should I tell my coworker about my crush, and other workplace romance questions

It’s “It’s Complicated” week at New York Magazine’s The Cut — a week of stories on modern relationships.

This week my column there tackles a whole bunch of questions about office relationships: What do you do if you think your boss is having an affair with your coworker? Can you ask an old date for a referral? What if you have a crush on a colleague? And more.

You can read it here.

{ 174 comments… read them below }

    1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      So often when looking at stock photos I wonder what it must be like to have that job. As either model or photog. “Here, put on these suits and get in a compromising position under this desk.” “Please wear this 60s era futuristic space suit and gaze longingly at a rubber chicken.” What a bizarre way to spend a work day.

      1. Talia*

        I read an account by someone who had done stock photo modeling once. His main complaint about it was that you could wind up being the face of something you utterly disagreed with, or things that had nothing to do with you.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          That reminds me of the Friends episode where Joey ends up being the face of some STD in a subway campaign.

          1. Wendy Darling*

            I’ve shopped for stock photos exactly one time and kept running into ones that specifically said they could not be used for sexual health or drug related things.

        2. Turtle Candle*

          I will save more on this for the open thread because derailing, but I know a man who did stock photo modeling, and he has some of the BEST stories. In part because, as a muscular and conventionally attractive young man who is willing to pose shirtless (though not pantsless), he has starred on the covers of a squillion self-pubbed romance novels, many involving billionaires and werebears and billionaire werebears.

            1. Lissa*

              Just so everyone’s aware, there’s a romance novel about a werehedgehog. It’s called “Hedging His Bets.”

              1. Hrovitnir*

                Oh wow. Tumblr has made me familiar with the various iterations of were-animals, but a hedgehog is new to me. *cackles*

            2. Gadfly*

              It is a pretty big subgenre, with sub-subgenre’s like Having the Billionare Werebear’s Baby and the BBW section is always strongly represented with the shifters.

              But there is only One Amish Vampires in Space so far! That provides me with much hope and comfort, personally.

        3. Mrs. Fenris*

          A colleague of mine somehow ended up being photographed for an ad in a trade publication (our field has nothing whatsoever to do with modeling or marketing), for which he was paid a whole $50. Oddly, he is fairly well known in the field in an area that had nothing to do with that product, and he wasn’t endorsing it…his name wasn’t in the ad. The ad people just liked his face. So, somehow the photo got passed around and used in a few more ads. When it finally came to light who he was, it caused some merriment in my fairly small profession. He’s still well respected in his niche and managed to live down being a stock photo. :-)

      2. Elizabeth West*

        You know that fat bearded guy in a tutu that keeps popping up on everything? This guy?

        He’s an actor in Utah. I went to high school with him.

        The funniest thing was when my sister sent me an e-card for my birthday, and it had a pic of him on it and a thing about the Birthday Fairy. SHE HAD NO IDEA WHO IT WAS. She nearly plotzed when I said, hey, remember my friend David? XD

      1. Bye Academia*

        Yeah, but she never thought to mention the potential conflict of interest when she got move to HR? And calling herself “the HR manager, with no direct reports” makes it sound like there isn’t another HR worker to take over anything that arises with her boyfriend.

        1. SarahKay*

          Yes, I wondered about that. I once got asked to be the note-taker at a disciplinary hearing for an incident that I knew involved a colleague who was also a friend. I knew he wasn’t the issue, he was just one of the people that got affected, but the first thing I said when I was asked was “Do you know that Wakeen is a friend of mine and we socialise outside work sometimes?” I was told that given he wasn’t the subject of the hearing, it wasn’t a problem but that I was right to raise it.
          I can’t imagine becoming HR and not disclosing any existing relationships, whether friends, romantic, or even past significant disputes.

      2. 2 Many Empanadas*

        I started as a receptionist and became the HR Manager of my company (I really hope no one at my company who reads this blog thinks this is me…), as soon as I moved into HR I kind of severed all my friendships with coworkers to avoid a conflict of interest. It definitely was a downer not being able to see some of my former friends’ bands perform, I had to stop attending happy hours with another group of friends. Granted, I was never super close with them.

        I guess it would be tougher to end a serious romantic relationship, but, yeah, I am perplexed how this was not mentioned when first moving into HR. In my role, I have some say in bonus distribution and of course I have access to all pay data. Even if it had nothing to do with my relationship with an employee, how could I defend giving my boyfriend a hefty bonus? Or could I really not one night drunkenly let him know that Joe Jr is getting payed more despite not having as much experience? I am pretty discreet…but if I was drunk and heard him complaining about money? Gloves could come off, baby!

  1. Mike C.*

    What in the heck is up with managers who see this massive difference between long term partners and spouses when it comes to something so silly as a “family dinner”? Do these folks seriously not understand that our generation is having to put off major life milestones like marriage because stagnating wages and college debt?

    1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      It really bugs me. Some people just plain don’t want to get married – their partner of several years should not be treated as non-existent simply because they didn’t sign a relationship contract. If I were that LW I would be asking for clarification – in a non-confrontational way – about why the reprimand. And if it is the married thing, I would push back. Because it is ridiculous. If it was the assuming thing, I would just apologize and ask how it should be handled in the future.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Especially when you factor in that some people may be in long term relationships where legal marriage wasn’t on the table until recently. Though I suppose a place that’s stodgy enough to not allow serious long term partners would also probably balk at same sex partners.

    3. Here we go again*

      I really wish there wasn’t a distinction between partners, spouses and close friends. If you get a plus one, you should get a plus one regardless of your relationship status.

      1. chocolate lover*

        I do think there’s a distinction between a “plus one” and family, though, especially if the event is an “annual family dinner.” It isn’t necessarily about everyone getting a guest in general, it can be more about getting to know the people/family closest to you. I absolutely would include boyfriends/girlfriends/long-term partners, etc. regardless of marital status. My husband and I lived together for years before getting married, and we were just as emotionally committed, if not legally committed, before we were married.

        1. nonymous*

          I always saw these things as a perk or “thank you” for the sacrifices that life-partners (whatever gender or legal status) are making to support the employee’s high performance. For example, my BIL held a position where he traveled M-F, leaving her as a single mom during the week. My co-worker’s spouse puts in 12-hr days during football season. Clearly, for both these women, it is their extra efforts which make the men successful in their respective workplaces, and both their employers offer perks to accommodate that.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The reason for a plus-one for spouses has traditionally been that etiquette has considered married couples to be a social unit, and it was considered rude to invite only one half of a social unit to a social event. More recently, that’s expanded (in most places) to include long-term partners. But that’s the reasoning it isn’t traditionally applied to close friends. (I’m not defending that, just explaining what it’s rooted in.)

        1. fposte*

          As I mention below, I think the plus one convention has muddied the issue a lot and made it seem like spouses get to come because guests get to bring a guest. But as you say, that’s not the principle. (And it’s not simply spouses–you could absolutely be a social unit with your sister if rolled that way. But it would mean you rolled that way, not just you’d like to include her in this one thing.)

