Accused of Affair with Coworker

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about an affair: This week we were called separately into the GM’s office and asked if we were in a sexual relationship.

Rumors of a coworker and I having an affair have been floating around for the last six weeks. We are both managers. I am new to the job. This week we were called separately into the GM’s office and asked if we were in a sexual relationship. Not sure why the GM asked me when he was told by the other manager we were not. I was really taken back, embarrassed and offended. I ended the discussion stating I felt uncomfortable continuing without HR present. I then contacted HR and explained what had transpired.I now have a meeting with the GM and HR this coming week. here is nothing to support the rumors. I’ve only been at this job for three months; I am not social with anyone from work. I do not have a social relationship with the manager I’m accused of having an affair with. We have never flirted, inappropriately joked or touched. We have walked openly across the street to have lunch at a deli and on a few occasions drove together with another manager, the three of us to lunch. We work together on sensitive matters such as drug & alcohol program and disciplinary issues and because of this are behind closed unlocked doors for brief periods of time. He is behind closed doors regularly with other managers and the female union rep. It is and has been strictly business between us.

When I read suggestions that state to manage the perception I’m having an affair, I’m perplexed at what I could do. There is nothing to manage. I am angry that I am the one being talked to about who I may be having sex with instead of the accusers being counseled about causing a hostile workplace.

Signed, Has Been Strictly Business

Dear Has Been Strictly Business:

You sense why you are being accused, don’t you? You’ve spelled out the fact that your work has reasons for some closed doors, the possibility of two of you accused being seen occasionally going to lunch, and from what you said, I assume although you deny every flirting, you and the other manager could appear to have hit it off as a pair in the short three months you have been employed at this company. Should anyone have accused you without firm evidence? Obviously you are correct that you General Manager should have counseled the accuser that starting or repeating such a rumor is unethical and as you correctly say, causes “a hostile workplace.”

If you search our archives for affairs in the workplace, you will see that such accusations are not uncommon; some are for good reason, others are not. You have proceeded to counter the inquiry based on this accusation of affair in a professional manner. Will that stop the rumor? Probably not once and finally. Can you do anything else about this? You two accused along with your manager and HR can collaboratively make that a matter of discussion.

The options you probably will consider include:

· Knowing affair gossip too often occurs and simply ignore

· You individually firmly fend off such rumor whenever you hear them

· Your General Manager counseling the accuser and others not to gossip about such matters without solid evidence

· Candidly squashing this rumor in a meeting with all parties in your work area.· The two of you accused avoid lunching together

· Conducting the necessary confidential business with the door open

· Assigning one or the other of you accused to a different work area. My associate Tina Lewis Rowe, the wisest woman I know about workplace matters, might add her suggestions to this question. She has addressed affairs and accusations of affairs in other Q&As, such as: Manager Doesn’t See Truth About Problem Employee You might also find of interest a question I answered: An Affair Rumor in Workplace

It would delight me to have a sure-fire answer to your wondering “what I could do.” Since this kind of accusation is something that unnerves and angers you, I expect that working through this as you are with your GM and HR, will forewarn and forearm you about how to confront and prevent such gossip in the future. So keep you cool and don’t allow this to become an obsession or an all-consuming matter of conversation between you and your accused coworker or others during these next several days. Continue to do what you are hired to do, as I’m sure you are, to the best of your ability. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, is what really matters and that sometimes demands that we must confront gossip meant to damage us.

William Gorden