How to Handle a Personal Relationship at Workplace

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How to Handle a Personal Relationship at Workplace
Banning personal relationships at the workplace may be considered unrealistic and too much of an interference with an employee’s right to private life. Personal relationships at work are normal and people both employees and employers should be encouraged to accept them.

Today’s workspace, where most of our time is spent with our colleagues at the office, opens up a lot of possibilities for personal or intimate relationships developing.

Personal relationships include family relationships like spouses, siblings, people dating each other, very close friendships, and close business, commercial and financial relationships. Such personal relationships continue to thrive in spite of all kind of virtual platforms and modes of communication, chatting, and dating that is available in current times or would further develop e.g., Metaverse

While working in a corporate setup I came across a working couple in the same team who were often subjected to unwarranted comments on their work style, timings, and privileges. Such unwarranted and personal comments are a reality even today in this ultra-modern and so-called open-minded 21st-century culture.

Banning personal relationships at the workplace may be considered unrealistic and too much of an interference with an employee’s right to private life. Personal relationships at work are normal and people both employees and employers should be encouraged to accept them.

I feel employers should be encouraged to accept that such relationships are part and parcel. Indeed, with the average person spending 90,000 working hours over the course of their lifetime, it is highly likely romantic relationships or close relationships will begin at work.

Some companies specify this especially in employment contracts that employees are banned from forming any intimate relationships with colleagues. If any organisation intends to take this zero-tolerance approach, then it should be clearly communicated.

Typically, if any relationship at work affects the behaviour or performance of employees, it should be managed and dealt with in the same way as other conduct or performance-related matters. Dealing with the process at the organisation in a reasonable way is through a fair disciplinary process.

I believe this should not be viewed as a problem in itself, but it’s important to recognise that relationships at work would be there and we should be open to it as non-acceptance can cause a number of issues for both employer and workforce. So, let’s look at both pros and cons of it:

Challenges of Personal Relationships at Work

Workplace relationships have the potential to be disadvantageous to a business, in the absence of clear rules or boundaries or effective management. In particular:

  • Conflict of Interest- If any employee has a personal relationship with one of the close business associates, this can create a conflict with the professional duty they owe to the company.
  • Subjective and Unfair Recruitment Decisions- Personal relationships sometime could lead to allegations of unfair recruitment decisions.
  • Preferential and Inconsistent Treatment of Employees- If two employees at workplace, have a personal relationship and are in the same team or department, then consideration should be given to the impact or perceived impact the relationship will have on other team members. This is specifically important where one reports into the other.
  • Confidentiality Breaches- Employers would want to avoid situations where any employee has abused their position of trust and confidentiality due to their close relationship.
  • Bullying and Harassment- Bullying, unwelcome physical contact, or physical abuse, and also includes verbal bullying, threatening or insulting comments including comments intended to undermine, demean, embarrass, or disgrace.
  • Grievances- When you have personal relationships which turn bitter and in turn lead to one of the parties acting inappropriately towards the other at work, you risk a grievance being raised up.

Benefits of Personal Relationships at Work

Close personal relationships do not always mean issues for organisation, in fact, they can:

  • Creates a higher commitment to the Organisation.
  • Increased personal interest in the business’s success.
  • Around wider understanding through exchange is contradictory to confidentiality breaches.
  • Helps in reducing costs of recruitment to a Company by introducing a family or friend to the company.
  • Generally, people who are recommended to a Company are like-minded to existing employees.
  • Reduces cost of employment for companies as many cost items like family insurance coverage, relocation, etc. get shared.

Personal relationships at the workplace can be considered a natural consequence of people bonding together in a shared environment. Friendships at work create a great sense of belonging, increased collaboration, and a better sense of trust.

However, it is important that these relationships are managed professionally and ethically in a way that prioritizes human respect, a safe workplace environment, and a culture of fairness and responsible behaviour.

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