          1. Here we go again*

            I just don’t think it should be up to your employer to determine who is significant in your life enough for something like this…. It further stigmatizes single people and leads the employer to dictate what an acceptable familial relationship looks like. (I’m using familial to expand to close people that aren’t necessarily related). It should be you can either bring a person close to you that you want to share this event with or you can’t. Why should the employer care if that person is platonic friend, friend with benefits, roommate, parent, spouse, sibling, cousin, etc….?

            1. Here we go again*

              And I realize that not everyone is necessarily agreeing or disagreeing with my original comment. I just wanted to further expand my viewpoint!

            2. fposte*

              But you’re starting from that plus one perception that everybody should bring *somebody* (which in addition to being incorrect unintentionally ends up stigmatizing people who attend on their own). As I state below, I think an employer situation is one of the few times where I think the plus one might make sense, but in general I think it’s a bad default.

              It’s not about defining who is family and who isn’t; it’s about who is the person you’d be expected not to leave behind when you’re invited out. If you live with your cousin and attend all weddings and parties with her, then that’s your cousin, but it’s not just because she’s the person who you think it would be fun to take to this party. I think work parties on social time are already gray area enough that I think a plus one is likely preferable to a case-by-case analysis of significance, but the social significance isn’t what you’re suggesting.

              1. Here we go again*

                I’m not saying everyone should bring somebody. I am saying everyone **should be given the opportunity to bring somebody**…. A single person shouldn’t be left out of that opportunity because they are single.

                At our company holiday party everyone is given a plus one. Some people bring significant others, some people bring friends, some people bring siblings, some people bring no one, but the company doesn’t dictate what relationship is “important enough” that an individual employee is able to bring a guest.

                1. Doreen*

                  Fposte is talking about the social expectation, which really isn’t that everyone should be given the opportunity to bring someone close to them to share the event. The convention is that you invite social units – married and engaged couples have been a social unit for as long as I can remember and then it expanded to include couples living together and long-term couples. It’s rude to invite only half of one of those couples to a wedding – but it’s not rude to invite your cousin who is not in a long-term relationship without giving her a “plus one” to bring the guy she met after she got the invitation or her next-door neighbor.

                  Fposte and I agree that company events are an exception to this general rule, because neither one of us thinks it’s a great idea for employers to try to figure out which people are part of a social unit and which aren’t. But in my case at least, there’s an exception to the exception – and that would be the type of very small company where there isn’t any figuring out to be done.

                2. Here we go again*

                  Response to Doreen – I agree that for wedding and social events, a plus one is not required… Presumably the individual person that you have a relationship with who is hosting the event has a distinct relationship with you and your significant other. I didn’t read that Fposte was making a distinction between company and social events, but maybe that went over my head. So maybe we do all agree?

    4. Antilles*

      While there are certainly some who don’t understand the changing attitudes on marriage, I’m guessing that it’s more commonly either (a) they didn’t think about it at all and just unconsciously assumed family=spouse or (b) they are being wildly over-conservative under the guise of ‘preventing issues’ (“of course, *I* don’t have an issue with it personally, but someone else might, so we’re just doing a blanket ban”).

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I could easily imagine backgrounds to the policy where someone in charge of planning was:
        a) stodgy on moral grounds
        b) stodgy on cost-limiting grounds
        c) determined to avoid that nightmare that happened with the drunk casual romantic partner trying to seduce the CTO

    5. Iris Eyes*

      1. A marriage is cheaper than most people’s monthly cell phone bills, and usually (but not always) all of the economic benefits (like lower taxes, insurance etc) usually throws the balance to the side of getting married. Sure weddings are expensive if you want them to be but they are by no means necessary.
      2.Who gets to decide what long term means? Minimum of 1 year? 3 years? Whatever makes you common law married in your state?

      In the end just because some people are doing things differently doesn’t mean everyone needs to do things differently. People who choose to delay marriage choose to accept the consequences both good and bad.

      1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        Your comment seems weirdly judgmental. No one is saying everyone has to be different. We’re saying it is outdated and wrong to treat married couples differently than people in long term relationships – especially because of the added layer that for a long time same-sex couples could not get married.

        I have friends who are never getting married. They have been together almost a decade. They’ll be together for decades more. They will never get married. Their relationship is not less valid than someone who just got married this year after knowing their new spouse 2 years. Both partners should be included if partners are being included. It is judgmental and, frankly, rude to treat them differently because of a piece of paper.

        1. Iris Eyes*

          Outdated and wrong based on what? That seems strangely judgmental. Marriage is a legal status, therefore people who are married are legally different from people that aren’t. That’s not something that feelings can negate. Granted employee appreciation dinners don’t really have anything to do with your legal status but it is reasonable to assume that you will be treated differently in a lot of ways based on your legal status. And most importantly, based on your choice to be different.

          It isn’t all that reasonable for you to assume that you would never be treated differently when you are in fact choosing to be different, presumably because you don’t want to be the same. How can you justify saying that being married or not doesn’t make a difference and then hold that its so much of a difference some people would never do it, and that everyone should have the right to do it?

          *yes of course there are a few specific instances where you might want to marry someone but can’t, like if they are a close relative, or you are carriers of a certain type of genetic disorder, or you can’t force your estranged spouse to divorce you.

          1. Not a Real Giraffe*

            Marriage is a legal status, therefore people who are married are legally different from people that aren’t.

            But we’re not talking about a legal context, we’re talking about it in a business/social context.

            1. pope suburban*

              Exactly. My husband and I were together, cohabiting, for nearly ten years before we got married. Legally, what changed was that I could be on his health insurance (Which was essential as I developed a chronic illness that I couldn’t afford to treat without that), and of course we file our taxes differently now. Socially, nothing changed. It had been a long time already, we had already joined our lives. Anyone thinking that a trip to the courthouse somehow made a decade-long relationship “legitimate” would be getting some major side-eye from me. Not because I think everyone should feel the way I do about marriage, but because commitment is more than just a marriage license, and I think that ought to be respected.

            2. M-C*

              And what’s weirdly judgmental is assuming that everyone is and has been -able- to get married. Most of my friends have been unable to do so for decades, and still feel kind of squeaky about it, choosing to remain as different as possible from Iris Eyes..

          2. Naruto*

            Legal status has nothing to do with a social/work dinner. What’s judgmental is an employer deciding that people in a committed, long-term relationship aren’t “family” for purposes of a social event for employees.

          3. Anna*

            It isn’t all that reasonable for you to assume that you would never be treated differently when you are in fact choosing to be different, presumably because you don’t want to be the same. How can you justify saying that being married or not doesn’t make a difference and then hold that its so much of a difference some people would never do it, and that everyone should have the right to do it?

