my new hire is too attractive for me to manage her

A reader writes:

I feel like a bad manager for even asking this question, but I find one of the new hires assigned to me to be amazingly attractive. I would never act on it, or do or say anything unprofessional, but I find it unbelievably distracting. When I look at the coaching and 1:1 work I do with my other employees, I outright KNOW I will be uncomfortable doing that with this new hire.

I fully realize that the fault is entirely mine. The new person has done nothing wrong. However, I also know it would be much better for that employee if they worked for someone else.

The question is, how do I tell my manager that I’d prefer this employee be managed by one of our other team leaders? (There are several of us who manage very similar teams so it’s not like the new employee would have a manger who knew nothing about their work area.) Obviously it would be VERY unprofessional to say, “Hey, can you move S to another team because I find them too attractive and distracting.” Or should I say nothing, be professional, and hope the feeling passes with time?

I’m skeptical that you can’t find a way to move past the fact that she’s attractive and manage her just like you would any other employee. We deal with attractive people in our lives all the time and generally we manage to get past whatever initial distracting glow they might have and treat them like normal humans … because they are in fact just fellow humans. Can you really not do that?

Your letter doesn’t indicate that you’ve even tried yet! You say you know you will be uncomfortable doing coaching and one-on-one work with her … which sounds like you haven’t attempted it? If I’m reading correctly and “I need to move her to another team” was your immediate, off-the-cuff reaction … that is a bad first reaction. Where’s the part where you try to hold yourself to a higher standard? Would it not make sense to get to know her as a colleague — to spend some time interacting with her as an employee rather than just deciding right off the bat you can’t?

Keep in mind there are disadvantages to her if she’s moved: she’s presumably already begun getting comfortable on your team and forming relationships there, and how exactly would the move be explained to her and to others? What if the next manager finds her attractive too? Do we just keep shuffling her around, or do we expect managers to pull it together and carry on?

This is a you problem, not a her problem, and it’s not fair to let it affect her work life.

Plus, what happens the next time you have an attractive team member — do they get moved too?

If you really can’t make yourself treat this employee fairly, then you’re right that it might be in her best interest to be moved to another manager. But that would be a profound failure on your part if that happens!

I’m torn on what to advise you, because I certainly don’t want this woman stuck working for someone who’s stuck on her looks and who won’t give her the same access and coaching you give to others … but moving her sucks too.

You really need to solve this on your side — hold yourself to a higher standard and figure out a way to make her looks irrelevant to you. If you can’t do that, I think you have to question if you should be managing a team at all.

(I don’t mean that as hyperbole and I don’t even mean it in a scoldy way, really. I mean it literally. You’re seriously considering upending someone’s work life because you find her hot! What about the next person you’re uncomfortable with — whether it’s because they’re super attractive or uncomfortably disfigured or much older than you or much younger than you or a different socioeconomic class or they remind you of an ex or have a grating voice? You’re either committed to trying to manage people fairly and equitably without that stuff sidetracking you … or you’re not.)

{ 520 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A reminder to please keep comments constructive. (In particular, “this person shouldn’t be a manager” comments need to be accompanied by something more to explain your point of view; having dozens of those without further comment is not helpful.)

    Edited to add: There’s a bunch of debate about gender below, which I’m removing most of since it’s becoming derailing. The letter writer is a man. I don’t know the gender of the employee, although the situation reads very much like a woman to me, based on what we know of who generally gets objectified like this. The advice doesn’t change either way.

  2. IndustriousLabRat*

    OP, I really think you should look into coaching OUTSIDE of your organization, and do it immediately. Whether that comes in the form of management training, or counseling, or quite possibly both- do it now.

    I say both because there are two problems here; one is that you have this block/fear/whatever about managing someone whose appearance sets off feelings of whatever sort, and need to work on a strategy for confronting that and getting yourself onto a more level plane in that regard. The other problem, and why management training is equally important, is that your first thought was transferring the EMPLOYEE, while still openly acknowledging that this is YOUR problem. No! Banish that idea right out of your mind! If anything, wouldn’t it be more fair for your first reaction be to consider YOU moving to another team? I’m not saying that either one is a logical or professional response to being in the same room with an attractive colleague; but at least with the latter option, the other person’s career does not become collateral damage to your hang-up.

    Your feelings = your responsibility… either deal with them appropriately, completely outside of your work (though finding help through an EAP is a good resource- just don’t go up to HR and start talking about attractiveness and transfers and whatnot!), preferably with professional assistance, or be ready to admit that you are not ready to manage this person, or anyone else, really.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      This is the equivalent of telling someone, “Put on a sweater because I’m cold.” And if you think I’m kidding, my mom made me do this all the time as a kid because she didn’t believe me that I wasn’t as cold as she was.

      Other people aren’t responsible for your feelings or how you react to them. This woman isn’t doing anything but exist.

      If nothing else, put yourself in her position right now. How would you like being assigned to projects and managers because of your looks and nothing else? How would you like it if your removal was because someone else didn’t want to deal with their feelings towards you? How would you like it if you were at a hot desert and your boss ordered you to put on a sweater because he was cold?

      Empathy, empathy, empathy.

        1. allathian*

          Or telling grown women to wear shapeless sacks because seeing their figure will be too much for the men.

          This letter really gave me the feels, in a bad way. The only thing that can be said in favor of this LW is that he admits he has a problem. But the solutions he’s suggesting are unreasonable for all the reasons Alison stated.

          Sure, usually being attractive is a point in an employee’s favor, but I really hope that the LW can find a way to get past this crush and learn to manage the attractive employee like anyone else. If not, he needs to consider getting out of management altogether, because to do otherwise would be unfair to his reports.

          1. Amaranth*

            OP needs to consider, as well, how they would react if a direct report or coworker came to them and said ‘oh, I’m not able to work with this coworker because of their appearance.’ I think OP doesn’t see how big a problem their attitude is, because they see their response as being complimentary to Sally.

          2. LV426*

            I feel like if he had been in charge of hiring her he wouldn’t have because she’s too attractive.
            That’s almost as bad as hiring someone because they are too attractive. He definitely needs management training and maybe counseling to learn to work with attractive people.

  3. Imaginary Number*

    This is terrible but I’m going to try to be constructive here. I think you should treat this like a situation where you’ve recognized that you have an implicit bias against someone. In this case, it’s not necessarily gender or race, but rather the supposed attractiveness of your employee. Before, during, and after, you should be checking yourself to make sure you’re not treating them differently (positively or negatively) than you would any other employee. Are you communicating with them the same way? Are you sitting farther away or closer to them than you normally would because of your bias? Are you avoiding scheduling one-on-ones or making them longer/shorter because of your bias? Do you give them the same opportunities to speak? Constantly focusing on this things might also help with the supposed “distraction” because you’ll be engaged in two tasks: the one-on-one mentoring and the self-checks.

    1. Nicotene*

      This one reminds me a little of past letters where the LW realizes they are developing a crush on a coworker or direct report. This one just seems different because the LW seems focused only on the appearance of the person, not their personality or a developed sense of intimacy, which is why folks are bristling a little, but the advice to those other LWs is probably all still relevant and helpful to this person, and phrased more positively since commenters were more sympathetic in those situations.

    2. Fold in the Cheese*

      I think that’s wise advice — to be considering this issue through the lens of bias. Once we get to know people *as humans,* and not just what we see, or assume we see, on the surface, it becomes nearly impossible to see them as one-dimensional. Get to know her as a human and, importantly, as an employee — her strengths, weaknesses, etc., and be as objective as you can. Perhaps consider thinking about what you would do if there were a new employee that, for some reason, you just couldn’t *stand* at a cellular level (maybe they remind you of your smelly 3rd grade teacher or something). You might start by humanizing this person and getting to know their dimensions. It’s the same principle applied here. And for what it’s worth, I commend you owning that this is a “you issue” and working to deal with it.

    3. Chris*

      Came here to make this comment. First off, admitting there’s an issue takes courage. Let’s not let that point be lost.

      Second.. if there’s an issue with THIS person, are there issues with OTHER people? Is it easier or harder for OP to work with people they find unattractive? Do they evaluate their performance, skill, offer raises etc, based on physical appearance? Or purely on their merits? This feels sort of like a ‘tip of the iceberg’ letter.

      Let’s not be so politically correct we forget that we ALL have built-in tendencies towards bias based on physical appearance.. and we all have to work to counter them and be as impartial as possible. And, recognizing that there’s an issue in ONE case.. and there may be in others.. the answer is to work to use the same, fair meter stick for everyone when making judgements.

      1. Zelda*

        Not just “attractiveness”– this is an opportunity for LW to lay out a whole bunch of management decisions and do some auditing across the board. I tell my students, “*Nobody* never screws up; it’s the people who develop the skill of self-editing who can excel.”

  4. LQ*

    OP I think it’s great that you wrote in for help. Hopefully, this was your first gut reaction after the initial interview/meeting and you just need some help to straighten your head out on this. I think there is some good stuff about having crushes which may be applicable in the archives as far as moving this person out of that spot in your brain. Which I think you absolutely can do. I also think it can be helpful to just think of this as a physical thing that this person possesses like really unusual eye color which can be distracting and then you go, wait that’s not what I’m supposed to do here, stop, knock it off self I’m a human possessed of self-control and don’t need to stare at someone’s eyes all the time.

    I also think that if you’re a new manager it can be helpful to hear, don’t bring your “whole self” to work, don’t be “fully authentic and true to yourself” at work. That’s BS. Sorry but it is. It’s not your whole self, you need to be work self. And doing this can help you go, “Oh yeah, I recognize that person fits into the conventionally attractive mold I guess, anyway about the performance numbers for last quarter…” Which is what you need to find a way to do. This needs to not be relevant to the job and if this is your first time running into something about someone that needs to not be relevant it can be hard to do, but a physical thing that you just need to shift can be easier than some other things. Good luck with realizing that you can set this aside since you have realized you can’t have it impact you, the next thing is just seeing that it is possible and then setting it aside.

    1. Observer*

      I also think that if you’re a new manager it can be helpful to hear, don’t bring your “whole self” to work, don’t be “fully authentic and true to yourself” at work. That’s BS. Sorry but it is. It’s not your whole self, you need to be work self

      This is a very useful point.

      1. Pam*

        “work self” I so wish someone had told me this 35 years ago when I was a brand new manager.

      2. MissInMS*

        I think I just recently learned this the hard way. People might tell you to “open up, work family, form relationships, get out of your shell” etc etc but could often just be setting you up to be manipulated. It’s perfectly normal to have work self.

    2. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

      Yes, all of this.

      As I always tell my kids, you may not be able to control your feelings but you can always control your actions.

      You don’t have to stop feeling attracted to her, but you are a grown man and are 100% in control of your actions. It might be *hard* to do it but again, as I tell my kids, we can do hard things! This is literally your job. You can do it, and you must.

      1. Smithy*

        This is so important. The feelings part of this isn’t right or wrong – it’s the what happens next.

      2. Not Jane*

        So true! Of course you can’t control who you’re attracted to but you can definitely control how you respond to that person.

        (Also, I love your screen name!)

    3. The Rural Juror*

      Thanks for saying this. The OP knows his reaction isn’t great, but he can do some self-reflecting and grow from this. A little tough love from Alison will help!

    4. lemon meringue*

      Part of what’s concerning here is that this seems very low on the scale of “difficult interpersonal situations you might face as a manager” and if the LW is ready to throw in the towel so quickly, it may be worth considering whether he’s really prepared to handle all that being a manager entails. (In case that sounds judgmental: I know that I’m certainly not.)

      I do think the gender dynamics are potentially relevant if the manager is a man and the employee is a woman, because it could be a signal that the LW is stuck in the mode of seeing female coworkers/reports as potential dating material rather than just boring old employees. Are young, attractive women going to receive different treatment from older or less attractive women on this team? This might seem like hyperbole, but it’s a dynamic I’ve seen a lot and would be very uncomfortable with at work. Or this case could be an extreme outlier, but it’s something I would want to try to examine if I were a manager.

    5. Quinalla*

      Agreed, OP you can control your reaction. It will likely be difficult for you, but you can do it. If this is the first time you’ve dealt with something like this, I get that it might seem impossible, but take a step back, talk to a trusted mentor/professional – I would recommend outside your company – and get advice for how to handle this. It is definitely a you problem and you can handle these emotions and act appropriately.

      Good luck!

    6. Lilo*

      I’ve managed people and so much this. Don’t be your authentic self while managing. You’re just asking other people to deal with your emotional baggage. Vent to a friend, your mom whatever, but keep it locked down with your reports.

    7. Goldenrod*

      “don’t bring your “whole self” to work, don’t be “fully authentic and true to yourself” at work. That’s BS. Sorry but it is. It’s not your whole self, you need to be work self”

      THANK YOU! I so agree!

      1. NotSoAnon*

        All this.. Especially as a manager. I have a “manager hat” and my normal self hat. When I’m working I’m wearing my manager hat and approach situations differently than I would my personal life. It’s just what has to be done.

        There are things I think in my head when a direct report tells me something, but that’s not what comes out of my mouth! For this OP, maybe taking some courses on professional communication might help. Learning to tailor the conversation towards the audience and create a mental separation really helped me when I was first starting out. There is also a really good book my HR director gave me when I first started. It was something like “Approaching difficult work conversations” and had it 100s of different scenarios broken down into different types of conversations with different answers given the context.

      2. Good Vibes Steve*

        This is why so many people have a work-wardrobe and a home-wardrobe. It changes how you perceive yourself, and changes your mindset. It’s not even necessarily about formality of the clothes. I wouldn’t wear the things I wear to work at home and vice-versa. Even in the pandemic and working from home, I made a point to change clothes at the end of the day, it was my version of the commute from one side of the room to the other.

        “Bring your whole self to work” was supposed to mean “it’s ok to be a bit vulnerable, if there’s been a death in the family or you’re going through a hard time for any reason, you can share that and expect compassion and care”. What it has come to mean in some places is “no boundaries”… with the consequences we see in the letter.

      3. Owlgal*

        I haven’t read through all the comments so maybe this has already been discussed here… but, maybe he feels a move for to another team would be advantageous because it might allow him to pursue a personal relationship with this person? Like, I can’t ask her out if she reports to me, but I could if she was on someone else’s team…? It’s gross to consider, but seems likely to me.

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          Good point. As an added thought, I have several very attractive friends with finely developed radar for people with ulterior motives. ie Offering help or favours as a way to get close to them with actually trying to learn anything about them beyond the superficial. If he has her moved and then asks her out she is going to know exactly what is going on,

      1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

        Aw, hi y’all!

        And thanks, Hellbender–it’s a very truthful username. :D

  5. Lacey*

    Yeah, I know a lot of guys get told they can’t control themselves – but you really, really can and most of you must because there would be much more chaos in our society if you didn’t.

    I know it’s unpleasant to be extremely attracted to someone when you absolutely must not let that influence you, but almost everyone is in that situation at some point. And while there are plenty of examples of people who choose to upend their life and the lives of everyone around them by exercising no self control – the vast majority of people give themselves a stern talking to and move on.

    1. Harvey 6'3.5"*

      In addition to Lacey’s constructive comment, I would add that when you get to know the person, you are likely to see them as a person, not an objectified thing.

      1. pancakes*

        That really depends on the character and personality of the beholder. Some people are stuck in the shallow end of the pool all their lives.

      2. Kay*

        Often in my experience initial impressions of looks can change once one works with/gets to know someone. Once worked with Chris the hottest ever but once known the attraction evaporated. Funny thing ran into them months after working together.. Same initial WOW! As soon as recognition hit.. It was almost a let down realizing it was “only Chris”

        1. Elizabeth West*

          This is what I figured when I interviewed with the potential boss who was Hot As Hell (the one who looked like a cross between Brad Pitt and Jensen Ackles). When I saw him, I thought, “Holy moly, having no health insurance might be worth looking at him all day!” But I knew working closely with him and getting to know all his little boss-ly quirks would have probably killed it completely dead.

    2. Forrest*

      Never yet seen anyone say, “I can’t be managed by this person because I find them too attractive”!

      1. KHB*

        Lots of people have crushes on teachers, professors, mentors, bosses, etc. And the advice I’ve seen in that situation (I forget if it’s from here or elsewhere) is, basically, throw yourself into your work: Channel your feelings for the person into learning what they teach you and being an excellent student/mentee/employee.

        I think maybe a version of that could work here. What your attractive employee needs from you is for you to be a good boss to them. And that means treating them (and all your employees) fairly, giving them (all) fair and accurate feedback on their work, and showing them (all) the guidance they need to do well in their work. Let being a good boss be the manifestation of your feelings of attraction.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          Yes. The real difference is that, when your boss is ‘too hot’, you usually don’t have the option of demanding that they be transferred to managing a different team instead, and therefore you have to learn how to cope with it. Or quit… but y’know? Most people find that, when THEIR livelihood and THEIR family’s security are the ones at risk if they don’t find a way to cope… they can find a way to cope!

          LW, the part of this which really concerns me isn’t that you find your employee hot. All of us have that kind of distracting reaction sometimes, and it’s not terrible in itself. The part of it which concerns me is that your go-to first reaction wasn’t to do the hard work to find a way to deal with her; it was to get rid of *your* problem by causing *her* a problem. That is not okay.

          So don’t make it her problem, when it isn’t and shouldn’t be. Take the responsibility on yourself exactly the way you probably would do if it were your own boss you found this hot, and had to either learn how to live with it or quit without another job lined up and suffer the financial consequences. I don’t know where exactly you’d begin that process because it’s a little different for everyone — could be anything from throwing yourself into the work, to getting to know her well enough that you bypass her looks and just ‘see’ the person behind them when you look at her, to getting therapy, to giving yourself little rewards at the end of every week you handle exactly right, and she receives precisely the same management that any other employee would from you. You know how you manage you.

          But you are the ’employee’ that you need to learn how to manage first in this case — learning to manage her will follow. So think about what you’d do if you didn’t have the option of making this her problem instead of yours, and then do those things.

      2. Anon for This*

        I have a new-ish manager who was promoted to the role. Before they became my manager, I commented to a non-work friend that they were attractive. Now that he is my manager, I am perfectly capable of pushing that out of my mind and focusing on my work. Wild how that happens.

    3. BethRA*

      “I know it’s unpleasant to be extremely attracted to someone when you absolutely must not let that influence you, but almost everyone is in that situation at some point.”

      This. You can’t control who you find yourself attracted to, but you can control your behavior.

      And instead of panicking about all the things that can go wrong, and catastrophizing the situation, you’d be better served to spend your mental energy on thinking of ways to keep your emotions in check and stay professional. Find yourself noticing what S is wearing? Stop and think about the work they’re doing today. Find yourself looking forward to spending time in a meeting with them? Redirect your thoughts to the meeting’s agenda and what you need to cover.

      Stop telling yourself you can’t handle this situation, and start thinking about how you will.

      1. Dog Coordinator*

        “Stop telling yourself you can’t handle the situation, and start thinking about how you will”

        This!! We all have a certain level of conflict avoidance in us, and when it comes to gender dynamics, perceived attractiveness, or possible sexist undertones (or overtones…), it’s important to look at who has the control in the situation. OP has the control, and needs to face their own self-identified issues, like Alison said.

      2. Managing to Get By*

        And if it turns out you truly can’t handle this situation, consider that you may not be cut out to be a manager.

      3. JJ*

        I’m curious about LW’s other work relationships, i.e. if he’s the type of person to become emotionally involved/invested in coworkers in general (be it forming friendships or crushes), he may need to just work on that overall, see Allison’s previous advice to the 1,762 people who were like, oh noes my managee is a friend and I have to discipline them now, what do I do?

        I think with anyone you manage, you have to have a pretty strong social wall up; meaning you don’t view the people at work as potential anythings other than friendly coworkers.

        Also, please make sure you are not accidentally doing creepy things like staring or checking out the body of this woman. She WILL notice.

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          This. It’d definitely be worth him being conscious of how all his work interactions play out for a while. For example, if there’s bias where attractive people are concerned, there’s frequently also bias involving people he or society considers unattractive. And that’s definitely worth examining. Rather than just focusing on that one awkward interaction, it could prompt some pretty broad growth as a manager.

    4. MsClaw*

      This is a really good point. Right now LW is kinda stunned by employee. Once he’s looking at her every day, the shine may start to wear off a bit and subside to background noise. I’m not saying he’s going to magically stop being attracted to her, but that initial ‘OMG!’ reaction may settle down into ‘well yes, she’s quite something but mostly I need her to get her TPS reports done on time’.

    5. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I had a huge crush on a co-worker in my mid-20s. I mean heart skipping, OMG-he-is-ever-so-dreamy crushing and swooning. I was single and, in those days, many young women wanted husbands more than careers, and my friends encouraged me to…well, encourage him. I didn’t, it didn’t strike me as appropriate. I’d already seen workplace romances go wrong, and didn’t want self-induced drama.

      After a couple of years, I took another job and mostly forgot about the man. Funny how that works…we ran into each other at an industry event, and I confessed my crush. He was truly surprised because I never acted differently around him. Nothing came of it, we were both happily involved with others. But I still remember the look on his face when I told him.

      If a somewhat immature and love-struck 20-something woman like me can control her behavior at work, I have reason to believe everyone else can.

      1. allathian*

        Absolutely. I’ve had crushes on a few coworkers in my time, and I have reason to believe that they were pretty much oblivious to it. Some may have realized that I liked them, but no more than that.

    6. I Kneed A Man...once.*

      Speaking as a former hottie, here. (no regrets about it; my looks didn’t survive cancer, divorce, steroid treatments, or age-but husband 2.0 adores me, and I SURVIVED!) Most women will tell you that being sexually harassed truly bites.
      So, OP, you need to pull it together.
      When I was a little girl, my mother and
      grandmother told me that I would probably get a lot of attention for my looks, but that if the person behind MY face wasn’t kind, honest, caring, andhardworking and well educated, then people would never look past the looks.
      They also told me that good people ALWAYS have the ability to look beyond the looks.
      I hated being treated like an object. It hurt so much when a supervisor told me that his wife wouldn’t like him working or carpooling, or blah blah with me, as if we (well, him anyway) were nothing more than bunnies in rut.
      I hated wondering if I would have to defend myself from his moral deficiencies, or even “simple” vicious gossip. Or inane comments.
      The lingering, the standing too close, the hair-touching, the neck-sniffing (that was creepy) and after my reconstruction surgery, the comments about how sad it was that the “Girls” were smaller…as if I was depriving the juvenile coworkers of a work benefit.
      The thing is, when you look at others as objects, instead of as complex beings with layers and layers of humanity, we can see greed, entitlement and invalidation in you.

      This person you have a knee-jerk obsession with? She has a favorite book. He/she had a teacher who looked past the glitter and cared about the glue.
      She/he/they have lost a loved one, had a dream that didn’t work out. Developed a skill, hugged a sad friend, said something snarky, made a mistake, trusted where it wasn’t deserved.
      Dealt with unfairness, jealous classmates, probably even had a breakup. And oh, the lying gossip.
      They worked hard, despite fools who think they’re having slack cut for them,
      and believe they’re skating and sliding through life.
      So my advice to you is to think of this person as- a person.
      Put on your big-boy britches and act like someone with emotional intelligence, and moral maturity.

      Get help if your problem is bigger than your integrity. Because. The problem is never that a human is beautiful, it’s that another human refuses to have self-control.

      1. Goldenrod*

        This is awesome. Especially this part:

        “He/she had a teacher who looked past the glitter and cared about the glue.”

      2. mf*

        Yes, thank you for this. “The thing is, when you look at others as objects, instead of as complex beings with layers and layers of humanity, we can see greed, entitlement and invalidation in you.”

