A lot of romantic relationships start in the workplace. But when sparks fly between an employee and the boss, it’s not uncommon to wonder can I get fired for dating my boss?
Here’s what I know from my years hiring and firing:
In an at-will state, employees can be fired at any time for any reason. However, when a subordinate is in a relationship with their direct supervisor, they are unlikely to get fired unless they are dishonest about it when questioned. Typically the person in charge is more likely to be disciplined or fired.
But there’s a lot more to know about workplace romances, nepotism, favoritism, and some of the other downsides that come from dating your supervisor. So let’s dig in a little further.
After all, we spend a third of our day at work.
As a result, it’s easy to develop relationships with coworkers. It’s natural to want to learn about the people you are spending so much time with.
You may even find that you want to learn more about one particular coworker. You may find that you share the same interests or just enjoy being around each other.
Eventually, you may find that you even have romantic feelings for this coworker. That’s okay.
But what if these new romantic feelings are for not just any coworker, but a boss? That can be a little trickier.
Dating your boss could lead to resentment and jealousy among coworkers. It could also be perceived that your boss is manipulating you. So how do you date your boss? Can it be done?
Keep reading to learn more!
Tips for Dating Your Boss
— Ruby Abney (@spirit__caller) November 21, 2019
Can you date your boss legally?
Yes is the short answer.
But, while there is no law against dating your boss, you should consider that there is definitely a conflict of interest.
Many companies have policies in place that restrict bosses and managers from dating subordinate employees. These policies are in place to prevent an employee from being pressured into a relationship.
If your company does have a policy in place, they could require that one of you quit or move departments. They could also require that you sign a contract stating that you are in a consensual relationship.
Bosses have an exceptional amount of power and employers have to be mindful of this to prevent any claims of harassment.
Furthermore, no matter how professional and discreet you try to be, there is always going to be the perception that you are being treated with favoritism.
In truth, in an at-will state, employees can be fired at any time for any reason. And employees, in turn, can quit without notice at any time.
You can even be fired just asking for a raise.
Don’t believe me? In this recent article, I talk about how asking for a raise while you are a subpar employee could get you fired.
Alternatively, if you get a raise, even though you perform subpar work, it may appear that you’ve been given a raise because of your relationship with your boss.
Just click that link to read it on my site.
What happens if you date your boss?
First and foremost, think about why you want to date your boss?
Do you genuinely like them as a person, or are you attracted to their high position within the company?
If you genuinely like them, make sure the company policy doesn’t prohibit dating your boss. If it does, one of you may have to move departments or leave the job entirely.
Chances are, your boss is a boss for a reason, and likely unwilling to leave the company. Ultimately, this will be a decision to be made by the two of you. Just be mindful that it is a possibility that you’ll have to quit.
If neither one of you are willing to quit, then maybe the relationship shouldn’t move forward.
Also, if you don’t quit now, and you move forward with the relationship, keep in mind that you may want to quit if you break up.
If you are willing to quit, or if you break up and are looking for a second job, check out this recent article on my site.
Just click the link to read about whether you can get fired for looking for another job.
It’s also important to be able to recognize whether or not you are being pressured into a relationship.
If you are pressured to quit or if your boss fires you because they want to have a relationship with you, it could be considered harassment. However, if you quit to pursue a relationship, and it doesn’t work out, harassment could be very difficult to prove.
If you do get into a relationship with your boss, you should also understand that you will likely be a target for gossip. Coworkers will be stressed and may be unwilling to have relationships with you out of fear that you will talk about them with your boss/partner.
It could also give the impression that you are being treated preferentially. This could lead to jealousy and resentment among your coworkers.
Is it wrong to date your manager?
While it may not be wrong to date your manager, it could be wrong for your manager to date you.
Peer-to-peer relationships are not much of a concern to employers because there is no imbalance of power.
On the other hand, managers are responsible for many facets of the workplace. Including scheduling, pay, discipline, and enforcement of policies. As a result, they hold a lot of power over subordinates.
This is why many companies have policies in place prohibiting supervisor-subordinate relationships.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, there is greater awareness of sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers want all of their employees to feel safe in the workplace. By having a policy in place, they are ensuring that employees are entering into consensual, non-predatory relationships.
