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Dilemma with My Employee

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I work as the director in a software company. I’ve recently hired a team leader and we’ve grown quite close, often speaking about matters outside work like our own lives, philosophical topics, etc.

During this time I’ve developed an interest in her, but I cannot determine if she feels the same. On one hand, she always wants to be around me, laughs at many of the things I say, and quite open with me. Her body language is very inviting. She behaves differently around me comparing to others. On the other hand, she could be “that type of person” who’s easygoing, or simply trying to impress me because I’m her boss and a high-ranking leader within my organization.

The plot thickens with two more aspects. First, where I live it is considered sexual harassment to even hint at a desire for a relationship, specifically in case of subordinates. However, she does not strike me as the type of person who would complain at such an attempt, if done respectfully. In addition, I feel she really looks up to me, at times telling me I’m the best boss she ever had, “her hero” (somewhat jokingly) and such. I don’t want to shatter that image, I respect her as well.

Second, she knows I’m married. She doesn’t know, and I don’t want to expose currently, that my wife and I are about to separate.

I am looking for a legitimate, sophisticated yet simple way to understand if she is interested in me. It must be done in such a way that will not be destructive to our present relationship as manager-subordinate. Usually, I’d just ask and would completely accept rejection. But I don’t feel this is the correct way to act here, doing this may harm our ability to continue working together effectively by introducing embarrassment /tension, which I’d rather avoid.

I want to find out in a way that she still feels capable to report to me if we discover she isn’t interested. If she is, we can manage that type of relationship without compromising our work duties. On the contrary, I feel this could even boost our performances!

I’d appreciate your support with this.

Thank you! (From Germany)

Dilemma with My Employee

Answered by on -

A.

There are several features of this scenario that are complex and layered. However, there isn’t a doubt about what to do and why. This isn’t something to pursue, contemplate or scheme on. No matter how you look at this, a metaphorical and literal “hands off” policy for you is the only way to go. Let’s review.

You are married and her boss. By every possible measure you are unavailable and out of bounds, which may be what the attraction is in the first place. This isn’t the time to launch into how attachment theory works, but your blatant unavailability may be what allows her to be so open with you. Sometimes what attracts us has more to do with what we can’t have than what we need.

Secondly, did I mention you’re married and her boss. The reason why sexual harassment is spelled out the way it is is that it is counterproductive, and in most places grounds for dismissal. Those rules are in place for a reason. Just to understand the seriousness of this: imagine this woman came to you as her boss with a complaint about another employee. That she was concerned they were getting the wrong idea and wanted you to do something official to protect her. Your direction and response would be clear. Your company’s policy would demand you respond. That is what will happen if you step over the line and she is uncomfortable.

On the other hand, let’s say you ignore my suggestions and she is responsive to your overture. If you and your wife are really in the middle of separating you are even more emotionally unavailable for a true relationship. The turmoil of a divorce, the stress of managing your feelings and objectivity at work, and the perception of others during this time are often excessive overloads. Trying to manage a new relationship while getting a divorce, being the new person’s boss, and doing your job is not something that tends to end well.

My advice? Take this attraction in stride. First thing’s first. Get your divorce. That takes one of the stressors off the table. As far as acting on this attraction? Not worth it while you have the jobs you currently have.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Dilemma with My Employee

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: http://www.dare2behappy.com/. He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2018). Dilemma with My Employee. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 17, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2018/09/05/dilemma-with-my-employee/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 3 Sep 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 3 Sep 2018
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