      3. Hi there*

        This is my favorite comment in 7+ years of reading this website. Thank you for sharing your insight.

      4. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        Not being sarcastic – I am printing this and putting it on the fridge.

        You are a very good writer.

        1. BuchNerd*

          I saved it in a note on my desktop so I can re-read this as often as I need. Thank you, IKAMO.

      5. Frances*

        Wow. There have been some really good comments on this thread. This one really strikes me as important and well said.

        OP, I hope you read this comment every day before work. Remember how this person is a person. Remember that how you treat this person will have profound impact on their life. On their self-esteem. If they are very attractive, they are already dealing with objectification all the time. Be a safe haven for them. Be professional.
        Remember also, like others have said, that you DO have control over your actions. Believe in yourself – in your ability to behave professionally. If you can shift your viewpoint of yourself as a mentor, building someone’s potential, it might help.

      6. AnonEMoose*

        Neck sniffing???!!!! NECK SNIFFING??? Who in the WORLD thinks that’s remotely appropriate in the workplace?

        I absolutely believe you that it did occur, I’m just aghast that it did!

      7. HR Exec Popping In*

        Thank you for writing this. As someone who in her younger years would have been described as “hot”, it is a horrible experience to be objectified at work. Blatantly or not. To start to see yourself as they see you – only as valuable as your looks. To have managers pay attention to you or ignore you because of how they assess your physical attractiveness. We all must do better.

      8. Tiny Soprano*

        Sometimes I wonder if that’s the reason I’m so overtly weird, as it often forces people to humanise me before they have a chance to dehumanise me. You can literally see the shift in someone’s eyes from them seeing you as a hot girl to seeing you as a weird PERSON. The label in their head has shifted from ‘hottie’ to ‘weird reptile person’ because you’ve essentially forced them to acknowledge an extra dimension of yourself.

        OP. She could be a weird reptile person.

      9. Walk on the left side*

        Congrats on surviving. And building a healthy relationship with husband 2.0. Neither of those things is easy!

        The bit about “as if I was depriving the juvenile coworkers of a work benefit” is also spot on here. There is a very big difference between appreciating beauty in the sense one does while observing art in a museum, and acting entitled to the conventional attractiveness of another person’s body — especially a female-presenting person. I so hate the trope of “hot secretary as a work benefit of being a male exec” because it just strips away our agency, our competency, and our right to be seen as a person.

        As so many commenters have said, YOU need to do the work, and own your behavior and the actions you choose to take. But you need to make sure you aren’t impacting this supervisee WHILE you do the work. And I sincerely hope your organization has regular 360 reviews, and that this person feels comfortable communicating to your manager if they have picked up on any bias in your actions as a manager.

        1. I Kneed A Man...once.*

          Thank you for those kind words. They help! One of my jobs was teaching teenagers (not as a schoolteacher!) and watching the proto-harassment start up, twisting some young people and crushing others. I hoped to make a difference in the perspective, because I had had a special teacher who taught my soul, not my face. She actually came into the classroom on the first day of school, wearing a blindfold. She promised us all that she would look only at our work and efforts, not the cost of our clothes. (I realized that she also meant our looks, which meant that I wouldn’t have to worry about whether my grades were real or the “A is for Appearance”. She never disappointed me!)
          I’m glad that the OP saw the wrong in his feelings, even though the “kick it down the road” solution would make a disaster without addressing the problem.
          The new hire would wonder what she had done, (or not….) and there’s always the fear of “Now we’re not working as boss and subordinate, I can date you.”
          OP has taken the first step toward becoming a non-sexist. (Step One, first admit we are powerless over having first impressions.) Then quickly, follow it with- but SHE is not in any way responsible for fixing my crush!
          And I am fully and totally accountable for my actions, and responsible for training my thoughts so that they do not control my behaviors.
          I think therapy would help, given how quickly OP went to such a misguided solution, but not necessarily years of everything under the sun.
          But several issue-related, thought-management focused and behavior modifications-based sessions could help him see other issues as well
          I’d like an update later, too!

      10. Lisa*

        As a former hottie as well I can sympathize and I whole heartedly agree. People always think good looking women have it easy, what could possibly ever be wrong in their lives. I remember I was in counseling for depression in my mid 20s and I was in the office and on at three occasions (2 women, 1 man) said something to me similar to why are you here, you are so pretty what could possibly be wrong? Women hated me instantly, kept me out of their social circles, never invited me to work lunches, assumed I was stuck up. Kept their husbands and boyfriends away from me. My bosses tried to sleep with me, made comments about my body stared at me. I would get propositioned. Every single thing I earned even if it was legit on merit it was presumed it was because of how I looked. I was ogled constantly, no matter what I wore. I was born poor, I put myself through college and law school, and I passed two bar exams graduating in the top of my class. I did not do that on my looks. Oh and I have worked with men I am attracted to, I have managed men I have attracted to, it has never effected my ability to manage them. I don’t understand this at all.

    7. Lizzo*

      +1 to the social pressures that enforce the whole “a lot of guys get told they can’t control themselves” thing.

      OP: it’s great that you wrote in, and that you recognize what’s happening here. Please do not back away from this challenge by making your employee the problem who needs to be removed. That’s demeaning and degrading for them. Instead, dig deep into YOUR feelings here, with the help of a neutral third party (therapist or executive coach), and figure out how to manage those feelings so that they don’t interfere with your professionalism.

      It’s probably going to be uncomfortable, but guess what? It’s not going to get any less comfortable if you put it off. If you do it right, leaning hard into the discomfort and untangling it is going to result in a fantastic amount of personal growth that will put you on the “good manager” track for the rest of your career.

      1. blerpblorp*

        I agree, he does get credit for writing in here. He wouldn’t have asked the question here if he thought the answer would be “yeah, bro, I get it, just fire her and hire an uggo!” He basically knows he needs someone to tell him to get it together and behave like an adult who can survive the discomfort.

    1. Joan Rivers*

      I have a few — what if it were a CLIENT? Could you keep your hands off a CLIENT? Or would you have to get them shifted to another manager?

      1. Koalafied*

        The part that galls me is having the self-awareness to know that telling senior management why LW wants to move the employee would be unprofessional, but instead of looking for a professional alternative to moving the employee, LW is looking for a more professional cover story for unprofessional behavior.

        1. Mary Richards*

          I think LW writing in suggests that he knows that this is not a good situation. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

      2. Case of the Mondays*

        I (female) had a client once (male) that I found insanely attractive. I still kept him as a client but I would find myself turning into a giggly school girl around him at times (and blushing too) and I absolutely hated it. Luckily, the case was short lived. I tried to do as much as I could via email to avoid awkwardness.

        I don’t think the OP is worried he will harass his report. I think he is just worried he will be weird around her.

        And actually, I had the same situation with a female client. She was a former model and I found myself just intimidated by how beautiful she was. I wasn’t jealous or anything, I was just, again, a giggly blushing fool.

  6. 2legit*

    Letter writer, I say this with kindness… what is your love life like? Are you married? Going through a divorce? Single? Maybe looking at this problem through a more personal lens will help… can you tell us about the personal you, not the work you?

    1. Ashley*

      And do you have a hot friend as the same sex as S? How have you handled that relationship in the past?

    2. yello*

      I think this is a good follow-up question. I am not even sure what the LW is worried will happen, besides being nervous around the new hire?

      1. 2legit*

        If the LW is like Dean from Good Girls… married with a history of affairs… I get wanting to exit a situation where you feel you would stray again. But still: just because you find the employee attractive, how do you know they feel that way about you? Are they giving you signals?

        1. FridayFriyay*

          But this puts the consequence for the thoughts/actions of the manager on their employee. Regardless of the reason that is not ok.

          1. Snow globe*

            Exactly. I find it interesting that the LW did not come up with a possible solution where they are the one to transfer to a different team.

    3. Person from the Resume*

      This is a great point.

      LW finds their employee so attractive, they are constantly distracted. LW I can not relate to this at all. Have you every had this problem before in your life … anywhere not just work? How do you deal with being so distracted by a person’s looks that you can’t function in other parts of your life.

      I assume that this person must but extremely physically attractive to you, but there’s more to attraction and crushes and relationships than physical beauty, there’s personality and compatibility and intimacy. Part of the advice to kill an unwanted crush is to imagine them doing things that annoy, frustrate, or irk you. Nothing that makes them a bad employee, but maybe they’re messy and you’re a neat freak or something that makes you realize that you’re not actually attracted to them. But IDK because that advice is usually about crushed which are usually described as based on more than just looks.

      1. Anhaga*

        “Part of the advice to kill an unwanted crush is to imagine them doing things that annoy, frustrate, or irk you. Nothing that makes them a bad employee, but maybe they’re messy and you’re a neat freak or something that makes you realize that you’re not actually attracted to them.”

        Probably best not to imagine anything about an employee that you yourself find to be a negative trait–even that imagined bad trait can result in treating the person differently. This strategy is, I think, best kept for personal relationships!

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            Yep. A married friend of mine had a short affair with a married man. Star-crossed lovers, romance and mystery, stolen moments together during a day of drudgery and responsibility, you get the idea. They managed a weekend away and she got to wake up in his arms…and his morning breath. He left the toilet seat up and hair in the sink. He snored and drooled in his sleep. She said what really got to her was his Dopp kit with dental floss and mouthwash, and his socks with holes in them. He was a normal guy, just like her husband.

            They didn’t see each other for long after that.

            1. Cat Tree*

              Those examples are all negative though. Mundane humanizing things are more like recognizing that she does laundry and walks her dog and packs her lunch just like everyone else.

              1. SheLooksFamiliar*

                I disagree. Those are absolutely human things, just not something co-workers or star-crossed lovers usually experience with each other.

                1. Cat Tree*

                  Agree to disagree then. Bad breath, snoring, and drooling are all things I consider negative and I don’t think about others doing them. In this situation I would absolutely focus on things that are more neutral and less negative. There are plenty to choose from.

              2. Jaydee*

                But even those really mild negative things *are* mundane, human things. No one is an idealized version of themselves at all times. Everyone poops.

                Most crushes and infatuations are because we want the ideal – romance, attraction, scintillating conversation, hot sex – without any of the negatives. But it’s not just about big negatives. It’s these mundane little annoyances like snoring and morning breath and holey socks and hair on the bathroom counter.

                It’s no good to simply imagine your crush doing laundry or walking the dog or packing lunch. They clearly do all those things very attractively.

                No, you have to specifically imagine them walking the dog in a ratty old college t-shirt and fluorescent orange running shorts and carrying the poop bag back. Are they attractive with a plastic baggie full of dog poop in their hands?

                You have to imagine them doing the laundry in grubby sweats and their socks being wadded in little balls and having to empty all the receipts and stuff out of the pockets and stain treating the shirt they spilled pasta sauce on. Are they attractive while they hang all their “lay flat to dry” items over the shower curtain rod?

                You have to imagine them packing lunch and there’s some sort of mystery container in their fridge that they move around to try to find the salad mix, and then they debate packing the yogurt cup that was “best by” last Thursday and decide to risk it because there’s not much else in the fridge and they don’t want to buy a bunch of vending machine junk. Are they attractive when they are eating the grown-up equivalent of a Lunchable (cheese, lunch meat, crackers, an apple, and a Reese’s peanut butter cup leftover from Halloween) because they are overdue for a trip to the grocery store?

                1. Dream Jobbed*

                  “Are they attractive with a plastic baggie full of dog poop in their hands?”

                  Even that is subject to perspective. An attractive guy who picks up after his dog? Wowser! (Double points just for having the dog of course. More points for being a responsible pet owner.)

                2. Jaydee*

                  @Dream Jobbed

                  Haha! Yeah, that’s the challenge, right? But then I feel like you’re going beyond the level of purely physical attraction and objectification that this letter implies. Also, they have a dog.

      2. Anon for this*

        My department has so many attractive people that when someone was trying to do a presentation to high school age kids and the high school age kids told them flat out they didn’t want to pay attention because there weren’t any hot men, the incredibly embarrassed presenter made the rounds of the different teams and collected, with much apology, a set of “hot men” to present the next several weeks of the program. (The program was not repeated next year, the fact that the group that organized the whole thing insisted that we cater to the disruptive students instead of telling them to knock it off or get out had a lot to do with it. The presenter got revenge though, the group was paying the presenters based on their hourly salaries and in her search for “hot men” she “coincidentally” ended up with the men with the highest salaries in the department.)

        1. Julia*

          See, and someone last week doubted that attractiveness helps with career advancement! This cannot be a coincidence. Also, yikes?

          1. Anon for this*

            Yikes, but also hilarious. The “hot men” also acquired a director from another department who happened to be leaving a meeting room in a (very well fitting) suit as they were walking by and invited him along because he also fit both descriptions (“hot man” and also large hourly salary)

            1. I kneed a man...once.*

              Yes, good looks get you three rungs farther up the ladder, to where the jerks have more power, more entitlement, and less integrity and NO accountability.

              1. Anon for this*

                Oh. Oh, no, it’s not that they got promoted because they’re “hot men”. This was a really really icky series of seminars that were supposed to be about women in leadership, for high school girls. Then the high school girls complained that they only signed up because they wanted to skip class and look at eye candy of the guy variety. Then the group that organized it insisted that we cater to the students because you don’t want the negative publicity from pulling out of the partnership do you, we’ll pay their salaries for the time they’re there, just get hot men.

                The presenter went to all the teams and told us what was said and said she was looking for the highest salaried people who could possibly be described as “hot men”. And everyone who was either management or an analyst with a 6 figure salary who could be conceivably described as hot volunteered, and then captured random director from another department on the way. Icky group was not happy, but presenter told them they wanted hot men not cheap men and… they really couldn’t argue with that.

                1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

                  Wow, every single thing about that situation, and the way it was handled, was incredibly wrong.

                2. Anon for this*

                  She was a woman. They originally reached out to us because we have a ton of women in leadership positions. And then they threatened to make us look bad if she didn’t go along with their stupid plan to have hot men presenting the women in leadership seminars. The whole thing was incredibly stupid, and I’m very glad this event was not repeated.

                  But anyway, my point is… I don’t find any of the people who were participants in this debacle of malicious compliance distracting. Funny, yes. Smart, yes, they’re all VERY competent given that they’re some of the subject matter experts for our department. But distracting? No. Except during the office white elephant exchange when they’re purposely luring Big Boss out of the room so someone can arrange for him to get a gag gift. Then they’re very distracting.

                3. Walk on the left side*

                  “this debacle of malicious compliance” is an amazing phrase that will now enter my vocabulary for the rest of time.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Attractiveness and sex appeal helps men get ahead, not women. This has been attributed to the large numbers of women working in HR… Of course it had to be a woman’s fault, ever since Eve!

    4. Firecat*

      Eh. As someone who is happily married going on 8 years now I think it’s damaging and unfair to suggest that crushes/attraction won’t happen if you are actually in a good place with your relationship. That’s just not true. Biology pops in unexpectedly from time to time.

      1. allathian*

        Absolutely. When a very attractive coworker started working for my employer, I had a crush on him for a while. There’s no way I would’ve done anything to risk my marriage for his sake, and he was also married. But it was the kind of thing that made going to work a positive pleasure when I knew he’d be there. As I got to know him as a three-dimensional person, I made a conscious effort to focus on the things about him that I wouldn’t like in a partner. One day he told me something about his weekend, and I just thought to myself “man, I’m glad I’m not married to you, how does your wife put up with that?” and my crush was essentially over.

  7. Dust Bunny*

    Oh, hey–somebody who is a worse manager than I am!

    This person needs to not be a manager. How many other things might get in the way of their ability to manage?

  8. D'Euly*

    I also…find that last sentence fascinating. OP, when you find yourself asking “Should I do x, or should I be professional?” I think you can rest assured that the answer is usually gonna be the latter.

    1. Forrest*

      It’s a bit of a giveaway, isn’t it.

      LW, consider whether what you’re asking here is actually, “I can’t do a fundamental and core aspect of my job, and I’m looking for a way that lets me just not do it but without impacting my job, salary or reputation in any way.”

      Like, if you Really Can’t manage this person, resignation is an option. It’s only a dilemma if you’re looking for a way to make sure the consequences of your failure to do your job are borne by someone other than you.

    2. Grand Admiral Thrawn Will Always Be Blue*

      This is a great opportunity for them to grow and mature as both a human and a manager. If they make a career out of managing, there will be many other uncomfortable situations. I would imagine the same concepts and practices for how to deal and overcome would apply.

      1. Hippoceros*

        I read this as “grow and mature as both a human and a teenager” at first, and… I’d feel a lot better if this were a teenager!

  9. TurtlesAllTheWayDown*

    This also has the ability to quickly devolve into people getting hired based on appearance. In this case, their lack of sexual appeal? But still.

          1. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

            Lol, unless I got a boss like Mr. Sheffield – then I’d be screwed.

    1. Kay*

      Ironically aren’t there studies that support the fact that attractive people are more likely to be hired; are paid more; have better opportunities?

      1. lemon meringue*

        Yes, but for women in male-dominated fields, attractiveness can have a negative effect on how often they’re hired. (For women in female-dominated fields, and for all men, attractiveness has been shown as a positive in hiring.)

        1. allathian*

          For women in male-dominated fields, it’s tough. The truly stunning ones probably won’t get hired because they’d be seen as a distraction, but neither does this mean that those who are considerably less attractive than average will get hired, either. But it’s interesting that female attractiveness would be favored in female-dominated fields. One reason for this may be that many female-dominated fields are customer service oriented as well, and attractiveness would be an advantage there.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            Maybe. But I expect a great deal of it is just that all of us tend to have subconscious biases in favor of what we perceive as beauty. It doesn’t matter whether we are sexually attracted to it or not; straight women react in this way to other women as much as they might to men, because it’s not about wanting to sleep with them. It’s just about having an unconscious tendency to think a little better of them, trust them a little more, feel a little more comfortable around them, etc… and all of that can translate into hiring decisions.

    2. Don P.*

      This is actually a recommendation in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying; get the frumpiest secretary available, it shows you’re taking the job seriously. Also, get your rival a really hot secretary and watch him blow up his life over her. As usual, the author is kidding, but not.

  10. KimberlyR*

    LW, I think you should get with your manager about manager training or something. This isn’t ok. I would feel AWFUL if I were this employee and I got shuffled off and didn’t even know why. I would be FURIOUS if I did know why. This is not your employee’s fault. This is on you, and the burden to fix it falls on you, not that employee.

    1. SamKD*

      Yes. Letter Writer, props to you for recognizing this is a “you” problem. But the way to fix it is to transfer your beliefs, not the employee. Talk to those who are your friends and confidants. Lots of people can help.

    2. Working Hypothesis*

      If I were shuffled off in this employee’s position and I did know why, there would be a discrimination lawsuit in the works SO fast.

  11. FiveWheels*

    Kinda feel like if someone says they’re incapable or carrying out a basic task of their job, ie managing employees, they should find a new job and resign.

    OP shouldn’t even have moving the new hire in his matrix of thought.

  12. Toodie*

    And doesn’t this signal to others on OP’s team that they are satisfactorily unattractive enough to get to work with OP? Gee thanks.

    1. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

      Lol, I didn’t even think about that, but yeah…that’s not great, either.

    2. Workerbee*

      Ha! Though I’d read it as more subjective. Whatever this person has just happens to fit into OP’s predilections.

  13. Jake*

    This is the first time in the 8 years I’ve been reading this blog that I’m just straight up dumbfounded beyond coherent thought.

    LW cannot manage anybody until this is rectified.

    1. TurtlesAllTheWayDown*

      Oh, I don’t think it’s the first time, but it’s decidedly different than most dysfunctional work space letters, or things like the boss dumping his pee in the kitchen sink. This feels more icky than wacky.

    2. Worldwalker*

      If it affected more than this one person, I’d think the LW might be a candidate for the bad boss of the year.

      1. Bess Marvin*

        I wonder if in fact it DOES affect more than this one person. This is the situation where OP says “wow I can’t even manage this person.” But I wonder about how many OTHER non-work-related things colour his behaviour with other people he manages.

        1. Observer*

          Yes. Alison makes this point very clearly. Because the issue is not the the OP finds S hot. It’s that he thinks that the way to deal with the problem is to essentially penalize S for something that is not only not their fault, but doesn’t essentially affect their ability to do the job, and would be a non-issue if not for the OP’s attitude.

      2. Alldogsarepuppies*

        people who right in don’t qualify for the worst boss of the year, but i agree with the sentiment that they fit the nomination criteria

    3. Your Local Password Resetter*

      It doesn’t help that the LW is the one writing in.
      Usually it’s a beleagered employee and we can tell them to run for the hills or commisserate with them.
      Advising the person doing the outrageous thing is a lot more delicate and difficult.

      1. Jake*

        It’s worse than that though because this is just so over the line that I’m not sure how to provide advice beyond, “you cannot do this. The fact you think like this in the first place is gross. You need to completely change every single thing about your thought process as not only a manager, but as a human as well. ”

        Frankly, it’s not particularly helpful advice.

  14. DiscoCat*

    You need to learn to manage. Full stop. Manage people, manage your feelings, manage your thoughts, get a hold on yourself and move on.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Good phrasing. Management is as much about self-management as it is about managing others.

  15. Your Personal Greek Statue*

    “However, I also know it would be much better for that employee if they worked for someone else.”

    Better how? It’s not her fault that this manager can’t imagine setting aside attraction. I’m betting that they would be appalled if someone suggested they request to stop being a manager, so why should the impact all fall on the employee. This is the same principle behind recognizing an employee is awesome and could totally be a friend, but not doing it because BOUNDARIES.

    1. JJ*

      I unfortunately read that as “so she won’t notice me staring/checking her out/generally making it weird every day at work”. Seriously this guy needs to take accountability for objectifying this poor person and probably already making it weird for her.

    2. Paulina*

      That line sounds like self-justification to me. LW knows that what they want to do is unprofessional, they don’t want to admit this unprofessional thing to their boss or colleagues so they’re looking for a way to disguise what they want to do. As part of that — trying to go through with doing the unprofessional thing in disguise — they’re telling themselves that S will be better off anyway, to claim to themselves that this wrong thing is really the right thing to do. They’d all be better off if LW could just figure out what to say the reason is! This will help S, really! Except, NOPE.

  16. dianna*

    Ugh, I was on the employee side of this once (and I don’t even view myself as conventionally hot! I just hit this humans buttons just right, and super unintentionally). It SUCKED. I completely felt like a meaningless item — nothing I did, or had to bring to the table, none of my accomplishments or creative solutions or enthusiasm for the work, none of it mattered at all.

    OP, from my perspective this is a both/and: Your employee deserves someone who can view them as a complete person, AND you need to do some serious work on this part of you.

    1. KimberlyR*

      Yes, the employee does not deserve to have their contributions to the team devalued and for them to be seen as “Attractive Person” and nothing more.

    2. EPLawyer*

      I am sorry this happened to you Dianna.

      But thank you for bringing the employee persepctive. LW, as Dianna so eloquently stated, you are reducing your employee to her looks. ONLY. Nothing else matters to you. That is so unfair and demeaning to the employee.

      Quite frankly, the employee SHOULD go to another team. One that values her work, not her looks.

    3. Ashley*

      I was literally told — by my male director’s second-in-command, a woman — that my completely covered up breasts were “too distracting” for my director to work with me. And for me, this was always compounded with race. As a mixed-Black woman, I didn’t fit into the androgynous look advocated by the second-in-command (she was a rail-thin, blonde-pixie-cut, shift-dress-wearing woman whom I would never be able to emulate).

