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What Nonmonogamy Can Teach Moonlighters and Job Jugglers

Handling multiple bosses isn’t that different from managing multiple lovers.

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Illustration: Mathieu Labrecque for Bloomberg Businessweek

The pandemic has untethered workers from their desks, opening lifelong 9-to-5ers to the possibility of quietly pursuing two or even three jobs full steam. Academics who study nonmonogamy say it shares myriad similarities with a multiplicitous professional life—and that many lessons can transfer from the bedroom (er, bedrooms) to the conference room. “The same dynamics broadly apply to all types of relationships, whether they’re professional, platonic, or romantic,” says Amy Moors, assistant professor of psychology at Chapman University. We asked researchers for tips on juggling various professional squeezes.

Figure out what everyone needs. Moors says a cornerstone skill of satisfied nonmonogamous people is the ability to identify others’ needs and wants, articulate their own, and negotiate: “figuring out what would work for everyone involved, and understanding that that can change over time.” This begins with recognizing that each relationship has its own nuances and mix tape. Think through why your current boss hired you: Yes, of course she wanted you to work for her, but does she want you to be a workhorse, a source of status (awards, attention), a genius strategist, or professional arm candy? You can succeed only if you know what success looks like to both of you.