By Meenakshi Vuppuluri & Sannati More
What do you do if you see your colleague on a dating app? What if they mention their sexual orientation, which is not something you knew? Do you right swipe your office crush on a dating app? With the current influx of new-age dating practices, which are also widely common in terms of all the dating app usage, new understanding towards workplace boundaries needs to be brought in. All of the above are now common practices and are happening whether we want to accept it or not.
In the present-day workplace, personal relationships may occasionally extend beyond professional boundaries, giving rise to what is commonly known as a “situationship.” Situationships include romantic or sexual connections between colleagues lacking clear definitions and commitments. While workplace relationships are not problematic on their own, situationships can pose some unique challenges, especially concerning power dynamics, favouritism, and the potential risks of workplace sexual harassment. Given that only heteronormative couples can get married, others who are usually committed in rather uncommon ways often end up moving beyond the traditional labels that offer protection to partners. With an increase in acceptance towards concepts of casual dating and polyamory (which in truth always existed), we need to sensitize our workplaces to create understanding around the same.
Understanding Workplace Situationships
Situationships within the workplace can manifest among colleagues, including those in different levels of authority. The lack of clarity surrounding these relationships can potentially create uncertainty among those involved. This could impact team dynamics, productivity, and overall workplace morale. When supervisors and subordinates are involved, concerns about favoritism and biased decision-making may emerge, underscoring the need for clear boundaries and communication to maintain a healthy professional environment.
Power Imbalances and Drawing Boundaries
A significant challenge associated with workplace situationships is the potential for power imbalances. Relationships involving individuals in different positions of authority may raise questions about fairness and professionalism. To address this, individuals in situationships should establish clear boundaries, communicate openly about their expectations, and ensure that personal connections do not come in the way of professional responsibilities, fostering an environment of mutual respect.
Employers play a pivotal role in cultivating a work environment that discourages favoritism and ensures equal opportunities for all employees. Implementing clear policies on workplace relationships, providing comprehensive training on appropriate conduct, and addressing potential conflicts of interest are essential steps. By promoting a culture of professionalism, employers can effectively mitigate the risks associated with workplace situationships and contribute to a positive workplace atmosphere.
Workplace Sexual Harassment – A Serious Concern
Workplace sexual harassment is a distinct and common issue that can manifest within situationships and other professional contexts. It involves unwelcome sexual advances, comments, or behaviors creating a hostile work environment. Explicit emails, unwanted physical contact, and inappropriate jokes are some examples of behaviors that not only harm the individuals involved but also spoil the overall workplace atmosphere.
Preventing and Addressing Sexual Harassment: To create a safe and respectful workplace, employers must go beyond merely discouraging situationships and actively work to prevent and address sexual harassment. Establishing and enforcing policies against sexual harassment is crucial. Employee training programs should educate staff on appropriate workplace conduct, and robust procedures for reporting and addressing complaints should be in place. Encouraging an open dialogue about these issues ensures that everyone is aware of the problem and committed to preventing and addressing instances of workplace sexual harassment.
Promoting a Healthy Work Environment: Creating a healthy work environment involves a comprehensive approach that goes beyond addressing specific issues. Employers should foster a workplace culture that values open communication, diversity, and mutual respect. This includes promoting teamwork, providing avenues for employees to voice concerns without fear of retaliation, and actively working towards a workplace where everyone feels safe, respected, and empowered.
In the dynamic professional landscape, understanding and managing workplace situationships is crucial to maintaining a healthy work environment. By establishing clear boundaries, fostering open communication, and addressing potential power imbalances, individuals can navigate personal connections without compromising their professionalism. Moreover, employers must take proactive steps to prevent and address workplace sexual harassment, contributing to a workplace culture where all employees feel safe, respected, and empowered to report inappropriate behavior. Through these efforts, organizations can cultivate a positive workplace atmosphere conducive to productivity, collaboration, and employee well-being.
At Kelp, we firmly believe that cultivating safe, happy and inclusive work environments serves as the foundation for business transformation and expansion. We can help you and your organization embark on a journey towards a more inclusive and respectful workplace culture.
Kelp was incorporated in 2013 to provide the best solutions to organizations to improve workplace culture across the board. Over the last 10 years, we have serviced more than 700 clients in India and a few overseas, across various industries in the areas of PoSH (prevention of sexual harassment at workplace), EAP and D, E & I (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion). But the common objective of all these services is to build safer, happier, inclusive and productive workplaces.
For our services related to Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH), Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (D,E &I)or Employee Assistance programs (EAP) do get in touch with us at email@example.com, call +91-95001-29652 and we’d be able to help you with customized offerings suited to your organization.
Glossary of terms
Situationships: Informal, undefined romantic or sexual connections between colleagues that lack clear definitions and commitments, potentially leading to challenges in the workplace.
Heteronormative: Assuming and privileging heterosexuality as the societal norm.
Polyamory: A consensual and ethical non-monogamous relationship style where individuals have multiple romantic or sexual partners.
Power Dynamics: The inherent imbalances in authority and influence that can exist between individuals in different positions within a workplace hierarchy.
Favoritism: Unfair preference or treatment towards certain individuals, often based on personal relationships rather than merit.
Retaliation: Negative actions taken against an individual in response to their reporting of a concern or issue.