      I was let go a month later. It was a contract job and I had very little recourse, even though the client was very upset. Luckily I landed a new FT gig 2 weeks later.

      But still, every time I think about it I want to vomit.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        That’s horrible! I’m busty myself, but also blonde and petite, which when I was younger led to its own set of problems being taken seriously. That was bad enough, and I know it’s so much worse for women of color …I’ve heard too many stories from friends about how grossly they’re fetishized and sexualized when, really, they’d just like to be able to get on with the work for which they’re being paid.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            I hope it doesn’t happen again to you, and I also hope the disbelief is changing.

            1. Ashley*

              Ha! That was the third out of four times it happened to me. It was the closest to OP’s ask.

              And, just to be clear, I’m a medium sized woman with an unexceptional figure. There’s nothing overt going on to notice.

              1. Working Hypothesis*

                I am terribly sorry that you have to even say that. You shouldn’t need to, because it shouldn’t matter. (That’s in no way blaming you for saying it — I hope it didn’t come across that way. It’s just a frustrated comment on the world where you were forced to learn to lead with such disclaimers.)

      2. Kay*

        Had a somewhat similar situation in my early 20s where a senior much older male complained to my female manager about my “lack of bras” I was fully covered wearing a high neck not tight sweater… I whipped out my bra strap to show her I was indeed wearing a bras and asked her why HE was looking so closely at my breasts…

      3. Marillenbaum*

        I feel this. Also a Black woman, and spent years of my youth being told how my appearance was “immodest” despite wearing the same clothes as my peers, because I have a bigger bust and hips. It feels terrible, like someone is telling you your body is wrong.

    4. BookishMiss*

      I had forcibly forgotten about this, but definitely been there. I had a manager who would literally follow me around the store, and it was Awful.

      Please, OP, manage yourself so you can manage your employees.

    5. lemon meringue*

      I once worked for a boss who would only hire teenage girls who didn’t smoke and who he considered attractive. His wife (!) did the hiring, but he needed to vet the employees for good looks before they could start. The boss was in his seventies. Needless to say, this was not a great place to work!

    6. Code Monkey, the SQL*

      I’ve had this happen to me in a slightly different context – my manager’s wife apparently complained about me!

      He and I got along great, 100% professional, and I liked to joke with him (he was big on terrible puns and both my husband and I are too). One day, I said something during a one-on-one, and he laughed, stopped himself, and said “[wife] says I need to do that less or you’ll get the wrong idea.”

      Talk about disheartening. I felt like all the work I had been doing was less important than making sure I wasn’t “funny” when I emailed/talked to my manager, and I dialed it way back to being only factual, keeping everything in writing, and keeping my physical distance as well. Really underlined that it didn’t matter what I did, only how I was perceived. I wasn’t sad when he changed roles, and we haven’t spoken since, except at the Christmas party.

      1. Walk on the left side*

        Wow that’s…wow.
        How did his wife even know…you know what, I don’t think I can actually formulate that question. I keep trying and just devolve into like, waving my hands aimlessly and shrugging.

        However, your Name is *phenomenal*.

        1. Paulina*

          He probably thought one of Code Monkey’s jokes was hilarious, so he repeated it and gave credit. Sad that something like that would get seen as a problem.

  17. AnonEMoose*

    You know something, OP? I’ve had the occasional crush on a coworker, too. But I got on with it and did my job, because that was my job. Admittedly, these were coworkers, not someone I managed, but still. Believe it or not, it is entirely possible to ignore finding someone attractive and get on with your work. You’re trying to make your feelings her problem, and that is not even remotely ok.

    One thing you can try is, every time you find yourself thinking “She’s so hot,” follow it up by thinking something like “And that’s not important right now, because we’re here to work.” Being attracted to someone doesn’t mean you’re required to do anything about it. Honestly? Men have been making their feelings of attraction women’s problem for centuries, and it would be really, really great if that stopped. You can help with that by working to change your thinking by focusing on her professional skills. It does get easier with practice and learning to redirect yourself any time you start thinking about her attractiveness.

    1. FrenchCusser*

      Heck, I have a crush on a coworker right now. He’s an awesome person – sweet and sunny and just really, really NICE.

      And I’m not doing a thing about it except pass the time of day when I see him because it would be wrong. He just brightens up my day and that’s enough.

    2. Person*

      “Men have been making their feelings of attraction women’s problem for centuries, and it would be really, really great if that stopped. ”

      100x yes! And while this is historically an issue of discrimination against women, the advice applies if these are not the genders in question. Everyone deserves to be respected for what they’re bringing to the table at work regardless of their looks.

      OP – I’ve had experiences where I found someone attractive in a way that it was very present in my mind. I can tell you that it is definitely something you can get over/get used to after a little while. Just notice it and remind yourself not to treat them differently–work on building that habit and eventually it will be more natural.

  18. WantonSeedStitch*

    Given that the LW does not identify their own gender or that of Attractive S, I am not going to make assumptions. I will say, good on LW for recognizing that this is their OWN problem, and not their employee’s. And good on Alison for telling them that transferring S to another team does not solve their problem. S does not deserve to be treated differently from other employees because of the way they look or because their manager finds that attractive, and that’s what transferring them would be doing. LW, you say you might be uncomfortable. Considering your discomfort is due to your own issues (and that those issues are not things like trauma or health-related stuff), I submit that maybe this discomfort is just something you have to live with, while still behaving in a professional fashion.

  19. UKDancer*

    Look I work with a colleague from a partner company whom I find very attractive. He’s more charming than should be legal and has amazing eyes. He has absolutely no interest in me however. What I do when I see him is go in my head “this is Legolas and I find him attractive. I accept this is my issue not his so I am focusing on what we need to do today.” Then I move onto the work. Interestingly the more we do things on a work basis where he can be a bit irritating shooting his metaphorical arrows around, the less I remember how attractive I find him.

    I think my main advice is to accept you find the co-worker attractive, file that on one side of your and move on and meet your professional obligations in an appropriate way. I find that familiarity doesn’t exactly breed contempt but it does mean you lose the first impression of how stunning someone is as you get to know them.

    1. Dawnshadow*

      Yes exactly this! If LW takes the time to actually become more familiar with report, in my experience, LW can begin to see them as a real person and the attraction will fade away if LW focuses on those things they don’t like- and there are always flaws in anyone. In fact you can use the opposite of this to try to save a marriage- consciously try to stop focusing on partners flaws and notice the little things you really like about them again. You really can make your body and brain work for you rather than being ruled by them.

    2. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

      I find that familiarity doesn’t exactly breed contempt but it does mean you lose the first impression of how stunning someone is as you get to know them.

      Not necessarily. At my last job, I had a colleague who I instantly noticed was attractive, but since I had already gone through a workplace crush situation that ended badly, I was determined not to focus on that so I hit a switch in my head so I wouldn’t look at the new guy that way – or so I thought.

      We began interacting more frequently, and then he began walking me home from work, and the next thing I knew, we were closer than normal and I realized, “Holy s^%! I like this guy A LOT.” Granted, it took about a year for this to happen – before this, I genuinely considered him like one of my work girlfriends. But sometimes, familiarity does in fact make initial attraction stronger, so you have to figure out coping skills for that possibility (and remove yourself from the situation if you can’t).

      1. Stephen!*

        Yeah, I had an initial, “ooooh, he’s cute” impression of a coworker that only deepened- he was kind and a good leader and a hard worker… years later, I still think about him sometimes and regret we didn’t meet at a different point in my life, but… he was still my coworker and while I wasn’t his boss, I did have some degree of supervision over him. I treated him like anyone else, while internally acknowledging that yes, interacting with him made my day a little brighter.

      2. James*

        I’ve had that experience. I (cis male) have worked with some women who were attractive, incredibly intelligent (we’re an engineering/geology firm), very easy to talk to, the type of person where the more you get to know them the more you like them.

        My reaction was “Silly human, now get back to work”. Not gonna lie, I’ve probably done a few extra favors for a person I had a crush on than was strictly necessary, but still within professional bounds.

        1. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

          Ha! I’ve never done the extra favors thing myself, but my demeanor was much more pleasant with him than anyone else, which in turn made me appear nicer to the office as a whole, so I guess something good came out of it.

    3. lemon meringue*

      Agreed, the mindfulness approach could be a good one here. Instead of trying to suppress feelings of attraction, just acknowledge them and move forward with whatever work stuff needs to be done. Don’t let the ILLICIT THRILL of spending time with a coworker take up real estate in your brain.

      I’d also be looking into some additional management training if I were the LW, because the ability to treat all of your employees equally is such a fundamental one for a manager.

  20. Storie*

    Is it possible this letter is a prank? I mean…
    Ok, to be constructive: this is an opportunity for growth for you, OP. I hope you can overcome your weakness here and realize the role you’re in is important to someone else’s CAREER, as Alison has said.

    1. Web Crawler*

      On behalf of every person to be on the recieving end of this problem- I wish. Unfortunately, these people exist and most of them don’t have the self-awareness to ask an advice column

    2. Cat Tree*

      It’s possible that any letter to an advice column is a prank. But this is something that definitely can and does happen, even if this specific letter is fake.

  21. Gone Girl*

    I’m a little confused…the letter says that you would never act on it or do or say anything unprofessional – what exactly are you concerned about? I don’t mean that harshly, but is it that you may treat them differently because you find them attractive like Alison mentioned? Are you fantasizing about them all day?

    Ultimately, it seems like it boils down to treating your report like a human being, and holding yourself to a higher standard; it’s totally possible to look at someone, find them attractive, and move on/continue to treat them with respect.

    1. kittymommy*

      I read it as they were concerned they might unconsciously treat the employee different (perhaps better).

      1. Gone Girl*

        That’s where I was leaning, too, in which case I appreciate the LW awareness of the potential for bias on their part. But as other comments have pointed out: you can’t fight the problem by running away from it. My hope is that there’s a mentor in the picture that can help train LW on how to work against any propensity towards bias.

    2. No Name Today*

      OP is not seeing “treating your report like a human being, and holding yourself to a higher standard” as doable on his/her own part.
      I think OP is concerned that the easiest way to avoid acting or speaking unprofessionally is by doing as little of either as possible.
      OP would not toss ideas to this employee to brainstorm (like “I know Employee studied X or lived in Y city and may have a better perspective on this, but I can’t risk engaging). OP would not tap employee for a special project requiring additional one-on-one guidance.
      OP would make the scheduled one-on-ones brief and cursory.
      OP would not stop and say “good morning, how was your weekend?” to Employee while doing so with others.
      So by removing Employee, OP will be making it better for both of them.
      To be clear, this is very wrong.
      As manager, OP has a responsibility to do more than kick the problem down the road and Employee has a a right to be treated fairly which the avoidance 1 and avoidance 2.o plans do not respect.

    3. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      I’m guessing their whole concern is their COMFORT. It’s uncomfortable for them and they don’t want to be uncomfortable — most people don’t — but, instead of looking for ways to fix their feelings, they decide that it would be better to put the burden on the innocent employee, or on their employer, to make them comfortable. Maybe try behavior modification techniques like snapping a rubber band on their wrist, or drinking a very cold glass of water every time they feel flushed.

    4. Lizy*

      Also, if you’re thinking seriously about transferring the employee, you’re ALREADY acting on it and doing something unprofessional.

  22. NotKKzj*

    Upending new Employee’s work life because if OP isn’t the manager, dating might be an option.

    So this might be changing a team on the minuscule chance that OP might be able to get in NE’s pants.

    If so, OP needs more help than AAM can provide.

    1. Tuckerman*

      I had the same thought. Is he more distressed from managing an attractive person or not being allowed to try to date an attractive person? Is that the subtext of this letter?
      I think if the latter, it would be helpful if he decided not to date at all at work. If dating at work is not an option, does that change how he feels about this person on his team?

  23. twocents*

    You have no business managing anyone if your personal feelings about their looks (or other attributes as Alison points out) prevent you from being an effective manager. I don’t even mean this meanly — it’s realizing where your limitations are and not setting yourself up for failure by having a job dependent on your weaknesses. Like that one LW who was terribly disorganized and flaky but decided to be a PM to try to become less so.

    This employee should have a different manager, and the solution would be for you to move, not her.

  24. CatCat*

    OP, definitely a “you problem” and I think you know that, but you are not indicating that you are willing to do the work necessary to fix the “you problem.” This is untenable for both yourself and people you manage and will manage in the future. You cannot continue to work long-term as a manager with a problem like this.

    Does your work offer an employee assistance program (EAP)? You could benefit from counseling! There is a professional out there who can help you with this. The EAP should alert you whether communications with them are confidential (mine are and I’m guessing that’s typical). You can also look for a counselor on your own or through your health insurance.

    It may feel like an embarrassing problem! But it is very likely a fixable one with the right support! Your discomfort WILL hold you back in your career, and should NOT be born by your direct reports in terms of how their careers are handled. YOU need to do the work here. 100%.

    Swallow whatever is holding you back from working on yourself. Get a counselor and Put. In. The. Work.

    1. Anne of Green Gables*

      Thank you, I was planning to suggest an EAP as well.

      Letter Writer, I know you’ve gotten a lot of criticism from the comments. Let that tell you something about how off this is. Knowing that this is a “you” problem and not an employee problem is a great first step–don’t downplay the importance of that. But it’s just a first step. Tell a counselor exactly what you told Alison, that you have an attractive employee and your first instinct is that you can’t manage them effectively because you find them attractive, and you know that’s not a good instinct, and you want to work to overcome it. I agree with CatCat that this is a fixable problem with the right support, but you need to be willing to get that support and do the work to get there. Knowing there is a problem is a good beginning, now you need to commit to the work to overcome the problem. You can do that.

  25. Pippa K*

    OP, picture someone saying “I think we need to move Aisha to a different team, because I’m really uncomfortable around women in hijab – I mean, I know it’s a ‘me’ problem and she’s doing nothing wrong, but I find it so distracting and it means I interact with her less effectively. So it would be better for her to be transferred. I’m only thinking of her best interests, you know.”

    It’s not a direct analogy because religious discrimination is usually unlawful, but it gets at the same type of thinking. You know very well that you shouldn’t make managerial decisions about people based on your viewpoints of things that have nothing to do with their work.

    1. No Name Today*

      replace hijab with: prosthetic, scar, wheelchair, race, gender…
      then take it farther to: looks like my cousin’s ex-wife, has the same name as a teacher I hate.
      (taking things to absurd extremes helps me see how silly and not overwhelming a situation is. This is not a hill to die on, OP. You admit you have a problem. You can work through it.)

  26. Not a Blossom*

    If you can’t pull it together for the sake of the employee, think of it this way: If this becomes a pattern, it will severely hinder your ability to do your job or advance in your career. If someone repeatedly asked me to move team members for vague reasons (because I assume you wouldn’t give your attraction as the reason), I’d think they weren’t cut out to be a manager, which could lead to me letting them go. They’d definitely be first on the chopping block if cuts were needed.

    1. No Name Today*

      Yes, how will OP explain this request?
      “The New Employee should be managed by Bob or Alice.”
      “OK, why?”

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Right, the first question he asks is essentially “what lie can I tell to cover up that this is what I am doing?”. Incredibly unprofessional behaviour and it obviously shows that he knows what he wants to do is wrong, because there IS no way to truthfully explain the request. Because it’s a shitty request.

        (Trying to keep it constructive, I guess: OP, generally speaking and especially at work, if you are considering doing something and your main question is how to lie and cover it up… you should really reconsider that thing. Do not let doing something that you know is wrong then lying about it become a habit, starting now.)

        1. No Name Today*

          “your main question is how to lie and cover it up”
          I think this is an excellent point.
          Because there are different moving parts to this:
          OP, what goes on in your mind is nobody’s business:
          it’s OK to to admit to yourself that you are attracted to an employee.
          it’s OK to admit to yourself that you don’t want to work with someone.
          but, while it’s OK to admit you need help managing an employee,
          when you state “I think OP would be better managed by Bob or Alice.”
          how will you answer, “why?”
          “OP is too hot for me me to do my job effectively?”
          “Something about OP’s skills/personality that indicates that while not a great fit for your group, would be a good fit for another group,” that will only sound damning because of its vagueness. Which, not to vague, will be a lie.

  27. Rainy*

    LW, you need to learn that just because you find someone attractive doesn’t make them an object put on earth for your pleasure. You can have a little crush without betraying it or acting on it. It’s okay to enjoy someone’s hotness without letting that enjoyment take over your interactions with that person. If you truly can’t get past this, absolutely transfer this poor woman, but also think about stepping back from any roles involving management, because if you are incapable of managing people you find attractive you are incapable of responsible management, period.

    1. Grayson*

      I (he/him) was reminded this weekend that I have a tendency to get crushes on people because of a combination of factors- knowledge of something I’m interested in, personality, physical attraction. At the end of the day that’s a Me crush. And with exposure they become less of an object and an actual person! Time man, time.

      1. Rainy*

        I think there’s a real societal thing about how having a crush entitles you to act on that crush, and I blame romantic tropes in entertainment media for the most part, but a really good thing for most people to do is learn to enjoy a crush without having to do anything about it, and let it run its course. Particularly in the workplace, where it’s not really appropriate to objectify your coworkers! :)

        1. Cat Tree*

          Yes! When I was younger and I complained about a boy teasing me, the vast majority of adults brushed it off by just saying he thinks I’m cute. Ok first of all, I need the bad behavior to stop and his motives don’t matter. Second, it made me very aware that men (or at least a certain subset of them) can get away with pretty much anything if they do it because of sexual attraction.

          1. AnonEMoose*

            I hate this cultural trope with the fiery passion of 1000 white hot suns. It is so damaging to teach girls that abusive behavior (and let’s face it, a lot of it is) means “he loves me,” and that they should tolerate the behavior because of it. Why is it that, culturally speaking, girls are taught to accept and work around the behavior, and boys are not taught to treat girls as fellow human beings with feelings worthy of consideration?

            I hated being told that as a child because to me it meant “I’m not going to do anything to help you, and in fact I’m going to tease you about this boy’s crush on you if you persist in saying anything about how he’s treating you.” To me it felt like being bullied twice – first by whichever boy was acting like a jerk, and then by the adults who were supposed to be “in charge.” And from a pretty young age, I realized “this is screwed up.”

            And I hated it as a teenager because to me it meant “it’s your job to deal with his behavior and not complain about it, you should be flattered.” It was horrible to feel so completely unsupported by the people who were supposed to care about my well-being and ability to learn.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              There is definitely room for a parent or other family member to say “of course he likes you: you’re funny and clever and gorgeous” so long as they also say “but you do not have to put up with this behaviour so let’s make it stop”.

              1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                To clarify: an adult should only express positive emotions about the situation to the extent that they uplift or validate the child as a person and not from any other perspective (attention is always flattering, you’d make a cute couple, his mom’s a friend of mine, etc) AND that shouldn’t be the main focus of their response.

                1. AnonEMoose*

                  That makes a lot of sense; focus on the “the way he’s treating you isn’t ok, and I’m on your side,” but maybe add some “you’re great,” depending on the situation.

              2. Idril Celebrindal*

                I think even associating abuse with “likes you” at all is damaging and should never be done. Because even if the abusive kid “likes her”, he doesn’t like her as a person, he likes her as an object and a target of his entitlement and power. We shouldn’t be associating abuse with love or like in any way for kids, because they are two different things. If he saw her as a person and liked her, he wouldn’t think hurting her was the way to show it.

          2. CollegeSupervisor*

            Oh my gosh, that is the absolute worst!! How on earth are their motives supposed to make the behavior okay? They don’t, obviously. But people still persist in saying this…

  28. Smithy*

    In addition to some self reflection, I think it’s really important to think of this in the broader sense of what happens whenever we meet people and have initial reactions or opinions. Hopefully, getting to know someone more comprehensively as a colleague, a neighbor – just a person – makes them more than just their looks. Whatever they may be.

    I will never forget one day I came to work on a morning when I was particularly tired and out of it. It was the first day of a new coworker, and my immediate thought was “this is the most gorgeous person I’ve ever seen – how on earth will I work with them.” Within a few months of working with him – he was just another coworker who had some great professional traits. And some average ones. And happened to talk way too much about music I did not care to hear about.

    So I sympathize to having that moment of – they’re so hot, how do we work together. But to Alison’s point, the OP really needs to try. And it might be amazing that once the OP starts to meet this person as a person and not just as a physical being, it’ll be easier to engage with this woman as a colleague and a direct report.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      Yes, this.

      A different but semi-related situation: at an old job we hired a guy who reminded me of my ex-boyfriend in an almost visceral way. They didn’t even look that much alike, but something about his build and the way he carried himself and moved gave me a weird sense memory if this new colleague was, like, behind my chair pointing to something on my computer screen or leaning over my low cubical wall to chat. I’d broken up with my ex like 5 years previously and was totally over him, but somehow this colleague’s physical presence was super distracting anyway. It wasn’t attraction, even! It was bizarre.

      For a while. But over time I got to know him and stopped being hyper aware of him physically, and life went on. Give it some time, OP, and start seeing your employee as a whole person.

  29. Fitz*

    Fortunately, workplace crushes do die out fairly quickly if you don’t make an effort to feed them. You just need to put more mental effort into keeping your thoughts professional at all times. It should be even simpler if you have a work mode and off work mode. If you’re really worried, just start documenting all your meetings with your direct reports and team members so you can reference facts and specifics and look at your management across the board.
    Signed, a conventionally (I guess) attractive person who has been told many questionable things over the years, but thankfully never at work.

    1. BubbleTea*

      Yes I was thinking this – over time, LW will discover things that are less attractive about their report, and it will become less of a problem.

      I’d caution heavily against talking about this to anyone, because for one thing, the more you focus on it, the bigger a deal it becomes in your head. You do NOT want to make this into a topic of discussion with your friends, and certainly not at work. Maybe with a therapist, as long as the focus is “how can I get over this and move onto being a good manager?”

      Set yourself specific work-related mantras for interactions with this person. So for instance, “This is my direct report, with whom I am meeting to talk about the teapot order numbers for the week” instead of “This is my direct report, who (attractiveness-related thought)”. Deliberately keep your focus in work. You are in control of your brain. People with a range of mental health conditions have learned to manage intrusive thoughts and impulses, it is possible to do.

  30. Generic Name*

    Wow. Dude. So you are okay with working with ugly women/women you are not attracted to but you cannot work with a hot woman you are attracted to? This is a really gross attitude and you are treating women like objects rather than people. It sounds like women are put into 2 categories in your brain: fuckable and un-fuckable. This is not cool, and as Alison said, you need to treat women like human beings. It is possible to work with someone you find attractive and move through the discomfort. I had a crush on a coworker for quite a long time. I moved past it by keeping things professional. I did not flirt. I did not stare longingly at him. I worked with him as needed and got the job done.

    The good news is that you recognize this as a you problem. To work through it, I suggest talking to a therapist (yes, really) and educate yourself about feminism. Begin with learning about the suffragettes and their fight for the right to vote in the 1920s and go from there. (they could not vote because they were regarded as their fathers or husband’s PROPERTY aka, objects). Read novels written by women. If you can’t get past this, you should not be managing people.

    1. DJ Abbott*

      I highly recommend books by Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels. They are the same person, different pen names.
      One of my favorites is a very early one, Summer of the Dragon.

  31. Cat Tree*

    I’m trying to be generous here because OP wrote in seeking advice. But as a woman in a male-dominated field, this makes me cringe so hard (especially because I used to be very attractive when I was younger). This is a type of sexism, and I think it’s worth owning the correct terminology.

