Employee Accused of Having an Affair with a Coworker

I am good friends with a male coworker, who is not my boss, but a step higher than I am. We talk at work on the days we work together about both work-related issues and non-work-related things. Naturally, it has gotten back to me that people think we are having an affair.

Not surprised. Anyhow, one of the other employees complained to my manager that I “talk to him too much” and I was told by another member of management that it would be “coming up in my performance evaluation.” My performance evaluation?

Okay….a few things. One, I never let my conversations with anyone interfere with doing my job. Two, I want to ask my manager exactly how much time in hours and minutes is talking to someone “too much?”

Three, does she realize that I’m going tohave TO talk to him to get the job done? Four, and most importantly, I want to know if that is a form of sexual harassment from the accusing coworker.

There are some very religious people on my floor and I think they are bothered by us talking because of their own ideas and imagination. Where does it stop? Are they going to pick and choose with whom I am allowed to speak? Why are they being given this power?

I have been told that people think I’m “pretty” and “notice” when I walk in a room.

To read the answer, click here: Employee Accused of Having an Affair with a Coworker

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14 thoughts on “Employee Accused of Having an Affair with a Coworker

  1. Trust me, pretty women get accused of all kinds of crap at work. If you happen to also be single, the problem is worse. And if you happen to really like your male coworker, whether or not you act on this affection, people WILL notice.
    I agree this lady needs to make sure her behavior is exemplary, and she needs to develop a thicker skin. But I think she has a point of contention with others in the office, and having her friendship brought up in her performance evaluation is clearly over the line.
    I think the boss should put out a general but very clear email regarding a no tolerance policy on office gossip.
    Failing that, the problem does get better when you get older. A few years, a few wrinkles and extra pounds and that stupid gossip problem goes away. Middle aged women are invisible, and that can be a real relief when you’re trying to make a living.

    1. I totally agree that the boss needs to take a hardline about gossip.

      I’m not sure looks make as much difference as attitude. I’ve worked with some stunningly gorgeous women, none of whom ever had anyone say anything negative about them in this type of way.

      The people who I have worked with that had everyone’s tongues wagging were very average looking, but doing all the things mentioned above. And, FWIW, i don’t think they were having an affair either, I think they were just really good friends.

  2. I read this article once with groggy eyes and a second time with my “HR hat” on. Despite the fact that a male and a female coworker can often be gossiped about, the idea that it would be part of your performance appraisal leads me to ask why. Something is missing.
    On the whole, performance appraisals are a review/summary of your annual performance. There is the concept of “critical incidents,” which are both good or bad things that happen that help define overall performance, especially when dealing with customers, vendors, other employees, et al, that could be noted, but what is happening that this would need to be on a performance appraisal and not a disciplinary action? A performance appraisal is not the place to deal with this kind of issue, for the biggest reason that it is supposed to be a summary of a period (usually a year) of performance, not one specific incident. Or two or three.
    What comes to mind, especially reading and re-reading the opening paragraph is that this manager, to whom you do not report, is someone you talk about about work and non-work related items. Respectfully, I think some of this needs to be put back on him. While people are people and what they do outside of work typically is no one inside of work’s business, could it be seen that your interactions with him are unduly affecting his decisions? Is what he is doing somehow being affected by his interactions with you that could lead his subordinates to think there is more going on at work than a simple friendship?
    Additional questions to ask: 1. Where in the chain does this other member of management lie? How does this other member of management directly impact your work and chain and thus your performance appraisal? 2. Who is the person complaining to your manager? Has your manager had a discussion with you about this situation? 3. Is there a non-fraternization policy at your company? If there is, does it address one’s own chain of command or interactions with any member of management? 4. Have you discussed this with your manager friend? What does he have to say?
    There just seems to be missing information and some of the dots aren’t connecting properly. In any case, the best thing to do is examine your own part in all of this and if you truly feel that nothing is untoward, then it needs to be taken to your immediate supervisor or to HR.

    1. I disagree that this type of issue should be left out of a performance appraisal. Performance is the whole package. If you’re doing something which is causing division in the department, it should be addressed.

      Now, of course, I don’t ever think a manager should wait until the performance review to spring something on someone, but if what she (and he!) are doing IS inappropriate, it can definitely go into a performance review.

