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I am a member of management working in cybersecurity division with a double digit number team members reporting to me. We have a matrix management structure in which a team member also has a project manager for which they report to on day to day project specific work the PM is responsible for. I have about 10 years of experience in the company.

Recently, I started dating another colleague who is a PM for a project for which two of my team members will be joining. We really like each other and want to continue moving ahead. Experience wise in company, she is significantly more junior with 3 years of experience. The project has potential to be a full quarter, maybe more. I will still be their functional manager. My company requires employee dating relationships to be disclosed to HR.

How do I minimize conflict of interest in case team members come to me for support? (duty to team members vs. desire to protect my gf / date)?

How do I ensure my team members on the project still has adequate functional management support if needed?

Solutions I considered and drawbacks of each that I can think of:

  • Request my manager to be the temporary functional manager of my 2 team members while they have a dotted line reporting relationship to the PM. Drawback: I may appear lazy or incapable and freeloading on others.**

  • Have team members join project of another PM. Drawback: I could be impairing career goals of my team members for a ulterior motive. I could be hindering the role / career success of the PM by denying her qualified resources.

Edit to respond to deleted comment that suggested protection of my date is improper:

I don't want her to be in a situation where she needs to choose between her job or our relationship via denial of qualified team members to her.

I do not want my date to feel she has to bottle up her frustrations on the project related to my 2 team members (unlikely though), and possibly have our personal lives affected as a result.

Most importantly, I do not want to be put in situation where my team members suffer due to bickering of their 2 managers when dating. I do not want to have to mediate.

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    You can’t avoid having a conflict of interest here… you already have one. All you can do is mitigate it. If you want to avoid a conflict of interest, one of you has to go to a different division or company.
    – ColleenV
    Jul 24, 2023 at 1:44
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    Comments are intended to help improve a post or seek clarification. Please don't answer the questions in the comments. These can't be easily voted on as the best answers, and they may inadvertently prevent other users from providing real answers. Please see How should I post a useful non-answer if it shouldn't be a comment? for more guidance. Note: input from OP to now-deleted comments has been left since it provides context. @Anthony please consider including that info in the post itself.
    – Lilienthal
    Jul 24, 2023 at 19:33
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    Why is “Disclose the relationship to HR” (as is required by the company) not one of your possible solutions?
    – gidds
    Jul 25, 2023 at 9:43
  • Can you please say whether is your first language, or not? Jul 25, 2023 at 21:40
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    @gidds , that would only disclose the conflict of interest, but not solve it. Like I said, I DO NOT want to mediate between my team members on the project if a job issue occurs due to my relationship with their PM.
    – Anthony
    Jul 26, 2023 at 16:40

3 Answers 3

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As you wrote, you have a process for this; simply follow it. Inform HR; they will inform you about any concrete short-term aspects you have to keep in mind.

If there is some policy which restricts certain operational entanglements in your matrix between partners, then HR will advise you about that.

Then you'll sit down with your boss or possibly other managers to un-entangle this.

At any point it is always possible and often advisable for a manager with significant power (as you are as a disciplinary lead, or as a project manager) to bow out of some situation due to self-proclaimed conflict of interest. That is, you want to make sure that no direct or dotted lines appear in the organogram between you and your future partner; and also no lines to other people that cross the two of you (in a downward or sideways direction; you can of course have the same boss or boss's boss - this will be kind of inevitable in most cases).

For example, as a team-lead, I would never do an interview with a potential new employee which is a friend of my family; I would disclose that at the first moment I get notice that they are trying to join our company. I would also stay very transparent about this after they join us - I would strictly not put myself into a "line of power" in relationship to said friend. I would never take part in any discussions about, say, disciplinary actions regarding that friend. It would be no effort for me, but just a clear, transparent statement. You can do the same with your partner.

All of this may be slightly idealistic. If it turns out that your company works in a different way (e.g., that you get significant backlash, or that someone tells you to do something shady while pretending otherwise, and so on and forth), you'll have to do some soul-searching and figure out what to do; but that would be a follow-up scenario.

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As required by your company policy, make sure to disclose your dating relationship with your colleague to HR. This is the first step in ensuring transparency and addressing any potential conflicts upfront.

All subsequent issues can be resolved with the help of HR and your manager.

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    With the "help" of HR. HR is not there to help you.
    – user135112
    Jul 27, 2023 at 10:33
  • @Gantendo In this case it may be, help OP not get fired. Even in the jurisdictions with better employee protections, improper handling of conflicts of interest can be grounds for termination as it can expose the company to legal risks.
    – cdkMoose
    Jul 28, 2023 at 8:22
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Employee dating relationships to be disclosed to HR.

How do I minimize conflict of interest in case team members come to me for support? (duty to team members vs. desire to protect my gf / date)?

How do I ensure my team members on the project still has adequate functional management support if needed?

When people say HR only exists to protect the company, this is an example where their existence is good. Once you notify HR, they should determine a course of action.

Hiding the relationship could cost people their jobs, and the company could face lawsuits if the issues aren't addressed. If somebody finds out, and you are hiding the relationship, that person could use their knowledge to extract a benefit.

Tell the other person that it is time to go to HR.

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