    With the intent of being constructive, OP, have you ever had a crush on a friend but decided not to act on it for the benefit of your friendship? You could try viewing this through the same lens. You can have feelings and choose not to act on them. This should be no different than other areas of your life where that is true.

    I’m also thinking OP is male, so apologies if I have misgendered. I know that women can find other women attractive, but it’s less likely that a female manager would treat her direct report this way. So if you’re a man, try a thought experiment of reversing the roles. Imagine yourself as an attractive man and getting moved to a different team, some team that is different than what you signed up for, because your female boss is sexually attracted to you. That might make you better able to understand what behavior the employee needs from you.

    It’s a good first step that you realize this is a *you* problem, but the solution can’t be to make her solve it for you. If you truly can’t get past this, I think you need you really need to examine yourself and decide whether being a manager is the right career path for you at all.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Ok, after re-reading the letter, I realize that the employee was never identified as female. I apologize. As a previously attractive woman who sometimes wasn’t taken seriously because of it, I projected my own experience into this letter.

      Still, I think my advice is applicable for any combination of genders. The specific situation just might not be specifically re-enforcing the most prominent problematic gender stereotypes in our society.

      1. Banana Bread*

        I’m confused by the comments that the employee was never identified as female: the headline specifically says “her”. (We don’t know anything about the manager though, that seems clear.)

        1. Cat Tree*

          Alison chose the title with “her”, but the actual letter doesn’t specify. Alison confirmed that OP is a man by adding a comment after I wrote mine.

  32. mlem*

    Kudos to the LW for being willing to ask, at least, in a way that allows the right answer as a possibility. It’s a small step, but it’s in the right direction.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      I have to agree. A lot of managers don’t get proper management training or mentoring, so it’s a positive thing for someone to recognize a problematic situation and ask whether their gut reaction is fair or not.

      In this case, totally not fair and moving the employee is an excuse to not do the hard work of finding a way to treat them like any other employee. But, some managers never do learn this and either just decide to hit on/harass the attractive employee or ice them out. Better to ask and get the straight talk than to flail about and potentially derail two careers.

    2. Mental Lentil*

      Exactly. We have no idea what kind of training or background this person has. A lot of people end up as managers because they are good at Project X and end up leading the Project X team without any managerial training.

      I’m willing to give this person the benefit of the doubt that they want to do better but are finding it extremely difficult to do so.

  33. Weekend Please*

    I think you should really take a look at your motivation for moving her. I know you said you would never act on your attraction to her, but does a part of you think maybe there would be a possibility if she wasn’t your direct report?

  34. bunniferous*

    OP, let me first say that it’s a good thing you admitted the problem. That is always the first step.

    My thinking is this: the majority of us have had to deal with what I would term inappropriate crushes throughout life, but what you describe is something that you yourself admit interferes with your daily life. When that happens, it is a signal that you could do with some therapy/counselling. I recommend you seek it out. Because most of us are able to overcome this sort of thing and treat the other person appropriately-so to me your situation sets up a red flag.

    Alison’s advice to get to know your report as a colleague is spot on as well.

    I have faith you can use self control and manage this new hire appropriately. Discuss this issue ONLY with your therapist, and don’t fuel the fire.

    1. Gone Girl*

      “I have faith you can use self control and manage this new hire appropriately.”

      100%!!! LW, it’s totally possible, please don’t give up just yet.

    2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      I agree with the therapy recommendation very strongly. Lots of good advice has been posted about how the OP can learn to manage his reaction to this new hire, but I think he could really use some help in figuring out how to apply it.

      All of us have probably had the experience of feeling an uncomfortably strong attraction to a coworker at some point, but OP’s reaction here sounds way out of proportion to me, and that tells me he could really use some therapeutic suport.

  35. some dude*

    You need to learn to compartmentalize, and be really diligent about how you treat your employees and colleagues.
    You can appreciate that someone is incredibly attractive and then let it go. You can also acknowledge that you don’t find some people attractive and that is ok, because they are your colleagues not your potential romantic partners. Don’t treat people differently, at work or outside work, based on their appearance and how attractive you find them.

  36. StressedButOkay*

    Oohh. Much like the manager who reached out to see how they could not manage ‘bad’ employees, OP, you can’t just manage the, ah, less attractive employees. You can’t go through your managing profession shifting your employees around based on how attractive they are. Because that’s the kind of thing that would, hopefully, get noticed.

    You say you would never do act on your attraction but, to me, it sounds like you’re afraid to be even put in that situation in the first place. I don’t know the best way to get past that – I think if you have a mentor, in your company or elsewhere, you need to get coaching ASAP. You need to take a look at your biases and make sure you aren’t impacting your employees.

  37. The Original Stellaaaaa*

    Hobestly, it’s best for her to be moved. I’m troubled by the suggestion that the OP keep trying when he already knows it’s an issue. Frankly, i would feel really uncomfortable if i were the employee and i was treated like a supervisor’s project to fail or succeed at, rather than a human being who deserved protection in a situation that the supervisor admits is threatening. It’s favoring the man’s “second chances” at the expense of the woman.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Wouldn’t it be better to move the OP though, considering his behavior is causing the problem?

      1. The Original Stellaaaaa*

        Actually yes, if that can be done without disrupting all of the other teams. The salient point is that they can’t work together, and the employee deserves better than to become an inadvertent experiment in someone else’s self control.

        1. Cat Tree*

          No, the point isn’t that “they can’t work together”, it’s that he can’t work with NE.

          If you read through the archives here or just hang around long enough, you’ll find plenty of posts about two coworkers who claim they can’t work together (although usually they are at the same level in the heirarchy). The advice is n never to just separate them, but instead to make it clear that they need to remain civil and professional while working. And if either/both of them can’t manage that, they might need to be let go. This situation isn’t any different just because it’s based on sexual attraction rather than annoyance or hatred. The person who doesn’t control their behavior is the one who needs to work through the issue.

          And it doesn’t really matter if it would “disrupt” a team when someone isn’t performing their job. Time and time again, Alison has made the point that nobody is irreplaceable. If OP were to move to another job, win the lottery, or end up in the hospital, the company wouldn’t close up shop. If I were OP’s manager, I might consider removing him from a management role and hiring someone else to take his place who can do a better job of it. I certainly wouldn’t move NE to make OP’s job easier.

        2. TWW*

          Worrying about “disrupting all of the other teams” is a good way to make sure that serious problems never get solved.

          LW probably shouldn’t be managing anyone. If moving them out of a management role disrupts other teams, so be it. For other team members, working though occasional management disruptions is part of their job.

          For the employee, being reassigned because they’re “too attractive” is definitely not part of their job.

      2. EnfysNest*

        Exactly. If the OP can’t manage their employees equally regardless of their appearance, then they aren’t doing their job properly. It is their job to manage their employees fairly, so if they can’t do that, then they can’t fulfill the duties of the supervisor job and they should request to be moved to a non-management position. The employee should not have their work impacted because of the OP’s failure to see them as a human being rather than a pretty thing to look at.

    2. Beth*

      As I’m reading it, most of the suggestions are saying OP shouldn’t be a manager if they can’t quickly fix their attitude . I don’t think many people are suggesting they should let their employee bear the brunt of this while they slowly work out their shit.

    3. Mental Lentil*

      Um, no. For all the reasons Alison pointed out. This isn’t the employee’s problem. It’s LW’s problem.

      How would you like to have your career upended because your manager couldn’t handle some aspect of your personality? That has happened to plenty of people here and it is not pleasant.

      LW needs to manager up.

    4. D3*

      Why should the object of desire have to pay the price?
      Why should the person with the problem be allowed to dodge the problem and not deal with their issues?

        1. pancakes*

          The idea of “admitting” anything is beside the point. You recommended that that the employee be moved, and many of us think the manager should be moved instead.

      1. Bostonian*

        I think the point is that having her report to an incompetent boss is also “paying the price.”

        1. pancakes*

          The solution in that scenario is to get rid of the incompetent boss, not merely transfer their employees to someone else and give them a new team to incompetently manage.

        2. PT*

          I had an incompetent boss who felt, and I quote, “I have nothing in common with women so I don’t see any point in working with them,” (I am a woman.)

          Frankly it would have been far better for my career for me to leave his line of report but stay with my employer, than continue with his line of report but hop to two random step down jobs at different employers because I needed to get away from him, which is what I ultimately did.

          1. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

            Damn. What would have been best is if he had been removed from a management position altogether, but I get you had to do what you had to do. That sucks, though.

    5. Environmental Compliance*

      As a woman…. I really can’t say that I’d prefer to be moved – and have *my* job, *my* career changed – because the Manager couldn’t control themselves and act professionally.

      This is the OP’s problem to solve, not the employee’s. OP needs to control themselves and not put the burden of change onto the employee, who has absolutely nothing to do with the situation other than existing. This isn’t a “second chance” project. This is a “do your managerial job, or you can move as the manager” issue.

    6. Smithy*

      For better or worse, many of us may be end up being a supervisor’s project to fail or succeed at one point. Anyone who’s ever been the direct report of a first time manager has certainly been in that moment….

      All of that to say, that I think it is worth it for the OP to try to find ways to get over this because it likely will just be about growing more as a manager. If the worry is about getting distracted/drifting off topic – then maybe it’s worth refreshing the tools used during 1 on 1’s and more broad onboarding to keep things more focused. If the worry is dubious assessment of work, then time to flex your muscles on jointly setting really clear objectives and KPI’s that clearly show levels of success.

      It’s just hard not to see there’s not work that can be done no different than work to better manager with a direct report who needs their own adjustments based on how they best learn/focus/participate.

      1. voyager1*

        I really like your first paragraph. I am currently working with a very new manager who is very conflict adverse. Who would it be easier to move me or her. Who would ultimately benefit to? Not sure how applicable it is to the LW, but your first paragraph really made think about that.

        1. Smithy*

          I tried with my first direct report. But I was new, I lacked confidence, I was a first time manager in a new job – I was what I was. I never intended to negatively impact her career or ambitions – but if she was less than impressed by the results, I don’t blame her.

    7. Yorick*

      The point is that the manager hasn’t really tried yet, and that men should get over themselves and treat women professionally, even if they’re attractive. This is in no way about second chances.

    8. learnedthehardway*

      I’m doing to disagree – the employee shouldn’t be moved. The manager should get over him/herself or resign if they can’t control their own behaviour.

      It’s supremely unfair to the employee to consider moving them, unless they are being promoted or given an opportunity that they have been striving. Otherwise, it’s more likely that the EMPLOYEE will be perceived as a problem that the manager is trying to get rid of. And even if they are promoted or given an opportunity – well, that’s unfair to other employees who didn’t get considered because they weren’t distractingly attractive.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        Not to mention that there may not be another opportunity that the employee is qualified for, they may not want to move, and they may not get treated any better with another manager.

      2. learnedthehardway*

        Not to mention that there may not be another opportunity that the employee is qualified for, they may not want to move, and they may not get treated any better with another manager.

  38. Theo*

    Man alive, I work with (granted, they’re my level) someone who I find UNSPEAKABLY handsome, in the “occasionally almost stumble over my words when speaking to them” category, and yet, I still manage to get my job done and treat them like every other colleague! We work closely together! We shared an OFFICE for three months! You teach your brain to file them under “colleague” extremely firmly, and get on with yourself.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      The more I get to know someone, knowing I can’t act on any attractions, the more it goes from “James Who is Nice-Looking” to “James Who is Good at Sales.” It just takes time.

  39. Sylvan*

    However, I also know it would be much better for that employee if they worked for someone else.


    The question is, how do I tell my manager that I’d prefer this employee be managed by one of our other team leaders?

    Oh, you’re thinking they’re the one that needs to be moved, not you?

    1. Sondheim Geek*

      Yeah, I was thinking if the OP truly feels they can’t manage this employee, then they should be the one to step down from their managerial duties and let someone else lead the team.

  40. mf*

    LW, could you help connect your employee to a mentor? If you’re worried that you’ll be unable to manage and coach your employee the same as you do others, that’s a problem you’ll need to work on.

    Until you get there, it would be nice for your employee to have a senior person they can lean on for advice and guidance.

  41. BubbleTea*

    Yes I was thinking this – over time, LW will discover things that are less attractive about their report, and it will become less of a problem.

    I’d caution heavily against talking about this to anyone, because for one thing, the more you focus on it, the bigger a deal it becomes in your head. You do NOT want to make this into a topic of discussion with your friends, and certainly not at work. Maybe with a therapist, as long as the focus is “how can I get over this and move onto being a good manager?”

    Set yourself specific work-related mantras for interactions with this person. So for instance, “This is my direct report, with whom I am meeting to talk about the teapot order numbers for the week” instead of “This is my direct report, who (attractiveness-related thought)”. Deliberately keep your focus in work. You are in control of your brain. People with a range of mental health conditions have learned to manage intrusive thoughts and impulses, it is possible to do.

    1. Cruciatus*

      I had the same thought as your first sentence. Maybe she writes READ ME on every email, or doesn’t properly flush the toilet, or any other number of things like that. And maybe just interacting with her as you do with other reports will help cement the idea she’s just a human being. Letter Writer will need to get over it and I think (hope) this is an issue they can get past (as icky as it feels upon first read).

  42. LDN Layabout*

    If someone’s very existence (not their behaviour, not their opinions, etc.) makes you uncomfortable, this is not just a ‘you problem’, this is a you problem to solve yourself .

    That doesn’t involve palming it off onto someone else. And it also includes interrogating your own behaviour to make sure you are treating this person like you would anyone else you manage.

    If you unwilling or unable to do that work? You shouldn’t be a manager.

    1. AllTheBirds*

      Agreed. LW needs to step back and realize it’s HIS problem to solve, without undue stress placed on the employee that HE can’t manage because HE can’t control his feelings.

      Get a grip, LW. You are the problem.

  43. Beth*

    OP, listen to Alison’s final point in particular. If you can’t figure out how to manage this on your end, without any impact to the employee, then you shouldn’t be a manager.

    I teach. College students, so they’re adults, but there’s still an intense power dynamic there that makes acting on any attraction I might feel towards my students totally inappropriate. So I don’t. Most of the time I don’t even notice them in that light, because they’re so not in my dating pool, despite not being that far off my age (I’m a grad student, so not THAT much older than them). Some of my colleagues and professors aren’t so diligent about their actions—we’ve all heard disgusting stories, I’m sure you know the type. For those teachers, this goes one of three ways: either they quit teaching (the best case, most respectable option if they find they really can’t handle being in this kind of position of power), or they get fired, or they SHOULD be fired but aren’t and end up being the kind of person we have whisper networks about.

    I know this probably sounds hyperbolic, to compare you to creeps like that. But being someone’s manager is similar in that you’re in a position of serious power over your team members. You need to decide whether you can shape up and handle it appropriately, or whether you’re going to gracefully bow out of that position of power and transition into a non-management role, or whether you’re going to be a creep about it. Those are your options; you have to choose who you’re going to be.

    1. Student Affairs Sally*

      1000x this. In my last role, I supervised a number of students, a couple of them seniors about to graduate that (in another setting and situation) I would have been very attracted to. In both cases I had a moment of thinking, “wow [this student] is quite handsome”, and then I put it out of my mind and focused on having a warm, appropriate professional relationship. It’s not that hard. I’ve also had other professional relationships with incredibly attractive people. My last PC doctor was GORGEOUS; I somehow managed to not flirt with him or in any way behave like I noticed that he was handsome. You can acknowledge “yes, this person is attractive” without letting it influence your behavior or treatment of that person.

  44. RCB*

    Sounds to me like the OP needs to find a new position, not the attractive coworker. If you are too distracted to treat someone with respect and are willing to potentially damage their career over it, then it’s you that needs to find a new team/company to work with.

    1. Sunflower*

      Regardless of where OP works, they will come across attractive people and have the work with them. This is something OP needs to work on, and getting a new job doesn’t fix the problem.

    2. practical solutions to your problems*

      Agree that in this scenario it makes more sense that OP needs to find a new position not the attractive coworker (who did nothing wrong, which writer knows and says).

  45. Chainsaw Bear*

    Unfortunately this behavior is already too entrenched in our work place, and this employee has no legal protection for this, so it’s REALLY on OP to step up and be their manager instead of acting like a 12 year old with a crush.

    In 2010, a dental assistant was fired after 10 years of work for being “too attractive” because the dentist’s wife felt threatened when her husband suddenly started hitting on the assistant. Iowa Supreme Court upheld the firing, claimed the assistant’s gender did not play a role in the firing.

  46. LKW*

    I’m glad the LW recognizes that the problem is inward. Nonetheless, LW, if I had a report who told me that they could not adequately manage someone because they were too attractive, I would absolutely question their ability to manage whatsoever. This woman is an employee first and that’s how you have to treat her.

    I can’t think of a circumstance under which not wanting to manage an employee because of their physical traits doesn’t reflect poorly on the manager.

  47. WellRed*

    I have some gorgeous friends. I’m not unaware of that, but they are also people and ultimately, I don’t really see that. They are just my friends who are also funny or smart or quiet or whatever. Familiarity may ultimately be your friend here, once you get to know this person. But you really can’t move her or otherwise take steps that put the burden on coworker. Please do some deep reflecting.

  48. Sunflower*

    Perhaps find a way to normalize her? Attractive people have negative qualities too. Bad personality, jealousy issues, they don’t work well with others, they have huge egos, etc.

    Also, the more you interact with attractive people, the more you see that they’re indeed normal people and nothing to be intimidated by.

    1. yala*

      I was thinking about this, but I worry that could backfire pretty horribly on the employee too, if he starts really looking for her negative qualities. (Nevermind that sometimes men swing hard in the opposite direction, sour-grapes wise. Not saying OP would, just that it’s a concern)

      1. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, maybe instead of looking for her negative qualities, OP can focus on her mundane qualities. Maybe she wakes up in the morning and packs a lunch like half the other employees. She goes grocery shopping and pays her bills and watches Netflix, just like a normal person.

    2. lemon meringue*

      As a manager, I think it would be best to stay really focused on the employee’s skills and training, professional goals, how she’s getting along with the team and other professional stuff.

        1. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

          No need to introduce anymore problematic thinking in this situation.

  49. Mandi*

    This…bothers me. A lot. Sorry, LW, but this tells me you don’t view this woman as whole human being. The sum of her humanity boils down to her looks, because you can’t move beyond that to see her intelligence, skills, potential…this is just gross. I don’t know how else to say it.

    1. Mandi*

      I just realized the OP doesn’t specify that the new hire is a woman. I apologize. My comments still apply – whatever gender the new hire is.

  50. BRR*

    I feel like we should at least give a tiny amount of credit for asking for advice because if people only get slammed for asking, they’ll just stop asking. Please note, I’m not defending the LW in any way, shape, or form.

    One thing is to seek professional help. A therapist I guess? I would welcome any other suggestions. But this is such a small amount of self control that I really hope you try and find help on this.

    If you are unable to manage effectively due to being so influenced by looks, I would start looking for a new job where you’re not managing others ASAP. In the meantime, I would try and figure out if there’s anything you can do in the meantime that would not only affect the new hire. Can you ask to transfer to another roll in your own company?

    1. Beth*

      If OP was here asking, “I know this is a problem, how can I manage my own attraction to keep it from impacting my employee?” I think they’d be getting a very different response.

      What they’ve actually asked is, “I know this is a problem, but can I make it my employee’s problem and not mine? Or should I do nothing and continue letting the problem exist?” It shouldn’t be surprising that people aren’t reacting so well to that.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        This. What made me (and, I think, a lot of other folks, judging from the comments we’re seeing) outraged wasn’t the “I’m super attracted to one of my direct reports and I dunno what to do about it.” That was human and understandable and I think it would have gotten a reasonable degree of sympathy if it hadn’t been accompanied by the follow-up of “Is there any way I can justify transferring her to a different department so I don’t have to manage her?” That’s not a fair thing to do; if he’s the one having feelings he’s the one — the ONLY one — who’s responsible for having his life yanked around in order to deal with those feelings. Yanking around the employee’s life instead; forcing her into a new team she didn’t choose to work with, on either no explanation or a lying one, and with either a vague explanation to the higher-ups or a lying one (either of which could impact the employee’s reputation by implication), is a really rotten thing to even be considering doing to somebody and it makes the LW come across as an entitled jerk who wants to ask how to prevent this woman’s attractiveness from inconveniencing *him*, rather than as a conscientious manager so wants to know how to prevent his own feelings from inconveniencing *her*. If he’d come across as the latter, we would be, in general, much gentler on him, I expect.

  51. yala*


    I just…whuf.

    Yes, please be professional and “hope this passes with time.” Maybe consider counseling? A good counselor can help you work past this and see your employee as an employee, without being phased by her being attractive.

  52. Sam*

    LW: therapy. ASAP.

    There’s no way that your feelings of being unable to cope with attractive women aren’t affecting you personally as well as professionally.

    Get yourself into the office of a registered therapist or psychologist as soon as possible, and be honest about this struggle and the fact that you wanted to make a woman’s career more difficult to accommodate your attraction.

    It is possible to grow and change and build a toolkit of coping techniques to tackle life headfirst. Avoidance can be helpful short-term but it’s incredibly destructive if it’s not replaced with a healthy coping mechanism.

    Help is available. You need it desperately. Please seek it out.

    1. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

      Avoidance can be helpful short-term but it’s incredibly destructive if it’s not replaced with a healthy coping mechanism.

      This is so true. Avoidance was my default setting for a loooong time, and it just made my life a million times harder than it had to be. I’m working on new coping skills in therapy – it’s a process, and I haven’t really mastered it yet, but it’s worth looking into, OP, so you can have healthy boundaries and thought processes.

  53. Kerri*

    Therapy LW. You need to get yourself into therapy immediately. This is not an appropriate reaction to this situation in any way and is making a woman responsible for your response to her. We’ve so conditioned boys from a young age that women are responsible for how they make them feel (look at the dress codes in a school). Therapy to begin dealing with these thoughts and feelings right away .

  54. Me*

    LW – get some therapy. Therapy exists to help us deal with problematic thoughts that interfere with our ability to function well in various areas of life.

    And in this case it would 100% be interfering with your ability to do your job.

    Start with your EAP if your company has one. If not then seek it out somewhere else.

    This is a you problem and you have to fix it yourself. If you can’t find a way to do so, then you need a new job – you don’t get to penalize the employee.

  55. D3*

    This is the end result of things like school dress codes that police what girl wear so it won’t distract the boys instead of expecting boys to be able to control themselves.
    Men, you’re responsible for what happens in your head. Don’t blame it on women, don’t expect women have to accommodate your comfort and definitely don’t expect her to bear the consequences of your lack of control.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      No, it’s not–it’s the end result of parents not raising kids to see people as people and not as sex objects. Schools can’t make up for what parents don’t reinforce at home.

      1. FiveWheels*

        I agree, but schools can and do enforce those toxic ideas, as does mass media, and girls and women also internalize and enforce them.

          1. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

            All of this stuff (i.e., schools, religion, parenting) contributes to the mentality in this letter. It’s a mess.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          But again: Parents of boys could push back on that. It shouldn’t always be on women to fix man-based problems.

      2. D3*

        Parents of boys are the ones pushing for the dress codes. It’s the formalization and acceptability of this mindset that makes it so pervasive and not just a few bad parents. It’s a SOCIETY WIDE problem, not just a few parents problem.
        Even parents who do not teach boys better end up passing on the mindset by allowing and making daughters conform to them.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          . . . that’s still bad parenting, though. Parents of boys could tell school dress codes to stuff it just as well as could parents of girls, even if the dress code doesn’t affect their sons.

