Office romances

David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday reports:

Companies are cracking down on office romances, with bosses increasingly being asked to sign contracts promising not to have sex with staff – or if they do, they must declare the liaison to avoid conflicts.

Air New Zealand confirmed it has introduced a formal code for its 80 senior executives. Another company has banned senior staff from sexual relationships with co-workers, even if both parties are single. 

That reminds me of the policy I drew up many years ago for Curia, soon after we established. It basically said we don’t care who you sleep with so long as it doesn’t interfere with the job, with the exception of two named staffers. The joke, being they were brother and sister.

Another amusing incident was when one of my managers confessed to me at a staff party that she had a big crush on one of the staff, but she couldn’t do anything about it, as he reported to her. She was delighted when I said that actually they could go out, so long as I’m aware of the relationship and hence if ever there were employment issues, I’d handle them. They, umm, got together that night and have been together for around two years now!

Many years ago I did work for an organisation there the CEO and the 2ic were having a secret relationship (both were single) and it did cause problems as you felt reluctant to talk to the CEO about issues with the 2IC, knowing they were together (we discovered the relationship through their 3 am mobile phone calls to each other!).

Generally it is silly to try and ban workplace romances, but if they involve direct reports that can cause problems. The key is to have a policy that discloses them, so decisions can be taken on a case by case basis.

Also reminds me of how many years ago a friend of mine was hauled before a disciplinary committee of partners in her accounting/law firm for her relationships with clients. I jokingly suggested to her that she says that if it is inappropriate for a lawyer to sleep with a client, then she expects them to also crack down on partners sleeping with their secretaries. By pure coincidence, it turns out the chair of the disciplinary committee was sleeping with his secretary, and they took no action as they thought she knew about the affair. In fact it was just a lucky guess that at least one of them would be.

Political commentator David Farrar is principal at Curia Market Research. He posts at Kiwiblog.

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7 Comments & Questions

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Urgent policy needed for incumbent Mayors!

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Banning workplace romances is like trying to paper over the cracks in a dam. It is better to manage relationships to ensure minimum conflict of interest or lost productivity.

Healthy, happy staff treated like adults create a better environment than frustrated, haunted children.

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Since we work at home and my business partner is also my partner, the only policy we have on office romances is: only one at a time.

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Difficult area - at one organisation I worked for a guy had an office romance with his female manager. Great when it was going well but when it ended acrimoniously things were awkward - communication between them on important company matters was strained.
At one point it almost seemed like she was trying to provoke him into leaving. He did so eventually and we'll never know whether she actually delieberately pushed him in to doing so or whether it was because a good opportunity came up for him, but he definitely had reasons to leave.
This situation has of course happened many more time in reverse, with a male manager having a romance with a female direct report and it turning sour.

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Easy to say..let adults be adults...but invariably it causes awkwardness for other staff particularly if one involved party is married, often distraction from responsibilities occurs, sometimes one involved party gains preferential treatment etc. To keep office relationships out of the office especially in the early days of a romance is somewhat difficult. One party should have to resign .

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business relies on relationships to run effectively, strained relationships causing discord at the workplace are not limited to ex lovers and i fail to see how this could be effectively managed, when single consenting adults enter into a sexual relationship their work status should be irrelevant, i met my husband art work over fifty years ago and when discussing this policy we both felt our company would have suffered if both or one of us were forced to leave

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Surely most of us work to live, not live to work. This kind of intrusion into the freedom of human beings to live their lives as they please is a step towards slavery IMHO

If an employer requires employees who act like machines then I suggest robots are the answer. If an employer needs people then they need to accommodate humanity & it's intricacies.

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