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Workplace romance


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This article was written as an assignment for Com 255 Organizational Communication at Nanyang Technological University by Looi Jiemin, Hilarie Lim & Ezhilan Oviyum.

This article was written as an assignment for Com 255 Organizational Communication at Nanyang Technological University by Looi Jiemin, Hilarie Lim & Ezhilan Oviyum.

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  • 1. 2 1 Managing Romance at the Workplace Pellentesque nunc odio, mattis sit amet, commodo nec, consectetuer quis, nibh. A guide to managing and mitigating workplace romance page 3 1 An Introduction To Workplace Romance 2 Motivations Behind Workplace Romance 3 Perceptions of Workplace Romance 4 5 + What is workplace romance? A non-platonic relationship between two members of an organization in which sexual attraction is present, affection is communicated, and both members recognize the relationship to be something more than just professional and platonic. Behavioral Outcomes of Workplace Romance Mitigating and Managing the Negative Impacts of Workplace Romance An introduction to workplace romance Workplace  romance  is  ignited  when  a   mutual  attraction  progresses  into  a   relationship  between  two  members  of   the  same  organization  (Malachowski,   Chory  &  Claus,  2012).  This  phenomenon   is  rampant  in  b oth  Asian  and  Western   contexts.   Of  the  employees  interviewed,  75%  have   either  observed  or  participated  in  a   workplace  romance  (Dillard  &  Witteman,   1985).   Office  romances  include  lateral  and   hierarchical  relationships  -­‐  with   the  former  addressing  romance   between  co-­‐workers,  and  the  latter   addressing  relationships  across   different  management  levels   (Pierce,  1998).  
  • 2. 3 2 1 Lorem Ipsum Issue | Date The Love Motive: People engage in workplace romance to seek a long term or companionship The Ego Motive: People engage in workplace romance to seek a thrill or a sexual and illicit experience The Job Related Motive: People engage in workplace romance to seek lighter workloads, advancement opportunities, job security, or power. 2: Motivations behind workplace romance: Job   performance   and   social   (Love   and   Ego   Motives)   objectives   are   usually   an   impetus   for   office   relationships   (Townsend,   Keck   &   Monahan,  2005).  Work-­‐related  goals  usually   prevail  in  hierarchical  office  relationships.       Subordinates   usually   use   their   personal   affiliations   with   superiors   to   satisfy   their   intentions   for   career   advancement,   to   cement  their  job  security  and  even  to  garner   financial  rewards.     Furthermore,  these  office  relationships  tend   to  enhance  job  satisfaction  and  involvement,   allowing   the   parties   involved   to   derive   3: Perceptions of Workplace Romance Dolor Sit Amet greater   personal   gratification   in   the   workplace   (Malachowski,   Chory   &   Claus,   2012).       Moreover,   office   employees   engage   in   workplace   romances   to   fulfill   their   romantic   desires   for   love   and   companionship   (Malachowski,   Chory   &   Claus,   2012).   Also,   the   taboo   nature   of   dating   a   superior   might   provide   subordinates   with   added   incentives   of   excitement   and   thrills   in   a   relationship,   providing   them   with   a   sexual   and   illicit   experience  (Townsend,  Keck  &  Monahan,   2005).   Interpersonal   communication   and   relationships   are   fundamental   to   workplace   operations.   This   complies   with   the   open   systems   theory   where   employees   exact   influence   on   and  are  subject  to  influences  by  other   dyadic   relationships   in   the   organization  (Horan    &  Chory,  2 011).      Therefore,   workplace   romance   affects   the   couple   involved,   and   others   in   the   organization.   Positive   and   negative   perceptions   from   colleagues   towards   office   romance   largely   depend   on   work   environment   and  vary  according  to  cultural  contexts.       Typically,   negative   social   stigmas   are   imposed   on   workplace   relationships,   with  love  and  sex  viewed  as  hindrances   towards   achieving   corporate   values,   such   as   productivity   and   objectivity   (Leonard,  2001).     2
