Office Romances have always been part of natural cycle of people working together and some have even endured the test of time. However sensational revelations and allegations over recent times show that some of these dalliances were in a spectrum ranging from just unwanted to outright coercion and rape. It is a sign of our maturing society and changing values that these allegations are finally seeing the light of day and turning a spotlight on what we should now expect as acceptable behaviour in the workplace.
Is it the end of the office romance? I very much doubt it. What it does highlight is the much greater potential for these relationships to go from courtship to courtroom. There are many reasons why one party may feel aggrieved including an imbalance of power as with manager and subordinate, perceived promotional bias for a loved one or against an ex-lover, acrimony when ending the relationship, unwanted persistence or attention, resentment from colleagues, and so on.
In light of the new attitudes to sexual harassment, it is now timely to review policies and procedures on how to manage the office romance and any possible fallout from an ongoing affair, an unhappy break up, or unrequited passion. Along with clear policies and procedures, and adequate training, there needs to be a complaint handling and investigation process that employees have confidence in, and are comfortable to use. Typically this would be undertaken by the HR department in the first instance but may involve legal professionals for the more serious allegations.
Bianca Seeto from FCB Workplace Law, Australia’s leading workplace relations law firm, has just release an article with some excellent advice on how firms need to prepare for, and handle, workplace romances.
See Wine and Dine Me but Don’t “Weinstein” Me: Navigating Dating in the Workplace