update: when a married client brings his mistress to dinner

Remember the letter-writer whose married client brought his mistress to a business dinner? Here’s an update.

I wish I had a happier ending to this story, but for right now, I don’t.

After our work event that involved the client who brought his mistress, I took a lot of the feedback from your readers into consideration for planning future events. Unfortunately, the powers that be essentially laughed at me for the suggestions (red flag #1) on how to word future invitations and how we should handle situations like this if they arise again. We have hosted similar events since the one I originally wrote about and thankfully, no one has brought their mistress/significant others to any of the events. We did have some people at the events who misbehaved in other ways, including insulting gay team members and telling us what they felt a woman’s role in life should be (i.e. a sexual object). Red flag #2.

The silver lining is that the events will come to a halt next year because our division of the company is closing soon (red flag #3). Luckily, I am being shuffled to a new team so I will have a job, which I’m grateful for. I’m continuing to look for external opportunities (as I have been for months). Meanwhile, I’m excited about joining a new team and taking on new responsibilities and best of all, not having to plan events where people act like jerks.

Thanks to you and all of your readers for weighing in on my question. It really helped me to see this situation from many different perspectives.

One more thing to add to this story: Since the original event where the client brought his mistress, I haven’t seen or heard from him since. I’ve asked around the team for updates on him, and basically, we didn’t continue doing business with him. I’m not sure of the details, and if it was a mutual parting or his choice.

{ 24 comments… read them below }

  1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    We once worked with a guy who had a wife AND a girlfriend — and he took “the other woman” to office events.
    It was AWKWARD.

    Then – after his divorce went through – he had two girlfriends — his first one (reference “the other woman” above) and one IN THE OFFICE! It was only a matter of time before he got caught in that one.

    I will not mention the nicknames that we had for this guy. Use your imagination.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Reminds me of an actual rejected Burma-Shave sign set (it may have been used once and withdrawn — for those of you who are too young to remember – Burma-Shave sign sets existed on the sides of American roads from the 1930s until the early 1960s =

        IN HIS LIFE
        SAID “GO ON HOME”

  2. FX-ensis*

    Not your business, OP.

    Is it unethical conduct? yes. :)

    but then managers are only human, and even if they act properly at work, doesn’t mean they do so at home, or in their personal lives. No human is perfect, after all. I used to be a Christian, but then even now I think one of the best things Jesus ever said in the Gospels was “Let he without sin….” It may seem like a ramble, but then I don’t think it’s a subordinate’s place to judge or condemn, unless it affects his or her work or that of the organisation.

    1. D*

      I have to agree. I don’t condone this behavior at all, but it really sounds like a pathetic attempt at getting attention (a la mid-life crisis) and showing off. Surely, they could have held out for a few hours; it would have been easy enough to keep things under wraps. It’s tacky as heck and, as AAM says, a good story for later. If I was being romanced by someone the last place I’d want to go is a corporate event. Geez.

      I’m sure that there’s people who were making money off this guy who didn’t want to rock the boat. But, that’s all a moot point now.

      1. Stephanie*

        If I was being romanced by someone the last place I’d want to go is a corporate event. Geez.

        Ha, right? “Hey, honey, want to come to a dinner at a steakhouse–the company budget won’t cover filet mignon, by the way— and make small talk about the weather with strangers for a few hours?”

    2. Lamb*

      Kind of confused what you’re referring to since OP did not write about a manager’s unethical conduct.
      Also, even if we agree that it is not the OP’s place to judge how any client conducts their personal life, part of the issue in the original letter was that the client brought the “special friend” to an event where other clients who bothered to ask had been told they could not bring a +1. Were I another client at the event who had been told to leave the SO at home, I would assume that Mr. Special Friend had been told differently and was therefore more valued by OP’s company, rather than that he was a clod.

      1. D*

        Maybe the client with a special friend didn’t get the memo, or chose to ignore it, or the higher ups of the company throwing the event don’t care or encouraged him. No matter, he’s still an doo-doo head, and the OP shouldn’t worry about it too much. Decorum at these sorts of things forces you to just let her attend, rather than cause a scene or a guest embarrassment. I think that others invited probably thought he was kind of an ass as well. If another client was miffed because they couldn’t bring a guest, then it’s not really the OP’s problem, or the OP can just politely infer that he is an ass (if he or she was stuck explaining the situation).

