By: Sara Jensen, Vice President of Business Development

Published By: Staffing Industry Analysts – The Staffing Stream 

Many Americans spend the majority of their waking hours at their workplace, so it is no surprise that relationships can often begin between colleagues. However, in the wake of the #MeToo movement involving shifting social attitudes and holding sexual harassers accountable, respectful courtship is important more than ever in a workplace relationship. Without consent from both parties, what could be perceived as flirting by one individual could be interpreted as harassment by another.

Statistics show 81% of women and 43% of men have experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault in their lives. Although the same survey states the less commonplace to experience sexual harassment was the workplace – 38% of women and 13% of men reported – this issue is still very real and prevalent.

For the protection of all employees, companies need to be vigilant in maintaining a safe working environment. Staffing firms as well should be held accountable for preparing temporary employees for new work environments. When hiring and placing contingent workers, consider sharing some simple guidelines and reminders that can help mitigate negative scenarios that may surround the pursuit of office relationships.

Expressing Interest in a Colleague: Be Mindful

In a workplace with people from all cultures and lifestyles, actions and sentiments can be interpreted in different ways. The waters are even muddier when a worker is new or temporary, or an individual is first determining romantic interest in another. A colleague may offer to pick up the lunch tab or bring coffee for a co-worker as a flirtatious gesture, but the beneficiary may perceive it as unwanted attention. A hand on the arm or a comment on one’s appearance can be meant as complimentary but can also be perceived as uncomfortable. Remind independent contractors to be clear with words and intentions prior to taking any action that can be misinterpreted.

Responding to a Colleague’s Advances: Speak Up

A contingent worker is granted the same protections and HR assistance as a permanent employee. If he/she is uneasy about an action or comment from a co-worker, a human resources team or staffing agency contact is available to intervene and provide support in creating a comfortable work environment. If somebody is creating an unwelcoming workplace for a freelance employee, remind him/her to contact an HR professional, manager or on-site staffing office. It is every employee’s legal right to feel safe in the office, and it’s an employer’s – and staffing firm’s – duty to ensure workplace safety.

Beginning a Workplace Relationship: Be Informed

If mutual feelings have advanced among a temp worker and a colleague, it is important to check a company’s policies before considering a relationship. A staffing agency may have guidelines in place that differ from the temporary worksite. Some workplaces forbid co-worker dating to maintain a safe environment. Remind independent contractors to act within all policy limits. While it’s reported that 30% of office romances lead to marriage, 5% of workers who’ve had an office romance reported they have left a job because a failed office relationship that caused discomfort. Remind workers to weigh all personal and professional risks before becoming involved with a colleague.

Dating in the Workplace: Be Respectful

In a professional workplace, professional behavior is expected – via email, in the office and at company functions. All company emails, as well as texts sent on company-owned phones, can be monitored by an employer. Remind independent contractors that they are representing the staffing firm while at a workplace. Whether seated at a desk typing an email or texting on a company phone, a worker should never send a message that would be inappropriate for a CEO to see. Temp workers should be respectful of colleagues’ feelings surrounding displays of affection in a workplace and always act with discretion to avoid making anyone feel uncomfortable.

Check out the published article on SIA- The Staffing Stream 

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