Business Administration Education Guide

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Pitfalls of office romance

NEW YORK, Feb 12 (Reuters Life!) -

With Valentine's Day looming, experts warn that many employers are caught by surprise by the ripple effects of intra-office relationships, which can demoralize staff and spread envy and resentment.

The problems range from the serious, such as a messy breakup between a boss and a subordinate, to the less obvious, such an exchange of risque e-mails or a kiss in the hallway that can distract colleagues and hurt productivity.

"People are a little sloppier around Valentine's Day," said Debra Mandel, a psychologist and author on the subject of office relations. "They might let the relationship out of the box more."

Employers are not just at risk when a staff member becomes romantic with a supervisor, which can lead to claims of sexual harassment. A soured relationship between peers also puts the company at risk if it leaves one of the workers feeling harassed at work.

Companies may be at risk even if the office relationship ends well, said Shanti Atkins, president of ELT, which offers online ethics and legal compliance training. She cites the example of Gavin Newsom, San Francisco's single mayor who recently admitted having an affair with a married staff member, and the impact it could have on staff in city government.

She said it could create the impression "one has to sleep with the boss to get ahead," and an employee could sue, claiming it created a hostile working environment.

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