You may say, it’s a brave new world for office romance, especially among young millennial cubicles. Almostonethird believe it is acceptable to dip your pen in company ink.
‘That’s what she said!’ Are you ready to handle office affairs?
• Our VP of sales would hire people solely on their willingness to sleep with her. It made work a lot of shit work for the rest of us and we all grew to resent him.
• I met my Significant Other at work. We had to keep our romance secret to the point that we still have to lie to our co- workers about our anniversary.
• A co- worker of mine and a lady from HR thought they were being secretive. Turns out, the husband found out and shot the guy in the eye. My co- worker has been in a vegetative state since. The HR still works here.
Over the past few years, workplace fraternization is becoming more acceptable, especially among the millennial workforce. According to the results published by Vault. com ( 2016), 51% of business professionals have been involved in some sort of workplace relationship; 42% have had an ongoing, casual relationship with their co- worker; 36% participated in a random office hookup; 29% were involved in a long- term serious relationship with their co- worker; and 16% were lucky enough to meet their Significant Other at work. Of the entire number, 64% disposed to look on the bright side, and said they would do it again.
As per a 2012 poll by work- life and benefits consultants Workplace Options, the millennial generation is blithely unaware of how messy workplace liaisons can get. Consider this: 84% of 18- to- 29- year- olds say they’d date a coworker, compared to, 36% Gen Xers and only 29% of Boomers.
You may say, it’s a brave new world for office romance, especially among young millennial cubicles. Almost one- third of millennials believe dating in office is de rigeur, even expected, almost. Another survey by Vault ( 2016), says 44% of Millennials have been involved in an office relationship, compared to 59% for Gen X, and 66% for Baby Boomers.
Oddly enough, millennials, believe an office romance can lead to positive gains such as improved performance and morale. And, so do older respondents, who now prefer to stay frosty around workplace boundaries of what’s acceptable. Around 43% of Boomers have avoided a workplace relationship, followed by Gen Xers at 39% and Millennials at 34%. When those who participated in a workplace liaison were asked if they would do it again, 54% said yes, followed by millennials at 67% and Gen X at 68%.
It’s quite tricky altogether, whether it’s a hierarchal workplace romance or a lateral one. The ramifications – legal and social, can make you wary of dipping your pen in company ink. Some offices have no problem with employees navigating the murky waters of departmental desires. This is especially true in creative industries like media and advertising. But, with the millennial workforce obliterating the rules regarding dating co- workers, it’s time to set our sights on one of its most problematic aspects: Regulating workplace romances. Flinging Flings Out of the Courtroom
In some corporate culture, half the employees are dating, or married to, the other half, and it’s not a taboo. In many other companies, though, office romances are strong discouraged, or even prohibited. Perhaps,
one big concern is, what about the people who are not in the relationship? The employer needs to ensure there is no perceived, or actual favoritism. For example, the project manager’s darling gets greater work flexibility than everybody else. Specifically, managers and co- workers tend to worry about some of these issues.
• Will the lovebirds be able to work on projects together professionally?
• Will the personal relationship cause bias in their work, particularly if one has control over something, such as schedules or budgeting?
• Will the two be inappropriately romantic or touchy- feely in front of other co- workers?
• Will the two end up interfering in one another’s professional battles? For example, if one is terminated or treated in a way that is unfair, will it affect the morale and working relationships of the other person?
• Lastly, will the liaison cause drama or tension in the office if the two have a fight, or worse, break up?
Some of this concerns aren’t the ones you can easily address. Now, this is why some companies have a policy of separating the lovebirds. This is done either by moving one of them to a different part of the company, or, asking one or the other to resign. It’s not exactly a legal requirement, but is widely perceived as a best practice to minimize the company’s legal liability.
Say, the supervisor and the subordinate are involved in a whirlwind affair, a cupid contract helps ensure that the romance is voluntary. It also helps establish that there is no quid pro quo sexual harassment taking place. It’s the kind where a manager tells the subordinate, for example, “You can have a raise if you sleep with me.”
