Q: One of my employees appears to be involved in a workplace romance with another manager. Although "Gina" reports directly to me, "Josh" oversees her work on certain projects.
A few weeks ago, Gina confessed to me that she had feelings for Josh. She thought he was giving her positive signals and wondered whether she should ask him out. Since I wasn't sure how to respond, I just listened and tried to be supportive.
When I consulted our human resources manager, she said that because Josh sometimes supervises Gina, a romantic relationship would be against company policy. After I explained this to Gina and showed her the policy manual, I assumed that would be the end of it.
Yesterday, however, Gina mentioned that she and Josh have been "hanging out" as friends and are planning a trip to the beach. I strongly suspect that they are already a couple, so I'm not sure what my responsibility is now. Should I report their activities or just keep my mouth shut?
A: If you and Gina were coworkers, her amorous adventures would be none of your concern. But as her boss, you are responsible for seeing that she complies with company policy. However, this doesn't mean that you have suddenly turned into the romance police.
Instead of taking your suspicions to HR, remind Gina that if she and Josh should become more than friends, they must disclose that fact to the company. Have her sign and date a copy of the policy, including a statement that it has been reviewed with her. This should fulfill your management obligations.
Having clarified expectations, you can stop worrying about this pair unless their relationship begins to interfere with work. But if you spot signs of favoritism or find them smooching in the staircase, then it's time to involve human resources.
Q: I am disgusted by a coworker who sniffs and sneezes all day long. If anyone mentions this, "Brittany" plays the victim and says she can't help it because she has allergies. I control my own allergies with medication, so I don't think that's a valid excuse.
The worst part is that Brittany constantly sneezes without covering her mouth and sprays germs all over our small office. Although several people have complained, our manager says her hands are tied because this is a medical problem. Do you have any suggestions?
A: For starters, you might be slightly more forgiving about Brittany's medical issues. While you may have found an allergy treatment that works for you, her condition may not be comparable. That said, however, her refusal to cover sneezes is both rude and unsanitary, so your group has every right to revisit this issue with your boss.
For example: "We understand that Brittany has uncontrollable allergies. However, she needs to show more consideration for her colleagues. By refusing to cover her mouth when she sneezes, she is spreading germs around the office. Could you please explain to her that this is unacceptable?"
If your boss follows through with a firm discussion, hopefully Brittany will comply. But if not, the group may need to provide ongoing reminders, along with some sanitizing wipes and a box of tissues.