            Okay, I’ll bite. For one, that’s called discrimination and really we shouldn’t be okay with discriminating against anyone based on their status as married or not. Second, the reason people fought so hard to be recognized as legally able to marry is because due to that legal status, there were things long term partners could not enjoy. Things like making care decisions for terminally ill loved ones; access to retirement or military benefits after a loved one died, the list goes on and on. And frankly, it’s pretty ridiculous that anyone would think being allowed to attend a work party should be a reserved privilege for those who decided to get married. It’s silly and I can’t understand why anyone would decide that’s where they’ll plant their flag.

        2. many bells down*

          I know a couple that were together for about 15 YEARS before they got married. We just assumed they were never going to. There’s plenty of actual marriages that don’t make it to the 15-year mark!

          1. K.*

            I knew a woman who was with her fiance for 15 years, engaged for 12. (They may still be engaged; I don’t know her anymore.) They owned a home, pets, she called his parents her in-laws; they just hadn’t gotten married yet. I assumed they were permanently engaged but she swore they were getting married.

          2. MashaKasha*

            My ex’s sister and her partner had been together for 20 years when I met them, and a manager at OldJob had been with his (opposite-sex) partner for close to 40 years before they decided to tie the knot. Both couples never planned on getting officially married. But I’m sure all of us at OldJob would have found it weird if OldBoss’s partner of 40 years was suddenly excluded from a family dinner!

          3. LJL*

            That was us. We were together for 15 years, engaged for 8 before we got married. Fortunately, we were considered one social unit at every job we held during that time. We had a variety of reasons for not getting married until we did. Each of us would have assumed that if the other wasn’t invited in a social setting like that, that neither of us would be there.

          4. Wendy Darling*

            I’ve been with my partner for over a decade and we’re not married because we kind of can’t be bothered?

            I just want to get married so if he gets hit by a bus I can make medical decisions and not be stuck twiddling my thumbs until someone can get his overseas-many-timezones-away parents on the phone.

        3. char*

          Yeah, a policy like this is likely to disproportionately affect same-gender couples, who I would bet are far less likely to be married than heterosexual couples who have been together for similar lengths of time, just because it wasn’t legal until recently.

          My mom and her partner have been together for 12+ years. Yeah, theoretically now they COULD be married, but until recently they couldn’t have been. If her company were to allow spouses to a gathering but wouldn’t let her bring her partner, I would seriously judge them for it.

      2. Not a Real Giraffe*

        I don’t think Mike C. was coming at his comment from just an economical standpoint. People delay marriage for all sorts of reasons, from economics to physical limitations (long-distance, etc.) to focusing on their careers/other ambitions to flat-out not wanting to be married to their partner. Your comment seems to come from the viewpoint that all people must or should want to get married, which seems narrow.

        As for #2, in the context of the letter, the OP gets to decide what “long term” or “serious” means. I trust that OP has the professional judgement to not bring, say, her one-night stand, to a company dinner. If this is a partner that they feel comfortable bringing to a professional event, they get to make that distinction.

        1. Elizabeth*

          >>As for #2, in the context of the letter, the OP gets to decide what “long term” or “serious” means. I trust that OP has the professional judgement to not bring, say, her one-night stand, to a company dinner. If this is a partner that they feel comfortable bringing to a professional event, they get to make that distinction.

          Yes, exactly!

          1. Lucius*

            Not everyone has that judgement. I have a friend who will bring any person, romantically linked or not, to something where he has a plus one so that he won’t be lonely. I can see him doing that for a work thing.

            1. SarahKay*

              But surely that’s one person who has bad judgement. Is it fair to exclude all non-married partners because of that? What about the married person whose partner routinely gets drunk, loud and overly friendly? Should all married partners be excluded to avoid that risk?

      3. all aboard the anon train*

        Your last sentence implies that marriage is what everyone is striving towards (or should be striving towards), which is pretty judgmental and arrogant. If people don’t want to get married, they shouldn’t be punished for it just because some people seem to think marriage is the most important thing in life or whatever.

        Not to mention, it’s short-sighted to claim economic benefits outweigh the cost of getting married. Or that marriage is so cheap there’s no reason not to do it. I have friends who would love to get married, but one of them is so deep in medical debt that if they got married and he died due to his illness, his then wife would be saddled with the debt she would never get free of. He doesn’t want to do it to her.

        But I guess they should just accept the bad consequences of delaying marriage, huh? They should just let people treat them differently because they’ve been together for 10 years without getting married. Economic reasons aren’t the only reason people don’t get married.

        1. Iris Eyes*

          I think your friend needs to seek some professional legal financial advice because at least in the US only debts incurred during the marriage (so new debt) can be transferred to the spouse and then only in some cases.

          But yes, she can take the risk to be potentially impacted by the debt, which she already is one way or another if they are living together or sharing finances in any way, or she can take the risk that he’s in the hospital and can’t get medical information or take care of his interests and what have you.

          I’m fine with people being single if they choose, but if you are in a long term committed relationship then yes, it makes sense that you would get married. And again, if you choose to go a different route that’s fine, but when you choose to be different you choose to be treated differently which is presumably why you choose to be different in the first place. Why should society negate your choice by treating you how you choose not to be treated?

          1. Mike C.*

            when you choose to be different you choose to be treated differently

            This isn’t true at all, is a massive unsupported statement and goes against the direct wishes of those who are in unmarried, long-term relationships. You don’t get to subvert the wishes of a couple by claiming that by doing so, you somehow instead “negate their choice”. They’re telling you how to treat them, treat them that way. You’re doing little more than tying yourself into a logic pretzel to justify being a jerk.

            Stop it.

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*

            when you choose to be different you choose to be treated differently which is presumably why you choose to be different in the first place


          3. Oryx*

            So, because my friend’s significant other of 10 years doesn’t want to get married, that somehow makes her entire relationship less than?

          4. seejay*

            Wow. Anything to justify treating others as “less than”?

            My long-term partner and I are in an unconventional relationship and choose not to get married or even live together and we have our reasons for it, but if anyone tried to tell us that our relationship was less valid than anyone else’s, less committed or that we had to be treated “differently” because we didn’t follow some baffling religious or legal ceremony to “legitimize” it for other peoples’ point-of-view, we’d probably kick those people to the curb.

          5. pope suburban*

            Please, please, please reflect on these words: “And again, if you choose to go a different route that’s fine, but when you choose to be different you choose to be treated differently which is presumably why you choose to be different in the first place. Why should society negate your choice by treating you how you choose not to be treated?”

            There have been so many people throughout history who have been “treated differently,” which meant being subjected to discrimination, detention, ostracism, and sometimes torture. Many of these instances were due to what people perceived as “choices,” which was often a wildly incorrect assumption, and which is in any case a deflection from the basic issue of one’s fellow man not needing to earn basic human dignity by performing whatever role the majority decreed acceptable. Human history is chock-full of suffering that’s rooted in this kind of attitude. No one here is saying that marriage is irrelevant, or that one *has to* have a certain perspective on it. They’re saying that it’s important to treat people with respect even if their stance on marriage (Which relates right back to the history of legal discrimination against LGBT people; plenty of folks were not legally permitted to marry until recently) is different from yours.

