my boss saw me at a strip club and now won’t talk to me

A reader writes:

I’m a woman and I recently accompanied a group of friends (not coworkers) to a strip club. It isn’t something I do normally and was just a whim sort of thing. I wasn’t on company time and I wasn’t wearing anything that would identify me as an employee. I’m straight and this was a prominent gentleman’s club in the area.

As we were leaving, I ran into my boss (male). I wasn’t embarrassed about being seen there, but I didn’t really make any attempt to acknowledge him so that he wouldn’t feel it was an awkward situation. What he does in his own time is none of my business.

I have avoided mentioning the situation to my boss at all, but he seems to be avoiding me more. I’m his assistant and we use to have morning meetings often to discuss things that needed to be done for the day, and those no longer happen. It has only been a week and maybe I am over-thinking this and he just needs some time to process seeing me there, but he has assigned me almost no tasks this week. I know he has stuff that needs to be done, and I know he is just sitting on it now.

Do I just wait it out until it is forgotten? Do I mention something to him in a joking way to make it better? It honestly is not that big of a deal to me that I saw him there and I won’t tell any of the other employees. I know he could fire me over this, but is it likely that a person would? How do I make this situation less awkward for both of us?

Well, depending on your personalities and the relationship, it’s possible that it would be weirder not to mention the incident at all, especially if the relationship is pretty informal. But if that were the case here, I’m betting you’d know it, so I’m assuming that it’s not. Given that …

I think the best thing that you can do is act completely normal, the exact same way you would be acting if this hadn’t happened.

If this hadn’t happened and he suddenly stopped giving you work for a week, what would you do? That’s what you should do now. So that might mean just walking into his office and sitting down for your morning meetings like you normally do, pulling out a list of things to go over, and launching in. Or maybe it means going to him and saying, “I know you have X coming up — should I take care of A, B, and C for that?” Or maybe it means scheduling a meeting and finding out what he needs from you right now. Or if none of these work in your context, maybe it means tackling a bunch of tasks that have been on the back burner — and dropping by his office to let him know, “Hey, since things have slowed down this week, I’m working on A, B, and C. Let me know if there’s anything I should prioritize.”

The idea is to have contact that is not about seeing each other at at a strip club, so that the incident moves further and further back on the “most recent time we had contact with each other” list.

The other thing that you’d probably do if — without this strip club incident — he suddenly stopped meeting with you or giving you work is asking about it at some point, right? So if this stretches into another week, say what you’d say in that situation … which might something like, “I noticed we haven’t been meeting as much lately. Should I be more assertive about getting those meetings on the calendar?” or “Could we resume our regular meetings? They’re helpful to me in figuring out priorities.”

In other words, find a bunch of work-related reasons to interact and demonstrate that you couldn’t care less about the strip club run-in, and there’s a pretty good chance that that’s going to take care of it.

Now, could he fire you over this? He could, if he’s a huge tool. But it’s pretty unlikely, especially if you just act confident and unbothered and push through on all the work stuff.

{ 50 comments… read them below }

  1. Former LEO*

    I hate to say this, but there is some evidence of him being a tool already. Being seen in a strip club is not a big deal and had it been me I would have simply said “Wow, I sure was surprised to see you the other night at [wherever]” and just go from there. He’s making an awkward situation more awkward and obviously it bothers him to some degree.

    I would definitely move on Alison’s advice sooner rather than later.

    I really can’t believe he hasn’t initiated the conversation though. He is the authority figure. Leaders make mistakes to.

    1. fposte*

      But that sounds like you’re focusing on how the manager feels about the OP being there, and I’m thinking that the issue may be that the manager thinks *he* shouldn’t have been there and that he’s been “caught.”

      1. The IT Manager*

        Totally. Once I read that he started avoiding her, I thought it’s not about LW being there, but him being there and he’s embarassed about being seen by his employee.

        As Alison adviced, act like it never happened to help him get over his embarassment.

        1. Kate*

          Exactly my thoughts :)

          The only thing I would add – running into your boss and not saying “Hi” could have created the whole awkward situation. Especially if it was obvious that you actually have seen each other.

      2. Arbynka*

        I agree. I am thinking the manager feels uneasy about being seen there. This kinda reminded me of a joke :” Sweetie, you can’t see John anymore. You father saw him last night in a place where no good man would ever go.”

        OP, I would follow Alison’s advice. I believe you can work over the awkwardness.

      3. ExceptionToTheRule*

        Exactly what I was going to say. It’s not weird because he saw you there, it’s weird because you saw HIM there.

      4. Former LEO*

        No, I totally think the manager is embarrassed in some way.

        However, if he has a problem with HER being there, well then he is a tool. What people do in their off time is not their boss’s business.

        There is a reason I don’t look employees up on Facebook.

        1. fposte*

          But there’s no indication he had a problem with her being there, and I think it’s going to be more trouble than useful for her to jump to that assumption.

