Do you currently have an employee dating policy in place at your business? If not, it may be a good time for you to consider implementing such a policy. After all, any romantic interactions between coworkers could potentially complicate your day-to-day operations.
Workplace romances may be more common than you think. In fact, as First to Know reports, 39 percent of the more than 4,000 workers included in a CareerBuilder survey reported dating a coworker at least once, while 17 percent claimed to have dated coworkers at least twice throughout their careers. The survey also reported that 30 percent of workplace romances resulted in marriage. This data suggests that it may be unrealistic to think that employee relationships are not a concern for your business.
Here are some tips for crafting an effective employee dating policy for your small business:
Establish Acceptable Standards of Behavior
Imposing an outright ban on workplace relationships is somewhat unrealistic, and may even pose a risk to laws protecting lawful, off duty conduct. But you can develop a policy that reinforces acceptable, professional types of behavior. For example, your policy can include the importance of demonstrating appropriate workplace conduct to help reduce the risk of offending other employees. Once you establish these policies, you should clearly communicate them to your employees and include them in an employee handbook. Have your employees acknowledge that they have reviewed, understand and acknowledge these policies.
Be Crystal Clear About What Constitutes Sexual Harassment
You should also have a sexual harassment policy in place that includes clear, strongly worded directives prohibiting unwelcome conduct (verbal or sexual), any behavior that's intimidating or hostile toward coworkers, sending inappropriately worded texts and so on. The policy should also provide a clear procedure on how to report any complaints of harassment. Some states require a company's sexual harassment policy to be in writing, so be sure to check applicable state laws when developing your policy.
Your employee handbook should make it crystal clear that your business will not tolerate any form of harassment. Furthermore, it should spell out the consequences of disregarding these rules.
Watch Out for Relationships Between Supervisors and Their Subordinates
You should also have policies in place that address relationships between supervisors and their subordinates. Generally, supervisors are required to disclose a relationship with a subordinate to HR so they can analyze if any type of conflict exists, such as if the supervisor has the ability to affect the employee's terms and conditions of employment. Again, you should clearly communicate your policy and requirements to your employees to help avoid situations in which these types of relationships cause active resentment and/or subject your company to compliance risks.
Train Your Managers to Watch Out for Relationship Red Flags
It's also a good idea for you to train your managers to coach any employees engaged in a workplace relationship on how to adhere to the stated policies. Managers should also be trained on what to do when they become aware of workplace relationships. Most importantly, your whole team must remain alert and understand how to proactively and immediately report any instances of sexual harassment.
Implement a Complaint or Reporting Process
Workplace relationships can affect others, who may be offended by inappropriate conduct. When you're crafting an employee dating policy, make sure that there's an effective reporting process in place so that employees understand that there are ways to file a complaint without being subjected to any form of reprisal. Your HR department should be made immediately aware of a potential issue.
Clearly, workplace relationships are a sensitive topic. Your policy should be comprehensive and respectful of the ways of the heart, while at all times protecting the business itself and protecting the rights of all employees. Once you craft a policy that's right for your business, clearly communicate it to all employees and obtain a signed acknowledgment.
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