my coworker had an affair with a colleague’s husband, and now is treating her badly at work

A reader writes:

I started out at my company in a junior position three years ago and recently became a supervisor. I have a couple friendships with coworkers that started when I was junior and that I’ve continue to foster, but those friends are not on my team/my direct reports.

One of my friends, Jane, confided in me (as a friend) that her husband of a decade, Fergus, had an affair with our coworker Angela. Angela is one of the three supervisors in my department, including me, but is not Jane’s supervisor. Fergus works for our company but for a different department.

Jane and Fergus are now getting a divorce. Angela and her fiancé have called off their wedding and have broke up. I am not postive that something is still happening between Angela and Fergus, but there is evidence to suggest that there is. I am livid with Angela for letting this happen. Jane is (obviously) struggling at work when a supervisor on the floor who she has to see has every day had an affair with her husband. Between that and the impending divorce, she is going through a lot and her productivity at work has really suffered. She has not told anyone else at work about this and is of the mindset that it is no one else’s business, she doesn’t want the drama, and she doesn’t want people to look at her any differently. She only told me as a friend. She’s never confronted Angela.

Jane applied for an internal job that would have been on the same pay/responsibility scale as a supervisor. Angela said that Jane was not qualified, and her stance led to Jane being passed over on Angela’s word alone. But then Angela applied for the job herself and now it is looking like she might get it.

Recently management asked us three supervisors who would like to attend a charity event for our team. I mentioned that Jane and I would like to attend since we had previously volunteered to be on the board of that charity but they were not looking for volunteers at the time and had asked us to keep in touch. Angela told the manager that Jane should not go because her productivity levels in the past few months haven’t been great and she didn’t deserve it (which they haven’t but … come on!).

Our new manager has recently been brought in and seems to be really looking at Angela very favorably. Angela views herself as perfect and goes out of her way to boost herself up and put others down. She has admitted the affair to me (again, as a friend) but has told me she’s “moved on from it and doesn’t need to beat herself up anymore.” Meanwhile, she and Fergus continue to talk and see each other at least socially.

The petty side of me would like to expose the situation to the manager to show Angela for who she really is. But I wouldn’t because at the end of the day, Jane asked me not to and I’ve known about it and did nothing as a supervisor so I understand I’m also at fault. But now with Angela talking Jane down to get in the running for the job Jane wanted, and talking her down about the charity event, I’m mad. Jane has done nothing wrong but approach this whole situation with more professionalism and class than Angela or Fergus did. Fergus even asked her to not tell anyone about the divorce because he didn’t want people to know, so she hasn’t. I can see the new manager starting to view Jane unfavorably due to what Angela is saying and it’s really starting to tick me off. Jane has been at the company for five years with no issues and high productivity and is a favorite coworker amongst all our staff. Her only performance problems have been in the past few months but the new manager is saying she must be “disengaged and done with working here,” based on what Angela is telling her when that’s not the case and she doesn’t know the full story.

At what point do I have an obligation to say something? I don’t want to overstep what was told to me as a friend, or ruin my professional relationship with a fellow supervisor who I will be working with for a long time. My new manager also doesn’t know me well enough to know I’m not just gossiping. Or, alternatively, do I stop excusing Jane’s low productivity as I might be biased?

I think you have an obligation to speak up now. You’re in a management position and you know that a fellow manager is behaving unethically toward an employee.

This isn’t about gossiping or talking sides. It’s about alerting your manager that someone on her team has a terribly messed-up dynamic with someone else on her team, and that she’s allowing her bias to interfere with work decisions. (And the part about trash-talking Jane to get her removed from the running for a job that Angela herself wants is particularly outrageous.)

I know that Jane talked to you in confidence, but she’s put you in a very awkward position at work — you’re seeing things as part of your job that you know are unethical, and you need to be able to speak up about that. So ideally you’d talk to Jane and say something like, “I know that you don’t want to share what happened with anyone at work, but I’m in a really awkward position now that I know — because I’m seeing clearly biased behavior from Angela that I have an obligation to talk to (manager) about. At this point I feel like I need to talk with (manager) about what I’m seeing, but I promise you that I’ll be as discreet as I can and stress that you didn’t want to share this with anyone.”

And then talk to your manager and say something like this: “I need to pass along to you something that I think is important so that you’re aware of something that’s having a harmful impact on our team. Both Jane and Angela have confided in me that Angela recently had an affair with Jane’s husband. Jane and her husband are now divorcing as a result. I’m telling you this not to gossip but because I’m concerned about Angela’s behavior since. She pushed for Jane not to get a promotion that she applied for — the same job that she’s now applying for herself. She’s taken other actions against Jane, like saying she shouldn’t be allowed to go to the charity event. I’m concerned there are real ethical issues here — and that given the recent history between them, Angela should not have a say in Jane’s professional opportunities.” You could add, “I feel uneasy about sharing this since Jane has stressed to me that she doesn’t want to cause any drama at work, but as a supervisor, I felt I had an obligation to let you know what I’m seeing.”

There’s some risk to you in doing this. If your manager is good, she should understand exactly why this is a big deal and will be horrified at Angela’s behavior. But if she’s not a good manager, there’s some risk that she’ll think you’re stirring up drama, or that you’re biased against Angela, or who knows what else. And even if she’s good, she’ll still need to do some investigation — she can’t just take you at your word and not talk with anyone else. So that means that some amount of drama is likely to ensure. But that drama is caused by Angela, not you or Jane … and frankly, plenty of drama is already happening anyway, and drama in the name of setting this right is a better choice than the current drama of Angela destroying Jane’s life.

That said, you also could choose to stay out of this entirely if you want. I think you have an obligation to speak up when you see this kind of wrongdoing — and it’s important to note that isn’t just about a private affair; it’s about a supervisor behaving horribly unethically. But there’s an argument to be made that Jane is your friend, she’s asked you not to act, and it should be her call whether or not you do, since she’s the one suffering. I’d argue that Angela has made it your company’s business by her post-affair treatment of Jane at work. But some of this is about your own weighing of Jane’s request, your friendship with her, your sense of your obligations as a supervisor to report work problems, and your sense of what your new manager is like.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 707 comments… read them below }

  1. Hills to Die on*

    OMG speak up! You cannot allow this continue and it isn’t about being petty; it’s about not allowing bad people to continue to behave in an abusive manner towards others.

    1. Emi.*

      Yeah, this is not about getting revenge on Angela because she’s mean. It’s about preventing a terrible supervisor from unethically sabotaging someone’s career.

      1. Alli525*

        YES. It’s bad enough that Angela and Fergus had an affair that ended Jane’s marriage – now Angela’s trying to harm Jane’s job too? What a jerk.

      2. Obs*

        I don’t think anyone is suggesting this is about “getting revenge on Angela because she’s mean.”

        The dilemma is whether to honor Jane’s request for confidentiality versus the needs of the workplace.

        1. Candi*

          I think Emi is addressing a potential subconscious point that might be lurking around LW’s skull. And she’s right that, at this point, it’s about Angela being incredibly unprofessional.

          1. Annonymouse*

            OP you need to speak up.

            Angela is doing some serious damage in Jane’s professional life now because the new manager is taking her word as gospel without being aware of her bias.

            And also because Angela is a petty, petty person.

            You need to explain the situation to the boss so that they have the whole story.

            Angela interfered in Janes personal life which has lead to the break up of Janes marriage.

            Angela has not reacted well to this and has since then started to see Janes professional relationship to her with this bias.

            Considering this I think it is fairest for all involved if Angela is not a part of assessing Jane as she is unable to give an unbiased view.

    2. Helpful*

      Yes, speak up. If Jane were fired, wouldn’t you wish you had?

      Also, it may be helpful information for the manager in assessing Jane’s declining work performance. Not an excuse, but an explanation.

      1. Jerry Vandesic*

        Angela needs to go. Speak up to management. Also, encourage Jane to find legal counsel to protect her from retaliation.

        1. Sarah M*

          I agree, Jane should absolutely seek counsel at this point. And when speaking to Upper Management should approach this from a “this is creating potential liability issues for the company” standpoint. Because it is.

            1. sap*

              In some jurisdictions, straight women harassing straight women over a matter of sexual competition may constitute sexual harassment. There are a lot of extra details that we don’t know (and don’t need to know) that would clarify whether this would be such a situation.