Of course, this wouldn’t apply to employees who are voluntarily involved, and prefer to keep it professional. Nevertheless, no one can predict a break up might go. Here comes the distasteful, no fraternization at workplace ‘ policy.
Contrary to popular belief, a policy that prohibits workplace dating is rarely appropriate. As a matter of fact, policies prohibit workplace fraternization has backfired on many employers, creating an environment where employees seem to enjoy toeing the line because of the risk involved. In addition, several state laws require employers to be aware of the broadly worded provisions of the State Labor Code that forbid businesses from discriminating against an employee or applicant for lawful off- premises conduct during non- working hours. What is a cupid contract?
Considering all the various ways in which an office romance can transform into a big, ugly can of worms, it might not seem so strange after all to have your employees sign a cupid contract. Of course, sitting down with two employees, and making them commit the nature of their relationship to paper, is anything but romantic. However, as the employer, you’re failing if the relationship turns sour, and no one considered to document it while it was in its honeymoon phase. A cupid contract is an agreement between two consenting adults to explicate
that the relationship itself is, in fact, voluntary and legitimate, and not the product of one of the partners being coerced into something inconvenient because of the imbalance of power between the two parties.
By asking an employee to confirm in writing that the relationship is voluntary gives the business a defense later if one of the parties involved in the relationship tries to sue on the grounds that they were coerced or intimidated into accepting the other party’s amorous advances.
The agreement is intended to record the intentions when the relationship is working. Later, when it isn’t, a party will have a harder time substantiating that the relationship was more of a sexually predatory scheme on the part of a wily colleague.
A cupid contract also ensures that if the romance ends badly, it won’t affect the position of any of the two parties involved, and that one has the right to bring any repercussions to the management’s notice.
Additionally, the agreement serves as a powerful evidence that the relationship wasn’t coercive in nature, and a reminder to the employees that they need to behave appropriately in the workplace.
Although, we recommend you review the following factors, to decide whether a cupid contract is appropriate:
The potential impact on morale if the relationship is permitted to go forward; Whether company policy addresses workplace dating or relationships; Whether the relationship is covered by the office dating policy and, what does it say about this particular type of relationship;
When drafting a cupid contract, you need to ensure that the agreement is fair to both the parties, and provides for equitable enforcement. In addition, the agreement must include the following elements:
An acknowledgement by both the parties that – The relationship is consensual; they are aware of and understand these policies, and the potential impact each has on their relationship; they are required to follow certain procedures if the relationship turns nonconsensual in anyway;
up to the date of the contract, no behavior has occurred that violates the company’s policies;
they are aware of and understand the policies on workplace dating, sexual harassment, workplace conduct and business ethics;
they are aware of and understand the potential repercussions each has on their relationship;
A statement elucidating what happens if either employee fails to stand by company policies.
The downside of a cupid contract is that it doesn’t forbid other employees feeling they’re subjected to a hostile work environment if the couple engages in amorous behavior at work. It also does not forbid the paramour theory and types of scenarios in which other employees believe the only way to get ahead is to sleep with the boss. A cupid contract also does not impact situations where favoritism exists. This, and many other reasons is why it’s imperative that once a cupid contract goes into place, the company must still take affirmative steps to prevent the workplace liaison from interfering with the work environment of other employees.
In drawing things to a close, we recommend reviewing your company’s policy on workplace dating and liaisons. Employers must ensure the policy does not violate the State Labor Code protection for off- duty, off- premises lawful conduct. Regardless of whether you decide to use a cupid contract, consider reviewing your sexual harassment policy and adding additional training that addresses workplace romances. Let’s just say, the once forbidden office romance has now become an expected situation for many businesses. With so many employees spending the majority of their time at work, it’s understandable why many see the workplace as a way of meeting their future partner.