High stress jobs and the impact on your personal lifeNonprofit experts Gary G. Godsey, executive director of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, and Kathryn Engelhardt-Cronk, MissionBox co-founder and CEO, have teamed up to create MissionBox DoubleTake — a column that offers opinions about the peskier aspects of working in the nonprofit sector. The opinions offered here are based on the authors' personal nonprofit experience and may not reflect the opinions of MissionBox, Inc. These opinions should not be considered legal advice or used as a substitute for professional legal consultation. MissionBox readers are invited to submit alternative responses, which may be published here as well.
I work in a community-based program for adults suffering from schizophrenia. Safety requires us to go in pairs and I have been teamed with another caseworker for home visits.
My co-worker and I spend almost all day, every day, driving from client to client, stopping along the way for lunch or an after-hours drink. I think my colleague is good looking, smart and very good at his job. He’s funny, too. We have a lot of interesting talks and many laughs together. I think he likes me as much, if not more, than I like him. It’s getting intense. So what's the catch?
I’m married with two kids, a mortgage and a fifteen-year marriage that has me bored to death for most of those fifteen years.
This is such a hot mess, I don’t know where to turn or what to do.
Gary says ...
Oh brother, when will people ever learn? First, this isn’t really a work issue, just as long as your clients aren’t being impacted. This is a personal issue that I am not that equipped to answer. However, I will offer this advice: “messing” with co-workers usually creates a difficult situation, with sometimes very bad endings.
Work and personal romantic relationships are normally a disaster, usually leading to heartache on both ends and bad consequences for employees. Step back, think this through carefully and make some decisions based on your own moral compass and values.
Kathryn says ...
Because he is your colleague and not a boss or subordinate, there is probably no problem with two colleagues falling in love (there, I said it), unless there is a specific policy at your organization regarding work relationships. This “hot mess” is not a work issue, unless you two are neglecting your clients. It's a personal, marital issue and way out of my purview.
I understand how easy it is to get attached to someone with whom you spend eight or more hours every day. I have provided similar services to the same population you describe in my early professional life. I know firsthand that you are in a high stress occupation. There’s a reason that police, hospital and firefighter television series use your scenario as a central plot theme — because it happens all the time. It’s natural to need support and get very close to those who understand the daily challenges you face.
Whatever your colleague may be to you, he’s likely not the point right now. The poet Robert Browning tells us:
“It’s best to be off with old love, Before you are on with the new.”
If this guy really cares about you, he’ll give you the time and space to figure out your marriage and what makes sense for you and your family.