Boundaries, Part 2: Love at work

Workplace studies have shown that that many of us meet our mates at work.  That makes sense – it’s where we spend most of our waking hours, where we have the most ongoing contact with the same people, where we have things in common.  The trouble is that these relationships often impact the workplace. 

The Problem: Mary and Jack were assigned to the same work project.  As they got to know each other, they began taking their lunches together and going out after work. A relationship developed.  They thought they were being discreet, but people would see them and gossip (we do so love to gossip – see our earlier blog on the subject!)  Mary told colleague and best friend Jane about the relationship, and swore her to secrecy.  Jane was thrilled, and just had to share her excitement – secretly – with Mindy, her cubicle neighbor, and….

 So, what’s the problem?  There may be none, unless

  • the relationship interferes with work, as it almost always does: when work time is used to discuss the relationship by the parties or others, or when the existence of the relationship makes the work more difficult (the couple can’t work together because they distract one another, because they cause jealousy among coworkers, because they’ve broken up…)
  • the relationship is between people at different levels in the organization (stated simply: DON’T GO THERE!)

 What to do? Be extremely cautious about getting involved with someone in the workplace.  NEVER get involved with someone at a different level.  If at all possible, when a serious relationship begins to develop, one of the parties should go to work elsewhere.  If you’re in management and become aware of a workplace relationship, consider reassigning those involved and remind both parties to keep their relationship outside the workplace.  Document that reminder, and monitor the situation.  Failing to do so could cost you time and money in the long run when the relationship (or the breakup of the relationship) interferes with the work.

Have you ever had to deal with this difficult issue?  Tell us what happened! ~ DS

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