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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Bmag Oct 8th 2013 - Working with the missus

Have you ever worked in the same company as your significant other? Think about it. Could you work alongside your husband/wife/other half? My wife Nikki and I met at a community radio station in Brisbane in 1992. I was one of two paid staff and Nikki was a volunteer. In my diary that first day I wrote: “With me tonight were two trainees including Nikki, est. 17/18, blonde, short, shy and VERY CUTE!” And you know what? I can still see that straw hat she was wearing!

Several months later, I summoned the nerve to ask her out. I remember the phone call: “Would you do me the honour of accompanying me to the opening night of Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat? How dorky. You’d have thought I was asking her to marry me! Anyway, she said yes – eventually I confessed that the tickets were freebies – and we’ve been together ever since.

Back then we were young and it sure was fun having your girlfriend with you at work. The stories I could tell. And yes, whatever you’re imagining right now, it probably did happen at that radio station when everyone else had gone home!

Fast-forward to 2013 and Nikki has just started working at 612 ABC Brisbane, producing Tim Cox 3 to 6pm weekdays. Now, I don’t want you to think I’m at all anxious about the distraction of my beautiful wife as I glance up from my computer screen, but there must be pros and cons. For example, do colleagues expect you to share the same view on company decisions, rather than seeing you as two different people? And then, if you don’t agree in the workplace, how does that play out at home? I’d love you to email me with what you know, what you’ve seen and what you’ve learned.

A former radio producer of mine, Majella Marsden, says it’s a minefield for co-workers. “What about where one partner has knowledge of events that may impact on the other?” Social commentator Brett Debritz says it can make colleagues feel uncomfortable, especially if one of the couple is in a more senior position. Just ask ambo Bob Hartley: “We had some issues as my wife was in a subordinate position to me for a while. We had to use the drive home as a defuse/debrief”.

I.F. and R.B. ran a company together for two years. I.F. says they would never do it again: “Too much arguing over business decisions which led to resentment at home. The best thing we ever did was sell the company. We have a better marriage for it". For Daniel John, it meant the end of the relationship: “It was the worst mistake ever. Constant bickering all the time. It was a contract cleaning job at a factory. We worked right on top of each other. We were partners before and not long after".

But there are success stories too. Real estate agent Brett Andreassen has made it work for the last three years. His tip: “Don’t take work home and don’t bring home issues to work". Kallee Buchanan and her husband Ross work for the ABC in Central Queensland. Kallee says it’s okay to take work home: “It’s great having someone who gets the passion for the job. But you need to have your own time, away from work and home".

Nataasha Torzsa and her partner work for a telco. They’ve devised three rules: “Don’t discuss personal things during work hours, act like friends at work drinks etc., and don’t discuss 'us' with other workmates”. But the most surprising story I’ve heard so far comes from admin manager Brendan Taggart: “I used to work in the same department as my partner. The only issue was travelling to work together. He was always late. He was SO slow in the mornings, it was legendary. I hate being late. So I got my own car. Problem solved!” That is one expensive solution.

Coincidently, you may have noticed the new series of Survivor (Thursdays on GEM) sees loved ones pitted against each other - uncle against niece, brother against brother, husband against wife. I can tell you Nikki and I were both relieved to see all the married couples survived the first tribal council! A good omen perhaps.

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