              1. sap*

                To be clear, I’m specifying two straight women to make it clear that sexual harassment doesn’t require either a real or perceived potential for sexual attraction on the part of the harasser to the harasser, not because other orientations and genders can’t be in sexual competition with eachother–it would be totally possible for a lesbian to sexually harass a straight guy that was involved with a woman she liked, etc.

    3. Engineer Girl*

      It’s about more than that. Angela is discriminating against Jane based on her marital status and also her gender. This could open the company up legally. Angela is also self dealing, which is usually viewed as bad ethically.
      As a supervisor, I’d say you’re obligated to report this and also loop in HR.
      Please talk to Jane first about this (she is your friend!) but let her know that you’re unable to let things stand.

      1. LSP*

        Not to mention, if Angela is being so cavalier about her affair with a married co-worker and her treatment of Jane, it raises serious concerns about her judgement and actions in other areas. Someone who not only participates in an affair, but then does further, professional damage to the already injured party of the affair? That’s someone with a broken compass.

        1. anon as always*

          Not to mention that as Angela is treating this situation so cavalierly, it raises the questions of what havoc she’ll raise in the department in the future. I firmly believe that mistakes can be forgiven and not held as a guide for future actions. This behavior is not a mistake though; it is a person showing exactly who she is and showing that her character is very questionable as is her judgment. Angela is a liability and it should be expected that this lack of character will come up again.

          1. Safetykats*

            This. Because anyone who thinks that Angela is not going to do this again – with another coworker or spouse – hasn’t worked with this type of person. Without intervention, this behavior is most likely going to repeat until it goes seriously awry, and the company is dealing with an actual lawsuit or enforcement action.

            1. Julia the Survivor*

              It may not be about marriage in the future either. She sounds like she has no ethics at all and will be destructive and abusive in every situation.
              I’ve seen several people like this in my life, and they seem to have a magical ability to fool managers – managers think they’re wonderful and to everyone else they’re a nightmare.

      2. Liane*

        If OP’s company has an Ethics Department/Hotline, OP should go there if she worries her manager may not handle this well (a possibility as OP’s boss is new and likes Angela) or if she does tell HR &/or her manager and they can’t/won’t help.

        Ethics people can move **fast**. I have mentioned before that a good friend had to call his company’s ethics line and in under 24 hours the guilty parties were dealt with severely, including 1 immediate firing

    4. Kelly AF*

      I think that there is a way to bring this up without revealing the affair, if that’s really important to Jane and therefore to you, LW. I might also disclose my friendship with Jane, if I were you – if only to avoid looking as though you were attempting to hide a bias, should it come out later.

      Please also remind Jane there is nothing shameful about being cheated on. It in no way reflects poorly on HER.

      1. SpiderLadyCEO*

        I agree! I think you can go to your boss and mention that Angela is treating Jane unfairly and spreading rumors, WITHOUT mentioning the infidelity.

        Although to be honest, you might want to. Maybe just give Jane a heads-up first?

        1. Anonymoose*

          But the affair is showing the beginning of her underhandedness. If Angela treated Jane like crap before the affair, sure. But the affair shows bias on Angela’s part (also that she’s a petty little witch).

      2. qvaken*

        I agree with you re: the possibility of mentioning that there’s a problem without outright revealing the affair. I think that it’s relevant to make the manager aware that Angela and Jane have a personal situation going on between each other recently that may be influencing Angela’s professional opinion of Jane, and that this same situation is causing Jane to go through a really hard time at the moment. If the manager asks for more details then my approach would be to answer carefully but truthfully, so giving Jane a heads up would still be a good idea.

        I suppose that OP’s dilemma is that there’s a risk of making things worse for themselves (and for Jane?) by saying something. Any of Jane, Angela or the manager, or all three, might end up feeling (unfairly) angry with OP if they get involved. If there are no consequences for Angela after OP gets involved, then she may choose to react by ramping up her sabotaging behaviour against Jane. On the other hand, even with the risk of negative reactions (which are other people’s responsibility, not OP’s) then OP might want to prioritise their own integrity and doing what they believe is the right thing to do.

    5. Clorinda*

      There are some secrets that a person cannot keep. It’s like being a mandated reporter. If you know someone is doing something that is unethical AND that leaves the company open to liability, you have an obligation to report even if you made a personal promise not to; if things go sideways (more than they already are) and Jane gets a lawyer, OP will be in trouble for standing by and doing nothing.

  2. soz*

    Is there an extra ‘not ‘ in this sentence in the second paragraph?
    Angela is not one of the three supervisors in my department, including me, but is not Jane’s supervisor

    1. Murphy*

      Yeah, I’m confused by that as well. Angela is a supervisor according to the rest of the letter, but I’m unclear about which department she’s in.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, there was an extra not in there! Angela is one of the three supervisors in the department, but not Jane’s supervisor. I had edited that sentence for clarity and introduced an error.

  3. fposte*

    Is there maybe a misplaced “not” in the sentence in the second paragraph, “Angela is not one of the three supervisors in my department, including me, but is not Jane’s supervisor”? It sounds like Angela *is* one of the three supervisors and outranks Jane.

    And general condolences on the mess, OP. I will say to Jane that it’s her prerogative to talk about the divorce as much as she damn pleases whether Fergus likes it or not.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      That’s how I was reading it.

      And seriously. Jane was wronged and if she *wants* to talk about what happened, she has no obligation to protect Fergus or Angela.

    2. Snark*

      It sounds like Angela is a supervisor, but not Jane’s supervisor, and not one of the three supervisors in Jane’s department. It sounds like OP is one of the three.

      1. JessaB*

        She may not be Jane’s supervisor but her word is good enough to screw up Jane’s career. This is NOT good. If management values Angela’s word more than the word of Jane’s direct supervisor, Angela comes out as Jane’s de facto supervisor. Doesn’t matter if it’s not official. Angela needs to be stopped, or Jane needs to get out from where Angela can influence people about her. And it should be Angela getting penalised here not Jane. Angela is behaving outrageously.

        1. Esme*

          But what if Jane truly is unqualified and perhaps should not be attending the charity event because of productivity issues? Should Angela not be honest about Janes deficiencies? Besides, isn’t the affair over?
          I feel like some of the overwhelmingly negative reaction toward Angela can be attributed to Americans’ puritanical attitudes toward sex. I feel like it’s a huge leap to assume that Angela is sabotaging Jane vs giving honest feedback on an employee who is not performing up to par. Commenters seem to me to be leaping to conclusions when we really don’t have sufficient information to reach

          1. Fiennes*


            “Americans’ puritanical attitudes to sex”? You seriously think no one could object to this situation otherwise? Well, I don’t know your nationality, but their attitudes toward basic professionalism must be pretty lax. If you have a strong personal connection to someone that *could* bias your judgement of them, you absolutely must disclose that before recommending them for work or (especially) for discouraging their employment or promotion. Angela’s judgment of Jane cannot be assumed to be in good faith—and, given her concealment of this major fracas between them AND her going out of her way to run Jane down, deliberate bad faith seems very likely.

          2. Elspeth*

            Jane was, per OP, a very good worker – it’s only in the last couple of months she’s lost focus because of the affair and divorce. It’s not Angela’s place to put the kibosh on Jane attending the charity event, nor trying to get her out of the running for the open position – especially since Angela has now thrown her hat into the ring for that same position. Talk about conflict of interest! The outrage has nothing to do with any “puritanical” attitudes – it has to do with a manager clearly attempting to sabotage Jane’s job!

          3. qvaken*

            I agree that there’s extra negativity towards Angela in this comments section due to her behaviour in having an affair with a married man. I’d argue that that’s more to do with sexism than with general puritanical attitudes given that there hasn’t been similar outrage at Fergus for his part in the affair and how that has negatively impacted on Jane’s work. I also agree that it’s possible – perhaps not likely, but possible – that Angela is giving accurate criticisms of Jane’s work, or that she’s trying to.

            However, there’s a conflict of interest in Angela commenting to management about Jane’s work. It doesn’t sound as though she’s disclosed that conflict to management, and she obviously hasn’t made the decision on her own to bow out of supervisor-talk about Jane’s work. Even if she were trying to be as fair and honest about Jane’s work as possible, that’s anywhere from extremely difficult to impossible for her to do because of her personal situation with Jane. So that’s where I think that she’s doing the wrong thing to the extent that it’s management’s business to know about it.

