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I have a question - but the need a bit of background. I apologize if I'm vague in some areas, but I can't give too much info about the company itself due to non-disclosure agreements.

I have worked here for 13 years, and it started out as a small company with about 7 people. In that time it has grown - now to about 100 people. As it started small, many of us who worked together were family/friends/romantically involved and it was fine, mostly due to our small size. It was honestly like working for one giant family.

So, in that time, my partner began working here as well (7 years in the company, 8 years my partner). I have held a manager title most of that time, he does not - although he does not report directly to me. My best friend, who I met here, and has been my best friend for nearly 10 years now - also lives with me and my partner.

One day our CEO says to us that he has 'partnered' with an investment company, and essentially takes a huge check and checks out, leaving us all wondering what the hell is going to happen to us.

Naturally, the investment company wants to move us to a more corporate environment. They have just given us an employee manual (we have never had one) - and it basically forbids relationships between employees. I spoke with the HR person they have provided, who has informed me that in this type of situation the manager involved would be the person they asked to leave. I asked if the option to step out of management or into another type of role would be available, but they said the only option is to terminate the relationships or to leave. As I'm working on a wedding with my partner and my best friend lives with us/ maid of honor, etc - these are not relationships I can terminate and were fine with the old CEO.

So..... I guess the question is, am I honestly just out of a job because of this? Do I really have to give up what I have devoted most of my adult life to - a company I helped to build and recruit employees for? I feel like the answer is 'yes' and I'm really heartbroken by this because this place is so important to me but I don't see any other way. Are there options I don't know about? Anything that might help?

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    I don't have enough to write a good answer, but I would say definitely don't resign. If they want you to leave they are going to have to fire you, with severance pay. – David K Jun 20 '17 at 13:03
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    Go over HR's head. This is a situation that requires requires a more nuanced approach than drooling HR personnel can handle. – sleddog Jun 20 '17 at 13:10
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    The company you helped to build doesn't exist anymore. It was just assimilated by investment company. The company culture you knew and loved is in the process of being wiped out and replaced with that of investment company. – Philipp Jun 20 '17 at 13:11
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    :( I had no idea busting your tail for so long could end up ruining your career so badly. I suppose I'll need to consult a lawyer then, thanks for the tip. – Kelly Jun 20 '17 at 13:21
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    this is why you should never be loyal to a company because they will sell you out as soon as the money is right. – user1450877 Jun 20 '17 at 16:04
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Figured I would write an answer rather than a comment here because I think its important to check the following point of view.

Yes, the company you worked for is gone essentially as Joe said. But ponder this, the reason it was acquired was its success, with you being a big part of it. I am not an investment company but logic dictates they would definitely not want to let a key player like you (since you re up in the hierarchy as well) go for trivial reasons. Its very likely the HR rep sent is over their head with this matter, stuck on etiquette of a copy-pasted employee manual, instead of the business needs. Find out who is/will be in charge of running your company and take this to them. If they're even half-smart, they'll recognize your value and make an exception for you (since after all you're important AND you're being paid cheaply, so 1 stone 2 doves here), since after all your relationship was far preceding any new policy and isn't conflicting with either person's work life (as you said you're not your husband's manager).

If after all is said and done you re back to a dead-end, they clearly dont see your value and its time for you to detach from sentiments and get a killer job with top pay, making a case for the 13years rise to top dedicated to your ex-job.

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    Thanks. All the information here has been helpful, even if its not the answer I want. I will have my lawyer friend review the NDA and other agreements to see what my options are and try to pre-write my discussion with the CEO assuming I can get a meeting so I can present a case as best I can. You're right - I assume they bought us due to our reputation with our clients and our ability to make money fast and if I walk out (I have no documentation for my role as I'm the only one who has ever held it) they would be ... SOL. – Kelly Jun 20 '17 at 13:47
  • Exactly! Wish you best of luck. :) – Leon Jun 20 '17 at 13:58
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    "logic dictates they would definitely not want to let a key player like you...go for trivial reasons" -- maybe even more so if it's three people. Nothing says @Kelly needs to be the only one who leaves, if they can all find better positions elsewhere... – Monica Cellio Jun 21 '17 at 0:54
  • @MonicaCellio this can be subtly(so as not to come up as blackmailing) worded into her conversation with the new CEO for sure. – Leon Jun 21 '17 at 7:42
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They have just given us an employee manual (we have never had one) - and it basically forbids relationships between employees. I spoke with the HR person they have provided, who has informed me that in this type of situation the manager involved would be the person they asked to leave. I asked if the option to step out of management or into another type of role would be available, but they said the only option is to terminate the relationships or to leave.

