Work spouses - Part 1 explains the pros of a close working relationship between a boss and his or her subordinate. If it works, it can be a tremendous asset. But, alas, if it doesn't work, it can cause problems not only between the 'close' couple, but also with co-workers and even with the 'work spouses' families. Here's why.
Co-workers can feel left out of the loop if the 'work spouses' spend the majority of time together. This is a breeding place for personal or professional disagreements or misunderstandings. Chances are they won't hear the gossip about them until it filters down through their superior or human resources.
If something goes wrong between the work spouses, it can negate their trust and relationship with each other, and have a lasting and negative effect on not only each other, but the department as a whole, the same way it can affect a family in a real marriage.
Sometimes the work couple relationship can cross personal boundaries and become too personal, too controlling on one or both sides. Even close friends and real marriages need some space; 10 hours a day or more with a work spouse can manifest in the old adage - familiarity breeds contempt. Sometimes the work spouse subordinate may feel s(he) can make unilateral decisions or mandates for the department without the boss' input. This may not only not sit well with the boss, but also the department.
The close work relationship can cause havoc in one or both real-life marriages. It is best to keep your work spouse relationship light and not add to complications in your private life by adding someone else in the fray. Work spouses work best when the relationship is centered on work issues and kept on a professional level. And that includes no physical contact.
CNN cited a study that found that 20 percent of people with a work spouse said their real spouse was jealous of the work relationship. Not every "work marriage" turns into a sexual relationship, but the knowledge that there is another person out there having such a close relationship with a person's spouse can certainly strain a marriage. (Ref: Patrick Burns & Associates)
Marie Coppola February 2011
Work Spouses - How they can enhance your work environment - Part I