            1. Liz*

              Fergus and Angela may have destroyed Jane’s marriage. Fergus isn’t trying to destroy Jane’s career.

  4. Marillenbaum*

    Hooooooo boy. That’s a doozy. OP, I can understand your reluctance to bring this up, but I have to say I agree with Alison here: Angela is misusing her position to hamper Jane’s professional life, and it needs to stop. This kind of bias and mistreatment is wrong on its own, it sets a bad example for all the direct reports, and poisons the culture of the office. She has got to go, and hopefully is never in a position to manage other people again.

    1. MoinMoin*

      Yep. “[…]plenty of drama is already happening anyway, and drama in the name of setting this right is a better choice than the current drama of Angela destroying Jane’s life.” really hits the nail on the head.

    2. CmdrShepard4ever*

      To play devils advocate is Angela really misusing her position though? OP did state that Jane’s productivity has really suffered, isn’t that a viable reason to say someone is not qualified for a promotion and for attending a charity event. Also Angela is not the one ultimately making the decision she is just giving input into the situation.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, because she has a strong personal bias that she hasn’t disclosed. It would be like pushing for your husband to be hired without disclosing that he’s your husband. Or, to make it more relevant, pushing for your husband’s ex-wife to be fired without disclosing the relationship. When you have a clear and obvious bias — or when you will be perceived as having a clear and obvious bias — you have to disclose it.

        1. LSP*

          Exactly. Angela might be correct in her assessment of Jane’s work, but as soon as Angela inserted herself into Jane’s personally life by sleeping with Jane’s husband, she lost her right to have a say in Jane’s professional life. Because the manager doesn’t know about the affair, she doesn’t have all the information she needs to usefully weigh Angela’s comments with everything else she knows about Jane’s work.

        2. TootsNYC*

          And, the manager already knows about Jane’s productivity issues.
          They’re not a secret, and the manager can/should deal with them directly.
          And the manager can decide whether those recent problems are pertinent to the question at hand.

          The problem is that Angela is INSERTING herself into decisions to advocate against Jane.

          If I were the OP, I’d go to Jane and say, “I believe you need to give this info to the manager yourself. You -are- having productivity problems, which makes you vulnerable, and you would do yourself a service if you told the manager you’re in the middle of some personal difficulties that are making this a little harder for you. Tell him!
          “Because as a manager, I can’t sit quietly by and see Angela torpedo you like this. It’s not good for the company.”

          1. Elizabeth West*

            The problem is that Angela is INSERTING herself into decisions to advocate against Jane.

            YES YES YES. This is a huuuuuge problem and could potentially cause serious harm to Jane’s career, and the company, if it turns out to lead into any legal liability (don’t know; I am not a llama).

        3. Chinook*

          Thank you for summing this up without commenting on the morality of Angela’s choices. If I were in OP’s shoes, I would need a way to explain the issue that takes away the value judgement but still shows that Angela’s actions are wrong from a business perspective otherwise I could see the discussion getting sidetracked.

      2. Hills to Die on*

        No, she is using her standing at the company to enact a personal vendetta, misrepresenting a situation by not providing full context, and possibly also discriminating (as Engineer Girl points out). She should be objective and advocating for the needs of the company but is instead heavily biased and invested only in herself, and doing so in an abusive manner.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I am not a lawyer but from what I see it nothing really falls under the umbrella of illegal discrimination, marital status is not a protected class. From my understanding for it to be gender discrimination Angela would have to discriminate against Jane because she is a women, in this situation it is more likely Angela is doing bad things (discriminating against Jane) because she is the ex-spouse of Fergus.

          1. Rainy*

            Marital status or spousal affiliation are protected classes in 22 states, so it is pretty much as likely as not that LW is in a state where marital status is a protected class.

            Google: it is your friend.

            1. SCD*

              Can you argue tortious interference? Angela’s fully trying to damage Jane’s professional reputation and is most certainly interfering in Jane’s ability to make a living. I don’t know if it applies to two people within the same company, though. Regardless, it definitely falls under the EEOC guidelines for workplace harassment.

              I doubt either Jane or OP will need to escalate it to legal proceedings- any good manager would be completely alarmed by this behavior and quickly work to rectify this situation.

              1. Rainy*

                Re any good manager: yes, exactly.

                It would be a pretty dire world if only things that rise to the level of illegality could be stopped in the workplace. It’s not illegal to, for example, be “unmanaged out” because your boss is threatened by you (to take the example of a recent letter), but it sure is bad management for a manager to do it, and for their manager to wink at it!

      3. Cyberwulf*

        It’s suffering because Angela and Fergus fucked around behind Jane’s back and blew up her marriage. Angela used to have a chump fiance and a fuck buddy, now she has neither because Jane asked for a divorce.

        1. AKchic*

          We can almost guarantee that Fergus and Angela are still banging. C’mon, Fergus no longer has Jane at home to hide from, and Angela no longer has the chump fiancé to hide from. Yes, the thrill of star-crossed, illicit meet-ups is gone, but now they get to bump uglies whenever they want, without worrying about their actual partners calling, texting, or stumbling upon their half-clothed bodies.

          1. AnonEMoose*

            Unless, of course, the “thrill of the forbidden” was the whole basis for the affair in the first place. Chances are they’re still involved, but it’s possible things have already imploded. Or that the reality of dealing with Fergus day to day is beginning to sink in, and it’s not nearly as much fun as Angela thought it would be.

            But regardless of what she is or isn’t currently doing with Fergus, Angela has shown herself to be a vindictive, unethical, nasty piece of work. She should not be in a management position, in my opinion, and she definitely shouldn’t be inserting herself into decisions regarding Jane.

            OP, please speak up. If this comes out through other means, and it also comes out that you knew and said nothing…the fallout could be very, very not pretty. One of the hard things about being a manager, I think, is figuring out when your obligation to the company supersedes your responsibility to a friend. I think this is one of those times. It sucks, but I think it needs to be done.

            I think you could ask the manager to be as discreet as possible in handling this, citing that you don’t want to make things worse for Jane. But there’s probably only so much that can be done, unfortunately.

      4. Anony*

        It sounds like regardless of Jane’s performance, Angela should not be the one to evaluate her because she is biased. Jane’s actual supervisor should be the one evaluating her since presumable she has the most information about Jane’s performance and the least bias (as opposed to the OP who is her friend and Angela who had the affair). If the OP doesn’t want to talk to the manager, maybe she could at least talk to Angela about how inappropriate it is for her to block career opportunities for Jane given the circumstances and that she should step back and defer to Jane’s supervisor.

        1. Amy*

          I would think it’s not even a good idea to ask someone for an opinion who is also applying for the job regardless of the personal stuff. I couldn’t tell if she applied before or after she gave the bad recommendation to Jane but either way it would make me side eye what she had to say.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            From my understanding Angela gave her negative opinion of Jane before Jane applied for the job herself. I would imagine at that point a good manager would question the previous assessment given my Angela.

        2. a1*

          It sounds like regardless of Jane’s performance, Angela should not be the one to evaluate her because she is biased.

          Exactly. Speaking up isn’t about excusing Jane’s performance issues (although it may help there, too), it’s to deal with Angela’s biased and unethical behavior at work.

      5. Temperance*

        Yep. She used her influence and position to destroy Jane’s chance at a promotion solely because Angela decided to have relations with Jane’s husband.

        Angela isn’t giving all of the pertinent information. Sure, Jane’s work has suffered, but it’s because of Angela’s actions, which I bet she isn’t disclosing when she slags off on Jane!

      6. Anna*

        Jane’s performance has suffered because of a situation created by her ex and Angela, and now Angela is using that against Jane. It seems more than a little self-serving. Angela can’t be counted on to give an impartial analysis of Jane’s suitability for the promotion. If nothing else, Angela is making that clear.

      7. Jadelyn*

        Oh, come now. It’s transparently obvious that the “legit” issues with Jane’s productivity are a smokescreen for Angela’s personal vendetta and misuse of authority. Not to mention, if Jane’s productivity has suffered, it’s specifically a problem with her performance that *Angela herself caused*. For Angela to then capitalize on that the way she has, means she’s basically setting Jane up to fail and then using that to take Jane down. Regardless of any specific issues with Jane’s performance, how is that ethical on Angela’s part?

