how can I say no to my coworker’s boyfriend sharing our co-working space?

A reader writes:

I work at a small company with four employees: three in different cities (including our director) and two of us, including me, co-located in the same large city. It’s an unusual setup, but it works great, and I adore our work. Part of the reason I knew how to find a work situation that I love is that I’ve been following advice from your blog for years – thank you so much for making me a calmer, happier, and more fulfilled person.

I get along just dandy with Jolene, the employee I’m co-located with. She and I currently share a tiny room in an office sublet. We have an amazing working dynamic and heaps of respect for each other, and frequently grab drinks or go to concerts together outside of work. She’s junior to me but we both report to the director.

Jolene and I just scored an opportunity to move to a huge space (six times as large as our current office! multiple rooms! our own kitchen and garden!), for the same price we’re currently paying. One thing we’d like to do with all this extra space is to offer affordable co-working arrangements for people who work in the same field, which would likely be a mix of two to three nonprofit, for-profit, and academic folks who work remotely in our niche, activism-related field. I’m excited about this arrangement for the opportunity it would give us to build, and even be the center of, a cross-disciplinary professional network. Also it’d just be fun for everyone to have lunch together and beat some of the loneliness of remote work.

I was totally on board with the move, until Jolene proposed that Elvis, her live-in partner of two years, should rent a desk. I see why this seems like a fabulous idea to her. Elvis works from home for a tech company that isn’t in our field, and he gets lonely and bored. I’ve hung out with Elvis a few times, and he and I get along well socially. Also, we’re explicitly saying non-employees can come and co-work with us for a small fee, so why not Elvis? But it feels off to me. Elvis and Jolene are in their mid-twenties while I’m married and in my mid-thirties, and I’m worried they haven’t thought through what it means for their relationship to spend literally all their waking hours together; in particular, I think Jolene is going to feel the need to “take care of” and attend to Elvis during the workday, and is going to behave less assertively and have a harder time focusing with him around. Plus they are definitely on the cuddly, touchy end of the PDA spectrum, which I fully endorse in private life (go crazy, life is short!) but find super distracting in an office. Basically, as much as I love Jolene, she is pretty naïve when it comes to personal boundaries. However, I don’t particularly want to spell these concerns out in black and white. I’m really just speculating, and it all makes me sound a bit prude, paranoid, and mom-like.

The director says this is up to me, and she’ll back me up whatever I decide. But if I say Elvis can’t co-work with us, it’s going to come at a cost to my otherwise awesome relationship with Jolene. Is this a big enough deal for me to exercise a veto, and if so, can you think of a not-so-personal-sounding way for me to phrase my objection? I could also just veto the move in general, but that’d be a shame, as the new place has a lot of possibility.

Yeah, that would make me uneasy too. It might go beautifully, but you’d be inviting an explicitly non-work dynamic into a work space. I’m not terribly worried about what it means for their relationship (that’s between the two of them). I’m more worried about what it means for people around them. It can be awkward to work around a couple who are acting like anything other than colleagues — and that’s even more true in a small group, like this one will be. Plus, there’s a risk of tension in the relationship becoming tension in the office, and that’s horrible for everyone if it happens.

I can’t tell from your letter if your concerns about Jolene’s focus are based on specific behavior you’ve seen from her (in other words, that she in particular seems likely to have trouble focusing with Elvis around) or if that’s a general concern that you’d have about anyone working in proximity to their significant other. If it’s the latter, I wouldn’t get too hung up on that — lots of people are cuddly and touchy in social situations but wouldn’t bring PDA into the office if their significant other worked there (and the same with “taking care of” a partner outside of work but not tending to all their needs in a work context).

Really, though, the way to address this with Jolene is to get rid of all the speculation about what this would be like for their relationship (which isn’t your concern, and is probably what’s making you feel mom-like) and about how she might behave around him (which is purely speculative, and potentially insulting). You actually don’t need any of that! It’s enough to simply say that you’re concerned about the potential risks of bringing a romantic relationship into a small office.

You could say something like this: “I’ve given this some thought, and I think with a small group like this one will be, it’s better not to introduce significant others. There’s too much risk of it altering the dynamic, and potentially causing problems down the road. Because it’s such a small group, I want to keep all the relationships work ones.”

Or there’s a much easier way to do this, without getting into the relationship piece of it at all: You could just stick with your plan of offer the space to people who work in the same field, which it sounds like Elvis doesn’t. In that case, you’d just say, “Elvis is great, but I really want to offer the space to people in our field, because it’s going to give us the opportunity to build a professional hub in our workspace.”

You said you’re worried that saying no to Elvis will cost you your relationship with Jolene. But it really, really shouldn’t — these are reasonable work decisions to make, and if Jolene can’t deal with that, that would indicate a pretty serious immaturity on her side (which would come out in other ways anyway, which means that it’s not like sidestepping the Elvis situation would let things go on being dandy).

{ 269 comments… read them below }

  1. C*

    It’s not outside of the realm of possibility that Elvis is pushing this and Jolene has some reservations that she doesn’t feel brave enough to voice, and will be kind of relieved to have a reason to say “no, sorry, hon.”

    1. Over 60 & Forever Young*

      I had considered that possibility as well. That definitely can happen sometimes. Ask me how I know..

    2. Jennifer*

      A bit infantilizing. There’s nothing in the letter to indicate that Jolene has trouble voicing her opinions to her boyfriend.

      1. mamma mia*

        Totally agreed. At this point, we don’t even know if Elvis knows about the situation, let alone if he’s pushing it onto Jolene. This degree of speculation is completely unwarranted and irrelevant.

        Speaking of unwarranted speculation, I don’t think the LW was off base when she stated that perhaps her concerns are “paranoid, prude, and mom-like” because that’s how I read it as well. I don’t see the problem in letting Elvis have a desk and than addressing any issue with that in the moment IF (and that’s a big if, considering there are no facts to back up the LW’s predictions) it happens. I think LW is scared of future possible confrontation and would prefer to avoid it all together but this isn’t really fair to Jolene.

        1. Jennifer*

          I agree. Let’s face it – the professional and personal lines have already been blurred. The OP is senior to Jolene and they hang out outside of work. It seems weird to all of a sudden go all – let’s keep everything professional.

        2. AnnaBananna*

          Except….should something go wrong, there may be no way to get rid of Elvis short of eviction (depending on how they set up the contracts).

          I would just say no loved one, period, end of.

            1. Margaret*

              Yeah, but you can stop hanging out outside of work. You can’t evict someone from a rented coworking space with the same ease.

          1. mamma mia*

            There is no reason to operate on the basis that 1) something is going to go wrong and 2) the thing that would go wrong is so bad that he would need to be “get rid of” and 3) he would refuse to leave unless he was formally evicted. That is way too extreme and assumes that Jolene and Elvis are inherently unreasonable people, which we have no evidence for.

            I know some people on this site think talking to someone directly about an issue that comes up is “rude” or some sort of Herculean task but it’s really not. If there is PDA in the workplace, LW more than has the standing to say, “Hey guys, can you knock it off?” Especially because she has a social relationship with them. I just don’t understand the attitude of saying “No” to something just because it has the POTENTIAL to get awkward.

        3. Traffic_Spiral*

          “I don’t see the problem in letting Elvis have a desk and than addressing any issue with that in the moment IF (and that’s a big if, considering there are no facts to back up the LW’s predictions) it happens.”

          Nah. A fence at the top of a cliff is easier than a hospital at the bottom of it.

          There’s a zillion little things about how they could interact that could be awkward at the workplace.
          PDA, bickering, needing more space from each other, getting distracted from work because of each other, cutsey nicknames…

          There’s gargantuan amounts of diplomacy and emotional labor involved with making a couple alter the basics of their relationship because it’s awkward in the workplace. Keep it separate.

          1. Genny*

            I think it would also be more difficult to handle the myriad issues that might pop up because it’s just the LW and Jolene. There’s no HR or on-site boss to appeal to. For instance, if Jolene doesn’t reduce the amount of PDA (or does reduce it, but not to a level LW is comfortable with), that puts LW in the position of either not having anyone to escalate her complaints to or of continually having to ask Jolene to adjust this and that. That sounds like an exhausting dynamic for both of them even if they’re trying their best to accommodate each other.

            1. mamma mia*

              Again, just because a situation has the potential to be awkward, it doesn’t follow that it will be. You’re concerned about hypothetical “exhausting dynamic” but that literally has no base in reality because there is nothing to support the idea that Elvis and Jolene would do PDA in the office or that they would be unreasonable if being asked to stop. This kind of catastrophic thinking is doing a major disservice to the LW because she’s already concerned about coming across as paranoid.

              OP is already bringing new people to a work situation where it’s always been just her and Jolene; that in itself brings about the possibility of awkwardness but it doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. There are plenty of couples who work together without it being weird.

              1. Genny*

                It isn’t catastrophic thinking; it’s being realistic about the very real way this kind of scenario can work. Some couples can work well together in a professional environment and some can’t. It’s also very common for people not to be a good judge of their own behavior or ability to handle a particular situation. Given that it’s a coin flip whether Jolene and Elvis are the kind of couple who can handle working together, that this becomes a major headache to LW if they aren’t that kind of couple, and that LW was hoping to use this co-working space for networking, there’s really no up side to her agreeing to this arrangement.

                It would be one thing if this was a larger organization where LW, Jolene, and Elvis weren’t likely to interact much, if LW/Jolene’s manager or HR were onsite and could be a neutral third-party mediator between divergent opinions about appropriate office behavior, or if LW has supervisory authority over Jolene and can set the standards for the office. Since none of that is the case, I think LW is right to be concerned about the very real potential that this goes poorly.

                Sure, any new person is going to mess with the current dynamic, but when that happens, the conversation with them/about them will be less fraught because it’s a purely professional relationship, not both personal and professional (e.g. the conversation about evicting tenant A who isn’t paying their rent on time is a lot less fraught than the same conversation about evicting Jolene’s boyfriend who isn’t paying his rent on time).

