How Can I Keep From Working Near the “Other Woman”?

Question:
I recently found out my husband was having an affair with a “friend” and coworker of mine. All three of us work for the same company in different departments and different buildings. However, this week, the other woman shows up in my office and is now working in my department. Is there anything I can do to get moved to a new department with out jeopardizing anyone’s employment? I don’t want to bring this painful personal issue to my work place but I cannot go to the office every day and see her.

Response:
What an unfortunate and sad situation for you! Whether you can be moved elsewhere in the company will depend upon your work and whether or not such moves are commonly approved upon employee request. If you would be willing to discuss the basics of the situation with your manager or higher, you probably would get support for a change. I think that is what you should do. But, I can understand your reluctance to do it.

Unless there are relationship rules that apply to the situation involving your husband and the other woman, it doesn’t seem there would be a reason for anyone to lose their jobs. And, explaining the situation and asking for a change either for her or you, would be one way to ensure you are not inadvertently moved back together again in the future.

A big part of your decision will involve whether or not you are supposed to be aware of the relationship. If they think you don’t know, you will need to decide if you want to make your husband aware of your knowledge. It may be that the other woman wouldn’t want to be working around you any more than you want her to be there. Even though she has a relationship with your husband, she may still have a sense of friendship for you and would not want to hurt you–or embarrass herself–by being around you. (Many “other women” feel a strong sense of concern about the feelings of the wives involved, even though the wives find that hard to believe.)

I think you should get this out in the open, so you and your husband can either work on saving the marriage or you can decide to call it quits, as soon as possible. Being open about it could save you months or years of anguish.

On the other hand, if they know you are aware of the relationship, the other woman involved is being very callous to start working in your building, unless she has no choice at all about the matter. If she knows you know and is doing this on purpose, I think it would be/should be much easier for you to let your own manager know about the situation and why you want to be moved.

Perhaps you can help by deciding if there is someplace you can reasonably go, which makes sense for your job, and then suggest it. You probably couldn’t justify moving far away from a team you supervise or from a work area that is required for the tasks you perform. However, if a lot of your work is done on a computer, it could be done in many locations. Or, if you can easily communicate with those in your team, perhaps your location won’t matter so much.

I can think of several excuses you could make to justify a move, but ultimately they all are lies. At some point, it is likely most people will know about the situation. At that point, the lie you told will become obvious and that will not only be embarrassing, it could make your managers mistrust you forever.

If you have access to a counseling program at work or if you are close to anyone in HR or at the executive level, they could probably give you much more job-specific advice. They would know the work culture and may know your manager or your work group well enough to know what is a reasonable request for moving from one area to another. They could, hopefully, be trusted to keep your information in confidence. After all, it is to their advantage for nothing to distract you from the work they depend upon you to do. They also want the other person to do her job—and they want your husband to do his job. So, it is to everyone’s benefit to make the work arrangements fit with the goals of work done well, without distractions, disruption or obvious conflict.

I wish there was a great answer that would take care of this situation easily, but there isn’t, especially since I don’t know the details. Probably the only person who can approve a move is your manager or someone who has influence with your manager (like HR). So, if you want to spare yourself the unhappiness of seeing your former friend every day, close to you in your workplace, you will most likely have to take someone into your confidence and ask for assistance.

If you have the time and wish to do so, please let us know what you decide and how it works out. Your experiences may help others deal with their similar situations more effectively. I’ll certainly be thinking of you over the next few days and weeks. It will take your inner strength and buoyancy of spirit to work through the situation and find a good resolution. Keep your life, away from work, as balanced and supportive of your well-being as possible. This is a time when you need to nurture yourself and build on the positive aspects of your life.
Best wishes to you!
Tina Rowe
Ask the Workplace Doctors