        I mean, the devil has plenty of advocates out there, did he really need one here in this conversation?

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I do think what Angela is doing in harming Jane’s professional reputation is mean and unethical and she certainly is at fault for her treatment of Jane at work. But I don’t think you can blame her for for the decline in productivity, if anyone is to blame it is Jane’s ex-husband Fergus. Fergus is the one that cheated on Jane not Angela, granted Angela cheated on the fiance but Fergus did not cheat on the fiance. When it comes to cheating I’ve never understood blaming the other person/woman/man, it is your partner who chose to cheat.

          1. Temperance*

            Completely disagree. Angela and Jane have a working relationship. You can’t just separate the two. I mean, that’s straight up ridiculous. I’ll never understand the POV that the affair partner is blameless because they aren’t in the marriage. Angela is not an innocent bystander. She has her own relationship with Jane that she ruined by bedding Jane’s husband.

            Angela chose to have an affair with Jane’s husband. Angela and Jane work together. Angela is ahead of Jane in the org chart. All of these are relevant facts. It doesn’t matter that Angela wasn’t her romantic partner.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*


              It’s not right to place all the blame on the “other”, but they are certainly culpable if they knew they were getting busy with someone who was otherwise attached.

            2. CmdrShepard4ever*

              I agree Angela ruined her relationship with Jane by sleeping with Fergus, and Angela does share the blame for that. I will revise my comment above that Angela is blameless in the decline of productivity. That previous comment was based on assumption that the decline was all due to the divorce, but you are right the breakdown in the co-worker relationship would cause that as well.

              In my mind the affair partner is blameless because marriage/relationship is essentially a contract between two parties to be faithful etc but Angela is not a party to that contract and agreed to no such thing. But the biggest thing is that Angela could not have “cheated” by herself, Fergus chose to act on it. If Angela had some magic potion/spell that put Fergus under her control, or was blackmailing Fergus then Angela would be to blame.

              1. SpiderLadyCEO*

                The capping thing here is that Angela is bending over backwards to continue to be mean to Jane. Like, it’s not enough she was involved in the ruining of Jane’s marriage, she has to ruin her career, too.

                IMO the work sabotage is it’s own nasty thing, and even if there hadn’t been an affair, that warrants reporting. What if Jane’s husband had had an affair with someone not Angela, and Angela still treated Jane nastily? You would definitely report it then!

              2. tangerineRose*

                I don’t think Angela is blameless. I think that there is a certain expectation that people shouldn’t deliberately help others cheat on spouses (exception for open marriages).

                Then making it worse, Angela was sleeping with a co-worker’s husband when Angela interacts with the co-worker (still bad, but probably less awkward if they are in different buildings and never ever work together).

                1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  If people are in an open marriage and are within the parameters of the relationship it is by definition not cheating. That is not to say people in an open marriage can’t cheat, they certainly can, for example if one of the rules is only strangers and one person sleeps with someone in a friend group that cheating etc.

                  You say there are expectations that people shouldn’t deliberately help other cheat but based on the how often it happens ( I don’t have hard data) I would argue that isn’t true. Second just because people expect something doesn’t mean other have to follow and are wrong for not following. If I expect my coworkers to give me $1 every day that doesn’t mean that they have to do that and are wrong if they don’t.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              Yes Angela was involved in the relationship with Fergus, but Angela was not that one who agreed to be faithful to Jane, or to stand up at Jane and Fergus’s wedding and agree to never sleep with Fergus. You are right Angela should not get a pass for the horrible things she has said about Jane and keeping her from getting promoted that is all on Angela.

              I can imagine people might disagree with this next comment but if I leave my car running with the doors open and someone steals it is it my fault it was stolen? I would say no, it is 100% the fault of the person who stole the car. Yes I would be very stupid for doing that but it still would not be my fault.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                You know, I think there’s an argument to be made that in general, the cheating accomplice isn’t to blame; the cheater is. But these aren’t strangers; Angela is a supervisor in the department where her affair partner’s spouse works. They know each other. They work together. Angela is above her in the department hierarchy. That’s very, very wrong.

                1. JamieS*

                  I’m in that camp since I don’t think anyone can be responsible for someone cheating other than the cheater regardless of the relationship between the spouse and the cheating accomplice. I also think it’s a moot point under these circumstances. To me the questions aren’t who’s responsible for the breakup of Jane’s marriage or whether or not Angela’s assessment of Jane was factually correct (the letter gives me the impression it might be) but whether or not Angela should have influence over Jane’s career and that strikes me as a pretty solid no.

                2. MerciMe*

                  It seems very straightforward to me. If it is unethical for me to receive a gift/bribe, I can’t get around that by suggesting my spouse receive it instead. Likewise, if it is unethical for me to sleep with a close colleague, it is also unethical for me to sleep with that colleague’s spouse. This is not an unsolvable moral dilemma.

                3. Desdemona*

                  @JamieS, I agree with you on the score of the marriage itself, and that it’s unethical for Angela to be exercising influence over Jane’s career.

                  Angela’s betrayal isn’t that she helped Fergus cheat, but that she had a relationship with Jane independent of the affair. If a stranger has an affair with my hypothetical husband, it isn’t her fault I married a cheating douche. But my sister or best friend having the same affair is a double betrayal of my relationship with that woman. Someone who professes to care about me, and knows how devastating it will be for me if I find out, but goes ahead with it anyway doesn’t really care about me at all, and she goes into it knowing it absolutely will end her relationship with me, regardless of whether I forgive my husband. With a coworker, the moral culpability falls somewhere in between, but the affair certainly telegraphs that at best, Angela doesn’t care about Jane’s feelings. In fact, given the way Angela is now using the fallout of the affair to further bully Jane, if I were Jane, I’d be wondering if Angela targeted my husband just to strike at me.

              2. sap*

                There are all sorts of socially acceptable behaviors that become unacceptable when you’re doing them with a coworker or subordinate.

                Everyone agrees that it’s fine to have roommates, and almost everyone agrees that a boss should not rent a room to a subordinate except in limited circumstances because of the potential to disrupt the working relationship.

                Everyone agrees that it’s fine to hire babysitters, but most people agree that you should not hire a coworker to watch your daughter.

                That’s because there are certain types of perfectly morally acceptable and regular relationships that are also widely acknowledged to have a higher tendency to deteriorate in ways that make it very difficult for the two parties to be around each other, even in unrelated contexts.

                Sleeping with someone else’s spouse is one of those things. There doesn’t have to be a moral judgment attached to the sex itself for it to be true that, if the affair goes sideways, things will be difficult between the mistress and the wife, just like there doesn’t have to be a moral judgment attached to stating that if two roommates are constantly in conflict about how to make their home feel safe and livable, they may be annoyed with each other even when they’re not talking about the thermostat.

          2. Chalupa Batman*

            I would normally more agree with you than not, but Angela’s behavior has so much to do with the productivity drop that it’s different in my opinion. Angela is essentially taking advantage of the fact that Jane wants to keep this private to force her out. If everyone knew what happened, it’s likely Jane would get cut a little slack, and Angela isn’t going to come out looking like a very nice person. Instead of keeping things ultra professional and by the book (like someone who realized they had done something dumb and now wants to put it behind them), Angela has spotted and exploited a weakness in Jane: shame. Angela’s using the natural dip in productivity that comes from Jane’s marriage falling apart as a way to bring down her “adversary” because she thinks Jane’s too ashamed to stop her. Without that context, Jane’s just a slacker, and Angela knows it. She may not be responsible for the initial dip in productivity, but Angela is knowingly and intentionally turning it into a failure spiral because she’s seen that Jane won’t fight back, and that’s 100% on Angela.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              +100 for your name.

              You are right, I said this earlier, Angela does bear some blame for the productivity drop, at first I was seeing the productivity drop as only being cause by the divorce and the affair. But having to work with the person that your spouse cheated on you with would not be easy and definitely contributes to it, and Angela has compounded that with her behavior afterwards. I was also reacting to the broader issue of “the other person” often getting a lot of the blame for cheating when I think that aspect belongs to the spouse that cheated.

