Some companies have policies where people may date but that the two individuals can't be working in the same department or be in a supervisor/subordinate relationship.

But with projects, you often see situations where cross-functional and/or self-organizing teams are created to solve a series of different problems. Sometimes these teams last indefinitely.

If you, as a project manager, suspect that two members of your team may be in a relationship, should this be something you should be concerned with? Risk can appear in many forms, and management finding out about the relationship could cause you to lose one or both of your team members. Additionally, if the relationship were to end, that could cause a team dynamic issue if the two members are unable to work together.

Is this something one should be concerned with? How would you handle this scenario? What is the proper procedure for handling this situation?

  • 4
    The problem will be even bigger if one of these persons is yourself :)
    – yegor256
    Mar 8, 2011 at 20:16
  • @yegor - Lol, nope! Not me! :)
    – jmort253
    Mar 9, 2011 at 3:41

2 Answers 2

  • If there are no policies against dating and we discuss two team members (not superior and subordinate) I wouldn't step in until relation affects how the project goes.

  • If there is a policy against dating I would wait until I have more than just a suspicion and then approach one of daters to remind in a polite way about the rules asking whether they were aware of them. I'd probably choose to talk with one which I have better relationship with and I can do it more informally.

  • If we discuss superior-subordinate relation I would wait until I have more than just a suspicion but then I'd act with more determination. First, I'd ask directly whether there is such relationship. If confirmed I'd try to organize teams in a way where superior is not dating their subordinate. If teams are self-organized I'd clearly explain my expectations that this kind of organization isn't accepted, but since we discuss only a manager-team member relation here my guess is it would be hardly a matter of self-organization.

  • If we discuss superior-subordinate relation which is denied after direct inquiry and it appears to exist after all it's a hit on the trust and it becomes and the main issue becomes lack of trust and not relationship.

As a rule of thumb, as long as any policies doesn't say anything else, private matters of team members are their private matters. The only situation where it becomes a problem for me is when superior is dating their subordinate.

  • 3
    Depending on location in the world, commenting on anyone's private life might be against the law. Make very, very, very sure that you look at the local HR guidelines before you say anything
    – SBWorks
    Mar 8, 2011 at 4:26
  • Forgot about that one. But then policies against dating would be against the law as well. wouldn't they? Mar 8, 2011 at 7:29
  • Now that you say that, I'm not sure if there are laws about dating... I've only seen ones about private life vs. public life - as in "what I do outside of work is not your business" type laws.
    – SBWorks
    Mar 9, 2011 at 23:52
  • I thought about laws regarding employer inquiries about employees' private lives and/or eventual discrimination of people who are dating. If such law is in place employer setting anti-dating policy would break it. Mar 10, 2011 at 7:54
  • Great answer. +1 @SBWorks - My only argument against the "private matters" argument is that dating on the team could impact the performance of the team if that private information were to become public knowledge, or if the dating team members bring their problems to work. Like in politics, what you do on your off time could have an impact on your professional life.
    – jmort253
    Mar 16, 2011 at 6:16

I would suggest to setup a project-wide Policy of Conduct, which shall be a subset of corporate rules (nobody read them). Write a skeleton of it (one page) and discuss with all project members. Let them raise their concerns and vote for it.

Review it regularly (once a quarter). Let them all share your concerns. They have to understand why dating is bad for the project. Maybe it's not?

  • 1
    I don't think that law is best suit for this kind of problem. You can't prohibit your team member coming in a relationship. Mar 9, 2011 at 2:47
  • @Hoang you can't prohibit Romeo to see Juliet, but you can keep them away from poison.
    – yegor256
    Mar 9, 2011 at 5:49

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