When you are sleeping with the boss, it can create all sorts of workplace challenges and complexity.
Now for the full disclosure. I have never slept with my boss. But as a HR practitioner with over 20 years experience I do have some tips on how to manage your career during this time of your life!
I have two very good friends who met and fell in love at work. At the time this was an organizational scandal! He was married, and she reported to him as his Personal Assistant. Just the thing scandals are made of!
That was over 10 years ago now. They have been together as a couple ever since. They are now married, and are close to the poster couple of happy couples.
In my experience though, this outcome is the exception rather than the rule. I have seen perhaps five times as many relationships ‘end badly’ with usually the woman ending up leaving the organization. Sometimes this is because she chooses to leave and sometimes it is because the relationship soured with her manager to such a point that the working relationship became untenable for all those involved, and a mutual separation occurred.
Recently I started thinking about all the ‘hoovala’ of that time 10 years ago, and wondered what career advice I would give people who fall in love at work with their boss today.
Afterall , it happens. Statistics show workplaces rank highly for places where people find their mates. And sometimes this is boss-employee.
Whenever there is a direct reporting relationship, aka employee and manager, things become more risky for the individuals involved than a peer to peer relationship.
These risks range from:
- sexual harassment complaints should things ‘go south’ in the relationship,
- impacts on each individual’s personal brand in the workplace (that is – how people may perceive them ongoing and what they become ‘known for’) and
- the general ackwardness and perceived conflicts of interest within the organization that can exist (eg payrise decisions, promotion decisions, perceptions of favouritism and undue use of power etc).
So here are my 5 top tips for managing the situation, and your career, if you fall in love at work …
1/. TIP 1 – Be open about your new relationship with senior management. Act like the mature adults that you are. Providing you are both two consenting adults you are afterall able to do whatever you like in your own time.
(And if it is a secret – I once had very wise advice – if it has to be a secret odds are something is not right with the situation – so rethink what you are doing!).
2/. TIP 2 – Be prepared that the organization may have a HR policy on this situation, and that some things may change with your work arrangements. Perhaps the reporting line will be changed or perhaps extra checks and balances will be put in place by the organisation to ensure fairness (and the perception of fairness) occurs in all managerial decisions.
3/. TIP 3 – Don’t go making out in the photocopier room or anywhere else at work for that matter. When at work be, and stay, professional. Should someone witness your amorous actions, they can launch a sexual harassment complaint against you both. So … just don’t. Its just plain ‘oo- wee’ for others seeing loved up couples at work!
4/. TIP 4 – Don’t bring your tiffs and disagreements to work. By this we mean don’t go sharing the arguments you have with others and don’t go slamming the filing cabinet door (or toolbox lid as the case may be) and yelling ‘fine’ as you storm out the office/workplace. Again be professional, play the role and keep personal matters to after hours. If you find you can’t do this, and you want to stay in the relationship, consider moving employers and jobs.
5/. TIP 5 – Don’t become that crazy power wielding ‘too much influence for your position’ person who your colleagues learn to hate. Just don’t. Nobody likes that person. Aside from the chance that you may not stay sleeping with the boss, and will then be left with no mates at work, how you behave when you have influence talks to who you are as a person. Be the nice person and everyone wins.
And there you go,my top 5 tips for when you are sleeping with the boss and you want to keep your career on track.
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