my employee insinuated I was having an affair … with my husband

A reader writes:

My husband and I work for the same mid-size government agency as senior level managers. We are in different departments, our job duties and direct colleagues/reports do not intersect, and our offices are not near each other. We have worked in the same building, and in fact on the same teams, several times throughout our marriage. Our supervisors are all aware we are married and were made so during the application processes. We both wear rings and sometimes carpool together, but have a very cordial, professional relationship while at work. I say this to mean we don’t engage in any touching or hugging, we don’t visit each other’s spaces to hang out, and while we’re both open about being married and who our spouse is if asked, we aren’t purposely calling attention to our relationship.

We have a standing lunch date once a week, when work allows. This past week, when returning from said lunch, a woman who reports to me pulled me aside. She said she thought it was inappropriate that I was going to lunch with a man, “who is also married.” She said she thought it would give the wrong impression and she was worried about my standing in the company if people got the wrong idea.

While I quickly corrected her by letting her know he is indeed my husband, and she seemed embarrassed by her error, the encounter left me a little annoyed and dismayed. Am I wrong to think she was out of line in correcting me, not just because she didn’t have all the information, but because the type of judgement she was engaging in is unfair — even if the man I was eating with wasn’t my husband?

Is it worth revisiting with her? If so, what should I say?

Yeah, she was out of line. She’s not your manager — you’re hers — and it’s not her job to advise you on her worries about your standing in the company. And even if he weren’t your husband, going to lunch once a week with a married male colleague is not a big deal. So this is weird and out of line on a couple of different fronts.

But whether or not it’s worth revisiting with her … I think it depends on (a) whether this is part of a larger pattern of over-stepping or inappropriate nosiness/judginess, (b) how annoyed you are (which might depend a bit on what her tone and manner were when she talked to you), and (c) whether you’re concerned that she might do something similarly out-of-line to another colleague in the future.

If you do decide to say something, you could say, “Can I ask you about what you said the other day about my lunches? I thought about it afterwards, and I was surprised. Even if Fergus weren’t my husband, it’s not a big deal to go to lunch with male colleagues, married or not. And if women feel like they can’t eat lunch with married male colleagues because of what people might think — or if men feel that way about their female colleagues — people will miss out on a lot of professional relationship building. Historically, that’s hurt women more than it’s hurt men. And I don’t want to feel that my staff members are scrutinizing who I go to lunch with.”

But there’s also an argument for letting it go and just keeping an eye out for additional incidences of weird judgment from her in the future.

(If you’re wondering why this is different from the recent letter-writer wondering whether to say something to an employee who was having an affair with a married coworker, that person was concerned that the employee didn’t know he was married.)

{ 280 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Bolt

    I am almost wondering if there are others who are not aware that are gossiping thinking that they are both married to different people yet have a regular weekly lunch date.

    I think it would be best to leave it at this… she is likely mortified that she implied that her boss was cheating on her husband with her own husband! It seems like the angle isn’t as much to talk about why the comment wasn’t appropriate but try to alter her way of thinking; after all, she is entitled to judge anyone as harshly as she sees fit. The only time I see it needing to come up again is if she has continual lapses in judgement on what is appropriate to say to those she works with.

    Reply
    1. Falling Diphthong

      I also wondered whether this was one overinterested employee going rogue, or someone trying to kindly give a heads-up about office gossip that they would want passed on in the manager’s shoes. If the latter, hopefully the modifying piece of gossip is now making the rounds.

      (Some people could have sufficiently attuned radar to pick up that the couple’s bond went deeper than the fourth quarter projections, and indicated a long and relaxed intimacy broader than the intersection of their jobs. Which would just be accurate.)

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      1. Relly

        This actually gave me pause. I was eyerolling at the busybody assuming an affair just based on lunch … But you’re right that it is entirely possible that there’s a vibe between them, something indefinable that people pick up. Which changes the warning from “don’t have lunch with the opposite sex” into “just FYI, you guys are being more obvious than you realize.”

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        1. Terence

          This is an over analysis of a simple situation. The employee specifically objected to OP having lunch with a married man. There are people who genuinely believe that this is a problem (look up Mike Pence.) There’s no reason not to take this person at their word.

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      2. Former Retail Manager

        That was precisely my assumption. If they were seen going to/coming back from lunch, they were presumably seen outside the office (foyer of building/parking lot, etc) and may well have let their guard down to the extent that they behaved either more like husband and wife, or minimally, not like co-workers. If this is the first time this employee has done something like this, and it isn’t part of a broader pattern, I’d assume that she may have been gently trying to alert you to what she and potentially others have noticed and maybe even gossiped about, and I’d definitely let it go OP.

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        1. msmorlowe

          I’d add as well that their professional interactions at work could be read as hiding, or trying to hide, their relationship instead.

          If OP had been having an affair, this could potentially have been a head’s up that she would have appreciated. Of course, we don’t know the tone of the report’s warning.

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      3. A.

        I suspect there has been gossip and the employee thought she was doing something kind (not realizing it was out of line), but I was mostly impressed so many people at work don’t know they’re married. Most married couples I’ve met in the workplace are very upfront about dropping it into conversation, even (maybe especially?) when they are professional around their spouse at work. But I’ve tended to live in smaller cities where you see people around town with their spouses anyway.

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    2. Ol' Crow

      I think this is a valid way of looking at this issue and I’d love to see if that changes the response. Several years ago at the company I was then with, a mid-level manager (married) spent a lot of time and lunches with a man (single) who was just a bit below her. The office was full of rumors and speculation about the affair, but no one ever gave them a heads up. I don’t know if theirs was an affair or not, but my mind returned to it a few years after leaving that company because I was questioned by a former co-worker I was still friendly with about whether or not I’d had “dated” a married man I had been/was friendly with. Made me realize that while uncomfortable, it might be nicer to be aware of the rumors so you can set them straight rather than having everyone talking about you behind your back.

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      1. seejay

        When I was doing my undergrad degree, there was a lot of rumours milling around about one of my profs and his grad student due to the amount of time they spent together. Now, I know grad students spend a tonne of time with their prof especially in certain fields in the sciences, but there were some things that were *really* off about the time they spent together. We’re talking spending time together outside of class with his kid, her being in his hotel room while he was showering, and a lot of time together that wasn’t on campus. We never met his wife at all… we met his son, but always with his grad student next to them.

        There was never solid proof they were having an affair, and she wound up getting engaged to a friend of mine, but this was quite a few years later, quite possibly after separating from the prof. Suffice to say, if there *wasn’t* an affair going on, they weren’t behaving in a way to dispel the impression of it.

        I’m all for people having whatever types of relationships/friendships they want, but there’s also ways to not look like you’re having an affair if you’re not, or if you’re trying to hide it if you shouldn’t be having one (in the case of a prof/student arrangement). If they weren’t having one, they certainly weren’t doing a good job of not looking like it… I didn’t say anything or spread rumours, but I couldn’t help overhearing my fellow students talking about it, or even *seeing* really weird, sketchy stuff that just looked so off.

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        1. Artemesia

          Grad student prof affairs are so common that with these added details, probably so. I know three women who married their grad advisors and then research colleagues years after they graduated when the advisors were widowed. I don’t know that their very close relationship for all those years professionally meant they were actually having an affair, but when the opportunity presented itself, they married.

          I worked for 5 years very closely with a male colleague on a major project and then wrote a book with him and we spent a lot of time together. My basic attitude was ‘who cares’ about impressions made, but not everyone is in that position professionally.

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          1. Turtle Candle

            When I was a student we had a very young/new professor whose younger sister was an undergraduate at the same school. As siblings who are fond of each other are wont to do, they sometimes got lunch or coffee together. And every time he would be like “And now I have to go because I’m meeting MY SISTER for lunch! MY SISTER! FOR PLATONIC LUNCH!” I mean, paraphrasing. But it was clear he was a little freaked at the possibility he would be perceived as dating an undergrad.

            We all thought it was hilarious, but in retrospect I can understand why he did it.

            (And yes, I know for a fact that it was his sister and not an over enthusiastic coverup.)

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            1. Julia

              Wasn’t there a question on here by a poor young researcher/TA whose sister was an undergrad at the same school and rumours were floating around he was dating her?

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            2. Shay Simmons

              The spousal unit and I do not have the same last name, leading one of his (quite junior) Marines to warn me very seriously that he was married one day when I phoned his office.

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              1. Wintermute

                I’m not sure about your exact situation, but the mention of a junior Marine answering his phone implies he may be an officer, or at least a longtime member of the Marines, and that changes the rubric here just a bit.

                Given that adultery is still (potentially) a crime under the UCMJ that adds an extra layer. Especially if you are also a servicemember or they think you may be. It may have been said junior marine warning “hey, not sure if you know but you might be at risk/placing him at risk here”

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            3. shep

              When my brother and I hang out by ourselves, we can tell if we go to a restaurant or a store that people think we’re dating. We also try to announce really loudly that we’re siblings, but I don’t know how well it works.

              Once, in a particularly bizarre case of mistaken fraternization, we were eating out with our parents, and the way the waitress acted, it was clear she thought we were high school students on a supervised date. We had to explain it to our parents later because they were like, “What was up with the waitress???” Our parents laughed SO HARD. (The weirdest part to me is that I’m nearly ten years older than my brother and was already in my mid-twenties. But I look younger than I am and he looks older, so I guess we end up looking about the same age.)

              Just, oh, the supposition!

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              1. Chinook

                And you don’t have to be a male/female pairing either. On of the ongoing jokes in Supernatural is that the two brothers are often mistaken for a gay couple even though they (and the actors) make it clear that there is nothing like that going on (and it squicks them out on the show when they discover fanfic of them together like that).

