Relationships between your employees are important. You want them to be able to get along and work well together—to even LIKE working with each other. It adds to a harmonious and peaceful workplace that people enjoy being a part of. However, relationships are a fine line. When friendships merge into dating, it can get a little tricky for coworkers. True, it might make sense for two coworkers to date—after all, they have a big part of their lives in common and spend 40 hours a week together. But if the relationship doesn’t work out, it can create an awkward and uncomfortable situation for both of them, and for the employees around them. And for this reason, it can be a good idea to create rules around fraternization at work. It helps keep your workplace professional and comfortable for everyone, plus it can even help to keep everyone at your company safe if a relationship truly gets out of hand.


Developing a fraternization policy


When you develop a policy around fraternization, it removes any questions employees might have and gives clear rules to follow. Unfortunately, some relationships should be off-limits in the workplace, and these are the ones you’ll want to specifically highlight when you create your fraternization policy.


In general, it’s a good idea to prohibit the following dating relationships:


  • Between a manager and someone who reports to them
  • Between any employees separated by two or more levels in the chain of command


Other rules you may wish to define include:


  • What constitutes an acceptable friendship, including what behavior is acceptable in the workplace, and what is not
    • For example, a relationship that interferes with company culture or workplace dynamics is not acceptable
  • The consequences of breaking the fraternization rules
  • The steps involved after the rule is broken, which leaves room for an employee to understand and follow the rule

Include details about harassment in the workplace


Unfortunately, a relationship that has not worked out can lead to workplace harassment—from verbal to physical or sexual. It’s good to have a zero-tolerance policy for harassment in your workplace by defining what constitutes harassment and the consequences of this type of behavior. This can not only make your workplace safer and more comfortable for all, but it can also help you avoid any legal action or bad publicity that could hurt your reputation.


Need guidance to assess your risk?

Fraternization and harassment can threaten your company’s environment and culture, but what else should you be aware of? Contact Odell Studner for help assessing your company’s risk.