Love lessons for handling workplace relationships

03 November 2011 -


As exciting as office crushes can be, the management challenges they can present should not be underestimated, as these two case studies show

Caught in the act

Kristina felt sexually harassed by the inappropriate advances of a colleague – and an investigation was triggered…

A Yorkshire firm received a resignation from a female employee, Kristina. As part of her resignation Kristina made the company aware that she had felt sexually harassed by her colleague, Steven, who she felt was pressuring her with constant flirtation. The firm conducted an investigation – in the process of which the matter became the only topic of conversation, and the office was divided over who was right and who was wrong.

At last a conclusion was reached. Steven was found to be a general bully and lost his job. However, a vast amount of animosity had been stirred in the process and when he was not charged with sexual harassment there was a good deal of anger among staff members.


The investigation was handled cautiously, with the wise step of only admitting evidence found from two impartial sources. However, because the harassment had gone on for a while before management noticed, sides had already been taken. The problem should have been noticed sooner; external mediation would have done a good deal to mitigate the damage done once the matter came to light. 

Hide and quit

Larry, a lawyer, quit because he was alienated by his firm’s restrictive rules on office relationships

Larry was a solicitor working 60-hour weeks. He started a relationship with Dora, but they were each exhausted by constantly pretending they were “merely” colleagues while at work. In an interview published by Andrew and Nada Kakabadse as part of their book Intimacy, before he left Larry commented: “What is irritating and wastes time is what we have to do to conceal our relationship, pretend we are distant, not speak at work. And for what? People have relationships at work. As soon as I can leave, I will.”

Not only did the firm’s policy alienate employees, it also cost them as Larry and Dora chose to move away once their induction and training was complete.


Since romance will happen in the office, adopt a mature and supportive approach. If it occurs in an environment where information is sensitive one partner may need to move on. Otherwise, recognize love’s potential to engender loyalty to your company.

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