In the morning, you see each other at the breakfast table. Before lunch, your paths cross in a project workshop. And in the afternoon, you exchange ideas together in an important meeting. Couples who work at the same company can end up spending a lot of time together.
In the beginning, it can be exciting. However, if couples find it’s not possible to separate work from personal life, it can put a strain on the relationship.
According to a recent survey commissioned by online platform Xing and carried out by the Forsa Institute For Social Research And Statistical Analysis in Germany, one in seven employees (or 14%) have been in a relationship with another colleague at some point.
“It’s possible to find your life partner at work,” says career consultant Jutta Boenig. However, as a rule, she advises staying away from relationships with co-workers.
If it does happen, however, the first question you should ask is: How should you deal with other colleagues? Boenig advises being open about the relationship, unless it’s just a one-night stand – or an affair between married people. Otherwise, people will whisper and gossip.
However, other experts say it’s up to the couple in question to decide whether they want to be open about their romance. “It’s a private matter so it’s up to the couple to decide,” says employment lawyer Nathalie Oberthuer.
An employer cannot forbid a relationship. However, they can decide to keep the couple apart – for example, if they feel that the relationship is having a negative effect on work performance.
It can be difficult when potential conflicts of interest come into play – trainees with trainers, or strategic buyers with suppliers. Although there is no legal basis for keeping loved-up colleagues apart, in cases like these, Oberthuer says the couple have a duty of disclosure to the company. “But this is really a grey area.”
Boenig once advised a couple working in the IT industry who felt that their the job was beginning to have a negative impact on the relationship. They worked out a plan on how to better separate these two aspects of their lives, says the career consultant. The plan involved several points.
After 6 o’clock in the evening, they agreed not to talk about work. They also pledged to have lunch with other colleagues, rather than each other. And they set aside 30 minutes at the office every day to specifically discuss work issues.
When it comes to holidays, there is no guarantee you will get time off at the same time. The company decides who can go on holiday and when, whether it’s for operational reasons or because other employees have priority, as lawyer Oberthuer says. “Employees have no legal rights in a situation like this.”
And what happens when the flame goes out? Relationships rarely end amicably – especially when people are also colleagues. It’s not easy to see your ex at work every day.
“After a separation, sometimes you need distance to recover and feel like yourself again,” says Boenig. It’s common for one half of the relationship to leave the company once the relationship ends.
In many cases, it ends up being the person at a lower job level who will leave the company, Boenig points out. “They can more easily be moved to another department, or will go completely.” – dpa