There are tons of subtle (and not to subtle) signs your boss has a crush on you.
If they text you randomly, flirt with you in the office, or invite you to hang outside of work, you might be dealing with a doting boss. But before you decide to sit back and enjoy the benefits of their admiration, there are a few things you should know.
Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of “The Humour Advantage,” says it’s always flattering to find out someone has a crush on you, but at work this can lead to difficulties, especially when it’s your boss.
He says while you may, at least temporarily, have a strong ally in your boss, there are a ton of potential downsides to the situation.
First, the boss may inadvertently start showing you so much favoritism that gossip spreads through the office and your colleagues begin to resent and even distrust you, he says. “Colleagues may feel you get credit where none is due.”
You may also not receive the honest feedback you need to develop in your job and in extreme cases, an admiring boss, without your knowledge, could even prevent you from getting promoted or taking on better career opportunities in other departments because they want to keep you in their own department.
“And if your boss feels your feelings are unreturned — even if it’s just a playful crush — they may end up resenting you or getting jealous and taking out their hurt feelings on you in negative ways,” Kerr explains.
“You’ve got to let the person down while protecting your position. If you do nothing, you may become a target of gossip, and the situation may well get worse. If your boss pursues you relentlessly, you may also be forced to file an official complaint with HR, as you consult an employment attorney. Hostile work environment claims by fellow employees can also result.”
Fortunately, she says, there are diplomatic measures you can take early on to put a stop to most unwanted flirtation
“One word of caution: First make sure you don’t overreact. There are always people at work who are chatty or extra appreciative to everyone. Use your emotional intelligence to read your boss’s true intentions.”
Kerr agrees about nipping it in the bud as quickly as possible.
“Meet with your boss in a neutral setting away from all distractions and colleagues and have an honest discussion about your feelings,” he advises. “Don’t accuse your boss of anything — simply express your concerns, and how it’s making you feel.”
Keep the tone and conversation positive by stressing how much you respect your boss, enjoy your work, and how you don’t want anything to inadvertently get in the way of your professional development. Ask your boss if there is anything you can do to make sure the relationship stays 100% professional and respectful, he says.
Taylor recommend that you be subtle, in case you’re wrong about your boss’s feelings. But if you’re 100% sure, here are a few things you could say:
- “Thanks for the compliment. I want to be upfront and honest, and don’t want to waste your time. I prefer to keep the relationship professional, but hope we can still remain friendly.”
- “I’m flattered, but I think it would be better if we just have a professional relationship.”
- “I view you as a great boss, and I wouldn’t want to cross the line and jeopardize the good work we do, so I must decline.”
However, if you decide you do want to pursue a relationship with your boss, do so at your own risk, warns Taylor.
She says you could go for it and end up dating discreetly; falling in love; leaving the company for the sake of the relationship; and living happily ever after. But the chances of that happening are slim. A CareerBuilder study found that only a third of office romances end in marriage.
“But, if out of eight billion people on the planet, your boss is the only one you want to date, move cautiously,” she says. If you don’t get along, you’ve got a lose-lose: your job and partner. “Your boss has authority over your future, and if things go awry, your work life will become a messy challenge.”
Beyond dealing with gossip and potential legal issues, you may have to give up a job you love; you could lose an otherwise good reference; and your reputation may be compromised, she explains. “From an employers’ standpoint, manager training on flirtatious behaviour should be ongoing so that employees can do their best work, trust their bosses, and remain productive.”
Only you can judge if this is a risk worth taking, “but whatever you do, be decisive so you don’t languish in dilemma, inertia, or anger,” she adds. “You have the ability to set boundaries — and the right to work in a professional environment.”
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