Mid-week I caught up with a couple of school friends, Debbie and Dana. Dana’s recently started working for a really “cool” company as their HRD (you know, the type of company that’s based on Charlotte Street) and so naturally we spent some time asking her how it was all going.
The conversation took an interesting turn when Dana told us how shocked she was when she found out that there’s a very relaxed attitude to relationships at her new place of work. In all her previous companies, there has been a complete ban on work relationships.
Dana went on to inform us that there’s even a room on the fourth floor where couples go to have “fun” after work. It’s affectionately called Room 4S.
In the NHS it’s completely different. My first “experience” of NHS relationships were stories from a University friend who had just started as a junior doctor. She would tell me about her adventures in the on-call room at night with the Reg. She’s now a successful consultant and ended up marrying one of the Regs she met on her first rotation.
I have since worked with Huband & Wife management teams, and seen new romances blossom at work. I was once involved in a complex fraud investigation, where the Investigatory Officer was having an affair with the Fraud Investigator. I had no idea at the time. It didn’t affect the outcome of the investigation, but explained the weird dynamic between the two of them.
Whilst Dana and I were talking about room 4S and our differing attitudes towards it, Debbie was quiet. She then announced that she’s recently started sleeping with her boss – someone she’s worked with for the last 5 years. In fact, we’ve all met him (David): Debbie and David have been good friends for a few years now. And whilst we wanted to celebrate, Debbie has been told by her HR department to look for another job.
Debbie is gutted: not only because she loves her job and the company she works for, but the fact that she knows that her relationship with David isn’t the only one in the organisation.
Without doubt, relationships at work is a thorny issue. I’ve seen how relationships (both successful and failed) have an impact on the organisational culture. Having said that, the most common way to meet your future spouse is still through work.
So the question is: Is a total ban sensible or appropriate?