              2. Jadelyn*

                It’s really not “catastrophic thinking” to be prepared for something that’s quite common when you have couples in a work setting. Just do a search in the archives here on AAM for terms like “spouse” and “significant other” and check out some of the horror stories.

                If nothing else, just weighing the potential consequences of saying no (mild hurt feelings) versus the potential consequences of saying yes (major PDA at work, affecting the entire work environment, a breakup down the line causing drama) would indicate that it’s simpler for OP to start with “no” than try to walk it back later.

                1. mamma mia*

                  That’s a really bad argument. Of course, there’s a lot of “horror” stories in the archives; it’s not like people are going to write in if everything is going well so just based on that, you don’t have the standing to say this is a common issue. Hypothesizing that there will major PDA, affecting whole work environment, and all that, even when it has absolutely no basis in reality, is totally catastrophic thinking. Which I’m unfortunately seeing a lot of here.

                  And obviously it’s simpler for the OP to say “no” than to say “yes.” That’s my whole issue with it. It’s also unfair to Jolene, who both the LW and the commenters are talking about like she has no common sense about bringing her relationship into her office. I don’t see why Elvis can’t work there and if there is any issue, bring it up when it comes up. People shouldn’t forbid things just because of the POSSIBILITY that it would make them uncomfortable. That’s not what real adults do.

                2. Jadelyn*

                  It’s no worse an argument to say “there’s the potential for this to go very, very badly” than it was for you to say “it might not go badly at all”. Both are speculation. Neither point of view is based on a guarantee of what will or won’t happen.

                  And how is it “unfair” to Jolene to say “this space is intended to be for collaboration with others in our field, not your boyfriend just because he wants an office”?

                3. Zillah*

                  @Jadelyn – I agree, and for me, the “quite common” is really key here.

                  While reasonable people can (and do!) differ about whether any specific concern is reasonable (and there are some that the OP cites that I don’t think are really fair), I think that there’s probably much less disagreement on whether romantic relationships in a business setting can create a dynamic (including but not limited to outright drama) that wouldn’t exist between people who weren’t romantically involved. That doesn’t mean that they always do – they often don’t! – but it’s pretty common for them to do so.

                  I also think that the chances of a dynamic coming into play is also probably higher in a fairly laid back environment in which your only on-site coworker knows your boyfriend. That doesn’t even have to mean crossing the line into unprofessional – it can even mean something as silly a side conversation about a movie Jolene saw ending up longer because Elvis joins the conversation. (That is just a silly example of something that would be influenced by the dynamic without being unprofessional off the top of my head – please no one rebut it specifically, because that’s not the point. It’s just an example.)

                  It’s not catastrophic to think about that any more than it’s catastrophic to ask if there’s smoking in the building before you sign a lease.

            2. Paulina*

              I find the potential for PDA to be a pretty minor issue. I’d be more concerned that it would be difficult to deal with any workplace-use issues that might arise with Elvis, given his relationship with Jolene. The additional tenants that LW and Jolene offer space to would normally be expected to conform to the appropriate uses and workplace norms set by the primary tenants (LW and Jolene), but it may be a lot harder to get that to stick when there’s a close personal relationship. Jolene is already seeking an exception simply to include him, given that he’s not in the field.

              Yes the relationship between LW and Jolene isn’t strictly professional, but their are degrees of personal relationships, and they’re both at the same level with respect to this new venture.

          2. Anita Brayke*

            What if there’s a husband-and husband real estate team? Is the rule of “no family or loved ones” going to apply to everyone equally?

    3. MissDisplaced*

      I mean, yeah, he probably did ask about it if he wants cheap office space! Who wouldn’t? But I don’t think it’s right to speculate beyond that.

    4. Argus*

      Seems just as likely that Jolene wants it but Elvis won’t see much upside to paying out of pocket for an office when he can wfh for free. (If his company were willing to rent him a space, I imagine they’d have done it already.)

  2. Sloan Kittering*

    As a “guess culture” person (you can google this) who grew up with the values that go along with that, these are the kinds of situations that absolutely destroy me, because I would also highly value the harmony of my relationship with Jolene and not want to push back against what is clearly her preference. My first instinct is to blame Jolene for not realizing this was going to put OP in a weird spot, but I recognize there’s no need for that: OP just needs to be calm and clear about her preference, and realize that Jolene might in fact be a little put out since clearly it would be her preference to have Elvis there, but that’s okay. These are work decisions.

    Why is that so hard for some of us to grasp, she asked herself rhetorically.

    1. Anathema Device*

      Right but you can’t be a ‘guess person’ and also manage people well.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        I think this is arguably true. Hints and being indirect is not a good fit with management. Of course it would work fine if the subordinates were well versed in the same culture but eventually you’d run into someone who needed clarity and be stuck.

        1. Budgie Buddy*

          I think this debate it off topic for the question, but if there was a column on ask/guess specifically I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a lot of managers use guess culture to great effect. The employees just don’t necessarily recognize that they’re doing it. It’s like swans pedaling away under water…

          1. EinJungerLudendorff*

            It would also not suprise me if many managers THINK they’re using it to great effect, while their subordinates are decidedly less impressed with their communications skills.

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        Is this in reply to Sloan Kittering’s comment? The OP isn’t Jolene’s manager, and I don’t see how what you’re saying contradicts Sloan Kittering.

        As a side note, I’m assuming you don’t mean that someone whose default is to be a guess person can’t be a good manager, because they absolutely can be, as long as they know when and how to switch.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          That is an even better way to put it – I think you need the skills valued most in Ask Culture in order to manage well, but yes any individual can learn those skills, and you could still be successful no matter your background or preference as long as you can use both.

          1. R.D*

            I think you need both skills to manage well. A good manager will be able to identify when a subordinate is putting out feelers about something they are hesitant to directly ask for.

        2. Jasnah*

          Agreed, I think it’s really common in ask cultures to assume that their way is the best because everything is clearly laid out. Not so! Guess culture people can communicate just fine!
          Jolene: It would be cool if Elvis could join, since he works remotely too.
          OP: *pause* Hm…yeah… I don’t know.
          Jolene: *sees OP’s reluctance* I suppose we might get sick of each other *offers reason OP might oppose to see if OP agrees*
          OP: Yeah, also it would be great if we could invite people in the industry to expand our network *offers real reason for opposing*
          Jolene: We could have real office parties for once, haha! *changes topic to joke to repair relationship after refusal*
          OP: Yeah, that’s a great idea! *shows genuine enthusiasm to repair relationship with Jolene and show she doesn’t hate Elvis*

          Result is Jolene and OP get along fine, and Jolene understands Elvis can’t join the coworking space.

          1. mamma mia*

            I’m unfamiliar with ask/guess culture but this scenario seems insanely unrealistic. Why would Jolene argue against her own preference on behalf of OP just because OP is too cowardly to directly say anything about it? That honestly doesn’t make any sense to me. Also, Jolene does not owe it to OP to “repair the relationship” after making a reasonable request.

            1. Jasnah*

              Then I guess you are only familiar with ask culture! I invite you to do some research into “guess” culture to understand why making an unreasonable request or refusing one can damage a relationship by breaking social harmony. And I encourage you to remove value judgments like “cowardly” from it–some cultures and peoples work this way just fine.

      3. TassieTiger*

        Oh this is absolutely fascinating!!! Would you please expand a bit on that? I think this is helping me have a real lightbulb moment and I’m grateful.

      4. I heart Paul Buchman*

        I disagree. This is a cultural divide and it isn’t right to say that half the world is wrong because they do things differently to you! I am from a half-way guess culture (ie a guess culture with some American influences) and we certainly have good managers here (I imagine in equal proportion to anywhere else in the world).

    2. dinoweeds*

      Wow ! I just learned a little something today. I had no idea about ask/guess culture, and I am definitely a guesser too!

    3. Data Analyst*

      Aha! This is something I had not heard of and is now shedding light on many arguments I have had with my husband.

    4. Over 60 & Forever Young*

      I need to know about this “guess culture” thing! Off to Google I go!

    5. Alice*

      Bravo on recognizing that your first reaction was driven by guess culture. There’s nothing wrong with having that reaction; only on acting on it without reflecting.

    6. Owler*

      I would love to see Alison do a column on ask/guess culture…I’m not sure what i would want to see out of that topic, but I feel like the comments and discussion on it would be worthwhile. (And personally, as a Guesser raising a Guesser, I would love tips on teaching my kid to do more asking.)

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Any time I see a question “how do I say no” my Guess Culture antenna of sympathy goes up. I have friends who wouldn’t even understand this question, they say something like “just decline? say you don’t want to? flat refuse?” and I’m like I do understand how to physically form the word NO with my lips hahaha

        1. Close Bracket*

          The question is usually “how do I say no without having to use the word no and/or without resulting in negative emotions to the recipient?”

        2. SunnyD*

          “I’m like I do understand how to physically form the word NO with my lips” this cracked me up.

  3. Important Moi*

    Oh my. I actually disagree with Allison. This seems based on only speculation. Someone will probably better articulate what I’m thinking, but wow….

    1. Observer*

      Allison called out the speculation and advised the OP to stay away from that.

      However, it is STILL true that this sounds like a bad idea. BF is in a different field, for one thing, which will introduce a different dynamic than was intended. Also, a LOT of workplaces discourage (or outright ban) romantic pairs in the office. This has nothing to do with a particular couple, so nothing to so with how Jolene and her BF *might* behave. Just a general policy that makes sense in a small office that’s located in a reasonably sized area.

      1. Clorinda*

        Not entirely. She knows from observation that Jolene and Elvis are handsy in public.

        1. Roscoe*

          I mean, I get drunk in public. Doesn’t mean I do it in the office. OP can’t really make any kind of call on how they will behave professionally while only seeing them socially

        2. EventPlannerGal*

          Right, but that’s in public. Has she seen them in an office situation, which is what’s being proposed? Yes, they might carry it over into their workplace, but they also might be perfectly professional. They might even be like one workplace couple I know, who were so determined NOT to be coupley at work that before I found out they were married I assumed they really disliked each other because they actively avoided each other all the time.

