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Managing Workplace Romance: Gaps in Beliefs, Rules, and Practice

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We all know that romantic relationships develop in the workplace, but how do talent managers appropriately handle these situations? According to a recent Society for Human Resources Managers (SHRM) survey, many organizations have chosen to prohibit workplace romances because of concerns about perceived favoritism, possible sexual harassment claims, and issues with retaliation.

I found data from the SHRM survey around who is engaging in workplace romances to be particularly interesting, including:   

·        53 percent of organizations have relationships occurring between employees in different departments;

·        18 percent between employees in the same department but who report to different supervisors;

·        16 percent between employees who already have significant others;

·         8 percent between a supervisor and a direct report;

·         7 percent between a client or customer; and

·         5 percent between an employee and a vendor.

(Note: Respondents to the SHRM survey could mark multiple responses to this question, which is why the numbers do not add up to 100 percent. There were a variety of other selections chosen by participating organizations.)

I believe this data makes a strong case for HR departments and talent manages to have written policies and procedures in place around how they handle workplace relationships. While 99 percent of survey respondents indicated that relationships between supervisors and direct reports are not permitted, only 36 percent have a written policy to address the issue. More concerning to me was that five percent of the organizations surveyed said "they didn't know" if they had policies in place to address workplace romances and six percent only have a verbal policy, which in my eyes, is equivalent to not having a policy at all. Additionally, 81 percent noted they do not offer training about how to manage workplace romance.

It is clear that there is a huge gap between beliefs, rules, and practices among organizations when it comes to how they handle relationships in the workplace. What do you think? How does your organization view workplace romance?

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The opinions expressed in K-12 Talent Manager are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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