I’m currently dating a coworker and everything has been fine so far. It’s a small company, we’re open about the relationship, and there’s no policy against it. The only issue is that I just found out I’m going to be promoted to be his boss.
How do I handle this new power dynamic? I want to keep it professional at work and keep our relationship intact.
Your transparency is a great foundation. Your promotion suggests that management believes you both have the maturity to handle this new power shift, and maturity will be the most important quality you can bring to the new dynamic.
First, proactively discuss your expectations about your new roles at the office and how each of you plans to manage them — both at work and at home. Discuss the responsibilities you believe you each have to the other in both environments. For instance, how do you feel about your boyfriend sharing details of your private life with coworkers you might be managing? And how would your boyfriend feel about receiving work emails from you in the evening — while he’s sitting next to you on the couch trying to relax?
As you work through this process together, you’ll see boundaries start to form. Clearly draw those boundaries for each other, like: When will your “business day” officially begin and end? If the decision-making power will sit predominantly with you at the office, where will it sit in each of the many aspects of your personal life?
The great thing about having these conversations now is that the situation is new and exciting and you’re both open to all the possibilities. Use that positive energy to do a really deep dive and consider all of the situations that might arise down the road. Then talk through how you could best navigate and resolve each of those hypothetical situations. It’s much easier to do it now than to expect openness, understanding, and fairness when you’re in the throes of a real challenge at work — or at home.
This situation will challenge even the strongest relationship, and you’ll really get to see the best (and possibly the worst) of each other. But the good news is if you can navigate this with maturity, honesty, and empathy, your relationship will be deepened and fortified exponentially. As a couple you’ll be able to tackle just about anything.
Christine Tardio is a trusted advisor and business coach to a dynamic range of women business leaders. She can be reached at thelookinglass.com.