Happy Valentine’s Day – is love in the air in your business?

Posted on 10th February 2014

Figures from match.com following their survey of 11,000 people suggest that the most common way to meet your long-term partner is at work, equal only to having met them at school.

I am sure all of us know someone who met their husband/wife/partner at work. This is great and the hopeless romantic in me is very happy about this, but the HR professional in me urges some caution for business owners.

Am I saying people should not be allowed to date their colleagues? No, of course I’m not and indeed how could I? What I am suggesting is that businesses need to think about the implications of relationships developing at work, and perhaps more so when they do not work out. This goes beyond what happens in the stationary cupboard.

In large organisations where people can be in relationships with others but never work directly with each other, then this is rarely an issue. But it can be an issue in smaller businesses where most roles interplay with each other, particularly for instance when someone enters a relationship with their manager, someone they report directly to or work very closely alongside. As a business the risks of this need to be considered and many organisations actually have policies around personal relationships at work and reporting lines.

Of course we are all in relationships at work; we have and maintain a working relationship with everyone we work with. The obvious ones are with colleagues, managers and senior managers, but don’t forget customer relations and also those with suppliers and partners. I think we would all agree if these relationships are as amicable as they can be, then running a business becomes a lot easier.

As many of you will know from my previous articles, employee engagement is my specialism and passion, so I am going to discuss this issue in more detail. All of the research in this area (and there is a lot of it!) has found that having good line management is a crucial element in engaging individuals and teams.

Employees want to feel valued, listened to and treated fairly; surely all this happens in a productive relationship?  One of the other key elements is people liking the people they work with and team work. In fact, one of the questions asked to employees by the world renowned research agency Gallup when measuring engagement in companies is “do you have a best friend at work?” Many people I speak to query this question and I always respond by explaining that it is not about people working with their actual best friend (or BFF to use text speak). It is about them having someone they like to see at work and who is pleased to see them. We all spend a large proportion of our waking hours at work; imagine how miserable that would be if we didn’t like anyone we worked with!

So, what can you do as business owners to encourage good relationships at work?  One of the key areas is to be sure that you are an example of a good manager and have productive working relationships, and definitely no favourites.  You can also ensure other managers follow this lead and that you provide a working environment that people enjoy working in and have the chance to get to know each other.

Finally, if you know that the working atmosphere is not as it should be and even you dread going in to work, you need to do something about it before you lose your best people. This can be as simple as addressing it in a team meeting to see if people will share their frustrations and you can work towards resolving them, or in some cases you need something more intense such as mediation.


Emma Wynne Character
Written by:
Emma Wynne
Managing Director