Was I rude on accident for not introducing my boyfriend to my boss?
August 8, 2014 4:04 PM   Subscribe

I'm a teacher who didn't introduce my boyfriend to my supervisor at an informal gathering and I'm wondering if I should apologize to to him [the supervisor]? Was this rude or perhaps OK for the circumstance?

I just attended a back-to-school picnic for faculty and staff as well as their families and friends. It was good but much more awkward this time as I brought along my boyfriend of a year*, and I'd previously kept my personal life very separate from work these past eight years, save for a few close colleagues. (In fact, I think some coworkers had thought I was in the closet, which is somewhat true as I'm bisexual and the old administration was not gay-friendly but this is an opposite-sex situation.) I've been in this happy and committed relationship for a year and, therefore, was feeling ready to finally mix the two a bit (and so pleased my boyfriend agreed to come along!)

Overall, it was fine determining when to introduce him to others and when to just take it easy: usually people only introduce their family members to their tablemates and the colleagues they know well. The event was somewhat chaotic with not enough seating and lots of moving around. At one point, my boyfriend and I were waiting the buffet line (across from each other); my boyfriend was standing next to my supervisor, who was also in line (but who was looking ahead and didn't turn to chat with us.) I wasn't sure what to do, paused and smiled a hello to the boss but then kept chatting with my closer colleagues and boyfriend.

Looking back, I'm worried I accidentally snubbed my boss of going-on two years, whom I respect and who seems to hold me in high regards, too. My boyfriend mentioned afterwards that he wasn't sure about the whole thing either but was leaving the introductions up to me, which is very understandable. Now I wish I had said something but, then again, my supervisor didn't introduce me to his wife and children at the picnic last year when we sat nearby (but we did finally at the holiday party when we shared a table.) I mean, my boss could have also been like, "Hey, I'm xyz." but I know it was really on me and, honestly, my supervisor might not have even been paying attention to us. Ultimately, I think it was OK either way but I'd like to make sure I'm showing my boss the proper respect, and wondering if a quick apology when I see him next is best, a la "Hey, sorry I didn't get to introduce you to my boyfriend abc last night as things got a bit hectic in line. What a great picnic, hope you had a good time!" or just let it go.

*Not completely related but a reason for some of the general awkwardness: my boyfriend is 25 but graduated from the school six years ago, making introductions for most unnecessary. It's awkward because there were two years of overlap when I was a new teacher and he was an upperclassman. However, we didn't even know each other existed until well after, so there's no conflict of interest; hopefully, it doesn't seem that way either as we're both adults, many staff members are new, and I look a bit younger than my 30. I guess many older teachers recognized him as he's quite memorable but did not come up to say hello, which I mention to describe the awkward atmosphere some more.

Thank you in advance for your feedback! I'm VERY professional as a teacher by myself but now that I'm starting to mix my work and personal life, I'm going to have to become better about this stuff!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total)
I think you're overthinking it and it's fine. No weirdness.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:08 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

You're overthinking this. Next time your boyfriend meets your supervisor, introduce him. Until then, focus on other matters. Your supervisor has already forgotten about this, and likely never noticed in the first place.
posted by saeculorum at 4:09 PM on August 8, 2014

I've dealt with this feeling before, and I think it's one of those things that feels more important than it actually is. One of the things that helped me is realizing that there is no standard of social appropriateness that almost all people follow almost all the time. There's a lot of hiccups scattered around in there, so most people have incorporated that fact into their understanding of how people socialize, and it's generally not a big deal to experience the occassional faux pas.

One thing I also realized: I wouldn't be offended if someone genuinely forgot to introduce me to someone they were with (and I'm guessing you wouldn't, either). So, I started to hold other people to that same probable expectation, if I were on the receiving end. We tend to be harder on ourselves than we would be on other people (and also they would be on us), and that realization alone allowed me to put things in better perspective and cut myself a whole lot of slack.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:19 PM on August 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

If you were standing there holding a long conversation with your boss and your boyfriend was beside you and you didn't introduce them, that would be awkward. A quick hello in the buffet line does not require an introduction.

If you make a point of apologizing for this now, not only will you be making a big deal about something your boss likely didn't even notice at the time, but it will also seem like there is some particular reason why you would like your boss to know your boyfriend, which is, in my mind, more awkward, especially given some of the other details you provide.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:24 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Disclosure: I'm bringing some baggage to this.

But my ex-husband never introduced me to his coworkers, ever. Even when I was standing right to him. Professional functions, chance encounters in a mall, nowhere. And it made me feel really crappy, to the point where I'd eventually just interrupt and introduce myself. Now, when I introduce misterussell to my supervisor or coworkers, I do it to show respect toward him.

