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When People at Your Work are Having an Affair

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 16 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Relationship Affair Colleagues Boss Wife

Personal relationships of any kind at work are fraught with difficulties.

Perhaps one of the most problematic is when an affair starts between two colleagues, especially when their partners or families are known to others in the team. Even just having met someone’s wife or husband briefly can make it seem so much more ‘real’ and raise all sorts of moral and obligatory issues.

If you feel that the relationship is in any way jeopardising your work or the goals of the company, you are entitled to speak to your boss, line manager or HR manager. Keep it non-judgemental though, even if you are aware of their personal circumstances, because you will end up looking nosey and bitter. Stick to the facts. You could say “A personal relationship in our department is making the organisation of the Christmas party/conference/whatever rather difficult.” It is most likely that they already know about the situation and are just as keen as you for it not to affect the workplace.

If Your Boss is Involved

If one of the participants in the relationship is your boss, you may be feeling as though their emotional attachment to a colleague is making your day to day job harder and showing favouritism. This, too, is worth addressing, although be clear that you have actual reasons as opposed to just a sense of injustice. Do not feel as though you have to cover up for your boss. A good boss would not put you in such a difficult position. If perhaps their wife or husband calls when you know they are at a ‘meeting’, then the best thing to do would be take a message as normal then ask to speak to your boss as soon as possible. You could carefully say, “Your wife called when you were out this morning.” They may address the issue with you, without you having to push it. Although if they do not and it happens again, you could say that you are not prepared to do that a third time or that you are uncomfortable with covering up his situation.

If You Know Their Partner

Other issues that may make dealing with colleagues having an affair is if you catch them in a compromising position or if their partner or a family member also works for the same company, or is well known to the organisation. It is not your job to judge their behaviour on moral grounds, although it is perfectly acceptable to not wish to cover up any behaviour you are not comfortable with. Turning a blind eye and telling tales are quite different matters, especially as office romances have a tendency to fizzle out.

When the Relationship Ends

Of course, the fizzling out of such dalliances also has a habit of making for uncomfortable working environments. If the couple break up and both continue working with you, how you conducted yourself when they were together will make a difference to the situation now. It is best not to get involved with the juicy gossip in the first place as you will be an obvious target to go through all the details of the break up. You do not wish to be seen to ‘take sides’ or indeed to know about the minutiae of the relationship. Better, then, to remain focused on your work and not be a part of office gossip, unless you feel it is having a detrimental affect on your career.

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