I have a crush on my employee

A reader writes:

I’ve worked with a male coworker who is close in age to me (I am female) for several years, and last year I was promoted to manage him and others. We have a great working relationship and complementary skill sets; my manager has remarked several times on what a great team we make. We have tackled several daunting projects together in the past year that previous teams struggled with; I credit our ability to connect, communicate, and be understanding of each other’s strengths and limitations for this success.

From working closely, I’d say we know each other fairly well, which, over time, has led to me developing feelings for him (I don’t know how he feels and Ive decide speculating on it is inappropriate and not healthy). I have never acted inappropriately, and I am not someone who is overly effusive at work, so I don’t think he or anyone else would ever guess my true feelings. I have done personal work and therapy to resolve/manage how I feel; however, I have found that seeing this person every day and working closely tends to prompt these feelings to recur. Short of avoiding him or changing jobs, I do not see this going away completely.

I feel inappropriate just for having these feelings, and I am concerned that I devote more attention to this direct report than others due to working so well with him and liking/respecting him as a person. My questions here are (1) if my concerns about bias are overblown (others I’ve discussed it with believe I’m overly worried about what is essentially a very human thing to feel), and (2) the most professional way to handle/compartmentalize personal feelings towards someone you work with regularly, especially if you are their manager and your good relationship with the person is actually often a positive for work results.

I would ask yourself these questions:

1. Would an objective person observing you think that you favored this employee? (This is tricky because there can be legitimate reasons for some types of “favoritism” — like it makes sense that you might spend more time with someone who’s working on a high-stakes project or just a project that you’re heavily involved in for work reasons, or that you’d have additional good will for an outstanding employee. So maybe instead ask: Would an objective person observing you have questions about the way you interact with this person versus others on your team?)

2. Do you give this employee more of your time and attention because you enjoy spending time with him (as opposed to having real work reasons for it)?

3. How comfortable and willing are you to give him less-than-positive feedback? When’s the last time you did that? Did you pull any punches when you did?

4. If you had to lay off someone on your team, would you be able to be objective in considering whether it should be him?

5. How might this be affecting him (with or without his knowledge)? Does he not get the same feedback and coaching he might otherwise get because you don’t want to say anything critical? Is there any chance he might suspect how you feel (and feel uncomfortable)? Are there any signs he might like different boundaries but doesn’t feel comfortable asking for them? Does he have reason to worry about others thinking there’s favoritism in play?

If you reflect honestly on these questions and conclude your feelings are staying firmly in your head … well, it’s still not a great situation. Your biggest obligation as a manager is to ensure those feelings don’t leak out into the way you treat him or others — and to be really, really rigorous in evaluating that, because this is an area where the temptation to self-delude is really strong.

But I’d also work intently on trying to banish those feelings so that you don’t have to stay in a mode of constant vigilance (and because you can never be positive that your assessment of how much it might show is accurate or not).

I think it’s Carolyn Hax whose advice for getting over a crush is to imagine as many unappealing things about the crush as possible — imagine them being rude to your family, leaving gross things in your bathroom, insulting your cooking, not doing their share of the cleaning… and the more you can tie that to real-life tendencies they might have, the better. It’s awkward to imagine those things about someone who works for you, but the current situation is more awkward, so this is in service of a greater good.

I might also resolve that if the feelings are there six months from now, you’ll seriously look into changing jobs … and having that hanging over you might help chase the feelings away too.

{ 245 comments… read them below }

  1. Amber T

    Oi, this is a sticky situation. Kudos to you for recognizing it and already taking appropriate measures to not make it awkward. I agree with Alison that, if you’re feelings don’t go away after a certain amount of time, it might be better to switch up jobs.

    1. OP

      Thank you for understanding comment! I really appreciated Alison’s thorough and thoughtful advice as well; I plan to seriously ponder each question and then decide on next steps.

      1. MommyMD

        This is a hard situation. For me if I’m trying to let something go or forget about it I talk to NO one about it. Talking about it just keeps it forefront in your mind. Consciously seek out distractions.

        1. Vicky Austin

          OTOH, I find that this can sometimes backfire, because by not talking about it, the thoughts just fester in my head until they become unmanageable. OP amentions that she’s going to therapy, and that is a productive way to deal with it. What she SHOULDN’T do is go out with her two best girlfriends and giggle about how cute he is.

  2. NerdyKris

    In my personal experience, actively putting yourself out there on dating sites helps. I find when I’m not dating I start seeing flirty behavior and feels everywhere, especially coworkers, since I spend so much more time with them. I never act on it, but I find it’s far easier to avoid inappropriate feelings when you have other, appropriate, people to put those feelings on.

    1. Mystery Bookworm

      OP doesn’t comment on her dating life, but if it’s an area that she’s not paying a lot of attention to, I think you’re right that bolstering efforts there might really help in the long run.

      Sometimes a crush can be a bit of a signal that we need a little extra excitement elsewhere.

    2. K

      If I have a crush on someone and am also looking through dating apps, I might end up getting more attracted to the crush when I find flaws in all the guys on the apps. So there could also be the possibility that getting out there more might make it worse.

      1. Emily S

        Seriously…nothing makes me contemplate whether my ex was really so bad for me and whether I shouldn’t just give it another go with him like seeing my (lack of) options on a dating app.

      2. Secretary

        Although! A crush can be a very good indicator of what the OP might be looking for!
        OP can use the crush as a base with things they want in a partner, then add things to their list that their crush doesn’t have. Maybe they’ll find someone better.

      3. many bells down

        I sometimes hang out on chat sites, and the sheer number of appalling come-ons I get very much makes me appreciate my husband more. (My site profile says i’m married. It doesn’t help.)

    3. Sloan Kittering

      Yes yes! The best way to get rid of an inappropriate crush is to develop another relationship and invest your feelings there. Nothing else is as effective in my experience.

    4. Smithy

      Co-sign this as well.

      I’ve found that even going out on a few meh to terrible dates and also support lowering “crushy” feelings generally speaking. Because there’s no easier way to highlight how much dating can suck or a formerly crush worthy guy is just another guy than going on some dates. Or it can highlight how perhaps dating at all at this time just doesn’t feel right and the crush might be serving as an overall emotional placeholder. Either way – I think it can be helpful!

      1. AnnaBananna

        Yep. It’s entirely possible he’s just a candidate for Work Husband and she’s blowing it out of proportion (the feels, not the situation – she’s totally right to worry) because of their roles to each other. Hmmm. Things to ponder.

        That said, Alison’s #4 is an excellent litmus test. I once dated the son of one of my employees (we kept it a secret for a looooong time), until I had to lay off one person from my team. Due to my relationship, I was able to justify his mother being laid off to myself. And while I hated the entire process (she honestly didn’t really care, ha!), it was a validating experience that my mettle and ethics were at least on par. I hope you too can say the same, OP. :)

    5. Public Sector Manager

      Definitely this!

      I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of OP’s situation. The first time my boss had a crush on me. She was happily married with her first child, yet felt compelled to tell me she had a crush on me. Before she told me, our relationship was exactly like OP described in her letter. But when it started impacting her marriage, she focused on her family, which was great and that’s what she should have done all along. However, it ruined our working relationship because my boss went in the opposite extreme. Now if I did something good, she always went out of her way to diminish my contribution and point out my flaws. If I asked for training or an increased budget for necessary things to get my job done, it was always no. It got so bad that I left.

      As a new supervisor, I was in the OP’s situation. And all the feelings stopped the second I started dating my now wife.

      In both situations, having someone else solved the feelings of a crush. And for writing in about the issue, I’m confident that the OP is the type who won’t do what my old boss did to me once the crush was over.

    6. Dr. Pepper

      I think that actively putting yourself out anywhere would likely help. That way you can channel your emotional energy into something else, be it dating, joining a new club, or signing up for classes to learn something new. I find sitting around with not a lot to do the worst thing for unwelcome thoughts and feelings.

    7. OP

      I excluded this from my original comment, but I am not in a position to date. This makes the current situation at work even more untenable but I didn’t want to distract from the work related question by mentioning personal relationship status.

      1. MM

        If you’re not in a position to date because you’re in a relationship or married, then I would take this situation as a prompt to examine what’s up with your relationship. It’s not abnormal to get little fantasy crushes even when you’re already with someone, but this sounds like it’s persistent; and when that happens, it usually means something’s up in the relationship you’re already in. In that case, the crush is a symptom, and some hard conversations with your SO or with a therapist (or both!) are probably necessary to deal with the cause. (Note that these hard conversations don’t necessarily have to involve you disclosing the crush; you haven’t done anything about it, and like I said it’s a symptom. But a hard think about what it is that you’re not getting from your SO that you’re getting from/projecting onto this guy, and then a conversation about that, is probably warranted.)