            1. seejay*

              Also the whole “you choose to be different in order to attract attention/be treated differently” smacks of the type of blaming and accusations my parents used to heap on me when I was a teenager and trying to figure out things that I liked or mattered to me. People don’t choose to be different in order to be treated differently, there’s a wide range of reasons why people are different and the *only* thing they are owed is to be treated fairly and equally…. *not* differently.

              1. pope suburban*

                Yes. It puts the onus on people who are already in the minority, and who as such don’t have as much power as the majority. Also, a lot of this isn’t about other people’s choices, but about one’s own. What kind of person do you want to be? How much does it matter to you to treat people with decency? There’s a lot of stuff in this wide world that I wouldn’t do or pick for myself, but I don’t see as there’s all that much overlap between that and what other people might want or need or choose.

          6. all aboard the anon train*


            The whole “you choose to be different from stereotypical societal standards, you get treated different” is a really sad way of thinking, not to mention dangerous. This is trying to justify treating people who don’t follow the norm horribly, and as we’ve seen throughout history, that never ends well. It’s a gross mindset.

          7. Oma Morris*

            You need quit being so judgmental. It’s up to us to order our relationships, not you. And your post is sexist too.

          8. mrs__peel*

            “or she can take the risk that he’s in the hospital and can’t get medical information or take care of his interests and what have you.”

            There are plenty of legal instruments apart from marriage that can accomplish those things (e.g., medical power of attorney).

            1. Anna*

              What has been shown time and time again, though, is that in many cases the immediate family can step in and take over. It’s not a cure all (and, well, neither is marriage).

          9. Gaia*

            First of all, debts from before a marriage can most definitely impact a spouse. For instance, your pre-marriage debts can cause you to need bankruptcy: impacting both spouses. Your pre-marriage debts can cause your wages to be garnished: impacting both spouses. Your pre-marriage debts can keep you from buying a home: impacting both spouses, etc.

          10. Elfie*

            “…but if you are in a long term committed relationship then yes, it makes sense that you would get married.” – Why? I was with my husband for 4 years before we got married, and we only got married because HE wanted to (he’s sort-of religious). I’m an athiest – marriage to me is a completely outdated concept that I only play into because of the economic and legal benefits it confers (and hubby wanted to get married). You seem to have a very … specific… view on marriage that you have to accept isn’t universally shared.

      4. chocolate lover*

        Maybe your insurance is cheaper – neither of our employers offer a “+1” health insurance plan, only family, which would more than double our premiums. We stayed on our individual plans.

        We’re not debating who inherits legal benefits to spouses, we’re talking about a social/work function. I really don’t see why people in a relationship (whether it’s 1 year or 3 years) couldn’t bring their other, just cause they’re not married.

        1. Justme*

          Where I work, if both employees are employed here it is cheaper for each of them to get the employee only health insurance than the employee and spouse plan. And it’s still cheaper if one of them carrier the kids and one has individual coverage rather than a family plan. So I don’t buy the “insurance is cheaper” part of it.

      5. Mike C.*

        1. This isn’t true in the slightest unless you’re talking about a cellphone bill from the 1970s.

        2. The person bringing the long term partner. That wasn’t hard at all.

      6. Mike C.*

        Also, that I was making an economic point means that there might not actually be a practical choice to be made.

      7. Gaia*

        This is incredibly tone deaf. There are a lot of people who, for a long time, were denied the right to marriage in the US – and still in many, many countries. Even now that they have the right to marriage, they may hesitate to do so for a variety of reasons.

        And then there are people like me. I still think our marriage laws in this country are gross and inappropriate. Because of this, I choose not to engage in the notion that the government has a role in my relationship – so I choose not to marry legally. Why should my relationship be treated as lesser than someone who meets a stranger and marries in Vegas?

    6. BlueWolf*

      Seriously, my boyfriend and I have been together for about six years and have lived together for about 4 of those years. Is our relationship less valid than a couple who is married, possibly for less time, just because we don’t have a legal document? Luckily, my company is pretty family friendly (towards all types of families), so I doubt this would ever happen there.

    7. Decimus*

      Unless you are working for a seriously socially conservative institution, I think it is really out of touch to make a distinction between married and long-term unmarried.

      Even then, however, it sounds like the employer mishandled it. The employee didn’t just show up with her partner; she told her manager in advance via email that she was planning to bring her partner. All the manager had to say was “that’s not possible.” There’s no need for any real chastisement at all because nothing was actually done and everything was pre-empted so why is her boss upset?

      Over the top ridiculous example: Employee emails their manager and says “since Fridays are casual dress, I’m planning to not wear trousers a week next Friday.” Getting upset at the employee would be… well, ridiculous, since the manager had plenty of time to correct the misapprehension.

    8. Arielle*

      My former company (a “cool, hip” startup, not stodgy at all) tried to do this with the holiday party. The previous year everyone had been allowed a plus-one, but the following year they announced there would be a “no ring, no bring” policy. So married or engaged couples were fine, long-term non-married partners were not. It really, really sucked and felt unnecessarily antagonistic.

      1. Sally*

        I don’t want to work there, or the company in the original post, or anyplace like that. I am an “older” woman who has never been married but have had some long-term relationships. I have been deeply hurt by being left out of things like my boyfriend’s family vacations, wedding invitations, work holiday parties, etc., because I wasn’t the WIFE. Apparently girlfriend of many years is meaningless, but the title of wife bestows some magical (unearned) respect on you. The most horrible was when my lifelong best friend told me we couldn’t stay at her house because we were an unmarried couple and it wouldn’t look right. Yeah, it didn’t look right to me either, ex-best friend.

      2. Gloucesterina*

        Ew, was “no ring, no bring” the company’s phrasing? Or is that how you sum up their terrible terrible policy?

      3. Zip Zap*

        Not that I would advocate lying, but how would they verify whether people were really married or engaged? I’d be tempted to put a ring on my dog’s paw and say he was my fiance.

        Ok, I know marriage is a legal contract and it’s part of the public record. But would they really run that kind of a background check for a dinner? I mean with all the other things they could be spending their time on . . . And I don’t think there’s any way to verify if people are engaged.

        Why not just say plus ones are for serious couples and trust people to respect that. Treat them like adults who can use their own judgment.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      “Spouse” is a clear line in the sand; “long-term partner” is a moving target.

      For companies, I think it’s better to err on the side of inclusiveness and not worry if the person sharing a hotel room is spouse, parent, long-time friend, or date. But if they’re not open to that (and maybe it’s a blanket reaction to a bad experience in the past) then “spouse” is clear distinction everyone can figure out, unlike “serious but not casual” or “long-term but not short-term.”

      1. nonymous*

        > and maybe it’s a blanket reaction to a bad experience in the past

        But isn’t the solution to that to hold employees responsible for their guest’s behavior? I’m married, and there are some workplace networking events where my social presence would not benefit my husband (and just accentuate differences) so we decline my invitation. Employee “family appreciation” events are not a purely social opportunity for the guest and care must be taken to act within the hosting org’s expectations.

