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How to Handle a Boss & Subordinate's Affair

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Finding out your supervisor and a colleague are engaged in a workplace affair can pose numerous dilemmas. Perhaps you're concerned about favoritism or a request to facilitate the secret relationship. What if one of your colleagues tries to enlist you as a confident?

Ignore It

Don't let the affair impact your personal or professional life. Stay outside the fray by refusing to participate in discussions about the issue. If you're asked to cover up, lie to one of your colleagues’ partners or otherwise detract yourself from professional work time, immediately and professionally state your objections to your supervisor. "Your personal life is none of my business. Please leave me out of the loop.”

Don't Gossip

Office romances create juicy and hard-to-resist workplace gossip. Steer clear of exchanging real or imagined information with your colleagues and resist the urge to state your personal opinion on the matter. Acknowledging that you think all cheaters are horrible people or suggesting that someone should notify the respective partners drives you into the heart of the matter and can become unprofessional and even career threatening. Maintain neutrality and silence.

Talk to Your Boss

Your boss might be so wrapped up in his affair that he's not aware employees know what's happening and feel negatively impacted. If you have a good relationship with your boss, ask for a personal appointment and bring the issue to his attention in a non-confrontational way. “I don't know if you're aware of this, or if there's any truth to the matter, but rumors are circulating that you and Julie are having an affair. Some staffers think she's getting special treatment, other people feel they're being asked to do extra work to cover for her, and the entire issue is taking an unseemly turn in the rumor mill." Using this approach, you're not asking your boss to verify or deny anything, just bringing the issue to his attention.

Talk to Human Resources

If the affair negatively affects your work, and you can't talk to your boss or got nowhere in previous discussions, take the issue to your human resources manager. Clearly define your concerns in a private meeting with HR. You should have solid examples of how the affair or the rumor of the relationship is having a negative impact on staff performance.


Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.

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