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Your Office Coach: Alleged affair feeds gossip mill

Your Office Coach: Alleged affair feeds gossip mill
08 Jul
3:13

Q: As a long-term employee in a family-owned business, I’m concerned about two people who may be having an affair. Although I have no definite proof, I’ve been told by a reliable source that the president of our company is in a sexual relationship with “Jessica”, our new sales director.

Ever since Jessica arrived, the sales department has had constant promotions, demotions, and terminations. Employees are confused because everything seems to be changing from the way it was previously done. Also, this company has never had a woman manager before.

Now people are upset because Jessica supposedly terminated an employee for raising questions about her relationship with the president. All this gossip is creating a lot of turmoil, so I would like to help calm things down. What’s the best way to do this?

A: During high-change periods, the grapevine always runs rampant. If Jessica and her boss are immersed in planning the sales reorganization, their frequent meetings could have given rise to these rumors, especially since female managers are apparently an anomaly.

But regardless of whether an affair is actually in progress, incessant gossip creates an unhealthy distraction, so your desire to help is admirable. If your lengthy tenure has created a trusting relationship with the president, one option is to have a non-accusatory “advisory” talk without prying into his personal life.

For example: “Although this is an uncomfortable subject, I thought I should tell you about some gossip that has employees upset. People have been speculating about your relationship with Jessica, so the rumor is that Bob got fired for saying you were having an affair. I’m not asking you about this, but I wanted you to know what’s being said.”

The president can then decide how to act on this information. But if your relationship with him is not that close, perhaps a family member or human resources manager would be willing to deliver the news. Of course, you can always help by refusing to participate in this unfounded speculation and strongly advising others to do the same.

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