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                1. Wilhelmina Mildew

                  Oh, this has happened to my best friend and her sister more than once in real life, and it doesn’t really make any sense to me at all not just because DUH two women hanging out =/= gay but because the family resemblance is SO damn obvious.

              2. Ol' Crow

                Shep, my brother and I get the same. We went to Vegas together with a bunch of other people. No matter where we went, we received variations of questions about whether or not we were getting married, dating, etc. Now, while we are close, we are not weirdly close and we don’t even walk in each other’s space. We were both pretty grossed out, especially since our friends thought it hysterical and wouldn’t let it drop.

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              3. Ama

                I have two brothers. My middle brother got married pretty soon after college, but my youngest brother and I waited quite a while before we had significant others we wanted to introduce to the family. So when we’d go out as a family it would be my parents (clearly together), my married brother and his wife (clearly together), and then the waiter would almost always assume my youngest brother and I were a couple. He found it a lot more annoying than I did — my dad had to start saying “we’re all one check” really quickly so the waiter wouldn’t try to guess at divisions.

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              4. Vivi

                I get the same reaction when I go somewhere with my FATHER. I don’t know why. I’m 26, but look around 20, my father is in his 60s. I don’t have the looks of a trophy wife/girlfriend and my father doesn’t look rich enough to be a sugar daddy.

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              5. Wintermute

                Part of this is thought to be the subconcious queues that people pick up on. Genetic sexual attraction is a thing: basically, being raised together at a young age has a psychological effect on how you see someone in regards to dating/mating potential, but if not for that, people prefer genetically similar partners. It’s actually a fairly significant problem with adult siblings reunited after having been raised seperately.

                So we pick up on the fact that people who look similar are compatible, but the outsider doesn’t know about the history and relationship that makes their pattern recognition faulty in this case. All their pattern recognition picks up on is “similar facial structure, etc. tends to mean romantic attraction” and extrapolate from there.

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        2. Ol' Crow

          I can state with certainty that we were not acting in a way that possibly looked like we were having an affair. Completely normal behavior that mirrors how I’ve acted with all people I’m friendly with. Ironically, I did date one person in that company a few times, yet no one ever asked if anything was going on with us.

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    3. Thlayli

      My first thought was also that she was trying to give a heads-up that people are talking. But not really enough info to say. Like Alison said the best thing to do is probably to leave it alone if it was a one-off thing, but if it’s part of a pattern to deal with it.

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    4. Sadsack

      I think that OP is in a good position to make a difference here. If the employee is being a judgmental nosebag, then OP will be giving her a chance to modernize her views on man/woman work relationships. If the employee was aware of rumors bring spread by others and was only trying to help OP, then saying what Alison suggested may give the employee something to pass on to others the next time she overhears such gossip. Win/win in my opinion.

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        1. Not So NewReader

          I do like the idea of OP helping this employee to get a more modern view of the workplace. Not trying to really sway you one way or the other, OP. But if I were in your shoes this part might persuade me to reopen that conversation.

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      1. Wintermute

        I like the term “nosebag”, even if it conjures up images of employees so overworked they can’t take lunch breaks, they just literally strap on a feedbag like a horse.

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  2. Audiophile

    Um…wow. I would never think to approach my manager about who he was having lunch with. I certainly wouldn’t have with any of my female managers. I wouldn’t even do this with a colleague. This was such a huge jump to conclusions on the direct reports part, that I’m really bewildered.

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    1. Not Allison

      Agreed. Way out of line, just for a colleague, but especially to do for a manager. I also am interested to know if he was male, would she have approached him?

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      1. Anon today...and tomorrow

        I worked with an older woman years ago who had very “traditional” ideas of what a male / female relationship should look like, even in the work place. She would scold those of us who would socialize with co-workers of the opposite sex who were not our spouses. HR did end up stepping in to stop it after several complaints were filed and an ineffective manager who didn’t really do much to make it stop. I think the OP should say something. This isn’t the workers place to monitor this.

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        1. Stranger than fiction

          I’m with you. I wonder if this employee also walks around making sure the office doors remain open when there’s “mixed company”.

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          1. Mookie

            “Mixed company.” Unless it’s being used ironically, YIKES. I actually disciplined an employee (or, whatever it is called when you are a late adolescent assistant manager giving a thirty year-old a polite, quiet, but firm bollocking) for continuously using this phrase after I told her not to. She was scandalized at the notion that projectionist teams (this was a cinema) could be “co-ed,” too. I had a running list in my head of phrases I wanted excised from her at-work vocabulary, including racial pejoratives she claimed to think quaint and respectful. Again, she was in her early 30s and this was late ’90s west coast USA, so she wasn’t fooling anyone.

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            1. Wintermute

              I was thinking about your comment how people often compare race to gender when pointing out how people are being inappropriately sexist at work, and here it really works. Could you imagine raising any sort of ruckus because a work team was integrated? or that doors are kept open because of mixed-race meetings? Protected class is protected class, if you wouldn’t do it for race, don’t do it for gender they’re equally protected under the law.

              of course there are places where this breaks down (E.g. hotel rooms, bathrooms, any intimate function really), but it’s a good way to start thinking if you have issues or are guiding someone who has issues with so-called “benign sexism” or “casual sexism” with some old-fashioned notions at work.

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        2. DArcy

          Given that the OP is the other person’s actual manager, yeah, I think it’s important for her to make it clear that this sort of nosy busybody behavior is not professionally acceptable. I’d be concerned with the same person harassing *every* coworker over behavior.

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    2. Koko

      Yeah, it’s a possible yellow flag about the larger company culture – do men and women not interact without chaperones in this workplace? Was the report just really out of step, or was she echoing what she perceived to be “the way things are done” in that office?

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      1. ReanaZ

        I am curious where this is regionally (although certainly not asking the OP to reveal if the don’t want!). When I lived in Texas, I worked in a progressive young NFP tech start up, and there were still women my age (mid 20s at the time) who wouldn’t spend time one-on-one with married male collegues as a blanekt rule and who once they married wouldn’t close the door if meeting with a man. And people were very nonchalant about it, although I was horrified.

        I agree anything people can do to push back on these attitudes (which has Alison points out historically and currently damage women’s access to the workplace), but there are still significant pockets of even the US where this is normalised.

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    3. Czhorat

      In fairness, it’s possible that the behaviour and body language connote a romantic relationship. If I’m out to lunch with my wife I’d likely kiss her in greeting, perhaps hold hands across the table while awaiting the arrival of food, etc. With a colleague the interaction would look different.

      If it did look like a romantic lunch them I can see jumping to the conclusion. It’s a bit busybody-ish, but is better than spreading rumors or talking to someone else. It might even be meant to help let the OP know that they need to hide their affair more carefully to avoid embarrassment.

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        1. General Ginger

          I think Czhorat is using “affair” there because that’s what busybody coworker believes it to be.

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          1. Rainy, PI

            I think that Czhorat is dignifying the busybody by ascribing generous motives. But maybe I’ve worked with too many busybodies.

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        2. LBK

          I think Czhorat’s point was that given the employee’s perception that it was an affair, she could have been intending to tell them to be more subtle about it.

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      1. OP

        We don’t need kiss or hold hands while on work lunches. We’re more relaxed, sure, but still professional, since we eat at a restaurant on the same military installation our agency is on.

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        1. Czhorat

          Understood, but I still suspect your body language and overall demeanor would be different than with other colleagues.

          As an aside, it’s very nice that you get the opportunity to do this and take advantage of it. Lunch with your spouse is a very nice midday break.

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          1. Mookie

            The OP has the final word on whether or not she and her husband are making googly eyes at each other unbeknownst to themselves and one another. She sounds like she knows of what she speaks, and that she and her husband have made a concerted effort here, and with great success beyond this one employee.

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        2. Penny

          OP- this is really apropos of nothing, but my parents also both worked for a government agency on a military installation (although they referred to it as “the agency,” not “the company,” so I’m guessing a different one), and imagining one of their employees thinking they were having an affair gave me a giggle .

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          1. OP

            It is nice! We really like the flexibility of being able to occasionally carpool and see each other for lunch sometimes. :)

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          2. OP

            Typically we refer to it as the “Activity,” actually. “Company” is a holdover from the employee’s Army days- not how we usually refer to where we work.

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            1. bridget

              Also totally off-topic, but I had to read a bunch of government regulations the other day and they only referred to the relevant government agencies as “the appropriate activity.” Drove me bonkers until I could make my brain recognize the word “activity” as a noun relating to an organization. I wanted to pinch whoever came up with that particular term.

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            2. Gadget Hackwrench

              The Activity? You work for the ISA? *wink*
              (Person of Interest reference, not an attempt to out one’s actual employer.)

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    1. Lily in NYC

      I wouldn’t. It shows an incredibly patronizing way of thinking and I would want to make sure my direct report knew she was out of line and that judging other coworkers in the same manner would not be OK.

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      1. EA

        I guess I fall sort of in the middle.
        I would probably make the decision based on what else I knew about my workplace.
        There are a lot of people I encounter who think male-female relationships are inherently inappropriate regardless of if it is social or work related. This is obviously a problem due to what Alison wrote about above. If you are in this atmosphere, and think her opinions might be wide-spread and she could influence others, than maybe say something. But if you think she is just a lone person on your team with weird views I would leave it alone.

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        1. Amber T

          Agree, I’m sort of in the middle. This person sounds like a righteous busy body (“losing standing with the company” probably means losing standing with her, really). But the fact that she tried to call out someone who was going to lunch *with her husband* hopefully taught her to mind her own damn business. I’d let it go for now, but I’d keep this in my bank of memories, and if she ever makes questionable judgments or participates in office gossip, OP can whip it out again – “Hey, remember that time you thought I was having an affair with a married man, except the man in question was my husband? Knock it off.”