        1. OP

          I specifically came to AAM for work, not relationship/personal, advice. I am already working on personal implications within the confines of a confidential, therapeutic setting.

          1. Yourethicsconfuseme

            I’ve only ever had these types of crushes when I’m in a long term relationship that is bad for me. Once I finally am available to date, I realize my crush isn’t as great as I thought.

          2. OP

            Yes, thank you, this is correct—I do not want or need personal advice or “relationship” advice. I asked for advice on the very human situation of having feelings for someone in a professional environment in which the feelings can’t be acted on but must be managed in a way that does not introduce bias.

            1. Wintermute

              Well unfortunately, in this case they’re kind of tied up together… which is why a lot of people are giving good-intentioned advice on the wider situation.

              The best I can offer otherwise is that usually being aware of a potential bias is a decent hedge against that bias. EVERYONE is biased, all the time, about everything, we are not rational analytical engines we are beings of emotion driven by flawed pattern-recognition machines that want to make meaning where there is none. But naming your biases and accepting they exist is the first step towards being able to act rationally in situations that implicate your biases.

              Of course the risk is swerving too far the other way, but that’s not as common as people fear.

              Take heart, no manager has ever been completely unbiased. Some personalities mesh others don’t, we find some people easier to relate to, some people have life experiences we understand and others have lifestyles we find completely alien, some people are in the same phase of life and career and others are in a phase you’ve outgrown or haven’t reached yet, and that’s before you even get into deeply acculturated and even deeply biologically rooted biases like genetic attraction (we’re predisposed to like and be attracted to people that look like they have our genes).

              Just by knowing where you are you’re ahead of the curve, and that’s important. The goal should never be “I am bias-free” because you won’t ever be nor will any other human being, the goal should be “I’m aware enough of my biases and have enough emotional control that I am confident my decisionmaking is rational. You pretty much sound like you’re there.

              So from this point on it’s more of a matter of easing your own emotional turmoil around the issue than job performance, in my opinion.

        1. Le’Veon Bell is seizing the means of production

          Yeah, I agree with Alison. This sounds like something like “I’m working through an issue right now and know that I am not in a position to put the impacts of that on another person, so I’m not able to date right now” which in the context of the letter would sound like she was deflecting on the possibility of dating her employee, and might derail. And it could well be just “I’m married” but I suspect if it were, she might have mentioned it. And even if it were, it’s still not incredibly relevant. She’s not in a position to date her employee, because she knows that’s not right to do. Even if she’s not otherwise in a position to date, it doesn’t really have much bearing on how to resolve this crush.

        2. MRM

          I disagree, she needs to deal with her work crush. What’s going on outside of work is a different topic for a different advice column, and I wouldn’t blame her if she specifically didn’t want a ton of unsolicited relationship advice.

  3. very anon for this

    OP, I think this is really, really normal. Working together in the trenches helps you form a bond, and the joy of finding a colleague with a complementary skill set is hard to replicate. That can lead to Feelings. It’s happened a few times in my career, and honestly, the feeling generally passes in time. What makes you click at work isn’t necessarily something you can replicate outside of work.

    (Of course, sometimes it can, and does! I just think those stories are the exceptions, not the rule.)

    Remember that at some point, it’s highly likely that this guy WILL do something that ticks you off, or is just … less than ideal. And poof, the crush will have less of a hold on you. Keep your professional distance, as it sounds like you’re doing, and chances are this will dissolve over time.

    1. Kes

      Agreed with all of this. I’ve found that focusing on things about them that aren’t great and the signs that they probably aren’t actually into me can help with getting over awkward crushes (it still takes some time, of course)

      That said, my sister met my BIL at work, while she was his manager… so it can work out. But you definitely need to be careful and particularly aware of how you treat him vs your other reports and that you are not giving him special treatment at work because you like him.

    2. TootsNYC

      I got a huge crush on a coworker just because he was so competent. And I liked how his brain worked.
      It was strong enough that I worried, actually. I finally decided I didn’t need to worry after all because I never thought of him when I wasn’t at work. And I decided to just enjoy it at work–I didn’t need to act on it, or get any response from him, I could just enjoy the giddy of needing to go discuss something with him.

      (It helps that I had a lot of crushes on people in junior high and high school but wasn’t a “popular girl” and was certain they wouldn’t be returned. I learned that as long as you don’t indicate you expect a response, the guys kind of enjoyed the attention, and I could enjoy the rush from the interactions too.)

      Then he got a really, really short haircut that made his head look round and his eyes look bugged-out. And my crush was over.
      I still thought he was smart, and admired his brain. But no crush anymore.

      1. uranus wars

        This is a good question for the OP to ask herself, too! Is she thinking of co-worker outside of the office?

        I also agree with those saying that focusing on external dating could help, or just going out in general. I have found as a not-so-recently single I am starting to develop crushes on people I have known for years because, well, single for a year with no dates. So just going out more helped temper those.

    3. Jennifer Juniper

      OP, if you are partnered, please focus more on your partner, as your crush could be a symptom of trouble in your relationship.

      1. Atalanta0jess

        I think it’s also super common for people to have great partnerships AND feel crushes towards other folks. Sometimes its a warning sign, sometimes it’s just the fact that there are lots of awesome and attractive people in the world.

        1. Orange Crush

          Agreed. It’s crappy & judgy to assume that crush = problems in a person’s primary partnership. Not all primary partnerships have identical parameters, and not all brains are wired the same way. Some people have open marriages/relationships, and/or an agreed-upon understanding with their primary partner that being attracted to others is *not* a relationship crisis). And some people are just prone to crushy feelings. Pre-judging OP’s personal life isn’t helping her with this specific work question– something that could happen to anyone in any relationship situation.

  4. Où est la bibliothèque?

    Another imaginary scenario: how would you act if this person knew about your crush and had totally rebuffed you?

    You would have to keep your chin up and stay professional, but you would have only professional interactions–in fact, you’d have to work on not being overly avoidant or frosty. And, eventually, you would get over the rejection and he would return to just being a person.

    1. OP

      yes good point—this would be a good scenario to imagine as part of the carolyn hax technique that alison outlines in her response

    2. OP

      I reread this comment again because it is so good. And mini-update: I’ve incrementally moved towards seeing the person in question as just a person, thanks to alison and many commenters work-related advice.

    1. yams

      Same. In my case it’d be easier to find a new job than dealing with the object of my crush in such close proximity for an indefinite period of time. I’ve been working on banishing one since… October.

    2. Marissa Graham

      The most effective strategy I’ve ever found is to find someone to ship your crush with and do that instead.

  5. Scully

    I once developed a huge crush on a coworker. One day we went out to lunch and he got so much food stuck in his teeth that it immediately turned me off. So my advice is to take your coworker out for falafel.

    1. Leetaann

      I made the mistake of discussing politics with my office crush while at lunch one day. We got along so well I just assumed he shared my political leanings. Boy, was I wrong. Poof! No more crush.

      1. BookishMiss

        Seriously. Crush told me they would fly 3 flags: national, one associated with a particular group, and wouldn’t tell me the third. No problem with the national flag, but the second flag and my very educated guess for the third represent groups that are dead opposite my concept of decent and humane. Crush stopped right there.

    2. Dust Bunny

      One of mine turned out to have TERRIBLE table manners. Like, I used to do childcare and church and all those four-year-olds had better manners than he did. It was exactly the bucket of cold water I needed.

    3. Lady Phoenix

      Take them out for pasta. See if they loudly slurp the noodles.

      Or if it is cold/flu season and they can’t be bothered getting a damn tossue. That gross snorting sound is an instanturn off for me (since I constantly get sniffles).

  6. Mystery Bookworm

    I might disagree with some of Alison’s advice here. Of course, give the Carolyn Hax trick a try: there’s a lot to be said for reminding yourself that humans are human (and some people are great at work but terrible in relationships).

    That said, often accepting and forgiving yourself for having feelings can be more effective than actively trying to ‘banish’ them. Trying to stop thinking or feeling things tends to backfire, and paradoxically often gives the feelings / thoughts MORE control, rather than less.

    1. Sloan Kittering

      I think OP has already taken the first step there, in that she admits that she has a crush and that it’s inappropriate. She’s not trying to deny either of those facts.

      1. Mystery Bookworm

        Yes, but she also feels inappropriate for having these feelings – there’s clearly some guilt there. It’s generally hard to just get rid of thoughts that make us feel bad.

        Look, I’m not saying that it won’t work, but in my experience (and I work in mental health, for whatever that’s worth) there’s a middle step, which is working being compassionate and understanding of yourself for having inconvienent feelings.

        I might be getting hung up on the wording here, though. ‘Banish’ reads to me like an aggressive attempt to eliminate certain feelings; an assault on the crush. I think that’s unlikely to work in the long run.

