Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about boss affair:
A friend of mine has a female boss that is married. She is having an affair with another man. The thing is is that she is doing it at her office. He is not someone that works there, just a guy she has been seeing on the side for the last couple of years. She will lock all the doors and close all the blinds to the office and shack up in there with him for a couple of hours. Or, she says that she’s leaving for the end of the day, however the evening workers on their breaks outside will see her and her boyfriend pulling out of the parking lot hours after she says she is going home.
Everyone in the workplace has lost all respect for her and they don’t want to listen to any “rules” that she tries to enforce. And now she is trying to cause trouble with some of the employees! I don’t know how she can expect to have others respect her and take her seriously as a boss, when she obviously a very dishonest and petty person that blatantly throws it in everyone’s face. Is there some sort of rules against this behavior? Is there anything that can be done?
Signed, What To Do?
Dear What To Do?:
What your friend can or should do depends on several key issues. Let me mention those and that might help you advise her.1. If the boss has a boss, that person is responsible for the behavior of those below him or her. If things are really bothering employees to a serious extent, they should put their evidence in writing and send a memo to the higher manager. If they don’t want to sign their names they could send it anonymously, although that’s not my preferred way to do things. I can understand though that it might be difficult otherwise.
If they are going to do that, employees will need to be sure of their facts and what they are alleging, since someone can ruin a person’s reputation and career over half-truths or guesses. Apparently no one has seen the two people in a compromising position–and I doubt they are having sex behind the blinds. They may be talking romantically, holding hands, kissing, or fooling around quite a bit, but I doubt they are having sex. The entire process of doing it quietly surrounded by other people, cleaning up and tidying up afterwards (which is generally required) and dressing and redressing even partially, makes that not very likely. I’m not saying it has never happened, just saying it doesn’t happen very often. So, there may be no violation of any rules. If she is supposed to be available for the phone but doesn’t respond, that is clearly a problem. I
f some aspect of her time away with the blinds drawn prevents work from being done, that also is a problem.If her boss thinks she is working every single minute with the doors open but she clearly is not, that too is a problem. But the nature of her work and what her boss thinks she is doing might have an impact on that.I don’t doubt they are alone to avoid prying eyes, I’m just saying in fairness to anyone the facts should be kept straight and her boss should be told the facts, if employees feel there is a rules or ethics violation. Unless someone has seen or heard them, it can be proven they were “shacked up.” They were alone together, that’s the facts.
2. As for the issue of leaving in a car after hours, likely she leaves with her friend and he drops her back by her car later. If her boss approves her leaving, there is no violation. If she leaves and it is known that her higher boss doesn’t know about it, that too could be reported with the exact dates and times.
3. But, let’s get to the issue of how the employees feel about it and about her and her other work. Think about it: If we only followed the rules when we had a great boss, most of us would never follow the rules! The rules are the rules, no matter who is enforcing them. The fact that this person may not have the principles in this one area that others have doesn’t make the work requirements she enforces any less valid.I don’t know what she is doing to get others in trouble, but the only thing I can think of that could be considered blatant hypocrisy on her part would be if she disciplined someone for being behind closed doors too long. We still don’t know if her boss has approved her early leaving time–if he hasn’t that would be something else that would seem rather hypocritical of her to enforce. But she would likely have to do it anyway–and could justify it.I recently took part as an advisory witness in a disciplinary appeal based on the fact that the supervisor had done the same things the employee was accused of doing. The hearing officer stopped that line of argument immediately and said he was only interested in hearing about what the employee had done and how that was handled, not what some other employee of any rank had done but not been punished for–unless there could be shown a discrimination issue based on protected status, or if a large number of other employees had done the same thing but not been punished.
4. After the four points before this one, let me agree with you and your friend that it is frustrating to have a boss who is doing things that you feel sure others would get in trouble for. The primary thing this boss is doing that is likely a violation is spending excessive time behind closed doors with someone who has no business reason for being there. If that seems to be completely out of line and happening more than occasionally, your friend and others need to either confront the boss–probably not a good idea–or drop a word in the ear of the manager, with dates and times to prove the allegation.In the meantime, work requirements that have the approval of management can be fully enforced, whatever the boss is doing. If the way it is being done seems to be wrong, based on company policy, those things should be written down and employees should ask for a meeting with HR, the manager or someone even higher.Those are the only two options, really: Either tolerate it or say something to someone. But, as I said at the beginning, the action taken will need to be based on the type of business, the levels of management involved, and how much employees are willing to do, based on the overall picture of work with this boss.I hope this was helpful and that it will give your friend a starting point for considering what action to take, if any. Best wishes!
Tina Lewis Rowe