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Today we are going to take a look at dealing with employee romantic relationships. In a restaurant setting, or any work environment, employee romantic relationships can cause an array of issues. From unnecessary drama and poor workmanship to favoritism to interdepartmental disputes to job loss. It’s not uncommon for those working in such close proximity to develop relationships but their are a few things you can do to limit the effect on the restaurant.

Prevention

First, discourage relationships between employees. Recommend in your handbook or orientation that romantic relationships should be avoided with other coworkers. Let them know that personal relationships and relationship issues should not be brought into the work environment. Inform further that personal lives are not the company’s business up until the point that they start to affect performance or the restaurant as a whole.

While stopping employee relationships from occurring may be impossible. The step above can help to alleviate many of the issues that can arise from them as employees will attempt to keep things more private and out of the restaurant.

When A New Relationship Starts

If an employee relationship develops don’t immediately look to terminate an employee. First, it sets a precedent that you may want to set, as it may require you to let go of an employee you do wish to in the future. Second, if you don’t fire both people that were in the relationship, you could show favoritism and have some legal issues on your hand. Third, getting rid of employees simply for having a relationship can cause some negative morale within your organization.

Addressing the relationship should occur only when the relationship is, or has a significant chance to, cause a performance issue in your restaurant.

A quick warning to a newly discovered relationship can help to reduce problems before they start. “I heard the two of you were seeing each other, I am not sure if that is true or not. Regardless, I just want to ensure that your personal lives outside of here do not become a distraction to yourselves or others at the restaurant.”

Give them a simple reminder before any drama occurs. Let them know you value their employment at your restaurant and express that you don’t want to see either of them falter or leave if the relationship goes south.

When A Relationship Becomes An Issue

If relationships do start to affect the restaurant either with public displays of affection, arguments, favoritism or any other negative issue, address it immediately. Let both employees know that their behavior has been negatively affecting them or other staff at the restaurant. Inform them that their personal life needs to remain outside of work. Inform them that any future personal behavior that has a negative impact on the business will be reprimanded with further discipline.

Oftentimes, this warning is enough to reduce most issues. If however things do not improve, then start to administer write ups or suspensions and try to not schedule them on similar shifts if possible.

Hold The Standard

Make sure you hold the standard across all of your staff. Make sure that any personal issues do not become the restaurants problem. Even relationships involving non-employees spending too much time in the restaurant distracting your employees need to be curtailed.

Again, the relationship is not the issue and is likely not entirely preventable. The issue is when a relationship begins to affect your restaurant. That is the type of behavior that you as a manager or owner can eliminate.

If you continue to have issues with a similar individual, address that behavior quickly and eliminate the behavior or the employee before they are able to poison the health of your staff any further.

Positions of Authority

One clause you may want to add to your handbook in relation to employee relationships is that an employee may not be in a relationship with an employee they directly supervise. This type of relationship is a quick destroyer of organizational health. Even if the supervisor actively tries to not favor their partner and is even deliberately stern to them at work, the employee will still be viewed as getting special privileges. That employee can receive no praise or privilege, even if earned, as it will always be viewed as favoritism. Which is not fair to the employee.

If this type of relationship is discovered, let the two employees involved know that the relationship needs to end, an employee needs to be transferred to a different department or restaurant (where possible), or the supervisor needs to step down from their position of authority. Give them about a week’s time or so to determine which solution is the most favorable to them.

If the rule was laid out well in advance, most of these types of situations solve themselves will someone transferring or the relationship ending if things weren’t that serious anyway.

In bad cases you lose both employees, or even just one good one.

Other times, they may say the relationship has ended, but it still continues on. In this case, you may need to forcibly make a decision by transferring an employee or demoting a manager. This is never a desirable outcome but must be performed if you are to maintain a good organizational health in your restaurant.

Monitor the transferred or demoted employee to make sure their behavior after the move isn’t detrimental to your team or restaurant. If so, follow necessary disciplinary procedures up to and including termination.

Conclusion

Employee romantic relationships are rarely, if ever, a desirable situation to deal with in a restaurant environment. However, with a little upfront work you can prevent a large amount of personal issues from becoming restaurant issues. Further, by quickly addressing any issues that do arise and holding a standard, you can prevent most negative affects on the organizational health of your restaurant.