We met at work. She worked for the same company as me, and was moving back to the US right when I was in need of an analyst. She had worked for my department two years prior, and everyone loved her. I was not part of the department at that time and didn’t know her at all, but my bosses were extremely excited to have her back. I did a phone interview, but it was more of a formality. She is ridiculously smart, and had lots of experience I needed. So I hired her. That was December 2012.
She actually ended up living two timezones away, but that didn’t matter. She is the 2nd person I’ve managed remotely, and had great experiences with both. Every morning we would have a quick video chat to stay up to speed on things. At the end of each week we would project plan for the next week. I couldn’t believe how smoothly things were going.
She came to visit our office twice in the first three months she worked for me. It was sort of like being the handler for a celebrity. She was beautiful, and everyone who knew her from before was so excited to see her. They all wanted to steal her away and talk with her about life. She was very social and just wonderful with people. Immediately I got the impression she was an extrovert and socialite, and thought she may have trouble working remotely like that.
Because of my fear we ended up talking about personalities, and work styles. It turns out she was not as I had imagined. She is an INFJ and only brings out the social side when she has to and then crashes afterward. In fact she was more like me than I could’ve imagined. No wonder we got along so well!
Another side note, her step-Dad, with whom she has a great relationship is the same personality type as me (INTJ). We are both a little odd. Sometimes she would just stare at me, and then comment how I was acting or moving or talking just like him. For the record I’m not the easiest person to get along with. Here she was with a head start on how to deal with my personality.
Over the first 4-6 months I started to notice the similarities between us. Our working relationship was in sync. She took well to my style of managing, and I loved how well she worked through projects with me. She was sharp and always positive. We talked a lot during the day about many different topics as we got to know eachother better. It was during this time though that I started to worry about something else happening.
I already mentioned how beautiful she is. It was hard not to think about her all the time. I ended up having conversations with myself wondering what I was doing. Was I really falling for this woman? It sort of scared me. Can you imagine if I did something inappropriate or crossed a line with this beautiful woman who worked for me and happened to be everyone’s favorite person? The sexist male boss hitting on his beautiful female employee. There was no upside for me on that. I had to figure out a way to fix this.
In my mind there was NO WAY she felt the same. She was just being kind and personable. I mean she is married for crying out loud! Second if I accidentally did or said something inappropriate I would be the loser. Everyone loves and believes her. I had to be really careful.
I started researching managing across gender. The roots of what I found were that you need to keep a distance between friends and employees. It’s ok to be their friend but you need to keep enough distance to be able to give bad news or even fire them if you must.
So I put up a wall. If our conversations took a personal direction I would stop asking follow up questions, no matter how much it hurt. I wouldn’t ask her to reveal anything too personal. She could know about me, but I did keep some things hidden. Meredith noticed the change right away. She didn’t say anything until years later but she knew right off something had changed.
Fast forward to October 2015. Over a year ago now. Meredith has been my employee for nearly three years. It becomes obvious that she is going to be moving into another role and no longer working for me. All of a sudden I feel sad with the prospect of her leaving. We have become somewhat codependent and frankly I was probably still in love with her.
In response I take the wall down. She’s on the way out so it’s low risk now.
An amazing thing happens. By thanksgiving we are both discovering that we are now best friends. Those few weeks in October and mostly in November with no wall allowed us to cover a lot of ground and become best friends in a very short time. Had I not put the wall up this probably would’ve happened in 2013.