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Office Romances: The Ultimate Guide

Sexual harassment or harmless fun? HR on Office RomanceAs potential office minefields go, few are as risky as mixing romance and work. Just look at the fate of HP's CEO Mike Hurd who was recently toppled following a sexual harassment investigation. Still, you're young, perhaps single, and attraction can strike anywhere, even the least appropriate places. But this is one area where employees need to be particularly careful to mind their ethical Ps and Qs. Not to mention that seeing your jerk of an ex every time you go to the copy machine can ruin your day.

Luckily, veteran HR pro and outspoken blogger Laurie Ruettimann has years of experience dealing with complaints and conflicts surrounding office romances. Recently she offered her characteristically blunt opinion on what's right, what's wrong and what HR is really thinking when you come whining to them about a co-worker's love life on her blog Punk Rock HR.

  • Two colleagues engage in consensual sex. One colleague wants to end it. The other doesn't. There are no implicit or explicit threats, but work is stressful because the brokenhearted colleague won't let it go. Most relationships end because one person wants out. It's rarely mutual. It will make you sad. I know it feels like a kick in the gut. That's adulthood. Grow the hell up. I know your feelings are hurt, but you cannot impact the productivity of the office. Also, you're paid to work. Get it together, bub.
  • Two colleagues are dating one another. A coworker finds out and reports it to HR. Hey, I'm glad they are dating. They are nice people. They deserve happiness. Mind your own business and get back to work.
  • Two colleagues are caught having sex at the office. When I dream of some of the most romantic places on the planet, I dream of Bali or Fiji. You dream of the supply closet? Lame. You deserve to be fired for your lack of imagination.
  • Two colleagues go on business trips and have sex. A coworker finds out and reports it to HR. What am I? The relationship police? If the travel is legitimate, I can't do anything about it. Also, how do you know they had sex? Were you there? Go back to work and focus on your own job.
  • A salesperson and a client are having consensual sex. A coworker finds out and reports it to HR. Don't you watch Mad Men? This is sketchy and against the rules, but it happens. I trust the judgment of my staff and my employees. They know the rules. If the situation gets ugly, we'll deal with it. I am not going to listen to you complain about your lack of sales and accuse your coworkers of sleeping with clients. Furthermore, I'm not about to put a chastity belt on members of my sales department.
  • A boss and an employee have an inappropriate relationship Everyone knows. Even if no one knows, it's wrong. Wrong. #WRONG. Just wrong. If you are in a position of power, you are not allowed to sleep with your staff. Ever. [As Hurd demonstrates contractors are also out.] It's not fair, healthy, and normal. The relationships might seem okay to you, but it's not fair to your other employees. When you have power over someone, you cannot have sex with that person. Period.
So what does all this boil down to? If you're sleeping with a subordinate, cut it out. The rest of you just cut the drama. Do you agree?

(Embrace image by victoriapeckham, CC 2.0)

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