        1. Anon for this

          I agree with you, what’s more I disagree with Alison’s reco that OP needs a new job if they cannot ‘banish’ the crush. We’re human; we’re going to have favorites, but if you’re in a position of power you cannot play favorites. Alison gave a great list of soul-searching questions to ask, and if OP is self-aware enough to answer those honestly and come to the conclusion that OP is not playing favorites or making the employee uncomfortable etc, then I think that the reco to find a new job is unnecessarily punitive.

        2. Beth

          I mean, she feels inappropriate for having these feelings because these feelings ARE inappropriate for a manager/manage-ee relationship. I think OP’s response to her crush is completely understandable here. It’s not her *fault* she’s feeling this way or anything like that–we don’t choose who we crush on–but it is professionally inappropriate, and it has a reasonably high chance of backfiring on OP if anyone notices her crush. Her discomfort with her feelings is totally understandable and reasonable here.

          I can’t say whether it’ll work better to aggressively try to banish the crush, or to gently compassion it into oblivion. I suspect different strategies will work for different individuals. But I also think it’s important to acknowledge the context here; OP’s worries about the professional ramifications of this aren’t overblown, she genuinely does need to find a way to get her feelings under control quickly or she will not be able to be a good manager for this person.

          1. Anon for this

            It’s not her feelings here that are the issue, it’s her actions. It’s unrealistic to require people to not have feelings at work. It certainly must be uncomfortable for OP to manage them in a professional way, but the feelings themselves are what they are.

            1. Beth

              You must be better at managing crush-feelings than I am! Usually I hold pretty strongly to exactly this philosophy–feelings are feelings and can’t be helped, actions are what matters. But when it comes to crushes, I find it’s very easy for me to slip into behaving in ways I wouldn’t act towards someone I wasn’t crushing on, without even noticing until a friend points it out or I reflect on it later. (I don’t mean big things, but there’s all sorts of small ways this stuff comes out…lingering in conversation a little longer, being a little more effusive with praise and a little more hesitant to criticize, paying just a tad more attention to them than others in a group setting…the kinds of things that are no big deal to do once, but can add up to a fairly obvious situation over time to anyone paying attention.)

          2. Mystery Bookworm

            I think we might come from different perpectives here. To my mind, feelings are feelings. No more, no less. I don’t see the value in labeling or judging them.

            To that end, I don’t think a feeling CAN be inappropriate. It’s just a feeling. Actions can be, however. And if we focus on our actions (which are more in our immediate control than our feelings) then over time we can impact and often change our feelings. It doesn’t tend to work so well the other way around.

            1. Sloan Kittering

              Interesting! On the other hand, I think there’s a kind of middle step where you take the ACTION of not deliberately indulging in a feeling. Like, are you spending time every day fantasizing about dating/kissing/WTV with your employee? You can choose to stop doing that and learn to turn your thoughts another direction, without adding shame or judgement. “Ah, I am doing that thing again. I’m going to turn my thoughts to something else.”

        3. Orange Crush

          I really like the phrasing of “inconvenient” feelings rather than “inappropriate” or “wrong.” It’s helpful to be reminded that our brains aren’t totally under control. We have to deal with whatever it lobs at us. And be gentle with ourselves & respectful to others in doing so. I mean, they’re THOUGHTS but they’re also *just* little ol’ thoughts.

    2. scooby snack

      Oh, this is a great point! Yes, there’s research about how more accepting “meta-feelings” can really make one more resilient and less tortured by the underlying feelings.

      I think there’s also something to talking about someone or something casually (outside of work of course) so much that it loses its potency a bit.

      1. Sandy

        Yes! I listened to the most interesting podcast that talked about different ways of dealing with intrusive thoughts and one of the methods is NOT to assign huge importance or relevance to them, but let them just pass through you as a momentary thought. So yes, you have a crush on this guy, but a) it happens. Nearly everyone gets them, even people in happy relationships. b) It doesn’t have to mean anything at all, as you are not going to do anything about it.

        1. Less Bread More Taxes

          Can you link this or give instructions for how to find it? I’d be really interested in listening.

          1. Sandy

            Sure, I believe it was the Invisibilia episode, The Secret History of Thoughts. Not geared towards people who struggle with intrusive thoughts but very interesting insights even so.

        2. Patty Mayonnaise

          I cosign this method – I have had better luck getting rid of a crush by acknowledging the feeling and letting it go (“Oh yes, I’m having those crush feelings again, how interesting” *moves on to something else*) than actively applying unappealing traits to the person.

    3. Parenthetically

      Totally agreed with this approach. It’s a crush! It happens! Crushes are transient by nature! “Huh, interesting, I have a crush on this work colleague, lucky thing I have some strategies to manage my external behaviors while I wait for it to pass” can be a helpful strategy.

      Also, just like we can take inconvenient situations with others and turn it into, in Snark’s words, “Weirdos in the Mist” anthropological observations, I think we can do the same with ourselves — a little meta-analysis about our own processes and feelings and thoughts. Like, “Oh, I have a crush and it makes my stomach go all butterfly-y, that’s both fun and terrifying, wonder what’s going on behind that! Am I missing some excitement in my personal life? Am I feeling particularly lonely? Do I need more challenges at work? More exercise?” Not in a judgmental or punitive way to try to distract from the crush, just in a “what need is this feeling meeting and since I can’t indulge it what could I use to meet that need,” observational kind of way.

      1. Coffee Bean

        Love this. Yes. Reevaluate what may be driving those feelings. Obviously connections happen, and there is not always a why behind why they are there, but are there things you are missing in your personal life that are keeping you from letting this crush go?

        Other than that, I think those saying to just acknowledge you have them and redirect your train of thought when those more inappropriate (or just outside of work) thoughts come up.

    4. Anon for this too

      I agree. I’ve had inappropriate crushes before and trying to banish my feelings just makes me mad and frustrated because I can’t do it, and in some spiteful way my feelings just get stronger. It becomes almost like a guilty pleasure, something I know I’m not “allowed” to do but I’m doing it anyway. Actively accepting my feelings and forgiving myself for the discomfort and pain helps a lot more. I’ll even take it one step further. Allow yourself to grieve for what might have been and/or what never will be. That may sound extreme, but with really strong feelings sometimes you need approach them as you would a big loss.

      1. restingbutchface

        I can beat that inappropriate crush – I had a thing for my married boss’s mistress. Who worked in the same company.

        Yeah, that was a good year :(

      2. Please No More Meetings

        Oh wow, this really speaks to me. The part about allowing yourself to be sad and grieve for what might have been has been useful in the past. I call it my “Sliding Doors” moments.

    5. Ada

      Sort of like meditation. You observe and acknowledge the thoughts are there, and acknowledge that you don’t have to act on them; you can choose to let them float by. But if you actively try to resist them, you’ll just end up making them more stubborn.

    6. OP

      Yes, good point…i have noticed this. lately (before this posted), i’ve been trying to keep my mind on other things and focus on neglected hobbies instead of actively “combatting” my feelings

      1. Phrunicus

        OP, I’ve also seen different advice as well – not banish, not “imagine their faults”, etc.

        “Dr. Nerdlove” sums up his advice for noting the crush, naming it, and moving on in his answer to the first letter here at the link (hopefully gets through moderation): https://www.doctornerdlove.com/ask-dr-nerdlove-get-over-crush/ (Don’t worry so much about the specifics of the letter, but most of it is ‘how do I get past the crush’, so hopefully relevant.)

  7. Cordoba

    I’m fine with people dating co-workers; seems like the manager/managee aspect is the only real problem here.

    Is it feasible that the LW could move into managing a different group over the next few months and then actually see if the guy is interested in going out once there’s no supervisory relationship? That might even be a good motivating factor for their job search.

      1. OP

        Yes, responding as the original LW: While not bad advice, i’m not in a position to date. i appreciate the thought, though, that went into your comment.

    1. Even Steven

      Maybe….maybe not. If OP is considering proceeding, it would be really wise to check company rules first. Some companies have serious restrictions on inter-office dating. In my last job, if you dated a colleague, it had to be reported to management at the outset. If it got serious, one of the couple would have to quit. No gray area. It was a heavy-handed response to the failure of two married couples (all four of whom were hired at the company’s inception) to keep their marital issues at home, and to work hierarchically (one wife managed her husband – you can image how well that went). But whether it was reasonable or not, it was within state employment law, was fiercely enforced, and kept everyone staring down at their shoes at office parties.

      I had no problem with it personally as I was blissfully divorced and wanting to stay that way, but always wondered about the risks to a couple if the personal relationship ended but the work one did not. That the OP also manages her crush could be seen as a power issue (exploitation? favoritism?) by their peers & uppers. I wouldn’t chance it. I would be taking the office team out for falafel (thanks, Scully!) as soon as possible to defuse the imagination.

    2. LGC

      Depends on the company. In some cases, she couldn’t date him even if they were in different departments.

