I spent a ton of time helping 2 employees who hate each other … now they’re dating

A reader writes:

Over the last few months, one of my people (Alice) has repeatedly come to me about conflict with a neighboring department’s person (Mary). Both are at the same fairly junior level — they’re a few years out of school. The conflict has always seemed odd, and fairly amorphous, but both Alice and Mary have been very upset, including claims of bullying and issues with sharing of materials.

I observed their interactions, and they seemed somewhere between tense and rude. I coached Alice on professional behavior in the workplace, and Mary’s manager did the same with Mary.

Mary’s manager and I spent a lot of energy trying to figure out what was happening, and if one of the two of these people was the aggressor. Part of the problem has always been how little reason there seemed to be for this disagreement — nothing that happened seemed to justify the outsized anger at each other. For example, Mary once told me that she could not be in the same room with Alice without blacking out with overwhelming fury.

HR got involved, as did the union, and I have talked with more union reps and HR members in the last few months than I had in the preceding several years. This affected office morale enough that Mary’s manager and I have had conversations with the union about the path towards firing both of them, despite the fact that both are very high performers.

This week Alice came into my office and happily told me that it had been solved: she and Mary have made up and have begun dating. This comes after a long week last week of complaints about Mary’s behavior, and a further escalation up the ranks in HR.

I am furious. I don’t consider myself a person who gets angry easily, but I am there now. I coached these young women through a workplace conflict in good faith, and it turns out this was just some highschool pigtail pulling? I genuinely trusted Alice, and (while keeping open eyes about her faults) have taken the point of view that it is my job to protect my people.

I have not said anything, and I don’t know what I want to say. I certainly won’t address it until I can think this through with a level head, and maybe I should just be glad everything is over and let this go. Any advice?

Oh my goodness.

This is like the plot of a bad movie, where two coworkers despise each other so much that their hatred finally combusts into fiery passion.

I think I’ve seen that movie several times, but it doesn’t normally happen in real life.

I can see why you’re frustrated, if your sense is that all of this “hatred” was some kind of juvenile flirtation or a twisted game that they drew other people’s energy and person-hours into.

But … you’ve got to consider that maybe it’s not. It seems nonsensical but it’s possible, maybe even likely, that their conflict was real until something shifted. They weren’t necessarily acting in bad faith before now. Or maybe they were, but that’s not something you should try to sort out.

However, it’s fair to let this affect your assessment of their maturity, judgment, and credibility. That was fair earlier on, too! Mary couldn’t be in the same room with Alice without “blacking out with overwhelming fury”? That’s a problem, regardless of their status now.

And frankly, their inability to get along with each other previously — and the amount of time and energy that other people had to spend on solving it — is also still a problem; it doesn’t magically go away just because now they like each other. These are still two people who were rude, hostile, bullying, and (it sounds like) excessively dramatic. That doesn’t all get erased by them saying “never mind.”

You can still hold them accountable for that. You can let them know that regardless of their feelings toward each other now, what happened gives you serious pause about their professionalism and judgment and will factor into what type of opportunities you can and can’t trust them with. For example, I’d have serious reservations about letting either of them coach a more junior employee or work with VIPs or important clients; I’d be too concerned about immaturity.

That’s not because they’re now dating; it was the case before their love connection, too. If you have this conversation, make sure you emphasize that. You don’t want their takeaway to be that they’re in trouble for dating, because that’s not the issue.

{ 323 comments… read them below }

      1. BethRA*

        “Distance” aside, given their lack of proportionality and professionalism, I suspect they’ll do something update-worthy in the near future even if they don’t break up.

      2. Tio*

        Oh, this is for sure going to implode spectacularly

        I’d bet the other employees are starting betting pools and when and which one (or both) gets fired afterwards

        1. Some People’s Children*

          We had one of these that went nuclear. One of them was very likely going to be fired by t abruptly quit. The other barely kept their job and ended up leaving anyway. We’re talking here things like spreading rumors about what the other one was willing to do sexually nuclear. And that was not the worst thing.

          1. Yadah*

            A friend of mine experienced this. They were both far too young, immature and naive to have any business dating each other as coworkers.

            He thought it was a more casual thing, she didn’t – so of course it went sour.

            I’d wager her dislike of him was justified, her decision to literally break down the door to his office to fight with him was not.
            They were both fired.

            I dated a coworker and we got married so it would be hypocritical of me to completely condemn the concept of dating coworkers, but IMO you have to put a lot of work upfront to be open, honest and 100% on the same page before you even consider going on a single date.

      3. MM*

        I imagine that the managers will speak to both of them, they’ll take it poorly and bond over being “treated unfairly” by climbing up on a cross together, eventually leave in a huff or be fired for the ongoing huffiness, and end up stuck with each other much longer than they would have otherwise stayed because they have the idea that they’re proving something now.

      4. 1LFTW*

        Right, that was my first thought. They hated each other for quite some time, then did the hate-into-love thing within days. If/when they break up, I’m guessing they’re not going to handle it without bringing the LW and the rest of the workplace into it (again).

        1. L'étrangère*

          Oh yeah, the OP should be prepared for the mother of all breakups. I’d openly look to changing one or both of their roles so they’re no longer working directly with each other, if the company is at all large enough for that. And I’d tell them firmly that no complaint to HR about each other will ever be accepted in the future. Sheesh.

    1. Dexter Narcisse*

      My brother in law did this (to a MUCH lesser extent) with his now-wife. They went to HR with a series of minor-but-escalating complaints about each other, which were only resolved once they began dating. They’ve now been married for almost a decade and still seem very happy. FWIW, they’re both people who go through life with a bit of a chip on their shoulders, and it cracks me up that basically it just took them a long time to realize the reason they couldn’t get this other person out of their head wasn’t because the other person had done something WRONG THAT SHOULD BE CORRECTED, they just… couldn’t get the person out of their head.

      Anyway, here’s hoping this is actually the end of Alice and Mary drama instead of an Epic New Level

      1. Annie*

        that was my friend and his ex-wife. They were married 17 years before imploding massively.

      2. Working Class Lady*

        My concern would be that the drama will escalate to a whole new level if or when the relationship goes up in flames.

        It just seems strange that two people who seem to have so much animosity towards the other are suddenly in a romantic relationship.

        1. Princess Sparklepony*

          The breakup – which will come – will be explosive. And could possibly get them both fired. Which may not be a bad thing for the people in the company.

    2. Rex Libris*

      I’ll take “Fired for property damage following a spectacular at-work breakup” if anyone has a pool going.

      1. Ace Of Dragons*

        My money is on “car set on fire in the parking lot”, followed by a stalking charge and/or restraining order (either between the two of them, or by the company against one or both of them).

    3. JSPA*

      enemies-to-lovers is better in fan fic. (Unless each thought the other was a homophobe and mocking them??? Or both were raised phobic, and just had a mutual Great Realization?)

    4. Tiger Snake*

      I hope for the best-case scenario, and that the next update we get is a few years from now when the LW gets to give a speech at their wedding.

  1. CubeFarmer*

    Oh my goodness. Expect all the vitriol to return when/if the couple breaks up. That’s too much drama.

    1. It's Me*

      This was exactly my first thought.

      My second thought was that I’m glad I don’t work with these two.

      1. Goldenrod*

        Totally my first thought too! And now you, and the entire office, can look forward to a volatile and dramatic relationship playing itself out at work. Are they now going to go to HR every time someone forgets an anniversary? Exhausting!

        1. Working Class Lady*

          If that happens, HR needs to shut it down immediately and make it clear that they are there for work-related issues only.

      2. Petty Betty*

        My *first* thought was “I’m so f-ing glad I don’t work with these two”, followed by “gawds I’m so glad I won’t be working with these two when they break up!”

        Their courtship involved HR and management. Their breakup will be even more spectacular.

        1. Jopestus*

          I both agree and disagree. I would not like to work with them, but to be a fly in the wall might be nice at times.

    2. OrigCassandra*

      Exactly what I was thinking. Keep your powder dry, OP, and maybe have a coffee or something with Mary’s manager to compare notes in advance. Another chat with the union may be in the offing.

      1. ferrina*

        Yep. This is going to explode in a big way, and it’s worth getting some ducks in a row before that happens. Good luck, OP!

      2. Sara without an H*

        Definitely. OP, continue to document any and all unprofessional behavior and stay in touch with Mary’s manager, as well as HR. This isn’t over.

