What Is Our Course Of Action?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about wife’s affair with her boss:

I have just discovered that my wife of 11 years has been having an affair with her boss for 9 of these. It was apparently mutual; however, I cannot help but think that his power and wealth may have influenced the situation. My wife is not opposed to my researching this, and we would love any advice you have to offer. We have 3 beautiful children who from 1-6 years of age.

Signed, The Husband

Dear The Husband:

I assume from your brief description of the outing of the long-time consensual affair between your wife and her boss that now he or she has decided to call a halt to it. Also I assume you two have decided to do your best to keep your family together since you are able to discuss what was happening and its possible causes and because you end your paragraph with mention of three young children. Keeping your marriage and family together has a good probability of success now that you two are able to talk about what was for so long hidden. You may already be experiencing a renewed appreciation and love of each other. This is possible if you two will not allow blame, guilt and suspicion to fester. Working through this is more important than placing blame on the boss, which seems to be the reason for your query, and I will discuss that in a moment.

The more important thing before your wife and her boss is what is best now that the affair is out to you, her husband, and I gather it is over. You do not say if the affair soured and one of the other has called it quits, or if they mutually have come to a decision to end it. Resolving what a new boss-bossed relationship will be is both a workplace and a personal decision for you and your wife. The immediate matter that you may have already resolved is whether your wife will continue to work as a subordinate to this boss or if she or he is seeking a transfer, or whether one or the other will seek work elsewhere.

Typically, when a boss-bossed affair is discovered by higher management, whether or not the boss or bossed is married, the bossed is the one that is fired. Should that happen, you should seek redress by the organization and/or get the counsel of an attorney. If your wife wants to continue to work, my recommendation is that she seek a transfer to another part of the organization and until that happens that she should be circumspect about making her boss-bossed relationship as professionally distant as practical.You state that she has okayed that you research boss-bossed affairs, and you want to know where the blame lies. Affairs have been grist for gossip and workplace trouble across the years; they are trouble because cheating of this sort generates mistrust by those above, below and at peer level.

You are correct in thinking that a boss’ power to hire, fire, promote/demote, and the prestige of that being paid more can influence, seduce, or coerce the less powerful to engage in what becomes a consensual affair. Sometimes, a divorce results. Sometimes if an affair goes sour, one party brings a suit for sexual harassment. Harassment is cause for claim of injury, but it is nearly impossible to prove for a long-time affair. The two involved in a consensual affair are not the only individuals to be disadvantaged when a boss and bossed affair is suspected or disclosed. Often real or imagined favoritism accompanies a workplace affair. And that makes for discontent rather that teamwork within a work group.

In 2005, the California Supreme Court ruled that managers who have sexual relationships with employees can create a hostile work environment. That is to say that employees might seek damages because they have reason to believe their boss’ affair with a co-worker disadvantaged them because the co-worker having the affair is favored over them. Affairs at work are bad business. Staff writer Blanca Tores for the Baltimore Sun sums it up as “when it’s the boss involved, office romance doesn’t look good,” and she describes how affairs of high level managers have resulted in company scandals and damaged careers. In your situation, I think it would be unwise to pressure your wife to recall or think up ways she was induced, seduced or pressured to begin and carry on an affair for nine years. And I suggest to become obsessed with placing blame can damage your and her desire for continuing your marriage. More than likely that would be futile. Even if you can find real or supposed seduction, proving it and demonstrating harm to her from participation in it are problematic. Some attorneys might think they could make a case of it but that could be costly and expose your wife to public criticism and career damage. A subordinate cannot seek damages unless she/he can prove that sexual favors were a stated if implied requirement for employment, promotion/demotion. Our site does not provide legal advice nor does it replace you consulting an attorney, but I believe your question is not really legal so much as it is curiosity about how these kinds of affairs occur.

Well it takes two to tango and close working situations for those of us, whether already married or not, are not immune to temptation. Attraction can lead to more than business, as Gary Hart, the would-be candidate for President a few decades ago, learned on a yacht named Monkey Business. In sum, I recommend that if you research anything’ you research how your marriage might now make trust its guiding principle and that means being trusting rather than suspecting mistrust. That too is the principle for workplace relationships. I wish you and yours the best.Working together with hands, head and heart takes and makes big WEGOS is my signature line and that thought especially applies to marriage partners with children.

William Gorden