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Not Totally Suspension…LOVE IS IN THE AIR

February 28, 2017

For most of my professional life companies have frowned upon couples working together.  In fact, it was common practice for companies to have a policy against it.  But could it be that the conventional wisdom is wrong?  February is the month of love, cupid and Valentine’s Day.  Maybe it’s a good month to reconsider how a couple working together can benefit a company.

Some recent studies suggest that married couples who work for the same company may experience greater happiness in their personal lives and better work/life balance.  This could be due to the additional time they’re able to spend together or because couples who work together are uniquely able to understand the stress level of each other.  Whatever the reason, it seems to make for a happier couple and happier people tend to be more productive at work.

Some people also believe that married couples who work together exhibit a greater loyalty to the company.  Knowing that their spouse works for the same employer can make employees more willing to work through work problems/issues, work harder, and make a better effort to get along in the workplace.

And it may be good for the company’s bottom line if the employer can save on benefit costs for employees.

To recap, employees may be happier, have higher morale, be more productive and may save the employer in benefit costs.  So far it sounds pretty good.

But there can also be some pitfalls such as jealousy if one partner gets promoted faster than the other; additional tension in the office if partners disagree at work; other employees feeling excluded if a working couple seems “too close” or exhibits unprofessional behavior; the perception by others of favoritism if one person in the couple is a supervisor or even in a higher ranking position; in the case of an unmarried couple working together, the prospect of sexual harassment claims if a relationship ends badly in a supervisor-subordinate romance.

So, is it best to prohibit romances in your workplace?

It’s best to proceed with caution.  When considering a policy on romance in your workplace consider whether it will be beneficial to your company or not.  If you determine relationships are beneficial, craft your policy to minimize damaging aspects by specifying when and between whom relationships will be allowed.  At the very least it should probably be prohibited between employees of “significantly different ranks” and between employees in the same department.  As with all policies, make sure it is clearly communicated to employees and then stick to the policy.

One final thought, be prepared to make changes in the future.  Some studies suggest that employee attitudes may be changing about this issue, especially among younger workers.  One study discovered that 84% of millennials would be open to an inter-office relationship.  This was quite a bit higher than GenXers (36%) or Boomers (29%).



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