Blog :

Tackling Taboos: Relationships at Work

Feb 14, 2023
Tackling Taboos: Relationships at Work

Happy Valentine's Day! 

If we had a pound for every time we’ve heard couples say that they’ve met at work, we’d (probably) be millionaires. So, why is it still considered taboo in some workplaces? 

There are no specific laws condemning having a romantic relationship at work, but it can be frowned upon for a number of very valid reasons. But, you can’t help who you fall for - and it’s naive for employers to assume that they can enforce these beliefs across the whole business.

Let’s unpack it.

Why are relationships at work considered taboo?
They can cause a struggle in power dynamics

Depending on the relationship - let’s look at the manager and mentee dynamic, this can cause a potential struggle for power and authority, which often has to be present with senior and junior members of staff. 

If your partner is your manager, or you’re managing your partner, it can be difficult to enforce discipline or even designate work as you know that individual better than others in your team. Conscious bias kicks in and it creates a difficult environment for both individuals to flourish.

They can simply be inappropriate

Not all relationships will be positive - and toxic romantic relationships in the workplace can be detrimental to the wider team or even a whole business if the organisation is small. 

Whether you’re married, dating, or simply in the early stages - inappropriate behaviour or toxicity will perforate other areas of the business. 

It could make it difficult for you to hire people, retain people, or even have a fully functioning team. It sounds extreme - but we are all affected by our environment and the individuals present in it. 

Gossip and drama

When you’re in a romantic relationship, it’s natural to assume that you’ll be sharing a lot more about your life with your significant other - especially if you spend all of your time together at work as well as outside of work. 

The topic of your conversation will naturally lead to colleagues, and the organisation, and potentially lead you into gossiping territory. Again, if boundaries aren’t established or you aren’t in a healthy relationship when at work, you could compromise confidentiality or even fuel negative behaviours and rumours. 

Bias and boundaries

And finally, bias and boundaries are the core of the aforementioned reasons: it’s naturally going to be harder to enforce boundaries at work and also be conscious of your biases because you’re romantically involved with that person. 

If others in the organisation cotton on to this - it can create negativity and distaste if they feel that people are being favoured or given more opportunities because they are romantically involved with someone, this can be magnified if it’s the manager/mentee dynamic already highlighted.

But, what could the positives be?

Does it all need to be doom and gloom having a romantic relationship at work? Absolutely not. There can be huge benefits and it doesn’t have to be detrimental in the slightest! 

So, how can a romantic relationship work, at work?
You have great boundaries in place

Boundaries are the core foundation of any good relationship - romantic or not. Setting clear boundaries which enable you to coexist and thrive at work is paramount, whether you started your relationship at work or one of you has joined later than the other. 

You have to have a pretty secure, open relationship to be able to do this - and it can work incredibly well when mastered.

To the average employee - no one would know and you keep your privacy

PDA can make anyone feel uncomfortable - especially your colleagues. Privacy should be a priority, and it shouldn’t be inherently obvious that you’re in a relationship. 

This doesn’t mean that you need to be ashamed of being with someone - instead, it’s about understanding the implications of letting your personal life bleed into your professional life.

You call each other out 

There are going to be things that your partner does at work which isn't right - and if you choose to turn a blind eye, then you’re letting your bias win. Being able to call each other out regardless of your relationship status is important for your professional relationship as well as how you are viewed internally by others.

(Ideally) you aren’t working together every single day

Spending 24/7 with your partner inside and outside of work isn’t the healthiest dynamic - so ideally you aren’t in the same team or having to work on multiple projects together. Ultimately, it’s something that you need to discuss together to find out what will work for the two of you!

What are your thoughts on relationships at work? Let us know in the comments below.

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