Beth a 21-year old college student is considering dropping out of school to work full-time for her boyfriend’s computer company. She’s been working towards a degree in health sciences with the goal of becoming a physical therapist. Last summer her boyfriend hired her part-time to create websites for his clients. She discovered she enjoys this work and is good at it. Now she’s experiencing doubts about her chosen career path and hates the idea of spending additional time and money (she will need a master’s) for a degree she’s no longer sure she wants. She thinks dropping out of school will be a win-win. She will spend more time with her boyfriend, determine if web-site design is the career for her and perform work she enjoys without the burden of additional college loans.
Beth is not asking me for advice, but I so want to give it - I don’t think working for a boyfriend or significant other is a good idea. Here is why:
Working for a significant other changes the dynamics of a relationship:
In addition to boyfriend and girlfriend Beth and her boyfriend are now manager and employee. Beth’s boyfriend critiques her work and it is not always favorable. Also, he no longer refers to her as “Beth” or “Hon,” instead he calls her “Elizabeth.” And more often its, “Elizabeth I need you to ….”
Co-workers will perceive the boss’s girlfriend as receiving special treatment or favoritism:
At my company we have a manager who supervises his girlfriend. Almost every employee in the company feels the girlfriend receives special treatment. She is perceived as coming and going as she pleases and not doing her fair share of the work. This boyfriend/boss is constantly called to HR to discuss complaints about her. He gets defensive and repeats these conversations to his girlfriend. She no longer speaks to most of her co-workers. This entire situation has been a fiasco. HR is currently in the process of formulating a plan to reassign the girlfriend to an alternate manager.
- It will be hard for Beth’s boyfriend not to give her the afternoon off when they both are required to attend a function together (or want to go to a baseball game).
- Beth will have 24-7 access to the boss, since they do live together. Her opinions of co-workers will make a difference. If she doesn’t like them, their jobs could be in jeopardy.
You will never be away from work or each other:
This is just a fact, when both parties in a relationship work for the same company conversations tend to always be about work. Disagreements or relationship problems become work problems and work problems become personal problems.
What happens if the relationship doesn’t work out?
In the event of a breakup the entire company will be affected including co-workers and clients. And what about Beth? She will no longer have a boyfriend or a job.
What should Beth do?
I know of ONE couple who have a successful business they built together. This couple was married five years and had careers of their own prior to starting their business. The business is a partnership, not manager and employee. I also know several other women whose biggest regret is never obtaining a college degree.
- Before Beth does anything she should talk to her college advisor. Discuss alternative career paths. Shadow workers in a variety of careers including physical therapists. Apply for internships.
- If Beth does decide website design is the career for her, she should consider pursuing a degree in graphic design. I would also recommend including several business courses in her curriculum.
- Instead of working FOR her boyfriend Beth should start her own business. Website design is not her boyfriend’s core business. If she is needed to perform work for his clients she should do so as a consultant rather than an employee while pursuing additional clients of her own.
Have you ever worked for a significant other? Was it a positive or negative experience? Do you have any advice for Beth?
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