Fraternization policies are more important than many give them credit for. Having an internal relationship go south can cause major disruptions to business & employee morale. Below, we’ll break down a few best practices for creating a policy to keep everyone at your company safe while encouraging a positive workplace culture.
Chain of Command
Regardless of how strict or lax your company is overall, you need a fraternization policy that protects employees from unwanted advances by those in a position of power. Most companies now have policies in place that prohibit dating or related behavior between anyone and their direct employee or supervisor.
A common related policy prohibits such relationships between an employee and anyone who is two or more levels higher in seniority, even if there is no direct supervisory link. You may also want to discourage close friendships in such circumstances, as they can affect morale and open the door to claims of favoritism, but most companies don’t directly forbid them.
It would be difficult or impossible to prevent coworkers from developing close friendships and dating relationships. And a harmonious relationship can actually boost morale throughout your entire team. But your fraternization policy needs to make clear that any negative impacts on the workplace will not be tolerated.
This means that everyone needs to leave their personal drama at home and focus on their work.
Behavior at Work
Likewise, your policy should clearly delineate what behaviors are and are not tolerated at work. Is holding hands in the break room acceptable? Obviously, full make-out sessions should be prohibited, but what about an innocent kiss? Do you want to encourage dating couples to work side by side, or do you prefer daily task assignments that keep them apart?
Remember, you can’t punish someone for behavior that isn’t against the rules. So really think through what makes sense within your company and create written policies to address it.
The final section of your fraternization policy should clearly delineate the penalties for infractions. It’s common to set up an escalating series of disciplinary actions based on the seriousness of the offense and whether it’s happened before, but exactly what you do is up to you. Just remember to put everything in writing.
Note that all aspects of human resources, including workplace policies, are subject to local, state, and federal regulations. And many companies aim to avoid monitoring employees actions or messaging, so a strong, well defined fraternization policy can be helpful. Always consult with your attorney when creating a new policy.
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