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          1. Thlayli

            The “losing standing in the company” comment sounds to me like she was trying to tactfully say “people are talking about you behind your back but I don’t want to name names.”

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            1. Jessie the First (or second)

              In another scenario this could perhaps be what she was doing, but here, in comments, the LW has indicated that their marriage is widely known – most people at the agency know, so there really wouldn’t be this kind of gossip. Obviously, this random woman did not know, but she would really be speaking on her own, not because of some wide group of gossiping people.

              Also, FWIW, if in this other scenario, a person wants to warn another that her lunches are leading to gossip, best to say so directly. What the LW here said was that married women should not go to lunch with married men, which is not an appropriate rule, and isn’t a stand-in for “people are gossiping.”

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        2. Michele

          I mostly agree with what you said. However, I would keep an eye out in case she was inflicting her weird views on someone else. Has she made similar comments to other women in the office? Is she critical of the clothing of the younger women even if they meet the workplace dress code? Has she criticized women for working while pregnant or after having a baby? In my experience, if someone is enough of a busy body to monitor who people are going to lunch with (and criticize her boss over it!) she is likely to have anachronistic views about a few things.

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      2. fposte

        Yeah, I’d seriously consider a followup about not policing male/female relations at work. The employee’s takeaway was that she was wrong about the OP’s relationship, not that she was wrong to pay weird attention to people’s lunch plans.

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        1. Ayla K

          Agreed. Make sure she comes away understanding the broader point you want to make, not just having clarified the relationship.

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        2. LBK

          Yes, agreed 100%. She’s been embarrassed to be wrong about this particular relationship but that doesn’t necessarily translate to changing her overall perception of male/female interactions at work, and that’s a coaching moment for sure.

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        3. Mookie

          Exactly. This level of nosey parker-ing is the sort of thing that ought to make one Lose Standing in a Company. It’s weird, sexist, dated, and says more about her than anything or anyone else.

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      3. Tableau Wizard

        I think it would depend on if it were a part of a larger pattern of bad judgement. If it was a one-off, let the employee sit in her embarrassment and let it go.

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        1. Immy

          I’d like to give the benefit of the doubt she addressed it with the woman because that is who she interacts with in the couple but it’s true there could be a gendered element to this.

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        2. SignalLost

          That’s not entirely fair in this case – from the letter, it sounds like this person would have to go to fairly significant physical effort to address the husband but works directly with the wife. If she had equal access to both and went to the wife, that would guide a great deal of my thinking about how to handle this situation at this point, because then she may well (consciously or not) be putting the onus on the wife to make sure she presents herself as a virtuous woman while the married man can do as he likes.

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          1. OP

            Yeah, she doesn’t know my husband at all. Her work, like mine, does not intersect at all with his. It would have been incredibly weird and out of line for her to bring this to his attention, instead of being awkward and possibly inappropriate bringing it to mine.

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          2. Not Allison

            My hunch is saying that if she reported to OP’s husband she would not have said a peep to him. Typically women like his tend to police other women’s behaviors, not men. I cannot imagine a scenario where a male would confront his boss about the audacity of having lunch with a female cohort. Frankly, she sounds like she’s from another century.

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            1. Specialk9

              You’re spot on. Sexism is often policed by other women who have internalized the rules as morality.

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      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I agree with you. I think it should be addressed, regardless. The fact that she’s trying to police OP’s interactions, insinuating that married men and women can’t fraternize without it indicating an affair, etc., are wildly out of line and out of step with what professional norms/expectations should be. The weird idea that despite the differential power dynamic, you should moralize/hector your boss, and the gossipy chastising, etc., are behaviors that should be corrected sooner, not later, in this person’s career.

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        1. Not So NewReader

          It would have been interesting if OP had indicated that she was having an affair, a life long affair with her own husband.
          Am smiling.
          I had an aunt who was having an affair with her hubby. She thought he was the best thing in this world, and this is even after kids and decades of marriage. It was really cool to see that.

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      5. Lora

        It sounds like she probably learned her lesson if she was embarrassed though. I would just watch out for any other obnoxious behavior.

        Also, I would probably laugh about it forever.

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        1. Hedgehog

          Agreed. I am dying of embarrassment on behalf of the woman who gave the warning. And also wondering if she is an AAM reader who thought she was being helpful after reading the saga of Anna and Alex.

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          1. Hedgehog

            Although I will amend this to say that it ultimately depends on LW’s sense of where the balance lies between LW and husband being visibly not just colleagues having lunch (body language or whatever as others noted above) on the one hand and the coworker being an officious busybody with unacceptable ideas about how men and women should interact in the workplace on the other hand. If the balance is more on the sexist busybody side, then she should address it again. If it’s more the former, embarrassment is probably enough.

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        2. Elemeno P.

          I would also laugh about it forever. It would be very hard not to follow up with, “Oh, it’s not just lunch: he’ll be sleeping at my place tonight!”

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      6. Sadsack

        Yep, this. Who knows how many times the employee has done this to others? OP is in a position to make her stop.

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      7. Miles

        They already had this conversation on the spot. Bringing it up again does no good except make open look bad and/or suspect

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    2. George Willard

      Eh. If we’re keeping the employee’s interests in mind, I think the employee deserves to know that the boss had a greater reaction than momentary puzzlement. The employee is likely currently trying to assuage her own embarrassment with “well, it didn’t bother her that much, the moment has passed”–and that would be gravely incorrect.

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      1. Koko

        Yes, the employee is embarrassed that the person she suspected OP of being involved with turned out to be her husband and not a random other married man. It doesn’t seem like she got the message that it was the suspicion itself, and not the incorrectness of the suspicion, that was wrong.

        It would be to her benefit to disabuse her of the notion that men and women who socialize or interact together in a work context are somehow being inappropriate, and make sure she knows that this is very normal behavior. She might not even necessarily strongly believe *in* what she says, but maybe a past workplace trauma left her with PTSD incorrect ideas that she still believes, and might be evening holding herself back if she’s declining invites to meet with male coworkers.

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        1. Lora

          Very true. I’m going out for a beer later with my married male colleague to discuss how to handle some workplace politics – I don’t know any women STEM people at my level who deal with this particular flavor of nonsense successfully. There’s not many women STEM people, period, let alone managers who deal with this particular office politics problem because it doesn’t happen often. Thank goodness I can lean on this guy with a lot of experience in senior management, he’s a close friend and I split an order of garden seeds with his wife every spring.

          Don’t write off entire groups of anyone, you need all the help you can get in this vale of tears.

          Reply
        2. Yorick

          It’s completely inappropriate to speculate that the employee has had a workplace trauma that prevents her from meeting with male coworkers. There are no details in the letter that suggest that.

          Reply
    3. FlyingFergus

      I wouldn’t let it go. This woman has no problem telling her boss (!!) that she thinks the boss is behaving inappropriately, and for behavior that doesn’t sound at all inappropriate *even if the two people were married to other people*. So if the employee is willing to cast this kind of judgement on her boss, I imagine she would have no problem telling coworkers what they should and shouldn’t do. I just can’t believe that behavior like this (telling the boss how to behave) is an isolated issue.

      Reply
    4. Wintermute

      I can’t agree just because this sort of thing traditionally hurts women a lot in the workplace by shutting them out of opportunities. Every time a male co-worker is less congenial towards a woman because he’s afraid of the optics of the situation, she loses out in the workplace because of her gender.

      Sex is a protected class, so substitute another protected class and see if it’s still as inoffensive. I don’t think anyone would say “I’m sorry but it’s inappropriate to be going to lunch with a co-worker who is Jewish” is okay, or “it’s inappropriate to be alone with a co-worker who is dark-skinned”.

      Reply
  3. Sarah

    I agree it’s reasonable to raise this with the employee again, especially from the standpoint of pointing out that it’s pretty damaging to imply that men and women can’t be professional coworkers and get lunch together if they don’t have a preexisting romantic relationship as happened to be true in this case. Maybe it’s because I work in a mostly male dominated field, but I have lunch and coffee one-on-one with male coworkers all the time, sometimes just to catch up and sometimes because we are working on a specific project together and it’s useful to have a working meal/coffee. I have had affairs with precisely zero of them! And if we could never have some food/beverages while working, it would make my job a lot less pleasant and productive.

    Reply
    1. LadyKelvin

      Yeah if I never had lunch 1-on-1 with a male colleague, I’d be eating alone everyday since I’m the only woman on the team. Having a conversation about adjusting her thinking on how men and women can spend time together without having an affair would be really helpful for this woman’s future career. It has the potential to hold back herself and her reports, should she ever become a manager.

      Reply
    2. Jessie the First (or second)

      I am literally the only woman at my firm. This woman’s idea that married women should not have lunch with married men would mean I can not ever have lunch with anyone in my company. And that is bizarre: work sometimes happens at lunch; people keep up professional relationships, talk over issues. Relax and bond over work.

      Men and women can be coworkers, and coworkers can talk to each other, and talking to each other – even without chaperones! – doesn’t mean sex.

      What a strangely puritan world view. And I would absolutely want to shut that down. Right now.

      Reply
    3. Emma

      Yeah, this is a HUGE problem for women in the workplace. The view that men and women can’t have platonic lunches is harmful for women advancing. If everyone was like Mike Pence and refused to do that, women couldn’t advance in male-dominated fields.