    3. Yup*

      Came here to say the same. Glad it’s over now, and good for them, but if their mindsets are any guide, there will be office war to contend with if they ever break up…

    4. Happy bureaucrat*

      Right, when she asked if she should be glad everything is over, I’m thinking it’s just begun! Them dating makes volatility and blowups much more likely

    5. BookishMiss*

      This was my first thought, too. I don’t think the volatility will get better, honestly, even with their current relationship. Keep your eyes peeled, LW.

    6. Cat Tree*

      The situation is also ripe for sexual harassment, which was less of a concern before. What happens if one person wants to end the relationship and the other doesn’t? They don’t seem likely to act respectfully about being dumped.

    7. NerdyKris*

      Not even a breakup. I’d be expecting any argument to become a workplace issue.

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        Yeah, this is what I was thinking. They’re both super-dramatic – every little tiff is going to be blown up to enormous proportions and they will not leave it outside work.

    8. Miss Muffett*

      Oh yeah, my first thought too. Buckle. Up. Maybe you can get rid of one or both before that happens….

    9. Alex*

      Came here to say exactly that. These are two immature young people in a workplace relationship. Don’t worry, there won’t be peace for long.

    10. Momma Bear*

      This is what I was thinking.

      I’d remind them of office expectations. We have people who are related or married/dating in our company but there’s rules. If the rule is no office PDA, no managing each other/projects, etc. then I think these two need to be reminded what’s expected. It’s all well and good that they worked it out, but they put the whole office through the wringer in the meantime. Is there any remorse about that? Were they aware that their behavior was so egregious their jobs were on the line? Needing to talk to unions and HR is not minor. I’d make it clear that no matter what, that behavior was unprofessional and not going to be tolerated again. Not toward each other or anyone else – I can see them joining forces to be angry at someone else who slighted one or the other.

      1. Jasmine*

        “– I can see them joining forces to be angry at someone else who slighted one or the other.”


    11. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yup. Address the immature and unprofessional behavior now, because it’s going to be *so much* worse after they break up.

    12. Sherm*

      I would have a conversation with Alice now to try to forestall any workplace relationship drama: “Alice, I wish the best for you and Mary, but should there be relationship difficulties, you need to address them during your personal time and not involve your coworkers.”

      1. Goldie*

        Future Narrator: When they broke up two weeks later, they did involved their coworkers, HR, and the water delivery person.

          1. Juicebox Hero*

            Minutes later, first responders arrive on scene. “Chief, I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s like a damn Tom and Jerry cartoon in here.”

    13. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Glad I’m not the only one with questions about how this is going to go.

    14. RedinSC*

      Oh exactly! THis is going to be a nightmare drama mess when they break up.

      That’s when I’d be speaking with them about professional standards in the work place and if they can’t get it together and work in harmony now, then this isn’t the job for them.

    15. Working Class Lady*

      My thoughts exactly. And it will be even worse because the breakup drama will be piled on top of the work drama.

  2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Yeah, I was like “this is a bad rom-com” about halfway through OP’s letter too.

    And now you have to wonder if this is resolved permanently, or if they will break up in 3 months and go on to even more epic levels of hatred and complaining.

      1. Missa Brevis*

        I think there’s a small but real chance that having figured out “oh, so THAT’S why the thought of Mary occupied my every waking moment”, their relationship will settle down to something much more normal.

        That said, they both sound like a lot, and I’m sure they’ll find things to be dramatic about even if the situation between the two of them specifically is resolved.

        1. Margaret Cavendish*

          Oh, they will definitely find things to be dramatic about. Even if the relationship continues, OP should expect the same sort of drama in a different form. Instead of fighting, they will be gazing soulfully into each other’s eyes instead of doing their work, insisting on working on projects together and/or sitting together, sending each other extravagant flower-and-balloon deliveries, standing on tables in the break room to publicly declare their love for each other…

          1. Productivity Pigeon*

            I mean, I WANT them to have had a sudden realization and to be happy and harmonious together but I suspect you’re right.
            This relationship will continue to steal all the air in the office, regardless of whether it’s “I will hate you forever!” or “I will love you forever!”.

            I can picture what you say (and the balloons…) exactly!

        2. Orv*

          I think it’s possible. Sometimes people fight not because they’re too different, but because they’re alike in ways that make them feel like rivals.

          1. Working Class Lady*

            But that’s so childish.
            Adults need to get a handle on their behavior,especially in thr workplace.
            If there is in fact bullying (name calling, harassment, withholding important info, etc) it needs to be addressed. other than that – these two need to grow up.
            and they need to be reminded, given their previous history, to keep their relationship drama out of the workplace.

        3. Lea*

          Yes I’m rooting for them and hopefully it was just all pent up romantic energy they SRE still young

    1. CityMouse*

      I don’t even think OP will have to wait until they break up for them to bring drama to work. From a non work perspective this is also a deeply troubling way for a relationship to start.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Ouch, yeah, these two sound like a bring-every-minor-disagreement-to-work couple.

        LW, have you really looked at their other professional relationships and are sure they’re really only acting this dramatic with each other? Because I have serious questions about the overall emotional maturity/control of this pair, and if Alice is giving the admin the silent treatment or being passive-aggressive with accounting, you need to put a stop to it.

    2. Double A*

      I read the title and was like, “I would read that romance novel. Probably have, actually.” But yeah living it in real life as a bystander sound infuriating.

      1. BubbleTea*

        It’s essentially the plot to my final year of secondary school. But I was 15 and not in a workplace.

    3. Steve for Work Purposes*

      Yeah I was gonna say I’ve read a lot of fanfics with this premise, though not this level of extreme. But ‘enemies to lovers’ usually works a lot better in fanfic than IRL.

    4. Earlk*

      If anyone wants to watch a rom com of this scenario then The Hating Game is on amazon prime. Although, I like bad rom coms and thought this one was iffy.

  3. Melissa*

    Alison is wise– this was a problem before they began dating, too.

    I have had serious interpersonal conflict with people at work (from my perspective, one was an outright bully and I also thought she was unhinged), but I would never have said I couldn’t be in the room with someone. That is incredibly unprofessional. “Black out with fury”– No.

    1. TheBunny*

      Yeah. I quit my job (a job I otherwise loved) because of an incredibly toxic boss. I’m currently in the 2nd week of my notice period and am managing not to black out in rage.

      I am avoiding meeting with this boss in person for my 1 on 1…but that’s an accident of when I was able to get my appointment scheduled so I can see my optometrist and use my annual allowance for glasses before I change insurance. I’m not sad to miss the in person meeting, but I could have managed it.

    2. Butterfly Counter*


      I have a sexist, racist coworker (he’s subtle enough about it that it’s not actionable yet). I actively despise him. But I can still be professional and civil even as I am doing everything I can to oppose his agenda.

    3. Quill*

      If you’re really blacking out with fury I’d be taking it incredibly seriously, given that it sounds like a recipe for either a medical problem at work or a sign that you’re about to haul off and punch someone.

      If it’s being used metaphorically… kids, please save that level of hatred for people who are actively causing harm, OK? And also don’t say it in front of your manager!

    4. duinath*

      fr. i would take that as an enormous red flag about the person saying it, and would make it very clear i don’t want them ever saying such things at work.

      i was struck by how disturbing a thing that was to say in the work place. in fact the only place i would not be disturbed by that is with friends who i know to vent with a lot of exaggeration, this is not a thing that belongs at work.

      learning after the fact it was pigtail pulling is just salt on the wound, imho, the damage was done before that.

    1. Elsewhere1010*

      It all sounds like a movie because it is one. The film is from 1940 and is titled The Shop Around the Corner, starring Jimmy Stewart. Two employees in a parfumerie hate each other at work while falling in love writing each other anonymous penpal letters.

      Later it was turned into a musical.

      1. starsaphire*

        Yep, and it’s been remade a couple of times, as well. Judy Garland was in one of them. And didn’t it get turned into You’ve Got Mail eventually?

        BTW, the musical (She Loves Me) is absolutely wonderful. :)

        1. CommanderBanana*

          Sure did! It was remade into In the Good Old Summertime with Garland and and Van Johnson and the original department store was turned into a music shop (made more sense in the context of the remake being a musical).

          They’re both great movies, but I love the original. The repartee is razor-sharp.

        2. not applicable*

          I really really liked the one in 2016 with Zachary Levi (admittedly it was my first exposure to the musical) but all of the songs are really good!

