6 Rules for Creating an Office Dating Policy

Johnny Duncan
July 18, 2018

Human beings need to connect and find love, sometimes even amongst the people we work with. In our world of dating-app burnout and changing dating norms, the office continues to be a place where like-minded people can meet and spend time together. As you’d imagine, this occasionally leads to dating and love.

While leaders of most successful companies encourage cordial interdepartmental unity and friendship, most leaders fear those relationships turning into something more (wink wink, nudge nudge). In many cases, fear of office romance is justified. Interoffice dating can lead to a host of potential problems, both during the courtship and after (especially in the scenario where things go south). It’s good to remember, though, office romance CAN end up happily ever after, and a good dating policy can help ensure the good, the bad, and the ugly all stay professional.

According to researcher Helen Fisher, in her book The Anatomy of Love:

Office mates often share the same schedules, deadlines and anxieties, even the same mealtime, food and dress code. And men and women in close proximity tend to flirt. Not surprisingly, some 38% of American men and 36% of American women have dated someone in the office.

If more than one in every three employees on your team are trying out office romance at some point in their career, it’s important your team details what is and is not ok. And while there is currently no standard one-size-fits all approach to office dating policies, we do have some guidance to help you create some important dating policies.

  1. The Ask Once policy: Business Insider reported employees at Facebook are allowed to ask a coworker for a date just once. A rejection, even as simple as “I’m busy Friday,” means that individuals pursuing a date are no longer OK to ask again. This policy helps to minimize uncomfortable rejection situations, assists employees in understanding when a rejection is a rejection, and fosters a safe workplace where those inevitable romances can develop when consensual.
  2. Review sexual harassment policies often: Make it a policy to review sexual harassment laws and policies every time your team reviews the company dating policy.
  3. Create easy, non-public ways to report bad behavior: This policy goes hand-in-hand with your sexual harassment policies, but it’s important not to overlook. It’s in the best interest of everyone involved to make sure problems with office dating are easy to report and are not made known publicly.  
  4. Require disclosure of relationships that blossom: Have employees sign a contract that states the relationship is both consensual and will not affect their work. You want to avoid any favoritism or impact on productivity.
  5. Distribute the dating policy: Make sure to give every employee a copy of the dating policy. It’s not enough just to have a policy; employees must know the policy.
  6. Get your legal team involved: It’s always best to have legal help with your dating policy and the circumstances that are specific to your company.
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