5 Min ReadSelf 21 May 2020
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Help! I'm Falling For My Boss
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
OK — so — about a year ago I got a new boss at work. He is one of the handsomest men I've ever met. From the first second that we met and started talking, it felt like we'd known each other forever. If we weren't enjoying the conversation so much, we probably would have guessed that within an hour we would be splurging all about our personal lives and issues in our marriages that were very similar to each other. We really enjoy each other's company and we're almost inseparable at work — lunch every day — I hang out in his office to chat — he hangs out in mine. My team has noticed that we are together all the time and gives me a jab about it every so often in good humour. Anyhow, I have fallen for this person REALLY hard.
I try not to show it at all because A) He's my boss B) he is still married (unhappily, but married for his kids sake nonetheless), C) I'm separated from my husband but still married and D) we are such close friends and I feel like showing or doing anything to jeopardize that wouldn't be worth it for all the reasons above. BUT that doesn't change the fact that I'm completely infatuated with him.
I know he likes me a lot as a friend but I'm not confident at all that he has romantic feelings there. I could be wrong, I guess, but I don't think so. Whenever we spend a lot of time together he will often go quite cold for a couple of days out of the blue which I've noticed happens consistently. I guess maybe he feels like our relationship is heading down a more complex road and he purposefully steps away from me… anyhow, I feel creepy about it but can't help how I'm feeling. I have some time away by myself to think about it now so thought it would be great to get a complete outsider to the situation to provide their thoughts.
– Distraught At Work
Dear Distraught At Work
I'm sorry to hear you're in such a pickle; this is a very complex and nuanced situation. I can imagine you must have been toiling over what direction to take and it's completely understandable given the dangerous elements involved in this issue; your profession, your reputation, and even your heart is on the line here.
I think it's important that you're aware that the advice I dispense here may not be the best, as I haven't seen, nor understood how you and your boss interact, behave at ease, or complete each other. There are many variables in this, and it's a very complex, dangerous scenario. It's easy to judge this situation as unprofessional, but simply take a look ex-President Obama who married his mentee and have lived happily ever after, and one can conclude that love can occur in the most unsuited scenarios:)
The thing that concerns me most about your case is the fact that you're experiencing trepidation about your Boss' intention — and you, yourself, "feel creepy" when he doesn't reciprocate and goes cold. My advice is A) gather more information about him before you try to move in any direction. For example, does he ever intend on leaving his wife in this unhappy marriage or is he in a permanent marriage? Is he planning on staying married for the children's sake until they go to college? The more information you can get, the better you'll be able to gauge what is realistic for your future without throwing your career, reputation, and heart into a dangerous gamble. B) Can you change the reporting relationship so that you may not affect your employment? According to this great article in Psychology Today, "It may be acceptable to have a romantic relationship with a co-worker, as long as those involved are professional about it, but it is not advisable to have a romantic relationship when there is a workplace power differential. When you're the CEO, a power differential exists with everyone else in the company. This type of relationship is a potential powder keg waiting to explode." C) Perhaps it's a good idea to explore with a qualified therapist if you have a history of engaging unattainable, unavailable men? Again, you have lots of work ahead of you that doesn't involve sweaty palms and love struck dialogue, so get to it!
- The Armchair Psychologist
Help! My Friend Is A No-show!
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I have a friend who doesn't reply to my messages about meeting for dinner, etc. Although, last week I ran into her, it has always been awkward to be friends with her. Should I continue our friendship or discontinue it? We've been friends for a total of four years and nothing has changed. I don't feel as comfortable with her as much as with my other close friends, and I don't think I'll ever be able to reach that comfort zone in pure friendship.
I am sorry to hear you've been neglected by your friend. You may already have the answer to your question, since you're evaluating the non-existing bond between yourself and your friend. However, I'll gladly affirm that a friendship that isn't reciprocated is not a good friendship. I have had a similar situation with a friend whom I'd grown up with but who was also consistently a very negative person, a true Debby Downer. One day, I just had enough of her criticism and vitriol. I stopped making excuses for her and dumped her. It was a great decision, and I haven't looked back. With that in mind, it could be possible that something has changed in your friend's life, but it's insignificant if she isn't responding to you. It's time to dump her and spend your energy where it's appreciated. Don't dwell on this friend. History is not enough to create a lasting bond, it only means just that –– you and your friend have history. So let her be history!