      (For what it’s worth, although my company allows colleagues to date, I think they have to be at the same level regardless. And I’m not wild about my team dating each other, although part of that is because I came back after Christmas vacation to Drama this year.)

    3. J.

      I would be super creeped out if I found out my former manager had taken it upon themselves to move to another position over a period of month specifically because they were interested in me romantically. I mean, yes, there is all kinds of inappropriate stuff with a supervisor making their interest for a subordinate known, but to uproot your life for the express purpose of asking someone else out, without having involved them at any point earlier in the process? That’s a lot of pressure in a different way, whoa.

  8. Amber Rose

    Switch jobs, and then call him up and ask him out.

    Just kidding. Probably don’t do that. But do go easy on yourself. You are human, you have human feelings, feelings are not inherently inappropriate. It’s normal to develop affection for someone you connect with, especially if you like your job and associate all the good feelings from completing difficult projects with the person who helped you do it.

    It’s OK! I mean, definitely make sure your actions aren’t inappropriate, but don’t beat yourself up for feelings.

    1. Polymer Phil

      Intentionally switching jobs to ask him out isn’t a good idea, but I’ve never had the same boss for more than a few years due to constant corporate reorgs – you’ll probably get your chance before too long.

      1. Amber Rose

        If dude is as skilled as it sounds like, he’s probably up for promotion sooner than later anyway.

        1. Jules the 3rd

          OP would still have seniority and could end up his manager again. Better to assume that the current work situation will be an issue as long as both are in the same company.

      2. Annette

        Waiting for your chance is incompatible with the advice to move on from the crush. Assume you never had or will have a chance, feel your feelings, and move on.

    2. Sloan Kittering

      I have had to remind myself that, if this crush is actually my mystical soulmate or whatever, then by that logic our connection would be easily able to wait out the circumstances that currently make it a complete non starter. This is a double edged sword because thinking “someday” may actually make it worse, but at least I personally find it comforting when I get that panicky “but what if this is my only chance” feeling. If it’s truly meant to be, the universe will bring you back together in ten years when your situation has changed, but for now, cut it off.

    3. Namast'ay in Bed

      There was a Dear Prudence where the person wrote in about having a major crush on their manager (that they thought might be reciprocated) – they later wrote in to say that the manager ended up getting a new job, they met up for coffee, and now they’re in a very happy relationship!

      Not saying that this is likely, but either way a relationship should never ever be considered while one of the parties has managerial power over the other.

    4. OP

      Thank you for the reality check and reassurance—i try to be as professional as possible, so I do tend to get down on myself for anything (even a feeling) that is an exception to this.

      1. Marissa Graham

        The feelings aren’t your fault! You clearly care about doing the right thing in this situation, and that’s a good sign that you’ll be able to handle it appropriately :)

  9. Annette

    The advice is the same whether you are in love with your employee or you hate his voice or something else about him. Strive for objectivity, attempt to move on, recognize your own humanity. It may seem worse to you because we carry so much shame about such matters, but please know it is exactly the same.

  10. nnn

    A thought experiment that might help:

    Do you have any other direct reports who are comparable to this co-worker, in terms of skill set, experience etc.? If so, think about how you’d treat them in comparable situations, and make sure you’re treating Crush the same way. (Examples: a deliverable goes out to the client with a mistake in it. Would you discipline the person responsible? Would you readily forgive the person responsible because accidents happen? Whatever you’d do, make sure it’s the same for both employees.)

    This would be even more effective if the other co-worker is someone you don’t really like personally. Not for work-related reasons, but because they use way too many puns or something.

    1. Yorick

      Make sure you treat Crush the same way and/or make sure you treat the others as favorably as you treat him.

  11. jiminy_cricket

    This is a hard situation and I would wager that many of us have been there! It’s not for nothing that you’re trying to do the right thing. As uncomfortable as it seems now, feelings do eventually fade or changed. (Or, if you’re a double Gemini like me, they’re gone in a split second – but it’s an excruciating second nonetheless.)

  12. mark132

    Wow, that’s tough. I will say I’m not a big fan of visualizing unpleasant things about a coworker. That seems about as bad a engaging in romantic (or more) fantasies about coworkers.

    I know this is probably the world’s most obvious answer. But I’ll say it anyways, it may be worth it to seek relationships outside of work. With a new relationship, you may remain fond of your coworker but that would perhaps help fill the need?

    1. Sloan Kittering

      You know, I kind of agree with you about that comment. I’d feel weird if I learned that my boss was deliberately trying to imagine me in an unpleasant way. I suppose it’d be better to try to picture things that are un-sexy or unconnected to being in a relationship with the boss (like, dating other people, marrying someone else, etc?

    2. Windchime

      The unpleasant imaginings don’t have to be gross. They can just be….would I want this person in my house? Sitting on his butt watching TV while I’m cleaning the kitchen? Do I want him vaping in my back yard? How about his laundry in with mine? Those things are usually enough to make me go, “eh…..maybe not.”

  13. hbc

    I’m wondering if trying to banish all romantic thoughts of him is helping it linger, kind of like how you can fight tears for hours when indulging in a good sob will have you drained (if not feeling awesome) in minutes. So you might want to try going home and really let your imagination go.

    I also find when I indulge like this that I actually have to get specific in my thoughts. Okay, romance is a go. How would I let him know that I was interested? At the office? Schedule a lunch meeting that turns into a lunch date? Leave a post-it on his desk? When we have dates, are we meeting at a restaurant 40 miles from the office so no one will see us? Maybe it’s just me, but I get enough of an emotional reaction to the logistics that my feelings eventually turn from “Kissing him would be fun” to “Ugh, I would not enjoy kissing him At All.”

  14. AnonEMoose

    The Paging Dr. Nerdlove blog also has advice about banishing a crush. Basically, it boils down to not trying to forcibly suppress the feelings – that attaches a lot of importance to them and can make them stronger (think pressure cooker).

    Instead, he suggests acknowledging the feelings to yourself, and then moving on/distracting yourself with something else. So something like “Yep, got a crush on him. Inconvenient. Now, about that TPS report…”. Have the feelings, but don’t treat them like the most important feelings you have, and move your mind to another train of thought.

    1. Jules the 3rd

      This is the Mindfulness strategy: recognize the feelings, especially naming them, then deep breath, let them go, move on.

    2. Shark Whisperer

      That sounds like advice I heard once for any unwanted thoughts. “You can let them in, but don’t serve them tea.” Acknowledge the thoughts, but don’t let them take up space on your brain any more than necessary.

      1. Future Homesteader

        Love this, adding it to my arsenal! (My other favorite one is imagining moving the needle of a record player to another track, then repeating as needed.)

      2. Parenthetically

        “You can’t stop the birds flying over your head but you don’t have to let them make a nest in your hair.”

            1. TardyTardis

              “Little birdie in the sky/
              It left sunshine in my eye/
              Me no sissy, me no cry/
              Me just glad that cows don’t fly.”

              *very* old poem from my husband’s childhood

      3. Captain S

        My therapist uses the phrase “Just sit with them. You don’t talk to them, just let them sit there in silence for awhile”

        So funny/interesting/useful that we have so many metaphors for these kinds of thoughts!

    3. Mystery Bookworm

      Yes. I think this is much better advice.

      And much more consistent with the research on unwanted feelings/thoughts.

    4. Kate R

      I love this advice (and also a new blog rec). I also find that trying to active suppress feelings just makes them intensify because I’m spending all this time focusing on them. We can inconvenient feelings, and at least OP is aware of them and trying to be conscious about treating her employee objectively.

    5. Hope

      Seconding this.

      Hell, the best way I’ve found to get over a crush is to find a new crush. Maybe OP should try meeting some new people (outside of work, obv.) and maybe they’ll find someone safer to crush on.

      1. Vicky Austin

        And if that isn’t an option, then OP should concentrate on her celebrity crushes. For instance, if her celebrity crush is a Hollywood actor, then binge watch several of his movies over the course of one weekend and save sexy photos of him to her phone.

    6. The Ginger Ginger

      Yup. This is my advice too. Don’t entertain them. I always think of it as a revolving door in a hotel. The thought spins in, but you don’t let it book a room or sit at the bar. Have a bouncer spin it right on back out onto the street. (Ha, that analogy just kept going.)

      In the same vein as this advice – don’t fantasize. One of the “fun” things about a crush is daydreaming (even innocently) about the person. What would it be like to date them; how would they act on vacation, what would they say if I flirted, how would I approach them for dinner, what if they met my dog, etc, etc. That all feeds a crush. It doesn’t sound like you’re doing this, but if you ARE, stop. If you catch yourself, redirect your thoughts to something else. That’ll help starve the crush.

