I have worked for the same non-profit for 16 years. I started right after college and worked my way to an administrative position after 4 years. For the past 12 years I have been an administrator. A coworker, 20 years my senior has a drinking problem.
For many of the past 12 years I have done large pieces of his job and mine. The boss has always been aware of the situation – the 2 of them are golfing and drinking buddies. I was respected and compensated, so I worked through most of it, but at times I did complain.
After my coworkers second DUI arrest, he allowed his drinking to effect work to the point that we almost lost 2 licenses to operate programs. (During his absences from work we are to tell people he had a heart condition.) I was moved to take over his job duties due to the licensing issues and he was made my supervisor with the caveat that he “technically” wouldn’t be my supervisor. A woman who has also worked for the agency in a minor part-time role was promoted to my previous position. This occurred about 8 months ago.
Within 2 months of the change, another co-worker (a man who drives the DUI guy around because he lost his license for a year, but was allowed to keep his job) began telling me stories of how the DUI guy suspected the boss and the woman were having an affair. He relayed specific stories and pointed out things that occurred at a conference we all went to. He continued to share these stories from the DUI guy and was telling me things such as the woman also confided about her marriage crumbling.
To complicate things, my wife also works for the agency. The woman’s husband attempted to contact me after he confronted her and asked her to leave their home. I refused to speak with him. I called the woman and told her he was trying to contact me. I did not know why, and if there are problems, I did not want to be involved.
This was 6 weeks ago. Since then I have been left out of projects, my calls to the boss go unanswered, I have received rude emails from the woman telling me to do her work (because the boss told her to tell me), secret meetings at bars, etc. I continue to complete many of my previous job duties (that the woman should be completing) as well as mine. I have not complained directly to the boss. I have kept detailed records of the work I have completed. The other office personnel and administrators respect and like me. Some have noticed the change and one other administrator is also being targeted in a similar manner. I have continued to do my job, but do not know how to address this. I am good at my job and love serving the people we support in our programs. What advice do you have?
Keeping my mouth shut
OFFICE-POLITICS REPLY BY DR. RICK BRANDON AND DR. MARTY SELDMAN
Dear Keeping my mouth shut,
Once in a while we get a letter and the situation is so straight forward that we would give the same advice to almost anyone in that circumstance. Much more common are letters where there is no one right answer but we try to help the person find the answer that is right for him or her. Your letter certainly fits into the latter category.
Depending on your net worth, financial needs, ease of finding another job, sense of integrity, fairness etc you may want to make different decisions about your situation.
So let’s look at some options and factors that we would pay attention to:
Blow up Scenario
-This situation is not pretty and we can see certain scenarios where it gets very ugly. Any number of people could expose the ongoing behavior. We would suggest patience because it is a volatile situation that may resolve itself. On the other hand it could get ugly in your direction and they could try to scapegoat you or overload you with work. We would suggest talking with an employment lawyer who could advise you about your rights, options and even whistle blowing laws in your state.
Who does your boss worry about?
– He doesn’t worry about you but he worries about a board, a government agency, your clients, media etc. We would document what you have described in case you ever need that leverage.
Allies and Advocates
-Don’t do anything alone.
Carefully assess who is on your side and you may get an opportunity to act together.
In the meantime we would suggest that you don’t kill yourself doing everyone else’s job.
Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.
Rick Brandon, Ph.d. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. Co-authors,
Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success
Rick Brandon, Ph.d. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. are Co-authors, Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success. Dr. Rick Brandon is CEO of Brandon Partners. He has consulted and trained tens of thousands at corporations worldwide, including Fortune 500 companies across a variety of industries. Dr. Marty Seldman is one of America’s most experienced executive coaches. His 35-year career includes expertise in executive coaching, group dynamics, cross-cultural studies, clinical psychology, and training.
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