  • 3. 4 5 3 Lorem Ipsum Issue | Date + What affects our perception of workplace romance? (continued) 1:   Perceptions   of   workplace   romance   depend  on  the  motives   of   individuals   involved. 2:   Perceptions   towards   workplace   romance   are   influenced   by   the   company’s  corporate  climate   3:   Perceptions   towards   workplace   romance   are   affected   by   the   company’s  tradition  and  culture Colleagues   usually   impose   judgments   towards   office   romance   based   on   intents  leading  to  the  relationship.  Of   the   abovementioned   motives   (Job,   Love   &   Ego),   colleagues   perceive   relationships  with   love  motives  to  be   sincere   and   acceptable,   while   relationships   with   job-­‐related   intents   are   frowned   upon   (Pierce,   Aguinis   &   Adams,  2000). Corporate  climates  typically  influence   perceptions   towards   workplace   romances   with   varying   levels   of   receptiveness.   Cold   corporate   climates   are   impersonal   and   formal   organizational   structures   prioritising   instrumental,   task-­‐related   relationships   (Albrow,   1992),   thus   discouraging   emotional   and   sexual   attachments  (Powell  &  Foley,  1998). Hierarchical   workplace   relationships   are   associated   with   job-­‐related   intents,   thus   being   perceived   more   negatively  by  colleagues.  Jealousy  and   frustration   from   co-­‐workers   are   evoked   especially   when   subordinates   receive   unfair   privileges   associated   with   pay,   promotions,   workload,   and   vacation  time.  Although,  this  does  not   influence   judgments   of   competency,   (Horan   &   Chory,   2011)   such   bias   lowers   interpersonal   trust   and   amongst   co-­‐workers   (Pierce,   Aguinis   &  Adams,  2000). Hot   corporate   climates   prioritize   aesthetic   appearances   of   employees   (Taylor   et   al.,   2002),   apparent   especially   in   tourism,   fashion   and   media-­‐related   industries   (Guerrier   &   Adib,   2000;   Adib   &   Guerrier,   2003).   Organizations   with   such   corporate   climates   are   more   liberal   and   receptive   towards   workplace   romance,   perceiving   romantic   attachments   as  a  natural  extension  of   life. Asian   contexts   tend   to   perceive   office   romances   with   negative   connotations,   especially   with   most   companies   adopting   cold   corporate  climates.     This   is   especially   evident   in   Chinese   cultures   like   Taiwan,   where   workplace   relationships   are   viewed   as   fodder   for   gossip,   which  are  distractions  from  work   productivity   (Mano   &   Gabriel,   2006).     Even  in  Asian  companies  w ith  hot   corporate   climates,   employees   place   a   dichotomy   between   private   and   public   spheres   of   their   lives,   and   believe   that   companies   should   not   meddle   with   the   romantic   lives   of   its   employees   (Mano   &   Gabriel,   2006). Dolor Sit Amet 3
  • 4. 3 2 1 Lorem Ipsum 4: Behavioural Outcomes Workplace   relationships   can   benefit   the   organization   with   enhanced   employee   productivity,   work   environment,   job   involvement   and   satisfaction.   These   benefits   are   especially   apparent   if   the   relationship   is   fulfilling   and   satisfying,   causing   positive  spillover  effects  from  personal   to  public  working  lives.       Workers   involved   in   hierarchical   relationships   would   increase   job   participation   and   productivity   to   create   a   more   favourable   impression   for   their   supervisors,   thus   placing   more   cognitive   involvement   in   their   work   duties.   Office   romances   tend   to   improve   communication   between   employees,   making   teamwork   and   cooperation   more   seamless   and   effective   (Pierce,   1998).   Therefore,   improved   relational   aspects   in   the   workplace   would   boost   employee   morale,   resulting   in   greater   job   satisfaction  overall.     Despite  the  positive  outcomes  that  can   emerge  from  office  relationships,  these   relationships   may   prove   to   be   destructive   to   the   organization’s   progress   and   pursuits.   Workplace   professionalism   may   be   jeopardized   Issue | Date when   subordinates   in   hierarchical   relationships   receive   unfair   advantages  and  p rivileges  from  their   superiors   (Pierce,   1998). Moreover,   company   romances   might   hinder   important   decision-­‐making   process   and  cloud  objective  judgments  when   romantically   involved   parties   divulge   confidential   company   information   to   one   another.   In   addition,  work  relationships  may   be   complicated   and   sexual   harassment   allegations   may   arise   when   office   romances  turn  awry.   