        3. adk*

          In You’ve Got Mail, Meg Ryan’s book store was called “The Shop Around The Corner”!

        4. sophie hatter*

          You could get a ton of AAM Letters out of She Loves Me (and the assorted films based on the same source play)!

          While this letter had the very catchy “Vanilla Ice Cream” running through my head (https://youtu.be/RjRhvf-w8TE?si=3LsksVkrDb-ERsGp if anyone is curious), I think in real life they’re more likely to wind up in an Ilona and Kodaly on again / off again situation. Which will continue to spawn drama.

        5. Elsewhere1010*

          I’d forgotten about that one! The original play is Hungarian, it was translated and opened on Broadway, and besides all the other adaptations the Broadway musical I was thinking of is She Loves Me, written by Sheldon Bock and Jerry Harnick, the same team that wrote Fiddler on the Roof.

          1. Elsewhere1010*

            Whhops! Czechoslovakia, not Hungary. Another commenter called correctly.

            1. Ms. Elaneous*

              Elsewhere, no worries at all…
              Those Czech, Hungarian, Romanian, Austrian borders used to shift all the time..

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        The full musical treatment is how this update will stand out from all other updates.

          1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

            Oh, a motif for “cheeeap assss rolllllls” must be woven throughout the score.

          2. Jane Gloriana Villanueva*

            I’m already looking forward to Duck Club and Duck Club (Reprise) and Duck Club (Threeprise), but the enduring wisdom of “Your boss sucks and isn’t going to change” needs a Barbra cameo to the tune of Evergreen, just for the in-joke.

          3. whingedrinking*

            My partner actually wrote a play based on the the “I ghosted my boss” guy.

            1. Anonymous cat*

              Cool! What approach did they take?

              Is it a romance gone wrong? A thriller? (Someone in this scenario was actually a spy?)

          4. Expelliarmus*

            So many, in fact, that it could be a musical anthology series! Each season focusing on a different famous AAM saga.

      3. Butterfly Counter*

        This also remind me of the book, “The Hating Game.” I know it’s been turned into a movie as well. At least in the book, when they start dating, one of them moved on to a different employer.

      4. Jennifer Strange*

        The theatre nerd in me must point out that The Shop Around the Corner itself was based on a Czech play called Parfumerie!

  4. CityMouse*

    Oh, boy. I don’t think OP’s problems are over at all. I think the workplace drama is almost certainly going to get worse. Volatile relationships aren’t fixed by dating, that’s a bad rom com trope.

    1. Naomi*

      Honestly, even if their relationship is happy, I’d still be keeping an eye out for whether they’re bringing it into the workplace in inappropriate ways. (High levels of PDA, getting drawn into each other’s conflicts with other coworkers, that sort of thing.)

      1. CityMouse*

        Yeah, look if they already started this level of workplace drama out of sexual tension, that’s a real sign they’re not keeping their stuff together and I really don’t think this is going to get better.

        I’ve had coworkers who dated and broke up, or dated and married, but the important thing is that they didn’t drag their workplace into their relationship.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Agreed. I don’t think this is a couple that you would never know were a couple based on how they behave in the office. While talking to Alice about how this whole thing affected your judgment of her, also make it clear that she is still expected to act professionally. No PDAs, not cutting corners on work in order to spend time with her honey, etc.

          If they can’t act professionally in the work place continue the conversation with the union about firing them both. Everyone else doesn’t need a forced viewing of their relationship drama.

        2. CowWhisperer*

          Heck, I had coworkers at a retail job that managed to keep people unaware of the fact they were dating for a year. They were both employees and worked in overlapping departments. They were 21 year olds.

          Mary and Jane need to take notes

    1. TheBunny*

      For OPs sake I hope they are together either forever or until they no longer work at OP’s company.

      1. Jake*

        I wouldn’t go that far. They are both praised as high performers. If one left, one stayed and they never broke up, I bet it would work out. Hell, it might even work out if both stayed, but that would be a bit more dicey, and not the ideal situation.

        That is all assuming that the one who stays has never previously had an issue with any of her other coworkers. If she has, then yes… they both need to go.

    1. CityMouse*

      “Blacking out with fury” isn’t a sign they’re going to be stable. These people shouldn’t be working together, dating or no.

  5. FormerIntern*

    I would continue down whatever path you’ve already started on to document what would be needed to fire these two employees. Not because you’re necessarily going to fire them now–though I would still seriously consider it–but so you have that information in your back pocket for when/if this relationship fails and the drama begins again.

    Also, how strong are these employees? You mention that except for this one area they were good workers, but the level of immaturity present in this conflict makes me wonder if they are good at all with the soft skills required in most jobs.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Yes, honestly – this jumped out at me: or example, Mary once told me that she could not be in the same room with Alice without blacking out with overwhelming fury.

      Having been on the other side of that – as in, having been the person who was filled with rage at a coworker – if I had a direct report say that about someone we’d be having a very serious conversation that might be the first step towards offboarding that person.

      This entire situation sounds like a toxic slurry I wouldn’t touch with a pole taped to another ten-foot pole, and if I were their manager I’d probably start documenting everything with the assumption that their relationship will implode and we’ll end up on the road to having to fire both of them.

      1. it’s gonna be bye bye bye*

        Yeah I think the response to not being able to be in the same room with a coworker without blacking out in fury is, ok, one or both of them needs to go then. I get that OP wanted to make sure they didn’t accidentally fire the victim of a one-sided bullying situation, but this seems mutual enough (and immature enough on both sides) that it warrants a goodbye from them both.

        You can find high performers who aren’t also high on their own drama.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Or even decent performers who aren’t dramatic. Sometimes having someone who can just do the job without fuss can be priceless. The drama just sucks the air out of everything, no matter how good the work is. Other people dread coming to work because they don’t want to deal with the drama.

            1. CommanderBanana*

              :Internet hugs in solidarity:

              We got there eventually, that’s all that matters.

          1. Consonance*

            I think you make a really important point that isn’t generally addressed in the letter or comments (that I’ve seen!). It’s not just about the two of them and whether they can work together civilly. It’s about the rest of the staff who are witness to all of this. I can’t imagine there’s all this drama and they’re somehow not involving anyone else in it. It’s exhausting and destabilizing to be around that kind of intense feelings, even when they’re positive. I’m betting their coworkers are uncomfortable and walking on eggshells. Suddenly swinging from one extreme to another actually makes that all worse.

    2. Observer*

      I would continue down whatever path you’ve already started on to document what would be needed to fire these two employees

      Completely. These are people who show some REALLY bad judgement and emotional regulation. Especially Mary, but also Alice.

      but so you have that information in your back pocket for when/if this relationship fails and the drama begins again.

      I think there is no real “if” here. And also, even if the relationship doesn’t fail while they are both working there, these are folks who are likely to have other difficulties.

      You mention that except for this one area they were good workers, but the level of immaturity present in this conflict makes me wonder if they are good at all with the soft skills required in most jobs.

      Very good point. And another reason to keep a very sharp eye on them.

      1. Miette*

        You might even want to give them a preliminary warning that the behavior up to this point was unacceptable and will not be tolerated should hostilities begin again. I know there are union as well as HR policies you’ve been navigating here that you must abide by, but I don’t think the cooling off you’re seeing necessarily negates all that’s happened to this point, and you might want to consider keeping the momentum going in regards to whatever action was about to happen. They both exhibited very bad judgment–that’s still a thing that happened, and shouldn’t be consequence-free. You shouldn’t have to start from scratch with these two when things inevitably blow up again.

        1. Union Rep*

          As a union rep who would be on their side of the case, OP should absolutely document and warn now. The most common type of discipline case I see is where management let things slide and slide and slide without doing anything formal until there’s a last straw issue and their supervisor is tired of dealing with it. Then they want to fire the person, but since there’s no proof that there was a broader pattern they don’t have just cause for that level of discipline. Fighting the case out takes a year and makes everyone miserable, and at least half the time could’ve been prevented if a supervisor had been willing to have the uncomfortable conversation the first time there was a problem.

  6. Richard Hershberger*

    I’m there with the earlier commenters, questioning the stability of their relationship. Even if we accept that they have fantastic physical chemistry that manifested itself weirdly, this is not enough for a long term relationship. It seems entirely likely that when the first bump comes, they will revert to the earlier behavior. I have no helpful advice other than be prepared for more drama. And please, please, keep us updated!

