Workplace Romance – What’s a Business To Do?

With the recent public scandals of ESPN analyst Steve Phillips and David Letterman, work place relationships are becoming an increasing concern for business owners.  Forget the idea of banning dating in the office, a survey by cites close to half of us have had a romantic relationship with a co-worker, and that many of these end up with a long term commitment or marriage.  A strict “no romance” policy will most likely result in employees pursuing or continuing relationships behind your back.  Instead, develop clear policies on appropriate workplace relationships and how your company will handle actual or perceived conflicts such as:

  • Favoritism
  • Perceptions of favoritism
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Hostile work environment
  • Sexual harassment

To avoid or minimize such concerns, consider adding a Workplace Relationships policy in your Employee Handbook. Make sure the policy includes the following details:

  • A clear statement that you require all employees to behave in a professional manner in the workplace at all times.
  • State that employees are to avoid public displays of affection that may be perceived as unprofessional, such as hugging, kissing, handholding, etc.  Such displays may make co-workers uncomfortable and detract from the professional image of the workplace.
  • Notify employees that they are to notify you if they are involved in a romantic workplace relationship that could result in real or perceived favoritism by others.
  • State that a relationship that results in perceived or real favoritism may require you to transfer or terminate one of the involved employees.


Be sure to use discretion and handle each workplace romance evaluation with sensitivity.  With care and concern you should be able to develop an arrangement that allows the relationship while maintaining a professional image and workplace environment for your employees.


Jill Critchfield is a professional Human Resources Consultant.  Through her business, Pacific HR, she has provided HR services to over 150 small and mid-sized businesses in Portland, Oregon since 1999.


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