Despite policies and regulations to the contrary, the fact is that many couples meet each other at work. Some evolve into stable, lasting relationships while others might just be a period of dating or some other version of a romantic attachment. In large companies and corporations, it can be easier to “hide” the romantic entanglements or to at least put some distance between people if the relationships should end. In small businesses and organizations, entanglements and attachments can have a bigger impact. It IS possible, however, to have some perspective and keep romantic attachments from ruining the work environment in a very small business.
First of all, it can be helpful to address the possibility out loud BEFORE anything happens. Sharing some sort of policy or expectation that is reasonable can be helpful. If you are the owner or manager, then let people know what is acceptable and what is not. Is it reasonable to expect that there will NEVER be any romantic attachments? Is it reasonable to expect that employees will be professional and take their personal lives outside the work environment? Decide what you think is acceptable and share that with employees from the very beginning. If you are an employee, broach the subject and ask what the business policy is on workplace dating. Getting the conversation started before it is a problem can be beneficial.
As a supervisor, if you know that two people have become involved, you will need to decide if you want to say something precautionary or wait to see if it becomes a problem. These are two different lines of thought. Some adults can handle themselves just fine and their relationship won’t be a problem at work, but others might need to be reminded what is and what is not acceptable. The important thing is to keep communication direct and to try to nip gossip, speculation and people taking different sides in the bud. Relationships may be inevitable, but drama is not.
As an employee, whether you are witnessing a budding romantic relationship or participating in one, be professional. As soon as it becomes viable and BEFORE it becomes obvious, make an announcement and resolve to keep your work and personal life as separate as possible. No public affection or otherwise uncomfortable behaviors at work. While those who work in a large company may be able to hide out in the supply closet, a small business environment does NOT lend itself to such activities. If everyone keeps in mind the “good of the whole” when it comes to the work environment, attachments can be handled with class and care.