      Reply
    4. TheBard

      I really agree with this. I had a fantastic work situations that involved eating out regularly with my (male) boss, working late alone in the office, etc. when boss was married and I’m a single woman. Nothing was ever anything but totally above board, and we were both professionals (as well as friends, to this day it’s my best working relationship ever) and (as far as I know) no one ever said anything, but it would have hurt my professional standing tremendously if people gossiped about it, or it was behavior that was not considered acceptable. I really think the OP would be doing this woman – and all the people she works with going forward – a huge favor to explain that regular lunches, coffees, whathaveyou between male and female coworkers (married or otherwise) is totally fine and not something that is suspicious or to be gossiped about. I suspect the woman is getting the message that she was wrong *because the OP is married to the guy* not because it would have been fine even if she wasn’t.

      Reply
    5. Hallway Feline

      Agreed. Working lunches are not indicative of affairs. I work closely with two men and we have to work long hours sometimes, which means sometimes getting lunches as we have meetings, etc. one on one. Both of them are happily married and I am happily engaged. Nothing going on aside from work stuff (and the occasional sports talk because we all love our teams!).

      Reply
    6. Shelby Drink the Juice

      My former boss and mentor is a man. We do lunch once every couple of months. I get advice from him, chat about vacations, work, and tv shows we both watch. I was seen out once with him by a coworker. She talked to me later because she was worried…that he was interviewing me to take me away!

      Reply
    7. HR Bee

      I seriously hope that one-on-one lunches between male and female co-workers are not indicative of an affair, because I eat with the same (male, unmarried, very similar to me in age) co-worker nearly every day. And it’s not because we’re working at lunch, either – we’re FRIENDS. We have a lot in common, and we like to hang out and talk.

      I’m pretty sure, if someone went to my co-worker and said “You know you can’t eat with her because she’s married, right?” he would be both indignant and horrified at the insinuation. Thankfully, since having your chosen work friends that you go to lunch with seems to be part of the culture here, no one questions it.

      Maybe it’s just because the culture at my (very small, slightly cliquey) company is unusual, but I’m kind of surprised so many people are focusing on “men and women can have working professional relationships!” and very few seem to be saying “oh yeah, and they can be friends, too.”

      Reply
  4. DJ

    I think it’s enough at this point to leave it but I certainly would address it if that employee ever oversteps their bounds with OP or any other staff member for that matter. I’d shut it down very quickly and say “remember when you thought I was having an affair with someone because I met my husband for lunch? Haven’t you already learned the lesson about gossiping?” etc.

    Reply
    1. Confused Teapot Maker

      Agreed! As a one-off, I think it’s actually kind of funny and would have laughed it off by now. But, then again, I don’t know this employee and would definitely be more offended/be bringing it up again if she showed patterns of being a busybody/judging with only half the evidence.

      Reply
  5. Pickles

    The OP said she worked for a government agency. Government can sometimes get pretty conservative viewpoints (in actions, not meaning political viewpoints here) and is one of the remaining bastions of formal clothing. Entirely subjective “moral” standards can be a factor in granting security clearances, for instance. Alternatively, if the employee has a military background, they might be thinking of the uniform code of military justice (UCMJ) that would forbid affairs. My organization once had an enlisted member painstakingly feel obligated to bring up the “affair” two Lieutenants were very obviously having, not realizing they were married with two different last names. So yes, while it’s none of the employee’s business, and it shouldn’t be a factor at all, sometimes male-female lunches are still perceived as off, especially if it’s a male-dominated part of government. I’m not excusing the behavior, but I do understand how it happened, especially since body language often gives away more to observers than people realize.

    Reply
    1. Left a Good Job in the City

      Tbh, that’s why I thought the comment about “your standing in the company” was really bizarre. I worked for a City Dept for 6 years and it was universally referred to as “the city” by everyone who worked there – the only people who ever referred to that workplace as a company were people who didn’t work there.

      Reply
      1. Chrissi

        Doesn’t the CIA refer to itself as “the company”? That would add so much to this letter if true! (Just joking, obvs)

        Reply
        1. knitcrazybooknut

          Only in Stephen King novels.

          (Disclaimer: I do not claim any knowledge of, nor membership in, said organization.)

          Reply
        2. Huntington

          I went on a few dates with a government guy who had an AFL-CIA keychain, and he definitely wasn’t with the union.

          Reply
      2. Pickles

        Even if it’s not someplace like that, government is often a place where modern workplace norms haven’t caught up. Decades of government service isn’t unusual, especially at that level. I’d probably take the employee’s comment as well-intended concern and maybe remind a few people about the relationship to counter any possible rumors, then pointedly remind employee the next time gossip comes up that maybe she doesn’t have all the facts. With a fantastic raised eyebrow and *look,* of course.

        Reply
      1. Koko

        Pickles didn’t belabor it, but I think she was pointing out that body language can make the difference in how two people seen at lunch together are perceived. You know sometimes when you’re out at dinner you can just tell which twosomes are couples? They may not be holding hands or kissing but there’s a certain familiarity in the way they look at each other, anticipate each other’s moves (like passing 2 creamers and 1 sugar to hubby when his coffee arrives because she knows that’s how he takes it), or share food that reads as more than friendly.

        Reply
        1. Chomps

          This reminds me of the time when I had an internship in grad school and ended up correctly guessing that two regular employees were dating each other. They never engaged in any sort of PDA or other sort of touching, but I could just tell by the way they talked to each other. Of course, I never said anything to them, but I later found out from another intern that they were indeed dating. So, yes, there are a lot of behaviors that are subconscious that indicate that level of familiarity.

          Reply
          1. Jadelyn

            This is making me increasingly glad that my coworker/FWB waited until after he’d moved to a different branch before opening the conversation on adding that aspect to our relationship. I tease him about it sometimes (bc it’s really inconvenient for a booty call to come with a 3-hour round trip attached to it) and have kind of resented it once in awhile, but he’s said flat out that since we’re keeping it outside of work, he couldn’t have done it while we were still seeing each other at work every day. I’ve privately thought to myself that we could’ve kept it professional just fine thanks, we do when we’re on the phone still (he’s in IT so I do still need his help for things sometimes despite geography), but maybe he had the right idea with that.

            Reply
        2. Wintermute

          I belong to a nonprofit organization with my ex (I’m a senior volunteer, she’s on the board), and we do some recreational activities as well as organizational business together. It’s always VERY awkward when people assume that we’re married! Apparently we still have that vibe together even after all these years! It helps that we parted extremely amicably and still talk on a regular basis, and frankly we’re probably closer now than we were when we dated, plus I consider her kids my stepkids even if we never formally married (I walked her eldest down the isle

          It’s even worse because she IS remarried, and I am not, and I’ve had women gossip about me allegedly pocketing my wedding ring at events because she is wearing one and I’m not, and clearly we’re married to one another!

          Reply
      2. Pickles

        Yeah – that, exactly. Hubby and I work in the same building, and we’ll fistbump on the way in as our only contact (it’s our “have a good day” signal, but probably is a little odd if anyone sees it). But we also walk in together every single day, match each other’s paces, stand closer than might be usual with a work colleague without thinking about it, use the same phrases, have the same lunches, communicate without speaking, grin at each other in the hallway when we pass, lack awkwardness if we bump into each other, etc.

        Reply
      3. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night

        At OldJob, I ate lunch every day with my good friend and co-worker who also happened to be a guy (I’m married, he’s not). I know for a fact there were rumors that were sleeping together, which we both found hilarious because he’s gay and lives with his boyfriend of several years. He wasn’t completely out at work, but as most of our lunchtime conversations revolved around Glee and RuPaul’s Drag Race you’d think our co-workers might have gotten a clue.

        Reply
        1. Mints

          Add me to the chorus of “gossips thought I was sleeping with a platonic friend.” We were totally platonic coworkers, and what made it extra funny for me was that I became friendlier with him after he hit it off with my boyfriend at the time. So we did hang out at my apartment sometimes, but it was never romantic

          Reply
          1. HR Bee

            …You guys are starting to make me wonder if there are rumors about me and my platonic guy friend lunchmate co-worker, and I just haven’t heard them yet. I hope not!

            Reply
  6. Bend & Snap

    Who is this employee, Mike Pence? Wayyyyyy out of line.

    OP, I’d keep an eye on her judgment. That’s a huge overstep. It doesn’t even matter that your lunch partner is your husband.

    Reply
  7. Jubilance

    This is all so strange. My first thought was that maybe the employee is new & didn’t know the OP’s husband worked at the company, or that the employee is significantly older than the OP & thought she was helping…but it’s all still bizarre no matter the justification. Does this employee seem to be overly concerned with other things that aren’t her concern, like bathroom breaks or who clocked in 1 minute late?

    Reply
    1. Pickles

      The coffeeshop lady asked if the man I walked in with every day was my father (he has grey, I’m told I look younger than I am). She was so embarrassed to find out he’s my husband that three years later, she still won’t talk to me.

      Reply
      1. sam

        you think that’s bad? years ago, when my mom was going through cancer treatment (which obviously made her look much older than her age, which was about 47-48 at the time), the nurse came into the treatment room to tell her that “her son” was there. My mom was super confused, as my brother was hundreds of miles away at college.

        Yeah. It was my dad. Who was six years OLDER than my mom. I mean, he’s always looked young for his age, but that was…something.

        I mean, even if my mom “looked” old, THEY HAD HER CHART.

        Reply
      2. strawberries and raspberries

        My co-worker said that happened to him in reverse- someone at church stopped him to tell him what a great father he was to his sons and daughter, and my co-worker was like, “I don’t have a daughter- do you mean my wife?” His wife, of course, was thrilled.

        Reply
      3. Former Retail Manager

        Similar struggle here, but in reverse….I am 4 years younger than my husband, but am routinely assumed to be older (Hello, Botox! Time we get acquainted). Some people have even assumed that I’m his sister because are not PDA-ey in public at all.

        Reply
      4. Hrovitnir

        Oh my god, this is reminding me of the fact that a neighbour (who owns some flats, doesn’t live next to us) referred to me as my partner’s daughter to him once when I wasn’t there and he didn’t correct her! He thought it was hilarious, which it was, but also oh my GOD.