– The Armchair Psychologist
Need more armchair psychologist in your life? Check out the last installment or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get some advice of your own!
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5 Min Read
You may recognize Judge, Tanya Acker, from her political and legal commentary on different networks and shows like Good Morning America, The Talk, Wendy Williams, CNN Reports or The Insider. Acker is more than an experienced commentator. She is also a Judge on the fifth season of Emmy nominated CBS show, Hot Bench.
The show, created by Judge Judy, is a new take on the court genre. Alongside Acker, are two other judges: Patricia DiMango and Michael Corriero. Together the three-panel judges take viewers inside the courtroom and into their chambers. “I feel like my responsibility on the show is, to be honest, fair, [and] to try and give people a just and equitable result," Acker says. She is accomplished, honest and especially passionate about her career. In fact, Acker likes the fact that she is able to help people solve problems. “I think that efficient ways of solving disputes are really at the core of modern life.
“We are a very diverse community [with] different values, backgrounds [and] beliefs. It's inevitable that we're going to find ourselves in some conflicts. I enjoy being a part of a process where you can help resolve the conflicts and diffuse them," she explains.
Acker's career has been built around key moments and professional experiences in her life. Particularly, her time working right after college impacted the type of legal work she takes on now.
Shaping Her Career
Acker didn't foresee doing this kind of work on television when she was in college at either Howard University or Yale Law. “I was really open in college about what would happen next," Acker comments. “In fact, I deliberately chose a major (English) that wouldn't lock me into anything [because] I wanted to keep all of my options open." Her inevitable success on the show and throughout her career is an example of that. In fact, after graduating from Yale, Acker served as a judicial law clerk to Judge Dorothy Nelson who sits on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
It was not only her first job out of law school but also one of the formative experiences of her professional life. “[Judge Nelson is] certainly, if not my most important professional influence," Acker says. “She is really the living embodiment of justice, fairness, and believes in being faithful to the letter and the spirit of the law," she exclaims. “She delivers it all with a lot of love." Judge Nelson is still on the bench and is continuing to work through her Foundation: The Western Justice Center in Pasadena, California, where Acker serves on the board. The foundation helps people seeking alternative ways of resolving their disputes instead of going to court.
"I enjoy being a part of a process where you can help resolve the conflicts and diffuse them," she explains.
“It was important to her to try and create platforms for people to resolve conflict outside of court because court takes a long time," Acker explains. “I'm proud to be a part of that work and to sit on that board."
After her clerkship, she was awarded a Bristow Fellowship and continued building her career. Outside of the fellowship, Acker's legal work incorporated a broad variety of matters from civil litigation, constitutional cases, business counseling, and advising. One of her most memorable moments was representing a group of homeless people against the city. “They were being fought for vagrancy and our defense was, they had no place to go," she shares.
As part of her pro bono work, Acker was awarded the ACLU's First Amendment Award for her success with the case. Though, she has a hard time choosing from one of many memorable moments on Hot Bench. Acker does share a few of the things that matter to her. “Our show is really drawn from a cross-section of courtrooms across America and the chance to engage with such a diverse group of people really means a lot to me," she discusses.
How Did Acker Become A Judge?
In addition to Judge Nelson, Judge Judy is certainly among her top professional influences. “I think it's incredible [and] I feel very lucky that my professional career has been bookended by these incredible judges," she acclaims. “I've really learned a lot from Judy about this job, doing this kind of job on television." Before Acker was selected for Hot Bench, she hadn't been a judge. It was Judge Judy who recommended that she get some experience. Acker briefly comments on her first experience as a temporary judge on a volunteer basis in traffic court. “I was happy to be able to have the chance to kind of get a feel for it before we started doing the show," she comments. “Judy is a wonderful, kind, generous person [and] she's taught me quite a lot. I feel lucky."