  7. EmmaPoet*

    I’m tired just reading this. It’s way too much drama, and I would also have serious reservations about their professionalism.

    1. Optimus*

      That’s what I said! These two are exhausting. This is a workplace and they are all about drama.

    2. roann*

      Right? It just sounds exhausting. If LW had described the dynamics without any other details, I would’ve assumed we were talking about high school camp counselors or lifeguards or something, not adults a few years out of school, so presumably in their mid/late 20s.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          Yeah, I was thinking 13 or 14 year olds. Our school went co-ed this year after previously being all-boys and this sort of stuff was exactly what I was concerned about happening. So far it hasn’t; we only have girls in 1st year at the moment so 12/13 year olds.

          But yeah, in previous mixed schools I’ve worked in, it’s been the junior end of the school, the 12-15 year olds, that this kind of drama has previously taken place in. I have no doubt the 16-18 year olds have drama in their relationships too, but…they at least tend to be mature enough not to go to the teacher complaining “I’m not going to class if he’s there,” “I’m not sitting beside her; she dumped my best friend,” etc.

    3. Double A*

      I think the only way this could have resolved acceptably is if Alice and Mary had come to the LW, assured them the issue was resolved, and then acted totally professional from then on. They should not have immediately shared that they are dating. For one, even in a workplace where you’re supposed to report if you’re dating a coworker, a couple of weeks… is not a relationship. Spend that time actually dating and figuring out if it should be a relationship. The fact that they jumped from enemies to lovers and told the LW about it just shows another facet of their immaturity and drama and willingness to drag everyone else into it.

  8. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    This is a recipe for drama, and I don’t blame you for being upset. There’s a reason many workplaces have policies prohibiting romantic relationships between coworkers. And these people have already demonstrated that they can’t be trusted to handle conflict maturely and professionally. You think it was bad before? Just wait until they break up. Start preparing to replace both of them now.

  9. MigraineMonth*

    Sure, I torpedoed my reputation and destroyed any credibility I might have with my manager, HR and the union, but at least now I’m dating the woman of my dreams!

    …until she turns into my nightmare again 3 months from now.

  10. Myrin*

    This has got the be the first letter in my decade of reading AAM where I very literally laughed out loud while reading it. I’m so very sorry, OP, I don’t mean to make light of your frustration in any way, but as a non-involved bystander, I cannot get over the absurdity of it all.

    1. Double A*

      This is what I always say about sitcoms. Hilarious from the outside, but if you were actually living in that world it would be terrible. The LW is living in a sitcom at the moment.

    2. Elsewise*

      I also laughed out loud at this one! I do not envy the LW, but I hope that they can laugh at this one day down the line.

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      Yep. As OP I would also be furiously annoyed but as a reader I am DELIGHTED.

  11. Caramel & Cheddar*

    Alice announced that the problems were solved because they’re now dating, and I think the important thing is to not assume that’s true just because she says it is. Last week they escalated to HR and now they’ve both done a 180 on each other? This is something where I’d wait to see what their actions are rather than relying on what one of them is telling me.

    Maybe dating does magically resolve it (yay, I guess?), or maybe they’ll be one of those couples who are constantly bickering like this because they get off on conflict, who knows. The point is it’s too early to tell whether or not anything has changed, and if nothing has then you may still need to progress with the groundwork you laid for firing them due to their impact on workplace morale.

    1. Antilles*

      Agreed. I’m a cynic, but I don’t think it’s even remotely true that the problems were solved. At best, they decided to completely ignore it and it’ll reignite at some unknown moment; at worst, this is just the eye of the hurricane where it’s (relatively) calm for a few minutes before kicking back up again.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I kind of want to see a meeting (or perhaps two meetings, one per lovebird) between the two lovebirds, HR, OP, and Mary’s manager. In which the last three are clearly very tired of the shenanigans, but since the first two have insisted that there was SO MUCH DRAMA and it was ALL THE OTHER PERSON’S FAULT the last three have spent many hours taking the claims seriously. Like, OP should tell them what she told us: That she has spent more time talking with union reps and HR these past few weeks than in the past five years put together, and many hours from a dozen people have gone into addressing their Serious Workplace Complaints.

    3. Liz*

      Am I the only one wondering if there was some incorrect perception of homophobia between the two and it did get resolved in the most ridiculously way possible? Maybe I’m an optimist

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        As in, Alice thought Mary was meaning mean to her because Mary was homophobic and Mary likewise thought Alice was being mean because Alice is homophobic? I didn’t think of that, but that would be hilarious if that was the case.

      2. Common Taters on the Ax*

        That was my thought when I saw the thing about blacking out with rage: Alice said something that Mary interpreted as homophobic, Mary was rude in response, and Alice had no idea why so just thought she was a horrible person until they straightened it all out. I’m an optimist, too, I guess. Hoping for the best for these two crazy kids.

    4. kiki*

      Yeah, I think it seems like these are two very emotionally immature people– they couldn’t contain their love/hate tension enough to just get through the work day together. I will doubt that all is resolved now that they’re dating. In fact, I think things only have potential to be messier.

  12. Scott*

    I’m totally with the other commenters here that this will be a drama-filled story in the future. One for which I sincerely hope the LW sends a detailed popcorn-worthy update.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      I know I should feel horrible about myself for wanting a dramatic, juicy update, but I’m stocking up on popcorn anyway.

  13. Overit*

    100% chance this relationship is going to explode spectacularly.
    I would proceed with all possible action against the two of them in the hopes that they will be termed before that explosion happens and affects the workolace.

  14. Juicebox Hero*

    Oh, may Sweet Lou Piniella watch over you. It sounds to me like these two thrive on drama, and I would not be surprised if they have a messy breakup somewhere down the line. Breaking up with a coworker makes things awkward and fraught for calm and easygoing personalities. These two will be blacking out with rage all over again.

    Keep hold of whatever evidence for firing either or both of these two you have in case their bad behavior returns.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      “may Sweet Lou Piniella watch over you”

      Consider this one stollen.

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        I always invoke Sweet Lou when drama, rage, and bad behavior are involved. He’s one of my baseball heroes.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          My church’s Christkindlmarkt usually has good imported stollen. Last year’s, however, someone forgot to order them. I scrambled and found exactly two OK stollen at Aldi’s. Yes, I am bitter about this.

    2. pagooey*

      I would absolutely buy a ticket to watch this inevitable breakup unfold, ESPECIALLY if it involves dirt-kicking and base-throwing! God bless Lou.

    1. 867-5309*

      Hours upon hours have resources have been spent on two individuals who could not work together and who were irrationally immature about it. Now, suddenly they are dating. This is high school level drama that has zero place in the workplace. I would be angry, too.

    2. Not on board*

      They’re furious they poured so much time and energy into resolving a conflict between 2 employees who seem to be lacking in maturity and professionalism and giving them the benefit of the doubt, only to find out they’re living out a cliched romcom plot. Their time could have been better spent on other things. Quite frankly, the blacking out with rage comment would have me starting the process to fire that employee before they started dating.

    3. She of Many Hats*

      And adding in the fact that any relationship drama will likely happen in the office.

      1. Lab Boss*

        Yes- setting aside that the OP (and others) spent a ton of time on conflict resolution that the two employees now just want ignored, they’ve proven that they can’t keep their personal feelings from affecting their work behavior in a major way- and that those feelings can turn on a dime. I would predict fireworks ranging from PDA/over-the-top couple talk, to big public fights- and them both expecting everyone else to work around how they feel that particular day.

    4. Elle*

      My take is she got too involved w/ the conflict. If she’d just looked into it, realized there was no cause, and just told her employee that this level of drama over nothing reflects poorly on her, I don’t think she’d be so mad right now. IMO she got too involved.

      1. 867-5309*

        An employee said she gets black out furious just being in the room with another coworker. A manager needs to have a heavy hand in figuring out what to do in that situation.

        1. Tio*


          Also, the fact that both HR and the union were involved and neither of them seem to think this is an overblown conflict indicates they were pretty out of hand during this conflict

          1. Momma Bear*

            + there was a second manager involved, so it wasn’t just OP. The conflict was so bad OP was talking to HR and the union AND considering firing somebody. I’d be peeved that so much time was taken up by people who now don’t seem to show any remorse about what they put anyone else through. It’s been a waste of effort, time, and resources.

        2. Double A*

          I think this is part of what’s enraging too. The manager took it very seriously as an issue of workplace bullying and was very involved. Now it turns out it was just misplaced pantsfeels?

