Dear Romeos & Juliets, Office Romance Is Endearing But Lethal At The Same Time When to draw a line between respecting an employee's privacy and protecting the company's name?

By Priyadarshini Patwa

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Dear Romeos & Juliets,

We understand when various human bodies work in close proximity to each other, the attraction is inevitable. We are wired in a way where we develop a liking for a person who share our outlook or perceive things the way we do.

Remember Micheal Ross and Rachael Zane from popular show "Suits'? Or Meredith Grey and Derek Shepherd from "Greys Anatomy'? These two fictional couples were co-workers first and eventually became lovers.

What makes these two couples a great study is how their personal equation never overpowered their career graph, something many of us fail to keep balance off. Which makes us say, 'Office romance is endearing until it turns lethal.'

In real life, there are no laws against office romance, but there are policies framed by management in order to avoid messy affairs making the front-page headline. But fear of the consequences cannot stop Romeos and Juliets.

If you don't agree, ask Paul Wolfowitz ex-president of the World Bank, who had to resign after he secured a new package for an employee Shaha Riza, who also happened to be his girlfriend.

When such circumstances arise things get tricky for the company. Even a genuine equation comes under the scanner. And that's the time when one needs to realise where to draw a line between respecting an employee's privacy and protecting the company's name?

Trying to understand the present scenario, Entrepreneur India tried to understand how companies function nowadays and what is their outlook about office romance.

Source: ABC

Interference or No Interference?

Forming a rigid policy against or entirely in favour of office affair isn't always the best idea. But how about finding a common ground?

"We believe that it would be naïve to form a policy against office affairs because everyone spends around 9 hours daily interacting with each other, so sometimes sparks are bound to fly. And history has shown time and again that any kind of prohibition doesn't work. We respect the choices that our employees make and employees return our faith in them by ensuring that their personal choices do not affect the professional aspects of their lives. It is equally important to sensitize employees about behaviour/code of conduct in the office premises and also ensure that there is no favouritism/prejudice exercised impacting work," says Tarika Jain, Director, nCircle Tech, A Prototech Solutions Franchise.

When To Intervene?

The most important part is to find a balance, which often Romeos and Juliets and at times even management forgets. Remember until things are private, management has no reason to intervene.

"If it is impacting work where they spend excessive time with each other by taking long breaks or cause embarrassing moments then we need to counsel them and this is done in a very polite and understanding manner. In sensitive functions we need to be careful about information flow," says Dr Vinaya Shetty, HR Advisor, The Chocolate Spoon Company Pvt Limited.

Maintaining Transparency

At the time when nothing can be hidden especially in our corporate lives, transparency between the two parties is the foundation of any bond.

"The baseline of our proposed policy is pretty straightforward. We believe respecting the basic rights of every individual and choice of partner is one of them. But at the same time, honesty and transparency are part of our DNA, so our proposed policy will ensure that the employees provide a written disclosure about dating/being in a romantic relationship or marrying someone from office," explains Jain.

Office Romance – Yay or Nay

When it comes to office romance, let us understand promoting or crushing it, isn't the solution. Romance is bound to happen, but not at the cost of an organisation's reputation and dignity.

"As an organization, we can have a neutral approach towards employees' personal affairs. We should not try to prevent or encourage intimate relationships between employees. Having a Disciplined, safe environment should be the primary concern of the organization. At any point in time, the official code of conduct should be adhered strictly," Ketan Kapoor, Co-Founder & CEO, Mettl.

Source: USA Network (Representation Purpose Only)

The Link Between Office Romance & Sexual Harrasment:

At times relationship ends, things get awkward and that's the time when you need to talk to your boss. As tricky as it might sound, you wouldn't want your boss to form any biases. Telling them helps in maintaining a neutral and impartial stance.

Office affair policies to a larger extent provide clarity when sexual harassment cases come to the surface.

To give it a deeper undertsanding let us talk about the time when former Miss India Niharika Singh called out Nawazuddin Siddiqui in her #MeToo account. It was then when Sacred Game actress Kubbra Sait defended Siddiqui and mentioned, "A relationship gone sour, isn't #MeToo. Someone needs to recognise the toxic difference before we go picking sides."

This incident is the perfect example when office romance policies play a vital role in providing justice and giving us a clear vision of what falls under office romance and what falls under sexual harassment.

The best way to form mutual footing is when both the management and employee understand that equations will be formed under your office premises but lines shouldn't be crossed. To put it simply office love, fling and romance are harmless until you make it harmful!

Caution: Pantry & printing room are not the best place to take your office romance ahead!

Priyadarshini Patwa

Former Features Editor, Entrepreneur India

Priyadarshini Patwa is the Former Features Editors of Entrepreneur India and hosted an Instagram show every Friday named ‘Lighten Up’, about people from different walks of life and talk about their work and beyond. She handled the lifestyle, features, technology, entertainment segments and was also responsible for the Digital Covers. Previously she has worked with MensXP, a Times of India entity and Deccan Chronicle. 

She’s @Priyanka_Patwa on Twitter and @priyadarshinipatwa on Instagram.

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