          1. Shiny*

            Yes, it could go either way, but there’s no way to know what type they are before he’s already working there, and it would much worse to try to remove him from the office once he’s already renting space there. Luckily there are all kinds of reasons the OP can give for not preferring that he rent space there that have nothing to do with levels of PDA.

            1. valentine*

              they also might be perfectly professional.
              Given OP’s worried saying no will sour her relationship with Jolene tells me Jolene isn’t perfectly professional.

              1. Zillah*

                That seems like a leap. It certainly could be the case, but it’s very, very common for people to get anxious about things that turn out to not be a big deal.

              2. EventPlannerGal*

                Or it could be telling you that the OP is prone to anxiety and overthinking things – which her assumptions about her colleague’s relationship and professionalism, catastrophising and desire to avoid confrontation would seem to support.

        3. Jennifer*

          Not a big deal. I do a lot of things when I’m not at work that I have enough sense not to do in the office. She talks about her like she’s an out of control teen almost.

        4. Lily in NYC*

          Yeah, but OP didn’t have a problem with it herself and was using it as an example of coworker’s immaturity. I just wrote a comment way down below how I feel like OP is incredibly patronizing and I was really surprised that Alison agreed with her.

        5. Aerin*

          When my husband and I first got together, we were coworkers. We were pretty handsy and cuddly when in private or comfortable social situations. Still, very few of our coworkers realized we were dating at all. When we were on the clock, we were all business.

          That doesn’t mean that everyone’s good at those boundaries, but it shouldn’t be assumed that someone isn’t capable of behaving differently in a different situation.

      2. hamstergirl*

        Yea I got that sense too – to be honest it actually made me a bit uncomfortable that OP’s making all these assumptions about this poor woman.

        Besides, working with a partner and working in the same space as a partner are two VERY different things.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Even if we set aside all of OP’s speculation, I think it’s totally reasonable to say no… especially if the original vision was to invite in folks who are in the same field (which Elvis is not).

      Does this scenario remind anyone else of Bevers?

  4. Sloan Kittering*

    Probably an unpopular opinion, but this sort of thing is why some of us have a blanket boundary drawn between friends and coworkers – even when we genuinely like the people we work with: this should be a work decision, but because OP also values their personal friendship with Jolene, it’s more complicated. I do try to avoid outside of work socializing while I’m still working with someone, except in the case of a clearly work-adjacent happy hour.

    1. Roscoe*

      I’m someone who doesn’t mind blurring the lines between personal and professional. But this is a good reason why. It basically seems that OP wants the personal when it works for her, but is perfectly fine being strictly business in a situation that she thinks (with what seems like no proof) will be an issue

      1. Queen of the File*

        It’s also ok to draw a line somewhere in “blurred friends and coworkers” territory that is still short of “I want to share a small space with you and your SO all day while we work”. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          I just think if OP and Jolene were coworkers it would be easier to say, “mm I’m not really comfortable with you moving your boyfriend in here.” But because they’re also close friends, OP doesn’t want Jolene to think she doesn’t like Elvis, worries that Jolene will not be her friend if she raises this, and also seems to have some opinions about the way the Jolene conducts the relationship – all of which is muddying the waters.

    2. ChimericalOne*

      Being friends with her coworker isn’t actually a problem here. As Alison points out, making a rational work decision here should in no way harm their friendship, unless the OP’s coworker is so immature that their relationship was likely doomed, anyway. OP’s just overthinking this.

    3. JB (not in Houston)*

      I can see what you’re saying and don’t exactly disagree, it is more complicated. But I think this comes up even in situations when someone is not friends outside of work. I have some coworkers that I work really well with but don’t socialize with outside of work. In this kind of situation I’d hesitate to speak up because I’d worry about doing something that would wrinkle our work relationship. I’d do it, because you really have to, but there’d be that brief pause where I’d hesitate out of concern about how the other person would take it and how they’d respond. So just avoiding being actual friends with coworkers doesn’t always prevent people from being worried about the fallout of speaking up.

    4. Liar Liar Pants Dracarys*

      I’m 100% firmly in the “never the twain shall meet” category as well. It burned me once, in one of my first “real” jobs and that was enough for me. I have coworkers. I have friends. They are separate and will remain as such. And I like some of my coworkers quite a bit, but so long as we work together, they have to stay on their side of the playground. If one of us leaves, Red Rover, Red Rover, Send Former Coworker Over to the friend side. I find this also helps greatly when transitioning from one job to another.

      Also, I hate work happy hours. I work far from home so drinking and then driving home is a no-deal for me. I really don’t drink anymore anyway. (The Hangover Monster is brutal, even after half a beer.) And as someone who likes to keep that boundary wall up high between work and life, it pisses me off when a work happy hour is cutting into my life area. Unless they’re paying me to spend time at that happy hour with my coworkers, I’m going home.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        Work happy hours annoy me so much. “Hey employees, let’s all have a couple of drinks and then hop in our cars and drive home in rush hour traffic!! And if you don’t you’re not a Team Player!”

        A good number of those people are flirting with the legal limit when they leave.

        1. Liar Liar Pants Dracarys*

          We had a “workshop” last summer where everyone stuck post it notes with things they’d like to see improved. It was semi-anonymous. I stuck up a post it about after-work happy hours and it was the first thing everyone zoomed into. I stated my case. A handful of people agreed. Our General Counsel (2nd highest C-level) did not agree and so there are still a lot of after-work happy hours. I have not attended one of them.

    5. cheese please*


      I really like not being friends with my coworkers. However, I still think this would be complicated since it is only TWO of them at the remote site office, and in such cases, it’s considerably more important to have a solid working relationship.

      OP, realize that Jolene and Elvis may have already dreamed up a new life where they commute together and eat lunch together etc, where Jolene says to him “OP had a great time at the concert with us last week so I’m certain she’ll be so excited to have you at the office” and is in no way prepared to hear your concerns. As such, I would strive to keep them more focused on the type of space you want to create and emphasize that it would be best to give more importance to work culture / networking etc over personal relationships.

    6. coffee cup*

      I’m not sure it’s unpopular, but I mainly have friends only through work, so if I adhered to that I’d have hardly any. Which is maybe a bit sad, but true. If I was managing anyone it would be different but I’ve not yet had any problems being actual friends with colleagues. I think if it’s a true friendship it should perhaps make it easier because you’d think then Jolene wants to keep things on an even keel, too.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I’d say that I met dang near all of my best friends after graduation at work and don’t find it sad at all. At every workplace except one I happened to meet someone I really hit it off with. I would also have no problem having the, “Hey Jolene, why don’t we focus on trying to fill our space with other alpaca stylists and adjacent fields. It would be great to have $WhateverSkillsWeAreMissing on-site.” with any of my friends I made at work. Friends generally know you well enough to get where you are coming from.

      2. AngryOwl*

        Coffee cup, I agree. Some of my closest friends I’ve met as colleagues and I’d be really sad not to have them in my life.

  5. Roscoe*

    I’m going to slightly disagree here, with the end. This absolutely will cause an issue with you and Jolene. She may still be very professional, but if you think she will keep going out for drinks and hanging with you socially, you are most likely mistaken. You are essentially saying “anyone but your boyfriend”. Now, while I can understand that, if they are serious enough that they are living together, you can bet that will be taken personally by both of them. I’m not even going to say that she would be out of line wanting to step back from her relationship with you. You seem to want to be “striclty professional” in the working space, and that is fine. But she may realize that she should be “strictly professional” as well and not want to hang out with you anymore. Again, there is a good chance she will remain professional, but won’t be as friendly.

    I’m not telling you what to do or not do, but I think its unrealistic to hope that it won’t affect things.

      1. Roscoe*

        I guess I was a bit confused. she said she wanted to offer it to people in the field, but it also says “we’re explicitly saying non-employees can come and co-work with us for a small fee” so I guess I’m unclear if those non-employees HAVE to be in the field as well.

        Even still, it seems like the “people in their field” was kind of a hope, and its not in place yet. I wouldn’t blame them both for taking it a bit personally.

        1. valentine*

          OP’s concern is that offering space to same-field non-employees will have Jolene saying it’s not fair to exclude non-employee Elvis.

      2. another scientist*

        So what happens if down the road two people from their field, who are sharing the space, fall madly in love with each other?
        To use the field as an excuse when OP is actually worried about professional boundaries feels really dishonest to me.

        1. animaniactoo*

          Those people won’t be employees of the company, and if there is an issue where they need to be removed from the co-working space because they are creating problems in the space, the issue will not be for OP and the people she needs to continue to work with.

        2. CommanderBanana*

          What if we all get flung off the planet and into space?

          The OP is writing in about a very specific situation with two particular people, not a what-if that may or may not ever happen.

          1. Delphine*

            To be honest, the OP is writing about a big what-if too–she has no evidence that Jolene and Elvis would be unable to maintain a professional relationship at work and is making some very strange, almost sexist assumptions about how Jolene would treat Elvis in a workspace.

            1. Zillah*

              While I disagree with some of the OP’s specific concerns, I don’t think that broad concerns about whether two people in a romantic relationship might have a dynamic in a small and somewhat informal office is really that big a what-if.

        3. TootsNYC*

          also, the work/office-space relationship will be established first, and that would be more likely to have a stronger influence.

          And you can cross that bridge when you come to it–IF you come to it.

          here, that bridge is a guarantee

          1. another scientist*

            is it though? From the information we have, I just have trouble seeing the inevitability of this affecting the work.

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I don’t think it’s dishonest, but I do think it’s a more neutral and less personal frame.

          But I also don’t think this will absolutely 100% create an issue between OP and Jolene.

        5. uranus wars*

          I think inviting this into the work space and having it happen organically between two already in a works pace together are very different, and you can deal with the latter when/if it happens a little easier.