        1. Zip Zap*

          Maybe it’s an information security issue. Maybe people will be discussing things that need to be kept confidential. Think upcoming ad campaigns, rebranding strategies, what software they use, etc. They probably also don’t want people to use it as a networking event. That happens, at least with companies that a lot of people want to work for.

    10. Artemesia*

      Yeah enough people never marry although they spend their lives together that these families are really missing the boat.

    11. mrs__peel*

      It’s very odd to me! Many of the folks I know who are my age (mid-30s) have long-term partners they’re not married to. Fortunately, I can’t imagine my own employer making a huge fuss if I brought my partner of 12+ years along to an event.

    12. Elizabeth West*

      I totally want to get actually married, but I fricking HATE this so much. It’s so stupid. What they should do is say employees can either bring one adult guest (which means if you’re not coupled you can bring your BFF), or make it employees-only.

    13. Hrovitnir*

      I’ll tell you what, I love that we have defacto relationships in NZ*. While many or most (?) couples do get married, and that’s finally equal-access, I feel like marriage is no longer as overwhelmingly expected here? Certainly in all the circles I run in, “partner” is the default nomenclature, and I’ve seldom run into pressure to marry.

      I have been with my partner 14 years, and am 0% interested in marriage. If we do leave the country together we’ll probably get married (since a civil union is variably-recognised marriage-lite), but I just… don’t like it.

      My mother was also not recognised as family and could not visit my father in hospital when he was dying in ’85 due to archaic marriage laws, so I do think access to marriage is important for as long as it’s a thing. (If you don’t know, some circles of queer activism sneer at marriage equality as meaningless and privileged.)

      *A relationship where you’ve been living together 3 years gives you legal rights as a partner. Not as extensive as marriage, but it’s been around a while and none of the doomsday hypotheticals about flatmates pretending to be your ex have happened as far as I know.

    14. Zip Zap*

      I agree. Slight tangent, but I’m tired of economic constraints being explained away as “young people being trendy”. I wore thrift store clothes for years because I couldn’t afford anything else. I definitely wasn’t jumping on a bandwagon (although reusing clothing and saving money is always good, even if you are comfortable). Just one example. Putting off marriage is another good one.

  2. Oryx*

    I’m very surprised by the HR manager being totally blasé about dating an employee. Isn’t that, like, HR 101?

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      It sounds like LW isn’t really trained in HR so maybe that’s why they don’t realize how against the norms it is.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, since she was promoted from receptionist to HR, I’m thinking it’s a small company where HR really means benefits, payroll, etc., not the stuff you’d see in the HR department of a larger company.

    2. MI Dawn*

      Well, to be fair, from the letter, they started dating *before* the writer became the HR manager. And we don’t know if the writer had any real HR training prior to being moved to that position.

      1. marymoocow*

        Still though, I am surprised the LW would take the HR job without mentioning the relationship.

        1. Alli525*

          I guess when there aren’t any rules on the company books about it, and this is OP’s first HR job (I’m assuming, since she worked up from receptionist), it’s not that surprising.

      2. Zip Zap*

        I think it’s an obvious conflict of interest and she or her partner should have found a job elsewhere.

  3. Daine*

    There has been speculation for years that my boss was sleeping with one of my co-workers (who also reports to him). Boss has had a serious significant other the entire time that I have worked here. A few weeks ago Boss broke up with his significant other, sold his house, and got an apartment in the city. Right after that he officially started dating Co-Worker. So the speculation has been confirmed. I have no idea if they were actually together before recently but I’d guess yes. So now my manager is dating one of my co-workers and none of the higher ups seem to have the slightest problem with it at all. The owner of the company is aware that this is going on and hasn’t put a stop to it. I love my job and aside from this very unprofessional move, my manager is great so I’m gonna stick around. But my manager did lose a bit of my respect when I found all of this out.

      1. Daine*

        Yep Co-Worker reports directly to Boss and has the entire time Co-worker has worked at the company.

        1. Zip Zap*

          That’s yucky. They shouldn’t allow that. I know, sometimes you have an amazing connection with someone and you feel you need to act on it. But one of them could have found a job elsewhere or transferred internally so there wouldn’t be a boss / direct report thing going on. There is so much that can go wrong in that scenario.

      2. K.*

        There was similar speculation at my old job, that a VP and a director who reports to him were having an affair (both were married). When I left the company the VP was in the middle of a divorce; not sure what happened after that. I’ve been gone two years but the director still works there, according to LinkedIn.

  4. phil*

    During my 45 year career I did this a couple of times and it always worked out well but I didn’t work in a traditional office-I worked as a sound mixer in music and TV. 12 or 14 hour days 6 or 7 days a week are the norm and that doesn’t leave much time for mate searching. Plus you are frequently on location where you do things as a group-eat, move places, etc. And we are all under stress so you see people as they are without the artifice.
    And there was one time it didn’t work well, as in D-I-V-O-R-C-E in the words of Tammy Wynette, but my wife entered the business after we were married and developed her own very busy life.

  5. anon just in case*

    I’m honestly am glad that the idea of family and long-term partner versus spouse is changing in the workplace.

    Because it just reminds me of when I was a fresh grad and we had an awards ceremony where I was being recognized for something. Everyone was allowed one ticket for a guest, and because I was single, I wanted to invite my mum or a friend, but when I mentioned that, I was told the ticket was meant for “family only”, and when I mentioned taking my mum instead of a friend, I was told that “family” meant a spouse. (Caveat that I’d never invite a parent or friend to a holiday party or a work dinner with people’s spouses, but I thought it was fine for a big awards dinner where I was being honored and everyone was bringing someone). Instead, I was relegated to the “singles” table and it made what should have been a great night miserable and humiliating.

    Also adding to the bitterness was that I was sitting with a queer colleague who had a long-term partner, but since marriage wasn’t legal, she wasn’t allowed to bring her partner because they weren’t married. As I was just figuring out my sexuality then, it was another blow on how I was being ostracized in the workplace.

    So, I’m really glad people are finally realizing that family means more than just a spouse and kids, and that long-term partners aren’t less important than spouses.

    1. BlueWolf*

      Ugh, that is terrible. I can’t believe they would put such ridiculous limits on how you can use your 1 ticket.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      You couldn’t bring your mother to an event where you were being honored???????????? That’s horrible.

  6. k8*

    i find this concept of “confessing” to someone really bizarre. how about flirting with them? inviting them to a friendly drink to gauge their interest? I feel like i read so many advice columns about “how should i tell xyz person i love them out of the blue without ever having been on even a date or anyting?” and I just want to be like . . . don’t. please, don’t.

    1. Alli525*

      Seriously. It’s very weird to hear “hey I have a huge crush on you!!” (when crushes pretty much always occur before you know someone very well), versus just saying “I think we have a lot in common/I enjoy talking to you, would you like to get a drink this weekend?”

