Some time ago, I had a young, charming, and married boss called Sam (not real name). He was quite the ladies man except I didn’t know it when I first met him.
Sam had this way where he made you feel special and he made you think that you were the most important employee in his office.
I should have seen the signs when I first interviewed with him. His team was mostly composed of young and pretty ladies sprinkled with one or two guys. He loved the ladies— whatever the size or color. The commonality was that they were all young and pretty.
The other management groups in the office would jokingly call our team “Sam’s harem” referring to all the young women who were a part of his team.
Sam seemed to be a good boss. He knew the work and did it well but he had a weakness when it came to the women he managed.
There was always some mild flirtation going on in meetings between Sam and the other women in the office. I thought nothing of it. After all, this was just harmless fun.
Sam had his favorites in the team but I didn’t know it then. Naively, I thought I was his favorite employee because he always praised my work and he seemed to pay extra attention to whatever I did.
However, everything changed when we had our first out-of-town conference and business meeting.
The whole team flew to Minneapolis for the conference. We were supposed to stay overnight for a few days.
The days were jam-packed with conferences and meetings but the nights were for hanging out with colleagues and friends at restaurants and bars.
It was right then and there that Sam crossed the line but it was not with me. Most likely, I was never his type. He crossed the line with a co-worker of mine.
Kate (not real name) was the perfect co-worker. She was young, pretty, friendly, and did her job reasonably well. She got along very well with Sam but for the most part I thought they had a professional relationship. Kate was single but I would never have guessed that she had a thing for Sam or that he had a thing for her.
What happened was that I saw them both kissing at the bar. They had withdrawn from the rest of the team and were quietly having drinks when they started holding hands and making out. The only reason that I happened to notice was because I had gone to the restroom and they were seated near that area. Obviously they thought no one had noticed.
However, I did notice and I was shocked. They had both seemed so straight and narrow. My boss already had a beautiful wife. How could he have just betrayed everyone in one evening?
We got back from the conference. I never confronted Sam or Kate about their indiscretion. I don’t know what happened after their makeout session. Did they end up sleeping with each other? I didn’t want to find out.
I know that affairs at work happen all the time. Sam and Kate were not an anomaly. However, in writing this, I really want to understand my own reaction. I am afraid I reacted badly even though Sam and Kate’s affair did not impact me directly.
My reaction was to stop engaging with Sam at work. I would get paranoid whenever he and Kate discussed something at work. I was always looking for signs that they were continuing to see each other. Obviously my work suffered because I was no longer interacting with Sam and I did not respect him anymore.
I left the company soon after the incident. Once I started slacking off in my work, I knew it was time to leave. Besides, Sam wasn’t exactly happy with my weird and standoffish behavior either. He was no longer on my side.
To this day, I wonder if I couldn’t have handled the knowledge of my boss’s affair a little better.
There is a right way to have handled the work affair. According to the experts, I should have spoken to my boss about what I saw at the conference. Even if it wasn’t easy, I could have laid it all out. My intention was never to out his affair but to obtain some sort of guarantee that he wasn’t going to be biased at work.
It is absolutely necessary to maintain a professional working relationship. I shouldn’t have kept my feelings bottled up. The boss’s affair was not my business but I needed to know if he was going to treat me fairly at work or if it was Kate that was going to receive all the praise and promotions because of her closeness to Sam.
In the end, I reacted badly and it affected my career and any chances of promotion. If I could go back in time, I hope I would do the right thing this time.