Workplace relationships: Workplace romance — is it bad?

At work women are statistically more prone to sexual abuse, harassment and discriminatory practices

guest column Emmanuel Zvada

THE workplace has always been a major place for individuals to meet and learn about each other.

This closeness may lead to attraction, workplace cliques or workplace romance, which in turn may lead to productivity losses for the organisation, charges of sexual harassment, and perceptions of employee favouritism, among other negative effects. In most cases, when this topic is a subject matter, very few want to discuss it, treating it as if it was a taboo.But
in actual fact, many organisations often end up suffering the aftermath and consequences of a workplace romance or cliques at workplaces.

It is very crucial to note that workplace romances and workplace cliques will happen regardless of what the company does, but there are things that can be done to alleviate the challenges that come with them. The organisation, most likely through the human resources department, should develop policies and processes for managing and dealing with workplace
romances and workplace cliques. In this regard, we are not saying employers should place under undue restrictions employees dating each other, as everyone should be free to choose
their partners. But, we want to make sure that relationships and unnecessary cliques will not cause awkwardness or problems in our workplace

Office relationships are inevitable, but may invite trouble, depending on the type of relationships. These connections are complex as they can exist in and out of the organisation, and be both positive and negative. Workplace relationships are not limited to friendships, but also include superior-subordinate, romantic, and family relationships. While face-to-face
workplace interactions are common, romantic workplace relationships are viral and have hit many organisations, both private and public.

What is workplace romance?

In simple terms, workplace romance is when two employees of the same organisation acknowledge their mutual attraction and start to date. Romantic workplace relationships involve a
certain degree of intimacy between co-workers. Intermingling within the workplace may cause damages to morale and productivity in the workplace.
The risks associated with workplace romances

Romantic relationships have a great impact on the workplace as well as on employees who are involved. Office romances can sometimes lead to serious conflicts. While these conflicts
stem from a personal relationship, they can impact a business as well. Regardless of your organisation’s approach to workplace romance, no one organisation is immune to possible
litigation of workplace romance, especially if it extends to sexual harassment.

Workplace romances also affect employees’ performance and productivity. Workplace romance affects a number of important employees’ work-related activities and may lead to a
deterioration in employee productivity and performance; the reason being of divided attention, especially among those involved. Work dedication and job productivity can be negatively affected by workplace romance due to long lunches and extended discussions behind closed doors, among others. Conflicts of interest, flawed or biased decision-making and other workplace
inequities that have a negative impact on both individual and organisational performance can also be the result of workplace romance.

Workplace romance is an inevitable issue that may come up in any work environment, but measures should be put in place so that it does not affect the organisation. Below are some of the
measures on how to deal with romance in the workplace:

Maintaining dignity and professionalism
Personal and professional lives should always be separated. It is also important to note that workplace romance is not only disruptive, but it may also affect productivity. For
employees to fraternise in that manner is bad for both morale and business because when it finally blows up, everyone may suffer from the fallout. If the relationship falls apart, it
could cause a lot of problems at the workplace. Those involved could end up arguing all the time, and that would be bad to the employees themselves and the business as a whole,
supposing it is happening at thhe workplace.

You should stick to your professional goals and stay true to who you are as an employee. Avoid by all means to use the company’s e-mails or telephones for any communication related to
your relationship. Keep it professional in case you are in one since in some cases it is unavoidable. Try not to make any of your co-workers uncomfortable with the relationship.

Developing an appropriate relationship policy

It is vital to note that developing an appropriate relationship policy that guides how employee relate helps in determining to what extent our behaviour should go towards one another. When developing such policy as an organisation, you may want to think about preserving your organisational culture and the work environment. If there are certain romantic
situations you want to prohibit, you should at least have a policy in place to address that. Policies are developed to guide employees in creating a legal, ethical and a harmonious

Your employees should know that office romances, relationships, or affairs should be kept separate from the work environment. Organisations must not tolerate sexual liaisons and
sexual behaviour at work. In addition to the aforementioned, the policy should spell out the consequences if the romance is negatively impacting the workplace.

The workplace is a place to work
The workplace is a place to work, and romantic relationships need to stay outside of that environment. While being friends with a co-worker doesn’t mean you can be fired from your job,
you could get fired if your relationship causes a disruption at work. Rather than risk losing a job for your relationship, keep all of your personal relationships out of the workplace,
even if they are with co-workers.

Follow appropriate office behaviour guidelines

When you are at work, your focus should be on the job, not on your relationship. Avoid meeting at the breakroom to flirt or holding hands to and from meetings. This is a place of business, so there should not be any public displays of affection. Also, don’t seek a romantic encounter after hours or on the premises. While it may seem exciting in your own view, you
do not want a co-worker to report you and jeopardise your career.

Keep your ethics intact after breakaways

There are many people who successfully date co-workers or business associates, but still maintain their work integrity even when those relationships end. Please, note that we are not
encouraging workplace romance, but obviously considering that some are already in the situation, it would be important to stay calm if the relationship ends because not every office romance will end in true love. If your relationship ends, maintain professionalism and ensure you won’t disrupt the workplace. You mustn’t badmouth your former partner, sabotage their
work or reveal any intimate details

Workplace romance is a reality. Allowing people to be romantically involved at work is a bad idea, although not allowing it is not very enforceable. People break-up, tempers flare and
there can be episodes of violence as a result. In extreme cases like those, innocent onlookers or co-workers can be injured or even worse. While it cannot reasonably be truly
controlled, every effort should be made to dissuade workplace romance from occurring. Workplace romances do not always have a happily-ever-after ending. The fallout can lead to a
lawsuit, loss in productivity or tension among the staff.


  1. This has made our workplace some kind of hell. Everyone outside the inner romance circle lives in fear of undue victimisation. Can someone rescue us

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