There are 260 working day in every calendar year. This equates to over 2,080 working hours each year for a full-time employee. We spend the majority of our lives within the workplace and therefore workplace relationships can have a significant impact on our lives. Within this you will have colleagues, colleagues who become friends, colleagues who become partners. Managing these relationships can often be a sensitive topic.
As with any HR issue you will rely upon people skills, communication, listening to manage the situation and develop a solution. It is important as an employer you set clear standards of behaviour and attitude for your work environment.
If conflict does arise it is important as an employer, you step in to manage the situation and reduce any damage to the work environment. Conflict often rises because of lack of understanding, miscommunication or from stress. To resolve the conflict, you must identify cause and reactions, be aware of the ways to communicate and work as a team to resolve the conflict.
See below case regarding a workplace relationship:
Fred is a manager at Springs ‘R’ Us Ltd. Gloria his wife has gone to work at their biggest competitor Springs Inc.
The MD called Fred in today and says that either his wife leaves her job, or he will sack Fred as he sees it as a conflict of interest and is afraid, that Fred will share confidential information with his spouse who will pass it on to her employer. Fred has 10 years’ unblemished service. Can the Company do this?
In theory yes but in practice, probably not for the reasons below.
To make the dismissal as defensible as possible, the Company would need to show that there was no alternative. This is, after all, an employee that the Company had no previous grounds to complain about.
Much more information would be required including:
- Are there alternative roles available for the employee?
- What role does Gloria perform for the competitor?
- Is this a real concern or an unfounded worry?
- Do you have any reason to believe the employee who leak information?
- Is your competitor aware of this conflict of interest?
- Do you have the relevant policies about employees’ private lives to act in this way?
If having considered and have the evidence to back up all these questions, then you genuinely and reasonably conclude that the risk is too great to ignore and that there is no alternative but to dismiss, then you might – just might – be able to persuade a tribunal that this constituted some other substantial reason justifying the dismissal.