Tuesday, March 16, 2010

People I Work With: The Fraternizers

Fraternizers. I doubt that's a real word. But it describes not just people I work with but people I know and people I have worked with. There's a point where like Pam and Jim on "The Office", that office romances are cute and romantic (and I know plenty of those, too). But I'm more talking about the more illicit affairs that are, well, affairs. People cheating on wives and husbands and fiances with other people at the office.

Most of the time, I admit, it's none of my business. But one situation came up in the past which was really uncomfortable. I knew that two of my co-workers (one married and one not quite there yet) were involved with each other. And at an outside work event, one party arrived with their spouse. That conversation was, to put it lightly, quite awkward!

Now I'm not saying that all fraternization at the office should be banned at every office. I know co-workers who have fallen in love and gotten married. And in some places, that type of relationship is OK. But the type of fraternizing I am talking about made everyone uncomfortable. Those who knew. Those who didn't but suspected. Those who saw something. Everyone around these people. That is not a kosher situation for the office.

The other problem is that a great conflict of interest can result from these two working in the same office. A lot of companies have checks and balances but when you have two people involved past a work friendship, those lines can be blurred. And sexual harrassment is always a concern in this type of situation, especially when one party is higher ranked than another.

The best thing Human Resources can do is to set company policies and try to enforce them whenever they feel it is going over the line. Forcing couples to reveal a relationship when it begins is a good way to do this. That way, they know if there are any potential conflicts that be discovered early on. HR doesn't usually have a place in their workers love life, but this is one place where a good company policy can go a long way. People can't help who they fall in love with but HR has a responsibility to not make it an awkward work situation.


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