As companies begin to acknowledge the existence of work place romances, the use of consensual relationship agreements (CRAs) has become an area of discussion. While many of today’s organizations prohibit the romantic involvement of its employees with one another, there are other companies that have adopted the use of consensual relationship agreements. Although employers find the CRAs an easy solution to this situation, the employees romantically involved, employees are against the agreement, arguing that the contract is intrusive in their personal lives. They go further on their arguments, stating that the agreement is an invasion of their privacy, and that the document goes against some ethical principles. From the Human Resources professionals perspective, they will try their best to make sure employees and employer agree with the contract and are happy with the situation, so a negative influence do not impact other coworkers, and their performances will not affect their jobs.
1. Critics of CRAs assert that they are too intrusive, ineffective, and unnecessary and that they can cause as many problems as they solve. Identify the specific reasons and examples that might justify these criticisms. Critics are relying on the concern-for-others principles that focus on “the need to consider decisions and behaviors from the perspective of those affected”, which in this case, are the employees who sign the Consensual Relationship Agreements. Employees who are romantically involved at work and are asked to sign the agreement, may consider getting into their personal life too intrusive. Informing an employer of a relationship should be a decision made based by both parties involved, and not imposed. CRAs can be ineffective because even after signing the agreement, an employee may be discontent with the invasion of privacy, and according to the Human Resource Management, on their Workplace Romance Poll conducted in 2009, they found that: “ Our experience was if a company tried to forbid it, more people started dating for the thrill of it” (Hellriegel & Slocum, 2011).
With that in mind, when employees romantically involved disagree with the policies of the contract, they will tend to act against the agreement’s policies. In order to avoid a break of the agreement, the policy must clearly identify who is protected, and explain that the contract works in favor of all three parties involved. Some human resources managers also argue that even with the terms in the contract being clearly and rigorous, that will not make the couple act professionally while at work and many other effects of workplace romance, and therefore, they classify as ineffective.
The contracts become unwanted for instance, when employees disagree with such policy. They do not want to be excessively monitored. If an employee feels that the CRAs are too restrictive and that he/she is being treated unfairly, problems in morale, motivation, and productivity are likely to occur. In order to keep productivity and avoid a hostile work environment, the use of the agreement is not essential, as long as the rules of conduct in the workplace are specified.
2. How would you assess the ethical intensity of CRAs from the perspective of the employer? From the perspective of the employees in a consensual relationship? From the prospective of the employer, the CRAs are very necessary. Because on the job relationships are very likely to happen, it is good to have a policy in place to address issues that may possibly arise from on the job relationships. The agreement also protects the company from being sued by employees because of sexual harassment or favoritism, and creates a clearly understanding of properly professional workplace behavior expected, in order to maintain a good working environment for all. According to an article written in the May 2010 issue of Ceridian Connection “Any work environment presents the opportunity for individuals with similar interest to develop a relationship that is more than friendly.” The article goes on to say that according to a 2009 survey conducted by CareerBuilder.com, 40 percent of respondents indicated that they have dated coworkers; and 18 percent said they have been involved in two or more workplace romances.
Because is inevitable the romance in the workplace, many HR professionals try to balance interests for both parties involved: “Most employers realize that it’s unwise to try and ban all office romances. However, they are very interested in preventing these relationships from having a negative impact on the workplace” (Jones, May 2011). From the prospective of the employee, signing an agreement based on their personal relationship with a co-worker may be intrusive and often times, they prefer to keep the relationship private. Sometimes when employees sign the CRA they have the impression of their superiors and co-workers keeping an extra eyes on them to insure that they are not breaking the policy. That in the end could distract the employee from performing the job to their best ability and reflect on his/her overall performance.
3. What specific ethical principles might be used to justify the use of CRAs? Explain. The principles used to justify the use of CRA would be Organization Interest Principle and the Professional Standards Principle. The Organization Interested Principle is based on “you act on basis of what is good for the organization” (Hellriegel & Slocum 2011). This principle is used on this situation where the employer foresee a possible issue and impose a policy (CRA) to prevent that issue from affecting the company.