The   downside   of   workplace   romance   also   includes   deteriorating   workplace   friendship   due   to   information   manipulation   and   deception,   lowering   trust   and   solidarity   between   co-­‐workers   (Malachowski,   Chory   &   Claus,   2012).   This   conflict   of   interest   would   therefore   detrimentally   impact   the   organization’s   work   dynamics,   putting   job   satisfaction   in   a   downward   spiral. - sodales. 5: Mitigating and Managing the Negative Impacts of Workplace Romance The Need to Implement Workplace Romance Policies Policies   are   essential   in   protecting   the   organization   by   reducing   legal   risks   and   allegations   of   sexual   harassment,   unfair   treatment   or   civil   wrongs   (Wilkie,  2013).     Such   measures   help   minimise   time   wastage,   costly   legal   claims   and   organizational  risks.  Implementing  and   enforcing   policies   would   ensure   consistency   in   decision-­‐making,   Dolor Sit Amet preserving   organizational   structure   and   credibility   of   managers.   Moreover,   these   policies   help   to   safeguard   collective   company   interests.   Despite   the   pertinence   of   such   policies,   recent   polls   conducted   by   Society   for   Human   Resource   Management   (SHRM)   revealed   that   only  42%  of  companies  have  written   or   verbal   policies   surrounding   workplace   romance   (Wilkie,   2013).   Though   more   corporations   have   equipped   themselves   with   necessary   measures   to   deal   with   workplace   romance,   many   companies   have   yet   to  follow  suit.       Therefore,   it   is   advisable   for   these   companies   to   adopt   appropriate   approaches   in   dealing   with   office   romance. 4
  • 5. 3 2 1 Lorem Ipsum + Issue | Date Perspective of a Manager: Office Romance Policies We believe that managing workplace romance should not be constricted to responding to negative behavioural outcomes that arise from unsuccessful relationships. Therefore, our proposed framework to deal with office romance is implemented in phases for greater clarity and effectiveness. Fig  (1).  Overall  framework [Phase 1] Office   relationship   policies   should   be   communicated   clearly   to   workers   upon   employment   via   formal  w ritten  measures.     This   provides   employees   with   clear   indications   on   corporate   culture   and   stance   towards   workplace   romance.   Some   Dolor Sit Amet companies   tend   to   adopt   informal   unwritten  policies  to  offset  costs  that   arise  from  formal  policy  enforcement   (Schaefer   &   Tudor,   2001).   This   creates   great   ambiguity   in   establishing   behavioural   expectations,   making   it   harder   to   implement   supporting   reactionary   approaches   to   negative   outcomes   arising   from   workplace   romance,   especially   in   larger   organisations.   However,   informal   unwritten   policies  can  work  for  Asian  cultures,   which   use   high-­‐context   communication   that   place   greater   emphasis   on   shared   understanding   and  personal  promises. 5
  • 6. 3 2 1 Lorem Ipsum Issue | Date relationship   has   impacted  team   dynamics   and   productivity.   This   helps   to   maintain   objectivity   and   avoid   accusations   of   favouritism.   When   office   romances   are   unsuccessful   or   disruptive,   the   couple   involved   would   be   sent   to   counseling   sessions   for   emotional   management   and   discussions   for   employee  transfer  if  necessary.  Even   in   Asian   contexts   that   are   largely   comfortable   with   organizational   silence,   managers   should   establish   clear   communication   channels   with   subordinates   so   that   problems   can   be   dealt   with   effectiveness   and   timeliness.   + Perspective of a Manager: Office Romance Policies “Love   contracts”   are   primarily   applicable   to   hierarchical   relationships,   but   given   the   potential   risks   and   conflicts   of   interests,   it   should   be   extended   to   lateral   relationships.   When   making   sensitive   personnel   decisions,   a   panel   of   managers   should   seek   opinions   from   the   couple’s   co-­‐workers   on   how   the   However,   when   company   guidelines   are   severely   breached,   the   organization   reserves   the   right   to   terminate   employment   with   the   parties  involved  to  uphold  collective   company   interests.    Under   such   circumstances,   team   debriefs   could   be   held   to   maintain   workplace   transparency,   and   reinforce   the   company’s  code  of  conduct. [Phase 2] Disclosures   should   be   made   to   relevant   HR   personnel   and   immediate   superiors   through   “love   contracts”   when   employees   officially   enter   an   office   relationship.   