Thursday, September 16, 2010

Workplace Romances - On the Rise?

I read an interesting article in the Globe & Mail last week on the topic of workplace romances, and specifically, the need for companies to develop policies and procedures to address the “situation.”

Got me to wondering, does this still happen as much as it used to?

I think the answer is a resounding YES.

Considering people are now spending more time at work than ever before as they face downsizing and the combining of positions, which is ultimately resulting in employees needing to spend more and more time at work, in order to keep up, and attempt to keep their heads above water, it is inevitable that they will turn to co-workers to first commiserate, and then to find comfort in each others arms.

So, who are we kidding?

And, can you really come up with reasonable rules of engagement that anyone is going to follow, or, as I suspect will be the case, will this continue to be an underground affair?

I can see where, in some cases, employees might report their relationships to Human Resources, as was a suggested requirement in this same article, but again, I believe, for the most part, employees are not going to want to share this intimate detail with their HR Manager.

I worked at a resort at one point in my career, where we had a staff residence, due to the remote nature of the resort, and approximately 80% of our 350 employees lived on-site, in what could best be described as a dorm-like setting.

As it is, we had to employee additional people in Human Resources just to deal with the additional challenges that this involved on a day to day basis.

If we had tried to actively manage their relationships, (any more than we were forced to do as a by-product of the environment), we would have needed at least one more Manager just to keep score, and, instead of keeping a list of who was involved with who at any one time, it would probably have been more appropriate, and certainly more practical, to just put everyone’s name on post-it-notes and move them from place to place on the giant “relationship wall”, given the (warp) speed with which they seemed to tire of each other and subsequently move on to someone new.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know this, so long as men and women work together there are going to be relationships in the workplace.

I think that’s the first thing that has to be recognized, and the second thing might be that no matter how hard you try, you are not going to be able to prevent people from hooking up at work, so what CAN you do to manage it, when you first pull your head out of the sand and recognize that it IS going to happen?

I know it’s pretty “out there”, but maybe, just maybe, some forward-thinking company needs to create a focus group, or something of that nature, made up of people who are either already in workplace relationships, or, have been in the past, and get them to provide their first-hand insight into what that was (or is) like for them.

What were the challenges?  Where could they have used some support?  Did they or didn’t they reveal their relationships to their other co-workers and/or their Manager, or, were they “hiding” their relationships due to fear of negative ramifications?

It may not provide all the answers, but I’ll bet that it would provide some interesting and helpful insight into the world of workplace relationships. 

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