          But I don’t see a reason to speculate on that now. The issue is the “should we invite it in?” not “what should we do down the road if this thing actually happens?”

      3. Liar Liar Pants Dracarys*

        I think so too. I also find all these comments pretty fascinating. I wish we could do some sort of blind study of the ages to answers. I’d be fascinated to see if the Pro-Elvis and Con-Elvis lines skewed in an age pattern.

        1. Roscoe*

          Just FYI, I’m not saying I’m 100% in favor of Elvis working there. I am saying that she shouldn’t be surprised if she vetos the boyfriend and then her relationship changes. Even with professional reasons, there is no way for it not to be taken personally to some extent.

            1. Arts Akimbo*

              I wondered that, too. There are a couple of points where it looks like people have replied to comments that no longer are showing up.

      4. Cameron*

        It’s a neutral statement that has significant lifestyle implications for Jolene. While her head may say “OP is justified”, her heart may feel a little wounded for a long time. That’s just the way people are; not many of us have full, objective control over our emotions.

    1. ChimericalOne*

      With some people, it would absolutely cause an issue. With others, it absolutely would not. My husband and I are both highly involved volunteers with a particular organization, and we’ve had to be mindful of things like not both running to serve on the board at the same time. Not because we think we couldn’t handle it, but because it creates a potentially uncomfortable situation for others. If OP’s coworker insists on taking this personally rather than understanding it as a sensible work decision, that’s on her, not OP. In some contexts, “anyone but your significant other” makes perfect sense.

      1. Queen of the File*

        In an extreme example, my husband and I have worked together for 12 years and people are still occasionally surprised to find out we’re married to each other!

    2. animaniactoo*

      I agree that Jolene changed it all the moment that she proposed Elvis be a candidate for one of those desks.

      No matter what LW does now, yes, it will probably change. At least on a temporary basis. But OP can do her best to decide which change is the most palatable to her, AND furthers the business goals of her company.

      At that point, she’s going to need to rely on Jolene to be an adult and a reasonable person and at the very least get over it in a short space of time. But if Jolene is NOT going to be that kind of adult and reasonable person that she can’t deal even when there is a good business justification for saying no to Elvis? Then having Elvis in the office is guaranteed to be problematic in almost all of the ways that OP speculates about – and note, it’s not Elvis’ behavior that OP is concerned about, it’s Jolene’s. Not being able to accept this “no” would be a huge indicator that all of those things would happen, and then the dynamic has changed in a way that works for Jolene, but not really for OP or her company. It will be messy and awful.

      But I think you’re overstating to say that it will most likely change on a permanent basis. It just hinges on whether Jolene can be adult enough to accept a reasonable non-personal “No” that is not phrased as because he’s Elvis in any way shape or form.

      1. Roscoe*

        I’m not saying she wouldn’t be reasonable. But I’d argue that its also reasonable for Jolene to decide she doesn’t want to socially hang out with OP anymore. They can still have a great working relationship.

        1. animaniactoo*

          If given a company-benefit not-Elvis based no, I would see a decision on Jolene’s part to stop hanging out with OP socially as retaliatory rather than reasonable on the basis of that particular no. If there’s other stuff in the mix, okay. But not solely on that basis.

          1. Roscoe*

            No one is owed friendship. Even if it is strictly a company benefit thing, OP is still making this call. Its hard to not take it somewhat personally. Its not “retaliatory”, its more “well, I guess we aren’t really friends like I thought, so maybe I should start acting that way too”. I wouldn’t even see it as a problem if this is what Jolene decided. I’ve had people I was friends with at work who I kind of backed away from socially because of how they handled things in the office. There is nothing wrong iwth that.

            1. animaniactoo*

              See, that’s my thing – no, nobody is owed friendship. But if your co-worker making a reasonable judgment call on a business aspect kind of thing is enough to convince you that “you’re not really friends like you thought”, then that is – to me – a skewed view of a friendship in the workplace.

              The people you backed away from socially because of how they handled things at the office, what kinds of things were they doing that caused you to back away from them socially?

              1. ChimericalOne*

                Right. If you’re expecting your friends to bend rules for you or make bad business calls for the sake of your friendship and they’re NOT doing that, well, that doesn’t mean you’re “not friends.” It just means your friends have reasonable boundaries. If you end a friendship entirely because a friend set some reasonable boundaries, it’s you who ended the friendship, not them.

          2. LDN Layabout*

            Retaliatory or consequences?

            I can understand not wanting to have a coworker’s partner working in the same space as you, but then I can also understand the coworker then not being SOCIALLY as warm towards the LW in return and I think that would be fine.

            No one is obligated to be friends with their coworkers and this post highlights some of the pitfalls.

    3. Important Moi*

      I agree with you Roscoe. It will be strictly professional.

      I also feel like there’s an implication that non-married co-worker will go around sulking or be otherwise in unprofessional while married with children older co-worker is acting nothing but appropriately. (I only mention this because LW offered this level of detail.)

      Yeah, as a non-married person this hits a nerve, but I fully expect to be in the minority today and will watch how the comments unfold.

      1. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

        I see what your saying and how the LWs language could be interpreted, but perhaps its because LW knows both Jolene and Elvis and has interacted with them both socially, so maybe a more specific concern than just “unmarrieds” do this . . .

        1. Roscoe*

          But again, interacting with them socially and assuming how unprofessional they will be in the office just seems like a leap. Its why if you just have a drinking buddy whose resume you are passing on, you shouldn’t talk about how professional and hard working they are. You don’t know that.

        2. Jasnah*

          I don’t think OP was making a blanket stereotype about how people act before and after marriage. Plus they live together so that line isn’t even as clear here. I think OP was bringing up their different ages/statuses as a maturity thing, does Jolene realize what it will be like to be together all the time? OP already notes that Jolene is a little naive and immature when it comes to boundaries.

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        We don’t really know, though! There are plenty of people who would completely understand, and the OP’s nixing the idea would not cause a problem for them. I’m not sure why we have to assume that Jolene will be unprofessional about this when we don’t really have enough info to know that.

        1. Malarkey01*

          I don’t necessarily think Jolene would be unprofessional, but one of the things OP likes is their outside of work relationship. I think this has the real potential for Jolene to re-evaluate her friendship with OP. She may still be completely professional and have a great work relationship, but It would not be surprising if she scaled back her friendship outside of the office as a result.

    4. Zillah*

      I think that this is entirely too strong and definitive a statement for a kind of situation in which people can and do have a very wide range of reactions.

    5. Clementine*

      I agree. I think the most likely outcome is that Jolene is offended, and these two co-workers who have to be in constant, close proximity are going to feel awkward indefinitely. I don’t have a great solution to that.

    6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It’s certainly a possibility. That said, I’ve been in an almost identical situation as OP, was friends with my coworker outside of work and had met her SO, and I vetoed the SO moving into our small office.

      It had no negative effect (that I experienced or heard about) on our relationship at work or outside of work, and we three continued to hang out socially. I think it helped that we all behaved like adults, and no one took it personally. But it also helped that my coworker and her SO weren’t super invested in him being there. It was more of a, “Oh, he could benefit from a space and we might have some?” situation.

      1. ChimericalOne*

        It’s great to hear examples of this playing out well between reasonable people.

    7. Traffic_Spiral*

      I guess I’m disagreeing with your disagreement. “I’d rather keep a few boundaries between work and people’s private lives” is a pretty reasonable workplace norm. If she completely refuses to be friends after that, it’s probably for the best.

      Heck, even in non-workplace life, it’s reasonable to not want an S/O third-wheeling everything.

  6. L.S. Cooper*

    It seems perfectly reasonable to frame it as a work thing, and I think the goal of building a community of people in the same field is an admirable one! Assuming Jolene is reasonable, I imagine she’ll be completely fine with focusing on only renting desks to “coworkers”.

    1. Orange You Glad*

      If the purpose of moving to the bigger space is to build relationships with people in the same field, that’s wonderful!

      It’s why you see more lawyers & accountants & insurance sharing co-working spaces and then artists & photographers sharig other co-working spaces. Or dentists & doctors sharing.

      Build the community you want to connect with!

    2. Mr. Shark*

      I would honestly speak again to my manager if I was the OP, and since the OP isn’t a manager or supervisor to the Jolene, I would ask the manager to tell both of them that they need to make sure the office-mates are in the same field. This is the business case for doing so, obviously, but puts the decision back where it should be–at the manager’s level.
      The OP can certainly explain to the manager that it’s important that she and Jolene maintain a friendly relationship as coworkers, since they work so closely together, and that she’s concerned that if she makes the decision, it could cause issues. Regardless of whether they are friends or just work closely together, if the OP makes the decision, that could cause problems in the working relationship (not even dealing with outside work/friendship).
      The manager needs to step up.

  7. animaniactoo*

    My first thought was to suggest a trial basis and agree to re-evaluate after that so it would be clear that you weren’t just catastrophizing.

    But honestly, that has the potential to go badly too – in ways that are even worse. So it is probably better to just say no from the start and begin and you would really like to go on. Especially since you have such a handy built-in excuse for this. You had already said that these would be spaces for people in the field.

    The reason why not Elvis is simple. Yes, he’s a non-employee. But he doesn’t work in the field and it doesn’t further your work goals of developing those relationships.

    At some point down the road if you’ve been trying to fill those desks and it’s clear that there’s no success in pulling in those other people, you might re-evaluate that. But you’re not ready to toss out that goal and derail from it before you’ve even started trying it, which is exactly what having Elvis in the middle of it would be doing.

    1. LQ*

      The thing about a trial is that it sort of defaults to yes after the trial is over unless someone wants to push the no. The best part of a trial is that it defaults to yes for something you want. The worst part is it defaults to yes for something you don’t want. I think it would be harder to say “No” after he was there and it wasn’t catastrophic, because it likely won’t be catastrophic. It’ll be uncomfortable with a slim chance for catastrophic. So if you have a trial and then you want to say “No” you’re going to have to explain and “He’s not in the field” will be a tougher sell at that point. I think “No, I really want to get this to be a professional hub.” is the way to push this forward. (If you need the money and need to reevaluate later because you haven’t sold the seats you could at that point.)

