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Dealing with illicit relationships in the workplace


I have been approached by 2 voluntary organisations who work with young people regarding team break down. The main cause of the break down relates to 2 members of the team engaging in a relationship with one another. This has caused upset, raised issues regading code of conduct and confidentiality. Any ideas on how to run a session on team building which incorporates this 'hot potato'? Thanks Emma
emma falkner

4 Responses

  1. is a team building session the answer?

    I’m not saying it isn’t, but asking the question “is a team building session actually the solution?”

    The team breakdown “relates” to a relationship….in what way? is the behaviour of the “lovers” totally inappropriate or are the other team members jealous,prudish or similar?
    Is the code of conduct actually breached or is there a wider issue of expectation and interpretation?

    I know that this isn’t an answer to your question as stated but I have seen situations where the breakdown is not the fault or in the gift of the apparent culprit(s) but in the opinions of others.

    If the code of conduct has clearly been breached and there is a genuine confidentiality issue then a team build can only come after the necessary disciplinary action, otherwise the danger is that the “disciplinary” action occurs at the team build, in public and you end up with a total disaster.

    If there has been no actual breach of the code and the confidentiality issue is actually imagined or expected rather than real then you could end up reinforcing the misinterpretation and creating a more fragmented team


  2. No rules broken
    There used to be a rule against relationships between workmates, but I think the world has moved on to the point where it is recognised that work is where most people meet, these days. I have heard rumours (Note: I have not checked these out) that one organisation even does something towards the wedding of a staff member marrying a colleague met on the job.

    Let’s look at this from a different angle. I used to work with a woman who couldn’t abide me. Whenever we were having one of our many flare-ups, the room crackled with tension, causing an unhappy working environment for everyone else on the team. There was no romance between us, yet the impact of our relationship was no less than that of a “couple” within a team.

  3. Values drive behaviour, so deal with the cause not the symptom.
    My initial response here is to ask what team value (in terms the associates behaviour)is causing the breakdown?
    My suggestion would be to run a session around illiciting team core values, identify how the team feels (right now) about its cohesion and what (specifically) do members of the team need to do (behaviourally) for the team to be more cohesive.
    [email protected]

  4. Blunderbuss or sniper’s rifle
    I loathe military analogies – particularly in the current global climate – but this phrase sums up for me issues like this.

    Are the commissiong organisations using a scattergun approach which involves everybody in the team to tackle an issue that actually only truly relates to two members therein?

    Specifically, if the relationship is prohibited by the administrative doctrines of the organisation(s), then it is a management matter that needs to be addressed directly with the two members of staff.

    However, if the relationship has become an issue because it might be symptomatic of a deeper malaise within the team, then a facilitative event might be recommended.

    I guess my view is that there is a lot of exploratory and diagnostic work to be done here before you find yourself in a room with only a projector and a flipchart to protect yourself from this team!


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