Affair With Boss Makes Co-Workers Dislike Me

Question:

I’m a secretary. I´ve been having an affair with my boss for 9 years. I`m very efficient and am always cooperative with my co-workers. I attend many courses and did a lot of training. The problem is my co-workers are making my life impossible. They don´t talk to me in social occasions (once they left me alone in a table in a Christmas party; they left me alone in the airport and hurried to take another plane, and so on)Can you help me please?

Signed,

Alone


Answer:

Dear Alone:

It certainly would be hurtful to have your co-workers treat you in those ways. Usually when people are excluded from groups it’s because of discomfort, dislike, distrust or fear. We tend to want to be with people who are like us, who share things with us, who we can feel OK about being seen with, and who make us feel good about ourselves.

The following are some questions for you to consider on your own, and some thoughts about the issues involved. 1. Are you certain the only element upon which the actions of your co-workers are based is your relationship with your boss? Did they act this way before it started? Has it developed and gotten worse over time or has it always been of this intensity? It would be worthwhile to consider if there is some other issue. Perhaps some other aspect of your job has created a conflict. Or, perhaps, even if they don’t know about your relationship, they sense you are not part of their group and feel uncomfortable. Or, they may simply not view you as a friend for some other reason.

That doesn’t excuse mean behavior, but would explain their actions.

2. How do they know of the relationship you have with your boss? Are the two of you seen together, do either of you make your relationship known? Could it be that the employees are frustrated with what they see as inappropriate activities at work? Is there a policy about such relationships and they feel they would be in trouble were they to violate a policy? Could it be that no matter who it was, they would feel an office affair was inappropriate? You don’t say what the nature of the relationship is. If the boss is married and you are not, or vice versa or if both of you are married, they may feel your actions are morally and ethically wrong and they don’t want to associate with someone who has made those decisions.

3. How well do they like the boss? Do they resent him and dislike his style, so you are seen as a supporter of someone they dislike? Or, do they like him a great deal and feel that you may be placing his career in jeopardy? Either of those might create issues. 4. Do they feel you are getting unfair advantages and have privileges others in your job do not? Have they been around long enough to see that you are treated differently than the person who had your job formerly? Or, do you get opportunities some of them may want? 5. Is it possible the other employees feel that when they talk to you, you will report their remarks to the boss? If that has ever happened, they likely feel distrustful all the time.

Consider also the things that have occured, between your co-workers and you. Some things may be people matters that don’t relate to work. For example, it is difficult to make a rule about spending time with someone at parties, inviting them to lunch, sharing personal time and so forth. But there should be intervention if there is overt hostility and rudeness that will effect work relationships.

If you were purposely left behind on a plane trip, that is being rude and disruptive of office courtesy. If the others and you had an opportunity to change planes but the tickets gave out before you got to the front of the line, that may just be bad timing. If the others go to lunch without you, that is a decision they are allowed to make. If they do something sneaky to prevent you from going with them, that’s something that strikes at the heart of courtesy and fair play at work. Have you talked to the boss about this, since it is your relationship with him that may be causing it? Have you talked with your co-workers and asked them honestly what is the cause of the distance you feel in your dealings with them? That wouldn’t be easy, but may be possible when the time is right.

If you can identify even one person with whom you can talk, share your feelings of aloneness and express that you would have to have a good working relationship with everyone. Ask that person if he or she has a suggestion for what you can do to ease the discomfort or mend broken fences.

One thing to consider is that if your relationship becomes the source of problems, you and your boss both may be considered problems. You didn’t say if you are part of a large company or not, but many have rules prohibiting relationships between managers, supervisors and employees for this very reason.

You may find there will be no change as long as you have the relationship. In that case you may simply have to adjust and focus on being the best employee possible, or end the relationship.

One thing you can do is to be the person that every other person can depend upon. Be valuable to the team and to individuals; be competent in all of your work; be credible and honest in your dealings with others; be caring and supportive of those who deserve it. If you can create one closer friendship, others will follow. There may be others who also feel alone and you can reach out to them while helping yourself.

Best wishes in all of this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what develops.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.