          It makes the LW feel like they were part of the high school drama, walking their friend through all the drama with their crush.

      2. Sneaky Squirrel*

        I don’t think that’s a fair assessment when not only did LW have to get involved, but also the other person’s manager, multiple layers of HR, and union reps.

      3. ChattyDelle*

        hard disagree. these are two young but promising hard workers that the LW & fellow manager were trying to mentor. they have value to the workplace. and it blew up in her face. I’d be furious too

    5. Hlao-roo*

      I think the anger probably stems from feeling duped/taken advantage of. The letter-writer put a lot of time and energy into treating the Alice/Mary conflict as real and serious. Now that they are dating, the past conflict(s) look like the petty escalations of a teen rom-com movie, and the letter-writer feels that all their time managing Alice, working with Mary’s manager, working with the union was unnecessary.

      I think there is the possibility that Alice and Mary are dating in part because of all the work the letter-writer, Mary’s manager, and the union undertook to manage the conflict.

    6. MigraineMonth*

      I think it’s because LW has spent so much time and energy trying to resolve what she was told was bullying, when apparently it was actually romantic or sexual tension. If Alice or Mary knew that it was romantic or sexual tension and claimed it was bullying instead, then they were being dishonest and causing a huge amount of workplace drama for no reason.

      Alison points out that it’s possible it actually was bullying and something changed, but I’m sure it’s still frustrating to spend so much time trying to protect Alice from Mary only to find out Alice has decided to handwave all of Mary’s bad/alarming behavior and date her anyway.

    7. CityMouse*

      I think this is also going to escalate the drama. So the whole “it’s all fixed now” from the participants would make me annoyed because it’s one of those “oh, honey, no”.

      This is a workplace, don’t make your relationship or sexual tension my problem. And that’s what they did to LW.

    8. Beth*

      The problem is that LW and another manager poured hours of effort and thought into resolving what they thought was a serious conflict between these employees, and it now looks like the ‘problem’ was just the two employees not knowing how to deal with their feelings for each other. That might not be the actual scenario–who knows what happened–but it’s OP’s initial perception at least, and if there’s any truth to it, then that’s a lot of time and effort to waste on managing someone else’s crush for them.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        But they did have a serious conflict between the employees. It’s just that the origin of the conflict was what sounds like an interpersonal situation. The thing is, LW already knew this since they mentioned how there was no real work issue and nobody could figure it out.

        I’d say she took the appropriate steps, and got a decent outcome – sometimes as a manager your reports dont’ behave the way we’d like.

        Going forward though, LW should try to reframe this – it doesn’t do any good to be angry and furious at your direct reports, even if they behave immaturely.

        1. Boof*

          Op is free to fire any direct reports that can’t act in a mature and professional manner with their coworkers / everyone while at work.

        2. Maisonneuve*

          This is probably a healthy way to look at it. But admittedly, I’d be fantasizing about docking their pay for the time the manager and the other people had to spend on their case.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      I think it’s the comment upthread about “Oh! That’s why I couldn’t get this person out of my mind–it’s not that they must be doing a bad work thing. Ha ha! What a meet cute to tell everyone!” Management, HR, and the union took the two seriously, but apparently they were just side players in this wacky rom com.

    10. Irish Teacher.*

      I didn’t at first, but thinking about it, yeah, I can. They both used up a lot of her time (and Mary’s manager’s time) because they couldn’t get along and she probably felt, “but they’re such high performers. It’s a pity they can’t get along with each other. I should look into this because it seems out of character for them and there might be something serious going on” and then one of them just skips into the office and says, “oh never mind. All over. We can get along after all.” I can see feeling “well, if the issue is that easily resolved and there isn’t really anything serious between you (like one of you being bullied by the other or one of you being prejudiced against a group the other is part of or a work issue like one of you taking advantage of them other), then why didn’t you just deal with it yourselves.”

      The way it ended up made it seem like just a frenemy’s typed drama, which really is something adults should be able to deal with themselves without going to their boss. Heck, even older teens should be able to deal with stuff like that themselves. As a secondary school teacher, this sounds like the kind of drama my 1st and 2nd years (12-14 year olds) would come to me with. While I have no doubt the older students still have relationship and friendship drama (15-18 year olds are still teens after all and still learning to negotiate this stuff), they don’t tend to go looking for an authority figure unless there is actually bullying or something like sexual harrassment involved.

      If the LW was concerned there might be something serious underlying this, I can see how she’d be frustrated by “oh, never mind. It was just relationship drama all along.”

  15. Observer*

    OP, please be crystal clear, even to the point where you feel like it’s extremely rude if necessary, that it is absolutely *NOT* about their relationship status but about the level of drama and misbehavior that was going on. You might even want to point out to them that you were already on the path to firing them both over this whole mess before anyone had any inkling that they were going to “make up”.

    And please document the conversations you had with Mary’s supervisor and the union about that issue. Because when other stuff hits the fan, you want it to be impossible to argue that you suddenly decided that they are problematic because of their romantic relationship.

    Also, does your workplace have any policies about dating in the workplace? If so, it’s time to give a look at what those policies are.

    1. Beth*

      Yes! Alice doesn’t actually get to declare that the problem is over. It sounds like she was thinking of this as “the problem is that Mary was so frustrating/infuriating/impossible to be around”–but you had a problem with Alice’s behavior, not just with there being tension between them. Alice’s problem with Mary resolving itself doesn’t mean that your problem with Alice has gone away, and you can continue to act like there’s a problem until and unless you actually see your issue resolved.

  16. NerdyKris*

    This cannot possibly end well. They’ve already caused so much drama, and now they’re going to add dating into the mix? Any fight they have is going to become an office problem. They definitely still need to be warned that they’re on thin ice regardless of their change in heart.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      Or else they’ll go to the opposite extreme, making out in the break room and exchanging lovey-dovey messages over Teams and flipping out when called on it. Drama llamas gonna drama.

      1. JustaTech*

        Or both at the same time!
        My brother was like this for years, he’d get a new girlfriend, and his facebook posts would be painfully sappy, then one day they’re all horribly nasty and they’ve had a hideous breakup.
        Wait a month and repeat the cycle. Sometimes with the same person.
        It’s exhausting to watch from afar, I can’t imagine how draining it is to work with those people.

    2. it’s gonna be bye bye bye*

      Yeah there’s zero chance these two will conduct a healthy, successful relationship :/ Spare yourself the soap opera.

  17. 867-5309*

    Me: Oh. It is so embarrassing that I dated a coworker when I was 24/25 and thought we were so secretive, but everyone knew.

    This letter: Hold my beer…

  18. learnedthehardway*

    Can I just bow in awe at Allison’s so very perfect suggestions for handling this situation?!?

    Because this is a tricky one – both because of the relationships as well as the diversity situation. It’s entirely possible to really put a foot wrong here, but Allison’s advice is very, very good.

    Personally, I think you need to loop in HR as well to ensure that the entire situation is managed correctly now, because the potential is extremely high (given the level of maturity of these people) for it to become positively a volcanic situation if (when) they break up.

    1. Double A*

      I don’t want to stereotype or read too much into the age and gender dynamics here, but… I would document EVERYTHING about your interactions about these two. They seem to thrive on drama, and I can absolutely see them getting into an “us against the world” mentality where they become convinced they are being persecuted for their love and if they go down that route, it’s going to involve all the above people plus lawyers plus the EEOC.

      1. Llama Doc*

        This 10000% . Readers who work in veterinary medicine see this type of situation all the time! Next step is to bully a higher up who dares to expect them to act professionally. Me, I’d have all that documentation in order, never, ever meet alone with either one, and watch carefully for signs they are bullying others.

    2. Awkwardness*

      Can I just bow in awe at Allison’s so very perfect suggestions for handling this situation?!?

      I thought this too. The breakdown of the situation is so well done.

  19. I’m that grandmother*

    This is a bad soap opera. Maintain documentation for when you need to fire them after their very loud, very public breakup in the office.

  20. used to be a tester*

    I wonder if they used to date, and just ‘forgot’ to mention that was why they hated each other?

    (I lived in a place with a very small LGBT+ dating pool, and it was super common for a couple to be on their 2nd or 3rd attempt at a relationship with each other by their 20s).

    1. Anon for this*

      or if not, they have probably dated at least one of the other’s exes. I’ve lived somewhere like that too!

