Guide to Romance and Sexual Harassment at Work

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When someone comes to HR with a sexual harassment issue, it’s usually not sexual harassment. Most people who are sexually harassed are afraid to report it.

As a Human Resources professional, the issues that landed on my desk were a mix of inappropriate and mediocre behaviors, hurt feelings, and workplace bullying. At the core? Poor communication and immature behavior.

When HR gets involved, it’s too late to end well for anyone.

Your organization has an obligation to protect you from violence and bullying. Your organization doesn’t have an obligation to solve your relationship issues. If you decide to sleep with a colleague and it ends badly, you are expected you to clean up your own mess. I’ll listen to your story and empathize, but I won’t tell your co-worker that you’re no longer interested in hooking up with her.

You have the tough conversation. I’ll go get some coffee.

I have all kinds of stories that I’m not allowed to tell. Most of them would make your eyes roll and your head snap. You would slap your forehead. Here are some vague stories. I’ll weigh in with my HR thoughts. You do the same.

  1. Two colleagues engage in consensual sex. One colleague wants to end it. The other doesn’t. There are no implicit or explicit threats, but work is stressful because the brokenhearted colleague won’t let it go. Most relationships end because one person wants out. It’s rarely mutual. It will make you sad. I know it feels like a kick in the gut. That’s adulthood. Grow the hell up. I know your feelings are hurt, but you cannot impact the productivity of the office. Also, you’re paid to work. Get it together, bub.
  2. Two colleagues are dating one another. A coworker finds out and reports it to Human Resources. Hey, I’m glad they are dating. They are nice people. They deserve happiness. Mind your own business and get back to work.
  3. Two colleagues are caught having sex at the office. When I dream of some of the most romantic places on the planet, I dream of Bali or Fiji. You dream of the supply closet? Lame. You deserve to be fired for your lack of imagination.
  4. Two colleagues go on business trips and have sex. A coworker finds out and reports it to Human Resources. What am I? The relationship police? If the travel is legitimate, I can’t do anything about it. Also, how do you know they had sex? Were you there? Go back to work and focus on your own job.
  5. A salesperson and a client are having consensual sex. A coworker finds out and reports it to Human Resources. Don’t you watch Mad Men? This is sketchy and against the rules, but it happens. I trust the judgment of my staff and my employees. They know the rules. If the situation gets ugly, we’ll deal with it. I am not going to listen to you complain about your lack of sales and accuse your coworkers of sleeping with clients. Furthermore, I’m not about to put a chastity belt on members of my sales department.
  6. A boss and an employee have an inappropriate relationship Everyone knows. Even if no one knows, it’s wrong. Wrong. #WRONG. Just wrong. If you are in a position of power, you are not allowed to sleep with your staff. Ever. It’s not fair, healthy, and normal. The relationships might seem okay to you, but it’s not fair to your other employees. When you have power over someone, you cannot have sex with that person. Period.

Those are the situations that come to mind. What have I missed? What did I get wrong?

I always wonder how people are productive at work when they’re focused on sex, relationships, and personal drama. Get to work, chumps. We are in a recession, and work is exactly what you need to help heal a broken heart.

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