    7. Star Nursery

      I think this is the way to go. If you put too much thoughts and weight about the attraction, I think it’s harder to get over. Just acknowledge it to yourself and move on.

    8. 1.2 years until retirement

      KonMari those feelings. Look at them. Touch them. Thank them for being in your life. And then let them go.

    9. Mote in the fly’s eye

      This is so true to me.

      The first time I had a crush on a coworker, I ended up just trying to surpress it. It still comes back at the most awkward times.

      Since then, I’ve gotten a bit wiser about my own subconscious and have found just behaving normally lets familiarity deal with the problem. If I don’t invest too much emotionally in a person, they (or I) will eventually do something to knock the patina off the idea.

  15. Indie

    Capability is sexy, OP. Of course I don’t know the depth of your feelings but if you are simply noticing that this person would make an awesome and supportive partner then that’s about as normal as hiring models and noticing that one is hot. So, I wouldn’t waste a lot of effort in calling yourself creepy. I also wouldn’t tag yourself as unfair or biased since your respect is based on real observation of character, not teen-love blindness.

    I mean, if your thoughts do verge on inappropriate or moony, I’d redirect thoughts or reconsider the set up. One thing to keep in mind is that he is being awesome to…his boss. It’s okay to see and note all the good stuff that is Employee, it’s also okay to want that stuff. But just use it as a measuring stick for the real thing i.e. “I want someone as awesome as my friend and employee” or “who communicates as well, and is as respectful of my opinion when they don’t even work for me” or “I’d like it if someone ELSE with that kind of EQ were attracted to me”. He isn’t the only person in the world with these qualities.

    1. The New Wanderer

      This is a really good point about the appeal of capability. I have worked with a peer off and on for over a decade and we have this kind of ‘relationship’, in that we’re an extremely effective team, we clearly enjoy working together, and we both seek opportunities to work on projects together. It’s never crossed the line to truly romantic feelings and I don’t think anyone observing would say we act flirty with each other, but sometimes it is a little tricky to navigate given the closeness of relating to someone so well.

      If I have any real advice, it’s to remind yourself that you’re a good Work Match but that’s as far as it goes, and that ends when the work day ends. As Indie said, he’s being awesome to his boss, because he is a good employee.

  16. Arctic

    OP seems hyper-aware of how this crush could impact her work (which is good!) so I would actually might be more concerned of over-correction. That you might end up accidentally being harder on him than others to compensate.

    1. OP

      this, this, a thousand times this lol ! i do believe i have started being more ready to provide constructive critique because of my awareness of the potential for bias, which has probably helped the direct report, but may, in itself, be a form of bias, so all of this is helpful to keep in mind

  17. Hey Karma, Over here.

    Do you think of him outside work? Do you see/hear something funny and can’t wait to tell him? Do you go shopping and wonder if he would like oreos or fudge stripes? Do you hear about new movies or band coming to town and want to tell him? Because in addition to all the advice you are getting here, I’m going to advise you to stop doing that. Stop imagining conversations or activities with him. Put yourself back in the moment. Kind of like any habit you want to quit. When you catch yourself doing it, stop. Don’t give yourself “five minutes to imagine” just tell yourself to stop. It will help.

  18. Mrs_helm

    I don’t think banishing all feelings is necessary or even realistic. We all have SOME type of feelings about our coworkers, especially after seeing them daily for years. Maybe we have a crush, maybe we secretly think someone is past retirement, or maybe we secretly picture that person as a pirate. It’s ACTIONS that matter. (Including words as actions.) If your actions are all-around fair and appropriate, then I wouldn’t worry about what is staying firmly inside your head.

    1. anon for this

      I do think you can kill off crush-y feelings, even if you are seeing each other every day. It is not easy and it takes time. It’s hard. Not impossible.
      From my own experience, I had a very serious boyfriend (living together for several years, talking about marriage). I was crazy about him. He would not talk about his feelings. He almost never said he loved me. I finally resolved not to say I love you first, because it only made me feel sad. Very hard at first to do so. It got easier. 7 or 8 months later, out of the blue he said he loved me. And I realized, I just didn’t care if he did or not. (That was a really hard moment. We broke up later that years.)

  19. Leela

    OP, I do think this is normal, and I’m glad you’re trying to look at it objectively because being normal doesn’t mean it can run unchecked/unthinked about.

    It’s not only a matter of whether you can totally distance yourself from your feelings for this person in a way that impacts work (I don’t think you can, or that anyone can, actually. We see things through filters and it’s way too easy to give passes/preferential treatment to people we like even when we actively make a point of not doing so), but whether everyone else you manage believes that you’re able to do that.

    We had several rounds of layoffs at a place I used to work, and my female manager’s favorite boy that she spent tons of time with laughing and chatting survived every one, even as people below, at his level, and above his level got cut. Is it total coincidence? I mean, it could be, for sure. But it’s really, really hard for the rest of us to feel like that when he’s so obviously a favorite of hers. We also had a situation where he’d claim he’d had a bad personal experience with someone and with no proof or witnesses, she’d totally come down on them and in one case even cost someone a promotion for “interpersonal issues” and this was the only thing that had ever been brought up. Now it’s totally possible that there are things we don’t know but for the rest of us to look on and see these things well…it’s really not a good look. And I guarantee you that this manager believed she was being objective and not letting her closeness with this guy impact things, but I think there’s a difference between telling yourself “allright, I can’t take into account how much I like this person when I make decisions” and having it not color anything that you’re taking into account.

    I don’t know what to do about this necessarily, but as to what your friends are saying, I do think it’s normal but not overblown to really, really look at this and think about what it means. People are humans, humans form bonds with people they like and naturally act differently with them (have you ever seen someone get bumped into by a stranger and go “A**HOLE watch where you’re going” but get bumped into by a friend and it’s no big deal?)

  20. Secretary

    When Alison wrote “constant vigilance” I imagined Mad Eye Moody coaching the OP on how to deal with her crush.

    1. Evan Þ.

      “Keep your feelings secret! Don’t let anyone guess! Or your enemies might use him to get at you!”

  21. PersonCommentingonthis

    Ask the guy out. If he doesn’t reciprocate, get transferred or get another job. It’s not inappropriate to have any feelings, we all have feelings, acting on your feelings is another thing. Asking someone out (once) is not a crime, even in the workplace.

    1. Coffee Bean

      The problem is, she is his boss. Asking him out could cause so many workplace issues, and it is most likely that the company has rules against employer/employee dating dynamics.

    2. Parenthetically

      No! What?! No.

      You cannot ask out a person who reports to you. So, so inappropriate. Power dynamics are a thing.

      You also should not torpedo your career for a dime-a-dozen crush. Good LORD. AS IF it’s just sooooo easy to “get transferred or get another job.”

      1. PersonCommentingonthis

        Fair enough, she probably shouldn’t do that. One thing I don’t get is that they were co-workers for years and she didn’t ask him out. Why would she take the promotion knowing she is love with this guy?

        1. Parenthetically

          Has a crush on /= in love with.

          Advice based on what an OP “should have done” isn’t AT ALL helpful. And she absolutely cannot ask him out or throw her own career away based on a crush.

        2. aNameGoesHere

          She never said she was in love with him- she said that she had a crush. Those are two wildly different things.

        3. OP

          the answers to this are:
          1) I’ve always been more senior
          2) Neither of us has ever been in a position to date.

          for these reasons, it would never have been my intention to develop feelings or act on them. As others have correctly surmised, I view this as an overall unwanted distraction that developed over time gradually.

          1. PersonCommentingonthis

            Then to me it seems like it’s about neurosis of some sort and not the crush, he’s just an object of projections. There’s something else, perhaps a craving for intimacy, but again we don’t know what the context for this entire situation is. Therapy seems like a good idea. Good luck!

            1. Parenthetically

              “it’s about neurosis of some sort and not the crush”

              This is really, really inappropriate.

            2. Alianora

              Or maybe it’s just a crush. It’s kind of weird and rude to state that OP is neurotic and projecting her feelings when you have so little information.

            3. TL -

              Good lord, I’ve had work crushes before and sometimes they are literally just about “this person has nice biceps” or “this person is really smart and kind and likes to banter”.

              I am always like, “oh I’m attracted this person. Cool beans.” then I move on with life. I (thankfully) have never had one in a manager/employee context, so I just view it as an opportunity to get some extra enjoyment out of mundane work conversations and don’t put any weight on it and eventually they fade.

              It’s never been a deep reflection of something else in my life – it’s just a person who is legit physically attractive to me (sometimes their personality adds to the crush and sometimes it cures the crush.)