      *Yes of course this all works differently if you don’t care about the relationship, but OP does.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Right, that’s my point about how the outcome could be worse from a trial than from saying no upfront.

      2. Over 60 & Forever Young*

        I had originally suggested a trial basis in my comment below, but ya know what? I agree with your POVs about that. Could likely make things awwwwkkkwarddd.

    2. Owler*

      I think if there is a trial period, it should not be with the boyfriend coworking, but rather, one with the goal to try and find people in their field and start with building their community. Once they’ve built their community, if there is a desk available, they can revisit inviting the boyfriend. But the beginning stages should be without the boyfriend.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        That’s a good point as well. The first priority should be to establish a community, and then, if there is leftover room, Elvis may be able to slip in. I still think the OP should go back to the manager and have the manager lay out the requirement that it should be people in the same field, so the blame/negative feelings, if Jolene has them, does not fall on the OP.

        1. valentine*

          have the manager lay out the requirement
          OP needs to be honest and, as the senior employee, it’ll be good for her to lead by example. Plus, the veto is so reasonable, either could easily forget and tell Jolene it was OP’s call.

    3. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I know you argued against your own first suggestion of a trial run, but might I add that once Elvis has established himself in this office, it might not be so easy as to just ask him to leave because you want him to no matter how badly it goes. If he’s paying for a space, he’ll have rights too that go beyond his personal relationship with Jolene or his relationship with the OP. It sounds like the OP and Jolene haven’t really hammered out what having a co-working space will entail. Are they on a lease and subletting to these other tenants or are they a landlord and acting as the building manager? Beyond just Elvis, what if any of their other shared-space businesses end up being a problem. They need establish rules first, then apply them equally to Elvis and any other person that comes in.

  8. Over 60 & Forever Young*

    I really like your suggestions, Alison. If I were Jolene, I wouldn’t take offense at all to things proposed in this way, and perhaps Jolene may not have considered the potential ‘what-ifs’ about having Elvis there. LW, the new space sounds wonderful! (With kitchen and garden? I die!) Since there are multiple rooms in the new space, maybe assigning a separate room for Elvis might work out, and you could suggest this entire arrangement on a trial basis (same as for others who would share the new space). Who knows…maybe with Elvis’ tech abilities, he might be able to contribute in some way to your work as well. That being said, I totally understand your valid concerns. Hubz and I worked together when he owned a small luncheonette, and we had to make it work- for the benefit of our employees and customers, keeping our personal and work lives separate. I wish you all the best!

  9. mf*

    Alternative idea: Tell Jolene/your boss you want to reserve all open desks for ONLY people in your field for a reasonable, agreed upon amount of time. If there are still open seats after that time passes, then you’d be open to having Elvis rent the space.

    (And in the meantime, make sure you’re aggressively recruiting people from your field to join your workspace. All’s fair in love and war.)

    1. MissDisplaced*

      If it really IS true the whole idea was to find other people from their field to cowork with, then this is the best way to frame it. “It’s a WORK thing.” Because there are advantages to doing so that benefit the company, and this should be first choice seat preference.
      If however they don’t get enough takers, Elvis can then be considered for a space. This could even be done on a month-to-month or quarterly basis to keep it short-term should Elvis not work out, and/or Elvis may use until someone else from their industry needs the seat. But it’s not saying no. And who knows, Elvis could workout just fine.

    2. Mr. Shark*

      Yes, I would tell my boss, and ask him to make this call directly to the OP and Jolene, so the decision doesn’t have to fall on the OP. The OP has to maintain a close working relationship with Jolene regardless, and the boss should understand the dynamic that might end up being a negative if the OP has to make that decision.

  10. Unemployed in Greenland*

    I think you know what Jolene’s like, working 9 to 5, so bringing in Elvis means another level of complexity around the clock, given the additional people you’re going to bring in anyway.

  11. Terry H*

    I got to be honest. I tried to see things from both angles. But if the offices are available to people as a co working space, I am not sure I would care about who happens to be working there.

    The OP sounds like a potential busybody with her concerns about Jolene’s relationship and the theoretical impact this would have on it. She listed her concerns about “servicing” him, which has clear sexual connotations.

    Normal people do not worry about who is servicing who in the office. Her relationship with Jolene is not as strong as she thinks it is.

    The OP would be better off just staying in her lane and ignoring anything other than professional interests.

    1. LQ*

      I think focusing on getting in tenants who are within the profession IS actually within professional interests.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      Logic flaw – other coworkers have professional relationships. Jolene and Elvis have a personal relationship. That changes the dynamics for everyone.

      As far as “servicing” goes, it’s for the boyfriends social needs. That is inappropriate for any office. Offices are there for work needs, not social ones.

    3. ChimericalOne*

      I don’t think OP meant anything sexual at all. “Servicing” in this case suggests “taking care of his social & emotional needs,” and that’s not a terribly unlikely scenario if he’s being added to their space because he can’t take care of his own social/emotional needs to start with. (Sounds like he could already be working in a coffee shop, coworking space, or any number of places, but has chosen to work at home & put responsibility on his partner for helping him find friends / have fulfilling social interactions.)

      1. Delphine*

        and that’s not a terribly unlikely scenario if he’s being added to their space because he can’t take care of his own social/emotional needs to start with. (Sounds like he could already be working in a coffee shop, coworking space, or any number of places, but has chosen to work at home & put responsibility on his partner for helping him find friends / have fulfilling social interactions.)

        Not one word of this is based on any evidence. It’s wildly ridiculous to jump from “gets lonely and bored while working at home” to “unable to care for himself and puts pressure on his girlfriend to manage his life.”

    4. animaniactoo*

      Um. I did not AT ALL get clear sexual connotations from what OP wrote. Which was “take care of him”, not “service him” by the way. I mean, maybe that’s what OP meant. But what I thought OP meant was “Did you remember to bring your…” “I can run and get a coffee for you if you want”, ordering lunch for him, running out to get more copy paper if he runs out (or giving him some of their stock), and so on.

    5. Working Mom Having It All*

      It’s hard to tell whether the “servicing” thing is a dynamic OP has noticed in Jolene and Elvis’ relationship, or just something they are mildly catastrophizing about. A LOT of straight couples seem to default to this mother/child dynamic in a romantic relationship between adults. I don’t get it but I’ve seen it over and over, and seen it cloud situations where there’s a social/professional grey area. For example this has been a problem when I’ve collaborated with a group creatively (outside of paid work) and two people in the group are dating. Suddenly the woman is doing all her man’s admin and has less time to contribute creatively.

      That said, we don’t know if Jolene and Elvis have this dynamic, or if this dynamic in their social life extends to the workplace. Personally I’m inclined to think that if Jolene and Elvis work for different companies, have different hours, and aren’t even sitting in the same room, I wouldn’t worry about it without a lot of evidence that it’s going to be a problem.

    6. Jennifer*

      I don’t know if she meant anything sexual, but I do think it’s a weird thing of her to assume when she hasn’t observed them in an office setting.

    7. Zillah*

      Wait, what?? That’s a huge leap, and the OP didn’t even say servicing in the first place – you did.

    8. Lily in NYC*

      You are making shit up -the word servicing is not used in the letter, you are the one who is turning this into something it’s not (sexual).

  12. Clorinda*

    If there’s a real concern that Jolene might take this badly, OP can borrow some of the director’s authority for this. “Director agreed to this arrangement because of the networking/professional nexus effects, and she’s really not open to having non-related work going on in the same space.” Just give the director a word of warning so Jolene doesn’t go behind OP’s back and get special permission.

    1. ChimericalOne*

      Director has already said it’s OP’s call. Decent chance Jolene already knows this.

      1. Clorinda*

        Good point. This situation would be much more comfortable for everyone if the director had actually directed the process a bit more.

    2. Important Moi*

      “Just give the director a word of warning so Jolene doesn’t go behind OP’s back and get special permission.”

      Can a little kindness and grace being extended to Jolene?

    3. TootsNYC*

      I commented separately–if I were that director, I’d agree w/ the OP, but even if I didn’t, if I said it was up to her, I’d expect to be the one to make that announcement, if only to avoid any rift between the two office-sharers.

      1. valentine*

        I’d expect to be the one to make that announcement
        This is too much hand holding.

        1. Kathenus*

          I see your perspective but I disagree. If OP was Jolene’s supervisor, then I might see things this way but they are coworkers, OP just happens to be senior to Jolene (in tenure, perhaps?). I think a significant decision like this in a two-person office would benefit from someone from above making and/or communicating the call.

        2. TootsNYC*

          It’s not about hand-holding.

          It’s about using my ultimate and unquestionable authority to avoid any disagreements between people on the team.

          I’m the big boss, I get to order people around. When the people under me are working more collaboratively, then I will use that status to erase friction.

  13. Working Mom Having It All*

    I worked from home for years alongside my partner, who was also working from home. If one of us had scored a setup like this, I can see the other of us being pitched to share the space. And it would have gone fine, and we both would have treated it like office space for professional use and not, like, our romantic rendesvous bungalow or whatever OP is concerned about. If we had broken up during that time (we’re now married and I work in a more traditional corporate office), the person who was just occupying co-working space as opposed to being an employee of the company renting the space would have just stopped using the co-working space. Because… we’re adults.

    That said, we are adults. We’re in our late 30s and pretty much have our relationship and careers on lock, have a good sense of workplace and professional norms, etc. I somewhat understand the hesitation if either member of this couple are newish to the working world. That said, people who’ve been a live-in couple for two years should have figured out how to be around other people together by now. It’s hard to tell whether they are unusual in this regard or what.

    My real answer, though, is that if the plan was to create a collaborative interdisciplinary working group of people in different areas of the same field, that is NOT what Elvis co-working there is, and he’s going to throw off the whole thing. So if that was the explicit purpose of this, then the answer should be no. If the collaborative interdisciplinary thing is not the explicit purpose but something OP thinks would be nice to eventually do if that’s how it ends up working out, then I’m more inclined to try Elvis out for a week and see how it goes.