      5. holly*

        but they were both there. therefore no one is “guilty” of anything or they are both guilty of the same thing and voids it out. if he were to fire her, what a freaking hypocrite. unless she means she ran into him outside of the club.

        1. Zillah*

          Theoretically, sure, but that’s often not how it works in practice. People can feel a lot more self-conscious or embarrassed about something when they do it than they feel judgmental when someone else does it, which may be what’s happening with this boss. Moreover, I think that there can definitely be some gender issues at play – from what I’ve observed, men are more likely to be looked down upon for going in a strip club than women are.

  2. Mena*

    I’m thinking that is avoidance of you has much more to do with his own embarassment over being seen at the strip club by YOU. Set it aside in your head and conduct yourself as usual. No work assignments? Well find something that you know he needs done, ask him, and then ask him again. Get things back on regular footing as quickly as possible.

  3. mel*

    It would be weird if the issue is either his embarrassment or his disappointment in you, as others are suggesting, because both of you were there at the same time.

    I mean… since it’s obviously okay for you to be there then it’s okay for him to be there. I guess I just don’t understand the source of tension. Maybe the “she saw me but obviously pretended not to know me” caused more damage than good?

    1. TL*

      No, I think it’s just awkwardness. Most people don’t really share their strip club adventures in the work place.

    2. BCW*

      Well, to play devil’s advocate, maybe he is married. I know plenty of women who think no married man should go to a strip club. So maybe he thinks she thinks this way (Even if she goes there herself)

      1. TL*

        Or maybe he’s worried his spouse will find out if s/he doesn’t like him to visit strip clubs. That’s a probable cause.

      2. some1*

        I know women who think *any* man who goes to a strip club is skeevy.

        Granted, most of those women don’t go there themselves.

      3. FD*

        That’s my thought too. He might be afraid you’ll threaten to tell his wife, for example, even if you never would.

  4. Wilton Businessman*

    First of, he can fire you for wearing purple socks on a Tuesday. Both are pretty unlikely, though.

    I agree with the others, he probably has an issue being “caught”.

    Personally, I’d acknowledge that it happened, let him know that what happens outside the office is none of my business, and they have drink specials on Wednesday night.

  5. Shannon313*

    I would say this is not a big deal. If things don’t improve after following Alison’s spot-on advice, I’d say something like, “things have been strained since the other night. I was out with friends having a good time and I assume you were, too. Also, I don’t discuss anyone else’s personal life at work.” I’m pretty direct and not too easily embarrassed though, so I realize this may cause discomfort to some.

  6. Employment lawyer*

    He’s probably wondering what to say. You have a few options.

    1) Be indirect. “I don’t usually interact with my employers when I’m out socially, and I tend to forget the interactions shortly thereafter. I always hope that they’ll do the same and that they won’t be offended if I generally ignore them. Does that work for you?”

    2) Be humorous and a bit self deprecating. “Bob, I think you’ve been ignoring me because I seemed embarrassed to have been seen in a strip club. It’s my fault, but I’m over it. Can we pretend that we never met each other?”

    3) Be humorous and specific. “Man, last weekend was fun, and it was nice to run into you. But I’d rather have a killer job and a good manager than a new friend. Can we both forget that this ever happened?”

    4) Be direct. “Bob, you’ve been avoiding me since we ran into each other. I’d like to return to our normal interaction, unless there’s some reason not to.”

  7. some1*

    Personally, I wouldn’t bring it up at all, I would just follow up with him like Alison suggested about getting more work, and have normal, pleasant work face on.

  8. Apollo Warbucks*

    I’d mention the fact you saw each other and make a life hatred remark or just say I hope you’re not embarrassed about the other night when we saw each other.

  9. L McD*

    I think the risk of NOT bringing it up is that he’ll always wonder. Is she going to mention it to someone? Will it get back to somebody he doesn’t want knowing (his wife, his gf, his mother, his pet dog?) His concerns might go beyond embarrassment; he might actually be petrified of the potential fallout from this, and has no idea how to address it.

    As long as she doesn’t approach it some sinister way (“wouldn’t it be a shame if I told on you? but I won’t! probably! heheheh”) I don’t think there is any harm in addressing it casually. I think something like Employment lawyer’s #2 is a really good way to put the thing to rest.

  10. Malissa*

    Oh how I wish my boss would be embarrassed by that kind of behavior.
    I’s acknowledge it, because it’s the elephant in the room now. I’d probably say some thing like, “You’ve been a bit distant since I saw you after work last week. Can we forget that happened?”
    Then move on to work related issues. “hey we haven’t had a meeting in a week do you want to catch up now?”

  11. Interviewer*

    I see 2 options for getting back into the swing of things:

    “Hey, did you know I have a twin? She came to visit last weekend!”


    “I am sorry, but it just feels so awkward at work lately. Can we both just agree to pretend that we never ran into each other downtown? I’d really like to get back to our normal routine.”

    If he’s planning to get rid of you, hoarding work and shutting down communication could be a sign. But he may just lack the courage to face uncomfortable situations.

