With valentine’s day just around the corner, I really wanted to do a romance-focused psychology podcast episode and as a romance writer myself, I really like the idea of workplace romances. Therefore, I decided we should look at this in a lot more detail because these aren’t rare and they’re very interesting to look at from a psychological point of view. If you enjoy social psychology then certainly keep reading.
Today’s episode has been sponsored by Psychology of Relationships: The Social Psychology Friendships, Romantic Relations And More. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.
How To Manage Workplace Romances? They Aren’t Rare
Whilst a lot of this information does sort of come from the perspective of a manager or boss, I will comment on how us as non-managers would use this information to manage a workplace relationship. And this is important for all of us because we never know when we’re going to meet the man or woman of our dreams and it could very much happen at work.
In addition, it’s important to note that workplace romances are very common and they’re highly accepted since a 2022 Society For Human Resource Management survey found that out of 505 American adults a third of them were in a workplace romance. This appears to have increased slightly from 27% pre-pandemic. But thankfully, few people appear to care that these workplace romances are on the rise since the survey also found that 75% of US workers are comfortable with workplace romances.
Personally, I completely agree because as long as they’re getting their work done and they aren’t disrupting the office or workplace environment then I seriously cannot see the problem.
As well as on a minor side note, I want to mention a connection, admittedly a very tenuous connection, and sign that this is acceptable is that the workplace romance genre has actually morphed into its own subgenre of romance. Now I want to mention this as something important because it means that a lot of people enjoy reading about this, so not only are they comfortable with the idea but they also want to experience what a workplace romance is like.
Granted it is in a fictionalised way but as a reader and professional writer I understand how subgenres are formed. And it is a fairly major thing that does reflect wider society to some extent.
How Could Managers and Leaders Prepare For Workplace Relationships?
Whilst workplace romances are great and they’re on the rise, I think we can all admit that for leadership and management teams they can create a bit of a headache so here are three things that can help leadership teams prepare for these romances. As well as I’ll explain how this helps non-leadership people too.
Be Clear and Establish Even Clearer Guidance
So I know how annoying it is as an employee when your bosses do not give you clear guidance on any situation, please don’t be that boss for starters. But also bosses need to be prepared to lay down the law of their company regardless of how this could affect their approval ratings. As well as this links back to what I mentioned earlier in the episode, romances can shake up working environments, create problems and cause interpersonal conflict.
As a result, it is important to set boundaries with workers so the workplace can continues to be a neutral space or whatever your company believes in. For example, if your company thinks Public Displays of Affection (PDA) aren’t appreciated in the workplace then it is best if you tell your workers this before they get caught doing god knows what in the breakout room (and you might need to remind them that it’s a breakout room, not a make out room).
Overall, for bosses and managers, it’s important to be clear on these guidelines so everyone is up to date and clear on what the company wants. For workers, I would just say respect the guidelines and rules and if you fall in love in the workplace, don’t make out constantly in front of other people, because it can be a little off-putting. But again your workplace might be different so just read the room.
Talk To Human Resources
Now I have to explain that it’s only normal to really have a human resource department if you’re working for a big company so every business has a HR department of some sort. Even if the boss of the small business is the HR department and a bunch of other things.
As a result with these romances on the rise, everyone in leadership and management roles do need to be advised and prepared about the company’s position on such matters before these relationships occur in the first place. This way it helps to prevent or at least give the leadership team the knowledge about what to do if challenges arise because of these workplace romances.
Don’t be A Hypocrite
I really love this rule because it is so right. There is nothing more annoying in life than a company having a rule banning relationships in the workplace only for the boss and the boss’s friends completely doing the opposite. That is really annoying.
In other words, whatever your position and company rules are, make sure you stick with them and whatever you do as a boss, that is the behaviour you promote to your team. For example, if you’re paying special or extra close attention to someone, and even if it isn’t for romantic interest, you will create problems in your team. Because there’s a real chance you will be seen to have one rule for everyone else and yet another rule for yourself as you’re the boss.
Workplace Romances Vs Workplace Harassment
However, I absolutely couldn’t do a podcast episode on this topic without talking about sexual harassment. This is wrong, disgusting and women and the handful of men that face it should never ever have to experience it.
Therefore, we have to talk about how when the workplace and intimacy are mixed there is a very real chance of an abuse of power. As well as like all the high-profile court cases reveal, you cannot rely on everyone reading the situation the same way.
For example, if we look at Weinstein who still protests his innocence despite serving an extended prison sentence. And his accusers and millions of supporters worldwide maintain that he didn’t only harass women, he raped dozens of them in so-called work meetings.
Additionally, there are mixed interpretations of what actually happened at a company called KPCB. Since it was revealed during a closely watched court case in 2015 that a junior partner did start a sexual relationship with Pao shortly after she joined the company but when the relationship didn’t work out, she was excluded from networking events as well as important meetings. And yet, none of this was enough to persuade a jury that Pao had experienced discrimination in the workplace so she lose the case.
That is amazing to me but the legal system is weird at times.
Another way to put this into perspective is that despite how many abuse and harassment headlines we see, there are tons more cases we will never hear about. These cases are wide ranging from harmless flirting at after-work meeting to more persistent and very concerning forms of harassment and awful abuse that no one, absolutely no one should ever suffer.
However, the real problem is a lot harder to solve. Because when a romance or harassment case happens in the workplace, you cannot escape it easily and rejecting someone in the workplace is more risky and challenging. Especially, if this person is someone you report to or is a team member that might turn the other team members against you in some revenge plot.
Overall, when it comes to workplace romances and preventing harassment it is the duty of all managers and leaders to understand how power dynamics work and how they impact the working relationships in the working environment. Due to the workplace can be a great place to meet people and for relationships to develop, but they can be risky if status, power and high stakes are involved. Harassment is something we all need to be mindful of so we can keep everyone safe be it a man or woman, a friend or enemy or a worker we know greatly or barely at all.
Social Psychology Conclusion
To wrap up today’s business psychology podcast episode, I want to mention that workplace romances I think have the potential to be great, fun and really nice. I’ll admit that I’ve worked with some great people that I sort of wish could have developed into a romance and relationship. Because as I mentioned earlier in the podcast, you never know where the right man or woman for you will come from so the workplace could be where you meet your ideal partner.
Since when sparks fly in the workplace, the result can very much be powerful and great or they can create a ton of problems for someone’s team and the company they work for. And that’s all before we remember the risk for abuse and harassment.
Workplace romances can be great but we have to be just as careful in the workplace as we do in other areas of the dating world.
I really hope you enjoyed today’s psychotherapy podcast episode.
If you want to learn more, please check out:
Psychology of Relationships: The Social Psychology Friendships, Romantic Relations And More. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.
Have a great day.
Social Psychology And Business Psychology References
Shrm. (2022, February 8). New SHRM survey: The rise of workplace romance. SHRM. Retrieved February 9, 2023, from https://www.shrm.org/about-shrm/press-room/press-releases/pages/new-shrm-survey-the-rise-of-workplace-romance.aspx
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