Barista Magazine

FEB-MAR 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

Issue link: https://baristamagazine.epubxp.com/i/931664

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BECAUSE WORKERS ARE HUMAN, navigating romantic relation- ships will always be part of the workplace. While the coffee industry boasts many power couples who got together on the job and went on to do great things, we've all seen the ugly side of workplace romances: breakups that leave workers unable to carry a shift together, sexual-ha- rassment that most companies have to address without the benefi t of HR, nepotism leading to unequal treatment, and more. Coffee compa- nies have come up with myriad strategies for approaching relationship policy running a gamut of formality levels, from unspoken social mores all the way to policies that strive to prevent romantic relationships in the workplace altogether. Which ones are effective? To determine that, cof- fee companies will have to think about what they are trying to prevent and what they're trying to foster. WHY YOU NEED POLICY Coffee companies should have a relationship policy on paper, regard- less of what direction they want to take said policy. Many companies rely on unwritten or even unspoken rules like "use your judgment," or decide how to handle relationships on a case-by-case basis, leading to inequitable treatment of workers. Most managers do their best to treat everyone fairly and equally, but because they too are only human, they often fall prey to unconscious bias or just simply don't know how to handle something as complex as human romantic interactions. Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) chief sustainability offi cer Kim Elena Ionescu, who met her husband in the workplace, advises businesses to create an on-paper policy even if they aren't completely sure it's the perfect one. "Put it in writing, whatever it is," she says. "You can come back to it if you want to revise it, but please formalize it and publicize it." Policies that don't exist have no way of being managed or enforced by leadership, so they make things infi nitely more diffi cult for managers. In addition to creating diffi cult situations for management, unwritten policy can lead to sexual-harassment issues and discrimina- tion against queer couples. Jasper Wilde, educator at San Francisco's Ritual Coffee Roasters, points to on-paper policy as a tool to prevent discrimination: "If there is nothing on paper, the boss at that time has to call the shots, and that can change from month to month or year to year," Jasper says. Cimara Dunn, director of education at Quills Coffee in Louisville, Ky., highlights sexual-harassment as one of many reasons to craft solid policy. "Policies are absolutely necessary in order to protect your employees. One place I worked went years without a written policy, as many small and tight-knit businesses do. The company grew, and when an issue did arise, it snowballed from a series of behaviors that each could have been shut down with a policy. Instead, the surround- ing employees and guests were made to feel uncomfortable for far longer than was acceptable before a tangible line was crossed. Ro- mantic-relationship policies are closely related to harassment policies; it's important to offer your employees a safe space where they know they will be taken seriously." ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS When creating relationship policy, many coffee companies don't ask the right questions about what they're trying to prevent from happening, al- lowing unconscious assumptions to craft policy that's only tangential to their real concerns. Umeko Motoyoshi, head of coffee at Sudden Coffee in San Francisco, advises people to think critically about what they're afraid of. "A lot of people will simply say, 'It's bad to date someone at work; that's why we have relationship policies,' without really examining it any further than that." But in actuality, if businesses want to properly prevent and address the sub-issues that stem from relationships, they need to suss out what those sub-issues are and address them directly in addition to having a relationship policy. For instance, Umeko says, if business owners and managers are concerned about public displays of affection, they should write an additional policy preventing public displays of affection; if they're afraid of people getting unfair raises or promotions, they should create policies that defi ne when people get raises and promotions. COMMON POLICIES AND THEIR SUBTEXT #1: "You can't date your manager." This policy seeks to prevent issues of nepotism and abusive power dynamics, but because it doesn't address them directly, it's not effective "THE IDEA THAT PEOPLE SHOULDN'T DATE IS JUST UNREALISTIC. IT HAPPENS. IT'S UNCOMFORTABLE TO ADMIT, BUT WHAT DO WE DO WHEN THAT HAPPENS?" —UMEKO MOTOYOSHI, SUDDEN COFFEE 88 barista magazine

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