a bit unusual maybe but a real life encounter and might be a lesson for some of you and for me too in terms of what to do here and after from fellow startupers
a partner in 2 various start-up ventures was discovered messing with one of our best performing employees and i explicitly gave him a notice that this is something that should be avoided in order not to jeopardize our ventures, and was promised that it is over and also doing that he lied to me that they never had nothing but a friendly relationship and saw each other at cafés, basta, nothing more
now some half a year later, the employee resigned and they are dating on full scale and all this w/o disclosing how their relationship is evolving
just as i was afraid we lost our best performing employee in a circumstance that was 100% out of my control, and yet again i called him in for discussion and asked how they came to this and yet again he lies to me that she left on grounds quite unrelated to their relationship and the relationship recovered after she left
to make it short, all is bluff and i have come across numerous photos and also encounters where they are sneaking around the town to do whatever they had to do
what would you all do in this nightmarish case as we really have lost someone very well performing and specially considering her potential once we have launched our other products was tremendous, besides i am starting to loose confidence in a partner i trusted
I think expecting everyone to put their job above their relationships is unreasonable. In this case you really did not leave your partner with any good choices. You had two adults that wanted a relationship and given that I think the outcome is probably the best you could have expected. They kept their budding relationship discrete and once they wanted to be more serious, they arranged it so that it would not be harmful to the company. The alternative would have been for her to stay and for your partner to leave, would that have been better?
Losing good employees is never fun but thinking that people can spend the amount of time together that you do in a startup and that you'll never get a relationship between employees is probably hoping for too much.
To me the main problem is not the relationship itself. Only one knows what's going on one one's mind and heart.
Yes, loosing your best programmer may hurt your business in the short run, but to me, what I cannot stand, are the lies!
If someone lied to me, that would show a total lack of respect to me and an immediate end of trust to him/her. I simply cannot trust someone who lies to me, and it gets worst if that someone is your partner.
If your need your programmer back and are willing to "agree" with the relationship, call her back. Open your game. Say that you don't mind and would like to have her back, but do state that you would appreciate some discretion.
Forget about it. It is history - there is nothing you can do about it. It seems like it is occupying your mind and is a distraction from your work.
Find a new employee or perhaps use the previous one as a contractor.
Talk with your partner and discuss your lack of confidence in the relationship and how you will work together in the future.
Based on what I can see of your frame of mind and apparent viewpoint - you should either address it and move on together, or you separate.
The bigger problem could be the fact that this could have opened the door to legal problems, as sexual harassment could be the charge, when they break up, as she could say that she felt pressured to be in the relationship due to the difference in position.
You should have a policy that superiors not be in a relationship with subordinates for this reason, so that if they do have a relationship and you find out about it you deal with the superior, to protect against charges if you fire the subordinate.
For a founder to not care enough about the health of the company is troubling.
I remember a boss in a graduate business class talking about how he would joke with the secretaries, and it was suggested that he stop that friendly, sexual banter, due to possible concerns later.
Policies are in place to protect the business, not to be a jerk, and you may need to have someone come in and talk about sexual harassment, so that others understand why such a rule is in place.
Honestly, I wouldn't put the blame on him. Human relationships are always a complex matter, and at the beginning, it's perfectly possible that he wasn't sure about the true nature of it. It's only normal to say "just friends" in such a situation.
Why don't you just try to get her back in the job, with someone else but him as a superior? BTW, do I smell a bit of jealousy in your question?
What would I do? Mind my own business and stay out of it. For the record, I'm not the partner ;)