  14. Engineer Girl*

    But if I say Elvis can’t co-work with us, it’s going to come at a cost to my otherwise awesome relationship with Jolene

    Let’s destroy some assumptions here. People without boundaries will get upset anytime someone draws appropriate boundaries. In this case it is business with boyfriends. But you know what? A person with bad boundaries is a ticking time bomb. If it isn’t this, it will be something else down the road. And they always get angry even if the boundary is totally correct.

    Good relationships are going to have conflicts at some point. Working through those conflicts is what makes great relationships. Jolene may well get upset. But that’s something to work through. That will make your relationship better in the future. If Jolene can’t work through this then she is t the great friend you thought you had.

    Also – there’s a world of difference between strong disappointment and offense. A reasonable person gets disappointed. A toxic person takes offense (and almost always retaliates.)

    Don’t be held hostage just because you are terrified of offending someone.

    1. Anonym*

      WISDOM: “Good relationships are going to have conflicts at some point. Working through those conflicts is what makes great relationships. “

      1. valentine*

        If this is the first time either relationship’s been tested, go for it, OP. Surely, bigger things will come up, so let this be the litmus test.

    2. Over 60 & Forever Young*

      Excellent point about the difference between disappointment and offense, and how people respond to those. Agreed, this seems like an inevitable necessary part of the relationship between OP and Jolene. It’s reasonable and natural that at some point a conflict between them would arise that they would have to work through, even if it means a new dynamic in their relationship. Which is sometimes a good thing.

    3. MommyMD*

      Carolyn Hax could not have said it better!! And you used 1000 less words than her. She’s wordy.


    I believe that the OP should go along with including just people in her field as this begins. They will be rent paying associates, and the networking opportunities sound fabulous.

    How long do you think it would take for Elvis to stop paying rent? After all, it’s his girlfriend’s office. That’s a possibility. You are better off, IMHO, sticking to the original plan, and leaving Elvis out of it. If your coworker is as professional as she sounds, she should go with that plan.

  16. From That Guy*

    Oooooooooo….. this sound troublesome on so many levels. Let’s address just one – have Elvis in the building. At that age you are asking for drama. Stay as far away from this as you can.

    Good luck.

    1. another scientist*

      This assumption of ‘a couple in their mid-twenties will automatically mean drama’ really, strongly rubs me the wrong way! They are presumably out of college, they’ve been together for two years, they live together. From how much Jolene and the OP hang out socially, you’d think she would have heard about any relationship drama if it happened. There is nothing in the OP’s letter that would give us reason to expect drama – surely a person’s age (unless in puberty) isn’t?!

      1. Washi*

        I think in this instance we have to trust the OP’s sense of Jolene since we don’t have anything else to go on. If the OP likes Jolene socially but also has noticed that she is naive about personal boundaries and very into PDA, I think it’s fair to have concerns about what that would be like in the workplace, and I think the comment about age is just part of painting that picture of someone who is relatively inexperienced and maybe isn’t thinking this through.

        I’m in my twenties and know couples I would be happy to share an office with and couples who would just be very couple-y constantly, and I think it’s totally fair to want to avoid the latter situation.

        1. Observer*

          I think we can take the OP’s word about their behavior without getting into “young people” territory. Some young couple are handsy in public and some are not.

          So, this is a potential problem, but it has nothing to do with their age.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        But the OP knows Jolene and Elvis pretty well.

        One of my coworkers’ SO’s volunteered here for awhile (nonprofit). It was fine. They are very non-PDA and not prone to fussing over each other (at least in public). Coworker has never mentioned SO feeling socially isolated or anything.

        That seems not to be the case with Jolene and Elvis. OP already knows that they’re handsy in public and that they think this is a remedy for Elvis’ loneliness and social isolation. And possibly that Jolene mommies him a bit. None of that should be solved through work.

        1. Jennifer*

          She knows him well PERSONALLY not professionally. We all do things outside of work we wouldn’t do in the office.

          1. TootsNYC*

            But I can often tell what someone’s attitude toward the separation of personal and professional is.

            And the OP knows them.

            She’s the one with worries.

            1. Jennifer*

              There is nothing in the letter to indicate that she knows how Jolene would act with Elvis in the workplace. The OP has demonstrated herself that she has difficulty separating personal and professional by having a friendship with someone that is junior to her at work.

              I would be pretty offended if someone made a professional decision about me based on something they’d observed in my private life, like a tense moment with a friend. Really unfair.

        2. another scientist*

          I think a lot of us would be offended if coworkers would make assumptions about our professional behavior, based on things they know about our private life. This is what is happening here. If the letter mentioned cutesy phone calls in earshot of OP, or PDA when he visits the office, or anything related to work, then I would understand. But OP hangs out with Jolene and Elvis in private, and then preemptively decides that their behavior wouldn’t be work-appropriate.
          I guess since this is business and life isn’t always fair, Jolene is not entitled to being given the benefit of the doubt, but it feels off to me.

      3. smoke tree*

        My concern wouldn’t be about their age, but about the fact that it’s a small, probably pretty casual, coworking environment. If it was a more formal workplace where they all worked together, I think there would be more social pressure to stay professional, but I can imagine would be easy for boundaries to degrade here, and it’s likely to put the LW in an awkward position.

        1. valentine*

          it’s likely to put the LW in an awkward position.
          I think this is it. She’s already senior and has no one on-site to confer with. She doesn’t want to be the ranking adult or de facto HR, too.

    2. College Career Counselor*

      Agreed. Better never to have Elvis in the building in the first place than to have him leave it later.

    3. Over 60 & Forever Young*

      Ha! I actually commented below “Elvis has left the building!”

    4. TootsNYC*

      but, if they never allow him to move in, then they can’t later say, “Elvis has left the building”

  17. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Have you observed them in a professional setting before? You hang out socially, so that’s a different world as noted. Have you seen what happens if Elvis visits the office to say drop Jolene off her forgotten lunch or to take her to lunch, etc?

    If you’ve noticed that when he comes into the office, they engage in the oooy-gooey cuddly PDA stuff, then I am totally seeing your side here. If you have not witnessed this though, I’m thinking it’s really jumping the gun. Just because someone is cuddly when you hangout after work doesn’t mean that they don’t have professional boundaries.

    In the end, Jolene needs to understand that this could cost her job at some point if she cannot behave appropriately if it happens. That’s a risk she takes on more so than anyone else. But you cannot protect people from themselves.

    1. Zillah*

      Idk – if I said, “hey, can my boyfriend rent a desk in our office?” and my coworker said “as long as you understand that it could cost you your job if you behave inappropriately,” that’s about where I’d get offended rather than potentially disappointed.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Oh, I don’t think that needs to be said, it should just be one of those “unspoken” things that she /should/ know.

        I worked with my partner and it was perfect for us. There was no weirdness, people who didn’t know we were together, had no idea we were anything more than colleagues. We knew our risks going into it and took them.

        1. Close Bracket*

          “Oh, I don’t think that needs to be said, it should just be one of those “unspoken” things that she /should/ know.”

          This column is filled with unspoken things that people actually don’t know. So many workplaces have fraternization rules that I don’t think it would be out of line or weird if OP decided having an SO in the workplace was a good time to set a policy in place, however loosely, and communicate it. Jolene might still get offended, but assuming that the policy was in keeping with typical policies and not some draconian edict with line items for each potential behavior, that would kind of justify the policy in the first place.

  18. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    “The director says this is up to me, and she’ll back me up whatever I decide”
    Is this good or bad management?
    I’m not saying that OP should not have a say. I get it. But if OP is concerned enough to bring it to the manager, isn’t that time for manager to look at the big picture? Ultimately, shouldn’t the director determine if the space will be open to: non-field workers; to partners; family members? Should something like this be a case by case basis?
    Because think of the reverse. If the director lets OP decide to say no to Elvis, isn’t it the same as telling Jolene yes?
    I’m trying to say, senior person wants to have partner in the space. Manager says, it’s up to you. Junior person has to live with it.

    1. Roscoe*

      With remote employees, I think its a bit different. I’m in a situation where there are 2 of us in my remote office. I can totally see something like this happening, and my boss saying “Its up to you, and I’ll back whatever you like”, because on a day to day basis, he isn’t really dealing with us. Honestly, he has no idea what our dynamic is, so him trying to make a call on what the “best” course of action here is based on almost no knowledge

    2. Close Bracket*

      OP doesn’t spell out what “junior” means. Less experienced, lower title, actually takes direction from OP? If it’s closer to the first, then the director should be the decision maker. If it’s close to the last, then I can see why it makes sense to throw this back to OP.

    3. Kathenus*

      I won’t go as far as calling it bad management, but it’s a bit too hands-off for my perspective. This is a significant decision that does have the chance to greatly affect the interpersonal dynamics – regardless of which choice is made. So I can see the director getting information/feedback, and maybe even a private discussion with OP that this is her call but that he’ll be the one to implement it, but I think that putting it on her to both decide and implement is potentially putting her in at best an awkward position.

  19. WillowWeep*

    Jolene might be relieved if you draw the “no Elvis” line. I am projecting here, but MAYBE she told him about the big space, and he was all, like, “cool, if I took a spot we could see each other all daaaayyy!” and she is internally screaming no, and if the LW can be the bad guy and say no, Jolene can tell Elvis sorry, she said no.

    Again, I am totally projecting here, based on my past experience with this!

    1. valentine*

      I really hope this isn’t it. I keep thinking of the letter where a young woman lied to her boyfriend that she couldn’t get time off to go to his family reunion, so he called her manager/OP, who said yes (!) instead of a hard no and warning the employee about him, and the update was OP heard they got engaged.