    2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Or maybe not each other. I used to work for someone who loathed her own grandboss because she had known him really well outside work, there was a spectacularly bad breakup, and she took the dumped partner’s side. It made her assume the worst about him in every interaction and she couldn’t be professional enough to set it aside at work.

    1. Sunflower*

      But yes, keep documenting. Unlike those novels, I don’t predict a happy ending.

      I would also be hesitant to speak with them so soon. Their new drama might then be “us against the world” if you do so. You will be cast as the villain (or at least Lady Capulet) and lord knows what drama they will drag everyone into with that.

    2. Juicebox Hero*

      And it’s been made into a movie that they show all day long on the Hallmark channel.

      1. Facilities Squirrel*

        The version I most recently experienced was called “Hanukkah on Rye”

      2. Orv*

        Hallmark Channel wouldn’t do the version with two women, though. Wouldn’t play well with their primary audience of Midwestern churchgoers.

        1. Sunflower*

          They’ve had a few movies with characters of the same gender in a relationship.

          You may be thinking about the Great American Family channel. The one a certain actress moved to because Hallmark has become too sinful for her.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I mean, I can see where the two young people got the idea that a good foundation for a relationship is to instantly dislike each other and engage in a lot of pointless squabbling.

  21. Ambitious Undergrad*

    Holy enemies-to-lovers-fanfiction, Batman.

    OP, you should be prepared for a very spectacular breakup. Might not happen, but you should keep the possibility in the back of your mind.

  22. Elle*

    I’m sorry, but this is hilarious. Leaving aside the immaturity required for something like this to happens, the gay chaos of it really amuses me.

    I hope they 1) have a great relationship 2) get the hell out of your workplace and take their drama elsewhere.

    1. Bee*

      INCREDIBLY funny, omg, and may they both find new jobs (separately! elsewhere!) soon.

    2. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

      Right? It reminds me of a girl in high school who accused me of “trying to make everyone lesbians” because I was comfortably out… and then burst out of the closet to date her best friend.

  23. She of Many Hats*

    Please review the employee handbook for any information regarding work-place relationships! If you are lucky, they may be discouraged and you can hand it off to HR to handle. And I would have a plan in place with the other manager for when they break-up and how to handle the resumption of hostilities since they’ll still need to work together.

    1. Liz the Snackbrarian*

      If a policy doesn’t exist, I have a feeling these two are about to become the reason for one existing.

  24. Person from the Resume*

    LW1, I think you need to let your rage at them now dating go. That isn’t going to serve you. If by some miracle this means a happily ever after for them romantically and at work then it’s good for you that you don’t have to deal with this any longer.

    I do think there’s a less than 5% chance that they don’t bring relationship drama into the workplace and won’t require more coaching, union intervention and firing. Maybe happiness, inappropriate PDA and fighting each other’s battles, but likely a spectacular breakup and being unable to work together and rage.

    Keep everything you’ve already documented about them in support of the case for firing and at the next exhibition of unprofessionalism, be prepare to move forward with the firing. Overall this has been spectacularly unprofessional display by both women.

    1. whimbrel*

      I don’t think LW1 is mad that they’re dating as a thing, they are mad that they spent so much time and energy and so many workplace resources (their time, Mary’s manager’s time, the union rep’s time, etc) dealing with the situation.

      Managing an employee who says things like ‘I will black out with rage at the presence of another coworker’ is exhausting, and it isn’t going to get easier when the two break up.

  25. Busy Middle Manager*

    You have to give them a talk on main character syndrome. They’re suffering from it by exaggerating everything and dragging everyone into their problems, as if they impact the whole company.

    It would be helpful to know what sort of job this is. You mention a union. When I worked in two unionized grocery stores, constant drama was unfortunately par for the course, people must’ve had too much mental space to fill up so consistently thought up problems like this. So it wouldn’t be as fireable in that environment that in other places. Another union rep would step in to save their jobs. Just sayin

    1. metadata minion*

      I don’t think any of this is the fault of it being a unionized office.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, I doubt the existance of a union has any impact on this and unless this kind of drama is common in the office, I suspect the kind of workplace isn’t particularly relevant either. It sounds like these are just two particularly immature people.

      2. Orv*

        In this case, since both employees are union, probably not. It can be a factor in bullying since unions tend to protect workers who bully non-union workers.

    2. Observer*

      <I.When I worked in two unionized grocery stores, constant drama was unfortunately par for the course,

      This has nothing to do with unions. There are plenty if toxic jobs and workplaces that don’t have unions, as well as placed where “constant drama” is probably too kind.

      I’m thinking about the place where on of the employees with living with the manager and there was a whole kerfuffle about one employee procuring bad acid for another employee. No union in sight. So, yeah.

  26. Mouseketeer*

    O gee, this will not end well. So much volatility and emotion has to go somewhere. And when these 2 break up – and I have no doubt they will – there will be fireworks of spectacular intensity.

  27. allathian*

    Here in Finland, we have a well-deserved reputation for being laconic and unapproachable. It would be very wrong to go into a fury if you are in the same room with someone, and even more wrong to date them.

    1. Jessica*

      You’re making me wonder what the plotlines are like in Finnish romance novels, rom-com movies, and fanfiction.

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        A fiery Spaniard, passionate French, or boistrous Italian with lustrous raven locks, wicked smile, sparkling melted chocolate bedroom eyes, and love’s burning flame within their heart arrives in Helsinki intent on thawing the frozen libidos of potential love interests. Meanwhile, the willowy, flaxen-haired, aquamarine-orbed Finns just kind of stare back like “huh?”

      2. MsM*

        I was under the impressions Scandinavians mostly did moody crime dramas, but that might just be Norway.

        1. whimbrel*

          This is *very* tangentially related, but: I was in a conversation on the internet once that referenced ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, and someone described ‘Helsinki Syndrome’ as ‘sitting in your basement in your underwear all winter drinking beer’.

  28. Sam*

    “both are very high performers” but dragging down office morale.

    Both still definitely need coaching on professional norms.

  29. Scoopdacoop*

    Are we allowed to suggest internalized shame/fear? Like, perhaps their own fears about being vulnerable enough to try and initial a relationship with any coworker let alone one in whom you might recognize flags that you’re from the same area on the relationship/romance spectrum.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Still not professional to drag that into the workplace so badly that your manager, the other person’s manager, HR and the Union spend hours trying to solve the problem. The problem isn’t so much the two people as how they were handling it. They can have all the feelings they want. They just can’t drag all those feelings out into the office.

      1. 1LFTW*

        Agreed. They’re adults, and any internalized shame or fear is something they need to deal with on their own time with their own therapists.

  30. Managing While Female*

    Enemies to lovers – classic in the romance genre, exhausting IRL.

      1. RC*

        Enemies to lovers is possibly my least favorite of the tropes. Maybe because (like here) it shows a complete lack of emotional maturity to understand what’s going on in your own head, and to deal with it appropriately?

        I am also skeptical this new relationship will magically resolve their issues, rather than just making new different issues…

        1. Quill*

          I like very specific ones where the enemity is due to being beholden to factions, rather than based on anything personal. Because it dodges the whole bit where you’re either enemies over nothing or brushing off actual problems (or Annie’s identical evil twin did the bad things and Betsy has thought that it was always Annie, etc…)

    1. Ms. Norbury*

      My thoughts exactly! I’m bit of a romance novel fan, but almost every time I read one with an office setting I can’t help but notice what a HR nightmare most of them would be IRL.

  31. BellyButton*

    “blacking out with overwhelming fury”??? So much eye rolling.

    One of the things I tell people, it isn’t just what you do, it is HOW you do it. They may both be high performers but their behavior is unacceptable and their performance reviews and bonuses should reflect that. It isn’t just about the output- please always remember that. It is why it is important to define values and behavioral competencies.

  32. Blossom&Blot*

    Enemies to lovers is a super common romance trope. Guaranteed someone is writing this book!

  33. JennG*

    If this holds true to the rom com trope, they’ll soon purchase a rundown Victorian in a remote location, go through all kinds of renovation hell including disturbing beehives, and then create a financially impossible except in the movie universe boutique honey business. So no worries OP.

