What Can I Do About an Attraction Between the Assistant Manager and Me?

A Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about feelings of attraction by an employee for a manager: What can I do about my feelings? 

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Question:
I recently moved part-time jobs and I have been at my current job about 2 months. I think that my assistant manager may have a crush on me, and I may also have feelings for him. I am the only girl in the department so it’s hard to tell if he acts differently around me. I am 20 and he is 26 so I don’t know if the age difference is a problem.

When I met him (he trained me), he seemed sarcastic and rude. After about a week or so, I started noticing when I would come into work, he would seem excited I was there. He also started questioning me about my schedule for the upcoming week to see if we work together any days. When a day would come up that we worked together, he would seem really excited about it. I started wearing makeup to work. The first day I came in with it on, he saw me and started smiling and approached me to say hello. We joke a lot and he called me “cool” because I like to tease the head manager about not liking his favorite college football team, but liking the same team as the assistant manager.

I can never tell if he’s looking at me during work, because most of the time I’m looking away. In the mornings, he barely talks to me, but around noon, he approaches me and strikes up a conversation about something random. Sometimes when he smiles, he grins, but other times he has a genuine smile. I think he also likes to make me do tasks that require me to get a step ladder because I’m 5’2″ and he’s 6′, and he likes to watch me struggle. Sometimes he steps in to help when I struggle, and other times he asks the other guys in the department to help me because he’s trying to do something. He compliments my work and thanks me (usually for nothing, and when I ask him what for, he responds with “everything”) a lot more than the guys in the department.

One incident happened where I dropped a box of apple juice bottles and the box hit his leg. He laughed and told me I scared him. He reached down to examine one of the bottles, saying, ” I hope it didn’t bust.” As soon as he finished his sentence, the cap flew off, hitting him in the face, along with half of the apple juice. I stood in shock because I thought he’d be angry with me, but he started laughing and said, “at least it tastes good.”

I don’t know if he’s just being friendly, or has an interest in me. Please help.

Response:
Thank you for sharing your workplace and personal issue with us. Your question was titled, “What can I do about my feelings toward my manager?” It seems you also are wondering how to find out if your manager (the assistant manager of the store) feels the same attraction for you that you do for him. Many young couples meet at work, so it wouldn’t be unusual if you and your assistant manager have developed an attraction for each other. Relationships that start at work can be a lot of fun. However, the fact that the two people are working together—especially if one of them is in a supervisory or manager position—can also create problems and end up making bad memories instead of good ones. Here are some things to consider as you make decisions about how to handle this situation:

1. I assume you need your job and want to keep it, at least temporarily. You also want to get a glowing reference when you move on to something else. The way to protect your job and your future reference is to put your focus on work and show it. Your manager (the assistant manager’s boss) has one main goal: Make a profit and build the business. He wants capable employees and a relatively trouble-free workplace. Keep his requirements in mind, even though you are very aware of your assistant manager and thinking of him quite a bit.

You have probably been told about the quality and quantity of work and the personal traits that are expected from a good employee. Make sure you are at a very good or better level every day. The effort you put into work will help you keep your thoughts and feelings under control. Rather than spending all your time at work thinking about your assistant manager, you’ll be busy gaining new skills, learning new things and getting better and better at your job.

2. In the business where you work, there may be rules against an assistant manager having a personal or dating relationship with an employee. Because of that, you may not know for sure how your assistant manager feels about you until you are no longer working there. He may have been told my his manager to be very careful about acting too friendly toward female employees. He may even have been warned to not act too friendly to you. You don’t want to cause him to lose his job or to get in trouble by pushing the matter.

3. Your fellow employees have probably noticed some of the friendliness between you and your assistant manager. Avoid doing or saying anything that would add to gossip. (They probably already have talked about it a little bit. )

You can help both of you by avoiding things that tend to cause rumors:
*Being alone together for more than a short amount of time and being alone together at work when it’s not for business.
*Seeming to have secrets or a special understanding about topics being discussed. (You’ve probably seen two people give each other a look like “you and I have a special understanding, don’t we?”)
*The appearance that you get special favors or treatment. Other employees are quick to notice things and they probably have noticed your assistant manager’s interest in you. Make sure you keep a reputation for being a good coworker as well as a good employee.

4. Another thing to be cautious about is that your assistant manager may misunderstand your friendliness and interest in him and think you are only interested in getting together for a sexual encounter. You need to keep yourself safe by not assuming your assistant manager is interested in the same kind of relationship you are. For example, do not meet him in secret. Tell him immediately to stop, if he does or says something that makes you feel afraid or uncomfortable—and let a trusted older friend know about it right away. You should report it to the manager, if you feel threatened in some way.

Your assistant manager may be a very trustworthy person, but it would be wrong of me to not warn you about the problems that could happen if he has something different in mind than you do.

The bottom line: I think for right now you ought to just let things be as they are. Keep being a pleasant and likeable person and a good employee. Learn all you can from this job so you can apply it in the future. Enjoy the extra-friendly feelings you get from your assistant manager, but don’t read too much into them. He may only want to have a workplace flirt but not want to have more than that. Or, he may be thinking of something much less romantic that will end up being bad for you.

If you continue to be a good worker and a good workplace friend, your assistant manager will not only be impressed with you as an employee, he will realize all your other good qualities and also will appreciate the mature way you have handled this situation. When you leave this job for something else, he will be free to contact you away from work and the two of you will have a much better relationship because you know and trust each other.

If you have a trusted older friend who knows you and your work situation, you should talk to them about this. They will know the situation better than we do and can give you more personalized advice.

Best wishes to you. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know how things work out.

Tina Rowe
Ask the Workplace Doctors