  20. Birch*

    I actually think this is a really easy ask. OP says their company wanted to rent out the space to colleagues in the same field, which is a totally reasonable and work-related reason to say no to Elvis! OP doesn’t need to make it about their personal feelings or the relationship at all.

    1. MommyMD*

      True. If Elvis is not in that field, go with that first. If resistance go with the no mixing family and business.

    2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      Yes, this. They’re not networking with others in their field and crucially, they’re not networking at all! They both already know Elvis, if there’s any benefit to networking with him, they’ve already maxed it out.

    3. Jimming*

      Yes I think this is the best solution. If they want to bring in other people from their field, Elvis isn’t in the field. No need for it to have a big impact on their working relationship.

  21. Aphrodite*

    Let your director say no to Elvis for the second reason Alison stated: that you want to keep it to members of the same specialized field.

    1. Liar Liar Pants Dracarys*

      This is my thought too. Jolene is technically the junior of the pair of them. The final word should come from their Director, even if it’s what OP asks her to say.

  22. Over 60 & Forever Young*

    Is anyone else thinking
    Sorry, I couldn’t help myself lol!

  23. Rusty Shackelford*

    Also it’d just be fun for everyone to have lunch together and beat some of the loneliness of remote work.

    So it sounds like you want socialization, but just not Elvis-and-Jolene socialization. That’s a very, very fine line to defend.

    1. Jennifer*

      Good point. She has already blurred professional boundaries by socializing with Jolene, not that I think anything is wrong with that. No wonder Jolene thought that letting her boyfriend share the space would be okay. It seems like a bit of a double standard.

      1. valentine*

        OP doesn’t have to hold Elvis to the same standard, as explained above with how it’d be easier to evict the people she really wants there. If vetoing his joining ruins the relationship, what will evicting him or holding him to standards do?

  24. Alfonzo Mango*

    OP, you are going to need to draw up a lot of rules along renting out your co working space. If you can’t have this conversation with her, it’ll be hard to split vet and hire (not the right word, I know) people into the space. How are you going to choose who’s allowed in and who’s not? it’s worth it to come up with that outline now. You need a stronger plan that what you’ve got.

    Who’s in charge of managing the rented space? You or your director (since your company is paying for it?)? This seems like a can a worms that hasn’t been thought all the way through.

    1. Alfonzo Mango*

      Also sorry y’all I have a migraine and may not be typing or thinking super clearly.

      1. Kathenus*

        Sorry you aren’t feeling well, but I think this is a really insightful comment and suggestion for OP.

    2. Elsajeni*

      I think this is a really good point — Elvis’s request raises some issues that are almost certainly going to come up with other people, too, so they’ve got to get on the same page not just about Elvis but about their policies in general. I would focus in particular on: what standards of behavior do we want to set? What happens if people don’t live up to those standards? What are the circumstances where we would kick someone out?

      Once you have an agreement on that, I still probably wouldn’t invite Elvis to move in — I think the suggestion to focus on people in the same field is a good one. But if Jolene wins you over, or if you can’t find enough renters in your field to fill the space, or whatever, at least you’ll have set standards that you can hold him to (and that he’ll know he will be held to) and a plan in place in case it really doesn’t work out.

  25. Jennifer*

    First of all – love the country music references for the names. A nice change of pace from GoT.

    I do think this letter is a lot of speculation without a lot of evidence to back it up. You don’t seem to think Jolene is capable of following very basic professional norms and setting adult boundaries. You haven’t worked with them before so you don’t know how Jolene will behave if her boyfriend starts working in the same space. She may be completely professional. I wouldn’t bring any of that up to her if you have a conversation about it. If I were her I’d find it all a bit insulting.

    The issue is that you think working with her boyfriend might be a bit awkward. I can understand that. Just say that and see what she says. Go from there.

    1. animaniactoo*

      I think that they should still focus on people in the field first because if the immediate thought is building a cross-disciplinary hub for the field, having somebody who is NOT in the field as one of the first people is going to throw that off.

      However, if that doesn’t work out and it’s reasonable to go back to considering Elvis, I think OP could set it up for success by asking Jolene what boundaries they would have in place in the office for ensuring that, while friendly, it remains a professional working atmosphere with each of them primarily focused on their own individual work. If Jolene and Elvis haven’t been thinking that through, needing to might help them realize it’s not a good idea or purposely create the boundaries that they need for it to work.

      1. Jennifer*

        I would honestly be put off by that. I don’t need someone to tell me how I should behave around my SO in the office. That’s a conversation Elvis and Jolene should have with one another. The entire tone of the letter is a little condescending, imo.

        1. animaniactoo*

          Not tell – ask. I don’t think it’s condescending to ask when you’re looking at a small space (relatively) and people that you know personally to be physically affectionate when out in public.

          I think it’s unreasonable not to accept that somebody else who works with you would want some reassurance about your willingness and plans for dividing “work life” and “personal life” while in the office.

          1. Jennifer*

            It’s unreasonable to assume that someone you have worked with for a while that has always been professional at work wouldn’t know that. As I said above, we all do things in our personal lives that wouldn’t be appropriate to do at work. I don’t understand why so many are assuming that PDA at a concert = PDA at work. It may. It may not.

            She needs to bring this up by saying it might be a bit awkward to combine a romantic and professional relationship by bringing in Elvis. That’s all she has to say. Setting rules for their behavior is too “mom-like.”

            1. animaniactoo*

              She would not be setting rules for their behavior. Please stop phrasing this as if that is what I am saying, because it is not and bears no relationship to what I am saying.

              Also, I’m not just talking about PDA. I understand that it probably came across that way because I specifically said something about that, but it was not the entirety of the concern. It’s also about what types of conversations are acceptable, and other similar issues.

              I disagree that we should expect our colleagues to just assume that we DO know the boundaries for situations that have the potential to be problematic. Adults – even ones who we know to be otherwise reasonable people – have all sorts of blind spots and it would be just as problematic to assume that they do know such things as that they don’t know them. I think that taking offense to that is actually an indication that you’re not willing to accept that it would be reasonable for your colleague/co-worker to have concerns and hold them as equal to your own concerns/desires, which would mean that the co-worker’s fears are more likely to happen than not.

              Sure, she can just say it would be a bit awkward, but that also leaves open the thread of continued attempts to persuade that it would be fine. Or resentment for not being comfortable with it. Which is what OP is attempting to avoid if possible.

              1. Jennifer*

                Still sounds really condescending to me. They are friends. Just have a conversation instead of going all “mom.”

                1. animaniactoo*

                  “What kinds of boundaries would you guys have for keeping the office work life and separate from personal life?” would be part of the conversation. I could absolutely have that conversation with any of my friends, as friends. Asked in an interested, considering tone of voice, I fail to hear or see anything remotely condescending about it. I think you may be hearing a different version of that conversation in your head?

    2. smoke tree*

      I do think the LW’s very specific predictions are probably a little over the top, but in her position, I would also be concerned that the workplace would start to become an extension of Jolene and Elvis’s living room. Jolene and the LW are friends, no one else from their company works there, the environment is probably pretty casual. I can definitely see the possibility for awkwardness, although I expect it could be hard to convince Jolene of that because people tend to think they’ll be the exception to the rule with this kind of thing.

  26. EventPlannerGal*

    Oh man, I don’t know. “I’m really just speculating, and it all makes me sound a bit prude, paranoid, and mom-like.” – well, OP, you said it yourself. Is there any reason she *wouldn’t* take all this exactly as you say it sounds?

    There’s nothing wrong with feeling uncomfortable about introducing a couple dynamic to the office, and it seems like there’s a perfectly good reason why you shouldn’t rent him the space. But IME the underlying rationale you’ve given really is very insulting to your colleague, and I would not bring it up at all.

    1. another scientist*

      based on the AAM letters about toxic workplace relationships, petty office wars etc, we should probably be concerned every time a new coworker joins a workspace in case it changes the dynamic. At least Elvis gets along with OP and Jolene, as far as we know.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        But if things go south it will be a lot easier to kick out other people. You can’t do that with Elvis. Even if you did cancel his lease he’d still be in the picture. That’s the real issue.

    2. Delphine*

      IA. There’s concern about how a coworker renting out desk space to a boyfriend might work…and then there’s this:

      – I’m worried they haven’t thought through what it means for their relationship to spend literally all their waking hours together (based on nothing except respective ages and the fact that OP is married and, I guess…more experienced than them in the realm of relationships?)
      – I think Jolene is going to feel the need to “take care of” and attend to Elvis during the workday, and is going to behave less assertively and have a harder time focusing with him around.
      -Plus they are definitely on the cuddly, touchy end of the PDA spectrum, which I fully endorse in private life (go crazy, life is short!) but find super distracting in an office.
      (is there any evidence they’d be cuddling in the office?)

      It’s all speculation and some of it sounds condescending and a little sexist, based just on what is in the letter. Maybe there’s a reason to think Jolene would wilt in her boyfriend’s presence if they share a workspace, but if there’s not…why jump to that conclusion?

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Yes, exactly.

        “– I’m worried they haven’t thought through what it means for their relationship to spend literally all their waking hours together (based on nothing except respective ages and the fact that OP is married and, I guess…more experienced than them in the realm of relationships?)”

        I’m also kind of amused by this whole weird wise-old-mother-hen let-me-tell-you-about-your-relationship attitude coming from someone in their… mid-thirties? .

  27. BottleBlonde*

    I like the the suggestion of using the original vision of a collaborative, interdisciplinary office as justification for turning down Jolene’s request. However, I’d want to be sure it’s a somewhat reasonable vision first. How many small groups of employees in your niche field, in your same city, are currently looking to rent space in a coworking location? I work in a niche-ish field in a big city and I expect it would take us a long time to fill the empty offices if we were in a similar situation. If you tell Jolene no and then aren’t able to find folks in your field to move in quickly, it could breed resentment.

  28. Jennifer*

    The age difference here isn’t really that significant, I’d add. You all socialize together.

