During a recent Risk Management & Finance Summit for Nonprofits, Woods Bowman, an emeritus professor at DePaul University and an observer of nonprofits, spoke about how to best handle workplace relationships. He stated that the reason they can cause problems is because effective management depends on clear role relationships, which can be disrupted by office romance.
Yet it's almost inevitable that there will be those in your organization who are attracted to each other. Bowman shared the following advice if this does end up happening:
- Establish policy before the fact.
- Encourage reporting. Have anonymous and trustworthy reporting systems. Nonprofits must comply with the whistle-blower protections of Sarbanes-Oxley
- Investigate all allegations.
- Enforce policies evenhandedly. Policies and punishments should be universal, from the CEO on down, and gender-neutral.
- Monitor results and amend policies as needed.
- Don’t overlook outside relationships. Relationships between an employee and the spouse (or significant other) of another employee are more common than one might think. Think also of vendors and competitors.