We spend a lot of time at work and as a consequence, a lot of time with colleagues. With that in mind, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that a survey produced by job site Vault.com found that 58% of employees have engaged in a romantic relationship with a colleague.

Full disclosure here. I am NOT part of the 58% and have always lived by the rule that we shouldn’t fish off the company pier, dip your pen in the company ink, or however you want to describe it. But I have seen instances where love, or some form of, has blossomed in a workplace and had both positive and negative effects on the culture.

The endless gossip, resentment along with the ugly breakups (granted, not in all cases) translate into an absolute HR disaster. Think about how easily workplace romances gone south, can become sexual harassment cases. It takes but a single foolish action from a scorned lover for a seemingly innocent situation to turn into a visit from Fairwork. Or consider that one in six workplace relationships involves an affair where at least one of the people involved is married or in a relationship, adding a whole new layer of negative effects and hurt feelings.

However, it would be naive to imagine that bunging red blooded humans together for 40 hours per week (and the rest) wouldn’t result in people forming romantic bonds. So, if Cupid strikes and you find your team in the throws of a Mills & Boone novel, the best way forward could be a combination of the following:

  • The more senior an employee is, the greater the expectation to report all sexual, romantic or other close relationships with other employees. This is because generally the more senior the employee, the more likely they are likely to be involved in decisions that affect the other employee in the relationship.
  • Have a disclosure policy in place requiring employees to outline any conflict of interest (or perceived conflict of interest) that a possible relationship between the two employees may cause and their plan for mitigating the conflict.

As leaders we cannot afford to be naive to the consequences. We must be proactive when it comes to workplace romances; make sure your people know what they are in for before they start getting jiggy with their colleagues.