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It’s Valentine’s Day, and love is in the air… and the office is no exception. Dating a co-worker used to be frowned-upon or forbidden in many organizations, but workplace relationships are becoming more common and less taboo in the modern world.

On February 10, 2011, CareerBuilder released the results of its annual office romance survey. Out of the 3,910 full-time U.S. employees surveyed in November and December 2010, nearly 40 percent have dated someone they worked with over the course of their career, and 30 percent married the person they met in the office.

The CareerBuilder survey also found:

  • Of those who have dated colleagues, 10 percent reported dating someone at work within the last year
  • 65 percent of workers said they aren’t keeping their relationship a secret
  • 12 percent of workers’ relationships started when they saw each other outside of work
  • 18 percent reported dating co-workers at least twice in their career.
  • 8 percent of workers said they work with someone who they would like to date

With employees spending 40 or more hours a week in the office, it is no wonder that workplace relationships occur frequently. As a manager, it can be a delicate situation for you to stay aware of any problems that arise from a dating couple in your organization without interfering with the private lives of your employees.

Educate your employees.

Does your team know the organizational policy about sexual harassment? Is there a policy that addresses workplace relationships? A 2008 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey found that only 14 percent of respondents said their employer had a policy on workplace romance. More than half (about 57 percent) said there was no policy in their organization, and 29 percent didn’t know if one was in place. Make sure your employees know any rules (for example, a prohibition against dating a direct supervisor) and the consequences for breaking them.

Keep it professional.

Dating couples must be responsible for conducting themselves professionally when they are at work and not letting their relationship interfere with office productivity or morale. In general, encourage them to use common sense and avoid any overt romantic gestures at work. If workplace relationships start to affect the organization in a negative way, it is your job to intervene and troubleshoot the problem.

Curb the gossip.

Office romances can often spark rumors and speculation among other colleagues. Most of the gossip is harmless chatter, but stay alert for any conversations that are inappropriate or disruptive to the work environment.

What is your advice for managing workplace relationships? Share your suggestions in the comments.  Culture management is a must in the modern workplce.

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