  3. I agree that it seems things have been left out. Why are we assuming they are giggling, talking quietly in the corner, etc.? She doesn’t say anything of the sort in her letter, unless this is a general caution about suspicious-looking behavior. It also seems to put the onus on her to watch her step, rather than whatever Nosy Parker started the rumor in the first place.
    Perhaps I’m misunderstanding this answer, Suzanne. Though I agree that any punitive action should fall on him as well as her, if their behavior is disruptive or goes against some kind of company policy.

  4. Here’s my reasoning:

    1. She isn’t surprised at all that her co-workers are accusing her of an affair. This indicates to me that she knows she’s behaving in a non -professional manner.

    2. She accuses the co-workers of accusing her because they are “religious.” In other words, “what we’re doing is fine! They just think it’s wrong because they are religious!” Which again, indicates inappropriate office behavior.

    3. She’s divided the employees into 3 groups: Management (fine, normal), religious people, her and male coworker. By labeling them as “other” than she and her male coworker are, I believe the two of them do engage in close, whispering conversations and shut up when others come in. Why? Not because they are having an affair, but because they are talking about the “others.”

    This happens whenever cliques exist and it’s rude behavior, but if it’s two females, then people aren’t likely to shout “affair!” (even though that is possible, but less likely than a heterosexual affair), but rather “mean girls!”

    So, there’s my logic. I’ve been wrong before and I’ll be wrong again, but that’s how I got to my answer.

    As I said, if she’s the only one getting push back, then it is sexual discrimination, but if he is too, then all’s fair in love and war, right? As for it going in the performance appraisal, I edited out what she did (per her request for privacy), but suffice it to say it’s something that is EXTREMELY team oriented and people will die if the team isn’t working together. So, yeah, it’s a big issue if there is an “us” against “them” situation.

    But, please tell me more of your thoughts!

    1. Reading between the lines, it would seem to me that the organization DOES have a non-fraternization policy and if there is potential for crossing the lines into religious-hostility, a stop needs to be put immediately. And if I’m reading the lines correctly, senior management would be well within their right to put it on her performance evaluation.
      This reeks and I would advise to put it aside for the best of the group.

    2. I would say that you are making a few assumptions. I have had this type of thing levelled at me and to say they go quiet because they are talking about ‘others’ isn’t an objective statement. She could or he could be using each other for mentoring or personal confidences/support and would fairly go quiet when others entered. I wouldn’t want my private concerns about how to improve myself bandied about by co-workers.

      To be clear on the one occasion this happened to me I was providing standard support to a distressed trainee (going through divorce). On the other occasion I had already addressed management to advise them that I had formed a long term relationship with the male (both of us did this together) the accusation came afterward and was handled poorly by management and I was definitely the one held MORE accountable. Even though we were working on 3 projects at the time of the accusation and did not engage in ANY PDA nor work behind closed doors where people were locked out.

      I see little evidence for the deductions you made as having been in similar circumstance before I know I behaved in a professional manner.

      1. To clarify the two occasions were separate and in the case of the relationship I was and on peer level.

  5. Frankly, I don’t like siding with management but here in this situation it is all too common in the workplace for employees to make partnerships by way way of sex favoritism so they can move up. The employee behavior here is common and this is specially so in Civil Service. She is very close to having an affair with someone who is a step higher but not a supervisor could mean a Lead or just some one on the upward mobility path and she wants to hang on to him for (1) she likes him and (2) she wants to move up with him. This is much too common and I am glad management is handling it before it really gets out of hand… by the way she is creating a hostile work environment. Funny she attempts to turn the accusation around… typical. Terminate this person, she is poison in the work place. If she is not having an affair at work she is certainly giving the appearance of one… her coworkers are witnesses against her. Terminate.

    1. If you’re I’m favour of termination it would have to be both of them. Is that what you’re saying?

    2. From the letter, there’s nothing to indicate that termination is warranted. I think you’re reading way too much into it.

  6. FYI–on Firefox for me, the letter stops after “My performance evaluation?” while Chrome allows me to see the whole letter. If that’s happening to other people, it may be coloring their read too.

    1. Thanks for this notice, fposte! I was wondering why I couldn’t see any of the information people were talking about and there didn’t seem to be a link to a separate article either.

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