      3. Anon for this*

        They can at least try, and creating a situation where women are judged based on appearance and treated like they are less than men because men can’t control themselves actively works to counteract any attempt at good parenting. My parents raised me to not let men treat me like an object… but I still didn’t even notice the sexist and otherwise stupid dress code rules (they literally punished the school’s group of anime fans when they all wore Naruto shirts to school “because the similar symbols mean you are a gang”) at my high school, and just thought that people needed to follow the rules because the rules exist.

      4. pancakes*

        We could go back and forth all day over this, but I think there’s a lot more to people’s character—or should be—than what they saw their parents doing or reinforcing. There are so many other people to learn from in the world besides one’s parents, and people with terrible parents aren’t doomed to resemble them.

      5. Autistic AF*

        I’m pretty sure that D3 wrote “things like” to include that, and religion, and a myriad of other systemic issues. This squabbling is bizarre.

      1. Crivens!*

        Let’s be real: women are generally taught to deal with their pantsfeelings like adults and not like it change how they treat other human beings.

        Men generally are not.

    2. Lee*

      I was once told I couldn’t wear my black “leggings” to work because it would be distracting to my mostly-male coworkers. (And by “leggings”, I mean these were actual work-appropriate black pants that just didn’t have back pockets – so they defined them as leggings). What was ironic was the fact that I had worn the very same pants in the interview for that job.

      That was just the tip of the iceberg, but the point is I quit a very short time later.

    3. PoppySeeds*

      This is not an “excellent point”. Nowhere in this letter is it indicated that she is dressing inappropriately. By suggesting this you again going back to this is something the employee needs to fix and that is very wrong.

      1. Crivens!*

        I don’t think that’s being implied by D3’s comment. Most school dress codes aren’t dealing with inappropriate dress either. They’re judging things as “inappropriate” based on sexist assumptions.

      2. Koalafied*

        D3 is speaking to the larger social phenomenon that underlies school dress codes: The assumption that men can’t control their reaction to attractive women. They absolutely can, but throughout their life they receive messages saying they aren’t responsible for how they treat attractive women, which leads to a learned helplessness and teaches them they don’t even need to try to control themselves. They can just shrug and say “it’s beyond me to behave appropriately” and move the employee to another team.

      3. D3*

        I did not at all imply the object of desire was dressing inappropriately. I was talking about where society *places blame* for distraction.

    4. Observer*

      This is the end result of things like school dress codes that police what girl wear so it won’t distract the boys instead of expecting boys to be able to control themselves.

      I disagree. The OP is explicit that it’s not the employee’s fault. They want to move S NOt because S has done something wrong but because the **OP**, by his own admission, can not or will not deal with it.

      To the extent this is an educational failure, it comes from a culture where we make too many excuses for kids. I am NOT talking about reasonable accommodations. But I think most of us are familiar with the kind of situation where a parent “explains” that little Chris could not POSSIBLY be expected to do their own homework because it’s snowing outside and Chris wanted to play in the snow or other similarly ridiculous situations.

  56. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP, there’s a logical leap you make in the first paragraph that I’m not following. “Distracting” isn’t a specific enough description.

    S is attractive.
    Therefore, I will be uncomfortable and ineffective managing S.

    Why? Are you intimidated by S, and therefore will be afraid to provide advice and criticism? Or are you infatuated by S, etc?

    Figuring out for yourself why you think you’d make a bad manager will help you figure out how not to BE a bad manager.

    1. Purple Cat*

      + 1,0000
      What exactly does the OP think they won’t be able to do?
      Specifically identify the “problems” and fix them piece by piece.

      1. Robin Ellacott*

        That was my thought too. I didn’t understand what the fear was, beyond feeling awkward.

  57. Crivens!*

    LW, frankly:

    If you can’t learn to deal manage all kinds of people, including ones you find attractive, YOU’RE the one who needs to move teams or quit until you can learn to function like an adult.

  58. Bernice Clifton*

    Is this really the first time the LW has been around someone he found very attractive where there was no way he could act on it?

    1. ChachiGambino*

      Seriously. You know how many attractive people the rest of us humans all work with every day and are just fine?

      Just the other day my husband confessed a huge crush on a woman in his office. He even kissed her! Then again, he works from home. ;P

      1. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

        Until I got to your last line, I was about to say, “Wow! You have a very open relationship!” Lol.

    2. Allonge*

      This. LW, what if this person was a peer, or your manager? I think it’s good that you think of the position of authority you are in compared to her, but what if it would be sombody you cannot ‘just’ move somewhere else?

    3. EnfysNest*

      Even just the phrase “act on it” feels pretty icky to me. Act on seeing an attractive person? What does that mean? If they were total strangers that didn’t work together, what would LW be doing when they saw this person?

      Assuming it just means asking them out, then LW should just pretend like they did that and they said they weren’t interested. That’s it. Like, the work issue isn’t the only barrier between the LW and this person they find attractive. There’s also the other person’s interest in dating in general right now and whether or not they would be interested in dating the LW specifically and whether they mesh with each others’ personalities and a million other things.

      So, LW, consider how you would treat this person if you had met previously as strangers, you asked them out, they declined to date you (for whatever reason or even no reason at all because people don’t need a reason to not be romantically interested in someone else), and then they ended up later getting hired onto your team. At that point you had already “acted on” your attraction (still assuming they mean just asking them out) and it went nowhere – how do you treat them from that point on? Just like a normal person, right*? So that’s how you need to treat them now.

      (*Of course, if the answer to that would be that you’d actually be sulky and petty around them because you didn’t get to date them, that’s even more of a problem, but I’m going to give the benefit of the doubt and *hope* that wouldn’t be your response.)

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        Well, the answer to that might legitimately — in the social situation — be that he chose to avoid being around her as much as was feasible for a while, till his feelings calmed down. And that’s not a terrible way to react to being turned down in a totally social context but isn’t appropriate for someone at work whom you have to manage.

  59. Lora*

    OP, I am going to try to make some constructive comments here, but the bottom line is that THIS is what management training is for, and why we say it’s a Different Skill Set than technical stuff. If your company does not offer management training, please seek it out on LinkedIn or university extension classes or wherever you can find some.

    Set up a basic rubric for how you will manage people. Basically, develop a set of SOPs for yourself: minimum 1:1 meetings, meeting agenda templates with space to scribble notes in the margins, what will each employee be working on and a general timeline for them getting it done. In particular, figure out ahead of time at the start of a project how they will be scored on those assignments/tasks, what outputs you are looking for (reports, tickets closed, whatever) that is objective and has nothing to do with looks or anything else. There’s all kinds of systems you can use for this, whether that is numerical scores, a red/yellow/green system that flags issues or action items, however you want to do that. Myself I like to use numerical scoring where there is some % for tasks completed, some % for on-time delivery, some % for 360 degree feedback, but you figure out what works for you. This system should also be transparent (at least between you and your individual report, obviously other employees don’t get to see directly what their colleagues’ ratings are), so people know what you are looking for and what they will be accountable for and what they should work on.

    Also set up a system for how you will communicate the company’s goals and how you interpret them in the context of your work. You need to state frequently and clearly that you are doing X because Company wants X because of Money. This needs to be extremely clear and reinforced via different methods of communication: Company is starting Initiative because Money, and Department’s role in Initiative is to do XYZ. You, Employee, shall be doing the Y part of XYZ, and here is my expectation for Y. It is Priority # 5 in your task list henceforth and I would like an update by Friday, or whatever, you need to figure that out. Set up a system for allocating projects fairly, whether that is capacity-based or via random number generator or based on what people said in their Development Plan earlier that year or what. Opportunities for plum projects and visibility need to be distributed in a way that is not based on appearance or who you’re buddies with or other characteristics. Use a dartboard, a roulette wheel, whatever.

    When hiring, you should be figuring out what a job pays ahead of time, also with a rubric for how much different skills or certificates are worth to you. It helps if you have previous budget year numbers to look at to determine which skills are worth what – maybe Joe Schmo had a certificate in Unusual Programming Language but you never use that programming language so it’s not actually that valuable, but Mary Smith has done a lot of conflict resolution and you spent $40,000 last year on various team building consultants to resolve interpersonal conflicts. Make sure that when you are offering a salary, it’s really based on what those skills are worth to you. It may help to have a system in place to remove names and other identifying information from resumes and cover letters.

    These things protect you as much as they help create equity for other employees – if you’re accused of unfairness, you have a rubric that you apply to everyone. It also helps you see what people are really worth and who is costing you more than they bring to the table. This builds morale for the group in general, because one of the more frustrating things in ANY group is for people who bring a lot of value to the company in terms of actual revenues and savings, be ignored for the boss’ buddy who doesn’t do crap. You wouldn’t want to play favorites no matter what people look like, right? So even if you only think of it as covering your butt, do that.

    1. Smithy*

      I do think that a lot for managers who start perhaps with only one direct report, or working on a tight team with a lot of collaboration can easily move forward without tighter 1 on 1 meeting templates. Or when your larger KPI’s are more concrete – such as bring in as much money as possible – goal/KPI setting can get lax. But whether it’s a moment like this, or a moment when you’re managing one person you click with personally and another who you don’t – this is why these kinds of tools are so important.

  60. ChachiGambino*

    This reminds me a lot of the LW who treated an employee unfairly because the employee was so attractive that the LW’s own insecurities and mental health issues were activated by it. It cost that LW their job, their network, and if I’m not mistaken, they had to move back to their parents’ house?

    Allison’s right on the money with this one. Maybe don’t manage people, OP?

    1. Observer*

      Yes, I was thinking of that one, too. Yes, she burned a LOT of bridges. It cost her all that and her career.

      OP, what you are proposing is a problem. But it also has the potential to make a mess of your life, too. Get a handle on this sooner rather than later.

  61. Anonymous for this*

    I would like to point out there is a phenomenon called limerence. I read a book about it maybe 30 years ago. It is largely involuntary and hard to deal with. Alison noted that this letter seems to be off-the-cuff. I got the impression the letter writer has been confronted with feelings that are new to them and just reached out for some help. I think Alison’s response was very good. She pointed out the impact of the employee and advised the LW to try and that is the least they can do.

  62. Myrin*

    First of all, OP, good on you for recognising that this is a problem and writing in to someone who deals with unusual situations in the work place all the time – that recognition is, in my modest opinion, a very good and important first step.

    Second of all, I find myself wondering how long you’ve been a manager/how much experience you have managing others. I’m not only wondering that because it would appear to me that long-term managers have attractive direct reporters at least semi-regularly (and, as such, get used to it) but rather because you sound somewhat out of your depth and like you know in theory how you should do this whole managing professionally thing but not really how to implement it in practice. If I’m correct that you’re a relatively new manager, let me say first that very generally, I can almost guarantee you that over time, you will get used to dealing with handsome people under you. It seems kind of weird to me to write this because, again, in theory, this shouldn’t be all that different from just dealing with an attractive person as a coworker or someone else in a professional capacity, but I realise that we can sometimes make up weird hurdles when it comes to people who actually report to us and thus make it needlessly complicated, but I assure you, on a human level, this is really no different from interacting with any other good-looking person.

    IF this is a general problem for you and you’ve found that you simply can’t interact normally with people you find attractive, period, that’s a whole different kettle of fish and probably beyond what a work advice columnist can help you with, but for the purpose of this question and because of how you asked, I’m going to assume that that’s not the case and that it’s simply the work relationship and hierarchy that is stumping you.

    Thirdly, I really want to lean into the beginning of Alison’s answer. And you even say it yourself right there at the end of your letter! Yes, you should indeed say nothing, be professional, and hope the feeling passes with time because that really is the most likely thing to happen! From you whole letter, I’m getting the feeling that you desperately want to do everything right but don’t know how and in so doing, you’re not quite seeing the simplest thing – that you’ll just have to get used to this employee’s attractiveness and if you’re scrupulous enough about it, your distraction will almost certainly fizzle out the more you get to know about them.

    Like Alison, what I’m seeing is that you haven’t started the coaching and one-on-ones and whatever else you usually do with reports yet. That signals to me that beyond this person’s looks, you don’t yet know anything about them – you didn’t write in saying that this new employee is so competent and fun and awesome that they blew your socks right off and you’re finding yourself falling uncontrollably in love with them. I would really urge you to try and learn more about their personality first and foremost – who knows, maybe they’re completely atrocious and any attraction you’re feeling right now is going to wither immediately once you’ve had your first one-on-one with them! Certainly the more we get to know others, the less we’re going to focus on their looks because that ceases to be the only thing we know about them and instead we can fill out our mental mapping of a person with their quirks and behavious and whatnot.

    So really, like Alison says, hold yourself to a higher standard! Be as scrupulously professional as you can and in so doing, give yourself and your new hire a chance! Don’t throw your hands up immediately but try to work this out inside of yourself at first. I hope you’ll be able to take Alison’s advice to heart and follow it because every other way lies madness (and not the way of a professional manager).

    1. Bostonian*

      Certainly the more we get to know others, the less we’re going to focus on their looks because that ceases to be the only thing we know about them and instead we can fill out our mental mapping of a person with their quirks and behavious and whatnot.

      This is a really good point. As Alison notes, this person hasn’t even tried yet!

      Random side note: I was scrolling through the comments from the bottom up, and before I got to the username, I saw the length of your comment and thought, “Is this Myrin?” LOL. Please take that as a compliment; I always find your comments to be very thoughtful and comprehensive.

      1. Myrin*

        Oh my goodness! /o\
        I always try to be less verbose, I swear I do, and when I look at my comments in their little comment box, they never look particularly long, and then I click “submit” and there’s just this monster of a text, ack!
        But really, thanks for your kind words – over the years, I’ve had quite a few commenters whose comments always struck me as thoughtful and compassionate and it makes me happy that my own comments can provide the same for some people.

  63. Veryanon*

    Not only does the OP need to work through this in a professional way, but he (I’m assuming OP is a man) also needs to be aware that acting in a way that may negatively impact the employee’s job because of his attraction to her could be considered gender-based discrimination. At least in the U.S., the employee may have a decent basis for a lawsuit. But threats of a lawsuit aside, the OP really needs to figure out how to deal with the employee professionally. It’s not her fault that he finds her attractive.

  64. Sled Dog Mama*

    I once worked with a co-worker who I found distractingly physically attractive, like to the point I would forget what I was saying if I made eye contact. What finally helped was getting to know him and realizing that although I found him physically attractive he was kind of a jerk and totally someone I was not even interested in being platonic friends with.
    A manager being uncomfortable sometimes seems like part of management to me.

    1. Cat Tree*

      This was discussed upthread, but I’m not fully on board with the idea of intentionally finding things to dislike about her. It’s still a good idea to get to know her better as a person, but probably better to focus on the mundane things instead of outright negative things.

      1. knitcrazybooknut*

        I don’t think that’s what Sled Dog Mama was saying. She said that getting to know him was enough. I’ve had that experience myself, where I met someone who was breathtakingly gorgeous, but the minute they started talking, I lost all interest. You don’t have to search for and concentrate on things to dislike about someone; sometimes their attractiveness is outweighed by other pieces of their identity. It doesn’t mean you’re digging or just plain hating on someone. You’re just learning more about them, and as a consequence, their attractiveness adjusts. This cuts both ways.

  65. Bostonian*

    What about the next person you’re uncomfortable with — whether it’s because they’re super attractive or uncomfortably disfigured or much older than you or much younger than you or a different socioeconomic class or they remind you of an ex or have a grating voice?

    I think this is a really important part of the advice. Managing someone we might not want to is part of the territory with being a manager. It’s part of the job requirement to be as equitable as possible with all direct reports.

  66. Fed-o*

    LW, I think you can control this more than you think you can. Think of all the times you’ve encountered a really attractive person in other parts of life: the super hot server at a restaurant who is just doing their job, your best friend’s attractive partner, the dreamy doctor looking at that weird rash of yours, etc. You can train yourself to to treat them as the person they are in the workplace. You have to, really, if you are going to be a manager (or a coworker! coworkers can cross this line too.)

    If you are committed to doing the right thing here:

    Habits are made by consistently doing something consciously until it becomes ingrained. I suggest trying this internal thought process: “This is Chris(tina) and they need me to show them how to paint llamas on chocolate teapots. I need to show them, have them try it while I mentor, and then give them a check-in time to show me their first attempts at independent work. I need to check if they have questions, listen to their answer, and give them the info they need.” Make an actual checklist if you need to. And then do that. And with the next thing, lay out your internal to-do list and do that. If they pop into your office unexpectedly to ask a question, your to-do list is simple: “Listen. Answer. Ask if they need clarification.” Have that to-do list queued up in your brain and to be clear: it should be the same process you follow for everyone, you just might have to itemize it for your brain to stay focused. And like all other things, if you do it enough it will likely become a habit.

    1. Observer*

      Think of all the times you’ve encountered a really attractive person in other parts of life: the super hot server at a restaurant who is just doing their job,

      That’s actually the other piece that worries me a bit. How DOES the op deal with situations like this? How many time have we read about wait staff, etc. who get hit on and who feel like they can’t push back?

    2. Beth*

      Obviously I don’t know the LW, so this isn’t specific to him, but…well, there are a surprising number of men out there who have legitimately never found a way to deal with encountering an attractive person that isn’t “be creepy at the woman in question.” They’re creepy at waitresses and assume the professional politeness they get back is flirting. They’re creepy at women on the street and then call them ‘bitches’ when the women don’t smile at their catcalls. They hit on their friends’ girlfriends and then act persecuted when their friends don’t want to hang out with them anymore. And they’re creepy at women at work and then act all confused when HR gets called in. If they’re called on any of it, they’ll say they were just being honest, it was just a compliment, why are you being such a bitch, all men think like this, why are you so anti-man, reverse sexism, etc.

      OP might not be at the worst end of that spectrum, but it does sound to me like maybe he’s legit never considered the possibility of controlling his behavior around attractive people, and legit hasn’t thought through the impact that has on the women around him. If I’m wrong and this is a momentary lapse, I hope the comments here wake him up a bit. If I’m right, he really needs to step back from managing until he gets good at this and can consistently trust himself to act professionally no matter who he’s around.

  67. Karak*

    Honestly I do feel a bit for OP. We don’t always get to decide who knocks us off our feet, and a surprise crush and attraction can throw someone off their game. OP recognizes there’s a problem, owns that they are the problem, and wants solutions that are fair to the employee while dealing with their own baggage.

    A problem like this must be faced head-on, it cannot be avoided. We often want to ignore problems that are rooted in our own issues (like attraction), because they make us feel ashamed.

    OP, I believe attraction and jealousy are feelings that ease when you admit you feel them, then recontextualize them. You need to view your employee like a landscape or a painting “wow, that’s pleasant to look at! That’s nice” and move on. Move your thoughts to your employee’s choices agency. “She’s so pretty” should be “my employee has great taste in clothes! My employee really cares about her hair! My employee has worked very hard on her social skills! Good for her!”

    It FEELS overwhelming, but don’t make this into “forbidden fruit”. Laugh it off as something awkward, put on a professional face, and hopefully as you get to know her, everything will sort of go away.

    And, most important: DO NOT COMPLIMENT HER MORE THAN ANYONE ELSE OUTSIDE YOUR HEAD. Do not comment on her body under any circumstances! Do not tell her coworkers about this! We do not want to make her uncomfortable!

    1. Observer*

      OP recognizes there’s a problem, owns that they are the problem, and wants solutions that are fair to the employee while dealing with their own baggage.

      Well the part I bolded is partly the issue. The OP doesn’t seem to recognize that what he is suggesting is fundamentally unfair, and doesn’t seem all the concerned about it. Sure, it’s better for the employee to be managed by someone who won’t hit on them and who won’t spend all of the 1-on-1 time slobbering. But jumping to transferring the employee does not indicate any concern of fairness to the employee.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        From what I can tell, LW is genuinely hoping to find a solution which is simultaneously fair to the employee and convenient/not emotionally awkward or difficult for LW.

        The problem is, I don’t think any such solution exists. And when it doesn’t, they absolutely have to be the one to accept a certain amount of discomfort so that their employee doesn’t have to deal with *their* discomfort. They’re not appearing to accept that part so well yet. I hope they will after reading through these comments.

  68. Huge Tracts of Land*

    If you think you can’t handle coaching or 1:1 training with her, then maybe re-examine how you’re coaching or doing 1:1s with your other employees. Are these sessions always done over drinks? Are they really informal and possibly boundary-crossing (discussion of love life instead of just hobbies, goals, etc.)? Maybe you need to make things a little more formal across the board to help with this situation and future ones. Try planning for your meetings with hot employees- know what you’ll say and what time you’ll use in advance so that you don’t go off the rails or give her preferential answers. Other than that, though, I have to echo that going with your gut reaction (moving her without trying anything else first!) is a really unfair and immature move for anyone trying to be a manager.

    1. Bostonian*

      I was also wondering what that part of the letter meant. I was picturing some coaching/training that involved physical aspects or otherwise having to be close together (showing how to operate machinery, perform some medical task or lab procedure).

      But you brought up some other good possibilities, too! And, it’s generally good advice for the OP to make sure they are formal/professional with all employees to help reduce any potential for boundary crossing with the new employee.

  69. Darrell*

    Reading some of the comments my take away is that if someone knows that they are wrong, sincerely trying to correct themselves, and seeks help (as we are increasingly taught to do)

    We should 1) take a giant dump on them and 2) remind the person that they are irredeemable.

    How enlightened.

    I for one encourage more people to stand up and say, please help me, I need work.

    1. D3*

      The question was not “how do I manage this in my own head and not make things harder for my employee?” The question was “I can’t control myself! Should I push my employee away because I just CAAAAAAAN’T handle it in my own head?”
      So it’s not surprising that the response it “It’s your problem to manage in yourself, don’t make your employee pay the price!”
      I think if the question was about how to handle it within themselves, the response would have been very different. But in thinking the right answer was making the employee move away, it struck a nerve with people tired of paying the price for men’s lack of control of their emotions.

    2. Hen in a Windstorm*

      This comment is so odd – you seem to think you’re placing yourself on a hill with a shining shield or something – *I* encourage people, not like *you* other commenters. You’re actually doing the thing you’re accusing others of doing.

      Valid criticism isn’t “taking a dump” on someone. I haven’t seen any comments saying the OP is irredeemable – maybe not able to be a manager, but that doesn’t mean he is a bad person. He isn’t being told not to say he needs help, he’s being told to go farther and question his assumptions. Most people are also suggesting therapy, which I think I would recommend to you also. You’re reading a lot of stuff into the comments that isn’t there.

    3. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

      Being honest about a situation and the myriad of ways it is damaging to the employee is not “take(ing) a giant dump on them” or saying they are “irredeemable”. It’s pointing out things the OP clearly hasn’t thought about.

      It sounds like the lack of emotional labour for the OP is what you have an issue with.

    4. Cat Tree*

      There are tons of comments here with specific, actionable advice. Did you somehow miss all those? Or are you pressed that we aren’t delivering the good advice in the most polite generous way possible while patting OP’s back for being awesome?

  70. James*

    This is why we can’t have nice things. I’d much rather live in a world where people put some effort into looking nice than one where people are afraid they’ll be treated badly because they look too nice, but unfortunately many believe they must dress frumpy to protect themselves. (I’m a straight male, but have had a few crushes on men.)

    I’ve worked with and have managed some very attractive people. Here’s my take:

    First, good on you for identifying that this is a problem. Even better that you’ve identified it as your problem. However, the solutions you offer make it the employee’s problem. Unexpected employment changes–even shuffling between departments–can be very stressful, even assuming IT and HR don’t screw up (a HUGE assumption in my experience–I moved from the West to the Gulf Coast six years ago and IT still thinks I’m in CA, for example!). You can’t do that to the employee. It’s your problem, the solution should be on you.