    Good luck.

  12. funcouple*

    This has always been a fear for us on some level. We too have gone to gentlemen’s clubs as a couple for a fun evening out and also with friends and like the OP said, ‘it’s not a big deal’. However, we have since moved on, and now frequent ‘lifestyle’ or swingers clubs as we are in the lifestyle. It has been a concern that we will run into someone we know. We solved it for now, as we go to just a few clubs 150-200+ miles away for a ‘mini-vacation’. A couple we know from a club told us that they ran into her husband’s coworker and wife (from different division) their first time there. He was cool, and just joked around and said “what’s a nice couple like you guys doing here?” Made a few jokes, and explained over a drink “don’t worry, this isn’t going anywhere outside the club”.

    Many people that are in the lifestyle have a story or tips on how to handle it if you see someone you know. The reality is this. They were there too. There is also essentially a code of conduct when being in the lifestyle that you don’t talk about who you see. Everyone honors discretion. Pretty much the fight club rule! Maybe it’s different as this is more couple/couple clubs and the example in the story is more for guys.

    As the OP said, what one does in their off time, is no one’s business. In fact if you go with friends or your significant other and it helps keep the spark alive in your relationship/marriage, then great!
    I am sure there will be plenty of people who disagree with this in the vanilla world, but just keep in mind, we are your neighbors, coworkers, business professionals, teachers, and more. LOL!

    1. Zillah*

      I agree, but I do think that it’s a little different in the sort of situation you’re talking about. The possible consequences of telling in your example probably affect everyone equally, but the possible consequences of being seen in a strip club could be very different depending on one’s situation, and I can see how a male boss who ran into a female employee there might feel uncomfortable.

  13. Not So NewReader*

    I also favor saying something brief and then redirecting the focus back to the work at hand.
    As part of that redirect mention a positive that the boss has never heard you say before. “I like working here.” Or “I enjoy the diversity of tasks in my job.” The purpose of the positive comment is to distract his thinking and give him new information to focus on. I don’t recommend lying, of course. Keep it short and keep it truthful.

    I think it is good practice. Sometimes bosses and employees face difficult situations and they need to know that they can communicate respectfully AND still confront the difficulty with a problem-solving approach.

    Twice I have had bosses turn beet-red (embarrassed) while I was trying to say something. I knew I meant no harm and the boss was jumping to conclusions. (In his mind he was racing ahead in the conversation.) So, I calmly kept talking. After finishing my few sentences, it was apparent that I was trying to fix a difficult situation. I could see the boss calm down immediately and realize “oh, okay we are in problem solving mode here. Let’s fix this right now.”

    With each boss, I never had another recurrence of blushing and awkwardness. Refreshingly, we knew if we had to discuss a matter with each other we could.

  14. HR Competent*

    Sometime back in the late 80’s I went into a club with a buddy. One of the dancers came by looking for lap dances. I said “you look familiar”, she replied the same. It dawned on me she was a resident of a group home (behavioral problems) I worked for a couple of years earlier.

    It was a very awkward and uncomfortable feeling for me because I felt I had compromised my position as a role model & responsible citizen.

    1. funcouple*

      @ Hr Competent
      Can’t tell if you are joking and/or being sarcastic re: comprising your position as role model/citizen?

      I mean, you were there at the club. Or was it ‘this place has great burgers and beer club’ with a show on the side? :)

      1. Cheryl*

        I get what he is saying because in his role as a worker in that group home, he was a model of a functional, responsible adult. And being seen in a strip club by a client would go against that professional persona.

  15. Tex*

    My gut feeling is that the boss’s worst fear is not that you know but that you may be indiscrete and he consequently loses respect/gets a reputation in the office. You’ve told us that what happens outside the office stays there but he hasn’t heard that reassurance. I’d be short and to the point with him. The problem with cracking a joke is that if he sees you being cavalier about it, he might think that you might not think it a big deal to share it with others.

  16. MR*

    I don’t think the boss is upset about this situation, because after all, it would be pretty hypocritical for the boss to be mad at the OP for being there…yet OK for the boss to be there.

    So, I wouldn’t worry about this situation. Just focus on your work and what you need to do to get your job done, and you should be fine. Good luck!

  17. Beth*

    I ran into coworkers at a porn flick once. Not quite as bad as it sounds but still embarrassing. It was at a revival of 3-d movies from the 70s at an artsy theater in dc. I mumbled something about the innovative cinematography (trying to fill the silence, but just making an incredibly awkward situation even more so) and then fled. Thankfully things got back to normal at the office fairly quickly though other than fending off would be suitors for a bit…..

  18. Josh S*

    I’m wondering if the OP didn’t “out” the boss, and that’s the source of the discomfort.

    Maybe I’m reading it wrong, but OP is female and went to a strip club. Were the, um, performers male at this club?

    If so, and the boss was seen going into a male stripper place, perhaps he feels “outed” as gay?

    Nobody else has hit on this, so maybe I’m reading it wrong…

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