Do you think you need a fraternization policy for your workplace? Many employers avoid a fraternization policy (also referred to as a dating policy, workplace romance policy, or a non-fraternization policy) because they believe an employee's private life should be kept private. Here's the problem with this notion.
Employees need some direction about what is acceptable workplace behavior. Workers don't want to unknowingly cross a boundary line that results in injuring their work status and career. Savvy employees understand that some policies in their workplace are unwritten, but all employees are entitled to understand workplace norms.
Beyond the employee, a fraternization policy is even more significant for the employer. Employees need to be informed as to what behavior is deemed inappropriate so they can be trained accordingly. This needs to take place in advance of you taking action to deal with an adverse situation that affects your workplace.
Private Versus Public Relationships
You might think that employee friendships and romantic relationships only affect the private lives of those involved. If you believe this, you are wrong. A dating relationship, especially one that goes awry, can have a very damaging effect on other employees and disrupt workplace harmony.
Workplace horror stories abound of dating couples screaming at each other, arguing in the middle of the break room, and throwing staplers at each other.
Managers Who Date Employees
Managers who are dating or romantically involved with a subordinate is never a good idea. It's not good for the company, the manager, the employee, or the employee's coworkers. It's bad news all around. And this holds for employees who date managers in another department. The relationship, or frequently former relationship, limits how you as a manager can promote, or utilize the talents of, a subordinate. Either sparks of favoritism will fly, or you'll go the other direction and purposely not promote an employee who deserves it to avoid showing favoritism.
Also, consider for a moment how it would look during a discrimination lawsuit if you fired an employee who you had an affair with. There's also the matter of having to deal with a sexual harassment suit for an affair that began as a consensual relationship but spirals down to a question of non-consent.
One California court even decided that a boss-reporting staff member relationship amounted to sexual harassment for the employee's coworkers.
Beyond the Law, Dating at Work Complicates Things
Beyond the issue of two consenting single adults, there is also the issue of extramarital affairs in the workplace. These situations can have a severely negative impact on the affected family members, disapproving coworkers, and the discomfort that inevitably ensues at employee gatherings and events.
These are the big-ticket issues, and they do not even take into consideration the day-to-day nonsense of stolen kisses, giggling in meetings, inappropriate touching, and time wasted instant messaging romantic emojis.
It's merely common sense and good business to implement a specific, employee-friendly, fraternization policy that spells out the limits and parameters in today's workplace. A good fraternization policy is key to workplace harmony and will honor the rights of both employees and employers.