    Okay…in all seriousness, document everything. Be very explicit about expectations, including soft skills type expectations.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      Oh, and Mary is secretly the heiress to a vast fortune and all the shenanigans she pulled were just testing Alice to see if she was able to love Mary for herself before the $1000 a plate wedding reception, bespoke Elie Saab gown, 50 room love nest on the Riviera…

  34. Alex*

    I wonder what the culture and acceptance around same-sex relationships is both within the company and the wider local area and whether homophobia (either perceived, internalised or external) could have been a factor in them not getting along especially if one of them has been more open about their sexuality historically.
    If one of them felt unable to open up about their sexuality or was feeling targeted because of it whilst the other was outwardly visible as non-heterosexual with no obvious negative consequences it could well have created a situation between them that made them both feel uncomfortable.

    1. Double A*

      I suppose this is possible, but I kind of feel like the fact that once they were dating they immediately shared it like it resolved the problem suggests this wasn’t the case.

      My fanfiction is actually that they are in a very queer-friendly but possibly kind of small area where this kind of drama just percolates around their age group and they think it’s normal.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        For me, the term “hot mess” appeared out of nowhere one day. I’m sure it started off on some social media platform that I, an old person, don’t follow. I am annoyed by the number of people who proudly proclaim themselves messes and messy as if it is a virtue. It is not, IMO.

        But, yeah, these young women could be from a social circle where being messy and a hot mess are virtues so they’re embracing this to the hilt.

        What they’re missing is that managers and coworkers definitely don’t want anyone being messy and chaotic at work and bringing their flirting/romance/romantic drama into the office to the extent that managers, HR, and the union are involved.

        1. Juicebox Hero*

          As a lifelong Old, I’ve found that the type has always existed (I have a cousin who literally chased one guy around the world – he was a Marine – because True Love for a good 20 years, but thankfully she got over it eventually) but teh Snaptoks and Facegrams have given it exposure. And somehow otherwise sane people are seeing it and thinking, yeah, I want me some of that!

          And now, their whirlwind romance gives them a whole nother scope for hot messing, by dragging every little spat into the office, expecting coworkers to take sides, and wailing that those meanies at work are homophobic or otherwise against their love when their managers try to course-correct.

          And you’re not allowed to slap them with a wet trout and remind them that no one cares that much about them but them.

          1. JustaTech*

            I just watched a video essay about Lord Byron, and wow if there was ever a high-chaos hot mess of a human, he was one!
            And people loved it! And hated it! And loved to hate it! It’s an entire genre of literature now, Romanticism and the Byronic hero. A lot of people at the time (early 1800’s) were really, really into the idea of being a moody, poetic hot mess.

            So people like this have always existed, we’re just seeing more of them now because we see more of *all kinds* of people now.

            1. Quill*

              Lord Byron: the man is A LOT to go on vacation with, but if you manage to actually befriend him rather than sleep with him he’ll go out of his way to make sure you get your husband’s calcified heart.

              (Yes. Really.)

          2. Mr. Mousebender*

            “Slap them with a wet trout” – not sure if that was a deliberate reference to Monty Python’s “Fish-Slapping Dance” skit, but I applaud your imagery nonetheless

  35. Not Anish Kapoor*

    I definitely want to read an update on this one in a few months! It would be great if the update is that they fell madly in love and lived happily ever after. Somehow, I think this is not headed in that direction. I hope you have a good HR department to protect you and the other innocent bystanders.

    1. 867-5309*

      Okay… I feel like a cynical a*s. I want to hear about the spectacular explosions when the relationship ends.

  36. pally*

    When all else fails to alleviate workplace conflicts:
    Have you tried dating each other?

    1. Potato Potato*

      Brb, sending a love letter to my HR contact who won’t respond to my Teams messages even when they’re urgent

  37. Bluz*

    Omg. I got tired and angry just reading along. This will not end well when they break up. Office romances are just asking for trouble. I would be prepared for the fallout when it happens.

  38. Tea*

    “This is like the plot of a bad movie, where two coworkers’ despise each other so much that their hatred finally combusts into fiery passion.
    I think I’ve seen that movie several times, but it doesn’t normally happen in real life.”

    “Mary couldn’t be in the same room with Alice without “blacking out with overwhelming fury”? That’s a problem, regardless of their status now”

    Agreed, even in the unpublished screenplay that this clearly is, that is not really a good look for a protagonist—unless this is a horror film and not a romantic comedy. So the boss character would need to address that but then Mary kills them and hides their body in an elevator because this is not actually a real scenario, it is someone’s spec script for a reboot of NYPD Blue

  39. Ann*

    And how well will they get along at work if they break up? That’d be my #1 concern to hedge against just in case, steps up to and including possible reassignment if their dating/spat/potential break up dynamic is as dramatic as I’d anticipate.

  40. Guilty pleasure*

    “The Hating Game” starring Lucy Hale and Austin Stowell. HR professionals would probably dislike it but if you get a kick out of the hate-you-love-you rom-coms, it’s a steamy good time!

  41. H.Regalis*

    Ugh, Beth and Mary sound like they escaped from a bad anime into the real world. Y’all are not main characters in a story.

    This amount of ridiculousness would be annoying even working in a restaurant, and food service can be pretty high-drama.

  42. Petty Betty*

    *sigh* Reading this made me think of exactly why I put the rule “No Banging Each Other In The Guild” in place for my acting group.
    Because every single year, without fail, we would get a couple of new, very promising actors who would be brought in by long-time cast members who were entangled in a flirtation with said new promising actors, and then thanks to the magic of ren fair, would end up sleeping with them, and within 6 months (okay, usually by the end of summer), the flirtation(s) soured and they were no longer on speaking terms and the new, promising actor(s) refused to come back to the guild for the next season and the sheepish, apologetic long-time cast member(s) is giving me apologies and swearing it won’t happen again (spoiler alert: of COURSE it happens again; hence the rule).

    As I tell everyone: Don’t sh*t where you eat. Unless you and your partner can fully compartmentalize and act as if you are practically strangers in the workplace together, it can get very messy. And I say that as someone who IS dating and lives with a fellow actor within the same company. We aren’t in the same group, and unless we tell cast we’re together, they don’t actually know (until the gossip spreads, because actors do love to gossip).

    I predict that within 6 months, this pairing is going to fall apart in a spectacular heap. HR and management had to be involved in their coming together. It’s going to be worse when they break up.

      1. Petty Betty*

        So so much drama. Actors are the bane of my existence, yet I enjoy the work. I spend the majority of my year prepping for a two week fair, and all I ask is that they keep their pants dance rituals outside of the guild. For the good of the guild. For my sanity. To ensure returning cast members.

  43. BBB*

    I just kept thinking ‘yeah I would read this fanfic’ lmao

    good luck when they inevitably break up, OP! this sounds like a terrible situation.

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I was thinking ‘Hey! I just read this fanfic!’ (Enemies-to-lovers is hardly an unpopular trope)

  44. JJ*

    Is there any chance there’s more to this than OP knows? When I read the letter, I immediately wondered if the reason they were both so oddly hostile was because they had secretly dated in the past and then broken up badly. And then they started to have a conflict at work but never disclosed the past relationship because they wanted to make it seem like the other person was totally unreasonable and this wasn’t just a personal thing between them? And now they’ve gotten back together and have decided to act like it’s all fine?

    1. Observer*

      Is there any chance there’s more to this than OP knows?

      Of course. It doesn’t make it any better.

    1. Zona the Great*

      If I were in this office, I would feel like I was an unwilling witness to some twisted foreplay these two were doing for all that time.

  45. Just Thinkin' Here*

    Two employees who have to interact with each other on a regular basis should not be dating. One or both of these employees should be re-assigned immediately. Is there no HR policy about internal dating?

    1. Orv*

      A lot of places I’ve worked in only had policies against it when there was a power differential, e.g. you couldn’t date your manager.

    2. Zona the Great*

      I’d never work for a place that would have such a policy. Common to be barred from dating between hierarchy but between peers? Nah.

  46. Elizabeth West*

    Oh, I can’t wait for the update when they break up. *makes popcorn with real Irish butter*

  47. Ex-Teacher*

    This is going to sound super conspiracy, or that I’m reading too far in to the situation, however If I was the LW in this situation I would definitely have my head on a swivel looking out for issues of sexual harassment here (at a minimum). Maybe it’s that I’ve spent a lot of time developing/delivering sexual harassment/discrimination training lately.

