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A co-manager would like to date a subordinate's sister, what are the ethics on a Manager dating a subordinate's family member?

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  • Is the subordinate's sister a subordinate of the manager? Edit your question to clarify this point. It’s currently unclear if that’s the case or not.
    – Donald
    Commented Mar 11 at 22:54
  • I know that we can have 1 pilot and 1 co-pilot flying the same plane, which is beneficial/normal because the pilot is actually has more experience and authority than the co-pilot. But, I have never heard of any company that allows 1 manager and 1 co-manager to manage 1 project at the same time. How does that work ? Commented Mar 11 at 23:48

4 Answers 4

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The ethics are simple: don't. This would be an serious conflict of interest whether it's technically against company policy or not.

There are tons of ways that this can go badly wrong. What is the sister the manager is dating doesn't like the way that the boss is treating her sibling? What if the manager has to discipline or fire the employee in question for some reason? What if the employee doesn't like how the manager is treating their sister or the relationship doesn't work out? Any of these scenarios (and many more) would be problematic.

If the co-manager insists on proceeding with this relationship, the employee should ideally be transferred to another manager (or, at a minimum, the co-manager must recuse themself from decisions about hiring, firing, promotions, etc. of the employee).

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  • Thank you! This was the closest to how I felt of the situation. I have seen too many times, it go badly...people love to sue. Plain and simple, bad judgement. I don't think my co-worker sees it the same way, unfortunately. Since there is no policy forbidding relationships with non-employees that are related to the staff, Ill just have to hold my breath on this. Commented Mar 25 at 23:09
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Check your company's policies.

As others have said, it must be unquestionably clear that the employee is not receiving preferential treatment.

The simplest answer may be to transfer the employee to another manager. That should be enough distance that most companies, and most employees, will be comfortable.

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There are no ethical concerns that an HR department would raise. But it's not a good idea to "fish from the company pier" or even near it.

If things should sour between this manager and the employee's sister, it will make things really awkward in the manager-subordinate relationship. If the employee is really protective of their sister, the employee may spread rumors at work. In current times, if the manager is a male, the wrong rumor floating around may be enough for the company to put some distance between themselves and the manager. It's really not worth it.

When things are good in situations like this, they're great!!! But when things turn bad, the manager still has to work with this subordinate every day and not have the personal stuff affecting the business stuff.

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Does it happen? Absolutely.
Can is successfully happen? Sure can.
Would I advise it?

Well, put it this way. You can absolutely run a full sprint through a minefield and come out alive. You may even be able to do this once or twice. You can do this with me wishing you the best success in the world.

That is not the question.

The question is 'Is this a Wise course of action?' - which I trust my above statement illustrates my feelings on this matter.

However, Love is entirely irrational. And if its a genuine feeling, being prepared to risk it all for the sake of Love is (Hallmark channel not withstanding) admirable.

Is it Ethical? So long as all parties act and be seen to act Ethically, then sure.

But if word gets out that a Manager is dating a family member and that family member does anything that is not 100% ironclad achieved on Merit - you can be sure the rumour mill will start up with avengence.

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