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Corporate Governess: Love among the cubicles

Dear Corporate Governess
I've fallen for a co-worker. Thankfully, it's mutual, but it's still awkward. How do we "come out" as a couple and keep working together? —Andy Z., Calgary

Dear Andy
Your co-workers have probably already figured it out, but before you officially share the news, you each need to come clean to your superiors. While there's nothing illegal about dating a colleague, most companies do have policies against romantic fraternization, particularly when there's a power imbalance. And rightly so, since that could lead to accusations of favouritism or, if your romance sours, allegations of harassment. Even assuming you and your new-found love are equals, your company might prefer that one of you switch departments, to avoid any whiff of conflict.

No matter where you both end up, you need to lay down some rules, such as no eye-roll-inducing antics in front of colleagues, and no bringing tiffs to the office (because nobody needs added tension during a budget meeting). Lastly, keep your affair off e-mail and Slack. You might be glad some day that it can't come back to bite you.

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Dear Corporate Governess
I've been diagnosed with depression, and I'd like to use the counselling services offered through my employer. But I'm terrified my boss will find out and use it against me. Should I be worried? —Sam B., Hamilton

Dear Sam
Absolutely not. Employee assistance programs are completely confidential, so your boss need never know. But I'd reconsider keeping this a secret.

Yes, there is still a stigma attached to mental illness. But one in five Canadians will experience some form of it in their lifetime, so your boss might be more understanding than you think. I'd suggest you ask for what you need—whether it's flexible hours, a reduced workload or even stress leave—the same way you'd request a stand-up desk for a bad back. Consider it a necessary accommodation.

Breaking the silence frees you to be your whole self at work, without worrying about who knows what. Plus, your example could encourage co-workers to open up about their own struggles. Should your boss turn against you, document each incident. But know that the law is on your side: The Ontario Human Rights Commission says a person's medical information must be kept separate from their personnel file. So you won't be branded.

Whether you choose to disclose or not, don't let fear keep you from getting the help you need. You're far more vulnerable if your depression remains untreated.

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