Dear Dr Victoria, I started my new job 3 months ago and couldn’t believe my luck.
Having been stuck in dead end jobs for years while my children were growing up, I finally ‘landed on my feet’. The first few weeks were a blur of induction courses and being whisked away to numerous external meetings by the bright young things I work with – average age of 20-something. Being a divorced, forty-something mum, I didn’t see any point of letting on my real age and was happy for them to think that I’m 30 something with as much energy as they have and up for the challenge ahead.
It was all going great until last month, when I was introduced to my new manager who had just returned from a 6 month sabbatical. The thing is we had already both met about a year ago through an internet dating site. We spent a lot of time emailing each other and we both disclosed a lot of personal information about our pasts which in retrospect, you really don’t want your boss knowing. After a few dates, it became clear he was not interested in a relationship as he was looking forward to his forthcoming 6 month sabbatical from work. We said the usual get in touch and left it at that. When we were introduced at work we both pretended we didn’t know each other and now it’s really awkward.
The last thing I want is for my colleagues to find out that I’ve been using internet dating sites to find men. I’m sure most 20-somethings would see this as a bit sad and also I don’t want my real age to be banded about.
We are all due to go off on a weekend bonding conference next month where there will be lots of drinking and I am terrified that Paul might let something slip. Do you think I should bring this up with him before the conference, even though he plainly doesn’t want to talk about it?
Dr Victoria replies:
You need to lighten up about the whole internet dating thing. Maybe some of your “forty-something” married friends who’ve been with their spouses for the last twenty years would find the thought of internet dating horrifying. But if they suddenly found themselves single, you can bet that sooner or later, they’d be internet dating too. As for your younger, single colleagues, most of them will have already tried internet dating or are currently registered on dating sites. You shouldn’t feel ashamed about it.
But saying that, there’s a good reason why you might feel uncomfortable discussing your internet dating antics in the workplace. Quite simply, you don’t want to become the source of office gossip. Unless you work in a small, close team in an office that’s very relaxed it’s usually best to keep quiet about your dates until you find yourself in a relationship. But this is because you don’t need your colleagues discussing your love life behind your back – not because internet dating is something to be embarrassed about.
Whatever you do now, don’t mention the fact that you’ve dated your boss to a soul – not a single person in your workplace or to anyone who’s likely to meet your colleagues. Even worse than your boss mentioning your shared history to someone would be him hearing about it but knowing he wasn’t the source. Whether you need to bring it up with him is up to you, but you might just make matters worse. Are you sure things are really awkward or is that just how you feel? The best tactic would be to get on with your work and not act as if your personal life is getting in the way of work. Your boss probably shares the same sentiment – he’d rather just forget about it and he certainly doesn’t want to talk about it. The longer you’ve been working together, the more of a distant memory it will become.
If I was in that situation, I would probably be more inclined to say nothing, but if you really do need to bring it up, best to wait until a time when you’re on neutral territory, on a fun work night out. Don’t make a big deal about it. Just mention something like “funny bumping into you again after all this time. Just so you know, I won’t mention to anyone about how we knew each other already, and I’m glad we can just get on with working together”. Then leave it at that, change the subject, talk about something else – preferably something light-hearted - and don’t interrogate him about his love life or try to extract a vow of silence from him.
If he wants to keep the matter between the two of you, he will. If he wants to gossip about you, he will. Telling him what to do won’t make him do what you want. Just act as you normally would in a new job. Be friendly and professional, not suspicious and jumpy. As for your age – you can’t change it so it’s not worth worrying about. Be vague about your age if you want, but don’t lie.