Cupid’s in Trouble with HR: Workplace Romance Do’s & Don’ts

Ah, it’s Valentine’s Day and love is in the air. For some reason, there’s a winged baby floating around your office shooting employees with heart-shaped arrows. Flagrant health and safety violations aside, this little cherub certainly needs a refresher on your organization’s workplace romance policies. So before you head off to that romantic candlelit dinner, wouldn’t you love to go over a few do’s and don’ts of workplace romance?

Do Have a Workplace Romance Policy

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, when in doubt, document! A solid workplace romance policy should always be available and updated as needed. Regardless of the parameters, having a policy in place protects you and your organization along with your more amorous employees. What your policy entails is ultimately up to you, but no matter what you lay out, you need to stick to it—no exceptions. 

It doesn’t matter if your accountants make a really cute couple, if they’re in violation of your policy, it needs to be addressed. If your organization doesn’t have an employee dating policy, or you’re just a little flimsy on what to include, our friends at SHRM have a great example to help. 

Remember, a workplace romance policy isn’t necessarily covered under a sexual harassment policy, although they’re certainly related. Be specific and straightforward with your language. No gray areas, no wiggle room. 

Don’t Think Office Romances Aren’t Happening

Even if you don’t see Cupid buzzing around the cubicles, it’s a pretty safe bet that some form of office fraternizing is going on. According to a 2019 article from Forbes, over half of employees nationwide have engaged in some form of workplace romance. Think about it. You’re surrounded by the same people for at least 40 hours a week. You see them more than your friends and family. Relationships are bound to blossom.

This stat accounts for all kinds of office relationships, from casual flings to marriage. However, Forbes also notes that most of these relationships are kept secret. Isn’t that so romantic? Well maybe, but it’s still not great for your HR department. In reality, only 16% of employees felt comfortable disclosing their relationships to management. Why? It could have something to do with one final Forbes stat. 41% of employees don’t know their own organization’s office romance policy and might assume they’re violating it. 

Let’s say it again for the people in the back. Make sure you have a documented workplace romance policy. 

Do Communicate Your Policy to New Hires and Seasoned Employees

Ok, maybe presenting your policy on Valentine’s Day is a bit of a buzzkill. That doesn’t mean you should just go on assuming your employees know what is (and what’s not) expected of them. 

To be totally proactive, your company’s workplace romance policy should be included in your onboarding process. Make sure your new hires know the deal before they pull a Jim Halpert and start hanging out by reception too much. If you’re revamping your policy or haven’t ever broadcast it, make a point to send it to your team and ask, well require, them to sign the policy. 

Don’t Sweep a Workplace Romance Under the Rug

We promise this will come back to bite you later. We’ve talked about how often workplace romances happen and the best ways to protect yourself as an HR professional, but let’s put a fine point on it. Even if you plan on revamping your policies, you may have to address any relationships that already exist. Are you going to grandfather them in? Will the affected parties need to break it off? Are you going to document them? Hopefully you can guess the correct answer to that last one. 

This starts by creating an atmosphere wherein employees feel comfortable coming to you and disclosing relationships. You don’t have to play matchmaker, but you should be realistic about the possibility of office romance. Organizations that do permit office relationships often use “love contracts” to keep everything above board. 

These documents are usually signed by both amourous parties and the HR professional. They’re proof that the relationship is consensual and voluntary and that everyone is aware of sexual harassment policies. Love contracts are meant to limit the employer’s liability in the result of the relationship not working out. A word of caution. Don’t rely on love contracts alone. They’re great for keeping everything above board and documented, but it will still be up to you to enforce your organization’s romance policy. 

Do Fall in Love with HR Support Center from CTR

Overseeing a team of overly affectionate employees can leave HR professionals feeling more like middle school teachers. Who couldn’t use a little help? With HR Support Center from CTR, you’ll have a world of resources at your fingertips. Talk with experts at any time, collect forms and documents from your team, even upload new company romance policies. Learn more about HR Support Center from CTR to start loving Human Resources even more.