        Some people who attend corporate events or travel for work think it’s sort of a free-for-all.

      2. Jazzy Red*

        Well, once I saw them acting all kissy-face and octopus-hands at a BUSINESS FUNCTION, I would have been uncomfortable. This is in addition to the guy just showing up with his bimbo.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        If it’s a client – it makes the situation uncomfortable, but also somewhat unavoidable.

    3. Various Assumed Names*

      It is her business if she’s concerned about who her company associates with. If he’s got such bad judgment as to bring a mistress to a business dinner, in what other areas is he showing such arrogance and indiscretion? Associates can impact your business and may not be with the risk for short term profits. After all, when Enron went down, they took Anderson with them.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Quibble: Arthur Andersen wasn’t just collateral damage, their shady bookkeeping (at the behest of their clients, yes, but still illegal and unethical) enabled Enron and other companies to get away with the shenanigans that led to Enron’s downfall. The OP and her company are tolerating minor ethical violations, not enabling fraud. I do agree that that’s still a client with which one should choose not to do business, though.


        1. Various Assumed Names*

          My point was just that the integrity of your business associates matters. Whether you consider the client’s behavior a minor ethical violation, a major moral breach, or neither, it points to seriously bad judgment. And bad judgment can lead to ethically bankrupt decisions that can take down a whole company (or more).

          But I agree with your point that Anderson was not innocent in the Enron case. I could just as easily say that when Anderson went down, they took Enron with them. (And Worldcom and others, I think?)

    4. annonymouse*

      In the original post the OP said they were trying to keep their moral feelings out of it and also mentioned how it was inappropriate for the client to bring a guest as it wasn’t that kind of event and space was limited.

      This is exactly like bringing a date to a wedding without having plus one on the invite or checking if it is ok – A MAJOR faux paus.

      Hence why their first solution was to change the wording of the invites so only the clients would be invited.

      Also letting clients or other staff insult a persons sexuality and say women are only good for one thing? Not smart. Opens up sexual harassment problems.
      Even if it’s “Oh client Phil / manager Brian was just drunk – he didn’t mean it” they’re allowing an unhealthy environment to grow.

      Anyone of integrity will not want to work with a client that thinks like that or have a good relationship with a coworker or manager they can’t respect.

  3. kozinskey*

    This sounds like a company with a culture that’s at best unpleasant, and maybe even toxic. Very “old boys’ club,” I think. If it were me, I’d be jumping ship ASAP. For your sake, OP, I hope the transfer works out and you don’t have to be around jerk clients anymore. This whole thing leaves a really bad taste in my mouth.

    1. RVA Cat*

      Yeah it sounds like something out of Mad Men, or one of those Wall Street scandals where they had the “boom boom room”….

  4. Scott M*

    Reminds me of the traditional Royal Navy toast “To Wives and Sweethearts (may they never meet)”

    1. Chinook*

      “traditional Royal Navy toast “To Wives and Sweethearts (may they never meet)””

      I am proud to say that they refer to this toast in the modern Canadian Navy to get a chuckle (atleast in fron of the wives and sweethearts) before using a more appropriate one (which I can’t remember because it is no where near as whitte but it was gender inclusive)

      1. Carrington Barr*

        The new Saturday toast is a bland “Our Families”.
        IMHO, they should have just changed it to *spouses* and sweethearts. ;)

        I was always much more a fan of Thursday’s “To a bloody war or a sickly season” (to free up room for promotions) than the new “Our navy”. Laaaaaaaaaame.

  5. Milos*

    Sounds like a gem of a place to work at. Glad you are on your way “out” as you look for more a definitive and complete way out. Good luck!

  6. Twentymilehike*

    ahh, I worked for a man like this once. He had lots of girlfriends over the years, and his wife knew about most of them. She chose not to be involved in the business and when he travelled for work he brought a girlfriend instead. The rest of us could only go on with our work and roll our eyes at each other when the girlfriend showed up. It made work weird sometimes, but all the staff were in the same boat, we liked working with each other, and you get really good at making lemonade after a while.

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