Today I’m tackling how to handle when your boss makes romantic overtures toward you.
Three weeks ago, my supervisor confessed he had romantic feelings for me. He had misinterpreted my friendly gestures and thought I reciprocated them. The whole situation horrified me, but I didn’t know what to say that wouldn’t be insulting. I ended up lying and telling him I was in a relationship.
Since then, I’ve felt increasingly uncomfortable at work. Before that I’d enjoyed working closely with him on projects and our occasional lunches out. But now everything he does leaves me uncomfortable. When he brought me a latte and muffin from the coffee cart last week, I didn’t know what to say. In the past, I would have thanked him profusely, but I was worried doing so would make him think he still had a chance with me.
I didn’t want to go to HR because that would have made a bigger deal of this than it deserves, but now I feel that I have to. I’ve been looking for a new job, and although I asked the interviewers not to call my supervisor, one of them did. Now my boss is paranoid because he knew I loved my job before he said anything. He isn’t talking to me anymore, just emailing me assignments, and it’s incredibly uncomfortable. What do I do?
Your supervisor’s actions are a big deal because they made you decide to leave a job you loved and have created a tense working environment for you. He crossed a boundary and could partially fix this by realizing you were his employee and thus off limits. He needs to stop compounding the problem by treating you like a leper.
Because you didn’t invite this mess and may want to stay with your company, ask HR for help. Let them know you didn’t consider your boss’ confession sexual harassment but had hoped he could interact normally with you moving forward.
Tell them that since that doesn’t appear possible, you’d like a different position and supervisor or a hefty severance check and positive letter of reference enabling you to find a new job.
HR will likely breathe a sigh of relief, given how reasonably you’re presenting the situation. To protect yourself, call your city or state’s equal rights commission and outline what’s happened. Their services are free to you, and they can protect you from anything that might go sideways in this situation, such as HR thinking you’re making up a story or your supervisor trying to spin this situation differently to escape consequences.
© 2016, Lynne Curry. If you’d like an answer to your career question, it’s easy. Write firstname.lastname@example.org. Lynne authored Beating the Workplace Bully (AMACOM, 2016) and Solutions. You can also follow Lynne@lynnecurry10 on Twitter or access her other posts on SheKnows, www.workplacecoachblog.com or www.bullywhisperer.com.