The juiciest of office gossips is the one about colleagues who are going out. People talk about it in cheeky and insatiable tones. Everyone wants to have a piece of the gossip pie.
Whenever you go out for lunch with your colleagues, you will probably not be done before someone brazenly inquires about the new office couple. Are they still together? Will it really last? Is HR aware? Do you think they are serious and want to settle? All this and many more are just but some of the chit chat questions that fly across the office rumour mill.
Things get juicier when the love birds are seen either coming or leaving the office together or when they are spotted at some weekend recreational gig somewhere within the landscape.
I have been in the workplace and made my conclusion about office romance. It is here to stay and justifiably so.
This is one area that confounds HR and the leadership alike. Organizations have tried to enforce varied forms of policies either prohibiting or spelling out the framework on workplace romantic relationships. The extent of success remains debatable.
Whether or not it is prohibited, workplace romance will live to see the light of the day courtesy of the following three reasons:
1. Inflow of graduate recruits into the workplace
While organizations go out to hunt for fresh and young talent with the hope of injecting creativity and new energy into the workplace, they consciously or unconsciously choose to be blind to other social needs of the so called millennials or fresh graduates.
Nearly all new talents (graduates) join the workplace when they are single. They are also at a phase in their lives where they start making mature relational decisions. Most campus relationships are called off at this stage since they can no longer hold. The game plan changes immediately when one steps out of campus into the work environment.
The fresh graduates soon get into a new community of like-minded employees and spend lots of their time together learning and understanding each other.
The new and young staff engage in many work activities together, start embracing common values while being cognizant of their inherent human need to romantically relate with the goal of settling down in a form of agreed union.
The likelihood of such employees getting into a meaningful romantic relationship is very high with or without the a prohibiting policy in place.
2. Long working hours
We all know of an organization or two where staff report to work earlier than the humming birds and have no recollection of ever leaving the office before the late of darkness. Their weekends have nothing special save for the name since each hour is spent at the workplace chasing the sweet dollar and delivering value for clients.
Journey with me through this: You joined this type of an organization when you are still single and searching. Within a short period of time you realized you cannot even have coffee with your “foreign” love prospects. The next day/month or year you happen to meet your close friends, you realize they all got married sometime back. All you have is a faded memory of having received several wedding committee invitations that you could never attend courtesy of your job regime.
Human beings have interesting social mannerisms. We tend to cherish and tolerate people whom we spend more time with including colleagues in the office.
With such an environment be certain that the only prospects or love potentials one will remain with is his or her colleagues with whom they spent those sleepless nights in the office and even went on out of town or country assignments. This two will all be having a common misery thus creating a love boat to row together down the stream and beat the misery out of their lives will be a welcome idea.
Nothing will stop the floodgates of love from flowing over one’s colleagues and if all goes well some wedding bells might be ringing to the surprise or dismay of HR and the leadership.
3. The shoulder to lean on and an ear to listen
Workplace colleagues are humans who face same social challenges just like any other person.
You could be having a colleague whose marriage is on the rocks and he or she is just looking for someone to pour out their heart to.
Another colleague could be having a rough time with their finances and they need help.
Another one could be planning to make a major purchase in his/her life and seriously needs someone close to consult throughout the process.
Nothing captures a human heart like the soul that stops all they are doing just to attentively listen to their losses or victorious life stories.
When such things happen, it is highly likely that the “listening ear” and the “shoulder to lean on” will be found in the office. After all, the office guy/girl is always there for you and he/she can tell when you are battling a storm. With this continual engagement, there is a likelihood that such colleagues will get a strong soul tie which consciously or unconsciously could blossom into a romantic relationship at the workplace.
These three factors play a critical role in perpetuating office romance. Certain organizations have been realistic enough to acknowledge that fighting this kind of relationship, is an exercise in futility. Instead they have crafted policies that offer guidelines on how the involved parties should conduct themselves especially if the relationship culminates into marriage.
For independence, avoidance of conflict of interest and to safeguard the other team members morale, office couples are always advised to agree on who would opt out of the organization. Sometimes if the two belong to the same team or department, one might be asked to move to a different unit while ensuring certain elements are disclosed to HR and Risk teams.
For the employees in the love basket, you will be expected to carry yourselves with the highest level of maturity and professionalism knowing that the office space is not a romantic centre but rather a workplace.