So I'd say your supervisor doesn't care and don't sweat it, but double-check with your boyfriend to see how he wants you to handle it in the future.
posted by kimberussell at 4:26 PM on August 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

My SO is a high school teacher and despite repeated attempts I have never met the principal or any leading people. Unless your life outside of work is your spouse, consider yourself freed from all obligation. If your supervisor then expresses an independent thought about meeting you boyfriend, then by all means make an introduction.
posted by parmanparman at 4:42 PM on August 8, 2014

I also find teacher/former student relationships remarkably more common than I had expected. Go with the flow on this one: if it works, it works.
posted by parmanparman at 4:45 PM on August 8, 2014

You buried the most important detail.

Your boyfriend is a former student? And you worked there when he was still a student??

Say nothing to your supervisor.

Is there some reason you need to court professional adversity?

I get that you're both adults and free to date. I think unless he becomes your spouse, though, you shouldn't push this.

The genders and breadth of the age difference aren't my concern. Rather, there's simply a certain "ick" factor because you were a teacher at the same time he was once a student and legally underage at the school you work at.

Your colleagues who know your bf remember him last as an underage teenager. You've created dramaz that requires them to parse their memories of this former student with your current professional role.

He's not your spouse. I assume remaining drama-free at your job is important to you. I'm wondering why you might want to burden your career and your colleagues like this unnecessarily??

Your boyfriend should not attend professional functions with you for the time being.*

*Work functions are not "social." They're an extension of your job/career. Maybe you're not on the clock, but you must bring the same level of professionalism to these functions as you exhibit on school grounds or in the classroom.

Unless you're living together, it's sorta a bad idea to bring people you're dating to most work events, as a general rule.
posted by jbenben at 5:12 PM on August 8, 2014 [7 favorites]

Your colleagues who know your bf remember him last as an underage teenager. You've created dramaz that requires them to parse their memories of this former student with your current professional role.
Your boyfriend should not attend professional functions with you for the time being.

I strongly disagree. Many young teachers were students where they teach, and this doesn't cause staff that knew them as a minor to suffer from the unbearable dramaz. OP is an adult, her boyfriend is an adult, and it's her colleagues' responsibility to react in a professional manner.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 6:03 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm a teacher (who started at 21 and had students who were 19 that year...) so I understand to some degree where you're coming from.

I also understand that it's nice to have a significant other at those type of events, but I'm going to 100% side with jbenben on this one. He is a former student from a time when you were a teacher. That is Bad News. I'm not saying you can't date him or that you're doing anything wrong by dating him, and I'm also not saying you are a predator or something, but I am saying this: tread VERY carefully when it comes to mixing your relationship with him and your work situation. I have known several teachers be reprimanded or written up (or not rehired, though this is obviously not the reason they were given if they got any) for situations like this one, and I am in a pretty liberal state.

Don't mention it to your supervisor (also, I'm confused by that language. Is this a department chair or teacher leader? Or an administrator? If you're talking about an administrator then DEAR GOD NO DON'T INTRODUCE HIM). And be careful who does know. It really can be a big deal, and I'd hate for you to have consequences to your career for your personal life.
posted by guster4lovers at 10:03 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm a little blown away by guster4lover's addition to this thread. I had been worrying my answer was a little harsh, and that I wasn't clear that there is NOTHING wrong with you dating someone 5 years younger.

Anyway, there's nothing wrong with you dating your boyfriend.

Schools are weird, gossipy, and insular environments. Do not underestimate that. Exactly because you end up more intimate with your colleagues due to the nature of the work, it does not mean the professional stakes are any more relaxed than in other professions. Just the opposite.

You gotta kinda respect the rules of the play ground you're inhabiting.

Schools are gossipy and weird workplaces. School atmospheres are already too intense as it is. Don't mix your personal and professional lives for your sake.

Having boundaries will give you a richer life. Trust me.
posted by jbenben at 11:43 PM on August 8, 2014

I recently had an employee who had a very awkward and nervous conversation with me whose primary purpose turned out to be to apologize for a perceived snub where they failed to introduce their wife to me at a social event. They were convinced that I was angry about this interaction, when in fact I had no idea that they brought their wife nor did I notice that there was ever an opportunity to be introduced. I can think of several situations where someone stumbled over introductions or apologized to me after the fact and I cannot think of a single instance where I noticed the lack of an introduction or stressed about it at any point. Perhaps I am an outlier, but I suspect that managers rarely focus on this kind of thing, especially if they have a lot of employees. Personally, I'd suggest that you just forget about it.
posted by Lame_username at 2:57 AM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Don't even sweat this on the rational level.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:02 AM on August 9, 2014

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