Romantic relationships in the workplace: does management have an influence?

The latest statistics on the subject date from 2019 … And with good reason, the health crisis, with the use of masks, fear of the virus and teleworking, has put a serious stop to what is known as “Love in the Office”! Cupid could, however, return to service while the pandemic marks time, and the professional framework is gradually regaining its “normality”! Let us see the extent of the phenomenon and the managerial attitudes that seem most appropriate in relation to the applicable legislation.

“Love in the office”, in a few numbers …

The few figures that follow come from an IFOP survey conducted in 2018 for Online Séduction *, and seem to testify to a phenomenon that is not really anecdotal …!

  • 35% of French people have already had a sexual relationship with someone in their professional environment;
  • 56% of men and 48% of women have already had a relationship with a colleague without the knowledge of the other colleagues;
  • 33% of French people have already had sex or sexual games in their workplace with a colleague;
  • 12% of persons in pairs during the survey met at their workplace;

What does the regulation say on the subject?

Article 9 of the Civil Code protects the privacy of employees during and outside their working hours, in these few words: Every employee has the right to privacy. » In addition, the Auroux laws (a set of four laws amending labor law in France, issued in 1982 by the Mauroy II government) protect marital life in the workplace by specifying that it “does not belong to the company”. The employer is therefore prohibited from interfering in the privacy of its employees. An intimate relationship between two employees of the company is clearly a privacy issue that can not be forbidden to them.

Finally, the company does not have the right to insert in an employment contract a clause prohibiting any romantic relationship in the workplace. This constitutes discrimination based on family status, which is prohibited, as provided for in Article L. 1132-1 of the Labor Code. Nevertheless, it is possible to apply sanctions (warning or other forms of disciplinary sanctions), or even to go as far as dismissal, if:

  • a sexual act is performed in public;
  • the conduct of a romantic relationship between work colleagues harms the company and / or constitutes a serious breach of the obligations arising out of his contract of employment;
  • the relationship hinders the effective cooperation between the two partners;
  • the couple’s behavior causes a problem for other employees or the company;
  • abuses such as favoritism, discrimination or overly demonstrative attitudes are observed.

The sanction imposed on employees must be proportionate to the damage caused by the company. This should in no way be discriminatory. In addition, in the event of dismissal following one of these scenarios, it must be duly substantiated to avoid any litigation.

What leadership position should one take in practice?

Let’s instantly dismiss the scenario where the romantic relationship was woven between the leader and one of his subordinates – which could be the topic of a future article – to evoke it where a leader must “manage” the relationship between two members of his team . As provided by law, these two adults are free to have an affair without the risk of being transferred or fired for this reason alone.

On the other hand, if the effects induced by this relationship have consequences for the smooth running of the organization, professional dishonesty can be invoked … For example, if lunch breaks that pull on change the productivity of the two employees, or if inappropriate behavior towards customers damages the company’s image … The key, therefore, is to remain completely objective in assessing the situation. Also note that according to Loïck Roche, Ph.D. in psychology and author of Cupid at work, finding love in the office can be a source of creativity and additional motivation for employees. ” The most innovative companies are the ones where there are the most intimate relationships “, he also explains. Moreover, if love stories generally end badly, those from the working world still represent 14% of married couples…. Beautiful romances that could perhaps represent a communication axis, and help promote the employer brand, while man more than ever becomes highlighted in companies!

IFOP survey conducted in 2018 for Online Séduction by self-administered online questionnaire from 29 to 30 May 2018 with a sample of 1009 people, representative of the French population aged 18 and over

Valerie maquet

Copywriter, writing consultant, author, cinema, adult educator

After being the head of a communications agency, the deputy director of a weekly newspaper, then the commercial head of a team of key account salespeople, I had had enough of juggling …

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