          2. Lolli

            Maybe you can reframe it in your mind. If you developed this close relationship with a coworker of the same gender ( assuming you are heterosexual), this would be a person you ‘click with’ and enjoy their company. Basically, you have the same need to be objective and keep boundries so you don’t have the ‘favorite’ issue with your employees. But it is no longer a crush. The fact we click with certain people is one of the great things in life. I was in the same situation with a colleague and I decided I probably wouldn’t date him if we were both available but I really enjoyed working with him and we always had a great time talking/catching up. I decided to just enjoy it. Now I wasn’t his manager… so I didn’t have boundary issues, but I had the distraction that was annoying me. Reframing him as a buddy helped.

    3. Seifer

      Well, she’s his manager, not a coworker. It’s not a crime, but it’s definitely not really allowed for managers to date their direct reports.

      1. PersonCommentingonthis

        True. Some of the emails from people are so vague, though. Is it a corporate director-level management in NYC where people get written evals every 6 months,but also jobs are plenty, or a local small business type manager where you assign schedules but continue working on the floor with everybody else? And run into your crush at the store, in church and the local art festival? Or do they never cross paths outside of the workplace? In any case, it’s a bad idea to ask the guy out, but it’d be nice to know what level of management we’re talking about it, too.

        1. Parenthetically

          Alison asks us not to speculate on facts not in evidence. So please don’t.

          Also, who cares what her specific situation is, work-wise? She doesn’t want to indulge the crush, she wants advice on how to get over it and act professionally in the meantime.

        2. Seifer

          Oh boy, okay. No matter what, it’s still not okay because it’s still a managerial role. I don’t want to give too many identifying details, but when I was younger, I worked in a restaurant and my manager and I were really, really flirty. We got called in because someone reported it and the company has a zero tolerance rule for harassment. If we were actually sleeping together, one or both of us would’ve been fired, because on his side, it would’ve looked like he was enticing me into sleeping with him with the promise of better shifts, higher pay, whatever. On my side, it would’ve looked like I was trying to bribe him into giving me better shifts, higher pay, whatever. As you said, it was a small business type manager; basically a glorified supervisory role where he wrote my schedule but was still on the floor, and we found out that the level of management had nothing to do with the fact that it was NOT okay.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale

      Besides the fact that she’s his manager (which is a big deal, but has been addressed)… why on earth would anyone put themselves into that position over a crush? If he says no you have to leave your job– it’s not like jobs are waiting for us at every corner. Giving up a good position, especially if you like it and it works well for your career, is a giant freaking deal. She has a crush on the guy, which is a very normal thing, but presumably she likes where she is professionally.

      OP, don’t throw it away on a crush. Crushes are fun, they make our days go faster. Take some of the advice here and wait it out. Listen, if you two are meant to be together, then at some point it will come up and there will be a point of no return. You’re not even close to that point yet.

    5. Plain Jane

      It’s a really bad idea. Everything that happens after that will be seen through a different lens. If it works out, there will be a perceived favoritism that will follow both of them at this company and maybe other places, as well, if word gets around.

      If it doesn’t work out, good feedback could be seen as her trying to get him back or poor feedback could be seen as getting revenge.

    6. Star Nursery

      The OP already said it would be inappropriate and it sounds is looking for advise to help with getting back on a non-crush track… She does not sound like she wants to pursue anything with her employee. The OP is the manager and it would be inappropriate for that work relationship. The OP didn’t clarify if either of them were already in a committed relationship. It’s possible either or both are married.

    7. Kaimana

      How is asking him out not “acting on your feelings”? It’s not a crime but it’s super inappropriate and could jeopardize both their jobs.

  22. FancyNancy

    What? No, no, no.

    She is his boss. This isn’t ok. It would be a very different situation if they were merely coworkers.

    1. PersonCommentingonthis

      She doesn’t have to call him in her office at 11:30am and request his answer on the prospect of dating her. Their office probably has team activities, happy hours, etc, where she could maybe approach him. I think it’s her call. But if he does reciprocate, then she’d need to transfer.

      1. Coffee Bean

        But what if he doesn’t reciprocate? He could (rightly) worry that he isn’t getting fair evaluations. Others on the team could (rightly) worry about favoritism. Normal work conversations could become awkward and more complicated, impacting the work their team should be producing.

        There are so many issues either way, if he feels the same or not, best to just let it go.

      2. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD

        That would be fine if she was a coworker but is definitely not OK if she is a boss. What happens is there is a workplace issue or she has to do an evaluation while she is waiting for a transfer (assuming a transfer is possible)? Can she be objective with a person she is dating/who rejected her? Would he believe she was being objective?

        Crushes are a dime a dozen. It isn’t worth hurting your career over something that will pass if given time

      3. Parenthetically

        Please, stop, this is truly terrible advice, and you clearly have no idea about how job-searching works (or good reasons to job-search, which do not include “I have the hots for my employee”), to the point that I’m seriously beginning to wonder if you’re trolling.

        OP, do not ask your employee out.

        1. PersonCommentingonthis

          Thanks I heard you loud and clear, I’m not giving any advice to the OP. You can climb off your high horse now. I have a nice job and have a couple of ideas of how things work.

  23. I'm all for finding love

    I feel like if the feelings are still there in 6 months she has to make a move and then see herself out if its not reciprocated. Some of the best marriages start with working relationships. I mean if they have a connection they have a connection. I hope we get an update a year from now saying that they are dating and she was amiably transferred to another department. :)

    1. Seifer

      My boyfriend and I started dating when we worked together; he was higher up on the food chain than I was but he was not my manager. That dynamic changes things.

    2. Beth

      If OP has any interest in pursuing these feelings, she needs to arrange to not be his manager anymore immediately. As long as she’s his manager, the ONLY option is to 1) act as though she doesn’t have this crush, and 2) try as hard as she can to make the feelings go away. The manager/managee relationship is a completely inappropriate place for making a move on someone.

      1. valentine

        It’s not good for colleagues or the business for anyone, especially a woman, to change jobs and request a demotion so they can date their employee. She would have to leave the company to recover her reputation, and so might he. She doesn’t want to date him. She wants to kill the crush.

  24. Lady Phoenix

    Good on your for finding help to manage these feelings. Boo on everyone who isn’t treating it seriously though, since they are encouraging it by doing so.

    Keeping your mind occupied is a useful tool to keep away the crush thoughts: read a book, play a game (maybe an RPG or something long and complicated to keep you engaged), pick uo a hobby, and even consider putting yourself in the dating scene.

    The other thing is that you need to stop worrying over this crush. The more energy you spend worrying and polcing yourself, the more feelings you’re going to produce. Figuratively, you are growing a crush weed that is going to take over your emotional gardeen and the best way to kill it is to stop feeding it.

    Treat your crush as something mundane, like folding socks or listening to a Ben Stein Lecture about something boring. When you take away the awe and excitement of having this crush, you are actually making the crush feeling weaker until they are manageable or nonexistent.

  25. PersonCommentingonthis

    I would kindly push back on Allison’s advise to imagine unpleasant things about the crush… why? If anything that seems unhealthy to me. Going to therapy to change the feelings?? Why?? Enjoy feeling in love! Being in love feels good, uplifting, and it’s a good feeling. I understand it’s not reciprocated right now, and it hurts, but it might go away if he doesn’t respond to your feelings. I wouldn’t want to try to suppress my feelings, change my feelings, shove them down and essentially manipulate my own mind into thinking I’m some bad person for having feelings for another adult.

    1. Lady Phoenix

      SHE. IS. HIS. BOSS.

      Yes, crushes happen and that is ok… but it does need to be managed because SHE MANAGES HIM.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale

      This is not “being in love”. This is a crush. I am not anti-crush (as evidenced by the MANY I have had), but it’s a very different thing from starting a new relationship. Crushes are weird. Sometimes they’re great to have. Sometimes they’re just fun. And sometimes, when you’re someone’s manager, they are far from sunshine and roses and fizzily bubbly champagne feelings.

      No one is saying the OP is bad for having feelings. She is human. But she is very right to recognize that this is Not Cool. Encouraging her otherwise, when she is this guy’s manager, is short-sighted.

    3. Shay

      OP, you believe you know each other “fairly well” from working closely together on projects; I question this conclusion. Your crush may be on a person that does not exist outside of your own head. And remember that there is a power hierarchy involved here – he may be usually accommodating, friendly, hardworking (any number of things) simply because he is interacting with HIS BOSS.

      Alison’s questions for consideration are very valid and bear careful consideration. In addition, remind yourself that you may be attracted to what you’ve created in your head and not the actual person working on your team.

      1. OP

        Yes, i agree. I am sure some putting on a pedestal is happening here, so to speak. as another commenter also pointed out above (and is a concept that has already helped with my processing this situation), OF COURSE someone would be great to their boss. my job involves a lot of difficult conversations, and I think that may have led to me over valuing this positive interaction I do get to have daily (other direct reports are not as team work minded, so he is perhaps the most positive coworker relationship besides the one I have with my own boss and my boss’s boss, if that is not too confusing :)

        1. valentine

          If your boss had written this letter, about having a crush on you, what would you want them to do?

