Am I in a "supervisory relationship," or do I have a "reporting responsibility" over a colleague in a team I happen to be the most experienced developer on?

Company policies:

If employees begin a dating relationship or become relatives, partners or members of the same household and one employee is in a supervisory relationship over the other, that person is required to inform management and Human Resources of the relationship.


Close relatives, partners, those in a dating relationship or members of the same household are not permitted to be in positions that have a reporting responsibility to each other.

closed as off-topic by Joe Strazzere, Chris G, jimm101, Michael Grubey, Masked Man Oct 11 '16 at 6:08

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  • 1
    Legally, your actual role matters much less than the role which is assigned to you by your contract. If your contract says you're a “software engineer”, and the other concerned person is also a “software engineer”, there is no supervisory relationship, even if one of you took over years a role of a team lead and has twice the salary compared to other members. – Arseni Mourzenko Oct 10 '16 at 19:32
  • "when I don't know, I still consult him" This is also what you should consider doing in this situation. – Masked Man Oct 11 '16 at 6:09

If You Aren't Even Sure, Others Might Wonder Too

The biggest danger in the situation you describe is that you yourself aren't really sure where the line is. Everyone else in your company will probably have an even less clear view of your relationship, so this is a big sign of danger.

The danger? If you are accused of misbehavior (whether it be negative towards the person you are in a relationship with, or 'positive' in form of favoring them compared to other people), how hard would it be to defend yourself?

If you are in a very unambiguous situation like being two rank and file team members, then it would be far less reasonable for anyone to think you have an inappropriate relationship which is violating the rules. But when you are maybe-kinda-sorta in a leadership position, such as unofficial assistant or informal tech lead and regularly report to your manager how other people are doing?

Well, that is enough to make a reasonable person wonder. Sure, maybe nothing is wrong, but if a reasonable person from an outside perspective can wonder, that puts you in a very bad position.

You Don't Want to Seem To Be Hiding Something

From your manager's perspective, especially if you are asked to report on other's performance and progress, if you are in a relationship that would cause you to have a "conflict of interest" that makes you less likely to report bad behavior, or more likely to give overly positive reports, or even that makes you less likely to give any report for fear of being seen as playing favorites...it sure would be nice to have some idea of what's going on so that they'd be able to factor that into your assessments.

And if the fact you are in a relationship just comes up and is a total surprise? That could get uncomfortable quickly, and they could begin to think back and wonder, "just exactly how long has this been going - and do I believe they've been giving me honest assessments in the past?"

Don't Ruin a Good Thing

It sounds like you are coming to be in a favored position in your team, and this suggests you would be in a good position in the future for promotion. A loss of trust could end that entirely. And as for your budding relationship - realizing you lost out of opportunities because of your significant other probably won't help kindle any flames.

If you are sufficiently unsure about whether or not this is something you should report, you should probably strongly consider asking your manager if they think you'd have anything to report. You could also consider talking with HR (preferably with some kind of trail/documentation), as reporting something they don't care about (they decide you aren't in a supervisory role so they don't care) is probably less risky than them finding out about something they believe you should have reported to them long ago.

This whole situation is a general gray area and is strongly dependent on your personal situation. In all gray areas it's usually better to get yourself out of the gray area by being cautious, rather than just standing around and waiting for someone else to decide just how dark that shade of gray really is.

  • Definitely talk to HR. Just ask them, what harm can it do. They will tell you definitively if you have to formerly report it or not. There are some extremely good reasons for this kind of procedure. If you cannot obey the rule of 'no relationships with people you work with' then at least show your company enough respect that if you are questioning on here then you should be questioning HR. They are not your enemy. It might seem like that as they often do the firing as well as the hiring, but they perform a valuable function that should be respected. – PaulD Oct 10 '16 at 20:33
  • As I was friends with my direct manager who I knew would be sympathetic to me, I requested a meeting with the manager above him. I expected a signing of forms, and procedures to ensure I wouldn't participate in any of my coworker's annual evaluations (which, I already wouldn't anyway, since I wasn't her manager). This upper manager said to me that he didn't see it causing any problems, and I left the meeting feeling good, and my coworker was extremely relieved. – Andrew Cheong Jan 24 '17 at 10:42
  • The next day though, my coworker was swiftly moved to a new team, upsetting her greatly, she herself having expressed recently that she felt she finally learned enough to be useful to the team. I guess I should have seen it coming. I think it really depends on who you're dealing with. Many advised me against giving my company 4-12 weeks' notice to leave, yet it turned into a 3.5-year remote working arrangement from San Diego. I had a different manager's manager back then. – Andrew Cheong Jan 24 '17 at 10:42
  • Anything can happen, but you should know whose hands you're placing your career into, before you make risky moves. I don't actually regret my decision to tell because, as you said, "You Don't Want to Seem To Be Hiding Something." Even if I wasn't actually a part of her evaluations, I had the occasional conversation about her with one of the two managers, and an uncovered relationship later would cast doubt on all those conversations. I just wish my manager's manager didn't give me an "OK, all's fine," for me to relay to my coworker, "We're safe, don't worry," before turning it all upside-down. – Andrew Cheong Jan 24 '17 at 10:43

Remember - I'm just someone you've never met. I reserve the right to be wrong.

The way I read it, you don't have to report this to HR because neither of you formally report to the other -- no one fills out performance reviews or can fire the other.


Face it - everyone's going to figure it out sooner or later. Will that cause problems?

Could such a relationship make it difficult to promote you if your boss is hit by a bus?

What would happen if the relationship sours (it happens) and you still have to work closely with this person?

The obvious advice, not always followed, is "don't date someone you work with".

Tread carefully.

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