        Reply
        1. Artemesia

          A colleague of mine married a colleague who was much older (she had been his grad assistant at one time to continue the theme) She had her wedding pictures as her screen saver and in doing a classroom presentation at a new job, she left the projection up long enough that the screen saver came on and a picture of her leaving the church after the wedding came up.

          A grad student blurted out ‘why are you leaving the church after your wedding with your father?’ The ability to put one’s foot in it is universal.

          Reply
    2. NASA

      Took the words out of my mouth…I also thought “she probably thought she was helping” but at the end of the day it’s still a strange thing to do!

      When I first read the Q, I thought OP should drop it but upon reading the comments…dang it, OP needs to talk to her.

      Reply
  8. Katie

    This reminds me of that Mike Pence thing that was in the news recently, how he won’t eat or be alone with a woman unless his wife is there. What this employee did was inappropriate regardless, but I wonder if she was approaching the issue from a similar mindset.

    Reply
  9. Lissa

    Wow, that’s quite the…uh, gumption…. for the employee to tell *her boss* she shouldn’t be having lunch with someone! I fall on the “say something” side specifically because it’s a direct report, and I think what Alison said is good. I suspect her takeaway was likely something like “I was wrong to say anything because it turns out Jason was Maria’s husband” and while that is a good to know and a good point to her that making assumptions like that is silly, the whole “men and women can’t lunch together” in a professional environment is super damaging.

    If she hadn’t been a direct report, I would probably let it go since the likely embarrassment would be enough and I don’t feel it’s my responsibility to correct all social ills.but when there’s as good an opportunity as this one, I’d do it.

    Reply
  10. Ramona Flowers

    All other things aside, I’m curious to know what your relationship is generally like with this report. I can’t imagine pulling my manager aside and lecturing her like this. So I’m curious – is she adversarial, does she respect you, etc?

    Reply
    1. OP

      She’s generally respectful. She’s fairly pleasant to work with, although we’ve had a few discussions about professional norms in our field, and the importance of deadlines. She is older than me, however, and has occasionally made comments about my appearance (being “baby-faced” or thinking I was an intern and not her Director when first introduced). After reading some other comments, I do think this could be a generational military thing.

      Reply
      1. AMPG

        Does she have direct reports under her? If so, that would be a point in favor of revisiting this, lest she be projecting her outdated gender prescriptions onto people she has power over.

        Reply
      2. Jen

        I imagine a confrontation is coming. I have had to manage someone older than me who made similar comments and I found they sometimes challenged or ignored direction because of my age. Thus wasn’t the only reason this employee didn’t work out, but i think had she repsected my authority more she would have been more open to admitting lack of knowledge in other areas and took advantage of me as an educational resource. It was a shame she didn’t accept more help.

        Reply
      3. neverjaunty

        That’s not a military thing. That’s your employee being disrespectful because of your age thing.

        Reply
        1. OP

          I meant that her concern over my “affair” was from her time in the military, which began over 25 years ago, when it was tougher for women to get ahead.

          Her comments aren’t inherently disrespectful either. I think she genuinely thinks telling me I look young is a compliment. “You have such a baby-face! You’re going to appreciate that when you’re my age.”

          Reply
          1. Tammy

            I’d be inclined to respond to that with something I saw recently on Captain Awkward: “I think you think that that’s a compliment – how interesting!” (said with a suitably puzzled expression/body language).

            Reply
          2. Jessesgirl72

            I think that this points to true disrespect, intentional or not. She thinks you are too young and inexperienced to have good judgement. When you are her superior. She thinks she’s being “nice” to “help” you. But you don’t need that kind of help, and she shouldn’t be forcing that on anyone, most especially her Manager.

            Reply
            1. OP

              That’s a really good point. I always brush off her comments, because it just doesn’t bother me. She’s considerably more junior to me, my bosses have always praised my maturity and expertise and so her opinion about my age doesn’t mean much- regardless of how she intends the comments. Maybe I should be a little more concerned. I’ll definitely pay more attention to them now.

              Reply
            2. N

              Second that–consciously or unconsciously she’s trying to be an “authority figure.” Actually, the more I think about it, the more frustrated I get.

              Reply
            3. Mookie

              Yes. All of this + repeatedly demonstrating a lack of affinity for professional norms sounds like a person who thinks she can get away with being patronizing if she does so with a smile and a friendly pat on the back. The whole “camp concerned pulling of OP aside to talk to her about her huge, totally obvious affair and what it makes her look like” sounds not so well-meaning anymore. Even if it is, it’s yet another demonstration that this employee likes to push back at boundaries, because she
              ‘knows better,’ even after being corrected on the matter.

              Reply
      4. Jessesgirl72

        I think those examples were serious missteps of boundaries and respect for a higher up- something that goes against military training, actually. Would she have told her CO he had a baby face? Or that she thought he was a private, and not a Captain? If she would, I wouldn’t trust her judgement! That is more reason something needs said to her.

        Reply
  11. Decimus

    This happened to a friend of mine. His wife was working in a nearby building (for a different company) and like the OP they were meeting for lunch once a week or so, and in this case some busybody told HER her husband was having an affair… because he kept meeting a woman for lunch once a week or so.

    I think she openly laughed in the busybody’s face.

    Reply
    1. Lily in NYC

      Oh wow, good for the woman for laughing in her face. I forgot about when I was a kid – I grew up in a small town where everyone was up in everyone’s business. Everyone thought my mom was having an affair with some guy because they kept seeing his fancy car in our driveway. The guy’s son was one of my sister’s best friends and he came over all the time – he drove his dad’s nice car often so that’s how that rumor started. Like people having an affair would be so blatantly obvious. The car was very recognizable and had vanity plates.

      Reply
  12. Jeanne

    I could go either way and it partly depends on how nosy or bossy this employee already is. But I think I would talk to her. Ask questions, look for clues as to why she was doing this. Why does he think regular lunches mean an affair? What did she want you to do with the info? Etc.

    Reply
  13. Student

    Something else to think about – is this employee very new to the workforce? As in, not correctly differentiating between business norms and business functions vs social norms and social functions? If that may be the case, then it’s important to explain the difference to her. Frankly, there’s a large part of the country where it’s still not socially acceptable for men and women to get lunch together outside of a date, and pretending that part of the world doesn’t exist will not make it go away. Setting business expectations and norms can help change that, and separating “business” from “social” can help such folks draw a line around what they’ve been expected to do all their lives and what you’re expecting from them now in a professional context.

    Regardless, it’s also important to set some clear expectations with her – that you expect her to be able to work professionally with members of the opposite sex, and vice-versa. That you expect this may mean she and other employees have one-on-one conversations and meetings with members of the opposite sex, and that she’s to report anyone who gives her baseless grief about such interactions, and she’s to report any unprofessional behavior in such meetings, and to behave professionally in such meetings.

    I had a student intern who said something like this to me about working overnight shifts with men. I tried to firmly but kindly explain that working overnight shift is sometimes part of the job, and sometimes that means working overnight shift with one or more men with few other people around. That’s part of the job, most of the men handle it like professionals, and I’m expected to handle it like a professional too. If somebody is out of line about it, then you handle it like failing to meet any other part of the job (and, realistically, sometimes that backfires in your face and you get blamed for being harassed at work because of your gender, but you still gotta try).

    Reply
    1. Tammy

      It’s not a molehill when threats to your professional credibility and standing might be real. I’ve dealt with this in my career before, and even though I’m a manager and enjoy pretty high standing with my executive team where I work now, I don’t think I’d feel okay with not addressing it. I had someone make an HR complaint against me about a year ago (they overheard part of a conversation with my grandboss and jumped to a conclusion). Even though HR was disinclined to act on it, and my grandboss thought it was hysterical when I finally told her, it still caused me a bunch of stress and I worried about impact to my standing.

      Reply
  14. Jamie

    That entire mindset of “members of the opposite sex eating lunch together must also be sleeping together!” annoys the crap out of me. Men and women can be platonic friends. Period. End of story.

    Reply
    1. Mookie

      Also, the heteronormativity of it. When able to push back on this, I urge people to remind the Pences amongst us that not every woman+man pair have ‘sexual tension’ they must valiantly resist.

      Reply
      1. Rusty Shackelford

        That’s what amuses me about the “mixed company” remark above. Because the only way there could possibly be shenanigans is if a man and a woman are together?

        Reply
  15. EmphaticAnon

    If it makes the LW feel better, one time my boyfriend’s students thought he was cheating on me…with me. We were both teaching English in Asia at the time in the same town. His students knew he had a girlfriend, but they’d never seen a picture of me – all they knew was that I was “American”, which translated to “white” in their minds. One weekend a few of his students saw us (a white dude and an asian dudette) walking around town together being all lovey-dovey and jumped to the conclusion that he was cheating on his girlfriend with a local girl *gasp*. They promptly confronted him on Monday, ready to jump to my defense, which then led to an awkward but informative discussion on how America has more than just white people in it.

    Reply
    1. Megan Johnson

      This is interesting. I wonder if they realized how their error looked once it was pointed out – like did they say “oh duh, of course America has more than white people in it, that was a silly thing for me to think for a minute” or was it actually a revealing bit of info, as in “oh wow I didn’t know that there were non-whites there”?

      Reply
      1. N

        I can’t speak for EmphaticAnon, but based on my experiences in South America I’ll say that sometimes this is a BIG revelation. Because our media is so whitewashed, I’ve found that people in other countries picture the U.S. the same way people in the U.S. picture, say, Scandinavia.

