Boss & Secretary Having An Affair

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a sexual affair between a manager and employee:

I work for a company that is home based in Canada and it has about 700 centers through out the states. There is a president of the company, vice president, marketing manager, and my boss has 2 supervisors with offices in other states. There are 5 full time employees in our office, a full time administrative assistant, and various part time employees during the peak seasons. My boss also is a manager of another center about 20 miles away. He started out there, and then when my previous boss left in June, he now manages both offices.

In July, I received a call from one of my clients, that my boss was in a field driveway and was with the administrative assistant. My boss gave him some excuse about checking fields. I thought this was kind of odd, since we don’t service that area. We said something to one of the workers in the other center he manages and he confronted him. He said she was going through some personal problems and he was just helping her out. It was kind of dropped then. My co-workers and I started putting together all the times each of them take off and almost all of them are on the same day. Coincidence, maybe. Last Friday, they took the day off and went to a farm show.

While gone, a co-worker had to get on the company computer and her email was there and the email that was up was from the boss with the subject line, “This will be you on the 31st” It was a sexual video with naked female parts and a male using his fingers in various places. There was also a lot of other stuff in other emails. I know it sounds like we were snooping, but she has the only company computer we can obtain our information for our jobs. We also found out that he sent them to a hot mail account and she forwarded it to the company computer. I also had a client see them together in a town about 1 hour away walking had in hand to a restaurant.

A couple days later, the client confronted her and she said they spent the night down there that night too. What do we do? If we go to the higher boss, it will seem like we are trying to get rid of both of them and it will appear that we were snooping. Why would she forward the emails from a private account to a company computer? Is she trying to nail him on something, or nail us for being in her emails?

She’s hasn’t been there a year yet. Now she’s starting to bark out orders to us like she has suddenly gotten more authority. There is also another thing. He’s in his late 50’s, married, kids, & grand kids. She’s in her late 20’s with a 2 year old, and recently divorced. What do we do? Everyone signed a code of ethics prohibiting this in the workplace. We all know something needs to be done, but we don’t want to look like a bunch of snitches, but wrong is wrong. The other center he manages won’t believe anything that we have told them. Do we go to the higher bosses? My boss has already been confronted and denied it.

The administrative assistant doesn’t like her job anyway, and can get a different one. She has nothing to lose and he has everything to lose. Why would she forward the emails from her hot mail account to the company computer? What should we do? It’s starting to get out in public and we live in a small community. Our clients are starting to talk about it. Now I feel when I go to sell in the country, all my clients want to do is ask questions about what is going on and nothing gets sold. It’s embarrassing. Can you help us and turn us in some kind of direction?

Signed, Wondering What To Do

Dear Wondering What To Do:

I think you know what you should do, but you also know it will be a messy situation for awhile. It’s already gone on far too long, based on the things you have mentioned–because the overall issues are distracting and inappropriate, given the circumstances. Consider this plan and see if it will work for you in your situation. Contact your headquarters HR section and tell them what you just told us: You have evidence that an ethical policy is being violated, company computers have been used to forward emails with sexually explicit material, sales and work are being negatively affected by what is going on. You are giving them the information with the understanding that something will be done. Tell them about anyone with authority in the company who was notified but who refused to investigate. List witnesses who can testify to what was seen and what has been heard.

This is the time to have, and show, strength of character, not to be worried about how anyone who reports it appears. Then, let HR handle it and don’t let it slide if it appears they aren’t going to do anything. You and fellow employees are paying the price for the personal relationships of others, and that isn’t acceptable.As for the issue about your snooping, it’s not snooping to look at computer files, email or anything else that isn’t prohibited by the rules or that isn’t password protected and that is readily accessible by anyone, as the email you saw was.

This is an organizational matter and should be handled by the organization. I can almost certainly guarantee this: Your HR section will investigate. And, if you and your fellow employees tell the truth when asked, action will be taken to stop what is happening, if what is happening is genuinely wrong.It’s not your fault if one or both are disciplined, transferred or fired. You are simply reporting wrongdoing, just as you would if they were lying on their expense account or stealing money, or something else harmful to the company.

There are no major companies today who aren’t concerned about sexual improprieties and especially about computer use, boss/subordinate relationships and similar liability issues. What you have described has the potential for several civil actions, so you know someone will be concerned.Do what you know you should do, now. Get it over with before it goes further.

It is not snitching to report unethical behavior, it is displaying ethical behavior yourself. If your only motivation is to get someone in trouble, that’s one thing. But if your motivation is to stop wrong behavior, that’s something else.Keep this in mind: You don’t know if the woman involved has been coerced in some way. She might welcome the help. You don’t know if the man involved is being blackmailed some way. He might welcome the chance to get free. You don’t know if there is much more going on than you realize. It needs to be brought out in the open. You don’t even know if this has been reported already and someone else was supposed to do something about it. So, the only thing you know for sure is that you signed an ethical statement too, and there are expectations about what you shouldn’t do as well as what you should do if you know of a violation of that ethical policy.

Don’t go to your immediate boss’s boss, unless you know you will get strong attention. Go directly to the company-wide HR. That is what they are there for. They don’t have a personal interest, they have no turf to protect and are aware of the rules and laws about these things. This plan will work, but as I said, it will stir some things up. On the other hand, things are already stirred up, wouldn’t you say? At least this will get it over with.Best wishes. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what results.

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.