This is somewhat of a weird situation to explain. I am a senior, C level executive and am dating somebody from another part of the company. There are no overlapping parts in the day to day business of my partner and me. My partner is no direct report or similar of mine.

So far so good, but the brother of the coworker I am dating is dating one of my direct reports (the relationship with the employee and myself is problematic due to an ongoing issue he is having with parts of the team).

Now I am attending family gatherings of my partner, which the coworker is also attending. This is of course starting rumours as well as fears that I will favour my direct report in the ongoing conflict. How can I tactfully set boundaries to avoid this pending disaster? Thoughts? Opinions? Advice?

  • Explain "another part of the company", do you mean a different division where you have no input, responsibility, or authority?
    – Steve
    Commented Dec 27, 2021 at 21:42
  • @Steve I have no direct influence to other divisions except mine. The output of my division is however used in other parts of the company, including the one where my SO works. I therefore could indirectly influence them.
    – tyrell
    Commented Dec 27, 2021 at 22:38
  • ‘My direct reports girlfriends brothers sister is my girlfriend and i don’t know what to do! ‘ Would have made for a more interesting question title, also describing the first family dinner together after you chewed out the guy in a previous scene with a classic pie in your face reveal that the family loves him more than you and it seems like its causing your girlfriend to have second thoughts because you can’t get along. Forcing you to learn how to be a nice guy at work, and at home while also realizing you can learn something from everyone would have been a far better rom/com script. Commented Jan 2, 2022 at 7:44

1 Answer 1


If you are C-level and asking for advice I'm guessing it is a small company. Were it a big company, there should be policies in place that draw the lines on what should or should not be done.

In a small company, there is likely an "owner" figure, who will ultimately have the decision on the matter. Personally talk to them. Otherwise, in a big company, you'd likely have to talk to the board of advisors.

First, as long as all romantic relationships are minimally stable (i.e. no one is considering a break-up over the next month, though this is a very sensitive matter to discuss), I would advise for disclosure. People should know, so there is no hearsay. You should comment on the facts now and then so people feel free to ask about any misunderstanding that may be roaming around. Imagine for example that your SO was promoted a year ago, but you've just started dating last month, people hear that you are dating and may be suspicious that the promotion from last year was already the product of her being favored by your influence.

Nobody believes that you would treat fairly and professionally someone who you meet in family gatherings, especially when harsh decisions need to be made. This is why every serious company has policies against it. So you will very likely have to transfer or dismiss this direct report of yours. Either that or step down. I recommend talking to her about the situation so you can work together with time in your favor. Everything may be fine now, but if any relevant suspicion of nepotism is reported to the board, you will be out of time to take action, and will likely be offered the opportunity to resign from your duties.

As far as your question pictures the situation, your SO should be in an okay situation. But that is also dependent on the company's culture. I've heard of a C-level that worked for a highly hierarchical company, and because of that, his son wasn't allowed to have any job in the same company, regardless of how far he would be from his father's sphere of influence.

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    Thank you for your response. I will disclose the relationship and inform HR about it for full transparency. I will explore the option of transferring my direct report to a different division, since he has expressed the wish that he would like to face new challenges.
    – tyrell
    Commented Dec 28, 2021 at 0:29
  • "So you will very likely have to transfer or dismiss this direct report of yours." Are you saying that firing one of your direct reports because he's related to your girlfriend is a viable option? Commented Jan 1, 2022 at 4:55
  • In this situation OP would also have to disclose the relationship between the brother of his SO and his direct report. That sounds like a violation of privacy rules.
    – Chris
    Commented Jan 1, 2022 at 9:23
  • @Accumulation depends on the problem you want to solve. Of the problem is achieving compliance with the anti-nepotism policies of the company, then yes. I'm not recommending it, but in many serious places, OP would be directly ordered to find a suitable solution, if he refuses or fails, then either himself or the direct report would be transferred (to unemployment if needed be).
    – Mefitico
    Commented Jan 1, 2022 at 19:35

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