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        I think even if she reciprocated his feelings, being told out of the blue “I have a crush on you” might be very jarring. I don’t think most people would know how to react.

        1. seejay*

          I had a friend dump his feelings out on me one day and it was literally “I picture you as my wife, this is my long-term plans for us, we can grow old and spend our lives together with 2.5 kids etc” and I sat there kind of gob-smacked as he was someone who had been a good friend for months and months (the classic “guy pretending to be a friend so he could get close then vomit up his feelings in the hopes of being a boyfriend” scenario). It would have been less of a whip-lash if he would have at least admitted a crush as opposed to having mapped out the next 50 years of my life for me. :|

          Seriously guys… approach someone you’re interested in with casual interest first and see if there’s something there. Don’t barf up your feelings into a pile and see what happens.

          1. Anon for My Own Dignity*

            I dumped my feelings on my friend once out of the blue, but luckily it worked out. We had been friends for a couple years, but with no ulterior methods…..I just realized one day that I wanted more but was too scared to say it.

            I had a little whiskey to give me courage, but it stole my clothes instead and I crawled into his bed naked.

            6 years later and we’re still together. But unmarried and living together, so I guess he wouldn’t be invited to the family dinner.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          My mother-in-law was told out of the blue that someone from college had had a crush on her decades earlier, while they were visiting with their spouse. It was like “…. Oh. Um, not reciprocated then or now. What am I supposed to do with this?”

          1. Lissa*

            I think the “I used to have a crush on you” thing can be fine if actually done casually – I’ve had friends say that to me and it’s never been weird. But if it’s got that undertone of “and I still kinda do…” or any emotional angst about it, then please no.

        3. Lady Phoenix*

          Had a dude do a dump feelings/ask for a date on me… even our only relation is that we were friends of friends.

          Dude got the no and he eventually thrned out to be a major asshole (doing it for the “comedy”).

          Bullet dodged.

    2. K.*

      I agree. If you’re interested in someone romantically, ask them on a date. That IS the confession, right? A full-blown “I have capital F Feelings!” confession seems overly dramatic. I can see broaching it in this way if the pair started out as platonic friends and one fell in love with the other, but it seems excessive for two people who aren’t in any kind of relationship.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Yeah, as someone who doesn’t pick up on hints well, I’d much rather the person just tell me than trying to flirt. But the “tell” should be some form of “hey, would you like to go on a date with me?” rather than a grand declaration of feelings.

    3. fposte*

      Yes, I think it’s often hoping that the other person will then take action without the first person being required to really stick her neck out.

    4. MashaKasha*

      Yeah, I guess because in romantic novels and rom-com movies a confession like this is followed by the other party giving the confessor a huge hug and reciprocating his feelings on the spot and living happily ever after. Whereas in reality, when both of the parties are older than 13-14 or so, it is awkward, and leaves the other person feeling mortified and thinking thoughts like “what a weird thing to say! why would he say this? what does he really want?” OP, just ask her out for drinks or to hang out after work/on a weekend, like everybody else said. Then see how things go from there.

      1. AnnaBanana*

        I was recently the horrified recipient of a big declaration of Feelings. What made it more awkward was that I’m his boss and I had to gently explain that his feelings weren’t returned and that this was really inappropriate. He took it badly and left in a huff and, although he was a good employee, was a huge relief to see him go. So, yeah, please don’t inflict the big announcement on someone you work with!

    5. The New Wanderer*

      I was the recipient of a “declaration of love” letter. 13 years too late (long ago I had a crush on him but nothing ever happened) and I had just moved across the US to the opposite coast, so pretty pointless. Since it was a paper letter, I wish he’d just written it and then shredded it to get it out of his system.

      I’ve also tuned down or deflected a few friendly lunch invitations from colleagues. If I’d been interested I would have accepted in a second, but since I wasn’t it seemed to end any uncertainty about the situation. Best course of action, just ask.

    6. Zip Zap*

      OMG I know. I have been on both sides of the confessing scenario. It hardly ever goes well. It’s really awkward. It makes it seem like a logistical sort of thing rather than something fun and exciting.

      There are lots of ways to communicate that you like someone. Give them compliments. Invite them to do something with you. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. It doesn’t have to be date-like. Just spend time with them. Then tell them what you like about them. Flirt. If it needs to be stated directly, do it in a fun way. Go for a walk on the beach and write it in the sand or something. Just keep it simple and light. Save the more dramatic stuff for if/when things get more serious.

  7. Funbud*

    I hate, hate, hate, when two people in the office are having an affair and they act all coy about it. Especially when they assume no one knows about it (news flash: someone ALWAYS knows about it!). I also hate when people do the cutesy “She’s my work wife/work husband” routine. These are usually people who 1) dated their sweetheart all through high school or 2) missed out on that and now want to make up for it. Nauseating.

    That being said, my company had a sales exec (married) who was having a prolonged affair with her direct report (also married). It turns out she was also taking kickbacks from one of our large customers. The beauty part was that her admin (who despised her with good reason; the exec was a very unpleasant person to work with/for) inadvertently came across some suggestive e-mails between the two on the exec’s work computer and turned them into HR. They both got fired and I believe she also had to pay compensation for the kickbacks she took. The worst part was the whole set up wasn’t even sexy as they were both extremely unattractive.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      The worst part was the whole set up wasn’t even sexy as they were both extremely unattractive.

      Ew. Why did you have to ruin an interesting comment with such an ugly judgmental comment?

      1. MashaKasha*

        Ugh, really. I hadn’t read the comment all the way to the end (because short attention span) and was agreeing with all of it. Then I saw this. Newsflash, Funbud, most of us are pretty damn unattractive to others. Unless we are Hollywood A-list actors, no one wants to imagine a set-up between us and anyone else we might be dating, or see it as “sexy”. And that is perfectly normal and fine.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Actual science: Turns out, if you can convince one person to be in a relationship with you, you can usually find other people willing to be in an illicit relationship with you while you sneak around on the primary relationship. People who are cheating do not have any special stock of sizzling physical attractiveness, piles of money, or anything else to set them apart other than a willingness to cheat.

    2. Jay*

      The worst part was that they didn’t provide adequate creepy fantasy fodder for you? If you were aiming for amusing, you missed by a country mile. Ugh.

    3. Anon for this*

      I had a married boss who was carrying on an affair with my married teammate, and used me as a cover-up. Like, he’d take her to a theater to see a show, and bring me along. He used to brag to me about how he’d set it up so perfectly with me as a cover-up, not a single person in the office knows the truth. (I was too young and naive to even think about how this cover-up role could make me look to everyone in the office.)

      I talked to other coworkers after I left that job. Everyone knew about those two. No one bought into the cover-up story, and most people hadn’t even realized there was a cover-up. People are not dumb. They know.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Most people hadn’t even realized there was a cover-up.

        This is such a perfect summary of so much human nature.

      1. Funbud*

        Call me shallow (Many have!) but it would have added a nice fillip to the situation if one could at least have thought “Is there a video?”

