Can (or should) you date a coworker when you work in hospitality?
Let’s face it…. We’re all working crazy, long and non-standard hours. Most hospitality employees spend a LOT of time at work. It’s not hard to imagine you’d become friends with and possibly date a co-worker when you work in this 24/7/365 industry. It can be a great place to meet like-minded people and start a romantic relationship.
Of course, you have to be professional about it. No PDA’s that make your team feel uncomfortable and no bickering or inappropriate touching. Here are some practical, common-sense DO’s and DON’Ts to guide you along the way:
- Know your company's policy: This is the first and most important thing on your to-do list if you're thinking of dating a coworker. This is especially crucial if you work closely together or if one of you is in a position of power (hiring/firing or salary control) over the other, which could present a serious ethical issue that would need to be handled openly and carefully.
- Think twice: Is this a real relationship that will last or is it a passing fancy… And is it worth the risk of possibly having to find another position if it doesn’t work out?
- Be careful about harassment claims: Especially in a relationship between a superior and subordinate… no one should feel pressure to stay in the relationship or be passed over for promotion or bonuses because of a falling out.
- Be discreet: There’s no need to broadcast your relationship to all who will listen. Unless company policy requires you to disclose the relationship to management or corporate, keep it private and don’t post photos or tweets that you would rather not make public.
- Have an exit plan: This sounds a little negative at first, but you should discuss with your partner what will happen if the relationship sours. Will one of you leave? How will you handle it at work?
- Do your job: Stay focused on work when you’re at work. Romance is great, but you can’t put it ahead of doing your job.
- Conduct your relationship on company time: Stay focused on your job. Don’t keep showing up at your significant other’s station, looking for attention.
- Flirt outrageously at work: It can make others feel uncomfortable and be embarrassing if your relationship ends badly.
- Use company email to communicate: Most companies archive their digital correspondence and you don’t want to leave a trail or have someone mistakenly stumble on your “love notes.”
- Talk trash: If the worst happens, the last thing you need to do it talk trash about your ex. It makes everyone uncomfortable and makes them feel they have to take sides.
- Forget company policy: Again, this is a big one. If you’re required to tell HR about your relationship, be sure you comply. They may even ask you to sign something that verifies that both parties are involved in a consensual relationship.
If you’re thinking of entering into a workplace relationship, be sure to consult your company’s handbook about dating policies. While most companies don’t prohibit employees from dating, they often have a “code of conduct” they expect you to follow. The Society for Human Resource Management has posted a sample policy that addresses employee dating. It will give you an idea of what types of behavior and conditions might apply in your workplace environment.
Some employers prohibit couples from working together directly in the same department and may require one of you to make a change in your current position. Others simply require you to disclose the relationship and have you sign an acknowledgment that the relationship is consensual and you will act professionally. Most discourage relationships between a superior and a direct subordinate, as it can lead to harassment claims later on.
Given the amount of hours (often late and non-standard) spent at work in the hospitality industry, it’s not surprising that a relationship may spring up between colleagues. Be sure you’ve got your eyes wide open and are not risking your position by ignoring company policy or taking unnecessary risks.