    1. Alanna of Trebond*

      I think it matters a bit for this specific question in a way it doesn’t in a social context. OP has been in the workplace about a decade longer than Elvis and Jolene, and likely has a better sense of all the ways things can go wrong. Even very mature, competent people in their mid-20s have only been working in offices a few years, and the downsides of a situation like this might not be quite as apparent.

  29. MommyMD*

    It’s ok to speak. Politely tell her you don’t mix family and business. That’s all you need to do. If she pushes back say that’s your long-policy, smile, and change the subject. She’ll get over it.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      No she won’t, that’s a horrible way to speak to someone who is just a colleague and not someone you actively supervise.

      1. MommyMD*

        She’s above her, no? It’s perfectly fine to be direct if it’s polite. Everything doesn’t have to be long and drawn out. OP is the decision maker. It’s fine for her to make the decision. Any colleague who gets upset with this has an issue.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          They’re not colleagues, they’re friends. The OP already ruined her “senior vs junior” position by hanging out with the woman in the friendship world.

          You can’t be friends like that with a “colleague” and then start throwing around cold language about “nah, it’s my policy to not mix personal and professional worlds.”

          She already mixed them. It will not end in a continued friendship to veto the idea.

          1. Roscoe*

            I totally agree. Once you cross the line to being friends, to then pull rank because you can is not a good way to go

  30. Annie Dumpling*

    Why not offer Elvis a desk on a part-time? Like just Thursdays and Fridays? And he’d use one of the ‘multiple rooms’ – rather than work in the same space as Jolene? See how that works out and if its a no-go, no harm done as Elvis can return to his previous work situation.

    1. MommyMD*

      Because it gets much stickier if he’s in and then a problem starts. It’s totally OK to keep it a boyfriend/girlfriend-free environment. It’s kind of pushy already that she’s vying to bring him in.

    2. BottleBlonde*

      I don’t think it would really be no harm done unfortunately. If I were Jolene I’d be much more hurt if my coworker agreed to let Elvis work in the office and then changed her mind, than if she just said no in the first place.

  31. Batgirl*

    Just stick with the original plan of having people from useful networks in the building. I have no idea whether Jolene and Elvis could be cool being around each other 24/7 but it seems like the only reason she wants that, is because he’s bored at home and is looking out for him. OK, but what benefit does his presence bring to your new building?
    If you want to appease her somewhat, you might specify networking types in your immediate area and a separate room entirely that non-field people might use. This way they’re aren’t in each other’s immediate workspace but could easily catch up in the social areas if they wanted to. This should work; if she insists she wants him near her, I would consider it a red flag.

  32. TootsNYC*

    If I were the director, I’d absolutely say: No subtenants with personal relationships.

    Nobody’s brother, nobody’s cousin, nobody’s college roommate, nobody’s significant other.
    It’s just too risky, and it changes the dynamics.

    Oh, sure, you might end up becoming good friends with a subtenant. But the work relationship would have been established first, so I’m willing to run that risk.

    I also would absolutely not want my remote employee to work in the same office as her boyfriend or husband. I want their attention their job. It’s one thing if you’re part of a larger office with more structure around it. But in this situation, I just wouldn’t like it.

    And I would absolutely take that hit instead of leaving it up to the OP to have to say it.

  33. Elizabeth West*

    I think the best way to handle it is to totally make it about sharing with people in the same field. The collaboration will benefit the work. I don’t think it would be disingenuous to leave the personal dynamic out of it entirely.

    If Elvis really needs to get out of the house, he has other alternatives—working at the library, or other co-working spaces (if you’re in a large city, there has to be something). Maybe he could even start or find a co-op space with other people from his own field.

  34. Close Bracket*

    If OP nixes Elvis renting space based on his relationship to Jolene, she needs to be prepared to nix renting space to any set of people who are coupled to each other. What if a company that consists of a spousal pair wants to rent space? Or, what if two tenants from different companies get involved? Will one of them have to leave? Lots of companies prohibit fraternization, but OP is (will be) a co-working landlord, not an employer. OTOH, lots of companies are ok with fraternization, and lots of couples meet at work.

    However, I don’t particularly want to spell these concerns out in black and white.

    If the concern is truly about the relationship and not about having someone from a different field renting space, then set aside your discomfort in addressing it and talk about it. Leave off all speculation about the effect on the relationship, as Alison says. Frame the conversation in terms of the similarities to workplace romances and making sure the romance part stays out of the workplace.

    Even if Jolene and Elvis behave like co-working tenants who are only on casual speaking terms around each other, I’m giving a little side-eye to a co-working space dedicated to a certain industry and somebody’s boyfriend. If space was open to anyone, having the boyfriend of an employee of the main tenant wouldn’t faze me. But a teapot grooming company that is trying to establish teapot grooming collaboration and networking that rents a space to a cephalopod trainer who it turns out is the boyfriend of one of the groomers just seems a little off. I think it undermines the apparent dedication to developing the teapot grooming industry. If there is extra space, sure, I guess. But if he’s displacing a teapot groomer, then nope.

    1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      I think if a spousal pair rented space, and then for any reason was causing trouble–PDA, drama, unprofessional norms unrelated to romance, whatever–it’s reasonably straightforward to tell them to shape up or leave. It’s much less straightforward if half that couple is your immediate co-worker

      But I do agree that having an industry-specific space +Jolene’s non-industry boyfriend is particularly a problem with the scenario

  35. LDN Layabout*

    The last paragraph of Alison’s advice makes me a little uneasy and I think it’s because of the personal/work relationship crossover that’s already happening.

    I think the LW’s stance is correct in terms of a work relationship, but when it involves an outside of work friendship, which this clearly does, pulling rank on your friend is likely going to affect the social relationship.

  36. JSPA*

    I’d say that Elvis could “perch” for free for three weeks, until they have a chance to fill the space with same – field people. That will let everyone see that it’s not shiny perfection to work next to your S.O. (Unless it actually does work perfectly.) Elvis gets out of his rut (or it becomes clear that his rut travels with him).

    1. valentine*

      I’d say that Elvis could “perch” for free for three weeks, until they have a chance to fill the space with same – field people.
      Too risky. OP is right to focus on prevention, not cure. But it’s better to say it’s because of the relationship, lest anyone get the bright idea for Elvis to switch to their industry or to work for them or for one of the other tenants.

  37. Cupcake enthusiast*

    My two cents because some of these commenters are throwing around that good ol “young people don’t know social norms talk”!

    I worked alongside my boyfriend (now husband) for over a year just out of grad school (you know, early twenties). Outside of work, we held hands, kissed in public, did all those touchy feely PDA filled things one does in young love. At work, no one even knew we were together. Because in your mid twenties, you are still an adult and MOST of us will have that basic idea of what is considered professional behavior.

    Stepping off pedestal.

    I do agree he shouldn’t work in the shared space and focusing on keeping it exclusive to the field. Maybe focus on framing it that way to your younger coworker, because us mid twenties folk are very aware of the fragile economic system around us, how our lack of work experience counts against us, and we very much value networking and learning opportunities.

  38. LaDeeDa*

    Could Elvis rent the desk a couple of days a week and not for the whole week? I work from home, and I go to Starbucks once a week just so I can SEE people. Maybe it isn’t about being with his GF, but just being away from home.

  39. AngryOwl*

    I agree this is a bad idea, but ugh the [seemingly] unsubstantiated worries about how Jolene will react are very condescending and insulting. If a friend talked about me in this way, I’m not sure we’d be friends for long.

    All to say, OP, check your assumptions (again, assuming you haven’t seen actual proof of all this) and be very, very sure none of this leaks into your tone/attitude when you talk to Jolene.

    I also agree that you can’t become super friendly with a coworker and then try to play things all “business only” and expect them not to be taken aback at least a bit.

  40. boop the first*

    I thought that there were multiple rooms? This seems like a LOT of anxiety over a problem that hasn’t even happened yet.

    First, Elvis has to accept and move in (maybe he won’t)
    Then they have to learn how to work around each other (maybe they will)
    Then if they don’t figure it out, you have to see if it affects your relationship (maybe it doesn’t)
    And THEN, it might start affecting your work performance (maybe it won’t)

    There’s a lot of twists and turns to get to your feared result, and a lot of time to get there.
    I mean…. I empathize with the overthinking for sure, but maybe try it first? One of the random other non-coworkers could throw the exact same workplace-ruining wrench into the mix but you don’t seem worried about them.

  41. tinyhipsterboy*

    If you really want to compromise, considering that Jolene’s suggestion is because Elvis gets lonely, why not mention you’d prefer it stay for people within your industry and adjacent industries, but suggest Elvis comes in once a week or so just so he gets out of the house? “I’d really like to keep our space to teapot activism and studies since that’s our field, and Elvis works in computer monitor programming, so I’m not sure how much benefit he or we would get from him working with us all the time. I get it’s hard to work alone at home, though, so if he wants to come in once a week just to get out, that’s totally fine!” or something, maybe?

  42. Lily in NYC*

    I feel like OP’s concerns are incredibly patronizing. I was really surprised that Alison agreed with her. Her entire reasoning was based on her worries about the coworker’s relationship and not how the space sharing will affect OP. I
    The PDA would be enough for me not to want to share the office, but again, OP didn’t seem to have a problem with it other than to use it as an example of the coworker’s immaturity. I would not be happy if one of my coworkers wrote into an advice column with her assumptions about my relationship.

  43. Still Learning*

    I don’t have anything to add about Jolene and Elvis. I do encourage OP and OP’s boss to think carefully about this general new-space-sharing plan. It sounds like OP would become a facility manager in addition to her existing job, and OP’s organization would become a quasi-landlord. The community-building may make this worthwhile, but it’s not trivial.

  44. Trixie, the Great and Pedantic*

    Jolene, I’m begging of you, please don’t bring your man.

    While I do think OP is making some assumptions about the level of dependency in Jolene and Elvis’s relationship, I think sticking to the plan of keeping the space within your field is the best thing.

    1. Jenny D*

      I was just about to post that exact first sentence of your reply.

      Please don’t bring him just because you can!

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