Employees   need   to   declare   that   the   relationship   is   consensual,   to   protect   the   firm   against   plausible   sexual   harassment   lawsuits.   Also,   couples  have  to  undergo  briefings  by   relevant   HR   personnel   in   understanding   the   company   guidelines   towards   workplace   romance,   as   well   as   emotional   training   programs   for   effective   emotional   management   in   office   settings.    Couples   that   are   reluctant   to   disclose   or   are   discovered   to   engage   in   an   office   romance   will   be   sent   for   counseling   sessions   that  educate   them   of   the   risks   involved.   Fig  (2).  Flowchart  for  Phase  2
  • 7. 6 4 5 Lorem Ipsum Issue | Date + (continued) The  abovementioned  approach  may  not   be  suitable  for  small  and  medium-­‐sized   enterprises   (SMEs)   with   their   limited   resources.   SMEs   face   organizational   rigidity   in   reshuffling   manpower   and   high   costs   in   employment   termination   as   well   as   drafting   and   implementing   “love   contracts”.   Therefore,   these   companies   could   alleviate   such   costly   concerns   by   drawing   on   prevailing   cultural   norms   and   establishing   informal  w ritten  policies  instead. Asian   managers   and   HR   professionals   may   feel   uncomfortable   interfering   in   the   personal   affairs   of   employees.   Similarly,   employees   might   perceive   such   measures   as   intrusive   to   their   privacy.   Employee   feedback   is   therefore   imperative   in   tailoring   policies   according   to   the   individuals   involved   for   better   policy   compliance   (Karl  &  Sutton,  2000).   Managers   in   multicultural   workplaces   should   keep   in   mind   that   Asian   cultures   value   dignity,   which   may   deter   employees   from   disclosing   their   relationship   for   fear   that   perceptions   of   their   competence   would   be   compromised.  Couples  in  extramarital,   same   sex   and/or   casual   sexual   relationships   are   unlikely   to   disclose   their   relationships   to   prevent   unnecessary   negative   attention   from   colleagues.   Encouraging   disclosures   would   require   paradigmatic   shifts   to   Perspective of a Manager: Office Romance Policies remove  negative  social  stigma   against   workplace   romance.   If   problems   arise   from   workplace   romance,   managers   should   exercise   tact   when   sharing   and   discussing   solutions   with   other   employees.   Overly   harsh   management   would   introduce   hostility   and   lower   group   morale,   further   discouraging   disclosures.   Therefore,   superiors   should  treat  individuals  involved  with   respect   and   be  understanding   of   their   predicaments,   lest   they   send   inaccurate   messages   of   prejudice   and   intolerance   towards   workplace   romance  to  other  employees.   Behavioural Guidelines for Employees Involved in Workplace Romance Draw the lines Employees   should   limit   affective   spillover   effects   from   personal   lives   to   their   work   and   upkeep   their   professional   work   ethics.   Public   display   of   affection   at   work   is   inappropriate   and   will   make   your   fellow  colleagues  feel  uncomfortable.       Exercise   discretion   when   divulging   company   information   to   your   other   half   as   you   might   breach   company   confidentiality   and   thwart   company   decision-­‐making,   especially   when   relationships   go   awry   (Pierce,   Agunis,  &  Adams,  2000).   Dolor Sit Amet Be objective Be open Consider   issues   such   as   favouritism,  especially  if  you   are   involved   in   supervisor-­‐   subordinate  relationship.     It   is   common   for   couples   in   a   hierarchical   relationship   to   change   departments   so   as   to   prevent  any  allegations  that  may   be   damaging   to   company   dynamics  and  morale. According   to   SHRM,   67%   of   HR   professionals   heard   about   employees   in   relationship   through   office  gossip  (Wilkie,  2013).     People  will  talk  so  don’t  give  them   the  opportunity  to  do  so  as  this  can   hurt   both   your   professional   and   personal   image.   You   might   also   be   violating  your  office  policies  by  not   openly   declaring   relationships   so   make  the  effort  to  learn  about  your   company’s   policies   towards   office   romance.   7
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