5 proven tips for managing office romance in your Nigerian SME

4 min read

As individuals spend a lot of time together at work, it is only natural that relationships develop.

Your employees spend an average of eight hours a day with the same set of people learning about their lives. It’s only logical that employees are going to share the most intimate details of their life with their colleagues. 

When potential couples begin to mix pleasure with professional responsibilities on the job, it becomes messy for both the business owner and other employees.

Take for example, what would happen if the couple had an argument? Would they be able to keep their personal lives separate and away from the workplace? Or would they act out their feud on the job? And would other employees be pulled into their disagreement, forcing co-workers to take sides? Would it detract from their own and/or other people’s workplace productivity?

Taking all the above-mentioned questions into consideration, as a business owner, you might want to declare a “No office romances” decree.

But the truth is, employees will still carry on and go underground about it. Then, if you find out, you’re forced to fire them because they violated your “no romance” policy.

Could there be a better way to manage it? Possibly. (This is personal opinion and does not reflect VConnect’s policy on workplace relationships.)

1. Accept it and encourage those involved to disclose such relationships

People meet romantic partners at work every day, so rather than fume about it, a smart business owner would accept the reality. Work is a wonderful place to meet a mate or a fling. You can’t stop people from being attracted to one another. Keep an open mind and a sense of humour about the whole thing.

When it becomes clear that a romance is blossoming, those involved need to come clean to their supervisors. That way, you can get involved in solving any potentially problematic issues, such as a supervisor dating someone who is a direct or indirect report.

Because of sexual harassment concerns, you can’t let a supervisor date one of his or her subordinates. It’s best to move that person to a new supervisor, if possible.

2. Put a sexual harassment policy in place

Once you are aware of some of your employees’ dating, it’s wise for you to require that those who are dating sign a legal document in which they both acknowledge that their relationship is consensual and they are aware of your company’s sexual harassment policy. Exposure to a lawsuit by an employee who claims after a breakup that he or she was sexually harassed is one of the biggest dangers of office romance to any business.

Smart business owners will take a proactive stance toward office romance by establishing a policy that sets guidelines for office dating before problems and complications arise later.

3. Keep tabs on office sentiment

It’s important to check in with other employees and give them avenues to tell their supervisors if they are uncomfortable or if the relationship is affecting the workplace. If your employees perceive favouritism or other problems, it’s not going to be good for your company. That could affect productivity and, in the worst cases, cause low office morale.

4. Set boundaries on intimate gestures within the office

When I say “setting a boundary”, I’m not talking about writing another policy. Most employers have far too many policies in place already. I’m talking about public displays of affection and acts of physical intimacy in the view of other employees. It’s just one of those things some people are uncomfortable with.

So, don’t make a big deal about it, but let your dating-someone-at-work employees know that it’s best to restrict the social and amorous activities to other venues.

If you can maintain restrictions within the set boundaries, then office romance can be a success.

5. Don’t set an unhealthy example

If you are an unmarried CEO yourself, you will need to apply all these restraints to yourself as well. The rules apply to you as much as your employees. Don’t set unhealthy examples by flouting office policies around workplace relationships.

Your employees are human, and some of them will mix it up romantically with other colleagues at some point in time. That’s no reason to panic, just identify and manage such scenario well.

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How do you manage romantic relationships in the workplace? Would you go for a no-romance policy or choose to manage them?

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Olumide Olayeye

Olumide Olayeye is an ardent sport lover, occasional writer and an aspiring entrepreneur.

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