          For me, spending more time with people puts me right off them because my crushes are just my body writing fan fiction about people who look like my first Ken doll.

          Can you put your energy into some aspect of the work that doesn’t involve him and also something outside of work? So it’s “I’m making the best TPS report cover the world has seen” and “Tonight, I get to finish my LEGO Iñigo Montoya”, not “Westley is sooo dreamy. Never has he failed to put a cover on his TPS report (unlike some people)”. And if there’s any talk of work husband/wife, peas and carrots, or how much time you spend together, you’ll want to shut that down.

    4. Kaimana

      Clearly this crush doesn’t feel good, as they sometimes don’t. This isn’t “ooh my new coworker is kind of cute,” this is “my emotions are compromising my judgment and career.” It’s romantic to think that love is always benign and good, but the truth is sometimes it’s not, and sometimes it’s not love.

      1. OP

        well put—that sums up my concerns, that it was (is, but not as much anymore) compromising my judgment, career, reputation if ever revealed, etc.

  26. Guitar Lady

    Is there some reason you worked with him as a peer for several years and never tried to date? Is one or both of you married or in a relationship? Whatever reason kept you from doing anything before, magnify it now that you are his boss.

  27. Zona the Great

    I find that it is quite easy to begin to mistake work intimacy with real intimacy. I crave intimate relationships with my colleagues or my boss. That translates into us being trusting of each other, aware of how the other operates, being willing to take a fall for each other when warranted, and more. I enjoy the Leslie Knope/Ron Swanson vibe without the sex dreams.

    I bet this is similar to actors mistaking real feelings for each other when they spend a year pretending to be in love and passionate. OP, I don’t want to minimize. You may very well be legit crushing. But I think this is so common that it’s worth reflecting on.

      1. Zillah

        Along similar lines: OP, you’ve also said that neither of you are in a position to date at all. That really makes me wonder whether part of this crush is that your brain is looking at it as being… well, “safe,” for lack of a better word, because it won’t lead to anything. I’ve been in that position, and I don’t really have a solution, but I have found that realizing that part of my crush is about feeling safe rather than just feeling attracted can be really helpful.

    1. Anon for this

      I definitely fall for this trap. I recently have gotten close with a male coworker who has been very supportive to me in what has been a difficult job (not because of the work itself but because of the people I deal with.) He’s given me the type of respect that, quite frankly, no guy I’ve dated before has ever given me. Fortunately, I have stopped myself (this time) from blowing the whole thing out of proportion. I appreciate his friendship, which is a blessing in itself.

  28. Jaybeetee

    Would it help to mentally recalibrate him to “work-spouse” territory? I’ve had a few work-spouse type relationships with male colleagues over the years, and *most* of the time it was never a romantic thing (my most recent ex was the product of “Work-Spouses taking it outside the office”, 0/10 would not recommend – and no, we no longer work together anyway). In other cases they were just guys I worked closely with/was buddies with on the job, and it kinda helped me to… sublimate? compartmentalize? any possible crush-feelings, because He Was My Work-Spouse. It would sort of create an acceptable space for some feelings, with firm walls around the knowledge that it would never be an Outside of Work thing. As his boss, you do have to be careful to maintain objectivity with him, but if you can repackage it as “Yeah, he’s my Work Crush”, you might be surprised at how much that puts you at ease with the feelings (and with him).

    1. valentine

      The problem is he’s her work crush. Gross work-spouse framing just reinforces the inappropriateness. I first heard the term used to describe an admin and her boss, who was much more senior, in role and age, which gave it a horrid, sexist connotation. She was his work wife because she was doing the things his actual wife would do in matters related to their family and home. OP needs to reframe this guy so he is just one report of many that she works well with, not to double down on thinking of them as a duo, an us versus them, any kind of matched pair, like wedding-cake toppers.

  29. sourgold

    OP, you say that you don’t see this going away because you see him so often — but that’s not necessarily how these things go! I’ve been very much in love with one of my best friends for a long time, and while I’ve never stopped seeing her or talking to her, I’ve found that my feelings have slowly faded into a simmering, latent passion that didn’t actually hurt to feel, and then into the deep affection of a very real friendship. It happens! Feelings fluctuate. You may well find that, a few months from now, you will see this guy as a trusted colleague and someone you care about, and that you have, little by little, moved on.

  30. Beth

    I don’t think your concerns about bias are overblown at all. You can’t help having a crush–that’s human, it happens–but it is something that’s likely to skew your perspective on things. You can probably catch the big ways easily, since you seem fairly self-aware…but there are lots of little ways this can play out too, and they can be really hard for even the most careful person to catch. This is bad for your management ability in the same way that being close friends with a team member is bad for your management ability; it affects your ability to be impartial.

    The #1 thing that I think you need to be really careful of is not making him uncomfortable. You’re his manager; you’re in a position of power over him. As such, it’s your responsibility to make sure that no matter what you’re feeling, your interactions with him are impeccably professional and above-board. (This isn’t to say that you’re doing it wrong now! But I wanted to mention it because it’s really important to keep that power dynamic in mind when you’re considering how you act towards him. I feel like this tends to be more likely to get noted when it’s a male manager and a female employee, but the professional power dynamic is just as present and problematic when the genders are different.)

    Beyond that, you need to make sure that you’re being fair to the rest of your team. Your good relationship with this guy might well be good for work–but wouldn’t good relationships with the rest of your team also be good in the same way? Make sure you’re putting as much time and energy into those relationships as you are into this one. Keep track of the projects you’re handing out; be really strict about how you’re assigning things, make sure they’re fair all around. Same goes for giving feedback and reviews. Make sure the decisions you’re making have solid work reasons behind them (not just a gut feel that it’s the right call); this is a time to be stricter with yourself than usual, because you know your judgement is a little bit skewed by Feelings at the moment.

    I hope your crush passes and you can get back to normal. I’m sorry you’re dealing with it, for the record–it’s not your fault, it’s human to have these things happen, but because of the professional position you’re in I think you have to be really careful with the potential ramifications, and that’s a lot to juggle!

  31. Scott

    I’m sure the dynamic between manager and employee is a little bit different, but for what it’s worth I thought I’d share my experience in this area.

    Several years back while I was single and living alone, I found myself developing feelings for a co-worker who was a little younger than I was but still definitely within my dating pool. She and I started working for the company at about the same time, and always worked in close proximity to each other as our team got moved around the building. There were a number of factors that told me a romantic relationship would never work between us, and I struggled to reconcile those feelings for quite some time.

    However, the game-changer for me was to begin to appreciate the relationship for what it was. I realized that, in her, I had an amazing friend at work who was not only attractive, but seemed to enjoy my company at lunchtime, shared jokes with me over instant messaging, listen and engaged with me if I needed to vent, and even offered constructive criticism when it was needed. On top of that, I saw her more often than my actual family! Why try to romaticize a great professional relationship like that by trying to make it something more than it should be?

    Eventually, we both started dating other people outside of work anyway, and both ended up leaving the company and moving to other states. But I am left with zero regrets and fond memories and our time there. I still get a friendly message or meme from her every so often, and we are still able to celebrate the milestones in each other’s lives in our own way.

    To me, there is great value in all types of relationships in our lives. As you’ve said, we are all human and as humans we crave connection. But sometimes I think all the romances we see between coworkers in all the workplace comedy sitcoms these days (don’t get me wrong, I love The Office and Parks and Rec just as much as the next human) leads us to oversexualize all our relationships, and not just the ones where it’s appropriate.

    It sounds like you have an enviable relationship with this coworker and I hope you can find a way to appreciate it for what it is so you have no regrets about your choices later!

    1. Parenthetically

      Why try to romaticize a great professional relationship like that by trying to make it something more than it should be? — I love everything about this comment, but particularly this! Outstanding stuff.

      Romantic relationships are not the only awesome types of relationships and despite what our entire society is constantly shouting at us, our value is not in whether or not we have exciting romance in our lives. Satisfying, productive, excellent professional relationships don’t come along every day. See and appreciate that for what it IS. Just because it stays in the category of “professional relationship” doesn’t make it inferior to “romantic relationship” — they’re different categories and bring different benefits but are both good, healthy, and desirable.

  32. Mashed potato

    Just because you have work chemistry doesnt mean others parts of life click. Find out things about him that would turn you off, if you can lmao

  33. Alice

    Work hard to ensure you treat all employees equally… by imagining him insulting your cooking? I don’t think the “get over your crush by doing this” advice is great here.

  34. anonanot

    OP, I feel like I want to know more about you and your coworker. Are you married or seeing someone? Is your coworker? Does he ever flirt with you? If you are both unattached and he flirts with you occasionally, that’s tough.

    I think it’s harder to jet the crush if your respective positions (manager/employee) are the primary reason why you need to reframe your feelings.

