The survey, carried out by policy management company NETconsent, of office workers aged between 19–35 years old, revealed that one in six respondents had been romantically involved with their boss, despite the potential threat that an employer / colleague relationship can have on either’s position. Key findings include:
- Hear no evil, see no evil – 50% of those that had relationships said that their bosses knew about it. However, in all these cases the boss had decided not to act on this knowledge
- Keeping it in the team – Almost a third (32%) of the relationships was with someone in the same department
- Ignorance is bliss – 51% of respondents were unaware as to whether their organisation had a policy on office relationships and 37% of respondents stated that their organisation did not have a policy
- Playing with fire – 18% of respondents had been romantically-linked with a client and just under two thirds of these thought their boss was aware of the relationship.
The negative impact of an office relationship was raised last year when it came to light that the Deputy Prime Minister had conducted a two-year affair with his private secretary, Tracey Temple. Ms Temple felt forced to leave her post, while the Deputy Prime Minister held his position despite criticism from both inside and outside the Labour party.
Gillian Dowling of HR experts Croner, commented on the statistics: “With almost two-thirds of office workers romantically linked with co-workers or employers, companies should consider whether they need to have a policy on workers who have close family ties or a personal relationship with other members of staff. This can typically be implemented to maintain professional relationships between staff and managers, or to reduce the risk of fraud, stock losses and other types of theft. However, employers who refuse a job applicant, or discipline or transfer an existing employee who has started a relationship with a colleague would, of course, have to back up their decision with genuine evidence of the risks involved, to avoid sex discrimination claims.”
Dominic Saunders, NETconsent’s Operations Director, says: “This research, as well as previous high profile cases, emphasises the importance of effective policy management and should encourage all HR managers and CEOs to make their employees aware of company policies relating to work relationships. Organisations have to accept that staff are going to have relationships, but cannot afford to ignore them if it is likely to be detrimental to the company.”
He continued: “The effects of workplace relationships can be widespread. In the event of a breach of policy, organisations need to be able to demonstrate not only that they have a policy in place but also that the employee concerned has seen, understood and agreed to it. Organisations can mitigate risk by ensuring they communicate and enforce the policies to protect themselves from the potentially dangerous effects of workplace romance.”
About the survey
The results were taken from an email survey of 100 UK office workers aged 19-35 years old, working in a range of sectors including technology, government and professional services, across a variety of company sizes.