The dynamics involved in attraction, romance, and relationships can be complex and confusing. This is perhaps never truer than when an employee and a superior are involved; in addition to the standard feelings, you might feel frightened, excited, and extremely uncomfortable-or just uncomfortable, full stop. The unique relationship between a boss and an employee does not make for an equal partnership, but instead paves the way for a relationship with some difficult and problematic exchanges and interactions.
Unequal Power Dynamics
Perhaps the greatest problem and danger in discovering your boss is attracted to you is the reality of unequal power dynamics. In any relationship involving a question of authority figure and subordinate, the two people in question are automatically entering a romantic arena on unequal footing. When the boss develops feelings for or an attraction to an employee, it can feel exploitative; the employee might feel as though they are not able to turn down their employer's advances for fear of losing their job or facing workplace consequences.
Employees might also begin facing questions from their coworkers, especially if the boss experiencing attraction begins to show favoritism or any other inappropriate preference for you, which creates resentment among employees. This, in turn, creates unequal power dynamics not only between just you and your boss, but also between you and your coworkers; romantic or sexual interest should never take the place of legitimate workplace qualifications, and allowing your feelings to cloud your judgment creates an unhealthy, unsafe, and unpleasant work environment for everyone.
Workplace flirtation is not terribly uncommon, but having your boss flirt with you can be an unwelcome experience. Studies demonstrate that familiarity and proximity are both powerful motivators where romance and relationships are concerned. It makes sense, then, that the workplace is a common breeding ground for dalliances. In many cases, flirting with a coworker, or entering into a relationship with a coworker is not problematic. Work can be tense, awkward, or uncomfortable for a time if the two of you break up, but by and large, the consequences of dating a coworker are negligible.
This is not the case when you and your boss become involved, though. Most workplaces have some sort of policy enacted to prevent relationships like this so entering into a relationship with your boss could mean the loss of your job for no particular reason, or (at the very least) a transfer into another department or another store in the same corporation. Even if an actual relationship does not develop, a mutual attraction can land the two of you in hot water, and could make the workplace a more difficult place to be.
Workplace flirtations might initially seem harmless, but can quickly veer into uncomfortable or even dangerous territory. Workplace relationships, (again) while not uncommon, have the potential to bring discomfort, pain, and frustration to far more than just the two people involved; coworkers and managers can all get involved, and work itself can grow tenuous. This is particularly true if the two people in question are a boss and subordinate, as disciplinary action may need to be taken, and ethics committees might have to become involved, depending on the job and type of work involved. This is part of the reason for sexual harassment training in the workplace.
Signs Your Boss Is Attracted To You
You suspect your boss is attracted to you, but haven't directly been propositioned, or found any means to determine if your suspicion is legitimate. The most obvious signs are more than just when your boss laughs at your jokes. If that is the case, you must simply read the signs and decide whether or not your superior's behavior suggests attraction or romantic interest, or whether they are a naturally flirtatious person. Signs include:
1) Your Intuition Is Screaming
You might not have any evidence of your boss' interest, but if you have a gut feeling that your boss is showing interest in you, there is likely good reason; most people can instinctually tell when someone is expressing interest. Although a gut feeling might not be enough to talk to another authority figure or to get the HR department immediately involved, it can alert you to what is going on, and help you keep up your guard.
2) Special Attention
If your boss seems to continually offer you special attention, it is a good sign that they are interested in you. If your boss invites you to events or comments on your fashion sense, they might be attracted to you. Special attention might look like offering you all of the desired projects, all of the preferred shifts and more flexible hours, or could simply mean paying more attention to you and speaking to you more than other employees.
3) They Talk To You Outside Of Work
Whether your boss makes a point of talking to you outside of normal business hours, or makes a point of speaking to you about things that are not related to work, most people who are attracted to their employees will find a way to learn more about them, and forge deeper connections than those afforded by a simple coworker relationship. This is best done by chatting about things that do not directly relate to work.
4) They Find A Way To Be Close
Most people, when they are attracted to someone, will try to find ways to be closer to the object of their affections. The same is true of bosses; if your boss is interested in you, you might notice that they seems to always find a way to be close to you. You are most likely the first person they speak to when they come into work. This could be in the way they speak to you, with your faces always seeming just a bit closer than everyone else's, or could be through being assigned to the same projects and duties. Regardless of the exact mechanism, you will likely find your boss attempting to get close to you.
5) They Tell You How Invaluable You Are
In some cases, your boss might not feel comfortable speaking effusively about you without bringing work into the equation. When this happens, your boss might constantly and regularly praise your work, your work ethic, or your talent, taking great care to make sure you know how much they see and appreciate you. This may be just a sign that your boss respects you, but could be more. This could take on the form of exaggerated compliments, excessive promotions, or a constant, steady stream of gushing over how great an asset you are to the company, or your boss, specifically.
Some bosses will exhibit each of these symptoms of infatuation, while others will only display one, but all the possible signs can look different to everyone. When you know that your boss has feelings for you, or a romantic interest in you, it usually requires some amount of action, as forging ahead with a relationship or trying to ignore the problem both have their own consequences.
What To Do When Your Boss Is Attracted To You
First, assess your level of comfort. Is your boss making unwanted advances, threatening your career, or in any way making you feel frightened, unsafe, or nervous to go to work? If so, it may be time to seek help from his or her supervisor, in order to get the problem resolved at a higher level, maybe by filing a hostile work environment claim. If not, you may be able to simply discuss the issue with your boss, decline the advance, and continue doing your work entirely unimpeded.
If you have made it clear that you are not interested in a romantic relationship with your boss, and your boss persists to show you special treatment, single you out as the only person of their interest, and generally find ways to be closer to you during work hours or beyond, this could also warrant seeking outside help. It is never appropriate to behave this way with someone you are romantically interested in, but is (again) even more problematic in this type of dynamic, as your sense of safety is being infringed upon in multiple ways-including the way you make a living and maybe your own love life. If you are supporting a family, animals, or even just under some amount of financial duress, the fear brought on by a flirting or advancing boss could be too much to bear.
If you, too, find yourself experiencing attraction for your boss, there are several steps you can take. The first could mean simply setting yourself up for success by removing yourself from your boss' presence as much and as often as possible. If you can, you may even want to apply for a transfer yourself, to either open the possibility of a relationship, or protect yourself from disciplinary action.
In either case, clear and direct communication is the best course forward, followed by any additional action that needs to be taken. Although your boss insists they might not have nefarious intent in being attracted to you, you should always make sure that there are other people who know about the situation-people you feel safe with, who have earned your trust. That way, if anything does go awry, you have some allies at your side to help you move forward with dignity, grace, and safety.
Moving Forward Safely
Finding that your boss is attracted to you can be frightening; because of the power dynamics involved, you might alternately feel excited, exhilarated, afraid, and wary. Even if you want to enter into a relationship, be aware: getting involved with your boss rarely ends joyfully, and often ends with pain, confusion, embarrassment, and the possibility of losing your job. If you find that you lack the confidence and strength to end communication and interaction with your boss, or you still aren't certain how you should proceed, speaking with a licensed therapist can help you come to some type of agreement or understanding that can help you move forward with a healthy business relationship with your boss.
The power and potential loss involved in a boss-subordinate flirtation or relationship make these types of dalliances potentially dangerous. Usually not a good idea to enter into, boss-employee relationships raise countless questions from the perspective of a company's ethics, morals, and personnel responsibilities. In addition to getting into trouble on the boss' end, employees can also be terminated from their positions. Any type of boss-employee relationship has the potential for damage to numerous parties, and any kind of action should be taken with care and consideration.