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How to Deal With Office Relationships as a Manager

How to Deal with Office relationships as a manager
Source: Corbis Images

After years of hard work and service to your company, you have finally become the head of your department. Congratulations! Bask in the adoration of your peers.

It’s not all glory and praise, however. That raise in salary also comes with a corresponding increase in responsibility. You are now the captain of the ship – your department – and whether it sinks or swims is up to you. Your employees look up to you for guidance and support, and you must show that you know what to do in any potential situation.
Among the many issues that will inevitably come to your attention are employee relationships. Not just the Jim and Pam kind, but the more platonic ones as well, such as friendship and family. What should be your policy regarding these relationships, and how will you deal with conflicts that will arise?

Having a friend who is also a co-worker can have benefits. If your employees are friends with each other, going to work will be that much more enjoyable for them. They will feel respected on a personal level and will always have someone to confide in. Communication will also be vastly improved because people who know each other tend to understand each other better.

However, the benefits are significantly outweighed by the negatives. The workplace is, first and foremost, a place for business, and so all decisions made there are business decisions. If one friend is promoted and the other isn’t, it may be seen as a betrayal when it was strictly business, and not personal.

This ties in with the next point, in that the workplace is primarily an area of competition—co-workers are competing, in a sense, with each other for recognition and advancement. Friendships may not survive the rivalry that occurs in an office environment.

Now, we’re not saying that your employees should not fraternize with each other. Social interactions are absolutely essential in the office, and your employees will definitely meet people whose company they truly enjoy. However, when discussing this issue with your employees, it is important to emphasize that most people are working to achieve their professional goals, and that they would do well to remember that.


Significant Others
Romance blooming at the office is a special kind of development. Whether it grows from stress, true love, or convenience, your employees becoming an item is not as likely as their becoming friends, but when it happens, prepare yourself to deal with the complications. Significant others will be more attuned with each other, sure, but the potential setbacks of this kind of relationship can prove to be challenging for you and the rest of the company.

As a manager, the best kinds of office romances for you are the kinds that don’t exist—this means that your employees are so professional that their relationship does not show at the office. They leave their love at the door, so to speak.

However, there are employees that are not so controlled. You may discover that they are an item through displays of affection, or you may hear it through the grapevine, or they may tell you directly. When this occurs, make sure that you lay down some ground rules, keeping in mind that many of the same weaknesses that characterize office friendships are magnified when elevated to romance.

The all-encompassing rule is that they must keep the romance out of the office. It may have developed at work, but now that it’s acknowledged, professionalism must be adhered to at all times. Their romantic attachment must not affect their performance at work.

Keeping in line with this rule is that any argument should be addressed after hours. Disagreements between a couple is often ugly, and this will not only bring down the productivity of the two involved but anyone they interact with as well.

Remind the couple that they should prepare for any eventuality. Office breakups are never pretty, and they usually result in the performance of one or both parties to deteriorate significantly. As the relationship gets more serious, discuss with the couple opportunities outside the company for one of them. This will come in useful if the relationship advances or falls apart—emotions and business do not tend to mix.

As a boss, addressing conflicts between your employees will be part of your job. Nip these in the bud early on by preemptively informing your employees of your stances and policies, and hopefully you’ll be on your way to achieving office harmony. Would you deal with these sorts of office relationships differently?

How did you handle office relationships when you got promoted? Let us know in the comments below!

Nathan Jeffery
Notification Bell