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Office-Politics Adviser’s Reply: Boss’s wife visits wearing tacky, indecent outfits


Office-Politics Adviser’s answer to submitted letter: Boss’s wife visits wearing tacky, indecent outfits

timothy johnson

Dear Simmering Spouse,

The short answer…. “um… yes.”

The long answer of things you may not want to hear:

First, your letter is indicative of a larger problem in organizations; namely, this letter wasn’t written by one of the employees or by the boss; it was written by a spouse of an employee. In many organizations, we run the risk of “playing telephone” so the actual situation may be vastly different from what Ted’s wife told her hairdresser, who then relayed to her stepson’s girlfriend’s substitute part-time dog-walker. This is not to say you are not genuinely concerned, but you have to ask yourself (and the “other housewives”) if this is really your battle to fight.

Second, if there are that many employees who are distracted by this “promiscuous vixen,” what is wrong with the boss that none of them can have a straightforward discussion with him that his wife’s daily visits are a distraction to daily operations? Is he a tyrant? In that case, his wife is the least of their worries. Is the boss completely subservient to his wife? Again, “Danger! Danger!” Is there an HR or OSHA function to whom they can report this? These visits sound like a violation of company policy (or they should be).

Third, be sure to separate out the objective from the subjective. Her presence every day is objective. She is not an employee, and she shows up every day at the office. How the boss’s wife dresses is subjective. I could talk to a room of 100 people, and I can promise you that each individual will have a different view of what a “tacky outfit” is. As a male, I’m not going to go there. As tempting as it is for me to use the phrase “French maid costume” I’m just not going to do it. Nope. Huh-uh. Not going to happen. When the talk with the boss (or HR) should occur, focus on the objective and leave the subjective at home.

I hope this helps. Thank you for writing to OfficePolitics.com


Timothy Johnson, Author & Consultant
Author, SWAT – Seize the Accomplishment

Timothy Johnson is the Chief Accomplishment Officer of Carpe Factum, Inc. His company is dedicated to helping individuals and organizations “seize the accomplishment” through effective project management, strategic facilitation, and business process improvement. His clients have included Harley-Davidson Motorcycles, Wells Fargo, ING, Principal Financial Group, and Teva Neuroscience. Timothy has managed projects ranging from a $14 billion class action lawsuit settlement to HIPAA compliance, from software conversion to process reengineering, from strategic IT alignment to automated decisioning, from producing a training video to creating a project office environment. He is currently an adjunct professor at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, teaching MBA classes in Leadership, Managing Office Politics, Creativity for Business, and Project Management.

An accomplished speaker, Timothy has enthusiastically informed and entertained audiences across the nation on the topics of project communication, office politics, creativity, and meeting management. His newest book: SWAT – Seize the Accomplishment was published in January 2010. He is also the author of the business fables, Race Through The Forest – A Project Management Fable and GUST – The Tale Wind of Office Politics.