A Brief Affair is Over–But the Angry Wife Is Trying to Get Me Fired

A Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about what to do when
a brief affair with a coworker is reported–by the coworkers wife.  

Question:

I have gotten into a difficult situation that may effect my job. I had a brief affair with a person that works at my company that included meeting out of the office on company time. Therefore, I could possibly be fired for filing a false time sheet. The wife of the coworker with whom I had the affair found out and has been harassing me by contacting my friends and family to expose the affair and now has also contacted my supervisor.

I don’t know if she wants to get myself and her husband fired, but her spite seems to have no limits. I don’t think at this point the details of where and when have been given to my boss but its possible it could become an issue if the harassment continues. People at work who know now treat me differently. Its a good job, I don’t want to leave and I am a good employee. I don’t know what to do about my coworker’s wife. My husband and I don’t have a great marriage but we are still trying to work through everything.

I moved to a different department to get away from my coworker and we don’t have contact any more. so I can’t ask him to do something about his wife. I am afraid to antagonize her , but need her to stop. I am not sure where to turn.

Response

The coworker with whom you had the brief affair probably confessed it to his wife. In order to minimize his own actions, he may have made it seem you were primarily responsible for it. Thus, his wife probably feels she has plenty of reasons to get you fired–even if it means her husband may be fired as well.

There would be no point in asking the coworker to stop his wife’s actions, even if you could, because having him attempt to intervene on your behalf would only make her angrier.

However, if you and the coworker were same level organizationally, there were probably no rules violation related to the affair. Your company probably wishes the wife of an employee would  stop contacting them about it. If they find out about the time sheet situation, they may have a different view, but even that does not seem to be serious enough for dismissal, on its own.

You don’t say how you know she has talked to your supervisor. If your supervisor has already talked to you about it there may be nothing more you can do except wait. However, if you have the opportunity to discuss this further with your supervisor (or discuss this for the first time) I think you should use the opportunity.

Tell the supervisor what you wrote to us, about liking the company and wanting to succeed there. Be open about voluntarily moving to another work area to reduce the contact with the coworker, so you could  focus on your marriage and on your work as well.  Let your supervisor know you have done all you can do to make things right and you want to put this in the past and move forward. If you have coworkers you consider friends and they already know about the story, tell them the same things, figuring they will let others know about your renewed good intentions.

If your workplace has a program that provides any kind of employee assistance, consider using it as a counseling resource to help you work through this situation.  Let your supervisor know you are getting professional assistance. That level of commitment may be another reason for your supervisor and others to want to help you.

Your goal is to be open enough about trying to rebuild your marriage, that the next time the angry wife calls, anyone who talks to her will be more likely to tell her that it is a family matter and she should deal with it at home.

At the same time, I think you should be concerned about the potential for the coworker’s wife to do more than make phone calls–and I don’t think it would be unreasonable for you to mention that concern to your supervisor. Anyone who becomes obsessed about an injustice, perceived or actual, is capable of doing something to harm the target of their hatred. Be cautious and aware. Hopefully soon she and her husband, your coworker, will have repaired their own marriage and/or she will have moved beyond this sad time in her life, allowing you to do so as well.

Best wishes to you. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know the outcome.

Tina Rowe
Ask the Workplace Doctors