    Yes, we all love to eat up the drama, but I’m looking down the line. You have an employee who is accused of bullying someone, who is now in a romantic relationship with that same employee. Romantic relationships often include a sexual component. If this is an immature group or one prone to drama, then after a fight or bad break-up one could easily file a complaint that may or may not be valid, and very messy to investigate, and could open an employer up to legal liability and government investigations. What if one employee alleges the other coerced them in to a relationship in order to work civilly together? What if a relationship fight spills over into the workplace, and other employees are offended/uncomfortable with relationship talk/sexual talk?

    This is a wild minefield, these employees should not be working together anymore.

  48. FunkyMunky*

    wait until they break up and it’s even worse than before! I think both of them need to a convo with their respective managers that if there’s even a blip of highschool drama again, they are BOTH out

  49. MCMonkeyBean*

    I’m sorry I do find this adorable as an outside party, but I get why OP does not feel that way lol.

    I definitely agree with Alison’s take. Try not to assume anything one way or another about where the previous animosity was coming from because you can never know for sure and honestly they probably don’t even know themselves.

    I’d say to Alice that you’re glad the drama is over for now but that you still have some concerns about how everything went down and that being able to treat all of your colleagues with respect and cordiality at a minimum is an important part of holding a professional job. If you plan to keep her around, tell her you appreciate her work on XYZ but that her continued future employment is contingent on her ability to manage personality conflicts more professionally–even if she and Mary break up in the future.

  50. Aggretsuko*

    I’m the first one to mention Red, White and Royal Blue here, eh?

    I’d be rooting for this except for the “blacking out with fury” remark, which scares the bejeezus out of me. I hope they leave together to form their own company and move their drama along if/when it inevitably bombs.

    Also, are there any rules about dating coworkers here?

    1. June First*

      Enemies to lovers is not my favorite trope but Red, White and Royal Blue is so good! Now that you mention it, it’s time I reread it. Thanks for this!
      Your other points are well-reasoned, too.

  51. How We Laughed*

    My personal fanfic is that the whole dating thing is an evil plot by Mary to destroy Alice…

    But yeah. I don’t think the drama is over and I think the OP should brace themself for more trouble in the future.

  52. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    Part of me thinks that they got wind of the firing efforts and decided they’d make up to keep their jobs. The immaturity level they’ve shown would support a stupid decision to say they’ve begun dating.

      1. Petty Betty*

        Fake a romance in order to save their jobs… then fall in love after the fact?

        I mean, if my fb ads are any indication, it IS a trope. Which reminds me, I need to fix my ads again. At least it’s not werewolf smut this time?

  53. Goody*

    Breaking out the popcorn maker and getting ready for Return of the Rage.

    Seriously, though, I would absolutely not put a freeze on any disciplinary or corrective actions that were already begun, and I might be watching even more closely. This is an old 70s vintage pressure cooker building up to an explosion of spaghetti sauce.

  54. RagingADHD*

    I do not believe for one single minute that they will stop taking up everyone else’s time and energy now that they are dating. They’re just going to bring every single up and down of their relationship into the workplace and demand just as much help in managing their emotions as before. They will just be a different set of emotions.

    1. littlehope*

      Yeah, these people just sound *exhausting* and I can’t honestly see them being any less exhausting as a couple. Or god forbid, exes.

  55. tabloidtainted*

    They both sound exhausting. It’s funny that neither was self-aware enough to consider keeping their relationship quiet and just transitioning into a friendly, professional relationship at work. Maybe that’s beyond them and now you’re going to get a lot of PDA all over the office.

  56. e271828*

    There’s still going to be drama, just… different drama. Don’t bin the firing files yet.

  57. Crencestre*

    OP, as I’m sure you know you’ll need to be very, very careful in dealing with this to avoid being labeled homophobic or bigoted. (No, it wouldn’t matter if this were a man and a woman, but, things being as they are, it DOES matter that this involves two women.) If you address ONLY the ways in which they handle conflicts, that should at least be helpful in defusing a potentially very volatile situation with minimal blowback onto you. (But frankly, it doesn’t sound as if these women are mature enough to hold down responsible jobs, let alone manage a marriage. Sigh!)

  58. kittybutton*

    My first thought was how much worse this is going to get. These two are not the type to engage in a mature relationship. I expect that they will have all kinds of inappropriate and unprofessional behavior as a couple (and ex couple).

  59. Renee*

    What happens when they break up??? They should still probably both be fired based on past behavior and to prevent the apocalypse… lol

  60. enemiestolovers*

    I’m personally a fan of the enemies-to-lovers trope (in fiction at least), but there’s a big difference between playful office rivalry and an active animosity so intense that FIRING both people is considered. Also, there is usually a “friends” stage in there lol. There is no way that jumping from HR-mediated levels of anger to a romantic relationship is healthy. OP, best of luck with that, and please update us in a few months.

  61. Sivvy*

    First thought: they have been reading way too much of the “friends to lovers” fan fiction trope. And then confusing it with real life.

      1. Quill*

        Usually the fanfic at least invents a reason for a misunderstanding this large…

  62. Hashtag Destigmatize Therapy*

    Things are only going to get worse when Mary accidentally overhears half of a conversation and erroneously comes to believe that Alice is already married, then confronts her about it in a spectacularly harsh but also indirect and confusing way, and then realizes her mistake and apologizes to Alice the next day by interrupting work and standing on her desk with a boombox playing an 80s power ballad.

    1. Petty Betty*

      Okay, but it 100% has to be a large cafeteria, and a friend has to hype Mary up while Mary not only sings, but dances around the room and on tables while serenading Alice. Bonus points if the friend acts as an impromptu money honey.

  63. Quill*

    Congrats on being a bit character in a fanfic I guess. (Or a Hallmark movie) Not a great place to live, all told, and I’m suspicious that there will be more drama in 6 months when the passion fades.

    1. Humble Schoolmarm*

      I’m giggling here (apologies to LW, it’s not at all funny in the middle of it) envisioning a whole enemies to friends romcom/Hallmark movie from the point of view of the “mean”, “demanding” boss who doesn’t understand why our heroines are giving up this prestigious promotion to start a bee farm.

  64. Moose*

    Oh god. If they were that bad at handling their anger before, what happens if they break up? Screaming matches at work? Actual anger blackouts? This situation does not sound sustainable to me.

  65. Hosta*

    This reads like they were dating, broke up, had all the drama at work, and got back together. Once and future exes.

  66. Lobstermn*

    Take the W, document for future needs, and laugh at the rich panoply that is life and humans.

  67. Debbie Bieber*

    And, what happens when they break up!?! Need a meeting to set expectations.

  68. Tea*

    Wait I just figured it out. This is a failed submission for a Normal Gossip episode. Guys come on, you don’t need to try so hard even though Kelsey and Alex change so much of the original submissions.

  69. Sagegreen is my favorite color.*

    Those two are very immature and I hope you talk to both of them about acting better so that when they break up, it doesn’t implode your workplace. I would be ticked if I was the manager.

  70. Pelican*

    To be clear I agree with All of you. But when I was a kid we had 2 lodgers. Trainee managers. Hated the sight of each other. Got married & had 4 kids. Still together!

  71. NotARealManager*

    I was in a situation like this before (school, not work). There were a lot of FEELINGS that would’ve looked like we hated each other sometimes, but it was actually a lot of unresolved romantic tension and jealousy. Everyone else knew that was the problem. We even knew that was the problem, but didn’t want to talk about it (we were also very young). Those bad sitcom tropes don’t come out of nowhere.

    Anyway, this will probably end poorly and their feelings will start affecting their work again. Even if they continue dating successfully, it sounds like they can’t contain their emotional energy enough at work to stay professional. You’ll probably have to do more coaching about staying professional and set very specific boundaries around their work, but now that you know the real issue it might be more effective.

  72. Striped Badger*

    Becoming an auspice at work sounds exhausting. I think trying to take a step back and consider it all in good faith would be important. Assume their conflict wasn’t pigtail pulling, assume it was legitimate, that you and the union manage to resolve it and when that issue disappeared they just clicked. Assume the best case, for your poor tired brain.

    And then, as Alison says, hold them accountable anyway. Make it clear that both their behaviour was never appropriate and still needs to be disciplined and managed regardless of whether they’re still in conflict. Make it abundantly clear how you expect both of them to behave if they break up, and that their personal lives must never interfere with their ability to work together regardless of how many personal fights they may be having at the time. Put it all in their PIPs so they know how serious they are.

    And then relax and breath to recharge, because it sounds like you’ll need to pull those PIPs out the first time they have an argument about who was supposed to wash the dishes.

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