Better together: Spouses share lives, workplace

Every day, Dick and Pam Doherty usually arrive at the Crystal Lake Travel Agency together.

Dick Doherty heads to his office in the back, where he handles the management of the agency, where the couple have worked together for 17 years. Pam Doherty’s desk is up front, where she handles sales with other agents.

“We don’t interact all day long, since we’re in separate areas of the company,” Pam Doherty said.

Spouses who work together say it can be an enjoyable experience, but they add that they need to be open-minded and mindful of each other’s needs in the office.

“It’s actually very enjoyable because of the nature of our business,” Dick Doherty said.

The Dohertys, who have been married for 12 years, both like to travel and can share their experiences and stories of certain trips when customers are booking a vacation.

Within the agency, Dick Doherty handles the office management and operations, and Pam Doherty is one of the travel agents handling sales.

“It’s very nice working with your wife; I don’t have to go around in circles, and when I ask a question, I get honest input,” Dick Doherty said. “She gives it to me straight. I learn a tremendous amount by deferring to her judgment.”

At home, they might talk about about sales and marketing of the business and where to put their advertising dollars, he said.

Although everyone is human, Dick Doherty said that if there’s a problem at home, the couple try to keep it out of the workplace.

“We’re old enough and mature enough,” Dick Doherty said. “We try to do a professional job. [A problem] doesn’t come to work with us.”

“You can’t let those things bother you because you’re hurting other people,” Dick Doherty added.

And vice versa, work problems stay at the office.

The couple make it work because they don’t interact with each other all day, every day, and they have some time away.

“I think what benefits us is we’re in two different aspects of the business,” Pam Doherty said. “We’re not both salespeople, therefore we’re not competing. I don’t make business decisions, which might be different than his.”

Pam Doherty said the best part about working with her husband is that they already have an idea of what kind day it has been.

“At the end of the day, you have a feel for what happened, and if one or the other comes home in a peculiar mood, well, you have some idea as to how it got that way,” Pam Doherty said.

Terry Bishop, an associate professor of human resource management at Northern Illinois University, said spouses in the same workplace is becoming more common.

He said companies have been starting to enact policies that allow for spouses to be hired.

Many of these policies are put into place to try to attract talent to a company, especially if the new hire would have to move.

Under these policies, if an employee’s spouse has the required qualifications for a job, they will have preference to be hired, Bishop said.

“In that tendency, it might lead to more spouses in the workplace,” Bishop said.

Bishop said many businesses will prohibit a person from reporting to his or her spouse, and the couple should be in separate chains of command, so a supervisor can’t influence someone else into giving a certain performance review.

“If it sours, it can distort into potential problems of sexual harassment or inappropriate contact,” Bishop said.

Bishop said that if an employee’s spouse is hired, businesses should be clear that the person is qualified for the job. The spouse’s co-workers also should be involved in the hiring process and meet the potential employee before he or she is hired.

Lynn Neeley, a professor of entrepreneurship at NIU, said it’s very common for spouses work with one another, especially if its a family business.

Whether the situation will work depends on the people involved, Neeley said.

Joe and Amber Martin Johnson have worked together for almost seven years at Martin Johnson Tax and Financial Services in Crystal Lake. They have been married for 15 years.

Being in the same office doesn’t mean they’ll interact, Joe Johnson said. “There might be days I don’t see her.”

They have their own clients and their own expertise. Amber Martin Johnson helps with taxes, Joe Johnson does financial planning, and they have separate offices within the business.

Because it is a small company, sometimes personal lives are intertwined, but they do their best to make sure personal issues stay out of the workplace, Joe Johnson said.

“If anything is going on, we try to drop that baggage before we come to the door,” Joe Johnson said.

If there is a problem at home, the couple try to talk about, solve it and not bring it in, Joe Johnson said.

They also try not to bring work home with them. “We try to get it taken care of before we leave,” Joe Johnson said.

To make it work, Joe Johnson said couples have to be flexible and understanding of each other. His spouse already knows whether if it’s been a rough day at work.

Sometimes work and home do intermingle, but the couple try to avoid it.

“You have to be flexible and willing to understand what’s going on,” Joe Johnson said.

Amber Martin Johnson grew up with her parents working together, so working with her husband doesn’t seem out of the ordinary.

To make it work, Amber Martin Johnson recommends spouses that work together respect what their significant other knows and the other’s strengths and weaknesses.

“I respect what he does,” Amber said. “If I have a question in certain areas, I go to him.”

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