With an estimated one-in-four relationships starting through work, it’s said that skilfully navigating workplace romance can literally change your life.
But getting the subtleties right in the beginning can be even more important if the relationship turns sour.
For this Valentine’s Day Monday, 14 February Unions NSW has compiled workplace ‘dos and don’ts’ to help young workers navigate this potentially awkward situation.
“It is unsurprising that workplace romance happens because we are social beings, and we spend a lot of time at work”, says Unions NSW Equity Officer Karen Willis OAM.
“Workers can of course love who they love, and for many, this includes someone they work with.”
“However, it is important to consider your workplace rules and policies. A work romance can be wonderful, lifelong, complicated, risky, or may jeopardise your job or career.”
If you are concerned about your romantic relationship impacting your working life, Ms Willis recommends speaking to an expert on workplace rights, like your union.
Top Workplace Romance Dos and Don’ts
- Do be respectful, polite and seek affirmative consent. According to Unions NSW, if there’s someone at work you like and you think it’s mutual, as with any relationship you need to make sure they feel the same. How to ask, well that’s another kind of list – but if they indicate in any way they’re not interested, it’s vital to back off immediately and maintain a friendly, respectful and professional working relationship. Where there is a power imbalance, such as a boss with a junior, you should exercise extreme caution and consider the ethics. If can be difficult for someone to say ‘no’ to their boss.
- Don’t be a harasser. Unions NSW warns that this includes, but is not limited to, making inappropriate jokes, unwanted touching, or repeatedly asking someone out. Sexual harassment is against workplace law. If you are on the receiving end of harassing conduct, your union will help.
- Do consider your workplace policies. Unions NSW says that many workplaces have common-sense policies that recognise the reality of workplace romance. In certain circumstances, this may require you to inform your employer. However, some workplaces may have inappropriate or draconian rules. If you are being disciplined for your workplace relationship, you should seek advice from your union immediately! You should also consider other workplace policies such as the code of conduct and sexual harassment policy.
- Don’t allow a conflict of interest to develop. This can arise when your personal interests are at odds with your employers’ professional interests, says Unions NSW. For example, if you have to provide a collegial evaluation of your romantic partner. You should declare your conflict of interest, preferably in writing.
- Maintain your professionalism at work. In many workplaces, public displays of affection can be uncomfortable for others, according to Unions NSW. The best way is to maintain expectations of professional behaviour in your workplace.
- Don’t drag your co-workers into relationship drama. Unions NSW warns: where possible speak to a friend outside of work if you need to vent. If you talk to someone at work be sure you can trust them. Remember your venting may get resolved in the relationship, but a co-worker you spoke to may continue to be influenced by what you have said.
- Do consider longer-term consequences. If a relationship forms with a co-worker, congratulations. However, you may need to move to a different team, suggests Unions NSW. In some cases, you may need to consider employment elsewhere. If neither of you wants to move this may create conflict. It can be hard thinking about the long term in the excitement of a new workplace romance, but it is wise to think ahead.