Workplace romances. Are they really that bad?

BlogHR Advice Posted: Monday 14th February 2022 by

Most of you have watched The Office US and dreamed of having workplace romance like Jim and Pam. You know what, sometimes this can actually happen. It’s not uncommon for two people to meet at work, spend a lot of time around one another and fall in love. Marriage and children follow, and it’s a lovely story to tell for generations.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

There are countless times where workplace romances can go wrong! After university, the workplace is the next most likely place to find your future partner. But, what happens if you think you’ve found the one, but things go south?

Awkwardness at work

There’s a really good case study on HBR that perfectly explains the main issues when an office romance goes wrong. In this study, Elizabeth and Brad start dating, they have a few dates, but then Brad decides to see someone else. He starts seeing a colleague of theirs, and it ends up creating so much awkwardness at work. Elizabeth has to see them together all the time, giving her a constant reminder of what she lost. Things get so bad that she considers leaving her job, despite the fact that she’s a valued member of the team.

When two people date, and then stop dating, it’s rare for them to see each other again. If they do bump into one another on the street, it’s going to be awkward. So, imagine the tension and awkwardness when you know you’re seeing your ex every single day at work. It can play on your mind, which then alters your emotions and can create toxicity between you and that person. Of course, workplace cliques are formed all the time, so you could end up with a situation where you and your close work friends all hate this one person, and all of their close work friends hate you.

Now, imagine what this does to the work environment? It can ruin productivity and be really bad for the business. Does this mean you should forget about finding love at work? Of course not, just be careful because of the awkwardness and tension it could create if things go wrong.

What can HR managers and employers do when these things arise?

Thankfully, HR managers and employers can do a lot to ease the tension when a workplace romance goes wrong. Firstly, a good idea is to speak to the two parties involved, seeing how they feel about the situation. From here, some moves can be made to ensure that their broken romance doesn’t disrupt the workplace.

As an example, if it’s a shift-based job, organise shifts so they aren’t on with one another, or they’re never on alone together. If things are really bad for one of them, see if there are opportunities to relocate to another branch – especially if they are considering quitting because of what happened.

Ultimately, it’s important to support your employees and understand the pain they might be going through. Should you actively discourage workplace romances? No…well…you shouldn’t encourage them either, but let things blossom naturally. If things do go wrong, that’s when you need to step in and speak to both people so you can avoid all the awkwardness and nasty tension.

For support and advice with any HR issues within the workplace, get in touch with the talented team at:​ ​

Share This