        Reply
      2. Jaybeetee

        As someone who also taught in Asia for a time, I also found that inter-racial relationships really weren’t much of a thing in the region where I was living/working – yeah, occasionally you might see an Asian woman with a white guy, but even that was rare where I was. I was a white woman dating a black man who was also working there, and not just the students, even the other teachers commented on how “strange” it was to them. So in addition to EmphaticAnon appearing to “cheat”, the students were probably also surprised to even see a white person romantically involved with a non-white person.

        Reply
  16. Tangerina Warbleworth

    My inner snark shark is LOVING this.

    {Pursed church lady lips.} “Do you REALIZE he’s married?!?
    {Wide smile.} “Of course! He’s married to me!”

    If she wasn’t mortified enough by that, then she might repeat her stupid busybody behavior. I’m on the side of wait and see if/until she does that. Then you can take action with both examples.

    Reply
          1. Jadelyn

            This is reminding me of my grandmother, who when my mom and her sisters were misbehaving as children, would say to people “I’m sorry, they’re Jerry’s children by his first wife.” Without mentioning that she herself was Jerry’s first wife.

            Reply
  17. Sal

    Oooooh, my eyes flashed. I don’t think I would have been able to resist letting fly the nastiest “Bless your heart” that ever was.

    Reply
  18. Regina Doublemint

    I so wish you could go back in time and just say, with a sly and secretive smile, “Oh, I know VERY WELL that he’s married.” Then wink and walk away, leaving the colleague to stew in scandal until she eventually inevitably discovers the truth someday.

    Reply
  19. Relly

    I fail at being a mature adult, because I would have been very tempted to play along for a couple of minutes. “I just can’t turn down that booty!”

    (This is terrible advice. Do not do this.)

    Reply
  20. Andrew

    Hmm makes me wonder what would happen if I had lunch with my sister. We don’t look alike and throughout college we both had ppl asking about us bc we’d swap food or share stuff. It got awkward having to tell ppl we were related lol.

    Reply
    1. MsMaryMary

      My brother and I grab a beer or get dinner together from time to time, and we have been mistaken for a couple before. Once we were at a sports bar, watching the game and staring at our phones during commercials. An older woman stopped on her way out and told us we’d never keep the magic alive if we didn’t talk to each other. She swept out the door before I could say anything.

      I am also terrified that we’ll end up on the Kiss Cam at some sporting event one day.

      Reply
      1. Jadelyn

        …I’m suddenly super glad I don’t do sporting events, because my brother and I have gotten the same misconception a few times.

        Reply
      2. Librarian

        My brother and I have wound up on the Kiss Cam before. It was very awkward and also hilarious.

        A cousin and her brother were congratulated on their wedding on a trip to Hawaii. The other customer at the bar thought they were on their honeymoon. It was a family vacation and their parents were back at the hotel, lol!

        Reply
        1. sam

          heh. my brother and I took a trip through India. ALL of our guides thought we were married. Not really a big deal in most places, except for (a) everyone assuming my brother was “in charge”, despite my being both older and paying for the entire darn trip and (b) the one tour we took that involved some (ahem) NSFW art (of the 1000-year-old variety) and the guide clearly had a a whole schtick that was SPECIFICALLY for couples. we had to cut him off real quick and explain that we were siblings – I don’t know which of us was more embarrassed.

          Reply
    2. aebhel

      My husband has a twin sister who looks nothing like him, and they get that all the time if they go anywhere together without their spouses (or sometimes even if we’re there). They’ve both learned to laugh about it by now, but I guess it used to really piss them off when they were teenagers.

      Reply
      1. Xarcady

        One of my brothers is two years older than me. We were out with his 4 year old daughter once, and more than one person thought I was the kidlet’s mom, and that my brother was my *father*, and therefore the kidlet’s grandpa.

        Brother not so amused. Kidlet, now 14, still brings it up, just to bug him.

        Once or twice people have thought we were married, probably because we tend to have some of his kids with us when out and about. Dear Bro’s stock response is, “Married!?! To her! No way, she has cooties!”

        Reply
    3. I am now a llama

      My two sisters go out for supper a lot, since one of them is single and hates to cook. They get really mad when people thing they are a “couple”……

      Reply
      1. Nerdgal

        I was also married to someone who worked at the same company. (We gave both since retired from there.) I don’t use his last name. We got this sort of this g on a regular basis. We had a lot of fun with it over the years. Also got to hear a lot of useful stuff that people would never have brought up if yhey had known!

        Reply
    4. Ramblin' Ma'am

      My brother and I are very close in age, and when we used to go places together, he would loudly say things like, “Hey, Mom needs us to take out the garbage,” just so people wouldn’t think we were dating.

      Reply
    5. Phyllisb

      I have a nephew who is 18 years younger than me.When he was 16 and I was 34, we went to a movie together. One of his girlfriend’s friends spotted us and called his girlfriend to report that he was cheating on her with an attractive older woman. I was supremely flattered, and my nephew thought it was hilarious.

      Reply
      1. phyllisb

        Didn’t finish my comment. When she mentioned “an attractive older woman” she said, “I think she was about 25!!” Of course, when you’re 16, 25 is old. As I said, I was flattered.

        Reply
    6. WriterLady

      I get that with my dad of all people, and he thinks it’s hilarious watching me suffer in anguish as I try to explain he’s my father. (He’s 50 this year and looks younger than my 27 year old brother.)

      I was down visiting and we were out shopping once. Mum had wandered off, and Dad was making cooing noises at a random baby he’d found. I walked up to him, sighed and told him to stop irritating babies that weren’t his.

      At this, the mother of the baby looked up, and smiled. “Do you two have children?”
      My brain: “WHAT HELP YES HE DOES I AM THE CHILD”
      My mouth: “N-no”
      Lady: “don’t worry, you guys will one day!”
      And my father said nothing, just smirked the whole time, and I fled to another section of the store in horror.

      Similar happened at my grandfather’s funeral, because they assumed the two “ethnic-looking” people had to be together. (Their description, not mine.)

      And yet, I’m the spitting image of him. Shudder.

      Reply
        1. WriterLady

          Used to drive my brother mental when we’d go out shopping after school when we were in high school. “Aw, look at those brothers taking their little sister out shopping.” They’d turn to bro. “Are you the oldest?”
          “HE IS MY DAD”

          Reply
    7. Yorick

      People recently thought my brother and I were dating. It was awkward, but my brother is 23 so I was just flattered they thought I was youthful enough.

      Reply
  21. The Optimizer

    Quite honestly, overly nosy and judgy women like this are precisely the reason most of the coworkers I’ve had lunch with have been men.

    One in particular became a very close friend. My husband and I have even visited him and his wife multiple times after they moved across the country.

    Reply
    1. Jessie the First (or second)

      This kind of generalization is really, really tedious. If we want to turn this into “which gender makes the worst coworkers!” then this will become a very nasty thread very quickly. Women are not inherently more unpleasant to work with than men.

      Reply
    2. Fictional Butt

      A friend once told me that she used to feel that way… and then she realized she had it the wrong way round. She thought women were all nosy and judgmental because she never actually spent time to develop relationships with them.

      Reply
      1. Anon for this

        I used to feel that way until my mid-20s. I think it was a combination of the culture I grew up in (where you HAD to get married by your early 20s), and the gender dynamics being different back then (80s) than now. Either way, in my late teens and early 20s, aside from one or two close friends, all I was seeing from my fellow women was fierce competition and backstabbing. No wonder. Everyone was in a rush to get married and there was a shortage of marriageable guys! Everyone’s value was determined by their looks. Fun times! I did not experience women supporting each other and helping each other until we were all well out of the teenage years, most of us were married with kids, which helped get our priorities in order and develop a more mature outlook of the human race. Most of us were also experiencing gender discrimination when trying to return to work after the birth of our oldest children; which also helped us learn to stick together and to stand up for each other.

        I believe things are very different now, as the humankind is slowly evolving. But it was not easy being a female teenager in the 80s in my home country.

        Reply
    3. MashaKasha

      As someone who’s worked in a male-dominated industry all my life, I can confirm that “overly nosy and judgy” are not gender-specific qualities. It could have just as easily been a man who’d pulled OP aside to deliver that lecture.

      Reply
      1. Hrovitnir

        Heh, yeah, my partner manages a factory of men. The dramas are just as ridiculous and dramatic, but they’re viewed differently because they’re men. *rolls eyes*

        Honestly, I don’t enjoy the dynamics that can emerge working with a large group of women – I mean, people do internalise gendered stereotypes. The difference working with mostly men is you’re not quite as embroiled in it, I think. OTOH I’m very often happy I chose biomed (where it’s female dominated) because I don’t have the patience for constant, low-level misogyny these days.

        Reply
      1. Lissa

        This is such a weird stereotype because in my own personal life, it has *always* been the guys who are the drama monarchs! Not saying this means obviously men as a whole are worse, but the “women cause drama” stereotype has never actually been true in my life since high school…

        Reply
    4. Julia

      All the women who ever told me that they found other women tedious or ‘full of drama’ were the ones causing the drama.

      Are you absolutely sure you want to generalize like that?

      Reply
  22. Philosophy Prof...

    When we have a Vice President who says he will never have a one-on-one meeting with a woman because he’s married, this kind of policing and suspicion is the inevitable result.

    If it were me, I’d probably re-visit it from that angle, saying that forbidding one-on-one meetings inevitably hurts women and that perhaps her powers of observation might be better spent other ways.

    Reply
    1. London Calling

      There’s a certain unspoken arrogance and assumption that he’s the centre of everyone’s world there, isn’t there? ‘Women find me so irresistible that I daren’t be alone with them because everyone will talk about me.’ Or he doesn’t trust himself to be alone with women. One of those comments that actually says a very great deal about him without him realising.