This can save time, money, and problems in the long run. The ethical dilemma for CRAs revolves around the ethical principle of Professional Standards Principle, where the employer is balancing the rights of the individual and the needs and rights of the other employees. Most employers want to ensure a reasonable degree of employee privacy; however, there is wide consensus that employers must protect against the actions of employees who send harassing e-mails, disclose personal information, or spend too much time surfing the Internet for personal use. Therefore, the CRA in this case, is used to discuss properly professional workplace behavior, to remind employees that they do not have a legal right of privacy according to the no-harassment policy, and also reduce the risk of harassment litigation.
4. What ethical principles might be used by employees in consensual relationships to oppose signing such an agreement? Explain. The “Hedonist Principle” and the “Golden Rule Principle” could be used as a counter argument by the employees that are against the CRAs, because it would foster feelings of injustice for the employees in consensual relationships. The Hedonist Principle is based on “ You do whatever is in your own self-interest” (Hellriegel & Slocum 2011). The employees involved in this situation can complain that the employee is only implanting the agreement because of fear of being sued, and not taking in consideration their personal lives. Furthermore, they can argue using the principle that the employer is acting only for his benefit and that they feel the CRAs are excessive, intrusive and unfair.
Using the same perspective, the Golden Rule Principle, which consists in “ You act on the basis of placing yourself in the position of someone affected by the decision and try to determine how that person would feel” (Hellriegel & Slocum 2011), can justify that the employer is misjudging their ethical work based on the feel that dating has nothing to do with the quality of an employee’s work and that job security and advancement should be based on the work itself. According to Randy Sutton on his publication Regulating Workplace Romances, “Any “no dating” policy must also consider whether the policy will disadvantage certain employees”, so the employees involved have no negative impact on their career. 5. Do you personally favor or oppose the use CRAs in the workplace? Explain. In my opinion, the use of Consensual Relationship Agreements in the workplace is very necessary and effective. As stated in the case, office romance is bound to take place if you put individuals together in a 40 plus hours per week. Nearly half of some employees reported that they didn’t know if their company had a policy on office romances.
I think every employee should act in a professional manner, but unfortunately, a company cannot rely on the hope that they will. A Consensual Relationship Agreement is an agreement between both the employee and management that provides that the employee will not allow the relationship to interfere with or impact the work environment. This agreement also confirms and documents that the relationship is consensual and voluntary. All employees need to have a clear understanding of harassment. If the CRA is done correctly, the document will protect all parties involved of future accusations of sexual harassment, favoritism or unfairness. Mark Gomsak in his publication suggests that the company take the following procedures: implement company-wide policies for romance in the workplace, Forbid Romance Between Boss and Subordinate, apply the so called love contracts, and avoid favoritism (January 2011).
From the prospective of the employees romantically involved, they may find a little intrusive in their personal lives, but on the other hand, if the relationship comes to an end, the agreement will secure that they have acted according to the policy and not letting their personal lives interfere in the workplace. Therefore, if the employees act ethically, even when they have a romance in the workplace, then the agreement would not be a problem, it would only prove that the employee is capable of being honest and ethical despite their outside lives, and that work comes in first. The companies would be secure with the document, and the romance would not have any impact to any parties involved.
Gomsak, Mark J. (2011, January 11). Office romances: How employers can avoid the sting of cupid’s arrow. The Metro Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved from http://www.greaterlouisville.com Hellriegel, D., & Slocum, J. W., Jr. (2011). Organizational behavior: 2011 custom edition (13th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning. Jones, L. (2011, May 23). The love contract debate – Employers may want to regulate your romance. Higher education and career blog. Retrieved from http://www.kelloggforum.org No longer a secret: Tools to cope with workplace romances. (2010, May).Ceridian Connection. Retrieved from HR Compliance database. Sutton, R. (2009). Regulating work place romances. Saalfeld Griggs Pc. Retrieved from http://www.sglaw.com