Work It Out

By Stephen Milioti

Originally published on Advocate.com March 04 2009 12:00 AM ET

Q: I dated a coworker for two years, but we split up a few months ago, and we're still tense around each other. My boss is a good friend and gave me a shoulder to cry on during the breakup. My ex is applying to work on my project, but I could probably get my boss to derail that application and send him to another division of the company. May I use that influence?

A: No, big guy. You may not. Unless we're talking about a tiny three-person company where people can bring their pet lizards to the office, I have to vote for total professionalism and fairness here. Here's why:

I don't doubt your boss is your friend. And there's nothing inherently wrong with blurring the friend/boss lines -- it happens a lot. But remember, you have a professional relationship in addition to a friendship; and, similarly, he is evaluating you on both a friendship and professional level. And getting your ex's CV bounced might color your boss's professional judgment of you. Sure, he was there to help you through the breakup, but at that point you were hurting and vulnerable. Now that you are stronger (I hope you are -- if not, there are medications to help), he'll expect you to be composed about the ex thing; and if you give an All My Children -worthy performance asking him to take a Zippo to your ex's application, your boss might think you're the type to throw workers under the bus. People are very protective of their jobs, especially now, and if you're going to screw your ex's chances, that means you could do the same to your boss. This could affect not only the work relationship, but the friendship.

Let your ex's application process ride out. If he does get the job, just be the bigger person. And show up at work dressed extra-hot.