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How to handle office romance as a manager

July 26, 2023

With a track record of working with successful businesses for more than 30 years, SVC Solutions CEO, Amanda Coulson, shares her insight into how the balance between work life and private life can be critical to your business.

Recent high-profile cases have shown exactly how our private lives and work lives can clash in the most terrible and damaging way.

Most notably, Phillip Schofield’s workplace entanglement with a young fellow employee caused a media scandal that rocked ITV’s flagship daytime show, This Morning, with devastating consequences for the team and potentially ending the career of one of the most famous and long-standing faces on TV.

Whatever your attitude to workplace relationships, they are very much a part of life. Collated research over a number of years has demonstrated that around a third of people have begun sustained romantic relationships with people in their working environment.

While many businesses might try to actively discourage romance between colleagues, in truth it is very difficult to prevent connections being formed if passions are heightened. While healthy and flourishing relationships in your private life can be maintained even if you work together too, an employer should be aware of the impact a workplace romance can have within the office, particularly if the relationship ends.

Even if as a business you give guidance against workplace relationships, it’s not something that can be controlled, especially in today’s world of digital communications. It is the emotions around these relationships that can have the biggest impact on team dynamics and the productivity of a business. And this can result from plutonic relationships too, if there is a breakdown in friendships.

An ethos of fairness and an open and honest culture within a business is something employees rate very highly in their sense of wellbeing at work and so this plays a key role in staff retention. If this is impacted by divided loyalties or an interpretation of favouritism because of friendships or romantic attachments, the effectiveness of a team can be eroded very quickly.

Emotions in the office can also spill over into more serious situations such as sexual harassment, which then requires a completely different aspect of business management. With figureheads such as Huw Edwards, you have to think that they should be more sensible than to put themselves in vulnerable situations, but the truth is issues of sexual harassment do occur.

In these situations, the most important thing is to make sure the issue is dealt with promptly and professionally, and this should only be done by a trained and qualified HR expert. As a business leader, this isn’t something you should try to handle alone. The wellbeing of all individuals involved must be paramount in this scenario and when the issue involves colleagues it is all too easy to act with your heart rather than your head.

Situations like this can be handled badly or just swept under the carpet by smaller businesses that don’t have dedicated HR staff, but this can lead to problems further down the line and possibly even expensive solicitors’ fees if the wrong action is taken at different stages.

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