What to Do if a Relationship at the Workplace Goes Bad

Workplace romances can be costly to employers.

Workplace romances can be costly to employers.

Workplace romances are a staple of romantic comedies and sitcoms. The real world, however, is a very different place. One office romance gone bad ended up costing an employer $760,000 in sexual harassment damages. This pretty well summarizes why employers frown on romance at the workplace. Still, admonishments to avoid workplace romance are cold comfort for the person who has become enmeshed in a relationship that went wrong. From awkward to train wreck, knowing how to deal with a failed workplace romance can help an employee keep his job.

Talking it Out

It's important to sit down and have a discussion after a workplace romance goes wrong. The two partners are going to see each other at some point, so having a discussion about how things will work is essential. A final lunch date or even just a phone call can help get things sorted out. While this can be awkward at first, it's a lot better to clear the air. This will help to minimize awkwardness around the office.

Giving Space

Unless the partners work very closely with one another, it's a good idea for each to be as scarce as possible. Breaking up, as they say, is hard to do. When a couple splits, they generally don't want to spend time together or even see each other for a while. In some cases this isn't realistic. In other cases, it's essential. Maintain a business-like demeanor at all times.

When Things Get Ugly

Sometimes, despite one's best intentions, things can get ugly. Breakups are hard and the emotional processing can be difficult for some people. If things start getting bad, it's time to talk to an HR person about working out the differences. Note that if there is a company policy against employee fraternization, this can be met with disciplinary action. Still, whatever disciplinary action is meted out will be better than simply dealing with another person's bad attitude.

Moving On

Sometimes, the fallout from a workplace romance gone wrong can't be avoided. The workplace becomes toxic. In this case, it's time to move on. Transferring to another department or location might not be convenient, but it's often a lot easier than getting a new job. In a worst-case scenario, it's time to start looking for new employment. When a workplace environment is toxic it's time to move on.

 

About the Author

Nicholas Pell began writing professionally in 1995. His features on arts, culture, personal finance and technology have appeared in publications such as "LA Weekly," Salon and Business Insider. Pell holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

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