    One of the things I’ve seen mentioned in this blog is that you can’t regulate ideas, only behaviors. That works first-person as well. With practice you can regulate your ideas, but at least at first the point is to have enough self-control to not treat the attractive employee any differently from anyone else. Self-control is a job requirement. You can’t punch people who annoy you, you must do annoying paperwork, and you can’t mistreat those working under you.

    In my experience, as you get to know someone the attraction changes. It doesn’t always fade, but it alters. Right now you’re interacting with the person based on two facts: 1) they are your employee, and 2) they are incredibly attractive. This gives #2 more weight than it deserves (I’m not stupid enough to say it should be zero, we’re humans not robots, but it should be really low-ranking here). Once you learn that this person leaves dirty dishes in the breakroom sink, or is really good at QC checks on outgoing reports, or struggles to get their expense reports in on time–once you start interacting with this person on a professional basis–this will change. I’ve seen it in myself. I’ve seen myself go from thinking “Wow, X is really hot” to thinking “Wow, X is really good at doing documentation” or “Wow, X is really bad at data analysis, I should have Y mentor them on it”. You start thinking of the person as a worker who also happens to look nice, rather than as an attractive person who also happens to work for you. The attractiveness is a bonus, not the focus. I’ve also worked with some remarkably ugly people, and it works the same way, only in reverse.

    Should physical appearance matter? No. But again, we’re humans, not robots, so it’s a factor. The goal is to mitigate this factor, not eliminate it. Striving for perfection really amounts to giving yourself permission to act like on your worst impulses–think of the drunk who says “I’ve already screwed up and had one beer, may as well screw up”. By admitting it’s part of how you view the person you can be more effective. A single instance of, say, offering more help than you normally would isn’t a failure, it just means that you need to recalibrate a bit.

    If you really, truly cannot handle this, as others have said, this is a failure as a manager. Your JOB is to dissociate your personal views from how you treat your employees. It’s not necessarily bad to fail as a manager–it’s not a job everyone is cut out for! But the reason isn’t great here. When something like this becomes such a major issue that it interferes with your job, it’s time to visit a psychologist. I don’t say that as an attack. It’s a psychological issue that’s interfering with your quality of life, so you should try to correct it–just as you would a medical issue that was interfering with your quality of life. Or, perhaps it’s more akin to clothing–if your wardrobe was costing you promotions, you’d change it, right? Similarly, if an attitude is negatively affecting you professionally, you want to change it. Unfortunately most of us are not well-versed in psychological health, so a professional is the best option.

  71. Observer*

    It really doesn’t matter what the genders involved are. The manager’s unwillingness/inability to work with someone they find attractive is managerial failure even if they’re both slime molds.

    I said much the same thing. But I think that this cannot be emphasized enough.

    Manager is wrong, and needs to find a way to deal.

  72. My dress was not the problem.*

    This letter gave me such a ‘woosh’ of memory. When I was new to the workforce, I had a summer boss tell my coworkers that he couldn’t call me into his office because [insert gross language here], like my human body parts were some sort of Attractive Nuisance and I was liable (I may have messed up that law analogy, but it seems right?).
    I knew it was a “him problem”, and I treated him accordingly, doing my best never to be alone with him, and I left soon after. But not before I would question the hem length or snugness of everything I wore to work. And ya’ll, I had a closet full of the cutest, carefully collected thriftstore frocks! That dude made me question if me wearing things I loved was worth the risk of him having gross thoughts he’d share with my coworkers, or worse, me. Or worse …. well, worse.
    LW, I’m guessing if you’ve read through all of these responses you’re starting to know better. And when you know better, you do better. So please, do better.

  73. awesome3*

    If you’re worried that you won’t treat everyone fairly, I think it’s a good time to reflect on your actions with all of your employees, how long are your meetings or coaching sessions? What sort of things do you help them with? That sort of assessment could be really valuable anytime, but I think assessing your style as a manger is especially important now, and can help you have a baseline for your “normal” so you can make sure your biases aren’t influencing your work or harming any of your employees.

    I also would encourage you to think back to other times in your life you have known attractive people and been able to get on with business, so you can prepare yourself to behave appropriately this time too.

    Alison’s firm approach here is warranted, and I hope you are able to take that advice and use it.

  74. Rachael*

    OP, I am someone who was born conventionally attractive and I have been on the end of trying to work with a male or female who obviously is having issues concentrating because they are attracted to me. I want to let you know that it is normal to be attracted to someone who is attractive. You don’t need to beat yourself up for that. However, you are responsible for your actions. As someone who has experienced it, it is not fair to me that I do not get the same treatment as other colleagues. When someone is struggling with talking to me they are not giving me the same opportunities as others. Meaning….either I’m the “teacher’s pet” and getting preferential treatment and others notice, or the person goes the opposite way and is challenging to work with because they don’t want to make it seem like they are attracted to me. My advice is to really sit down and think about how to approach this employee so you don’t fall into the pitfalls that I experienced. They need to be treated just like everyone else and get the opportunities for professional growth that is available to everyone else who has a boss that can c0ncentrate when they are in a room alone.

  75. LBugging*

    There are times when we say that IMPACT matters more than INTENT when it comes to unconscious bias.

    This behavior is exactly what I would expect from an incel/“nice guy” who is befuddled because he can’t be bitter about the woman turning him down as it’s 100% his responsibility not to act on his feelings. And he doesn’t know how to do that so he makes it her problem.

    He probably thinks everyone is like him and he should get points for honesty.


    And yes, this whole post presumes the employee presents as female, if that’s not true I’m out of line.

  76. Adereterial*

    I once had a deputy who was really attractive (probably still is, to be fair). He was in post when I took the role so I didn’t have any control over who became my deputy – he was it. Fortunately he was really good at the job.

    Yes, I felt awkward at first, but I’m an adult and you just get on with it as adults, don’t you? After a while it just became routine, and as I got to know him more personally I learned something about him I really didn’t like and that was the end of that attraction (nothing bad, just something I don’t like in a person). I don’t think he ever noticed anything was amiss, or if he did, he did what I did and kept it professional.

    If you honestly can’t work through your own discomfort for a few weeks, that’s a pretty big problem, and I’d suggest getting some external help.

  77. Purple Cat*

    Well, I have to give kudos to OP for actually writing in.
    Hopefully they see the response before following-through on their initial impulse to have this employee moved.
    The most critical question(s) they need to ask themselves is:
    WHAT exactly do they think they *can’t* do for this employee? and then
    HOW are they going to work on THEMSELVES to change it.

    If they believe that they would never “do or say anything unprofessional” then that means they will only act professionally, in which case there is no issue.
    Focus on the WORK, because that’s the only thing that matters.

  78. King Christina*

    I suspect it was unintentional or subconscious, but the choice of the letter writer to not gender his employee does strike me in a certain way. It deflects us from being able to have a full conversation about misogyny at work.

  79. TyphoidMary ( username seems in bad taste now)*

    this reads like OP is subconsciously hoping to have a shot dating the employee, and by getting the employee with another supervisor removes conflict of interest.

    OP, that probably sounds like I’m being terribly ungracious, and I’m glad you recognize the problem is on your end, but transferring her actually just absolves you from actually having to do the personal work required here.

  80. Anya*

    This perspective is a very self-centric way of approaching management. This new hire is a person with skills who functions without your team – that is who they are to you at the most basic level. The fact that her appearance seems to be the entirety of who she is to the writer means that he bases his understanding of his team members on how they make him feel, not on who they actually are. The rest of his team is not attractive to him, so they are inherently manageable. This person makes him horny, so she is inherently unmanageable. It’s just a completely backwards way to not only approach management, but to approach basic human interaction!

    1. Cat Tree*

      Yes, extremely objectifying! There’s not much mention of her skills or why she was hired to the team in the first place. This is a textbook example of objectification.

  81. Anne Elliot*

    My issue here is that the LW has limited himself to identifying a problem without setting the expectation that he himself needs to solve it. Instead, he just throws up his hands, as if his choices really are limited to “reassign the employee” (for what reason? Excessive hotness?) or “hope that it passes.”

    To me, LW needs to work on his own issues in a way that is not to the potential detriment or embarrassment of his employee. Is the employee distracting to look at? Concentrate on what she is saying; set yourself a task that will require you to engage your attention elsewhere, like taking very good, thorough notes during the meeting. Write down her concerns or the salient points she is raising, so that you don’t loose track of them and can circle back and address them.

    Prepare for your meetings with an agenda that you can walk through. Practice short, professional interactions with her that will allow you, over time to get used to her amazing attractiveness and enable you to better handle longer meetings. In other words, acknowledge that this is a YOU problem and YOU need to fix it — not just throw up your hands as if you are not in charge of your own emotional reactions. You need to get a grip here, and so to me the next step is for the LW to ask himself how he can do that, and then do the work to accomplish it. The “I’m helpless here!” subtext is what I’m not buying, and what I think LW himself should absolutely reject.

    1. Anne Elliot*

      And to add a last point: What would you do if the nature of the distraction related to the employee’s appearance was not her attractiveness but rather a disfigurement and a condition that made it uncomfortable for you to look at her or interact with her because she was in your mind very UNattractive? Would it then be okay to either reassign her because it’s hard for your to deal with her, or just “hope that it passes”? Or would you have more expectation that the problem is with you, not with how she looks (which she has no control over)?

      Whatever you would do to ensure your own professionalism regarding a person with a disfiguring condition — you can do those same things here. Take your own personal focus off her appearance; distract yourself with other tasks (like note-taking); and use brief interactions, increasing in length, to get yourself accustomed to the situation.

  82. VeryAnon*

    Let’s see- here are things I have heard in my career – “someone so beautiful shouldn’t have to work so hard.”
    “I bet you’re fun out of the office.”
    “My wife better never get a look at you, she will be so jealous.”
    “I think someone should go with us for this lunch meeting, we don’t want people to get the wrong idea.”
    “you must have slept you’re way into this job.”

    F all of that. If you don’t think those things negatively impact a woman’s career, then you live in a fantasy world. Check your bias, check your male privilege, and finally stop making this about you. Treat other people as humans.

  83. HR Ninja*

    I am sincerely curious as to what kind of advice the letter writer was expecting/hoping for. That he/she would be justified in moving the employee due to their attractiveness??

    1. Cat Tree*

      I think that many people who write into advice columns in general are looking for validation more than direct actionable advice. And many times that’s OK. But in this case hopefully OP will not feel validated.

    2. James*

      I doubt the LW knows. The LW seems pretty stuck inside their head, to be honest, and going around in circles instead of thinking clearly. I’ve had thoughts like this. I’ve found that writing a letter helps to see how disorganized those thoughts are (though in my case I’ve not SENT the letters; it was a personal exercise). Sometimes you need to just get a thought outside of your head, before it eats you alive. They can become almost a living thing, and a very hostile one. Writing the thought down is a way to distance yourself from it, and to gain back some control.

      And sometimes getting told “No, you’re being a flipping moron” is what the person needs. Some people need that public shame and scorn to drive them to do something they know is right. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s a HUMAN thing, one that’s built into every culture in history.

      That’s why I’m fairly sympathetic towards the LW. I think they are wrong, but I’ve been in situations where I knew the right thing to do, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it (not due to an employee being extremely attractive, it was something else in my case). It’s rough.

  84. lunchtime caller*

    I completely understand why people are having a bad gut reaction to this, but I’m actually reminded of the woman who treated her reporting employee (or wtv) poorly because the other woman’s good looks triggered her eating disorder. Not saying that’s at all what is happening here, just that the immediate focus to “it’s because they’re so BEAUTIFUL” can overwhelm a lot of different things that may actually be happening in the background. For me I read this situation as the OP immediately panicked and jumped to the nuclear option–which is definitely something that can come from inexperience, from not managed one’s own personal anxiety well, not having a trusted person to bounce immediate reactions off of, etc. The good-looking employee is just how this burst out here, but it could have just as easily happened on any other roadblock they encountered if my read on their inexperience is correct. Or perhaps they’re just going through a lot in their own personal life, so this hit a hot button for their panic?

    Anyway, regardless of the reason, I’m glad OP came here for advice and the biggest thing I would suggest outside of this specific issue is to DEFINITELY build “taking time, a deep breath, and getting advice” into your decision making process in general, because “I don’t like this, please remove it from the earth ASAP” is gonna hamstring you as a first reaction no matter what the issue is. Good luck, OP!

  85. Sparkles McFadden*

    LW, you have to face this head on. This is a *you* thing and you need to figure out how to avoid punishing your new subordinate for *your* issue.

    Start with this thought: Would you be thinking about asking to have the new hire moved if the person had a large birthmark on her face, or a big goiter or a prosthetic limb? Could you see yourself saying “Yeah, that big scar across her face is too distracting”? I hope not!

    You are not seeing the new hire as an person You are just focusing on external appearance. You need to focus on the new hire’s skills. What will this person bring to the team? What skills might this person need to acquire? How can you help this person along career-wise? This is your job and this needs to be your focus. Think about how your actions would affect the new hire. Think about how you would feel if your own manager just shifted you elsewhere without telling you anything about why. How would that change people’s perception of you? How would that affect your career? How would that affect your confidence? Think about how your treatment of the new hire reflects on you.

    Finally, I think it would be a good idea to take a good hard look at how you are treating your current direct reports and coworkers. Are you doing something similar to someone already there? This is an opportunity to check yourself and improve.

  86. No Longer A Manager*

    I have had a crush on a direct report before, and it really was a difficult thing. Not in the sense of “oh woe is me for I cannot control myself! How dare this person have the temerity to be female in my presence!” But I was hyperaware of all my interactions with her and the rest of my reports to ensure that I didn’t let any unconscious bias leak in, that I neither ignored nor overcorrected her work issues, etc. Combined with me berating my own brain for serving up these intrusive thoughts and it added a good chunk of (self-inflicted) stress to an already stressful job. So I kind of understand where LW is coming from, though this is obviously not the right reaction.

    LW, in case this helps any, in my case this resolved after I stopped treating the crush as a Bad Wrong Thought To Be Squashed and started treating it as a trivial fact to be acknowledged and then ignored. Within a couple months the crush had faded away and I was able to view and treat the person as just another report without expending any extra energy to do so, I think because my own brain is a drama llama and once I stopped feeding it guilt and angst it got bored with the whole thing and dropped it.

    1. SpicySpice*

      Agree 100%. Brains love forbidden fruit! You have to make it SO TEDIOUS for your brain to have this crush. “Yep, that’s Phil, he’s so hot, too bad” and then go about your day. The more you dwell on it, the more you’re rewarding the stupid thinking.

  87. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP —
    If you worked for me, and came in asking to have your Direct Report transferred to another team for no particular reason, I would ask why. And I wouldn’t stop asking until you gave me an honest answer. I’d insist that you go for training, but I’d also be left with serious reservations going forward about your ability to manage people.

    I suspect you’re new to management. What you have here is a form of implicit bias, and that is something you need to learn to correct for if you’re going to succeed in a management role. While I haven’t had your particular issue, I have had to supervise employees I liked better than others. There are two traps to avoid: 1) favoring the employee you like; 2) overcorrecting by coming down hard on the employee.

    Good management requires self-knowledge as well as knowledge of others. You need management training as soon as you can arrange it. Do you have a mentor? Try to identify someone at your organization who has a lot of experience in managing people AND is a person of exemplary character. (That last part goes for any mentor, but it’s especially important here.) You need someone to provide you with better perspective than you have now.

    If you can’t train yourself to account for your own biases, then you need to acknowledge the fact that you’re not cut out for a management role and rework your career accordingly.

  88. Database Developer Dude*

    I think that Alison’s spot on. This guy asked for advice and realizes that HE is the problem. Scolding him will do nothing but turn him off from seeking help. He wants to solve the problem, he’s just going in the completely wrong direction in doing so. Let’s be constructive and help him go in the right direction.

    1. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

      Scolding is something you do to children. We’re assuming the OP is an adult who can take negative feedback and constructive criticism. They’re being gross and need to be told that. Again, as I wrote in a comment above, it seems like (what appear to be) the male-presenting people here are expecting the female-presenting people to do a lot of emotional labour in order not to upset the OP. Fuck that.

    2. LKW*

      This reads like you are trying to provide constructive criticism to the responders without actually giving any examples of what you perceive as being constructive. What do you think the OP should do?

  89. Spearmint*

    LW, as others have said, this is a you problem, and you need to make sure your employees work life isn’t negatively affected because of this.

    It’s important to remember that there is nothing unethical about *feeling* attracted to someone, even someone you manage. Feelings are what they are. I get the vibe from your letter that you feel shame for just feeling these feelings, which isn’t justified. I think some people have somehow internalized a twisted mirror version of feminism that says merely feeling attracted to women in the wrong context in and of itself is wrong. But nobody actually thinks that, and that’s not what feminists want men to believe.

    Now, it is unethical to act on your attraction in a way that leads you to treat this employee differently, whether that’s transferring her to a new team or hitting on her or whatever. But I don’t think it’s actually that difficult to avoid doing so. You seem worried, maybe even panicked, that you might do something wrong, but if you’re mindful and just focus on work stuff while at work, I don’t think you’ll find it that difficult.

    1. Anonosaurus*

      I think this is an insightful point. I had a very intense attraction to someone I sometimes worked with in a previous job, and I found it very difficult to interact with him not because I was overcome by his hotness necessarily, but because I felt deeply ashamed of how I felt. That was a therapist problem for me, and you might find therapy helpful if this rings true. What helped me in the short term was being very task oriented with the coworker. I think he found me a little too businesslike (he was, and presumably still is, a friendly and extroverted guy who was well liked, and he was friendly to me too) but ultimately that was the best option for the person I was then and for him. But it was always going to be my responsibility to manage myself appropriately, not his.

  90. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Advance warning: I was on the other side of this, kinda, with a boss who spent more time staring at my figure than my work.

    Having said that:

    While it’s true that everyone has some prejudices, it’s part of being a good human and a good manager to not let them take up any of your processing time. It’s being a better person to get assistance with this if you truly believe they are affecting your daily life/work/professionalism. I know it’s a major cliche almost to suggest therapy but….full disclosure:

    I’ve been a truly horrible employee in the past. Twenty or so years ago I nearly got fired for the kind of behaviour I’m talking about – one of which was being prejudiced against people more attractive than me. I got professional help, a great therapist who taught me how to switch between programs in my brain (I’m a techie, brains are computers) so the ‘I can’t deal with this person because looks’ program was minimised and the ‘this person is a coworker and we’ll focus on work and their skills’ program was running in full windowed mode.

    Over time, you spend so little processing power on the ‘their looks’ program that your operating system deletes it as an unused process. Least in my experience of 20 years later and being a manager for several of those years. There’s a solution to your problem, yes, but it involves reprogramming yourself. Seriously, therapy helps a long way toward this.

    (Also to be fair, I spend a LOT of time with psychiatric teams these days because my brain isn’t in the best shape so I’ve had a whole ton of experience with people changing my thought processes so they work in day to day life)

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Aaand that first sentence makes no sense. Keymaster shouldn’t type on these painkillers…(Bad bad pain day). Hope the rest makes sense though!

  91. theletter*

    I would imagine that in very quick time, you’ll discover something about your report that you would gladly tolerate in a report and would be a deal breaker in a romantic partner. Once you find that out, the fantasy will be over.

    In fact, why not start now? Just repeat to yourself: This is a fantasy. I’ve indulged and now I’m moving on to focus on performance, team goals, and weekend plans.

    In my experience, if there’s a situation of an inappropriate crush, spending time with partners/friends/dates usually makes it go away quickly. Calling out for what it is will make it a rare occurance with decreased impact.

  92. CatPerson*

    This is the only part of Alison’s answer that I disagree with: “If you really can’t make yourself treat this employee fairly, then you’re right that it might be in her best interest to be moved to another manager. ”

    I say if you really can’t treat her fairly then it would be in her best interest for you to be disciplined, and potentially fired.

    1. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

      I wouldn’t go that far, but OP should look for an alternative position within the company (not in management) if he can’t get it together.

  93. Abogado Avocado*

    OP: One way to work on getting beyond your visual response to this employee is a thought experiment. You’re going to need a block of time, so close your office door and turn off your cell phone. Now, think, deeply about these questions: (1) If your mother or your sister were the employee whose supervisor wanted to move them to another team based on how they look, how would you feel about that supervisor? (2) How would you feel about the supervisor’s proposed strategy? (3) Would you think the supervisor was being fair to your mom or sister for acting based on an immutable characteristic? (4) How would your mom or sister feel if a supervisor changed an employment opportunity based on how they look?

    These questions may help you think about this employee and her situation differently. For her sake and yours, I hope so!

    1. Chilipepper*

      I think that is all helpful and practical advice. But what if the OP is still living in lime 1950 and his answers are yes, thats fair to my mom or sister cause I dont want a male manager crushing on them. Cause I feel like that could be the answer.

    2. Grades White Collar Homework*

      I don’t think we even need to point the OP to his female family members. What if it happened to HIM? What if he found out that his transfer, promotion, lost job opportunities, etc were because *his* manager could only see him as a s*x object? How squicked out and pissed off would he be when he found out that someone else’s s*xual feelings about him caused problems at work??

  94. llamaswithouthats*

    I second Alison and the other commenters’ suggestions on how to deal with this from a psychological level, but for perspective, if you thought anyone should have to be removed from the situation, the first thought should have been you. The fact that you wanted to move the employee because of a problem YOU have reveals significant self-entitlement.

    1. AllTheBirds*

      So very true.

      Grow the F up, LW. Learn to manage all your reports appropriately, not just the ones who fall below your own OMGSOHOT level.

    2. Observer*

      Yes, this is the thing that disturbs me the most. The OP knows that it’s his problem, yet his first thought is to just get rid of the employee.

  95. Girasol*

    Hooray for the OP who had the guts to admit this issue. He got pounded in the responses, but really, aren’t there a lot of managers who have this problem and either aren’t aware of it or would never admit it in public? Kudos to the manager who is willing to be honest and do something about it. While management classes and EAP are good possibilities, one thing the OP could do without involving anyone else is to review each interaction with this person afterward. Imagine the employee was instead a very average looking person of the other sex, a completely unattractive professional. Would the interaction have gone differently? How? What can the OP do next time to make the interaction more like that? I’ve always been impressed at how well gender swapping – imagining the person was the other gender, or for that matter, age or race – can reveal where bias lies.

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      OP did not get pounded in the comments for “having the guts to admit the issue.” OP did not get pounded in the comments for being “willing to be honest and do something about it.”

      OP got pounded in the comments for asking how he could successfully lie to his boss and get the employee transferred, instead of asking how he could learn to manage her effectively. Instead of asking how he could fix his own problem, he asked how he could deceive his own manager into making it the employee’s problem.

      That shows a profound lack of integrity, and that’s what everyone has come down hard on him for. Pretty much everyone has acknowledged that everyone sometimes finds colleagues attractive and that’s normal and human and so long as you don’t treat them any differently because of it, there’s nothing bad about it.

      But OP *is* planning to treat her differently because of it. He’s planning to get her transferred without her consent to a different team, and tell the company lies which could hurt her career about why he’s doing it.

      That is not okay. And we’ve said so.

  96. Yorick*

    OP, you talk about how this employee’s attractiveness is “distracting.” What is distracting about it, exactly? I think you need to put some thought into that, and you’ll see why this is a serious you problem and you might even see how you can fix it.

    Is it “distracting” because you’re indulging in fantasies while interacting with them? If so, think about how you can stop doing that. That’s a behavior that you’re acting on, and it’s gross, whether they’re your direct report or they move to another team. So, keep them on your team and do the work to keep your thoughts and actions professional. Or, step down from being a manager if you’re not able to do that.

