Q. I’m in my mid-20s and have just lost my job in a rather unpleasant way. This was a freelance position where I worked closely together with a full-time employee my age who’d approved me for this job. At our interview, we hit it off right away, and after a few months I developed feelings for her. I tried to keep these out of the way, but it came to a point where they were clearly interfering with my focus and quality of work. Perhaps unwisely, I decided to take the plunge. I sent her an e-mail to clear the air in which I briefly explained the situation, and also indicated that I did not expect anything to develop, since I thought the feelings were probably not mutual.
Soon after, I got a call from my client, who basically informed me that our agreement was terminated then and there, and my entrance badge would no longer work the next day. There was no explanation for this.
It’s now a few weeks later and I haven’t had any contact with my former co-worker or anyone else at the office. Was I wrong to take this risk? And was her solution the only possible outcome, or an easy but also disrespectful way out? How does she feel about me after this has happened? I’d hoped we could deal with this situation in a mature way, but perhaps I’m to blame for introducing these feelings into a working relationship.
A. If you told her that you’d developed feelings for her that made it difficult to do good work, I can see why she got upset. What was she supposed to do with that information? It sounds like she was kind of your boss. If she approved your hire, this is even muddier.
I can’t comment on her reaction to your disclosure, and I don’t know the company’s policy, but let me say this: In life, when you like someone new (who isn’t your boss or a subordinate at work), just ask them out. See if they want to grab a coffee and keep an open mind. There’s no need to give a big speech or send an e-mail. It’s just about spending time with them and seeing if anything can evolve.
And if you really believe that someone’s feelings aren’t mutual (and your relationship with them is mostly professional), you probably don’t need to do anything at all. Because what’s the point? What was the best-case scenario here (besides her jumping into your arms and saying, “It’s mutual!”)? What did you hope would happen, assuming she wasn’t interested?
Consider this a lesson learned and move on. It’s not productive to keep making guesses about her feelings.
Had you taken a more traditional path (“Hey, want to grab some lunch?”) then you might have been able to get a better feel for her feelings.
I don’t know why you felt the need to disclose your feelings to someone you thought didn’t reciprocate. What was that supposed to accomplish?
Fishing at work . . . not a good idea. Fishing at work with one of the people responsible for your hire . . . even worse. Sending an e-mail about it to them and saying you can’t focus . . . Darwinian.