Is it okay for workmates to have a relationship?

Friday June 11 2021

Caroline Mboijana. PHOTO/FILE

By Caroline Mboijana

Dear Caroline, 
I am interested in a workmate. What is your take on workplace relationships is it okay for workmates to date or get married? What does the law say?  Grace.

Hello Grace,
Given that most employees spend a lot of time with their colleagues and get to know them very well, it is no surprise that a significant number of employees meet their future spouses at work, and workplace romances are actually quite common.

However, dating someone that you work with is not without its challenges, and many employers might prefer that their employees do not get romantically involved with people that they work with. However, if you have fallen for a colleague or are dating someone at work , you may be wondering if your employer can actually forbid you from doing this, or penalise you for your actions?

Workplace relationships are a common occurrence. Many organisations have a code of conduct or code of ethics in the workplace, which stipulate work place behaviour, including guidance on workplace relationships. These are in place to protect both the employee and the organisation as a measure to avoid cases of sexual harassment and or litigation. 
It is important that when you identify and or are approached by colleague who is interested in you, that boundaries are set so that there is full understanding of what is acceptable and what is not. 

While I make these observations, there are some aspects that you need to be mindful of. If you do meet a potential partner in the workplace, you need to make sure they are not your supervisor, whether directly or indirectly.  That is not acceptable in the workplace and if they are, then you risk having issues such as lack of objectivity and favouritism, coming into play. 
Unfortunately, for both of you, your professional integrity will be questioned. It is important that  neither of you are married nor are in an existing relationships for obvious reasons. 

Furthermore, having a work place relationship comes with its own challenges, especially if the majority of both your friends  work with you, office gossip, work place tensions which are not only uncomfortable for you, but can also impact the rest of the team. The long term negative effects can lead to emotional stress.  Bear in mind also the impact that your relationship  may have on other colleagues even if  your person of interest is fine with it. That said, my advice is to be cautious of workplace relationships.


Caroline Mboijana,
Managing Director, The Leadership Team (U)