False Affair Accusations

Question:  to Ask the Workplace Doctors about affairs rumor:

I have been working in a job I received a promotion to about seven months ago. The girl I replaced got fired. I believe many of the staff were close to her, but the boss didn’t feel like she was meeting standards. The old boss left and did not fill the position himself. My current boss that works for the same company promoted me and we transferred together. His existing assistant and the staff at the new facility were both pretty upset.

Though it cannot be proven who started the rumors, all of the sudden rumors of an affair began to swirl. Due to me being his assistant we work very closely together and have a good work relationship. HR was aware of the situation and so was management and nothing was ever done. Now my hours have been changed and I have been given restrictions that other staff in our organization are not required to abide by as an attempt to quiet some of the staff rumors. However, there has been no addressing of staff behavior. Every time my supervisor pushes a staff member to raise their performance this resurfaces and I get called in to the office and get accused of inappropriate behavior. Where do I go from here? I feel like HR is dropping the ball and putting restrictions on me that are going to eventually effect my job performance.

Signed, Unfairly Accused

Dear Unfairly Accused:

We don’t usually immediately recommend that someone seek the assistance of an attorney, but I think you should in this case. This may very well be sexual harassment, if your sexual activities are being discussed at work in an inappropriate way and not part of an investigation, and if you are being treated differently than the male who might also be involved. That assumes of course, that you are not involved with your boss in a romantic or sexual way, and that the two of you don’t inadvertently add to the rumors by behavior that seems intimate or too personal for a business setting.It is always wise to be cautious about appearances. It’s all well and good to say that accusations aren’t true. But, it shows poor judgment to do things that appear to be wrong.

Even if you don’t want to pursue this in a legal or civil sense, an attorney could intervene on your behalf–and would certainly be more forceful than you might be.If you don’t want to try that approach, at least put your concerns in writing to a level higher than the people who are asking you to change your work due to suspicions and stories, or who have called you in and reprimanded you based on mere rumors about your sexual activities.

Say that your sexual and personal activities are being talked about my staff and that you are feeling very uncomfortable about it and want it to stop. Ask for an investigation of the situation so your name can be cleared and so that once and for all it can be established that you and your boss are behaving appropriately.Where is your boss in all of this? He should be very upset on your behalf and insisting on this matter being investigated, so a professional environment can be established.As far as the work of other employees goes—that should have nothing to do with this situation, unless the relationship with you and your boss is making their work suffer.

I hope there is good documentation of their performance and that appropriate action is taken.It certainly sounds as though there are more personal issues than work issues going on there. When that happens, everyone and everything is harmed. It may be too late to make things completely right, but perhaps your boss can help by communicating more often and more openly with the other staff. He should be careful to avoid the appearance or the actuality of favoritism. And, you and he should maintain a strictly business working relationship.For example, do not do things that make it appear you are more involved in his work than is appropriate.

And don’t do things that give the appearance you know more about his personal life than is appropriate.At the same time, if your boss has said or done things that might seem too friendly for work, ask him to not do those things in the future, to avoid problems for you and him–especially you.Having said that, I still think you should seek some advice from an attorney. This could result you in losing your job or losing your title or work situation, all because of rumors. Seek some legal advice, so you are protected.Best wishes to you. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

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.