CQ Roll Call’s Hill Navigator advice column helps staffers with sticky or complicated situations they find themselves in on Capitol Hill. This week, love is in the air.
Q. For the past three years, I have worked for an organization with the sole purpose of winning elections for a specific party. A year and a half ago, I started dating a legislative staffer from the other party. For the most part, we have been able to lay low, but recently, more people are aware of the situation. My immediate boss knows, and is not happy with my decision — and is convinced I am doing this to make her life more difficult. Any advice on how to navigate this situation?
A. People date all the time. They date in secret; they date publicly; they arrange James Carville-Mary Matalin type partnerships and enjoy the kerfuffle that comes with it. Dating across the aisle isn’t big news. It might raise a few eyebrows, but it’s not likely to be a cringe-worthy offense.
What interests me is that your boss thinks your actions are being done to make her life more difficult. If anything, access to the other side would make your relationship more valuable to her. So what you’re dealing with is either a boss who recoils at every piece of personal business or a boss who sees some red flags in how you’re conducting yourself.
Might your boss be worried that you are leaking information to your new significant other? Her distaste for your love life could be masking something else. Talk to your boss, not about your relationship but about your steadfast commitment to keeping office information confidential and your unwavering support for the cause. That might help alleviate some of her concerns that your new love interest could undermine the work you’re both doing.
And if it’s a boss who doesn’t want to know how you’re spending your time after hours, then continue to keep mum.
Provided you’re doing your job, protecting confidential information and being a good employee, then you should be able to have a good working relationship with your boss, regardless of how, and with whom, you’re spending your free time.
Q. I recently met a handsome man at a Hill bar. We hit it off well. But it wasn’t until later on that I realized that he works for a member whom I detest. Should I let it go and date him? Do Rs and Ds really live happily ever after together?
A. Not every staffer has a chance to work for their dream boss. Some work for their home state, some work at the first place that offers them a job and some work because they see eye-to-eye on certain issues, not necessarily because they move in lockstep with one another.
If you hit it off, give it another chance. You’re dating him, not his detestable boss. And at some point, most of us have worked for bosses whom we’d rather not have our potential dates judge us by. I think the term for these sorts of experiences is “character-building.”
And yes, Democrats and Republicans can live happily ever after. (See the answer to the first question.) Sometimes they leave Capitol Hill and put the party affiliation games behind them; sometimes they grow up and realize there are other relationships in life besides those based on party politics. And sometimes, if they find the right person, they’re willing to overlook a few flaws.
Q. I recently met a young hot staffer at a happy hour. We didn’t exchange contact info but I want to see her again. Is it in bad form to look her up in the global address book?
A. Go for it! You’re a Hill staffer; you should be an expert in stealth investigation. And if you hit it off, she’s probably already looked up your details, too. It doesn’t always stop at email — you can thank LegiStorm for making staffer salaries public. Go forth and prosper. And good luck!
Got a question, concern or complaint about navigating life on Capitol Hill? Email us at email@example.com or submit online at roll.cl/12tvZqI. All submissions are treated anonymously.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.