Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Developing Policies to Effectively Manage Workplace Relationships

Organizations range from having no workplace relationship policies to possessing strict guidelines that do not allow any type of workplace romance. The general consensus of human resources professionals states that instead of banning relationships in the workplace, companies should focus on managing these relationships properly, efficiently, and in a legal and ethical manner. The most successful policies minimize risk and maximize rewards of workplace relationships. Policies should encompass legal concerns, but also extend beyond them to protect personal and culture interests as well.

It is important to distinguish what types of control that the company can exert over these relationships. They obviously cannot control attraction or employees’ behavior outside of the office, but they can create rules and policies and a corporate culture that fosters appropriate behavior regarding workplace romances.

Some companies choose to rely on anti-harassment policies and codes of ethics already in place in order to mitigate workplace relationships. Others create policies and procedures specific to the handling of workplace romances. There are positives and negatives of strict, lean, and non-existent workplace romance policies. Strict policies that ban workplace romance are largely ineffective and lead to low employee morale. Furthermore, a problem with developing policies on workplace relationships is that they often infringe on the employees privacy rights regarding their personal lives.

In order to create and efficient and effective workplace relationship policy, a company needs to protect themselves from litigation and lost productivity, while protecting employees privacy and benefiting from the positive effects on work productivity.  This can typically be achieved by limiting relationships between supervisors and subordinates, maintaining standards for appropriate office behavior, covering legal bases, and monitoring of office relationships by management and human resources.
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