            2. Chinook*

              You hit the nail on the head with the word “shame.” Regardless of who is involved, the innocent spouse usually feels a sense of shame, which of course will affect your work life. The fact that one of the people involved is then using that shame for a situation that she created for her benefit makes it worse and, ironically, prpbably increases the feeling shame. My guess is that Jane’s feeling of self worth and competency is spiralling away from her even faster as she sees Angela benefiting more and more from the situation.

              1. PlainJane*

                Shame — and rage and hurt and probably 10 other emotions. Every time she sees Angela, it’s a reminder. For some of us, work is an escape from family drama. Jane has no escape. Her life has blown up, and one of the people responsible (though less culpable than her cheating husband) is under her nose and has power over her. I can’t imagine having to face that at work every day, let alone face it and try to be productive.

            3. Struck by Lightning*


              And good managers want to make informed judgements, which they can’t when they don’t know that a particular employee has a very legitimate excuse for a temporary decline in productivity and that another employee has personal reasons for pushing that person out.

          3. ket*

            If Jane has to see Anglea every day and knows Angela is negatively reviewing her at work I’m sure that hurts Jane’s productivity as well.

        2. Chinook*

          “Not to mention, if Jane’s productivity has suffered, it’s specifically a problem with her performance that *Angela herself caused*. For Angela to then capitalize on that the way she has, means she’s basically setting Jane up to fail and then using that to take Jane down.”

          Talk about the perfect, although morally evil, long term plan to get ahead in a company – sleep with a colleague’s spouse, get found out and then use their downward emotional spiral as an opportunity to make yourself look good professionally. This is cartoonishly evil.

      8. Julia*

        Isn’t this the psychological equivalent of, hm, running Jane over with a car and then telling others at work that Jane is in the hospital for too long?

        Angela’s actions caused Jane harm, so Angela should not report Jane for a drop in productivity right now.

      9. Wintermute*

        Jane isn’t handling this well and at the end of the day it’s on her to perform, if she’s not she deserves what she gets. It’s not out of line to say someone who is underperforming is not suitable for additional tasks, if a manager didn’t say that they’d be not doing their job properly.

        The issue is that Angela is going out of her way to insert herself. If Jane were Angela’s employee that would be different (and an entirely different ball of ethical worms*) but in this case the issue is she is going out of her way to interfere with another manager’s employee and sort of makes this… concern trolling might be a similar concept?

        She’s not REALLY concerned about Jane’s job performance, saying she is, is just a way to put the boot in on her former rival while appearing outwardly blameless. No one can BLAME a manager for raising work performance concerns, and no one would without having the additional context, but that’s just a pretext, the real motivation is far different.

        That’s why it’s appropriate to say something because without that additional piece of context, her motivations and the true depths of her ethical violations are well-hidden.

        *By that I mean a different ball of worms, regarding ethics. Not like, some exceptionally ethical worms. Nematodes that debate the Kantian ethics of being a parasite or earthworms that uphold rigorous moral standards, or that sort of thing.

  5. Mike C.*

    Yes, you need to stem this right now. It’s clear that Angela is acting vindictively and that needs to stop now.

  6. I'm A Little TeaPot*

    OP, speak up. Alison’s wording is great. Jane does not deserve this, Angela is out of line, and right now, you may be the only one who can tell your manager what’s going on.

  7. brandine*

    Could OP refer more generally to Angela’s bias or personal animus toward Jane and leave it at that? I get wanting to stress the inappropriateness of her behavior toward Jane, but leaving it meaningfully vague might be just as powerful without breaking her confidentiality with Jane…

    1. Hills to Die on*

      I feel like the employer needs to have the detail to lend weight to what the OP is saying and have the appropriate context. Angela could just say, ‘agree to disagree’ with the OP and tell leadership that she is being entirely objective. There’s no reason for them not to take that at face value without the added info of the affair.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, I think unfortunately the way to ensure that the manager understands the full horribleness of what Angela is doing is to explain the whole thing. Otherwise it may seem like a petty personal conflict — which some managers stay out of — and it’s not.

        1. JS*

          I disagree, not that I don’t think an affair is serious but I think any good manager would want to deal with any conflict their employees have which create a hostile or bad work environment, especially since one has more power than the other. I think only a bad manager would call a conflict that causes someone in a position of power to show bias as “petty”.

          I think OP could stress it is a serious situation that is causing Angela to show bias and tell the manager to confront Jane, Angela and Fergus about the particulars. That isn’t to say the manger wouldn’t find out from them, they likely would ask for details and learn the whole situation. But this way OP stays a neutral concerned employee rather than the friend who could be seen as gossiping and also allows Jane to control the narrative.

          1. Alli525*

            “Serious incident that has caused bias” sounds anodyne compared to “had affair with coworker’s husband and now, having helped destroy the marriage, is actively trying to destroy coworker’s career.” The affair and ensuing drama is absolutely essential to the story. And OP is a manager, not just a concerned employee – different set of ethical responsibilities.

            1. JS*

              Well the point here is to respect Jane’s wishes to release the information herself. Of course the details are going to bring color to the situation and add a different light. But it also a VERY important fact that OP is a friend of Jane and of Angela. Angela could claim that OP has bias against her and flip the story if OP doesn’t position this in a way to make it strictly about her concern for an ethical work environment in Angela’s treatment of Jane rather than getting in the details of the affair or timeline. It’s better if OP remains as removed from it as possible as it would only hurt Jane if Angela, who seems very manipulative and charismatic, were to sway OP manager and HR into believing her side based on a lie that OP is showing bias.

              Also I meant “employee” in reference to her bringing this up strictly in a work capacity rather than as a bias friend who is choosing sides.

              1. Mike C.*

                Jane doesn’t have standing to have her wishes respected when it interferes with work to this extent.

                1. JS*

                  I think the situation will have to come to light but that doesn’t mean OP has to reveal the details to the manager only let the manager know the bias they witness and allow the details to then come from Jane.

                  Also on another note, there is so many potential politics that could come into play. I have seen a similar situation occur where everyone, include the victim of the affair, were let go due to the scandal it caused. Jane might not be in a position where she can afford to lose her job or cause problems with her job. Might be a small industry, where world travels fast and Jane wants to leave the company anyway (because who wants to work with their no-good ex and coworker who cheated?) etc. If Jane is concerned about the optics, I think OP as a friend and a good supervisor should respect that as much as possible. However if Jane wants to stay, I agree the situation has to be revealed in order for her to get fair treatment and Angela’s unethical treatment to stop. My advice isn’t to keep this secret but just to let Jane control the messaging of the details as I think that would be best optics wise for both her and OP.

                2. Mike C.*

                  @JS Just because your management was too lazy and too draconian to deal with the issue properly doesn’t mean that unethical behavior shouldn’t brought up.

                  The details are important to give context to the conflict of interest – leaving it as some wishy-washy “personal conflict” makes it much more likely that some “both sides are bad, truth in the middle” response will come about, likely with those in management positions being given the benefit of the doubt.

                  Angela is making management decisions based on who she is sleeping with and who her current and former partners are or were sleeping with. That’s incredibly unethical and needs to be brought up immediately. And if the OP says nothing, Jane is likely to lose her job due to the escalation that seems to be going on.

                3. JS*

                  @Mike C.

                  The details are important, but they don’t become less important if OP doesn’t share them and Jane does, that’s the point. It would be VERY flippant for a manager, HR, etc, to write off OP saying “there is a very serious issue personal that is causing Angela as a supervisor to show bias to Jane” as “a petty squabble” or “fault on both sides so they should work it out”. Perhaps if Angela were Jane’s coworker and not supervisor maybe However in this scenario, even if it were a petty concern, and even if both were at fault HR should still be extremely concerned that a supervisor is showing bias. Also if HR were going to take it that stance of “a serious issue” as “petty” there is a super good chance they wouldn’t be as sympathetic to the affair as you think.

                  I am not saying that Angela shouldn’t be reported. I am saying that there are factors as I listed that in order to protect Jane, OP might not want to say anything. In an ideal world, OP could give details and Angela would be swiftly reprimanded and Jane’s rep restored with no consequences to her but we know nothing about their managers, HR, culture or industry. I am being a realist here by considering all possibilities what could be best for Jane. Ethically and morally I do agree, that OP needs to bring up Angela’s behavior.

