The ethics of adhering to company policy

Thursday 22 July, 2021
by Anonymous

Two employees in your team, Alex and Jesse are in a relationship. They have disclosed their personal relationships in accordance with company policy which permits relationships between employees of equal standing but has a zero tolerance rule against relationships between superiors and their direct reports.

A new position has become available and Alex is the most qualified candidate for the role. The hiring manager wants to offer Alex the position, however has notified HR that it will require Alex's partner, Jesse to report directly to him.

To accommodate, Jesse – who is a high performer within the team, and has been offered a role in a different department, but he doesn't wish to move. Both Alex and Jesse believe that their relationship will not affect their ability to perform, and you have no objections to the relationship. 

 What would you do? 

  • As the manager of both Alex and Jesse in a management role for the organisation, where does your duty lie?
  • Is this situation worthy of an exception to the policy?
  • What is the fairest response to this situation?

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There are 4 comments for The ethics of adhering to company policy.

Re: The ethics of adhering to company policy

Friday 23 July, 2021
by Peter
The missing argument is the effect on other workers if the promotion of Alex goes ahead and Jesse reports to him. Coworkers can reasonably argue that their rights and expectations to fair treatment on the job are at material risk of compromise from the continuing relationship, if Alex is promoted and there is no other change. I would have a meeting with Alex and Jesse and put that consequence to them. The position of promoting Alex and moving Jesse to a comparable position, thereby preserves the rights and reasonable expectations of third party coworkers and looks to be the best overall outcome. Further just promoting Alex and so compromising company policy opens other unrelated positions to be asserted that may further read down coworker rights.

Re: The ethics of adhering to company policy

Friday 23 July, 2021
by Edwina
I think if you start making exceptions to the rule you open up an opportunity for people to justify bending the rules more often. The organisation has already tried to accommodate by providing Jesse with another role. It falls on Jesse and Alex to determine how they weigh up their career and relationship choices.

Re: The ethics of adhering to company policy

Friday 23 July, 2021
by Joanne
I think these situations are a good opportunity to check whether the 'rule' is still fit for purpose? Ask why it was put in place in the first place. With hybrid workplaces the environment has changed. I'm not sure what the answer is but it would warrant discussion.

Re: The ethics of adhering to company policy

Friday 23 July, 2021
by stephen
I've worked in a situation like this and the couple couldn't help but consciously or unconsciously support their partner. There was evidence that private information had been shared. When efforts were made to avoid favouritism it was over compensated for and there would be tension between the two.

I think it takes continuous awareness to not allow the relationship to effect behaviour and can that realistically be asked or expected? It's not fair on them or their colleagues.

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