Nepotism is alive and well in the workplace, as family-run corporations promote based on familial relationships, sometimes, rather than merit. However, there is also another type of favoritism happening in the workplace as well; the favors that are done as a result of fraternization. It’s the ugly side of the business world, but unfortunately is happening on a regular basis in many businesses across the country. For this reason, many companies are establishing fraternization policies, but are they completely legal? Could your dealership benefit from such a policy, and what are the ramifications if one is enacted?
One reason that many companies choose to establish fraternization policies is due to the distractive elements of relationships with co-workers. If two of your co-workers are involved in a relationship you already know how much time they can waste making eyes at each other, or discussing their evening plans. It is exasperating for those of us who are actually working to accomplish our goals and the plan that the boss has laid out for us. Your boss is aiming for maximum productivity in the workplace, and intra-office relationships can dramatically reduce such high functioning employees.
In an auto dealership, relationships between co-workers can be even more of a distraction, not only for the employees involved but for their co-workers as well. An automotive atmosphere is largely dependent on symbiosis. If your dealership works with an up system, an up can easily be missed if you’re paying close attention to two other employees’ conversation about their romance than with what’s happening on the sales floor. In addition to the distractions apparent from two employees developing a close personal relationship, it also breeds contempt amongst the remaining employees within the dealership, as they are forced to leave their personal lives at home.
Any amount of discord between employees can lead to an automatic loss of productivity as well, as human nature dictates that the remaining employees will begin to gossip. Because a dealership requires a cohesive relationship to be present amidst their employees, this type of derision can be hazardous to co-workers’ relationships. A dealership thrives on the employees being able to get along and pass customers along to the next step of a transaction. If there are hard feelings between co-workers, this process is going to be dampened by these issues, and the customer will not get the full attention they need or deserve.
Another detrimental side effect of fraternization in the workplace is the potential for harassment lawsuits should something go wrong. Sexual harassment is defined as the unwanted advances between employees, and it typically involves someone in a position above the position of the person being harassed. Fraternization policies are a great way to avoid any such ugliness within your dealership, if and when the relationship ends.
Many dealerships do not have fraternization policies in effect, oddly enough. As they are one of the primary businesses that will suffer from favoritism, one would think that they would want regulations in place to prevent employees from dating each other. If a finance manager is dating a salesperson, the potential exists for that salesperson to get faster deals, different perks, or more customers. The same situation would happen if the receptionist were in a relationship with someone in the sales department, as the other member of the sales staff may miss calls due to them being forwarded only to the receptionist’s romantic partner.
Unfortunately, some corporations’ hands are bound by the legality of such policies. While it is considered legal to establish very specific policies, a fraternization policy is largely dependent upon the state in which the dealership exists. For some states, it has to be specified that no romantic relationships will be tolerated amongst co-workers, while in other cases it limits relationships of any kind outside the workplace. Some states argue that this is a violation of the National Labor Relations Act, which allows employees to congregate for moral support. Adversely, other states argue that the specification of romantic relationships violates an employee’s privacy rights. If this type of policy is put into place, it must specify in the first line, the purpose of the policy.
Auto dealerships are a different world than other workplaces. There is so much that is dependent on the relationships the employees share that intra-office romances would be extremely detrimental to the cohesiveness of the workplace. Would you rebel against this type of policy, or would you embrace it, dealership employees?