  97. Bee Movie Enthusiast 4*

    I 100% understand the gut reaction from the commentariat here. I’m also going to try and give some constructive advice that’s worked for me as I’ve been in a similar situation.

    When I was interviewing for my current job, I found my manager unbelievably and distractingly attractive. Like to the point where I genuinely considered not taking the job because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to handle our manager-employee relationship in a mature and professional way (we were both in our 20s at the time and the company culture is extremely informal so I knew we’d regularly be getting drunk together).

    But it was fine! Turns out it was just a kitten crush that lasted a few days and nothing more. We very quickly developed a close and FRIENDLY relationship, I met his wife and she’s lovely, and he’s been a terrific coach and advocate. I genuinely love having him as my boss and I’m so glad I didn’t make a hasty decision based on my initial nerves.

    Please consider the possibility that if you consciously push yourself to keep it cool and professional, you can develop a similarly warm and constructive relationship with your employee. No one has to change teams or quit or vow to never manage another human being again — just give it a shot and really center yourself mentally before 1:1s or other things you’re worried about. I believe in you!

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I have lived a very similar story with a very similar (hopefully) happy ending (each of us has chapters of our lives left). It’s very possible if you follow Bee’s advice.

  98. staceyizme*

    Sometimes an unusually strong attraction or crush pops up. No Big Deal. It only becomes a Big Deal if you fail to do as Alison suggested and manage this on your side. Look at it this way, this is a category of problem that you, as a manager, need to be able to address, because it could come up again. Attraction isn’t wrong. Even very strong attractions aren’t wrong. And you’ve already determined that you’re not going to overstep. Good! But you’re still objectifying a direct report, because you’re thinking about your comfort and your preference rather than thinking about hers (or his?). In any case, don’t be this guy:,Male%20dentist%20fires%20female%20assistant%20for%20being,and%20in%20Iowa%20it's%20legal!&text=Despite%20their%2010%20years%20of,might%20be%20tempted%20to%20stray. Maybe asking for her to report to someone else seems less extreme, but it’s on the spectrum of the same basic coping dynamic: “I’m uncomfortable… so YOU have to move further away from me” (or leave, in some sense of the world).

  99. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    My advice is just power through it initially and it’ll pass. You’ll get used to her looks (and probably come across a dealbreaker or two) and life will go back to normal.

    Yours is neither the first nor the last workplace crush.

  100. hbc*

    “When I look at the coaching and 1:1 work I do with my other employees, I outright KNOW I will be uncomfortable doing that with this new hire.”

    …Okay. And?

    Being uncomfortable isn’t fun, but it’s a part of life. Someone on your team is probably uncomfortable getting feedback from you, but you wouldn’t just let them decide “Nah, I don’t want to hear it” or “Someone else needs to manage me.” Push through, give her the same feedback you’d give her if she was completely unappealing, keep a bottle of ice cold water with you, and just know that it’ll get easier with each session.

  101. i will do it anon*

    I agree with a lot of others that you probably just need to push through it for a few weeks and see if anything changes on your end. You will have to be careful to treat this employee the same as anybody else for a while.

    Once your new employee has settled in and if you still feel this way, what has helped me get over a crush in the past is taking a short vacation and focusing on 1. important relationships in my life and 2. other attractive but obviously unattainable people – for me as a single, this meant spending a long weekend hanging out with my best friends and watching movies/TV shows with actors I thought were smokin’ hot, but if you’re in a relationship probably just focus on that.

    1. i will do it anon*

      my 2. above probably shouldn’t include the “but obviously unattainable” bit – I wouldn’t recommend that if you’re in a relationship!

  102. Lifeandlimb*

    OP, I’m going to hazard a guess that you’re a relatively inexperienced manager or a relatively young person. Every shockingly attractive person I’ve ever worked for, worked with, done a school project with, befriended, or gone on a trip with has turned out to be just as much of a human with faults, insecurities, a boring personality, or annoying traits as anyone else (sometimes more so).

    This person wakes up in the morning, brushes their teeth, takes shits, and probably has bad days like we all do. Please remember they are a human being and treat them as such. Also practice compartmentalizing your feelings and focusing on work tasks. There’s an extremely good chance that as time passes, the initial distraction will fade, like it has done for millions of people who have found themselves in your exact situation in the past.

    Sorry to be blunt, but you are not a special snowflake, and it is not wise to upend your colleague’s work situation before you even try to put on your manager pants and do your job well.

  103. Quickbeam*

    When I was in my 20’s, I was a probation officer and surpervised juveniles. No big deal, could not be less attracted to children. Then I was re-assigned a young man because one of my colleagues “had trouble” with the assignment. I soon found out why…the young man, while 17, was 6’4″ and one of the most handsome people I’ve ever seen. Dazzlingly good looking.

    I can’t say I wasn’t taken aback, I’m human…but I was able to supervise him through to his release from court jurisdiction. I did check with the officer who handed him off to me and she had been afraid she’d sleep with him.

    That was a really long time ago but I do think of it when issues like personal attractiveness come up. You get over it.

    1. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

      I did check with the officer who handed him off to me and she had been afraid she’d sleep with him.

      My eyes just popped out of my skull. Dear lord…

  104. HR Exec Popping In*

    OP, you need to really think about this. You are essentially saying that you can not help but treat your employees differently based on their physical appearance. If this is the case, then you should not be a manager. I understand that it might be more difficult to manage someone to whom you are attracted, but your job is to keep that in check and treat this employee like all others and assess them based on their skills and performance. Would you manage an unattractive person differently? Someone from a different race? Your personal feelings about a person should not change your behavior – positively or negatively. You need to decide if you can do this. If not, you really have no business being a manager. You are able to control your behavior. We all demonstrate we can control our behavior every single day. You just need to decide to do that for your employee.

  105. AvonLady Barksdale*

    I used to work with a very beautiful young woman. She was a few years younger than me and absolutely gorgeous, super nice, smart, etc. She worked in a client-facing position. Someone asked her (male) manager something along the lines of, “How do you work with her?” and while I don’t remember his exact response, it was something along the lines of pointing out that she was entry-level with a ton of potential (as in, focusing on her work) and that the only thing unusual was how he had to support her through the obnoxious comments and propositions she got when they were out together doing business. He didn’t blame her one bit and he felt a responsibility to advocate for this woman and help her navigate some uncomfortable stuff.

    If your response to, “How can you work with her” is, “Man, it’s hard,” then you are not working hard enough on being professional. You can acknowledge that someone is attractive without it making it her only positive quality.

  106. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

    Finally! An AAM letter written about me! (I’m kidding of course.)

    OP – how is physical attractiveness any different than any other specific attribute of an employee that makes them seem highly special, whether it be a highly coveted / niche set of skills, industry prestige, or overall accolades. Everyone gets hired and their manager doesn’t know *that* much about them outside what’s in their resume, their interviews and their references. It’s the job of the manager to learn what that employee needs to be successful in their new role, how they like being managed, what assistance that person needs, what coaching and guidance they need. And in the course of that, the person becomes more than one or two attributes and becomes a whole person in that manager’s eyes. You’ve got work to do here, OP – but you can do it if you stop mystifying physical attractiveness.

  107. Domino*

    Think about the category of humans you are not physically attracted to. Children. The very elderly. Men, perhaps.

    Take your employee — all of your employees — and very consciously move them into that category. Think about them mingling with the other non-attractive people in a fluorescent-lit church basement. They’re all wearing weird burlap jumpsuits, like they’re in a cult together. The music you hate most in the world is playing, and they’re all dancing very badly while spilling Smirnoff Ice and ranch dip on themselves.

    There. They’ve been appropriately categorized. Now focus your interest on the people who remain in the attractive-to-me category.

    1. Lifeandlimb*

      “Think about them mingling with the other non-attractive people in a fluorescent-lit church basement. They’re all wearing weird burlap jumpsuits, like they’re in a cult together. The music you hate most in the world is playing, and they’re all dancing very badly while spilling Smirnoff Ice and ranch dip on themselves.”

      I just laughed so suddenly that I spit a little.

  108. Safetykats*

    This really comes down to the idea of upwards-delegation, and what kinds of problem it’s okay to expect your manager to fix for you. I’m assuming that if you had any kind of technical problem – for example, not understanding how to do staff succession planning, you would deal with that by getting better – rather than by just asking your manager to have somebody else do it for you. This is exactly the same kind of issue. This is not the last time in your career that you will need to be able to figure out how to manage someone despite some sort of implicit bias, and the appropriate kind of help or intervention to ask for would be some kind of training or mentoring on how to recognize and work through implicit bias, whatever the cause.

    In the end, this kind of approach will make you a better manager – and possibly a better person – while simply asking your boss to transfer any employee because of your own bias should really raise a red flag for your manager – because honestly, people who can’t overcome their implicit bias are eventually going to be a liability, in one way or another.

  109. Robin Ellacott*

    I’m not clear on what the writer fears will happen. But it’s a manager’s job to work with a variety of people and situations, and also to manage their own emotions and thoughts about colleagues.

    They say they don’t fear acting on their attraction and I am taking them at their word.

    If the fear simply that they will be uncomfortable, that’s not actually some terrible fate to be avoided at all costs. We are all made uncomfortable at work from time to time and I assume they have survived it in the past. Also, OP, it seems very likely that as this attractive person becomes familiar and you have work associations with them, it will get much less uncomfortable. Any you’d need to work at building up those work associations and ignoring any wayward thoughts.

    If the fear is that “it’s dangerous to work with anyone hot in today’s climate” then take a moment to think about the impact that kind of policy would have on mostly women, and how unfair that is.

  110. Chilipepper*

    I just saw an article, going to try to find it, that when men see a woman who arouses them, they literally stop seeing her as human, they see her with the part of the brain that sees objects. I think the OP is doing that here, seeing this employee as a game piece that can be moved elsewhere to solve the problem, instead of seeing her as a human with work goals and a life that would be disrupted by such a move.

    I like the advice to the OP to see his behavior as bias. And I hope he can see a way to, as a manager should, see his reports as humans who need his support and management, not for him to put their needs last.

  111. Tiger*

    I see a lot of people stating that OP needs to be the one to move teams, but isn’t the end result still the same, that Employee is moved? If I’m not following, please do tell me! But in my organization, I would work for Jaguar or Lion (I currently work for Jaguar). If Jaguar decided she couldn’t be around me and wanted me moved, I would find myself working for Lion. If Jaguar decided she couldn’t be around me and wanted to remove herself as my supervisor, I’d find myself working for Lion. Both results would be the same- I’d have a new supervisor and I’d be confused.

    OP, I do think it is noteworthy that you decided to write in, realizing there was an issue at hand. I think you just need to figure out a solution though. What do you do when you see attractive people out in the world? As cashiers in your grocery store, for instance, or walking in your neighborhood? Do you ever have instances of “Huh, new neighbor/mailperson/garbageperson/waiter at favorite restaurant/anyone you see regularly is hot” but then move on with your life? What do you do in those instances? Do whatever you need to do to make “Huh, Employee is attractive” a passing thought. Most people encounter others we find attractive, the key is to put it out of your head. I’m sure you do that without realizing it!

    1. Arctic*

      I think the difference is that if the employee is moved it’s an unofficial mark against her, personally. For whatever unspecified reason her supervisor couldn’t take working with her and she was moved as a result. It’s detrimental to her career even though it’s not a formal write-up or anything (if anything it is more detrimental because it is nothing she can rebut through official channels.)

      If OP removes himself and doesn’t single out any one employee as the reason then he’s the one getting the hit. And that’s fair because he’s the one with the problem.

    2. James*

      “I see a lot of people stating that OP needs to be the one to move teams, but isn’t the end result still the same, that Employee is moved?”

      Depends on the organization. If Jaguar steps down the organization may put Lion in charge–or they may promote Cheetah. And as long as the Jaguar team isn’t disrupted too much (some disruption is inevitable) it really won’t be a significant change to the workers. Your coworkers will still be the same, the paperwork will still be the same, etc.

    3. TiffIf*

      I see a lot of people stating that OP needs to be the one to move teams, but isn’t the end result still the same, that Employee is moved? If I’m not following, please do tell me!

      Not necessarily. It can also be that a particular team is attached to a particular project. So Jaguar’s team is working on a particular project and the person Jaguar finds attractive was brought in to fulfill a specific role on that project. If Jaguar is moved and Lion starts managing the project then new employee is not being moved to a different project or being asked to fulfill possibly a different role on a different project. The only thing that changes is who manages the project. However if new employee is switched to a different project then their role and the expectations of the job could change significantly even if the titles and required skill set are nominally the same.

  112. Arctic*

    This hit me hard. I’ve struggled with superiors in numerous jobs because of how insanely attractive I am. Wellll… I have to assume that’s the reason. Not my tardiness, lack of follow through, general incompetence. (/s)

    Look others have said why it’s bad. But on the practical side there is no way to do this without telling the truth that doesn’t make the employee look bad. “Just a personality conflict.” (Well, why can’t she get along with all sorts of personalities?) “I just thought she’d get along better in your team” (Well, why couldn’t she get along in OP’s team.) “I just thought she’d be a better fit on your team.” (Well, why didn’t she fit in on OP’s team.)

    No matter what you are planting the seed that there was some reason she couldn’t do the work for you. Anytime she falters (and she will we all do) it will be strike two in their minds not strike one. She is the one who is going to be hurt because you can’t keep your mind focused. I don’t mean that to be harsh but as a way for you to think about this.

  113. HatBeing*

    LW, I’ve actually been in your shoes before and I promise, it’s easy to get over. I, a cis woman, had a new hire, a cis man. He was one of the hottest men I’ve ever seen. He was a former model and I was smitten. Like, highschool crush, I can’t think of anything else, screw my marriage, screw this job, let’s run off together. He was flirting with me, we could make this work.

    That lasted about 3 days until I came to my senses and that euphoric rush subsided. He flirted with everyone as a nervous tick, there were some additional trainings he needed to do in order to understand the job, I had to make sure the business kept on running. Life and work move on.Yeah, he was still cute, but

    1. Observer*

      He was flirting with me, we could make this work.

      According to the OP, the employee is not even doing that. So there is not even any space for the OP to frame this as a mutual problem.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I took HatBeing’s statement with irony… How many times have attractive people acted normally and it been interpreted as flirtatious?

        1. HatBeing*

          Oh yeah, he was just being nice to me, as his manager. He wasn’t really flirting, I just decided him being nice was flirting. And either way, I got over it, everything remained professional, and the ‘chemistry’ in my head died real quick once I got to know him a little better (haha).

          1. Observer*

            I hear you.

            OP, keep this in mind. S is already clearly being very careful. You KNOW they don’t have an interest in you.

            Don’t put them into an impossible situation – where is they get friendly or even collegial suddenly they are flirting or “responding” to you but it they keep it really proper they are being “cold and distant and not taking feedback on board” (or however you wind up framing it to yourself.)

            And don’t start interpreting things.

  114. seashells*

    I know we can’t help who we’re attracted to, but I think this entire situation is just so unfair to the employee. If she’s brand new, I imagine she’s been working especially hard to show what she can do, as well as establish positive working relationships with the rest of team. There’s a lot of uncertainty when you start a new job. It usually takes some time to prove your worth. You haven’t built up any capital or done somebody a solid, so no one owes you any favors yet. Plus, if you’re on a 3-month probation or something (which is standard in some industries), there’s always a chance your manager will decide it isn’t working out and cut their losses.

    If this employee is punted over to a new team, the company obviously won’t be able to give her an honest explanation. She’ll be left scrambling to figure out what really happened. Why didn’t my original manager like me? Did I do something wrong? Did someone else on the team complain about me? Maybe I shouldn’t have made that joke about llamas in the company Slack channel… Or was there a major error in my latest report? Does the company regret hiring me? Is my job in trouble? Should I start looking for something else?

    On the other hand, I’m also concerned about this employee being managed by someone who can’t look past her physical appearance and treat her like a professional. The LW said he wouldn’t be able to provide coaching or work together 1-on-1, which means this employee already doesn’t have access to the same resources as the rest of the team. What will that mean in the long term? Less feedback/poorer quality of work? Fewer promotions? Stagnant professional growth? This is bad enough on its own, but what if it gets even worse? Will the employee be forced to turn off her camera during Zoom meetings or wear ugly turtlenecks? Will the manager speak to her as little as possible, like that guy in “Love Actually” who refused to talk to Keira Knightley’s character because she was married to his best friend and he was secretly in love with her?

    I think in either scenario, this employee will suffer for something she has zero control over. I think if the LW is truly unable to manage her like a professional, he should step back from people management altogether.

    Also, you can acknowledge you find someone attractive without going anywhere with it. I think most of us have experienced attraction at some point in our lives that we weren’t able to act on. Forget about managing for a second. What if this person was married or in a serious relationship? What if she wasn’t into guys at all? What if the LW had met her outside of work and asked for her number… and she simply wasn’t interested? Then what? I’m sure he’d eventually find a way to move on with his life.

  115. ITWorkerBee*

    This is ridiculous. Would you have the same issues if they were completely unattractive? “I need to move Mary to another team for management because I can’t effectively manage someone while I am distracted by their unibrow”. I would suggest coaching on your management style and ability to function without hormonal distractions if this is actually a problem, because it probably is impacting more than just your professional life.

  116. JSPA*

    OP, I worry that somewhere in the back of your head, there might be a 13 year old version of you thinking, “If they’re out of my direct chain of command, maybe we could even flirt / date” or “When I screw up after a couple of drinks at the holiday party, at least it won’t blow up my career if they’re not my direct report.”

    I’m not saying this is your goal! I take you at your word that you have no such intent.

    I’m saying that, if you’re really 100% committed to not looking at this person as someone appropriate to lech after, then having them on your team is appropriate career self-destruction, if you were to put an eyeball or a finger out of line.

    It may also help to sit with this for a while: All specifics aside, the idea that people get to manage their internal emotions by changing their environment rather than their attitude is the core definition of “entitlement.” Rather than focusing on the sexiness aspect, try committing more broadly to the concept, “Things that are ‘me’ problems get solved between my two ears.”

    There’s nothing about feeling unwanted sexual attraction that’s somehow in a different category than any other sort of social discomfort, and therefore gets a special, different solution. Treat it as you would some other sort of discomfort / pain.

    I’m not going to link, but google, “Cognitive Reappraisal and Acceptance: Effects on Emotion, Physiology, and Perceived Cognitive Costs.”

  117. Not A Manager*

    LW, I’ve been forced to regularly interact in the past with people who literally caused me to blush and stutter. That’s just a human reaction sometimes. I even understand your *wish* that you could solve the problem by removing this person from your orbit. But you can’t and you know you can’t. It would be wrong to do and it would contribute to damaging your own character if you did it.

    I suggest some acting skills and slight dissociation. When you need to interact with this person, step outside of yourself a little bit and observe/direct the action from the outside. Keep a straight face, speak only the way you would to any other employee. Pay attention to how often you interact with other employees and how you speak to them, and consciously mirror that when dealing with this person.

    I think that shortly the wham! factor of their appearance will wear off.

  118. CommanderBanana*

    Hi LW! I’d recommend you that you quit or take a leave of absence, find a therapist, and work on this with a professional. If you are literally unable to manage someone because of their looks, the safest thing to do is for you to take a break from managing until you can safely manage people again. Or look into moving into a career where you don’t manage anyone.

  119. Kella*

    I’m a woman who is attracted to other women. When I worked as a cashier, it happened on a regular basis that a woman would come through my check stand that I found attractive enough to be distracting or make me a bit tongue-tied. While technically, I could choose to opt out of serving any specific customer, it would’ve been INCREDIBLY impractical if every time I found a woman attractive enough that it distracted me to call a manager and have them take over the transaction. In my five years as a cashier, I never once refused someone service because they were too attractive. I just had to figure out ways to deal.

    If you really have never been in a situation where you had to manage an employee you found attractive or had a managing situation that made you uncomfortable in some way you needed to get past, I would google Brene Brown’s FFT’s (F’ing First Times). It’s a very useful tool about dealing with the discomfort of something you’re new to and likely to be awkward at doing.

  120. Anon This Time*

    My ex could have written this letter. He is permanently emotionally immature and addicted to p*rn. He fetishes and fantasizes about every attractive woman he spends more than 5 minutes with. If the LW were him, he would have already spent dozens of hours lost in s*xual fantasies about the new employee, pleasuring himself.

    He, too, would never act on it because fantasy women are better than real women. And, unless the woman punched him in the face or caused some other massive harm to him, he would never be able to see her as anything other than a s*x object. (She would still be an object, just not a s*xual one). I think Chilipepper describes the phenomenon really well (up thread).

    So I, too, am torn on what advice to give. I think the LW should get into counseling ASAP. Because this is so, so gross.

    1. Disgusted*

      This was my first thought too…

      1. Stop watching so much porn.
      2. Seen therapy.

      Honestly. What is this guy afraid of? That his “desire” will be visible like a 13 year old boys at 6 AM because he fantasizes about her while she’s sitting in front of him? Or he thinks she’ll just fall into his arms because obviously he’s just as hot and then they’ll do it on his desk?

  121. Secretary*

    Alison gave really really great perspective here, I thought I would just brainstorm some solutions for you OP, see if one of these help!

    -treat her attractiveness like a giant burn on her face. When you do a 1:1, make a conscious effort to remind yourself that she can’t do anything about it, and force yourself to move forward, recognizing you WILL get used to it.

    -if there’s a sexual element to this, picture her doing something really unsexy. Pooping, picking a scab, waiting on hold on the phone, snoring, clipping her toenails, etc. If this feels unequal and unfair in your mind, picture all your direct reports doing those things.

    -pretend attractive report is a different, male coworker with a similar professional standing as her. While you get used to her, pretend she’s her coworker in your mind to make sure you’re treating her with the same professionalism.

    -lastly, decide to see her the way you would your daughter or mother or other female relative. This isn’t to make her unattractive, it’s to recognize she’s a human being with a professional life in front of her, with strengths and weakness, with memories and thoughts and fears like EVERY member of your team. This will help you to not see her as a distracting object that you have to deal with, but instead to see her as a person that you manage.

  122. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    When I was married (monogamously), I once got a crush on a guy in our friend group. I had to examine myself and figure out what was going on.

    As it turned out, the crush was an expression of something I wanted for myself — not that the dude wasn’t hot, but what really turned me on were his brains and his advanced degrees. I felt like I was stagnating in the life I had. So instead of cheating on my husband and blowing up my marriage, I went to grad school! The intensity of the crush faded, he married one of the women he met at my house, I officiated at the wedding and eventually got a master’s.

    Sounds like LW needs to take inventory and make some adjustments to his own life.

  123. DJ Abbott*

    It might help the OP to understand an attractive woman’s point of view.
    I’ve been hearing it all my life… “you’re beautiful.” I’ve been fending off men with one thing on their minds since I was 15. I was fired from a job in 2004 because a creepy file clerk wouldn’t leave me alone, and the new sexist manager who didn’t understand my work blamed me.
    I’m 59 and have always been single, in part because I’m rarely approached by a man who treats me like a person.
    There is nothing more empty than hearing about the way I look. I did not choose this face, this hair, or this body. I find “you’re beautiful” annoying and try to get past it. If I could have chosen, my appearance would be something that encourages men to relate to me as a person and not notice the way I look. Some of my friends are even more beautiful and they all work for a living.
    Your employee is a person. Please make an effort to relate to her as a person and get to know her. If you make a good effort, in a few weeks she will seem more like a person and you won’t notice the way she looks.
    I know this can be done. One of my friends is so beautiful and glamorous, I put her on a pedestal. I thought she’s so cool, so beautiful, I want to be like her. I realized this wasn’t fair to her – she’s a person, not a statue. I made an effort to get to know her as a person and develop a real friendship, and now I see her as a person.

