The Boss’s Jealous Wife

by Evil HR Lady on July 21, 2015

I’m the Corporate office manager of a company, so I handle everything on the business side of things. I work as the accountant, secretary, bookkeeper, payroll, HR and much more. So because of that my boss (the owner) and I work pretty closely as I have to approve most things through him.

Well, his wife is a very jealous person and as soon as I met her I could tell she didn’t like me. My boss was out of town last week and his wife came into my office and started screaming at me telling me that I had been an hour late every day and that I was taking too long at lunch. (I am 20 minutes early every day and bring my lunch to work and eat it at my desk while still working).

We have a time clock so it’s not like I could even lie about when I get to work or when I click out. She tells me that I’m manipulating the system and taking advantage of her husband when I really have done nothing wrong. I’ve only been here for 2 months so I feel like she has so much influence on whether or not I stay. I feel like she is sabotaging my career and that’s not okay with me. What can I do?

Bad bosses let their family members influence their business decisions. Good bosses control the family members. I don’t know which kind of boss you have, but you need to find out.

This will be unpleasant, but you need to tell your boss what happened while he was gone. Try an opening statement like this, “Jim, this is a little awkward, but when you were gone last week, Holly came in. She was very angry with me, said I was coming in late and taking long lunches and that I was taking advantage of you. None of this is true. I wanted you to be aware and let you know it was very uncomfortable.”

Then let him respond. His response will tell you what you need to know. In general, you’ll get one of the following responses:

1. Total defense of his wife. YOU must have done SOMETHING wrong. She’s very astute about employees. If this happens, brush up your resume and get the heck out of this place (don’t quit, though, until you have something new lined up). Your life will be a living hell if you stay there and you may end up fired.

2. Wishy washy response. “You just have to ignore Holly. She can be a bit difficult, but, well, you know.” In this case, your job is probably secure, but you won’t be able to trust your boss to stop this from happening again. The wife will be annoying, but as long as she’s not around, it won’t be too bad.

3. Proper response. “I apologize for my wife. I will speak to her and it won’t happen again.” And then he follows through and you never see the wife again. Now, before I get screamy comments and emails about how husbands shouldn’t control wives, wives shouldn’t show up at their husband’s businesses and abuse the employees.

To be honest, response 3 is unlikely. Since the business didn’t begin yesterday, chances are the wife has done this before and she’ll do it again. My guess is that if you haven’t had problems with the boss or the wife before this trip, that you’ll get response 2.

Crazy family members happen. How bad this is depends on how often the boss goes out of town and how often the wife shows up. You can ask the other employees if her behavior is frequent. You might also want to find out if the person who held your position previously left because of the jealous wife.

You have to decide if the boss will give into the wife’s paranoia or if she’ll just be annoying. If there’s a possibility that it won’t be a mere annoyance, start looking for a new job right now. Life is too short to suffer with the boss’s crazy wife.

 

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Duncan from Vetter July 21, 2015 at 9:58 am

Jealousy is a huge problem, and completely awkward when it occurs at the workplace. When a new employee faces such an unpleasant situation, he/she tends to avoid discussing it in order to avoid future problems. In most cases, family comes first and work second, so the best thing to do is to find out more about this abusive behavior and act accordingly.

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grannybunny July 21, 2015 at 4:57 pm

There was a relatively recent court case in which the firing of a dental assistant was upheld because the dentist was attracted to her, and his wife was jealous. At the least, I would certainly keep my resume updated — if not actively seeking other employment — and it might not be a bad idea to go ahead and ask your boss for a letter of recommendation now, before the situation gets any worse.

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Evil HR Lady July 21, 2015 at 9:05 pm

That was a super weird case.

Unfortunately, letters of recommendation aren’t used much in job hunting outside of academia.

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grannybunny July 21, 2015 at 9:20 pm

Perhaps, but it would certainly reinforce that one was serious about the wife’s outrageous behavior being a total deal-breaker.

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LJL July 22, 2015 at 2:47 pm

I”d be concerned that asking for a letter of recommendation might backfire and suggest that he seek someone else before the letter writer was able to get another job.

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Truth Speaker July 21, 2015 at 7:26 pm

I ran afoul of my boss’ wife and I can assure you that I came out on the losing end, even though I was correct. From that experience, I will never work for a family owned business. My boss’ wife was working on her BA in Psychology and decided to use her new found skills on the company’s management team. I started receiving complaints from managers that she was delving into their personal lives and they felt pressured to participate in her counseling sessions. I gently tried to speak to my boss, the owner of the company that this was a conflict of interest and we could get in trouble for this. (He had typically been a reasonable person and always told his staff “to speak the truth.”) After speaking to him, my boss and his wife made my working life a living hell. Fortunately I was in the position that I could give notice and not worry about getting a job right away. Many other employees were not as fortunate and had to endure countless hours of her counseling sessions.
Eventually a complaint was filed against my former boss and his wife by the remaining employees. The kicker of all of this was when he called and asked if I would help the outside firm they had retained with the investigation. I asked “why me?” He said that I could always be counted on as being fair and honest. I told him that I would not help; I was also victim of him and his wife. Through the grapevine, I heard that the two of them had to write a couple of “checks.”