Photo Courtesy of Annie Shak.
Acker's Time Away From Home
Outside of Hot Bench, Acker took recent trips to Haiti and Alabama. They were memorable and meaningful.
Haiti, in particular, was the first trip she excitedly talks about. She did some work there in an orphanage as part of LOVE Takes Root, an organization that is driven to help children around the world whether it's basic aid or education. “Haiti has a special place in my heart," she began. “As a person who's descended from enslaved people, I have a lot of honor and reverence for a country that threw off the shackles of slavery."
She was intrigued by the history of Haiti. Especially regarding the communities, corrupt government and natural disasters. “They really had to endure a lot, but I tell you this when I was there, I saw people who were more elegant, dignified, gracious and generous as any group of people I've ever met anywhere in the world," she goes on. “I think it left me with was a strong sense of how you can be graceful and elegant under fire." Acker is optimistic about the country's overall growth and success.
“[Judge Nelson is] certainly, if not my most important professional influence," Acker says. “She is really the living embodiment of justice, fairness, and believes in being faithful to the letter and the spirit of the law."
“There are certainly times when people treated me differently or made assumptions about me because I was a black woman," Acker says. “I've got it much better, but that doesn't mean it's perfect...it certainly isn't, but you just have to keep it moving."
Her other trip was different in more ways than one. She traveled there for the first time with her mother as part of a get out to vote effort, that Alabama's First black House Minority Leader, Anthony Daniels was organizing. “It was incredible to take that trip with her [and] I've got to tell you, the South of today is not the South of my mother's upbringing," she explains. Originally from Mississippi, Acker's mother hasn't been back in the South since 1952. “Every place has a ways to go, but it was a really exciting trip [and] it was nice for me to connect with that part of the country and that part of my history."
Overcoming Racial Barriers
As a black woman, Acker has certainly faced challenges based on her race and gender. But it doesn't define who she is or what she can accomplish. “There are certainly times when people treated me differently or made assumptions about me because I was a black woman," she says. “There's no sort of barrier that someone would attempt to impose upon me that they didn't attempt to impose on my mother, grandmother or great-grandmother." In a space where disparity is sometimes apparent, she recognizes that there is no barrier someone would try to impose on her that they didn't attempt to impose on her mother or grandmothers. “I've got it much better, but that doesn't mean it's perfect...it certainly isn't, but you just have to keep it moving," Acker states. The conversation continues truthfully and seriously. Acker shares what it can be like for black women, specifically. “I think we're underestimated and we can be disrespected, whereas other folks are allowed the freedom to enjoy a full range of emotions and feelings," she articulates.
At times black women are often restricted from expressing themselves. “If someone wants to make an assumption or jump to a conclusion about me because of my race or gender, that's on them, but their assumptions aren't going to define me," Acker declares. “If something makes me angry or happy I will express that and if someone wants to caricature me, that's their pigeonholing; that's not my problem." A lifelong lesson she learned and shared is to not let other people define who you are. It is one of three bits of wisdom.
Three Pieces Of Advice From Judge Acker
The Power Of Self-awareness
“It's really important that you have a really firm sense of what you want to do and be, and how you're moving in the world because when people try to sway you, judge you or steer you off course you've got to have some basis for getting back on track."
Know Your Support System
“Have a strong community of people who you trust, love and who love you," she advises. “But also learn to love and trust yourself because sometimes it's your own voice that can provide you the most comfort or solace in something."
Learn From Your Experiences
“Trust yourself. Take care of yourself. Don't be too hard on yourself. Be honest with yourself.
“There are times when it's not enough to say this is who I am. Take it or leave it. Sometimes we've got things that we need to work on, change or improve upon," she concludes.
Acker stands out not only because of her accomplishments, but the way she views certain aspects of her life. These days, she's comfortable accepting what makes her different. “I think there's a time when you're younger when conformity feels comfortable, [but] I'm comfortable these days not conforming," she laughs. She enjoys being a decision maker and helping people work through it on Hot Bench.
This article was originally published May 15, 2019.