Inappropriate relationships in the professional work environment can take shape in many forms. It is important for professionals to know the line between friendly and personable and inappropriate actions that make clients and patients feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. Healthy relationships are necessary for working with clients and patients but also for inside the workplace among coworkers and employers.
Appropriate and Inappropriate Relationships
Good relationships at work are developed through interaction and building rapport with those that professionals must work with on a daily basis. A friendly environment builds trust between professionals and clients, and ultimately helps businesses build a strong reputation and community. Being professional and ethical is a given, but it is also important to be respectful of others when mistakes are made, be understanding to others and their specific situations, and be open to communication and listening to other points of view. It can be difficult to maintain professionalism when there are problems or disputes, but professionals are held to a higher standard than their clients and patients.
Inappropriate relationships can take many forms, and one of the most obvious is office romances or romantic relationships with clients and patients. The general rule is that office romances do happen and are acceptable for the most part. The best way to avoid problems of professionalism in the office is to check the policy on romantic relationships or contact a human resources representative. Romantic relationships with clients and patients are generally not acceptable, especially in healthcare. Relationships with clients and patients are unethical and could be grounds for loss of license in many professions. Some of these professions include teachers, social workers, physicians, physician assistants, nurses, dentists, therapists, counselors, psychologists.
The major reason for why romantic relationships between these professionals and clients are unethical and sometimes illegal is because it takes away from the goal of the professional relationship, which is to help the client, and it exploits the vulnerability of the patient or client. Professionals could compromise their ability to make objective decisions about client and patient care and it could cause detrimental harm emotionally, mentally, physically, and financially.
For professionals such as hairdressers, bartenders, construction workers, and those that do not work with children or in healthcare, romantic relationships may not be illegal or grounds for loss of license, but it is still a delicate situation. In many companies and businesses, romantic relationships with clients may be grounds for disciplinary action, but even if it is not against policy, there are a few things the professional should consider. The first is whether the relationship would conflict with professional duties. The second consideration is whether the professional relationship involves a power difference between the professional and client in a way that could be considered coercive. The last consideration is whether the relationship could reflect poorly on the business, company, or organization.
Pursuing romantic relationships is a great thing; however, working as a professional means considering all factors before doing so with people that you work with. If you are working as a licensed professional, you are held to a higher standard of professionalism and representing your company and your field of work. Entering relationships that are potentially unprofessional or problematic can lead to discipline, lawsuits, and pain to clients. If you fear that you are facing legal issues due to a relationship at work, call and speak with one of our attorneys who can discuss your options with you.