Relationship Advice

Too Close For Comfort

man with coffee cup on steps

I befriended my boss when she was hurting and going through a divorce. We fell in love and started dating, but soon realized chaos due to the newness of her divorce and our working together. The relationship was tough and complicated. She walked away, then I did the same.

I told her I would quit my job so we could have a chance to see if we had a future. She said she might be making a mistake but wanted to be alone to heal. I thought that was a great idea and part of me felt relief. But it wasn't over. Working for her is unbearable. We tried, but it is impossible to keep emotions out of the way so we can relate as professionals.

Things are a little better now, but they will never be normal. She is the boss and has the power. I can't tell you how many times I left her office or a meeting feeling like I was under a rock. I believe she is overcompensating by being extra tough, and I have to tell you, I work my tail off.

Many times I asked her to treat me like the others, but she can't seem to admit she treats me different. My peers know she has been tough on me, but they do not know why. It's embarrassing. I think I need to move on and soon. I am looking for a job, have had interviews, and can live without a paycheck for a year.

Am I running, or is this common sense to get out of a situation that makes us both extremely uncomfortable? I have learned a valuable lesson for sure.

Evan


Evan, in the novel Vanity Fair William Makepeace Thackeray made a telling observation. He wrote, when one person has obligations to another and they have a falling out, it "makes of the former a much severer enemy than a mere stranger would be." When things get sticky, our minds leap to see the other party as the villain. We deny our part in the affair, and as Thackeray said, attribute to others "the most sinister motives."

Thackeray wrote of a falling out between businessmen, but many situations are variations on this same theme. For example, a woman is unhappily married. After she decides to divorce her husband, she shares all of her husband's faults with a friend.

Then she changes her mind and returns to the husband. Perhaps she couldn't find anyone else, perhaps she feels more financially secure with him, or perhaps unhappiness is so familiar she is afraid to seek something better. But having aired her dirty laundry to a friend, she now feels compelled to give the friend the coldest of cold shoulders.

Why? Because it is impossible to pretend to be happily married around a person who knows the truth. The woman wishes her friend would simply vanish from her life. This mental reaction allows the woman to pretend to herself and to the world she is in a good marriage.

For your boss, you are her Achilles' heel. Romantic involvement gave you intimate knowledge about her, more leverage in the workplace, and weakened her authority. At least that's how she sees it. She is chagrined. Now she seeks to put you in your place as her subordinate.

Much is written about open and honest communication in the workplace, but none of it works when the boss is unreceptive. There simply is no technique you can use to get her to relent. You make her feel emotionally vulnerable. Seeing you sets her off. That's not your intention, but you are powerless to alter her emotions.

Unless your company is large enough for you to transfer to another department, leaving for greener pastures seems like the best option.

Wayne & Tamara