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Manager in the middle July 19, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, family, research, work.
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Way back when I was working on my MS, my husband and I got into a big argument about whether H or B was the “magnetic field”.  (I’ve ranted before on terminology for various magnetic and electric quantities, so I won’t reproduce that here, but you can read a snippet on my old blog.)  We attempted to solve this by going to our advisor and asking him which of us was right.  Our advisor was astute enough to say he hadn’t heard of this issue before.  In reality, he may not have, but he didn’t want to take sides.

I have wondered how people feel about interacting with both me and my husband at work.  One person who has since left didn’t like my husband, and we both suspect that he didn’t like me as a “guilty by association”-type issue.  Those type of issues are extremely rare, but I wonder what people think when one of us slips and calls the other, “Hon.”  I think most of our coworkers don’t even think about it, but it still makes me uncomfortable.  I know that the one time Mike slipped in front of clients, I wanted to melt into my chair.

More commonly, though, I have noticed that I will be far more confrontational and argumentative with Mike in front of our coworkers than they are willing to be with him.  In one recent incident, he started going into a list of reasons why something wouldn’t work.  We’d already discussed it at home, and I’d told him he was being overly cynical and putting obstacles in his path.  He started going through the list again in meeting (that I was running), and I just shook my head and said I didn’t want to hear it.  Of course, he ignored me and I rolled my eyes, sighed loudly, gave him an incredulous look, and said, “Okay, fine.”.  I noticed a couple of coworkers exchanging grins with each other, and I wondered if it must be strange to see a married couple working this way.  (I wonder how they communicate with their spouses, who aren’t engineers.)

Recently, we had an incident where we were in a meeting.  We got into a discussion where I was disagreeing with him.  After we got done, there was a pause, and our supervisor said, “Actually, I’m more inclined to agree with Cherish.”  This elicited loud “uh-ohs” and “woahs” from several of our coworkers, and even a direct, “Are you sure you want to get in the middle of this?”

I find this interesting as I’m sure these comments wouldn’t happen if we weren’t married.  I’m amused by these types of comments, but I wonder if it’s that we’re doing something to elicit them or if it didn’t matter how we behaved as it would still be in the back of people’s minds anyway.

I also wonder if they think we disagree all the time because we do it frequently at work.  More than one coworker has been driven out of the room by boisterous white board drawing.  It’s funny how we are much more argumentative with each other at work than we are at home.

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Comments»

1. kamellia73 - July 19, 2012

Interesting. I don’t think I could ever, ever work with my spouse. I think we both thrive from having separate work lives and then being able to share things with each other at home. Also, I don’t have the greatest boundaries! I’m in awe of people who work with their partners.

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mareserinitatis - July 20, 2012

I hear this a lot. I guess I find it surprising.

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2. Anandi Raman Creath (@anandi) - July 20, 2012

Hah, I do think the marriage dynamic makes it weird for people also working there – like it’s more personal to “take sides” or whatnot. TJ and I would not do well working together, I don’t think, but then again, we do ok raising our kid together so maybe it would be fine. Where I work, spouses are not allowed to work on the same project.

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mareserinitatis - July 20, 2012

That’s exactly it: working together is like doing anything else together. I guess we have our communication worked out fairly well because we seldom have any problems determining who should do what. We discuss (sometimes loudly) how to approach problems or argue about what the end result of a particular approach may be. But I never take what he says as a personal attack…it’s just part of doing our jobs. (Interestingly, I think it’s easier to take criticism from him than from other people because I know that it’s not personal. Other people, I’m not so sure at times…)

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3. The Little Woman | FCIWYPSC - July 23, 2013

[…] discussed both the drawbacks (and here) and benefits of working with my husband before.  Today, however, I’m feeling […]

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