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Ask HR: How Should Colleagues Reveal They Are Dating?

SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is answering HR questions as part of a series for USA Today.

Do you have an HR or work-related question you'd like him to answer? Submit it here. 


I have been dating a co-worker for the last few months. We'd like to attend our holiday party together. We think we should divulge our relationship before the party. What is the best way for us to disclose our relationship to our respective teams? RJ

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: Thanks for sharing your dilemma and allowing me to address it. With the holiday season fast approaching, employees want to feel comfortable attending social gatherings, like holiday parties, with their significant others. Based on my experience, addressing this topic with an open, forthright, professional approach will be appreciated and respected by employers and work colleagues. Honesty is the best policy.

What is your employer's policy on workplace romance, employee dating or personal relationships? If such a policy exists, you and your significant other should review it and comply with any requirements. These policies are often in place not to interfere with your relationship but to protect employees from favoritism, retaliation and incidents of sexual harassment. They also help establish guidelines and expectations for maintaining a professional working environment.

Seventy-seven percent of U.S. workers say their employers do not require them to disclose an office romance. An equal percentage say they have not told their employers when they are involved in an office relationship. Additionally, three-quarters of employees say they are comfortable with their colleagues being romantically involved. So, your situation may be unregulated or even acceptable in the eyes of your employer.

Suppose there is no policy addressing romantic involvement. In that case, the ideal approach includes the couple voluntarily reporting the relationship to HR, followed by HR potentially moving one or both individuals to another position in the company if there is a subordinate/manager situation or another potential conflict. Speaking with your HR practitioner will let them work with you, examine current reporting relationships and organizational staff structures, and make any necessary changes before sharing news of your relationship with your colleagues. Working with HR will guide you on acceptable forms of conduct in the workplace and any recommendations they may have in divulging the relationship with your colleagues before attending the holiday event.

HR should encourage honesty and professionalism to keep working relationships and workplaces running smoothly. I hope your holiday party is enjoyable and you feel at ease attending it with your partner!


I have worked for the same company for the last 16 years and in the same role for the last seven. Due to several recent changes at our company, including new ownership, I feel it is time to move on. What basic things should I consider when looking for a new job? Nat

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: There are several things to consider when seeking a new job. Start by examining what led you to want to leave your current company. What kept you there for the previous 16 years? Compile a list of your motivations that led you to stay so long and to leave now.

Sometimes it's easier to see what we don't want, as opposed to what we do want. Take time to consider the most productive moments in your life and career. What was the environment like? How well did you interact and relate with those around you? Knowing what you are looking for in your next organization can guide you through your search.

Also consider the following:

  • Where do you want to work? Is remote work a priority for you?
  • What type of management style do you prefer?
  • What about company history, work culture and environment?
  • Evaluate company values and whether they align with your values.
  • Think about advancement opportunities or available career paths.
  • Understand all the benefits options and total compensation practices.

If you cannot discern the answers from the company's website, ask for more information from human resources or the hiring manager. It can also be helpful to review the company's online reviews to get insight into what it's like to work for that company. Since you mentioned being in the same role for the past seven years, another question to ask yourself is if you want to stay in the same field or try something different. If you remain in your current field, tailor your resume to fit job opportunities matching your most recent experience. However, if you want to try a new career field, focus on transferable skills or other job experiences applicable to alternate career fields.

Remember to tailor your resume to the specific role sought. Above all, ensure the job responsibilities, company culture, work environment and values align with what is most important to you. Sometimes, unfortunately, it isn't always greener on the other side. Be sure you understand what you require in an employer before moving on from your current company. Best of luck to you wherever your career takes you!


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