Dealing with work relationships

Christmas parties during the festive season are popular with most accountants and tax advisers, but do not let behaviour cross the line and consider whether relationships at work should be declared, says Simon Wright, managing director of CareersinAudit.com

It’s officially the Christmas season which means mulled wine, ‘Have yourself a Merry little Christmas’ being played loop-to-loop in the shops and, of course, the office Christmas party.  

If you haven’t already plucked up the courage to ask one of your colleagues out over the water-cooler, then perhaps the festive shindig could bring you one step closer to a kiss underneath the mistletoe.

Particularly if you are an accountant.

According to recent research by CareersinAudit.com, romance is rife in the profession – three quarters admitted they are aware of a co-worker, line manager or boss that has had or is having a relationship with someone in the office.

Despite Cupid’s Arrow regularly striking among the number-crunchers, the majority of the profession believe some or all relationships at work should be completely banned.

Nearly half (47%) believe that certain relationships should not be allowed to cross the line into romance, ie, where people have a direct report or are working closely together, while a further 17% believe there should never be any inter-office relationships.

No ban

The research also revealed that seven in 10 respondents’ companies do not have a current ban on office relationships, however a fifth reported while there is not an official ban at work, it is very much implied that such behaviour is not acceptable.

‘Unethical’, ‘unprofessional’, ‘conflicts of interest undoubtedly arise’, ‘work perception and results are altered’ and ‘who wants a bad office atmosphere when there’s a lover’s tiff’ were some of their grievances.

But is this all a bit ‘bah humbug’?  Most of us have read or heard the statistics about how frequently people met (or will meet) their future partner or spouse through work.

It’s only natural and human that relationships develop given how much time we spend at work.

Declaring relationships

Should or when does a relationship at work need to be declared? How does an employer strike the right balance between respecting privacy of employees in a relationship and protecting its business interests?

In large or medium-sized organisations where staff may never be working on the same project or barely see each other during the working day, surely there is less of a need to introduce a ‘love contract’ or a complete ban? 

Of course, there is a risk of a professional conflict and even upset among staff in smaller organisations and/or potential impact on results, no matter what size of the company, particularly if the relationship is turns bad or the couple break up.

Rather than a draconian ban, perhaps employers should look at introducing more pragmatic protocols – for example, move one person to another department - to minimise any commercial fall-out or upset amongst other staff. 

At the same time, employees should be aware of their responsibilities in the workplace to ensure their day-to-day work is not compromised and to be transparent with line managers and others directly involved with a particular project - even if ultimately love does make the world go round.

About the author

Simon Wright is managing director of global job board CareersinAudit.com

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