Human Results: How to Handle an Office Romance in a Small Business

BlogHR Advice Posted: Wednesday 3rd February 2016 by

Office romances aren’t new. In fact some of the famous couples are together today because of an office romance – just look at Barack and Michelle Obama, who met in the summer of ’89 at the Chicago law firm where Barack was an intern and Michelle was assigned as his mentor.  Or Bill and Melinda Gates, who met at a Microsoft press event in 1987. Although it is said that more than 30% of office romances end in marriage, the remaining (and majority) simply don’t.

The Pros and Cons of an Office Romance

It’s true that many small businesses have nothing against the office romance, in fact some may actively encourage it, since the job can be tough and in challenging environments it can be hard for anyone outside the office to deal with. Some jobs demand a lot of working hours, which in turn brings about stress, anxiety and tiredness. Consequently, not everyone’s partner can handle this, so an adequate love interest would have to be someone from the same industry, or the same office.

However, office romances can also spell danger for small business owners and HR managers. If a relationship between two colleagues ends badly in a small business, this can cause a great deal of stress, not only on the individuals concerned, but on the wider staff and on the business itself, leading to jealousy, bad-mouthing, poor job performance, distraction and unprofessionalism.

How to Deal with an Office Romance

Office Romance Human Results

Although there is no law against office romances, they can occasionally lead to uncomfortable and awkward situations. It is therefore important for any small business to consider the development of a clear and well thought out office behaviour policy, which could include a section dedicated to romantic relationships between co-workers, as well as between employers and managers. The policy would clarify unacceptable and inappropriate behaviour, and specify the consequences if any member of staff should breach the policy.

Although most employers would rely on their staff handbooks to set out behaviour guidelines, policies that are related to office romances, sometimes referred to as ‘love contracts’ are becoming more commonplace here in the UK, following the trend in the US. A love contract could not only protect your business and your employees from any altercations, but it could also help to prevent possible lawsuits.


Human Results offer expert HR services on retainer, or on a one-off basis to help guide you through the daily challenges of managing your business from a people perspective.

We also provide expert leadership development coaching programmes to secure long-term capability within your organisation, and a critical support structure for your leaders.

For more information, call Human Results on 01952 288361 for a no obligation, confidential discussion.

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