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Can I trust my Bosses when they are all having extramarital affairs?

Dear Office-Politics,

I’ve been dealing with a situation at work that’s recently come to a head.

Our company is only 9 people large, and of those 9 people we’ve got two VPs and one President. Several months ago, the President and the female VP owned up to being in a relationship, which we long suspected was the reason for the breakup of his marriage.

As if that relationship being in our faces all day wasn’t enough to deal with, the male VP admitted this past week that he is having an affair with the contact of our biggest client. He claims his wife knows and is OK with it, but his two young children will never know.

I have just recently (literally, 5 days ago) gotten a raise I have worked very hard for, thus don’t want to leave my position, but this is all becoming too much for someone who believes very firmly in responsible moral ethics.

Any advice? Thanks so much.

Working for Unbridled Lust, Inc

timothy johnson

Dear Working for Unbridled Lust, Inc.

If your executive team is living out the corporate values, exactly what kind of company do you work for?

It sounds like you have some serious soul searching to do. You seem like somebody who has a strong moral compass, yet you’re in the midst of a bunch of lusty leaders. Your letter read like a plot from a really bad soap opera. Do you think that their values of deceit and lack of self-restraint are going to stop at the bedroom? Yes, you have a great paying job, and you’ve worked hard for it, but you need to ask yourself if it is worth it. It’s one thing to be break up a marriage with an interoffice romance. The level of bad judgment of getting involved with a key client is sending up red flags, sirens, flashing lights, and a police barricade.

I’ve worked for a company where the leadership values were questionable, and it was the worst feeling in the world. Every time I had a conversation with them, I wondered what they were lying about. I wondered what they weren’t telling me that I should know. I questioned why I should be forthright with them, whether they would be able to handle the truth if they heard it. When you see your executives behaving badly, you can’t help but ask what else they are doing. Granted, you have a great well-paying job now, but how long will that last if an executive is compromising the professional relationship with a chief client?

So, you have some choices:

    1. You can confront the executives and tell them the message that their behavior is sending to the rest of the organization (I’m guessing you’re not the only one who feels this way).

    2. You can quit and find a job where the management keeps their roll of quarters in the till

    3. You can just keep plugging away and deal with it.

Whatever you do, listen to your heart and your instincts.

Thanks for writing to Office Politics, Inc.

Best of luck,

Timothy Johnson, Author

Timothy Johnson is the author of the newly released Gust: The “Tale” Wind of Office Politics (Lexicon, 2007) as well as Race Through The Forest – A Project Management Fable (Tiberius, 2006). As Chief Accomplishment Officer for his company, Carpe Factum, Inc. (Latin for “Seize The Accomplishment”), he also is a dynamic speaker, providing keynotes and workshops on the accomplishment-oriented topics of project management, creativity, process improvement, systems thinking, and (of course) office politics. His consulting clients have crossed multiple industries and have included Wells Fargo, Harley-Davidson, ING, Teva NeuroScience, and Principal Financial Group. In addition to writing, consulting, speaking, and coaching, he is also an adjunct instructor for Drake University’s MBA program in Des Moines Iowa, teaching classes in Project Management, Creativity for Business, and Managing Office Politics.

  1. 3 Answers to “Can I trust my Bosses when they are all having extramarital affairs?”

  2. I agree with Mr. Johnson, but I also feel conflicted. There is a great value to not only loving what you do on a daily basis, but also trusting your coworkers. However there is also a lot of deception in the world today. Should you leave your current job, who’s to say that your next job won’t be something similar or even something worse? I understand that with such a small company, that much untrust is quite alarming, but would you prefer that it all went undiscussed?

    Personally I would feel a lot more comfortable with the people I worked with if they were deceitful in their personal lives and upfront with their coworkers.

    By RB on May 24, 2007

  3. Feedback from Timothy Johnson, Office-Politics Adviser

    Dear RB,

    I can see your point, and there are no guarantees that the next job will be better. What I hope this person takes out of my advice is more experience should he or she decide to find another job. I would be willing to bet there were warning signs in the behaviors. I’m not sure it’s realistic to think that people can be deceitful in one area of their lives and saints in another, as you describe. It’s called compartmentalization. Many of us do it subconsciously every day, but over the long haul, something that monumental cannot continue to be compartmentalized. The affairs stem to an underlying value that a relationship which many of us view as committed, they view as disposable. So, if they view their marriage, which should be their most committed relationship, as a disposable one, what is to stop them from viewing you as an employee as disposable the moment they perceive that you are not adding value? I hope this helps.

    Thanks for writing to Office Politics.

    By Timothy Johnson, OP Adviser on May 30, 2007

  4. Here’s a follow-up question I have: What should you do — if anything — if you suspect your supervisor had an affair with a subordinate or at the very least an “improper relationship?” A number of years ago, I noticed that my supervisor (male) frequently went on smoking breaks several times a day with a female subordinate and frequently talked about how they were going out for drinks or dinner, and not inviting others to join him. I believed in worrying about myself and keeping my nose out of it. Another person in an other company that works in my building confirmed with me that they were having “an improper relationship.” And it does appear that the subordinate does get treated with kid gloves even while behaving like an irresponsible child.

    My gut feeling is to continue staying out of it but at what point should one say anything?


    By Linda P. on Jun 6, 2007

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