Managing Personal Relationships in the Workplace

This is a topic which many business owners and employers often find difficult to handle. But it is an area where simply ‘doing nothing’ can lead to future issues and can therefore be costly to ignore.

For most, the workplace is where we spend the majority of our waking hours. We are encouraged to work as a team and collaborate on projects – sometimes even to take part in exercises to strengthen the bonds between individuals and departments, allowing us to share objectives and goals. It’s hardly surprising then that friendships – and more intimate relationships – can develop through time.

Whilst a blossoming relationship may cause a distraction, interrupt the work schedule and cause a dip in productivity (and maybe even fire up the internal gossip mills), it’s generally not a significant issue on its own. There’s another level of complication however when there’s disciplinary action, financial responsibility or consideration of promotion involved.

On a more positive note…

Good mental health is increasingly high on the list when it comes to employers’ responsibilities, and research has shown that the forming of close friendships is a good thing for employee well-being. As we work longer hours and spend more time together, we tend to be happiest when we get on with those around us. And happier workers are generally more productive, take less sickness absence and stick around for longer – all good from a staff retention point of view.

So, as an employer how can you let employers harness the benefits of good inter-employee relationships, without facing the risks of it all going wrong?

It’s simply a case of having a robust Work Relationship Policy in place, supported by relevant Training, Procedures and Guidelines.

The introduction of an effective Work Relationship Policy will remove the ambiguity surrounding the subject and set out the behaviour which you, as an employer, expect to see.

As well as providing the peace of mind which comes with clarity, having a strong policy also reduces the risk of allegations of inappropriate behaviour, favouritism, victimisation, harassment and abuse of position, not to mention avoiding potential conflicts of interest.

In addition, there should be a level of Training provided to the managers and supervisors who will be responsible for applying and overseeing the policy. The incorporation of formal Grievance Procedures allows employees to feel confident that they will receive fair and consistent treatment in the case of a complaint, and additional Guidelines can define the exact circumstances under which management need to be informed of a close relationship, removing the need for second-guessing.

At CoLaw we understand the fear employers can sometimes feel when it comes to addressing Relationships at Work – that’s why we have developed comprehensive, tailored support packages for our clients. Whether you have no in-house HR department or simply don’t feel equipped to deal with such issues, we can help you to remain sympathetic to your employees needs whilst pro-actively protecting your business.

The information provided in all of our blogs reflects only a narrative of some elements to consider on the topic. The blogs do not contain considered legal advice and should not be relied upon as advice. Please see our website terms and conditions for full details of our disclaimer. If you are interested in obtaining advice, please contact one of our lawyers who will be happy and able to advise you on your own particular circumstances.