I tried to warn him and to this day, I am very cautious about spouses of bosses and “speaking the truth.” I also thought I was too smart to get into a “weird” employment situation, but it is amazing how it happens. In my case it was not sudden, but happened slowly over time and when I looked back I was amazed at how I got to a point in my career I thought I would never be.

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Evil HR Lady July 21, 2015 at 9:06 pm

Oh goodness gracious. Nothing like an undergrad psych major giving forced counseling!

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Elizabeth West July 22, 2015 at 1:35 am

Which could have been reported to her school, actually, and she could have gotten kicked out of her program. That might have been for the best. My mum is a psychologist and she deals with tons of patients who have had really crap therapists like this. We can only hope she flunks out!

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LJL July 22, 2015 at 2:48 pm

Really. That is HUGELY unethical!

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Honeybee July 24, 2015 at 10:14 pm

She could even have been contacted by the state board or law enforcement. There’s no BA in psychology that qualifies people to counsel others on personal problems or certifies them as a therapist! And she didn’t even have her BA yet. So she could be in trouble for practicing psychology without a license.

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Truth Speaker July 30, 2015 at 7:17 pm

The business I worked for was a franchise and part of a very large and well known international company. I made inquiries with the state I live in, about the wife practicing without a license. The husband and wife said that they were conducting “professional development” sessions. I am not sure what the state did with this information, but the “mother company” made the husband and wife immediately stop what they were doing.

What makes me sad about all of this was the hurt and fear that they caused with their alleged “professional development” sessions. The joke that went around the company was that all you needed to do to get promoted was cry in one of these sessions. Often these were group sessions, so employees were revealing personal information in front of their peers. I do not know how many times I heard from my boss, “that so-and-so was not doing their personal work.” There was also another joke going around that we were a “cult” not a business.

I know that all of this sounds crazy and as I said in my original reply, it happened so slowly that when I finally looked back I was shocked at how I allowed myself to get to that point. It is like that old saying, “death by a thousand cuts.” My “cuts” started, because I really enjoyed the company, believed in the products and services we offered, so I ignored the warning signs.

I think this type of situation happens more often then we think. I do believe it is important to understand oneself to be an effective manager and leader and this can be part of one’s professional development, but it must be done in a way that there is a separation, an arm’s length from the business. I think that some leaders like my old boss have good intentions, but went about it in all the wrong ways. I can’t remember the company and this happened 10+ years ago, but they asked their managers to walk across hot coals. Unfortunately several of them ended up with severe burns to their feet. Team building, professional development gone bad.

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SlaveToTheMan July 22, 2015 at 12:02 am

WOW! This is so relevent! Our bosses wife had her hours cut back at her other job, so for the past few months she has been ‘working’ at our office. She comes in one week/month, gives us all unnecessary jobs to do, confuses everyone, and then gets upset when any of that work is done while she’s not here. She refuses to take the time to get to know staff or where anything is. She will double or triple order supplies that we have no space for, yet randomly deny orders that staff make! The last order included pens! HOW can an office NOT have pens??? She insists on helping clients, but cannot answer their questions, then she puts staff down in front of clients like WE do not know what we’re doing. The staff grouped together and went to our boss to tell him that this is just not working. We were told that ‘saying no to the bosses wife is like saying no to the boss’! We have already lost a couple of good staff because of her, and when a good opportunity comes up, I will be gone as well. I thought that this might be a ‘phase’ and hoped it would get better. But you’re right. It probably won’t!

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Elizabeth West July 22, 2015 at 1:39 am

That’s insane.
It reminds me of when we were kids and went to my parents’ shop after school instead of riding the bus home–if we were bored, they put us to work. Organizing things, making bows (it was a gift shop), straightening card racks and dusting displays, etc.

If that were me, I would have asked for some work to do that put me out of everybody’s way, like sorting files or something. I hope you find something better quickly.

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Celeste July 22, 2015 at 4:05 pm

This would be a very difficult situation. When I work with companies that have multiple family members, there are almost always issues. I would suggest this person start looking for another job. There is no way to truly resolve this.

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Jeanne July 22, 2015 at 7:17 pm

The original letter and the other stories in the comments are awful. I agree that #2 is probably the best you can hope for but it’s good to know where you stand. Some discrete inquiries with other employees will tell you if this is a common occurrence.

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Mel in HR July 23, 2015 at 7:45 pm

I’m fortunate that my boss’s wife, although collecting a salary as she is called the VP, wants nothing to do with business talk and actually likes me a lot. I’m fairly certain her liking me is the only reason I’m still here as sometimes I think the other family members try to get me fired. Lesson learned. I will never work for a small family-owned business again unless it is my own. Too much drama!

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Rachael July 30, 2015 at 4:59 pm

I think it’s scary that you can be fired because someone is attracted to you. Sometimes this “at will” law really screws over people who are just trying to make a living without fear that their employer will fire them for any made up excuse.

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