partner messing around with employees


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 caf├ęs, 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

thanks mates


asked Jan 19 '10 at 15:11
101 points
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6 Answers


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.

answered Jan 19 '10 at 15:32
1,866 points
  • i do agree that people might start develop affection towards each other in any circumstances, and definitely in such environment as in startups sorry if i was not explicit enough, but in my initial conversation with him, i gave him the choice of disclosing his actual relationship so that certain duties he would be relieved from certain duties, such as being her boss mandate over her salary or appraisal in general, so my idea was not to suffocate their relationship rather to bring it to daylight – Gobezu 14 years ago
  • Sorry for the misunderstanding. I completely agree that the relationship, if it exists, cannot be hidden. The relationship (especially with a subordinate) must be disclosed and managed. It appears this is exactly what you were trying to do. – Dane 14 years ago


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.

answered Jan 19 '10 at 22:47
Fernando Martins
798 points
  • Yeah +1 on the lie rather than the fact it was a relationship. – Jason 14 years ago
  • @Fernando that's the issue in a nutshell, lies and damn lies, lies here and there, and ultimately it kinda takes the fun out of everything – Gobezu 14 years ago
  • Will that situation eventually "get fixed" or is it a "dead-end"? If it's a "dead end" and you're not happy, maybe it's time to rethink your start-up/partnership. – Fernando Martins 14 years ago


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.

answered Jan 19 '10 at 15:38
Tim J
8,346 points
  • actually i have pondered on that very option, and know that i need to let go but brought it up here in mere resignation and also to be frank, if i had figured this initially i would have put it in my partnership agreement, not to prevent relationships but how to conduct once domain of responsibility once it have got to that point thank you though for your advice – Gobezu 14 years ago


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.

answered Jan 19 '10 at 17:44
James Black
2,642 points
  • I agree with James. You should consider your company lucky that it was not sued for sexual harassment of a subordinate by a superior. Regrettably, this incident suggests that your partner may be untrustworthy in other ways, as well. For the near term, at least, you need to pay extra-close attention to everything he says and does - a situation that does not make for an efficient working relationship. Disclaimer: This post does not constitute legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. – Dana Shultz 14 years ago
  • @Dana - Thank you for agreeing. I was concerned I could be off-base. – James Black 14 years ago
  • @James @Dana thank you, you both mention potential issues that definitely goes through ones mind, and as far as i can see the takeaway is to regulate ahead of time in partnership agreements this kind of mess, b/c ppl that seem rational gets really carried away once the snowball have started... further as James correctly pointed out clauses regulating these kinda relations have been introduced in our company policy, already some weeks after I had my initial talk with him – Gobezu 14 years ago
  • @gobezu - You will want a lawyer to come in, or someone trained in this area, to explain about sexual harassment, as just having a policy may not protect you, but, if you explained it, and have it documented that they attended, then your policy should state the response, but that will need to be worked out with a lawyer to limit your liability, and have an addendum to your founder's agreement regarding this. – James Black 14 years ago


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?

answered Jan 19 '10 at 19:14
Ammo Q
561 points
  • hahaha, jealousy, yeah, before i even started talking to him the first time, i gave that possible interpretation by him of my intention some thought, but simply there is no such – Gobezu 14 years ago


What would I do? Mind my own business and stay out of it. For the record, I'm not the partner ;)

answered Jan 20 '10 at 14:14
346 points

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