The Rules of Engagement

Couples who work together have some unique advantages — and face some serious challenges. Nan Langowitz, director of the Center for Women’s Leadership at Babson College, suggests keeping the following things in mind.

  1. Be clear about role definition.

    Which things are each partner going to handle, and which parts are shared? The Spades have that down pat: “Andy has the sweeping view,” says Kate. “I tend to enjoy dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.” Still, both are involved in the big decisions.
  2. Figure out how to maintain boundaries in your personal life.

    This used to be a point of contention, since Kate would start talking about the business before her feet hit the floor in the morning. “Now I say, ‘Forget it. Let’s talk when we get back to the office.’ ”
  3. Establish guidelines for professional behavior.

    Kate admits this is a hurdle: “I’m trying to build in a sense of decorum. I try not to barge in and interrupt him on the phone!”
  4. Decide who has the final say if there are differences of opinion.

    In the Spades’ case, the most passionate person wins. “We usually have a healthy debate, and then whoever feels less strongly about the issue gives it up,” says Andy.

The biggest advantage of working together?

“Trust,” says Kate. “Knowing your best interest is in the forefront of every decision being made without you is really comforting.”


The biggest disadvantage?

“You don’t get to swap stories,” Kate says. “If I say to Andy, ‘You won’t believe what happened to me at work!’, he’ll say, ‘I already know, and I don’t want to hear it again. I was there.’ ”


About the author

Linda Tischler writes about the intersection of design and business for Fast Company.


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