5-16-16_blog_2.jpgEmployees dating may break your company culture’s heart.

Companies may prefer workers avoid initiating office romances; many employees, however, seem somewhat open to the idea.

Millennials, in particular, would consider dating a coworker, according to a survey from global employee support services provider Workplace Options — which found 84 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds would date someone they worked with. Thirty-seven percent already have.

Dating a coworker isn’t always disruptive. A CareerBuilder survey found workplace relationships led to marriage for 30 percent of the employees involved. But, office romances also present some valid concerns.

From Coworker Dating to Chaos

A quarter of the workers who had an office romance dated someone in a higher position, according to CareerBuilder.

Obviously, that type of office romance is problematic. The supervisor’s ability to impartially manage staff members is potentially weakened, and other employees may feel they aren’t receiving equal praise, work distribution or promotions as a result. Employee satisfaction levels and, in turn, engagement can suffer.

Messy break-ups, similarly, can create an uncomfortable atmosphere for other employees — and result in an organization losing valued workers who no longer want to have daily contact.

Companies can’t completely prevent employees from dating a coworker. Employers can, however — and should — take steps to ensure potentially problematic office romance situations are avoided. Such as:

  • Consider creating a fraternization policy. The number of employers that have a policy addressing office romances has more than doubled since 2005, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

5-16-16_blog.jpgFor tips on creating one that addresses dating a coworker and related in-office technology communication, view this recent article by Donald Gamburg, shareholder at labor and employment law firm Ogletree Deakins, and Entrepreneur’s suggestions.

  • Rethink your company bonding events (and hours). Twenty-three percent of employees who had an office romance said their union started at a happy hour or late night at work, according to CareerBuilder. If workplace relationships are becoming a problem within your organization, eliminating opportunities for them to ignite may help reduce their frequency.
  • Lay down the law. Employees aren’t always forthcoming about a budding office romance — more than a third told CareerBuilder they kept dating a coworker a secret. (However, that approach isn’t always successful; one in four said they’d run into coworkers while out on a date.)

If you discover that employees have ignored your policy on office romance, take action. In SHRM’s survey, 34 percent of employers said they’d transferred an employee who was dating a coworker to a different department; 21 percent issued a formal reprimand, and 12 percent removed workers from a supervising position due to office romance.11-16-15_blog.jpg

Some companies reacted more strongly, firing employees who had disregarded the company’s office romance policy (20 percent). Thirty-two percent took an unusual approach: Sending the employees to relationship counseling.

Regardless of how you choose to address the issue, if an office romance has taken a toll on employee satisfaction levels, try re-establishing a sense of teamwork with a corporate philanthropy initiative or an employee recognition program. If you already have both efforts in place, these employee engagement tips may help.