    1. Human, Just Like You*

      Same here from another attractive woman. But the unwanted attention from men started when I was 12.

      I had a hard time being friends with other girls/women because they were jealous of the attention I got. (Which I learned from the few women who stuck around long enough to become my friend and they told me about their initial jealousy).

      I had a hard time being friends with het guys/men because they just wanted to f*ck me. (I was told more than once, when I rejected romantic overtures but sincerely liked them as a friend, “No thanks, I have enough friends already.”) It’s no surprise that gay men are overrepresented in my circle of friends.

      I eventually adopted a couple of standard replies for whenever someone wanted to tell me how stunningly beautiful I am, “Maybe it’s Maybelline,” and “Oh, thanks, I’ll pass that along to my parents!”

      I worked for far too many male managers who only saw the outer shell and treated me accordingly.

      OP, if she is conventionally attractive, then you are but one in a long line of men who have made her feel uncomfortable. I can assure you that if she has two functioning brain cells, she is tired — so very, very tired — of men standing up straighter in her presence, getting flushed in the face, stumbling over their words, trying too hard to impress her, or even being cold to her because of her looks. She is tired of not being treated like everybody else.

      My real name is also the name of a famous song. Every single man who sings that song upon meeting me thinks they are being unique and clever and flattering. They are not. (For reference, my BFF from high school and early college has the same name. She is not conventionally attractive. She never once had anyone sing the song to her. At most they would say, “Oh, like the song?” when she gave her name).

      I guess I don’t have any real advice to give, I just wanted to share what it’s like being the person that others find “uncomfortably attractive”.

      1. Youngin*

        I’m not gonna “from another attractive woman” this because beauty is subjective and not really relevant to the letter but as a woman in general its hard to live day to day without being made uncomfortable by men that wish to “court” you. (And I put the word court in quotes because courting now a days is really just some guy yelling out the window on the passengers side of his best friends ride trying to holler at me). As a woman regardless, you get a lot of unwanted attention, and she deserves to be left alone. I dont think us attractive gals explaining this to him (he should already know how to be respectful to women) will change how any he approaches or treats attractive women, at least not without a picture present ;)

        LW you should be respectful of every person you come into contact with, attractive or not. She is, undoubtedly, dealing with dozens of men a day salivating over her like meat, but even if she wasn’t, that doesn’t matter.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          He *should* already know how to be respectful to women, but so many, many, many men don’t. IME people often don’t think about what it’s like for others until it’s pointed out to them.

  124. Hei Hei, the Chicken from Moana*

    Alison, can I just say that this: “I don’t mean that as hyperbole and I don’t even mean it in a scoldy way, really. I mean it literally.”

    Is brilliant. No shame, just DO BETTER.

  125. RB*

    Couldn’t you just think of the attractiveness as say, I don’t know, a giant neck goiter or something similar that you just have to not be distracted by? There are any number of things that would be equally distracting, and we don’t make hiring decisions based on those (do we?), so you shouldn’t be making management choices based on those either.

      1. KO*

        While true, I actually have worked in an office where this occurred between a female manager and male subordinate. It was terrible.

    1. Observer*

      If you hate to be a jerk, then don’t be.

      I know that’s snarky, but how did you miss the comment that Alison put up top? She put it there long before you posted this comment.

      Also, what difference does it make? If you read Alison’s response, you would know that the answer applies regardless of gender. And in the comment up on top, Alison explicitly says that the advice remains the same regardless of gender.

      So why are you asking the question?

  126. Archaeopteryx*

    For most people (at least I hope most, but at least * some *), once you get to know someone in a non-available context (direct report/boss, spouse of friend, etc), you stop evaluating their attractiveness at all. When first meeting them, where almost all you know about them is their looks and you have very few interactions, maybe you have that initial AWOOGA! but as soon as you get to know them for themselves, that isn’t even really a factor. Like, I could probably tell you which of my friends / friends’ significant others / etc would be considered more or less conventionally attractive if I thought about it, but that doesn’t mean I actually * feel * attracted to them.

    There are people who don’t do this – who can’t or don’t turn that part of their perception off. But you have the choice of which kind of person to be. If she turned out to be your long-lost cousin, you wouldn’t be distracted by her hotness, would you? Take the same mental approach here. It shouldn’t be that hard once you have some professional interactions with her and look at her as an individual.

    1. Archaeopteryx*

      To expand on the friends thing: once you know someone well and in a context where romantic availability isn’t on the table, if they are particularly attractive, that attribute just becomes another fact about them, e.g., Taylor has brown hair, works in sales, is goodlooking, and likes cats. It’s not like you can’t see anymore that they are hot, it just has no affect on you personally.

      In the same way, the better you get to know someone in general, the better-looking you tend to think they are, because you know the ways in which they’re funny or kind or a good person.

      So really looking at your new hire as a person first and as an attractive person a distant 27th should be able to neutralize your reaction to her.

  127. forever young*

    I have to wonder, what is he afraid will happen if he is alone with Attractive Employee? Flirting? just that he feels weird?
    I suspect he feels that he has a ‘chance’ with her, and if she moves, he can act on said ‘chance’.
    I know I know, the LW did not say that, but this is so so odd for him to say, I just imagine more to the story.

    LW: Imagine that whatever group you identify with is laughed at by your own supervisor, but they tell you, hey, it is okay, for you, I will put this opinion of mine to the side. I won’t see you any differently or let it impact me.
    I would say as comfortable as that makes you, is as comfortable many of us are with you being in your position.
    It might be mean, but you need to opt out of supervising anyone. It isn’t fair, and it is in your power to change.

    1. Youngin*

      I agree. Its like he thinks he cant control himself around her and he thinks that he is for sure going to “score” or something. His perceived entitlement may not have been spelled out by LW, but it is certainly radiating off this letter

  128. Youngin*

    Ew, just ew.

    You shouldn’t be a manager, obviously. Because how can you be a manager when you don’t respect a person due to their good looks? And to be clear, forcing someone to move departments and possibly affect their career due to their good looks is creepy and disrespectful.

    Also someone above me mentioned it, and I think it is a valid point, what exactly are you afraid of if you have to manage her? That you will flirt and get rejected or that she will correctly be skeeved out by you and go to your manager? Are you afraid you are going to make eye contact and fall in love? You heavily imply that you wouldn’t be professional towards her in some way and as a woman I am like…terrified for her.

    All of this letter just gives me “Our school dress code wont let little girls wear shorts or spaghetti straps because male students and teachers will get too distracted by knees or a bare shoulder” and it is so ugly and wrong and definitely part of a larger problem of expecting women to change or hide themselves to make men comfortable when they could just be civil and respectful

  129. This One Here*

    I work with some really attractive people, but I’m at work, so I don’t think about it. Awhile back, I encountered a coworker in a park. We exchanged greetings and afterward, I said to my husband “Colleague J looks good outside of work. I guess he looks good at work, but I’m at work then.”

    More recently, I posted on social media a picture of the colleague I sit nearest to, to show off his cool shirt (it was merch from our city’s major sportsball team, but in an unusual style). Thing is, he’s very handsome and the shirt flatters his physique, and several friends commented just to say, you know, “Whoo” and “what shirt?”.

    Point is, you’re at work, why are you noticing how the employee looks?

    1. Eugene Cezzane*

      Removed. Objecting to a manager objectifying his employee is not ableism. – Alison

  130. Qwerty*

    I’m going to surprise myself and take a softer approach with the OP. I’m really hoping that this was a panicked reaction. My whole career has been as a woman in a male-dominated industry, so I’ve had my share of managers, coworkers, and even direct reports who found me attractive. Instead of being annoyed, I find myself more interested in learning the bigger picture of what is going on here.

    Changing someone’s manager is a much bigger deal than you seem to realize. One of the biggest factors when I take a job is my impression of the hiring manager. By moving her to another team, you are completely changing the terms of her job. Plus, it’ll look like a mark against her for you to transfer her so quickly! You are jeopardizing her career. You need to treat her like everyone else on your team. If you are going to talk to her less, then pull back as well from your other team members so it is even treatment

    You really need someone to talk to about this. It’s a taboo subject, so I get that you probably feel like you can’t bring it up with anyone. Perhaps a therapist? Work crushes are very normal, especially if you are in an industry with an uneven male:female ratio. Add in that we’ve been in the pandemic for the past year and you are probably a little socially starved. The problem is that you are the manager in this scenario and the one with the power!

    Please read through the comments (taking breaks as necessary) because there is some good information here. Yeah, we’re judging you, but I’m guessing you would be judging this letter too if you hadn’t written it. (or are currently judging yourself, since you know not to list “S is attractive” as the reason for the transfer)

  131. Umm.*

    I’m honestly wondering if this is related to faith, because this has so many hallmarks of purity culture and none of it belongs in the workplace. It is very Mike Pence-y to me, and it’s completely unacceptable. This very much reminds me of growing up Mormon (incidentally, as a beauty queen, so I know what’s it like to have your appearance be an inconvenience for others), where I was told that I needed to be more mindful of my attire and actions as to not be “tempting” to men. The reality is, if you’re looking at young women and you’re tempted by shorts above the knee, you need professional counseling. But back to the issue at hand, I have no tolerance for men who make their lack of self control my problem, especially when it interferes with my right to, just, like, exist.

    I find this to be absolutely abhorrent. OP, you really need to get it together. I encourage you to seek therapy and perhaps a mentor. You have a lot to learn about leadership.

  132. So sleepy*

    I’m not quite going to go down the path of “LW shouldn’t be a manager,” but seriously, LW, your options are really (1) figure out a way to treat this employee like everyone else or (2) consider other career paths. There’s no “she’s just SO attractive that I can’t help myself” exemption.

  133. Ron T*

    One item not addressed in your answer is that most companies have rules against dating direct reports. If this is a cover story to get around that rule and pursue dating this person, that wouldn’t be right.

  134. Workerbee*

    OP, you’ve already conquered part of the potential issue: You say yourself that you “would never act on it, or do or say anything unprofessional.”

    That’s good.

    The problem seems to be that you doubt your ability to keep up the necessary professional veneer and distance until it becomes so automatic you don’t even have to think “Now I must be uber-professional because here comes Attractive Person.”

    You don’t say you’re a new manager in your career, just that you’ve had some new hires assigned to you. Therefore I’d suggest that you incorporate lessons learned when you’ve had to deal with any employee that causes a non-professional thought process in you: How do you handle someone who’s unmotivated? Or a troublemaker? Or even someone you just plain don’t like?

    Outside of actual HR-worthy issues, you’d most likely set aside any feelings of dislike or discomfort so you can be a manager to them, coach them past hurdles, try to get them on the right track.

    So ask yourself, why can’t you set aside feelings of attraction and do the same? It’s an utter fallacy that we-as-human-beings are victims of or helpless in the face of attraction. In my view, people who like to perpetuate that notion are people who take advantage of a situation and the person(s) in it, and it is rarely for that person’s good and very often causes distress and long-lasting harm. People remember the people who forced their feelings on them.

    And it is on you, not the other person, to manage. This person is not being attractive AT you. If for awhile you have to tell yourself a thousand times a day that this is not just a face and body but a whole, complete person who is there to do a job and get on with their whole, complete life, tell yourself that.

    In the end, I believe you’ll get to your last line, where the feeling passes with time. You just have to be willing to accept your responsibility and accountability toward that.

  135. Firecat*

    Please read about the woman who was fired from banking for being too attractive the mud she was dragged through. It may help you see how bad the consequences of your initial reaction are OP.

  136. Rectilinear Propagation*

    I found this a bit confusing:
    I would never act on it, or do or say anything unprofessional, but I find it unbelievably distracting. When I look at the coaching and 1:1 work I do with my other employees, I outright KNOW I will be uncomfortable doing that with this new hire.

    I can’t tell if the problem is a) you’re just really, really embarrassed that you find a subordinate attractive and/or you think the attraction itself is unprofessional and either way you’re afraid people will be able to tell OR b) although you say you’d never do anything unprofessional, you’re afraid that you actually will (and possibly already have if the employee being distracting includes you staring at them).

    I think most people are reading this as ‘b’, especially since you specifically said you’d be uncomfortable doing one on one meetings.

    The general advice to get therapy/coaching applies either way but with ‘a’ it’s more like, “Wanting to move them immediately seems like an overreaction” whereas with ‘b’ it’s, “Why don’t you think you can interact with someone you find attractive and remain professional”.

    In the meantime, can you use past experience as a guide here? As Allison said, we interact with people we find attractive all the time. Maybe there was a friend, or a teacher, or a waitress, or somebody at the DMV, etc. you found attractive once. Can you treat this new employee like you treated them?

  137. BendTheArc*

    Curious how the OP would frame their issue if the employee to be managed were, instead of being too attractive, of a different race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, or disability?

    1. Suomynona*

      And also what if the employee to be managed were, instead of being too attractive…too UNATTRACTIVE???

  138. Suomynona*

    Curious also about how the OP would frame their issue if the employee to be managed were, instead of being too attractive, too UNATTRACTIVE?

  139. Minerva*

    Assume she’s not interested in you and if you do anything, best case for you is that you will be a story of sexual harassment she’ll tell coworkers in 20 years about why she noped out of a good job and maybe derailed her career. You think you like her? Imagine how her face will fall when she realizes that her boss doesn’t see her as a competent employee. Imagine the hit to her confidence as something other than a pretty face. Imagine getting a reference check for her because she can’t leave you off.

    Imagine she’s strong enough to report you and you find yourself abruptly unemployed.

    Imagine the discomfort if she is afraid to be alone with you and HR asks why.

    She’s not interested in you, and even if she is, the skeeziness of her boss hitting on her will kill that. If you can’t see this and see her as an excellent coder, accountant, technical writer…. You really shouldn’t manage anyone.

  140. Lady Russell's Turban*

    Early in my career, one of our managers was on a team to hire a new employee. After the interviews he couldn’t stop talking about how gorgeous this one candidate was. She was hired and the rest of us couldn’t wait to see this incredible creature. When that day arrived, we were all like, “She’s pretty, but not-out-of-the-ordinary-pretty.” Then a leader of another team who was friends outside of work with that manager, showed us a photo from a vacation the two families took together: new employee looked very much like hiring manager’s pretty, but not-out-of-ordinary-pretty wife!

    New employee was lovely and we all enjoyed working with her. I never saw or heard of anything untowards happening between her and the manager before I left a year or so later. This was the early 1980’s, most people at the company were young, and I was new to the work world. None of this seemed strange at the time.

  141. Former Employee*

    Years ago, I worked for someone who was very good looking and I never thought about it until one day a friend who was in the same industry was in my office and saw my boss. My friend asked me how I could work for someone who was so good looking; they said that they would find it distracting. I realized that I had categorized my boss as “the boss” and never thought of them in that way until my friend made the comment. Only then did I look at my boss from a different perspective and could see that they were very attractive. I then went back to viewing my boss as “the boss”.

    Moral of the story: The OP needs to look at this employee as “my employee”, just like any other employee. While this may sound easier said than done, I believe that after seeing this person 5 days a week for several weeks, OP will find that the novelty has worn off and he will see this employee as just another member of the team.

  142. Raida*

    May I suggest, as an actual practical step that OP can take rather than “be better, think of others”?
    This new, attractive, person is mostly a mystery – have lunch with the team, walk to get a coffee with them. pay attention to boring dull stuff that doesn’t matter to the job.
    she cut her food up too small, takes big gulps of her drink, sniffs and rubs her nose in cold weather, has sweaty pits on a hot day, makes too much eye contact, doesn’t make enough eye contact, her nails make noise on the keyboard, she has a lot of eye makeup…
    ~Take the shine off~

    And do a few one or two on one sessions with other team members, make note of your own behaviour – what are you doing that is professional behaviour? What is friendly that they appreciate?
    Now you know exactly what it is, you can be more deliberate with that when interacting with her, and make note of where being helpful is more than you’d offer someone else.

    Hell you can treat her like a guy – give her a task of moving a box, and when asking if she needs help say “want a hand with that?” instead of rushing right up with “let me help you with that”.

    There are many ways of working towards not being distracted by her, and there are added benefits in looking at what you are and aren’t good at and how you treat male and female staff differently – mate, you could end up realising things which make you a better overall manager!

  143. Tired of Covid-and People*

    It’s hopeless. Women will never be viewed simply as whole human beings, and this is true moreso for conventionally attractive ones.

    I put up a mental block to men who are off-limits to me. I see them, and I don’t see them, no matter how attractive they are, and I keep my interaction impeccable. OP sounds like a kid in junior high. He needs to develop self-control, but it likely won’t ever happen.

    Beauty is sometimes a curse.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’m pansexual. If I moved everyone I ever found attractive I’d have….considerably fewer staff. And no job because the HR bods would be real suspicious of me.

  144. Jennifer Juniper*

    If the OP has a history of hitting on his attractive direct reports or the OP’s spouse/significant other works in the same office, it might be best if the employee were moved. Otherwise, they could find themself in any number of unpleasant situations, such as being accused of sleeping their way to the top and/or being a homewrecker.

    1. EnfysNest*

      If the OP “has a history of hitting on his attractive direct reports or the OP’s spouse/significant other works in the same office”, it might be best if the OP was removed from their position for harassing his employees, exposing his company to the risk of a lawsuit, and not doing the part of his job that includes treating all his employees fairly and professionally. Otherwise they could put themselves in any number of unpleasant situations, such as making/allowing false and sexist accusations against his employees that imply he would withhold promotions if his subordinates don’t sleep with him.

    2. Observer*

      If the OP has a history of hitting on his attractive direct reports or the OP’s spouse/significant other works in the same office, it might be best if the employee were moved.

      Wait. If the *OP* has a history of problematic behavior it would be best to MOVE THE VICTIM? Maybe it would be best to move (or fire) the perpetrator?

      they could find themself in any number of unpleasant situations, such as being accused of sleeping their way to the top and/or being a homewrecker.

      You mean that if the OP actually acts inappropriately, the fallout is going to be the victim’s problem? And the OP gets away scott free? Oh, and we don’t really case whether the employee actually gets harassed, do we.

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        Unfortunately, since the OP is probably a man and he is in a position of power and the employee is his subordinate and is probably a woman, that’s often how things work, even in 2021. Many companies would find it easier to blame her, because it’s cheaper to replace someone in a more junior role than someone in a more senior role.

  145. Violet*

    This is one of many reasons why it’s so difficult being a woman in the workplace. At just starting a job, this man (who is her MANAGER) is putting his comfort above her career. I mean this in a scoldy way, it’s gross, and he probably needs serious psychological help if he can’t focus around attractive women. And probably his driving license taken away (what if an attractive woman crosses the road in front of him and he causes a collision!). This is nothing more than sexism on his part and I can’t believe it’s being indulged as anything but.

  146. Jay*

    Just a note that from the letter, unless it’s been changed by Alison: no indication that the new starter is a woman. Interesting that that’s the assumption in Alison’s reply, if it wasn’t changed, and the assumption in a lot of the comments.

    Seperately, not obvious that the LW is a man, though indeed this seems very likely given bullshirt male socialisation, regardless of whether they’re gay/straight/bi/pan/etc.

  147. CommanderBanana*

    In high school, I had a classmate who was devastatingly handsome. Like, Abercrombie male model handsome. Staring at the sun handsome. (He was also a very nice and pleasant guy.) If I, at the hormonally impaired age of 15 and 16, could successfully work on projects with Handsome Dude, you, as a grown-ass man, can figure out how to navigate this. And if you can’t, seek therapy.

  148. LegendaryBobcatTaxidermy**

    I was fired once from a job, without any prior warning (I had been told I was up for a promotion within a matter of weeks) and it completely blindsided me. I was a single young woman at the time, and was very attractive. My female boss, the head of the company, had a rocky marriage. Her husband invited me to participate in a solo extended outdoor activity with him (in front of my boss, which I politely declined). He also monopolized me at the staff Christmas party, where he, and everyone else, had a lot of drink, until I was able to quietly slip away. I was called into a meeting with my boss a few days later, and summarily fired. I was never given a reason. To this day, I believe that my boss wanted to get rid of any attractive woman that her husband showed an interest in. I was fresh out of college, young, and naive. I thought the boss’s husband was just being “nice.” I was unemployed/underemployed for 10 months as I struggled to look for a job during the recession. I took on debt and worked shifts for minimum wage to scrape by, picked up freelance work where I could, and drove 10 hours round trip every weekend to a “neighboring” city interviewing for jobs. I ended up relocating for the first job I could find, which wasn’t a great one, in a startup that was riddled with sexual harassment. It has taken me years to build up my career and start earning what I consider a decent salary. I am still paying down debt I accrued during that time. Please don’t tank this woman’s career by making her attractiveness a thing. Please talk with a therapist and get some tools that will help you to manage the situation effectively.

  149. KS*

    In fairness, I’m having trouble focusing on my work right now, just thinking about how hot this woman might be.

  150. Elizabeth West*

    I just now saw this one, and oof.

    OP, your employee is not being attractive AT you. It’s just how they are. And I’m sure they would appreciate being treated fairly, with attention paid to their work and not their face, for once in their life.

    Alison is right; if you want to manage people, you’re going to have to find a way to deal with it. Maybe take some time to think about why this is affecting you so much.

  151. Exhausted...*

    This is so inappropriate. Sexualizing another person is a choice. This employee is a full-blown human being and your choice to reduce her to your sexualized image of her is your problem. If this is such an issue, I would suggest removing yourself from a position of power over others, getting therapy, and really, really taking the time to look at your interactions with women/people you find attractive. To affect her career, ever though you say it wouldn’t be a big change because you lack control is so self-centered.

    Also, more likely than not she is well aware about how you are looking at her and is also uncomfortable. Don’t ever touch her body, always make eye contact with her, and always refer to her how she introduces herself. If you talk about her to other co-workers, she will be told about it including the inappropriate comments.

    If you are an employee that is experiencing this behavior, write down everything, anything inappropriate write down the date, time, interaction, who was there, get screenshots, everything. Save it in a place you can access. This person’s behavior is not your fault and if you ever need to do anything about it you already have the evidence.

  152. Eugene*

    Fascinating. Let’s say we take the author at face value here and accept as a premise that he WILL be distracted, uncomfortable, or otherwise compromised by his report’s presence. Doing so precludes a lot of the otherwise good advice offered to him here. It’s convenient to assume that, deep down, we all possess the same emotional capacities—that because many of us can successfully “control ourselves,” or don’t experience such feelings with such tragic intensity in the first place, the rest of us can and should simply get over it—but it’s probably not capital-T True.

    Controlling one’s behavior is one thing; controlling one’s mind and instinct is a considerably bigger project. It might be worth undertaking, but this manager may not be able to do it alone, or overnight. If he’s serious, I’d recommend doing some research and getting a therapist. One simply can’t go through a professional life with the capacity to go all “Edward-from-Twilight” on a new hire, even if they are one-in-a-million. In the meantime, he’ll need to overcompensate in the area he can control: his behavior. Be more professional than ever for a while, not just with the new hire, but with everyone, to avoid an imbalance.

  153. Not Pretty*

    I am honestly more worried about how OP would or has treated people that he thinks are ugly.

  154. Laura Zuber*

    Good answer. It is up to the manager to conduct themselves in a professional manner. You maintain control of yourself in all kinds of other situations where it isn’t appropriate, do it here too, OR get yourself transferred.

Comments are closed.