Romance in the workplace is not a new phenomenon at all; in fact this aspect of relationship bonding has been a reality in the workplace for years -- in particular since women have become more visible in the workplace. It is not hard to figure out why people fall in love in the workplace because the workplace is "…where most employees spend the majority of their waking hours," Gwen E. Jones explains in the Journal of Organizational Behavior. The workplace has been described as "a natural dating service," Jones explains, and not only do people spend much of their time at work, while at work people tend to be "attracted to those like themselves," and while at work individuals are drawn to people who "share similar interests and values" (Jones, 1057). This paper explores the policy of the Adult & Child Center, which prohibits dating between two people when one is in a "reporting relationship" to the other; this paper also delves into the ethics involved in employer decisions regarding whether or not to prohibit workplace dating -- and offers a plan for implementing changes when the policy of a company seems unfair.
Section One: Policy Description (who it impacts and why it is in place)
The policy at the Adult & Child Center regarding dating when it involves a "reporting relationship" (which is a relationship in which one individual supervises another, or, one of the two people involved in the dating reports to the other) is that staff is forbidden to engage in a romantic relationship. A "reporting relationship" includes, according to the Adult & Child Center (ACC), any relationship where one of the individuals is involved in "supervision, evaluation, and termination of employment or salary determination or any other indirect supervision" (ACC).
If it is learned that a staff member is involved in a romantic dating relationship with a person with whom he or she has "a reporting relationship," then both of the individuals in this relationship will be offered a chance to either "resign" or to "transfer to an available position" (assuming one of the staffers has the qualifications to meet that new assignment) (ACC). Should neither of the two employees voluntarily quit or agree to transfer, the individual that supervises in the reporting relationship "…will be terminated for violation of this procedure."
Why is this policy in place? The Code of Ethics for the Adult & Child Center explains that the organization desires to maintain a "qualified staff" within "appropriate reporting relationships," and this policy is designed to provide what ACC calls "safeguards" against "inappropriate personal business relationships." The point here is that even the appearance of a potentially romantic friendship between a supervisor and a person who is not a supervisor could be impactful in a negative way for the organization. Professionals in supervisory situations who wish to present their best talents and qualities -- and make a positive contribution to the organization -- should absolutely not engage in flirting or dating with another person who is not in a supervisorial position.
Section Two: Consequences of the Policy
The consequences that are presented by the Adult & Child Center are very briefly described, and are presented in Section One above. Clearly the Adult & Child Center have taken a hard line against dating vis-a-vis supervisor and underling; and as to the fairness, is this policy appropriate where professional social workers are involved? That is a question that will be addressed in this section.
What does the literature reflect about dating in the workplace, and more specifically what does the literature say about hierarchical workplace romance? More generally, what are the consequences -- positive and negative -- for a policy that prohibits workplace dating? And what strategies are presented in the available research that relates to fair and professional outcomes vis-a-vis romantic linkages within the workplace milieu? These will be reviewed in this section.
An article in the peer-reviewed Journal of Business Ethics claims that a company is "antisocial" when it prohibits workplace romance (Boyd, 2010, p. 325). "…Most workplace romances in marriage or long-term partnerships," Boyd writes. He points out that most dating bans in employment environments are aimed mostly at…