If you are considering dating your manager, you should consider whether it can look like your manager is using their power to manipulate or pressure you.
Are they pressuring you to quit because they want to date you? If so, this could be harassment, as opposed to leading into a healthy relationship.
In my years at Whole Foods, I know of MANY instances of bosses dating subordinates, and I did it myself.
Granted in the early days of the company, there was not a policy against it, and it was obviously sanctioned at the highest levels.
I can say without a doubt, that it is something I wish I had avoided.
But I also don’t like to live in the past and I feel strongly about mistakes being great learning opportunities as long as we’re willing to actually learn the lesson and not keep repeating the mistake.
Technically, though, my wife was my subordinate when we both worked together in 2005.
Granted she was one of 650 employees I had and I didn’t even know her full name or start dating her until I stopped working at that location.
But that still didn’t stop the unfair perception against her that she had been favored somehow, which was ridiculous.
So I can say from personal experience if you are attracted to your boss (or your subordinate), really ask yourself if it’s worth the downsides. Then, ideally, one of you should leave that location (or the company) before the relationship starts.
How do you successfully date your boss?
First and foremost, make sure it’s not against company policy.
If it is not against policy, go to HR and disclose your relationship. If it is against company policy for a direct supervisor-subordinate relationship, it may be acceptable for you to continue your relationship if you are in different departments.
Your company may be willing to work with you by moving one or both of you to different departments.
They may also require you to publicly disclose the relationship by signing a “cupid contract.” This is a formal statement indicating that you have consensually entered into a romantic relationship. It will make it clear that you are not being pressured to enter into a relationship.
Signing such a contract will usually prohibit you from bringing any claims of sexual harassment or assault against your boss or the company.
Ultimately THAT, along with disgruntled co-workers thinking you are getting special treatment, is really what the company is afraid of.
Additionally, make sure you are discreet. Don’t flaunt it in front of your coworkers. Don’t use your boss’s position of power to bend any rules in your favor.
For example, if your company has a policy against holding a second job, you could get fired for that. If you are dating your boss, and you have a second job, you are putting them in a tough situation.
Read this recent article on my site where I talk about whether you can get fired for having a second job. Just click that link to see that on my site.
You’re dating your boss who is married. He or she says he wants you to have a child & will take care of all your needs BUT you have to resign.
Would you do it? Why/ Why not?
Is it ok to date your boss? #Brekko pic.twitter.com/heAY1gP0VI
— MAJIMAJI (@MajimajiKenya) May 4, 2018
What do you do if you fall in love with your married boss?
Seriously. If your boss is married, you shouldn’t be entering into a relationship with them. Even if they are separated and on their way to a divorce, you don’t want to be responsible for splitting up a marriage.
And that’s on top of all the HR downsides of dating your boss.
Marriage has its ups and downs for sure. It’s complicated and sticky. It’s hard, especially when you throw kids into the mix.
During those low times, your boss may confide in you some of the pitfalls of their relationship. While you may feel inclined to give advice and provide moral support to them, this kind of behavior is unacceptable on your married boss’s part.
You may feel like this isn’t your problem – that if your boss is having marital problems, this is your chance to swoop in. But it’s not.
If you swoop in and provide your shoulder to lean on, you could actually exacerbate the marital problems. In some states, adultery is not only grounds for divorce, but it can be the reason your boss loses everything in the divorce settlement.
If it comes to that, your boss could end up resenting you, and feeling like it was your fault that they lost everything.
Is that really something you could live with?
If you find you are having feelings for your married boss, I think it’s time for you to find another job. Even if they are not having problems in the marriage, if you insert yourself into your boss’s life, you could create problems in their marriage.
Did I answer everything you want to know about dating your boss?
In this article, I talked about whether you can get fired for dating your boss.
I talked about whether you can legally date your boss and the potential pitfalls. I also talked about how to successfully date your boss.
Dating your boss can be very tricky.
But it is also doable. If you follow company policy and make it known that you are in a consensual relationship. Have respect for your coworkers and don’t take advantage of the situation.
Whatever you do, do not insert yourself into the marriage of your boss.
Would you ever date your boss?