        I’m kidding! I’m kidding. Methinks I have the wrong sense of humor for this board…

        1. MashaKasha*

          Yeah, I admit, I’m still traumatized from when I lived in a college dorm many years ago, when it was okay for a couple to heavily make out or more with several other people in the room, on the assumption that everyone else was sleeping. (We were not!) Anytime I witness serious PDA, my first, second, and tenth thought is “Eww, that’s too personal” Nowhere in my train of thought is there a “is there a video?” But that’s me…

    4. Hiring Mgr*

      Even as someone who is considered ruggedly handsome (think Paul Newman at his peak..), I don’t like your comment..

  8. Wee Sleekit*

    I’m someone who quit a job so I could ask out a co-worker.

    I was working at a “placeholder” job for income, while thoroughly procrastinating on my job search, which I absolutely loathe and fear. But having a crush gave me the “kick in the butt” to step it up, and I eventually accepted a much better and more challenging job, which I would absolutely not have had the confidence to try for without the extra incentive of the crush.

    I’d like to think I dodged the “unfair pressure” that Alison mentions by not giving any sign to my (now former) co-worker that I’d changed jobs “for them”, which was easy to conceal since my new job was a clear upgrade.

      1. Wee Sleekit*

        Haha, sorry! Didn’t think that one all the way through.

        I asked them on a date on my last day at that job, and they… turned me down because they were moving house and had no free time.

        But two and a half months later we finally met up for ice cream.
        That was summer 2015 and, yep, we’re still together (a bit unconventionally as we’re polyamorous and I’m living with my spouse, which suits everyone involved just fine).

        But more importantly I’m also still at that new job! It was challenging and terrifying and it turns out I can handle it and it’s been really really good for my career.

  9. animaniactoo*

    For the boyfriend at the company dinner – I’m wondering if it is a question of timing/form.

    OP notes that they didn’t mention it until receiving the details of the hotel info and dinner. I think this is the kind of thing that if you know it’s coming up and you’re adding details (extra guest in the room, extra plate at dinner), it’s something you do *before* the arrangements are made to the extent that it sounds like hotel room bookings and such have already happened.

    It’s also not clear that THEY were clear with their boss about the partner being a long-term partner as opposed to a partner of 9 months.

    I would reply back and say “I’m sorry, I’m very confused. On the trips that I’ve been on before, people have brought their spouses, and I thought it was standard form that partners were allowed. Dave and I have lived together for 4 years and are a longstanding partnership. Did I misunderstand?”

    Because we can all speculate – but they’re the only ones who can tell you what the actual issue is. And if there’s confusion about your request or why you did it the way you did, clearing that up now can only be beneficial to you.

  10. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    Alison: A few years ago there was a similar question about bringing a boyfriend or friend (I don’t remember the context exactly) to a work event. You (and I) took the position that it was reasonable for a company to include spouses but not others, and were surprised by how many folks took exception to that (I was too). Has your position on this changed over the years?

    I see the same debate getting started in earlier comments, and I’m not sure what to think. On the one hand, it seems decidedly not strange for an organization to use the systems we already have in place (marriage) to draw boundaries around who is invited (if they don’t use those definitions, then they end up in the business of making their own rules about who counts — can you bring your roommate instead of a spouse? Your sister, or best friend? etc.). On the other hand, I am personally agnostic about marriage and don’t see it as the only meaningful way to have a lifelong partnership.

    1. Decimus*

      It may be reasonable and yet also be a bit out of touch (social norms do change over time as well). But I still believe it was getting upset with the employee for saying she wanted to bring her partner that was the real problem. If the manager had just written back “I’m sorry, the family dinner is for married or engaged couples only” it would have been socially conservative and maybe a little out of touch but not really offensive. Getting upset and saying an employee was unprofessional for wanting to bring their long term partner to a family dinner? THAT is the true unprofessional moment.

      1. fposte*

        I would agree that that was really unnecessary. You just state policy and move on.

        Personally, I am overall a disliker of the blank plus one for most events and I think that’s had a lot to do with people having the idea that as long as people can bring a spouse everybody gets to bring a person. But even in the old-fashioned version engaged couples were invited as couples, not just married folks, and I’d definitely expand this to established couples and partnerships. However, at a workplace event they may not to go into the wedding-level weeds on who is and who isn’t welcome, so I think that’s the kind of situation where a straight out plus one might be the easiest policy.

      2. AMPG*

        I wonder if they thought the boyfriend was new because the OP had never tried to bring him along before. That’s the only scenario under which it might make sense to reprimand her, because they could have expected her to be familiar enough with the company’s norms to know that a relationship that was less than a year old didn’t meet the “family” threshold. Although, even then it wouldn’t have been necessary or recommended, just slightly more understandable.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it was this one:

      I wasn’t really defending it — just saying it’s not uncommon or a complete outrage. (Although I do think it’s actually more uncommon now than it was when I wrote that post five years ago. And I do find it stodgier now than I did five years ago, which could be reflective of broader social changes or could just be me.)

    3. Liz2*

      I really think the formality and the purpose of the event can matter. If your event is relatively cost reasonable and intended to just create a squishy happy family feelings, then exclusion seems contrary to that. If your event is just cause of holidays and per head count is high, having some restrictions can be best and cut down on all the “Well we’ve only been dating 3 weeks but SHE’S THE ONE” back and forth that party planners don’t need.

      I generally agree either you get a plus one or you don’t.

      1. agatha31*

        I agree with your last paragraph specifically because of the issues listed in Victoria Nonprofit’s last paragraph, most specifically this bit:

        “use the systems we already have in place (marriage) to draw boundaries around who is invited”

        Because let’s face it, there have been way too many instances out there of marriage used to draw a boundary that is only nominally in the name of “but head count!”, while blatantly being about “your who-you-should-have-sex-with rules are different than my who-you-should-have-sex-with rules and my response to no longer being able to legally outright state that, I’m going to be petty and exclusionary and use the already highly abused ritual of marriage in order to draw a super exclusionary line beyond which I’ll grudgingly let you past, but not your unmarried/same sex partner.”

        Of course plus-1 still *can* be used to be exclusionary toward poly relationships but it’d be a lot more reasonable to say “I have no problem with you bringing 1 person but 3 kinda kills our budget.”

        Though it does lead me to ask, since I understand that Utah has some interesting differences in their employment rules in general – what’s the “+1” rule like – is it even used? – in a state where polygamy is more acceptable (or legal? I’m a bit vague on that, being Canadian and much more familiar with our laws).

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      As a general rule, I think if the hosts have set some sort of limit on who is in and out (married, engaged, living together, established long-time couple, certified chicken ranchers) then you just work with that rule and don’t get het up about trying to force a change–go, don’t go, whatever this event is it’s not your only chance to socialize ever. This goes even moreso with work, where whether random outside thrice-removed people on the internet theoretically like the vacation policy or holiday dinner policy or chicken tracking policy is going to be deeply moot to the people making the policy.

