Today I’m answering a question about what to do if one of your co-workers is having an affair — and bringing it into the office.
My married co-worker is having an affair. This is hard for me to take because I know her husband. My husband and I have gone out to dinner with them several times.
At first I couldn’t believe this was happening. When I told my husband, he couldn’t either — but it is. My co-worker is often on the phone on calls that are clearly personal. It’s clear it’s a rocky relationship: Sometimes she’s giddy with excitement and other times she’s crying and upset.
She hangs up when I’m near her desk, but she’s on the phone again the next time I pass by. Her husband calls her several times a day and also stops by at least twice a week. Since he knows me, he always comes in to chat and is such a nice guy! I feel horrible about not giving him a heads-up. I think part of the reason he comes by is that he suspects his wife, and I’m afraid one day he’ll corner me and ask if I think anything is going on.
If that happens and I tell the truth, my co-worker will make my life miserable. If I say nothing, I feel like an accomplice. Also, I’m considered team lead, and my manager expects me to monitor my three co-workers and to give him a heads-up concerning any problems. Unfortunately, he’s pretty heavy-handed, and I’m afraid he’ll walk over to her, say I told him and tell her to cut out the calls. What am I supposed to do?
Although your co-worker and her husband bring their personal business into the office, it’s their business, not yours. If you’re correct and your co-worker’s husband is checking up on her because he suspects, he’ll find out for himself. If you’re wrong and tell him your suspicions, you might make a bad situation tragic.
Every employee has the right to privacy, the right to be free from the publicizing of her private matters. You violate that right if you wrongfully intrude into an employee’s personal life, especially if you do so in a way that causes mental suffering, shame or humiliation.
Your employer, however, doesn’t need to put up with an employee who is constantly on the phone, particularly as her emotional upset could lead her to make errors in her work. Since you describe your manager as heavy-handed, let your co-worker know your job duties and that her calls put you in a vice. If you ignore her, you let your manager down and risk discipline yourself. If you tell him, he’ll come down hard on her. Suggest that it’s best for her and you that she cut out the calls while at work.
Finally, you may want to tell your manager he makes your job harder when he handles a problem by saying you told him, as you’re both the lead and a co-worker.
Have a question for Lynne? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org with subject “SheKnows” and she may answer your question (confidentially) in an upcoming piece on SheKnows.
© 2016, Lynne Curry. Lynne is an executive coach and author of Solutions and Beating the Workplace Bully, AMACOM. You can follow Lynne through her other posts on sheknows.com, via www.workplacecoachblog.com, www.bullywhisperer.com™ or @lynnecurry10 on twitter.