              2. Luna*

                A potential issue with that approach is that Angela sounds like the type of person who would have no problem just lying if confronted. I think it is important for the OP to give the manager the details first so the boss knows what they are dealing with and it will be more difficult for Angela or Fergus to lie about it.

                Jane did say not to disclose this, but is Jane aware of what Angela is doing and saying about her? It sounds like Jane does not know this is happening and might feel differently once she finds out. OP, how will Jane feel if she gets fired because of what Angela says (or denied another promotion she wants, which has already happened once), and Jane later finds out that you knew and didn’t tell her as a friend or do anything to stop it as a manager?

                1. JS*

                  Agreed. I said in another comment Angela sounds manipulative but I think this is why its super important to keep out the details as Angela’s leg to stand on here lies in the fact that OP is biased as a friend of both of them, not that the situation didn’t happen. Jane and Fergus are getting a divorce, Angela’s fiance left her, it would be very dangerous for Angela and Fergus to double down on the lie. That would be easily disproved and they both would be fired for the obvious lie.

                  It’s far more likely Angela would take the stance OP is bias, taking Jane’s side and stirring up trouble as a busy body since they were able to keep the drama out of work until this point. LOL this may seem like I am thinking to much into this but the more I learn of Angela she reminds me of an ex-friend of mine and this is exactly how they would think. Not that Angela couldn’t create a lie regardless but more focus that is put on her actions against Jane in the workplace and the less OP seems involved in actual affair details means less wiggle room for her to tell a convincing lie about OP bias.

                  OP said in letter Jane is not aware of those things. I wrote in a different response further down OP needs to tell Jane so that Jane can then have the full picture which might make her want to speak up (I would be livid!).

                2. Luna*

                  @JS I would think that OP’s position as a friend of both Jane and Angela would remove the concern of bias. She is close enough with both of them that they both independently confided in OP about the affair. In a way this makes OP as close to a neutral source as possible for the manager to first get this information from, and she has heard both sides of the story.

                3. JS*

                  @Luna according to OP’s response to my later question she is no longer friends with Angela, which Angela could use to say that Jane is bias against her and chose sides.

              3. Genny*

                It sounds like you’re trying to protect Jane’s feelings (which is a good thing), but if I were Jane, it wouldn’t matter to me whether you told the boss the whole thing or vague details that then led her to talk to me for the specifics. The outcome is the same: my boss now knows the drama I was trying to keep hidden. Because of that, I recommend the OP be straightforward with the boss instead of making the boss play a game of 20 questions just to figure out anything more specific than “Angela is biased against Jane for serious reasons”.

                1. Matilda Jefferies*

                  Yes, I’m on Team Spell It Out as well. You can’t just dump this on someone else’s desk without any details, and expect them to follow up on it. It’s like grade school: “I know something you don’t know, and it’s important, and you need to act on it, but I can’t tell you what it is!”

                  They can’t act on it without knowing the details, and as Genny suggests here and Jadelyn below (1:01 pm), they’re going to be pretty annoyed at either having to drag the details out of OP, or walking into an explosive situation without knowing what it is. There’s no way OP comes out of this looking good, if she prioritizes her friendship with Jane over the business of the rest of the office.

              4. Wintermute*

                Consider that Jane DOES NOT know that this is going on in the background.

                I find it hard to believe that Jane will come to her furious saying “how dare you save my job and protect my professional reputation from being slandered?!” On the other hand if she says nothing… Jane would have every right to be upset.

                Jane said what she said without having all the facts in front of her.

              5. MerciMe*

                Didn’t Angela also gossip about it to the OP? Just frame it that way – “Hey, boss, Angela let slip to me that she had an affair with Jane’s ex that wrecked Jane’s marriage and I’d hoped they were both over it, but while Jane is acting really professional, I’m worried that it’s starting to look like Angela is actively sabotaging Jane and it’s making me super uncomfortable. I just thought you should know so you can keep an eye on things as Jane’s boss.”

          2. AKchic*

            Without the details, it really does just sound like a petty disagreement. Management would want them to “work it out” on their own if it were a petty disagreement. Angela and Fergus banging, causing Fergus and Jane to divorce, which causes Jane’s work to temporarily suffer while Angela purposely undermines Jane’s advancement/career opportunities is not a petty disagreement that can be “worked out”.

            1. JS*

              Thats why you stress its a serious situation but its not your place to say the details and the manager should discuss with Jane first. If you make it sound like a “petty disagreement” its going to come across that way. There are plenty ways of signaling “this is an important red flag” with tact without revealing the issue. I have done this many times in personal life as well as work when an issue came up that needed to be addressed but it wasn’t my place to be involved.

              1. Mike C.*

                I can’t imagine that anyone is going to believe or understand how serious it is until you mention the affair.

                1. JS*

                  There are PLENTY numerous amount of ways to express a grave situation without giving details. I can’t imagine anyone being that obtuse as to not pick up on that.

                2. JS*

                  @Mike C. That is a ridiculous statement to make. There are plenty of things that are “Not Your Business” to give the details on. And you and expressly say “There is a serious issue which is causing Angela to be unfair to Jane and misrepresent her work. I know the details but it is not my place to say so you need to speak with Jane. I am bringing this to your attention as it is an ethical concern of Angela’s management abilities but as this is a sensitive situation and they are both friends of mine, it is best I keep myself as removed as possible to maintain workplace integrity.” If someone gets “liar” or “idiot” from that then they are likely an idiot themselves.

            2. Mike C.*

              I could see someone bringing up “workplace mediation” if they continue along this sort of path. What a mess that would be.

              1. AKchic*

                Oh my… can you imagine if TPTB actually *did* make them sit through a workplace mediation because nobody wanted to actually come out and say that the whole reason they hated each other was because of the affair?

                “I’m sorry I don’t like you because you continually banged my husband after hours on your desk while I was at home waiting for him with his favorite meal while the two of you collected overtime pay. Would you consider yourself a paid prostitute since you got paid while being on your back?”

                Could you *imagine* the looks of shock on the mediators’ faces?! I would PAY to be in that room.

                1. Biff*

                  Anyone who promotes same-room mediation between people who aren’t peers deserves whatever they get. Seriously, I was offered to do same-room workplace mediation with a misogynistic, megalomaniac c-suite exec when I was an IC-1. The power imbalance was ridiculous and meant that nothing would get done.

                2. AKchic*

                  I’m sure Jane is too classy for that too, but my goodness I’d love to see it all the same. Just to see some comeuppance going towards Angela and Fergus (because in this scenario, I’d have Fergus right there too).

                3. Chinook*

                  Jane may sound too classy for that but everyone had a breaking point at which point the dams break lose and nothing is held back. Mediation would probably be it.

          3. crochetaway*

            I misread your first sentence and thought you were saying that you didn’t think an affair was serious and had a serious WTF moment, haha!

    2. SoCalHR*

      I agree, OP could say something more generic like “Angela initiated a personal conflict between her and Jane and is adding to that with her professional actions against her” or something similar that still highlights Angela’s fault in the personal situation but doesn’t specifically reveal the affair – although I think most of us would agree that sleeping with your coworker’s husband is a very egregious thing to do and it definitely speaks to Angela’s character more than a general “they’re having a conflict”.

      1. Snark*

        I think the whole situation needs airing out, including the affair. It’s critical to understanding the dynamic.

        1. Triumphant Fox*

          Agreed. The dynamic is so specific and no amount of vague “bad feelings” will convey “slept with husband resulting in divorce and calling off her own wedding.” I don’t think you can convey the gravity of the situation without giving specifics. The severity of this situation is both why it feels like it should be kept secret (it’s embarrassing, awful and taboo) and why it cannot be kept secret.

          1. Matilda Jefferies*

            Angela and Fergus are counting on Jane’s discretion (and OP’s) to continue to hide this affair. Of course nobody wants to talk about it! But there’s no way out of this for Jane, professionally at least, unless somebody in charge knows what’s going on and puts a stop to it. A bully’s best friend is silence.

        2. Decima Dewey*

          Jane may not want the drama of everybody knowing, but the drama has found her anyway. OP’s promise to Jane has to be broken in order to halt Angela’s actions. If TPTB don’t know that Jane’s productivity has suffered due to Angela’s actions, they’ll be inclined to believe Angela’s version of events. Speak up!

