprising that these relationships can develop with colleagues. What I’m undecided on is whether or not this aspect of employees’ lives is something that should be regulated by workplace policy.

Advocates to regulation point to things like the potential for conflicts of interest, or the possibility of preferential treatment. These conflicts can play out particularly when the relationship exists with someone in a managerial capacity. I can certainly see how that might be a concern, but no more of a concern than family members working together, right? Then, of course, there is the inevitable breakdown of some of these relationships that could run the risk of personal emotions and conflicts being brought into the workplace. Many companies have put policies in place to regulate personal and family relationships at work that specifically outline their requirements for workers to remain free from any possible negative influences.  Examples include full disclosure of these relationships so that safeguards can be put in place for any work that might be reviewed or approved by the other person, anyone being in a position to make and approve promotion recommendations for the other person, or being in a position to recommend or approve salary increases or expense reports.

Even after a lengthy debate and conversation with my colleague, I’m still really not sure where my opinion lies on this.  While there are many repercussions that could trickle into the effective function of a business that would necessitate regulation, I’m just not completely comfortable with a company keeping tabs on something so private and personal in an employee’s life.

Regardless of what the HR regulations are for your company however, I think it is an issue that should not be taken lightly, and it is imperative that professionalism be the ultimate guideline in the establishment or breakdown of these relationships.

I think though, that as long you’re being professional and not affecting anyone else in the workplace, live and let live …  Maybe?

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