  35. Marissa Graham

    I had this happen to me a couple of times as a graduate TA. The most effective way I ever got one to go away was to notice that the student in question and a different student would be really cute together. Shipping other people is easier to keep under control than a crush as well as less potentially harmful if you can’t.

  36. OP

    Original LW here: First of all, I want to express my sincere appreciation to Alison for her thoughtful, thorough, and very helpful response—your questions to consider helped reveal some ways this could be affecting the direct report that I had not thought of before.

    Second, I truly appreciate all the responses, especially the care and sensitive exhibited by each. This has been tremendously helpful to get completely outside perspectives on the situation and has restored my faith in the kindness of people on the internet (after witnessing one too many reddit tirades lol :).

    I feel freshly armed with several techniques to place these feelings in context and move on to accomplish great, work-related things with my team without this distraction.

    1. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD

      Hi OP, I have been in your shoes but with even more inappropriate crushes (boss’s boss, critical key stakeholder in a huge project) both of whom were married and I was happily coupled with Mr. Gumption. It is awkward when the pantsfeels crop up, but they can pass without anyone but you being any the wiser if given time and patience. Judging from what you have written, I think you will be fine and this will pass by without any harm.

      Good luck and please update us!

    2. restingbutchface

      OP, I feel for you. What a sucky situation. You sound super self-aware. I think it’s fine to think someone is attractive but you are obviously interrogating your feelings to find out if they’re something more.

      All I would say is that don’t be too hard on yourself. Being attracted to someone is out of our control, it’s your actions that matter. You clearly know that and you sound like you’re keeping a very tight leash on your behaviour. If only everyone in the work environment could do the same.

      All the best to you.

  37. LilyP

    “I don’t know how he feels and Ive decided speculating on it is inappropriate and not healthy”

    This really stood out to me as a really good decision not everyone would be mature enough to make. Makes me think you’re probably doing OK hiding/dismissing your feelings and they will fade with time :)

  38. nnn

    Another thing to think about: how have your previous crushes ended, and how did you feel? (Both in terms of how you felt about the crush and about your own inner emotional state). Is there any pattern to ways crushes end that made you feel bad or feel neutral/good? And is there anything in there that you could be helpful in this situation?

    For example, when I have a crush end because I discover the person is unpleasant, I feel bad. I feel bad about myself for having had a crush on such an unpleasant person, and I feel a certain resentment towards them as well. (Not saying this is healthy, just saying this is what my emotions do.) Because of this, the Carolyn Hax approach of imagining the crush as unpleasant wouldn’t work for me if I were in LW’s situation – if I were able to effectively imagine them as unpleasant, I would end up feeling bad about myself and having baseless feelings of resentment towards my employee.

    However, when I have a crush on someone and find out that they have an incompatible sexual orientation, the crush smoothly transitions to platonic friendship without any negative feelings on my part. I have no idea why my emotions do this, but they do. So, if I were in LW’s position, an effective strategy for me would be to introduce the idea that he’s gay into my mental narrative. Since sexual orientation doesn’t affect how I treat co-workers it wouldn’t have any impact on our interactions and he would have no way of knowing that I’m suddenly treating him like he’s gay, but that would disarm my inappropriate feelings without introducing any negative feelings.

    I’m not saying that pretending he’s gay would help LW specifically, but the information LW needs to develop a strategy that would work for her may well be somewhere in her own crush history.

    1. OP

      Yes, I see what you’re getting at: choose a neutral way of imagining that a crush is most certainly a dead end. This seems smart. There are many legitimate reasons I could choose, but I could see how introducing a new (imagined) factor may tip the scales towards the feelings fading.

    2. Vicky Austin

      The same thing totally happens to me when I find out that a crush is gay (only in real life, though. It hasn’t stopped me from crushing on Andy Cohen, Jonathan Groff, or Matt Bomer.)

  39. Jessica

    I think a lot depends on why OP is “not in a position to date.”
    Is this workplace a convent?
    OP, were you keeping back the little detail that you’re married? If so, this workplace crush is just the visible part of a whole different iceberg.
    Do you think you’re too busy to date? Remember, nobody on their deathbed ever wished they had spent more time at the office. You deserve some happiness in life.
    Not ready to date again following prior losses, bad relationship, other traumatic experience? Worth considering how that factors in here; is work-crush so appealing because he’s safe, known, and unavailable?

      1. restingbutchface

        Think you’ve misunderstood. OP isn’t in a position to date *anyone*. She clearly knows she can’t date her employee.

        Jessica, I think your reply is so astute. He’s off limits and therefore a heady mix of taboo and safe.

        1. valentine

          I like that OP hasn’t elaborated because now the advice is focused the way she wants, not on a personal relationship or SO.

      2. Alianora

        I think Jessica was referring to the fact that OP has said multiple times she’s “not in a position to date” even if she weren’t his manager; I didn’t read her comment as saying that the OP should date her employee.

        I do think it changes things depending on if she’s married or if it’s because of other circumstances. Although there are no circumstances where she should make advances on her employee.

    1. OP

      No, I didn’t include it because this is a work-related advice column. In my opinion, pursuing this crush would be inappropriate regardless of my availability for dating, relationship status, openness to dating, interest in dating, sexual orientation, perceptions of the direct report’s openness, etc.

      1. Annette

        Good for you. It is private and irrelevant. Jessica and others need to MTOB today and focus on the work question.

      2. BookishMiss

        OP, I have to tell you how impressed I am, both with the initial insight that led you to seek advice, and with your engagement with the commenters here. Any advice I have to offer has been covered already, but I empathize with you and hope everything goes well.

      3. restingbutchface

        You’ve been so classy in this whole post OP. And you’re quite right on every point you make.

    2. Indie

      Appropriate workplace relationships are something that both married and single people have to navigate. OP is emotionally and professionally aware enough to treat this like the workplace issue it is.

      Also, single people dont need rescuing by the happy couple squad.

  40. Tired

    Hi OP! I, too, have suffered a workplace crush. What helped me most was to find that one thing that I didn’t like about them. When I would start fantasizing about the two of us falling in love, I would remind myself of that one thing. Then I would think about how much that one thing would bother me in one year, five years, ten years, etc. It helped me get over my feelings pretty quickly. I don’t think you need to envision him being rude to your family, per se, but objectively think about his least desirable quality, and keep that in the back of your mind for when you’re crushing hard.

  41. knitcrazybooknut

    One thing to consider is that some people are exactly the opposite type of person at home than they are at work. I’ve known at least person who was charming, directed, and really organized at work, and then a complete 180 at home. I’ve seen more than one office romance go sour when it leaked out of the workplace.

  42. annakarina1

    This is all really good advice when dealing with a crush. I have one going on now, and what helps me is making a pro/cons list, with more cons than pros, rationalizing it to myself, and acknowledging it while staying busy with hobbies and dating and just minimizing it in my head.

  43. Girl with the yellow umbrella

    When I started my first grown up job, I developed a crush on a coworker (he was senior to me but not in my line management chain) – I got over it fairly quickly by focusing on his negatives, and all was well, didn’t impact our working relationship, until it flipped round and he got one on me, which did impact our working relationship and he ended up getting disciplined for treating other people on my team less favourably… (I was on a team of support staff, he was one of the technical members of staff we supported). Don’t know how well this would work but I’d possibly consider picturing the worst case scenario should you (consciously or unconsciously) act on this crush?

  44. RainbowBrite

    It’s not the same, but I’ve resigned myself to finding a new job soonish because I have a hopeless crush on a peer and I know his feelings don’t match mine. It really sucks not being able to kill this crush and it’s impacting my life in ways I don’t like, so I think removing myself from being around him all the time is the only solution at this point. Best of luck to you, LW!

  45. Anonforthis

    Aw man. I’m really prone to developing crushes on coworkers. My last three crushes were on coworkers/classmates! I think it’s because I need to really get to know someone in order to like them, plus I like smart people, and if they also happen to be good looking, well bingo! I developed a huuuge crush on a coworker last year…I tried really hard to get over it, but it only worked when he finally left for another job. So I’m not the best person to give advice on this… It’s entirely possible her employee will leave for another job eventually, too. It’s really hard to get over a crush when you see them all the time. The only thing I can see working is if she starts dating other people. It doesn’t mean she has to deny that she has a crush on the employee, but she will be less tempted to act on it since her energies will be spent elsewhere. Good luck, OP!

  46. Vicky Austin

    I also like the advice about concentrating on unpleasant or negative things about him. If you can’t think of any, then make some up. For instance, imagine that he doesn’t wash his hands after going to the bathroom, or that he has a sexually transmitted disease.

  47. Peggy

    I find it’s helpful in these situations to picture the other person in their underwear…oh wait, that’s for public speaking. Not helpful here.

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