Employees secretive about workplace romances, despite prevalence

11 July 2019 Consulting.ca 2 min. read
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One-third of Canadians have been romantically involved with a co-worker, but nearly half have kept it a secret, according to a recent survey from HR software and services firm ADP Canada.

According to the survey, which polled 885 Canadians, 45% of those in workplace relationships kept it a secret from someone, while 27% kept it a secret from everyone at work.

The survey also found that Canadians were more likely to hide a relationship from human resources (37%) and management (40%) than their colleagues.

The secrecy probably stems from a fear of penalty, censure, or a lack of knowledge about workplace policies. Forty-nine percent of respondents said their company lacks a formal policy on workplace relationships, while a full 65% of Quebec respondents said there was no clear policy at their companies.

Overall, only 31% said they were aware of a policy that outlines what is and isn’t acceptable in regard to office relationships.

Employees secretive about workplace romances, despite prevalence

Employees are not opposed to workplace romances though, with 83% saying relationships between colleagues should be allowed, or else indicating they aren’t bothered by others having romantic relationships at work.

There is, however, a clear need for well-communicated policy vis-à-vis workplace romance. Nineteen percent of those who had been in a workplace relationship said they felt pressured into it, either to progress their career, get better projects, or keep their current role.

Ten percent of those who had been in an office romance said it had been with a colleague holding a senior position at the company.

"HR policies should not exist to control employees, but to protect them," said Heather Haslam, VP of marketing at ADP Canada. "We know people are finding love at work, but many are keeping it a secret. These statistics represent a call to action for organizations to make their policies clear to employees and to offer them the support and resources they need to feel comfortable navigating these situations."

Aside from forming and effectively communicating HR policy in this regard, companies should also maintain adequate resources to support employees if “difficult situations” arise, according to ADP. Employees should also “know who to speak to when feeling uncomfortable, that judgment will be withheld, and senior employees will not be favoured,” according to the report.