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How to keep things professional?(11 Posts)
I have just started working in a new team within my company. I've been working for the company for several years but my new role requires me to work very closely with another colleague: long hours; overtime, some weekend work, etc. I knew this colleague before but didn't really have much dealing with him on a day to day basis. Now we often do 11, 12 hour days as we have a lot of dealings with another office abroad so often work late.
I am really enjoying the job but I'm worried that I may be inadvertently overstepping the mark with my male colleague. Both of us are married (and I am very much in love with my husband and would never dream of cheating on him) but in recent weeks I've got the odd feeling my colleague may see me in more than just a work light. I'm actually not one to blow my own trumpet, so sorry if I appear arrogant, and I certainly don't think I'm pretty but in the last few weeks some things have made me feel uncomfortable, not least because I think if his wife could hear or see some of the comments, jokes he makes etc she wouldn't like it. He is a bit older than me and has often made allusions to finding family life stressful and one which doesn't come naturally to him. I avoid responding to such comments and change the subject/make non-committal comments before refocusing on work.
For context, we have always had a bit of banter (which doesn't get in the way of our work). The job is a very serious, stressful one and it helps to lighten the mood. I have a lot of respect for him professionally and am usually in agreement with him on major decisions, which is also another reason why I'm worried that I've come across as too friendly/encouraging and now I don't know how to pull it back without looking too obvious, or cold. We are also going on a three day work conference in April and I'm really worried about it. I have never got his mobile number and if I have to contact him out of hours I do so via work email, which goes to his work phone anyway. So in that sense there is nothing that could be seen as blurring the boundaries.
Am I reading too much into this? Do I sound like I've been too unprofessional? Any advice?
Sorry for length!
This is a tough one, and really only one you can judge. It could be that he holds more feelings for you than you think and it could be dangerous territory or it could be a great working friendship.
I have some fabulous male colleagues who I travel away with, and apart from a quick thought about whether I like them romantically I get to know them and that disappears.
I think if you are feeling anyway uncomfortable with what he is saying etc then back right off but try use your natural judgement. I would try not to read too muchy into it, enjoy that you get on well but put some boundaries in place you wouldn't be happy for either of you to cross. Does DP know how well you get on? Are you able to chat to him about it?
I'd say you're overthinking it. You have a relationship with a work colleague that involves a bit of fun and banter. So what? If you both have the same boundaries and know where they are, what harm does it do?
Thanks pudding. We do work very well together, and have done since I started the new role in August (I realise the word "just" makes it sound more recent). He was on the team long before me, but now we have the same role - so in a sense I do look to him for guidance and as I said respect his opinion a lot. We have an excellent working relationship in all other areas.
I didn't really think anything of it until we travelled together for work about six weeks ago and something felt different but I couldn't put my finger on it. You say trust your natural judgement on this - I feel I have good judgement on a lot of things, but like I say I don't consider myself to be hugely attractive to men in that way so don't really know what the signs are, just that it feels different iyswim?
I am conscious that I have probably started talking about him more at home - naturally - and don't want to put any thoughts in DH's head. I read on here a while back that a husband had mentioned to his wife that he thought a female coworker liked him, and the consensus was that he probably liked her and wanted to test the water to see wife's response...So I don't want to put thoughts in DH's head that don't need to be there!
The other thing is that we have a LOT of similar interests and views in terms of politics, music, hobbies and the like. So to suddenly stop talking about those would feel a bit strange.
I will just have to pull back and not be too arrogant or read too much into things I suppose.
Thanks Natalia. I think you are probably right, I just wanted to seek some impartial advice from good old MN!
I have had great banter with male colleagues but when I think lines are getting blurred I will drop DH in conversations, just little things like I wish my DH were here, he loves this kind of food etc just to pull it back.
I don't think you are doing anything wrong, you aren't messaging each other out of work and sound like you are being professional. I work in a job where we have to entertain clients and drink is usually involved. We work very closely with our colleagues (2 or 3 of us) every day for a week, sometimes 16 hours a day. You get to know each other, you can't keep it purely just about work all the time.
You know you won't cross the line. Keep your boundaries and he will not push them. If he does he is a dick and you pull away. But for now keep it cool, keep it as professional as possible. I am perfectly capable of having work colleagues I get on well with without crossing the line. Ex partner was always a bit twitched about it but I knew I had nothing to hide.
By the way I live in the Mediterranean and the younger generation here are very free with their male and female friendships. i think its a very British thing that we feel its tricky being friends with males. I know that people say its always more form one side, I have some great male friendships i don't think cross the line or ever would.
It's possible to retain your great friendly working relationship but also subtly head off any potential boundary-crossing without making it obvious or uncomfortable.
Have you met his wife, and has he met your DH? My immediate go-to would be to invite him and his DW for dinner.
Talk about your DH regularly, in a complimentary and loving way. Just little things like "Isn't it cold today! DH has to get up earlier than me and when I went out to my car he'd cleared my windshield for me. He's so thoughtful like that." You don't have to lay it on thick, just enough to make it clear that you are happy.
If he talks about how stressful/boring family life is, give him short shrift. "That's what parenting is. It's meant to be hard work. That's how you know you're doing a good job and not just choosing the path of least resistance. The hard, dull work you put in during the rest of the year is what gives you a wonderful family Xmas/summer holiday/whatever."
If all else fails and you feel like he's dropping major hints, you bring up the topic of infidelity - use a storyline from a soap or film or something and say how shocking and unforgivable you found it, and how you would think so much less of a man who cheated on his partner. Look him right in the eyes and say "Don't you agree?"
I have used these techniques a few times in my life and it's always been with work colleagues (probably because I work in quite a male-dominated field, so I tend to have more male colleagues.) I've dodged a lot of awkward situations and been able to retain a good working relationship. However, do be prepared for a sudden cooling off on his part and he suddenly becomes less supportive and friendly when he realises it's not going to result in you dropping your knickers
I think that your assessment of the situation has served you well. You have recognised that this man appears to be signalling a green light to you, but by keeping yourself professional, you have prevented any advances. I would continue as you are, make sure that you keep personal space boundaries, don't engage with stuff where he moans about his wife/kids and do not find yourself alone in a hotel room with him, if you need to see him, use a public space in the hotel. I say this because the cliched work affair often starts with one person being a lot keener but the idea ends up growing on the other person as well. Add in the opportunity (bed and privacy) and there's a receipe for an affair. Lots of people in affairs completely abhor that sort of behaviour until they find themselves doing it.
Thank you very much everyone. I think the work conference is looming large in my head and as we're the only ones out of our company going it will just be the two of us for 3 days. We also have a major project scheduled for the end of the year which the MD has said will require even more travelling and long hours so I want to nip things in the bud if it needs it.
I do naturally talk about my DH a lot, but have little to offer in the way of advice about family life (our family lives are very different). I will just try to shut down without obviously backing off. Like I said I like this job so am keen to maintain what I still think is a good working relationship.
But I do agree with pudding that it seems weird for British people to have opposite sex friendships! Like I said, I don't want to be arrogant, but I've never felt these signals from other men, and I do work in quite a male dominated profession.
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