Will your Christmas party enhance or damage relationships?

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Recent High Profile Case:

Recently, the CEO of McDonald’s’ was dismissed following a romantic relationship with a colleague. The board members decided that the type of relationship had broken company rules and took definitive action. 

This was a strong HR message and confirmed the dim view regarding senior managers having romantic involvement with their staff.

Business Relationships and the General Setting

It’s not uncommon for colleagues to spend time socialising together. This happens as a natural extension of working connections. This can often be the result of workplace socials such as Christmas parties and other festive get-togethers. 

At this time of year, it’s worth considering what the HR department may have communicated in relation to these events.

Managing people and their relationships is a sensitive matter and does require some considerate and professional communication. It may come as a surprise to some business owners that they can apply policies to how workplace relationships are conducted.

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According to research by job site Vault.com and Forbes.com:

  • 50%+ of employees have engaged in an office romance     
  • 72% of – those over 50 years old have had a romantic involvement with a co-worker.
  • 16 percent of people met their spouse at work.
  • 26 percent of workplace relationships begin with office parties or other work-related social events.
  • Employees spend time with each other in the workplace, and it is therefore always a possibility that personal or intimate relationships will develop. 

What impact do personal relationships have on the working environment?

Although personal relationships between employees often have little or no impact, they can negatively impact productivity. Here are some examples of how: 

  • complaints of favouritism from co-workers;
  • decreased morale of co-workers;
  • bullying or unpleasant behaviour between employees;
  • unfair dismissal claims;
  • a couple’s productivity decreasing; and
  • claims of sexual harassment.

Some human resources departments advise business owners to consider introducing a policy banning or restricting personal relationships in the workplace.  An alternative is to accept that personal relationships in the workplace are normal and, in many cases, will not present a problem. 

Balancing your employee’s rights to having a private life with the protection of business’ interests is not as difficult as it may first appear.

What can employers do to proactively manage these potential outcomes?

With the aim of mitigating the impact of personal relationships or the breakdown of personal relationships in the workplace, employers should:

  • Encourage employees to be open about personal relationships in the workplace.
  • Sit down with the employees and encourage them to:
  • keep work and personal life separate;
  • stay professional both when things are going well and if they go wrong, and
  • advise of the consequences of any detrimental impact on the business.
  • Have robust bullying and harassment procedures in place should things go wrong;
  • Act upon any complaints swiftly and at a suitable level, and
  • Consider sending a communication to staff prior to a social event connected to work setting out expectations in terms of behaviour.  

The office party is often seen as the time for everyone to just let their hair down, and go with the flow. However, the unintended consequences of staff relationships going beyond the professional can be long-lasting.

Taking some preventative action now can reduce your human resources headaches later!

To get advice on this topic (or any other human resource issue) do get in touch with the HR professionals at Adastra HR.

We are always happy to have a discussion and can offer practical solutions to dealing with such sensitive issues!!