      Or it could be that I’m a cynic who thinks that people who go on about how they’d *never* *ever* be unfaithful are trying to convince themselves as much as everyone else…

      Reply
      1. Phyllisb

        To be fair to Mr. Pence, I don’t think he’s considering himself so irresistible, I really think it comes from a sense of being appropriate and not doing anything that could look questionable. (Misguided maybe, but sincere.) Our leaders are expected to be paragons of virtue. Also, if he is an active church member, this may be something that his church leaders have counseled him to do. I have attended a number of churches where men were cautioned not to be alone with women they weren’t related to.
        Not trying to derail, but since this has been mentioned a couple of times, I thought another viewpoint might be helpful.

        Reply
        1. Nerdgal

          Just because church leaders are “counseling” people to do something that is sexist, outdated, and possibly violates EEO laws, doesn’t make them immune from criticism. In the past church leaders “counseled” people to stone suspected witches and whip slaves.

          Reply
        2. Mookie

          I don’t know, I’m not really comforted by the notion that people or church members or whoever are “sincere” in their beliefs that the presence of women dampens the virtue of men or that women are incapable of being viewed outside the prism of a sexual function that services (leads astray) real humans.

          Reply
        3. Chinook

          “I really think it comes from a sense of being appropriate and not doing anything that could look questionable. (Misguided maybe, but sincere.) ”

          I have to agree with that. I have a parish priest who is my age and, for the first time, not living within his larger (Franciscan) community. On top of that, he is Filipino and the other Filipinos treat him with so much respect that none of them have seemed to reach out to be friends with him. If he was Canadian born, I would have had no issue with asking him to go out for coffee to chat as friends (heck, I once travelled with a priest for a week) but, because of how he is treated within his own cultural community, I am honestly worried that asking him would either put him in an awkward position of turning me down because it is inappropriate or him agreeing and risking his reputation.

          Double standards frankly suck.

          Reply
      2. Artemesia

        He is on records saying that ‘libruls’ are constantly trying to seduce him, to compromise him.

        Reply
    2. Buffy

      I don’t think it’s accurate to say this policing and suspicion is the *result* of the VP’s views. His views are the symptom of a flawed society, hardly the cause. (I know this is not a forum to dive into political discussion, but felt that was important to note.)

      Reply
      1. Jadelyn

        I’m not sure there’s a direct causal relationship, but I do think that when there’s affirmation for a particular attitude from on high, it emboldens other people who hold that view.

        Reply
  23. swingbattabatta

    Oh man, this kind of thing really grinds my grits. The level of judgment and intrusiveness here is so inappropriate, and I think there is a very real concern about the extent to which this employee is monitoring everyone in the office. And, if she had the gall to try to correct her boss, I can’t imagine the extent to which she’s pushing back on her peers and coworkers.

    Reply
    1. Michele

      I agree. I would definitely be on the lookout for her overstepping her bounds with her peers. Based on the post and the comments from the OP, I would be extremely surprised if this woman wasn’t causing problems, especially for the younger women in the office.

      Reply
  24. DecorativeCacti

    This reminds me of the letter writer whose students thought he was having an affair with his sister. I believe his solution was to basically shout far and wide that his sister was a student and he definitely wasn’t sleeping with her (at least to the faculty).

    I would put feelers out and make sure there isn’t a larger hidden network of gossip and if there isn’t, feel fine knowing that the people who are above you know the situation isn’t scandalous.

    Reply
    1. OP

      I’m 99 percent positive that there isn’t. Most of the people who work in the agency have known my husband and I since we were dating (we met while stationed there as active-duty and later transitioned to GS positions there). There may be a few people who don’t know, but if they brought it up to more than a couple people, I think they’d run into someone who knows the situation.

      Reply
      1. DecorativeCacti

        Given your details of the person below, it seems more obvious that she’s just a sole pearl-clutcher. Annoying, but at least there isn’t a whole thing you have to try to control.

        Reply
  25. OP

    OP here! I want to chime in and answer some questions.

    I referred to the agency as “company” because that was what my report called it. We both have military backgrounds, so she meant in the unit definition of the word. We are both civilians now and our agency is an equal mix of GS, contractor and active duty personnel, but it is not an Army or military Company. My husband is also a civilian.

    The report in question and I have a decent relationship. She isn’t my top performer and she isn’t my lowest. I’ve never had to formally reprimand her, but there have been several friendly and not-so-friendly chats about time management and various professional protocol issues in the past 3 years as her manager. She is, as a couple have guessed, pretty significantly older than me. I’m in my late 20s and she’s in her late 40s. She’s also very religious (think Mike Pence) so I do think her personal beliefs played a role in her approaching me about this.

    It is not at all outside the norm for people at my agency to socialize with members of the opposite sex. While there are standards and rules for fraternization among the military members on staff, it’s a very friendly, liberal place to work.

    Reply
    1. Chomps

      Oh, this is interesting. I’d assumed she was probably part of a conservative religion, but I assumed she was younger and didn’t understand workplace norms yet. Although her being older than you explains why she would think it was ok to chastise you like that.

      Reply
    2. NW Mossy

      To the extent that you get an opportunity to address it with her, it would be a kindness to point out that norms that make sense in the military or her life outside of work aren’t necessarily equally applicable within it. If she’s adhering to norms that are holding her back (such as refusing professional opportunities due to the appearance of impropriety) or treating others with less respect when they fail to adhere to these external norms, it’s going to cause problems for her.

      There’s a “when in Rome” aspect to work in that when we make the choice to join an organization, we give up some of our personal autonomy to capture the advantages of getting more done in concert with others. This is a good example of a situation where you have to sacrifice what you would do in an ideal world to work well in the environment you’ve opted to be part of.

      Reply
    3. Detective Amy Santiago

      I have to wonder if she was basing her comments solely on seeing you two go to lunch or if she happened to also see you arrive or leave together. If your lunch date has been a regular thing and she just now mentioned it, it feels like there was some sort of impetus.

      Reply
    4. ToxicNudibranch

      Given this, I would absolutely, 100%, have the follow up conversation Alison suggested. She needs to know that speculation of that kind, no matter how well meaning, is really, really not okay, and not something she needs to advise you about.

      Reply
    5. Not So NewReader

      I thought she would be older than 40.

      Eh. Now I am the one being judgey. Some things have no age limits.

      Reply
    6. M-C

      Very interesting. When I read the letter my mind went immediately to Mike Pence and his dirty-minded assumptions. So I’m going to vote here for addressing the issue with this woman. She’s older than you, so she should know better. And she’s chiding her -boss- for perfectly normal conduct, on the basis of her religion? Imagine what she might be saying about other people around the office, how much she might be intimidating younger and more junior members of the staff. What is she saying to/about LGBT coworkers?!? Is she snarking to the younger women about their contraception?

      You should probably keep a special eye on her from now on just to make sure she isn’t harassing anyone. And I think she needs to be told firmly that her religion is her own problem, if she wants to abstain from eating shellfish in company she’s free to do so on her own time. But it’s hideously inappropriate for this to bleed over into the workplace, and she must keep her opinions firmly to herself. If I were you, I’d write her up for this incident, and formally note that she is NOT to impose her religious views on her coworkers. Don’t wait till someone else sues the department..

      Reply
  26. Jane Dough

    Now I’m feeling uncomfortable, imagining what clueless busybody was saying what during all the shared lunches I had back when I worked with my father.

    Reply
  27. HisGirlFriday

    I agree with PPs who think it’s worth revisiting because (a) it’s still bothering you and (b) she’s your direct report and (c) this is indicative of her feeling like it’s OK/acceptable to monitor people’s lunch habits, which tells me she doesn’t have enough to be going on with in her real job.

    I have posted before that I generally stay out of the lunch planning and conversation in my office unless I am specifically asked, as I was today, to go out later than usual so I could cover the phones while other people were doing other things. Until or unless people’s lunch plans impact my life, I stay out of it, and I think that’s what the LW’s direct report should be told is the larger problem.

    Reply
  28. Luke

    The OP is best advised leaving things be.

    Unfortunately ,one of the drawbacks of the human condition is the tendency for certain people to assume affairs where there are none. I’d be a wealthy man if I got a nickel every time a coworker or friend assumed I was seeing a female I just so happened to be socializing with,both within and outside the office. Playing damage control usually just makes things worse.

    Fact of the matter is the OPs relationship violates no ethical or legal regulation,and is none of anyone else’s business thereof. Shrug it off accordingly.

    Reply
      1. Luke

        Regrettably it’s not as simple as stating the obvious for those of this mindset. At one office I worked in, I dealt with the OPs issue of being falsely attached to an affair with a female coworker. Being we were seeing other people, neither of us seriously considered crossing the intimacy line. But we got along well enough that rumors flew anyways.

        We’d talk about our spouses and the weather,interact only on company business -no lunches ,PDA or off site events- and yet half the team gossiped about us being an item. Directly confronting the issue would have made it worse- why deny it so forcefully unless we WERE actually having an affair and trying to cover it up ,no?

        The approach we mutually agreed to take -besides laughing about the absurdity- was to keep interactions professional and ignore the issue,and eventually the rumor mongers were discredited over time. Had we played the denial game it would have lent credibility to the rumor.

        Reply
        1. Jessie the First (or second)

          Luke, but I think you are missing an important aspect of this situation. OP is not concerned here about gossip – there is not really gossip, because OP notes that the vast majority of people know that these two are married. There is no damage to OP’s reputation coming. There is no “denial” that needs to happen. The issue is her direct report’s attitude – that married men and married women should not go to lunch together, at all, ever.

          That is the thing people are saying OP needs to push back on. That’s the conversation that needs to happen – the employee needs to be told that it is okay for colleagues to have lunch, regardless of gender and marital status. Joielle below has maybe the world’s most perfect script for addressing that issue.

