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Three Tips to Navigate Workplace Relationships

 -  2/14/12

At a time when employees are putting in more hours in the office, effectively managing inter-office relationships can not only prevent turnover due to discomfort, but it can also boost collaboration.

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How to Manage Social Interactions With Direct Reports

Romantic relationships aside, this Valentine’s Day leaders can resolve to improve their social interactions with direct reports whether in or outside the office.

Four out of 10 workers said they’ve dated a colleague at some point in their careers, and three in 10 said they went on to marry a person they dated in the office, according to a 2011 survey by CareerBuilder.com.

Given how much time employees are putting in at the office these days, it’s not hard to predict that the trend isn’t going to diminish.

So, what should a leader’s role be in dealing with and managing interoffice relationships? To start, turning a blind eye to the obvious and sweeping it under the rug is never the way to go.

Given statistics like these, it’s imperative that employees know what is and isn’t acceptable to avoid running counter to cultural norms and expectations. That’s why organizations that don’t provide written policies around workplace relationships are simply leaving the door open to confusion, hurt feelings and, worse yet, potential lawsuits.

Here are some steps to help leaders successfully navigate interoffice relationships:

Create a Realistic Corporate Policy
Do: Get something down on paper — no matter how short or long. A top priority should be a sexual harassment policy. Clearly outline how a claim will be handled, consequences for engaging in such behavior, and reinforce the company’s zero-tolerance position. Also, consider prohibiting a manager from dating a direct report in addition to providing guidelines on how to request a transfer should this type of relationship develop.

Don’t: Create all-encompassing policies that forbid workplace dating. It’s not realistic and policies such as these only force the issue underground, causing employees to sneak around and lie. Even worse, organizations run the risk of losing high-performing talent as the result of a budding relationship. And more often than not, it’s the stronger performer who leaves, knowing he or she will have a better chance at landing another job.

Encourage a Healthy Dose of Communication
Do: Encourage employees to be open and honest about interoffice relationships with colleagues and peers. If they are dishonest or purposefully vague, an undercurrent of tension typically occurs among co-workers. At the same time, there is a healthy balance between sharing the right type of information and not overstepping professional boundaries. To ensure this, leaders must emphasize that the workplace is not the appropriate setting for discussing intimate details and that the other person’s privacy must always be considered.

Article Keywords:   relationship management   workplace  


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