          1. JustaTech*

            And since Angela has *also* told the OP about the affair, it’s not like the OP only knows this from Jane. If the OP wanted she could maybe phrase the discussion with her manager around Angela telling her about sleeping with Jane’s husband, but that feels a little weasle-y towards Jane.

            1. sap*

              Frankly, Angela *bragging to people at Jane’s job that she slept with Jane’s husband* is worth bringing up to Angela’s manager. Even if Jane were continuing to be a rockstar employee with no productivity drop at all, that is a deeply inappropriate thing for a supervisor to be doing and it’s something that a reasonable boss would want to know about before promoting Angela.

      2. Mike C.*

        So as an HR person, when someone comes to you with a very serious concern about “conflicts of interest” and “intentional sabotage”, aren’t you going to ask about the nature of the conflict?

        How would you act if you were told “deep personal conflict” vs “the supervisor slept with the husband of the employee she keeps badmouthing”?

        1. JS*

          You would have to investigate either way as HR to get the whole story which would be revealed regardless. The difference is OP looks more involved in the situation knowing all the details as part of the drama rather than a concerned supervisor seeing unethical treatment if they kept the details to a minimum.

          1. Jadelyn*

            But the manner of the investigation and the approach you use would be different if you’re investigating “manager had an affair with employee’s husband and is now misusing authority to bully the employee” versus “manager and employee have a personal conflict”. One is a general “so tell me what brings you here today” kind of conversation, and the other is “tell me about X, Y, and Z.”

            And I have to say, as an HR person, if all I was told was “these two have a personal conflict, can you figure out wtf is going on so we can figure out wtf to do about it?” and I went into those conversations with Angela and Jane wide-open, only to be blindsided by “oh yeah btw Angela had an affair with Jane’s husband, which blew up the marriage and is what kicked off this whole sordid mess,” and I found out that the person who brought the issue to my attention had known that ahead of time and not disclosed it, I would have some Choice Words for that person, who withheld that minor detail from me and let me walk into the minefield without knowing what kind of mines I should be on the lookout for.

            1. SoCalHR*

              You would chew out a person for not giving you all the details of a *personal* event? That probably isn’t the best way to go, because what if that person really didn’t have the liberty to speak on the subject (which is what OP is saying). And getting yelled at for trying to, even subtly, help a situation is not the culture you want to create. That is why I suggested the wording I did, was to hint at a larger Angela-caused issue, if the OP felt uncomfortable specifically revealing it and then allow the manager/HR to dig into the dirt. More info is always helpful, but its just not realistic. People don’t like being tattle tails – some people clam up completely if they are forced into this option, and that is definitely not helpful.

              In HR – Minefields are part of the job!

              1. Jadelyn*

                I’m not talking “all the details” – I’m talking “sufficient details to know what I’m even dealing with here”. Those are two different things. Also, not saying “let me avoid the minefield completely” – trust me, pretty aware that minefields are A Thing We Deal With in HR – so much as “tell me roughly what shape and color the mines are so I know when I’m getting close to one”. You’re arguing based on a misrepresentation of what I said, which is not particularly helpful.

                1. SoCalHR*

                  You said you would have choice words for someone who didn’t give you all the details even if they knew more. I’m not seeing how that’s a misrepresentation. My counter point, is that the person may have legitimate reason to not give you all the details (which is parallel to this letter), and giving them “choice words” after the fact is not going to make them want to be open with you in the future.

                2. Mike C.*


                  If you cannot hold your employees to the simple standard of “report unethical behavior and don’t leave out important details”, then what sort of standard can you hold them to?

                  This is simply nuts. It’s not a simple “personality conflict”, it goes much, much deeper. The claim that this is “just a personal issue” stopped being correct when Angela above Jane in the org chart and had influence over business decisions regarding Jane.

                  Why are people being so passive and avoidant with this issue?!

              2. nonegiven*

                Op has an obligation to speak out, no matter what promise Jane has asked her to keep. Angela also told her about the affair, she doesn’t even need to mention that Jane told her, just that Angela is ethically challenged because she is now undermining Jane at work, after having an affair with Jane’s husband.

            2. JS*

              Its not OP’s responsibility to get into the details, the warning or heads up to you is bringing it to your attention. I think by not giving details everyone assumes you are speaking about it in a nonchalant way. You can definitely stress, This Is A Serious Situation That Is Very Sensitive And Messy, without disclosing details. That should be enough warning for you.

              At the end of the day personal life wise, it doesn’t matter what the conflict IS. It only matters that the conflict is not work related and causing a supervisor to lie and misrepresent an employees work. That is the main thing the job should be concerned with.

              1. Jadelyn*

                I disagree. I, again, am also not saying “get into all the sordid details”, just give the HR person enough background info so that they can deal with it effectively rather than blundering around in the dark. Why would you deliberately choose to hamper someone’s ability to help you with the situation? Because that’s what withholding the context of the problem when you bring it to someone’s attention would do.

                1. Mike C.*

                  It’s like saying your bumper got scuffed up in a fender bender, only to arrive at the scene of th accident to find that the bumper is indeed scuffed up and the car is on fire.

                  Everyone will think you’re either an idiot or more likely that you have something to hide. Why would you do that?

                2. JS*

                  You aren’t hampering anyone’s ability, HR would have to talk with everyone involved regardless. As I said the “why” isn’t important, there is no good reason no matter how big nor how small a manager should lie and misrepresent another employees work. They are going to find out the issue themselves but as OP is not a neutral 3rd party and was both their friends (not Angelas anymore after this) its best for OP to remain as removed as possible while also respecting Jane’s wishes.

              2. Mike C.*

                Yes, it is. There is serious, unethical behavior and everyone has a responsibility to report such things.

        2. SoCalHR*

          Of course, as HR, I would investigate. And I probably would pretty soon find out that Angela slept with Jane’s husband (it doesn’t sound like THAT big of a secret). But as the OP in this situation who is worried about betraying Jane, I feel my verbiage would give the manager/HR enough piqued interest to get to the bottom of it. And notice I said, unlike others who have supported the subtle route, that “Angela *initiated* a personal conflict with Jane” and not just that they have a personal conflict. My comment was from OP’s perspective, not what I would do as the actual HR in the situation.

      3. Unsubtle*

        I really really disagree with this subtle, euphemistic approach.

        I know some managers, faced with vague euphemisms, would likely call both people in, talk to them about ‘their issues’ and how ‘this situation’ cannot continue, and then – quite reasonably, in most cases – expect them to work it out between them, like rational adults.

        No reasonable human being, faced with all the facts, would expect these two (Or three? If Fergus is also called in?) to have any kind of rational, professional dicussion leading to a new and improved understanding at work.

        So, yeah, the manager needs to know the circumstances, so that they know ‘work it out yourselves’ or ‘be more professional’ is not likely to be enough. Ideally, if you have enough room on your teams and enough office space to do so, you’d want these two separated as much as possible, physically and in chain-of-command.

        I mean, everybody has emotions, and limits on their professionalism. This is one of them.

        1. Wintermute*

          I really agree with you on this one. You need to provide enough context for HR to make good decisions about resolving the issue.

          If you don’t provide enough context you risk them taking actions they think will be helpful but are actually just throwing a big old bucket of gasoline on the fire, or worse, could end up adversely affecting someone’s job.

    3. Yorick*

      OP says Jane’s productivity HAS been down, and the manager needs the context about why so she sees that Angela’s observations about Jane aren’t correct.

      1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

        Yes, the context here is, sadly, unavoidable. Many many things can be brushed off as “personality conflict” (if you throw some sexist “oh, women” in there, it’s even more likely). But “broke up two relationships” is not a personality conflict, it’s an actual factor in the vindictive way Angela is conducting herself, and a valid reason that Jane might not be working at 100% while facing that down.

      2. Lissa*

        I agree, I think the problem is that Angela could easily be seen as just being honest about Jane’s work since Jane’s productivity has dropped – without the context there’s enough evidence to support that she’s not just being petty for no reason so it would be easy not to look further. It’s a reasonable conclusion to think “Employee doing worse .. supervisor making appropriate observations” and not “Employee doing worse .. supervisor had affair with her husband” so I think in order to treat Jane fairly people have to know

    4. Jana*

      I agree. It seems that a supervisor providing information about unfair, biased behavior on the part of another supervisor would be sufficient to get the attention of the manager without diving into the details that a) Jane has asked not be disclosed and that b) could come across as gossip-y. It seems that OP could tell the manager that she’s noticed this behavior, believes it’s biased due to Jane’s stellar track record, and that it’s inappropriate for Angela to offer comments on Jane’s qualifications for a job that Angela herself is in the running for. I’d think a good manager would want to deal with the issue given Angela’s actions and wouldn’t dismiss it as petty.