          But again, this isn’t about denying anything or stopping rumors. There is zero evidence of rumors and nothing to deny.

          Reply
        2. Colette

          That’s a different situation. People will think what they’ll think – but since the OP is he manager, she can be very clear about what her employee can and cannot do. On the prohibited list is sharing rumours or speculation about women and men having lunch together.

          Reply
  29. bridget

    Another big distinction from the previous post re affairs: the OP in that question had good reason to know that the relationship was sexual/romantic. Here, the only thing Nosy Employee knows is that they went to lunch, which is a totally appropriate and non-affair activity, regardless of who is married to whom and even if those marriage statuses are being nefariously kept secret.

    Reply
    1. OP

      We aren’t keeping it a secret. I’d guess 80 percent of the people at our agency know we’re married- I even have a picture of our family on my desk! We just don’t advertise it by interacting much at work, and ALWAYS keep it professional when we need to.

      Reply
      1. bridget

        Sorry, I didn’t mean you! In the prior post Alison referenced, the OP said that she had reason to believe that 1) there was an actual affair between two coworkers, one of whom was married, and 2) that the dude in the equation was purposefully keeping it a secret from the other person. Just saying that your situation is TOTALLY different on several counts.

        Reply
  30. Joielle

    I’d probably want to revisit it – not because it would necessarily change her mind, but because I think there’s some value in challenging problematic viewpoints. It sounds like the OP’s initial reaction was not very forceful because of the (understandable) surprise and annoyance at the situation. I’d probably go back to her and say something like “I was thinking about the other day when you asked me about the lunch I had with my husband. I just wanted to make sure you know that it’s completely fine for you or anyone to have one-on-one lunches with others, whether married or not. I’ve found lunches with colleagues to be a great networking tool and I’d hate for you to miss out on that.”

    Nothing that would be rude or mean, just calling a little more attention to the main issue – that it’s actually not a problem at all for people of any gender to have meals together, and it can actually be a good thing.

    Reply
    1. Astor

      I really like this reply, too. Especially with their respective positions, it’s such a fantastic way of normalizing it by giving *permission* instead of taking a position of defense.

      Reply
  31. Drewby80

    Whatever happened to the fine art of “minding your own business?” It definitely was not that employee’s place to bring up an unsubstantiated claim of an extramarital affair with her superior (off all people). Hell, a prior company I worked at seemed to be a breeding ground for affairs (with employees and strangers alike) and those involved didn’t exactly exercise any discretion. Regardless, I just ignored it and carried on with my work knowing that at some point, their indiscretions will blow up in their faces.

    Reply
    1. Stellaaaaa

      In these situations, people act how they would want others to act toward them. Personally, if my coworkers thought I was having an affair, I’d prefer it if someone pulled me aside to let me know what others were saying about me.

      Reply
  32. always in email jail

    Honestly, I’d revisit it. I’m married to a colleague (think same government agency, same exact role, but different field offices) and I’m very afraid of something like this happening. We certainly don’t hide that we’re married, but we regularly interact professionally in a regional setting and don’t advertise it in those venues. I’ve started erring on the side of cluing more people in “behind the scenes” in a casual manner, because I’m so worried about something like this happening!
    I think Alison’s script is absolute perfection. You don’t want her to scrutinize if you DO go to lunch with another male colleague, or she sees your husband chatting with a female colleague after a meeting, etc.

    Reply
  33. Jerry Larry Terry Garry

    If she felt comfortable being this…intrusive with her manager, what is she like with people at or below her level? As her manager, the OP may not be well positioned to know if this is part of a larger pattern, and if this world-view is imprinted on someone new to the workforce or the company who takes it as the standard, it certainly would have an effect on the department as a whole.

    Reply
  34. Ohioan

    Reminds me of this story:
    “Connie Schultz, a Pulitzer prize-winning columnist and wife of Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, posted an E-mail exchange between herself and an unnamed, unwitting conservative blogger to her Facebook page Tuesday night.

    The blogger emailed Schultz on July 9 to say, smugly: “Dear Ms. Shultz, We are doing an expose on journalists in the elite media who socialize with elected officials they are assigned to cover. We have found numerous photos of you with Sen. Sherrod Brown. In one of them, you appear to be hugging him. Care to comment?”

    Schultz, of course, is married to Brown. She wrote back a day later: “Dear Mr. [Name Deleted]: I am surprised you did not find a photo of me kissing U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown so hard he passes out from lack of oxygen. He’s really cute. He’s also my husband. You know that, right?”

    Reply
    1. Detective Amy Santiago

      I am a terrible person and I would have been tempted to send back more compromising photos so they could run with their story and make a fool of themselves.

      Reply
      1. Amy Cakes

        Not sure what wording I’d use, but I definitely would have lubed up the reporter’s foot to help him get it as far down his throat as possible.

        Reply
  35. Shadow

    All of you are kind of ignoring that one on one social activities are commonly perceived as dates for both men and women regardless of whether that’s right or not. And we’re all guilty of it- I wouldn’t believe who hasn’t assumed a couple eating a meal together wasn’t dating or married. And it’s not all that unusual to assume your co workers spouse works at another org. I’m just saying that it’s a fairly innocent mistake although one she probably shouldn’t have commented on to begin with. to me it sounds like the embarrassment is a good lesson learned

    Reply
    1. Colette

      Then that’s a problem with the people perceiving them that way. A business lunch is a business lunch, and automatically assuming it’s a date disproportionally harms women (who will miss out on mentoring, career development, and networking opportunities).

      I can go for lunch with my cousin or sister or best friend without it being a date, even if it’s *gasp* one on one. I can also go for lunch with a colleague without it being a date.

      Anyone who thinks the only one on one interactions must be a date must live a very narrow life.

      Reply
      1. AMT

        Exactly. Also, assuming someone is dating or a couple is much different from jumping to the conclusion that people are having an affair. In a restaurant, I might glance over at male/female dinner duo and unconsciously assign them the category of “couple” in my brain, but if I recognized them and knew they were both married, I would never assume they were cheating on their spouses. Normalizing ridiculous misperceptions makes women shy away from doing perfectly normal career stuff.

        Reply
    2. seejay

      There’s also a big difference between lunch once a week during work hours versus intimate evening dining at a fancy restaurant while dressed up in fancy evening wear. I went for lunch daily with a male coworker and at our office questioned it because we were coworkers, it was work, and it was lunch hour. And we work in an environment with mature adults that don’t jump to kookoo conclusions that just because two people are hanging out together regularly, they’re on a date.

      It’s not hard to read social cues between people as well as the entire environment they’re in to be able to make some guesses about whether they might be dating or having an affair or not and casual lunches during work hours are not smoke unless there’s far more to it.

      Reply
    3. Mookie

      whether that’s right or not.

      I’ll take a stab: it’s not right, full stop. Hence, a great learning experience here for the OP’s direct report not to perpetuate shitty attitudes.

      And we’re all guilty of it- I wouldn’t believe who hasn’t assumed a couple eating a meal together wasn’t dating or married.

      Honestly, nope, and we’re not talking about “couples” eating together, but about colleagues at work.

      Reply
  36. amy

    I’d revisit it with her and make sure she understands that this is not acceptable, regardless of the rank of the person she’s doing it about, and that you won’t be pleased if you find that she’s been looking out for other people’s morals, too. When people get to behaving like this it’s a fair bet that they don’t stop with policing/passing judgment on just one employee.

    As for the rationale for Mike-Pence disallowed lunches, I wouldn’t expect a sympathetic ear.

    Reply
  37. DG

    So here’s an idea. Let’s pretend that OP *was*, in fact, having an affair with a man who was married to someone else. Would the employee have been doing the right thing in that case? I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have been, regardless.

    I mean, what kind of response did she expect from OP? “Oh, I didn’t realise people had strong opinions about marital infidelity! Thank you for bringing that to my attention, Moralizing Mandy! I shall go forth and sin no more.” No. If people have affairs out in the open, they know what they’re doing and what the consequences are likely to be. And if Mandy isn’t a personal friend of one of the three people involved, it’s absolutely none of her business.

    Reply
  38. Ester

    I can’t even imagine scrutinizing what or where or who coworkers hang out with. People need lives and hobbies.

    Reply
  39. Queenie

    Ahahaha this happened to me and my spouse after we left the Christmas party together and people saw him put his arm round me as we left the building. We’d apparently been the talk of the town for a couple of weeks before I overheard the gossipers and they looked so embarrassed when they found out.

    Reply
  40. ThatAspie

    Regarding ringtones…
    I’m currently out of work again (but working on getting a job – I have an interview scheduled for next week, and I went ahead and re-read the stuff you people told me last time), but, if and when I do get a job, on the off chance I forget to turn off my phone at work, would a ringtone from a cartoon make me look too childish? I mean, I’ve met enough adult fans of Phineas & Ferb that I know that there are quite a few besides just me, but I’ve also met people who look down on any cartoon-watching adult (unless it’s something like – ew – South Park).
    Not that I’m too worried (I mean, it’s better than a wolf whistle, right?), more that I’m cautiously curious.

    Reply
  41. cobweb collector

    I can’t find the story right now with google, but a few years ago a “reporter” emailed a high ranking politician telling her that there were pictures of her being close to another high ranking politician (member of congress I think), and asking if she had a statement or explanation before they went to press. She responded by informing the ‘reporter” that she was in fact married to said politician.

    Reply
  42. RocketN00b

    This reminds me of an incident years ago when a rather nosey friend of a then-S.O. of mine (the friend really didn’t like me), decided she had to tell my S.O. that she had seen me at the movies on a date with “some young blonde,” because I was obviously cheating on the S.O.

    The young blonde was my sister.

    Reply

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