That's unfortunate.

In acquisition cases, the acquiring company often provides an HR rep to handle such questions. They are usually specifically trained for such new-rules questions, and their responses are usually vetted through corporate management.

Still, make sure this HR rep understands that your partner does not report directly to you, in case that matters. (Sadly, it probably doesn't).

So..... I guess question is, am I honestly just out of a job because of this?

You can always appeal the decision to management, or even ask to speak with someone further up the HR chain. Exceptions can always be granted, but seldom are. It's probably worth a try; you have nothing to lose.

Do I really have to give up what I have devoted most of my adult life to - a company I helped to build and recruit employees for?

That company no longer exists. Your former CEO already gave it up on your behalf.

If you do stay, you need to realize that the old rules no longer apply because the old company is gone.

I've been through a number of acquisitions - both on the acquirer and acquired side. For me, it seldom ended well. Think of it this way - if you were on the market, would you have applied to the company that just acquired you? For me the answer was always No. Thus, you have basically gotten a new job at a company where you wouldn't have wanted to be employed. So it goes.

In some cases, I would have advised that you not raise this subject with HR, and hopefully slide under the radar or just have HR discover it on their own. But you mention in a comment that HR specifically indicated that not disclosing your relationships would be grounds for immediate termination. That leads me to suspect that they already knew about your relationship at that point anyway (perhaps from the former CEO?). But that's all behind you now. Time to move ahead and deal with what is.

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    "If you do stay, you need to realize that the old rules no longer apply because the old company is gone." That's what I'm coming to realize. I do wish I had known it would this end this way - maybe I'd have made my own company instead of helping to build his. Feel like I've wasted most of my life to be betrayed. I have no idea what I'm going to do now; but I guess I'll have to find some thing... in a whole new field..... somehow. :/ – Kelly Jun 20 '17 at 13:26
  • Are you sure you meant to add that to my answer and not to yours, Joe? – mag Jun 20 '17 at 13:39
  • "To be honest, if you had asked this question beforehand, I would have advised that you not raise this subject with HR, and hopefully slide under the radar or just have HR discover it on their own." They specifically held a meeting which indicated that not disclosing your relationships would be grounds for immediate termination. I was legitimately trying to follow their new rules - but yes, what's done is done. And no, I wouldn't have ever applied here. I wish I would have known he was doing this, as I could have left prior to all this new stuff. – Kelly Jun 20 '17 at 13:42
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So..... I guess question is, am I honestly just out of a job because of this?

Probably. The investment company has a pretty clear idea of what they want and from what it sounds like they don't want you. You've done what you could, which is raise it with the HR person, and they told you what course of action to expect, so you need to prepare for that.

Do I really have to give up what I have devoted most of my adult life to - a company I helped to build and recruit employees for?

Doesn't sound fair at all, does it? Life isn't fair and this is the result of your boss cashing out.

Are there options I don't know about?

Not unless you have a written contract that explicitly says they can't do this or live in Montana. Even if you live in Montana you're probably SOL. At will employment means this is definitely something they can fire you for.

Anything that might help?

Start looking for a new Job, get your resume polished, maybe ask that in the instance of references they don't refer to you as "terminated for cause" and hope that you find something before they can you.

