Gillian and Steve knew of one another, working for the same bank but in different departments, but hadn’t had a chance to converse in a non-professional setting until a weekend barbeque a mutual friend arranged for a group of her coworkers. After some drinks and casual conversation, Gillian and Steve had hit it off and over the next few weeks, engaged in a romantic relationship. Everything was going well until Steve’s attention was directed to another, having viewed the relationship as more of a fling. Gillian was less than pleased and proceeded to spread rumors at work, creating an uncomfortable working environment for anyone who had to interact with the two.
With more and more couples meeting at work, workplace romances may pop up at any time of year, but are especially abundant during the summer months with barbeques and other warm-weather activities presenting opportunities for employees to get together in casual settings. This time of year, reinforcing your policies pertaining to fraternization and appropriate conduct can mean the difference between a healthy team environment and one full of unproductive drama and gossip.
Avoiding these issues in paramount, and while it is near impossible to prevent workplace romances from occuring, ensuring that there are rules in place to prevent problems from arising is key. Ensure that your policies address relationships between supervisors and their subordinates and detail what is and is not appropriate conduct (including displays of affection, gossip and unproductive conversation, poor performance, and sharing confidential information).
Apply policies in a consistent manner and have in place a process for dealing with situations when things go wrong. Ideally, a conversation reminding both parties of policies pertaining to appropriate conduct will suffice, but when resentment still lingers and affects productivity, do not hesitate to take action. Administering appropriate disciplinary action may be what it takes to prevent the situation from escalating into a more serious case, such as sexual harassment or workplace violence.
While most summer flings come and go without a hitch, some can result in persisting bitterness and anger. Ensure that your policies and plans are in place to tackle any issues head on, and make certain that this is communicated effectively with your employees to allow them with the information to make responsible decisions for themselves.