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Valentine's Day: Office Romance Is Here to Stay, but How Employers Deal with It Is Changing, SHRM Finds

   2/4/2014

When you think of Valentine’s Day, what is one of the first words that come to mind? Love, of course. But that little four-letter word can spell trouble when it occurs between employees in the workplace and potentially could land someone in an unwanted meeting with HR.

In September 2013, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) released the results of its Workplace Romance Survey, which includes statistics on the prevalence of workplace romances and how employers deal with these relationships. SHRM research shows that concerns about favoritism, claims of sexual harassment and retaliation lead some employers to prohibit some workplace romances. The survey polled 384 HR professionals from a randomly selected sample of SHRM’s membership.

Workplace Romance Survey Highlights

  • Forty-three percent of human resource professionals reported romances in their workplaces.
  • Almost twice as many employers (42 percent) have a written or verbal policy on workplace romances than in 2005 (25 percent).
  • Forbidden love: Thirty-two percent of HR professionals say employers have the right to prohibit workplace romance between employees; 49 percent say it depends on the situation. Almost all organizations that have workplace romance policies (99 percent) do not permit a romance between a supervisor and a subordinate.
  • Displays of affection: Suspicions about workplace romance generally are revealed through office gossip (67 percent) or from reports to the HR department (61 percent).
  • Love notes: Only 5 percent of organizations ask employees involved in a workplace romance to sign a “love contract” indicating that the relationship is consensual. But 81 percent of HR professionals think love contracts provide a forum for them to talk with employees about inappropriate workplace behavior.
  • Consequences: Whether something official happens as a result of an office romance depends on the type of romance. When there were consequences, employees were transferred to another department (34 percent) or went for counseling (32 percent).
  • Then comes marriage: More than one-half of HR professionals reported that employees got married or became long-term partners as a result of romances in their workplaces.

The full survey is available online at: www.shrm.org/Research/SurveyFindings/Articles/Pages/SHRM-Workplace-Romance-Findings.aspx.

To read the full press release on this survey, please visit: www.shrm.org/about/pressroom/PressReleases/Pages/OfficeRomanceSurvey.aspx  

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Vanessa Gray of SHRM Public Affairs at 703-535-6072 or Vanessa.Gray@shrm.org.

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