  • That's really heartbreaking. :( I spent so long working for this place because I loved it and believed in it and I wanted to be here forever. Dream job and all. Now I'm stuck with a 3 year non-compete and it just feels awful. The whole point of the crap pay was the benefit of working for a place where people cared vs a corporate monster. That's sad but I guess if that's what it is then I'll have to deal. – Kelly Jun 20 '17 at 13:14
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    @Kelly Unfortunately, as Phillip commented on the OP, it seems to be turning into that corporate monster. Personally, at this point, the relationships you've formed are more important than the garbage the company is going to turn in to. It sounds like you can do a lot better in terms of where you work. – Kaizerwolf Jun 20 '17 at 13:16
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    @Kelly Best you can do is look for a new job and hope that they're not also vindictive in that they'd give you a bad reference. If you have a non compete you might need to honor that. Definitely don't resign though, wait until they fire you so you can collect unemployment. – mag Jun 20 '17 at 13:16
  • If the non-compete is implemented alongside the manual that provides these new polices that cause me to no longer be able to work here - can they still enforce it / is it really likely they will? Do they HAVE to enforce it if they find out? – Kelly Jun 20 '17 at 13:20
  • It is very likely they will try to enforce a non-compete or they would not have had you sign it. Whether it is actually enforceable is a a question for a lawyer. – HLGEM Jun 20 '17 at 13:27
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Adding an answer as I wanted to flesh out on the case for appealing for an exemption.

If they have a corporate policy of no relationships between staff, I would presume that coming from a starting point of:

  • People can often get involved with others at work (after-work drinks, office parties, etc.).
  • If it doesn't pan out well, it can sour a working relationship.
  • Let's prohibit relationships between staff as a deterrent for this.

To my mind, your situation is significantly different. If you're getting married, you're already in a committed long-term relationship.

They may be against that too, but it's completely different to "Let's try to prevent people getting together at the Christmas party".

For all we know too, they might be fine with stable relationships, & just don't have an exception in the listed policy because they've already nipped all the relationships in the bud before they get that far along.

I think it's definitely worth escalating past the HR-rep for a second opinion.


Also, you mentioned in a comment:

I've got a really strict non-compete agreement now as well - part of the acquisition.

If this is just an employee handbook that's been given to you, and you haven't signed a new contract since the acquisition, I presume this non-compete doesn't apply to you (not a lawyer, etc. or US-based).

If you haven't signed anything new, I definitely wouldn't do so now til they come to some arrangement around your other concerns.

  • I'd find it hard to believe they implement an after the fact policy to fire long-time, productive employees with no supervisory relationship between them at work, or to break up their personal relationships. But I could be wrong. Certainly, an HR drone brought in to parrot the policy manual isn't going to be the way to go. Maybe @Kelly can try moving up the food chain, starting with the immediate supervisor and asking that they take the matter to those above them. Nothing to lose at this point. Would be interesting to know if they collected signatures on non-compete before the handbook. – PoloHoleSet Jun 20 '17 at 16:32
  • This ignores one of the other major reasons for relationship rules, which is bias towards a spouse. If you manage or work closely with your spouse, you are more likely to show them preference, or be unwilling to challenge them on their decisions. It's why many companies don't care if you are in a relationship with someone, so long as you do not directly manage each other. – David K Jun 20 '17 at 16:32
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    @DavidK - OP clearly and specifically stated that there is no supervisory chain between OP and soon-to-be-spouse ("I have held a manager title most of that time, he does not - although he does not report directly to me."). That reason has already been covered/avoided by previous ownership and does not apply here. I think that's why anotherdave didn't delve into that aspect. – PoloHoleSet Jun 20 '17 at 16:35
  • @PoloHoleSet Yes, but the HR rep specifically said it's because OP is a manager and her spouse is not, regardless of reporting chain. That tells me the policy exists for more reasons than just avoiding the aftermath of ended relationships. The reasoning above for "For all we know too, they might be fine with stable relationships" is clearly flawed. – David K Jun 20 '17 at 16:43
  • @DavidK - I did not get that, at all. I got that, in this case, who they asked to leave would be the person higher up the food chain, not that this was problematic specifically because of that. I got that the policy would be that someone would be asked to leave, even if one was not supervisory, if the relationship was there, and don't see anything to suggest anything different. Certainly, I could be wrong, though. – PoloHoleSet Jun 20 '17 at 16:45

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