      It actually reminds me of the no alcohol at the company dinner letter, where I really didn’t understand why people had a reaction more intense than “Okay.” There’s a distinction between hospitality offered for free due to some relationship (e.g. a company party, or a dinner party with friends) and running a bar or night club. If you like to socialize with alcohol, karaoke, carbohydrates, your spouse, a stripper pole, or whatever else, you go to private venues that have all those. If you’re invited to someone’s home or your spouse’s work event and there won’t be a stripper pole, you just make do and politely chat until you can leave.

  11. Gee Gee*

    It’s too bad that there’s no such thing as AAM Missed Connections. The woman who was concern trolling the government employee for lunching with her own husband could be pointed like a drama-seeking missile at Jane, to bless-her-heart all over Jane’s “work wife” behavior with the upper manager.

  12. Colin Featherton is my bae*

    Ugh, I hate when people do the only-your-spouse thing. Just specify one adult guest.

    At OldExjob, they said you could bring one adult, but I never had anyone to ask and I always ended up at the boss’s table (awk-werd). If I’m working for a place that does this old-fashioned, non-inclusive spouse-only bullshit, I just won’t go. Networking be damned.

  13. Artemesia*

    I don’t get anyone ever under any circumstances ‘confessing a crush’ on someone else. This is grade school behavior. Grownups, chat with the person they find attractive. If that goes well, they see about getting lunch together some work day. And they chat about how their weekend went and get to know a little bit about the person. Then they carefully ask if the other might be interested in getting together for a movie and drinks and back off hard if any of these things don’t find encouragement. There is never a reason to tell someone you have a crush on them unless it is after you are already dating and the feelings are reciprocated. And you don’t ‘have feelings for someone’ that are anything beyond superficial if you don’t already have a bit of a friendship from the time spent working together. And if you have that, you know how to proceed to notch it up a bit.

  14. Elle*

    Ok, Alison, I have to disagree with your family dinner answer – it sounds to me as if peoples’ significant others have been invited. I got the sense the boss wasn’t appalled by her trying to bring her partner along, but at her presumption in announcing that he was coming – I would have gone to my immediate boss in person and asked whether I could bring my long term partner, as I was aware that in the past a number of co-workers had brought their significant others. I think op did his/herself a disservice by being high handed. (However, if op is male, I do think there is a chance this is homophobic – I wasn’t clear on gender from the letter, though I assume you would have raised it if relevant)

  15. Wintermute*

    I would push back on that second-to-last one, about the company dinner! You don’t have to make a big deal about it, just as Alison always recommends, treat them as if *of course* they’re going to follow the law.

    “Oh, well I assumed since it’s not legal to discriminate based on marital and family status, that a long term partner was a long term partner, with or without a marriage certificate.” That’s a bit pointed, but I don’t think it’s out of line and it gets across the point: your discrimination is illegal and I don’t agree to follow it. Plus their behavior was rude too and beyond rude it was illegal discrimination, so there’s no need to be overly gracious about it!

  16. agatha31*

    That crush letter is really bugging the hell out of me for two reasons.

    1 – as others have said, “I have a crush on you” is… really… weirdly… junior high school-ish. It’s off-putting, in or out of a professional setting, because it implies a mindset that isn’t exactly compatible with an adult relationship. This is bad for two reasons. a) That puts her in a really awkward position where she’s going to have to guess how someone with at least one unhealthy idea about how adult relationships work might take rejection, and b) Dude, you’re both professionals. You need to be acting like one and treating her like one, and right now you’re not. You’ve cast her into a romcom in your head without taking her thought and feelings into consideration because – by your own admission – *you don’t know them*. Which leads me to item #2 of why this is bugging the hell out of me:

    2 – you’ve known this woman for seven months, still haven’t even *tried* having *a* coffee with her, and already you’ve jumped way past “ask about doing something after work some time” to QUITTING, and thinking of that as ROMANTIC and A GOOD THING. Ooooooooh my god, NO.

    Let me repeat this, in all-caps because dude, YOU’VE ONLY KNOWN THIS WOMAN FOR SEVEN MONTHS AND YOU STILL HAVEN’T EVEN HAD A MAYBE-WE-MIGHT-ENJOY-COFFEE-TOGETHER-SOMETIME CONVERSATION WITH HER AND YOU’RE ALREADY REARRANGING YOUR ENTIRE LIFE AROUND HER. Sweet baby Jesus do NOT do that. Do NOT tell her that. Do NOT tell ANYONE that. If they didn’t notice the underdeveloped emotional mindset implied by #1, they’re going to get smacked across the head by the brick-wrapped-in-a-red-flag-wrapped-in-another-brick that is… everything behind such a mindset. This isn’t a romantic thing, this is a “holy goddamn terrifying levels of creepiness” thing. This is a “models his relationships off chick flicks and romcoms” thing. And before you say “but that’s good, right?” please note how many chick flicks and romcoms encourage some seriously unhealthy behaviors and dress them up as “romaaaaaaantic!” (Great article here: which highlights that, among a LOT of other issues with romcoms, and that’s without even touching on how it’s not just women that romcoms are teaching some dangerous ideas about love to, but men as well).

    Do yourself, your co-worker, and your employer all a favor and treat that co-worker like you would any other co-worker. As others have said, you can certainly approach her and *casually* see if she’d like to hang out outside work sometime. Just like you would any other co-worker, male or female. But what you *should* be considering very very carefully, instead of “how long should I wait before quitting and popping the question”, is “am I seeing signals of reciprocation, or am I trying to spin them wholecloth out of normal polite responses by someone who’s been trained by society to be polite and gentle toward the feelings of the opposite gender, both because that’s what their gender is expected to do, and because of the unspoken knowledge that the opposite gender can and might hurt them if they decide to get mean about it.”

    Yeah, that’s a lot of shit to throw at you. But don’t even think about complaining about it, because that’s all the shit you have to ask yourself “has she got in the back of her mind *every* goddamn time *any* goddamn employee decides that her simple friendliness means marriage”? That is the reality of being a woman, and if you really care about her, you’re going consider that reality in your approach to her and consider *her* feelings and comfort levels waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay the fuck before you start shopping for china patterns.

    In *general*, this letter suggests to me that you need to get more realistic views about women and relationships overall, so let’s start by suggesting you read what women say, what women think, and really consider it. AMA good. Captain Awkward, because it deals specifically with relationships, even better. Start with this recent letter:

    which actually covers some of what I discussed about not making up signs to fit into your narrative of ‘yay, true love!’ – then start reading related posts. And heck, put her on your rss feed. There’s always good shit in CA’s posts, and the comments are just as fantastic and full of women discussing their experiences. Read them. Believe them. And, by reading and believing them, benefit from their willingness to share by getting a much more reasonable and realistic (and therefore likely to succeed in the real world) long view of relationships and how to navigate them than you will from any source that pushes “I quit my job for you” as “not scary at all.”

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