Those among you who are “of a certain age” will recall a time when inter-office romances were considered at best taboo and at worst potential grounds for termination. Suffice it to say those times have changed.
A study by Workplace Options last year found that 84 percent of employees between the ages of 18 and 29 would date a co-worker. Seventy one percent of that same group said they believe such relationships are good for business.
Toss in the fact only about a quarter of companies have any specific policy related to dating in the workplace and it’s clear in the modern era that workplace dating has taken on a far different perception. So should you institute a policy related to dating? If not, why not?
Here are a few things to consider as you make this choice for your establishment.
Liability: When workplace relationships take place the business is exposed to at least some legal risk if the romance should happen to take a turn for the worse. Issues related to harassment and preferential treatment could come up if one of the parties elects to file suit against the company.
Of particular concern would be when a member of management dates someone under his or her supervision. These are the cases where termination or lack of promotion could be perceived as being due to the romantic factor in play rather than performance
Transparency: One problem with instituting policy that restricts or eliminates workplace dating is that a company runs the risk of creating “Romeo and Juliet” situations. Relationships that are viewed as forbidden can take on an air of excitement that didn’t otherwise exist.
If one assumes there is no way to stop fraternization altogether, policy against these types of relationships paves the way for employees to be dishonest and deceptive. Otherwise conscientious members of the staff are left weighing a valuable personal relationship against the importance of their job.
Distraction: Depending on the personalities involved and the nature of a business, it is possible inter-office romance can negatively impact productivity. This doesn’t just impact the people who are dating. Gossip could impact other members of the staff, particularly when something sordid is rumored to be taking place.
The Answer? Ultimately, a workplace romance policy is a situation where businesses need to decide what works best for them. In many cases small businesses decide the logistics of trying to police romance aren’t worth the effort.
Some companies have inter-office couples sign so-called “Love Contracts.” Both parties state for the record they are involved in a relationship that was completely consensual both in its origins and current status.
Regardless of your choice, make certain employees are fully informed as to your policy. You should be straightforward with your insistence that all staff members conduct themselves in a way that best represents the restaurant.
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