      1. Anna*

        This isn’t sharing gossip to titillate; it has direct bearing on what is going on with Jane and Angela and that Angela is not a reliable source. Nobody in HR is going to lean in and ask to be told more; if they’re professional they’ll see right away what is going on and take measures to end it. The only way to make sure they see the whole picture, though, is to be clear on what the relationship is.

        1. Jana*

          I’m not suggesting that it is actually gossiping, just that it could be perceived that way. I’d think it was possible to acknowledge that Angela was behaving inappropriately without revealing information Jane specifically asked not be revealed. Maybe it’s not possible, but just a thought. If OP wasn’t looped in on the personal issue between Jane and Angela, Angela’s behavior would still be inappropriate and something worth reporting to their manager.

          1. sap*

            I think there is very little chance that “Angela doesn’t like Jane and is biased for Important Personal Reasons that I can’t share” won’t be perceived as equally gossipy to simply naming the affair.

            Personally, I associate “gossip” and “drama” with conversations that seem intended to titillate, evoke curiosity, or direct ongoing focus onto an issue of interpersonal import to people other than the listener. Phrasing the conflict as a mystery does all of these things MORE than naming the affair. It provokes speculation, which takes up more brain space thank knowing facts, and usually causes a lot more drama because people who need or want to investigate usually end up spreading the information *that there is a conflict* wider than they otherwise would in the course of investigating. If I know that the conflict is that Angela screwed Jane’s husband, I’m not going to need to go around asking people whether they’ve heard of or seen any conflict between Jane and Angela so that I know what the conflict even is. If I don’t know what’s going on, I’m going to have to ask people–all of whom are now on notice that something is up with Jane and Angela, and who may now do their own investigations that spread knowledge that a mysterious conflict exists.

      2. tigerlily*

        If someone came to me with vague statements of deep personal bias between two coworkers, but wouldn’t actually tell me what the bias was, I imagine I would come away from the conversation with two things. 1. A not very strong need to investigate – similar to an anonymous note. And 2. A lowered opinion of the person who brought those vague statements to me. You’re a manager talking to another manager about real work issues. Vague hints and “I need to tell you something, but I can’t really tell you” would just feel very juvenile, especially for someone who has absolutely no knowledge of the situation.

  8. Detective Amy Santiago*

    What if LW talks to Angela and suggests that she recuse herself from any sort of input on Jane’s professional opportunities. Say something to her like “if the affair becomes public knowledge, it could make people question your professionalism where Jane is involved. For both of your sakes, you should opt out of providing any input about her work.”

    And then, if Angela keeps it up, escalate to the manager?

    1. neverjaunty*

      Angela’s already sabotaged Jane at work; it’s past the point of asking Angela to think twice.

      1. Hills to Die on*

        And OP also risks this being blown off or being a target of Angela herself. I think it’s time it all comes out.

      2. Michelle*

        Agreed. Angela apparently has no or very little morals and is trying to sabotage Jane on all fronts.

      3. Tuxedo Cat*

        OP needs to protect herself from Angela. There’s no reason she should communicate with her regarding this matter, because it’ll likely mean that Angela targets her too.

    2. EddieSherbert*

      I think this could work in some situations, but probably not here. Angela has already shown herself to be pretty unreasonable and unethical (sleeping with her employee’s husband, sabotaging Jane’s chance at a job that she herself wanted to apply for).

    3. Mike C.*

      I really don’t think this is enough – damage has already been done and it tips her off to either cover her tracks or otherwise minimize the damage she’s already done.

    4. Lunch Meat*

      Tipping Angela off could easily result in Angela going to LW’s boss first and saying, “I shared concerns about Jane’s productivity, and now LW, who is Jane’s close friend, is mad at me. I’m concerned she might try to discredit me by making up stories.”

            1. AnonEMoose*

              I tried reading the first book of that series. I gave up on the series because of that incident, which I tend to describe like this: “Oh, hi, Worst Enemy Who I Know to be Incredibly Vindictive and Who Hates Me and My Entire Family. I found out this thing about you that could ruin you. And I’m only going to tell you that I know, and I’m going to trust that you’re going to meekly go off into exile. And that’s going to work out just great for me, right???!!!” Yeah…at that point, I was Officially Done.

              1. AngelicGamer aka that visually impaired peep*

                Oh thank everything – I mention what you did to everyone and they look at me like I have two heads for giving up on book 1 because of it. Also the fact that I like my fantasy to be less about who is about to die and how they’re going to get out of the situation to bring good back to the world. So… yeah, GoT is so not for me but, as a saying in the show goes, “I drink and know things” so I’m not completely lost with AAM mentions since it seems to be the go-to for substitute names.

                1. AnonEMoose*

                  Yes, like you, I hear enough about it from just general cultural stuff that I’m not lost with the references. And I think the references are actually kind of fun. I’m happy for the people who love the books and/or TV series. It’s partly that, these days, if I want to read about unpleasant people being unpleasant to each other, I can just read the news.

                  And yes, I agree with you on the “less about who’s about to die” factor.

                  Of course, I also gave up in the first book of the Wheel of Time, because I realized that I’d read about 150 pages, and felt like nothing had happened and I didn’t care about any of the characters. I’m at peace with both decisions; still lots of fantasy and science fiction out there!

                2. AngelicGamer aka that visually impaired peep*

                  Exactly! I have a few friends who do enjoy the series – more power to them – and that’s how I have my knowledge base. I do want to try to get through Wheel of Time again and then you made me remember why I didn’t in the first place, AnonEMoose! Oh well. I might slog through anyways. ;)

                3. SallytooShort*

                  The series isn’t about big deaths. In the books almost no major characters die. Of the major POVs only Ned and Cat, if that even counts, died. The other big POVs, Jon, Dany, Sansa, Bran, Tyrion, Arya, Cersei, Jaime, Brienne, Davos, Samwell, and Theon are all still alive.

                  Some people thought idiots like Robb (how?!) were major characters. But really no majors died outside of Ned.

              2. Anon of Ice and Fire*

                Apologies for being off-topic for thread but…

                That’s a shame you gave up on it, because Ned’s reaction comes from having already seen Robert’s approval of murdered children (Rhaenys and Aegon), willingness to have another assassinated (Daenerys), and keeping an innocent hidden for 14 years (Jon Snow).
                It’s not Cersei he’s trying to spare, it’s her children who are likely to be executed for their mother’s treasons.
                (Also Cersei’s assassination-by-hunting-accident plot was already underway when this event occurred…)

                1. AnonEMoose*

                  I respect your intentions. But please know that I have had multiple people try to explain to me why it’s “a shame” that this was a deal-breaker for me with the books. And I appreciate that you enjoy them and want to share that enjoyment. They’re just not for me, and I’m good with that.

                  I’ve also had people try to argue “but they’re based on the Wars of the Roses!” To which I respond “If I want to read about the Wars of the Roses, I have literally thousands of books to choose from – fiction and nonfiction, most of which are likely to be more to my taste.”

                  They just aren’t my thing. My personal taste, and no negative reflection on anyone who feels differently. As my husband likes to say “If we all liked the same things, the stores would be a lot smaller.”

                2. AngelicGamer aka that visually impaired peep*

                  I agree with AnonEMoose. I am just never going to like this series and no amount of explaining the rational of characters to me will help. To me, it is dark fantasy and I am just not a fan. It’s also why I haven’t really been reading fantasy lately because this seems to be the trend. However, now I have an idea for this week’s upcoming open thread because I’d love to get back into fantasy reading. :)

                3. sap*

                  I agree with this take, and I also respect that some people may not enjoy JRRM’s tendency to structure narrative arcs such that the reader has so much more information than the protagonists that the protagonists’ decisions appear misguided and/or self-defeating, which creates a lot of frustration during the reading experience, and the Ned Stark beheading incident is certainly a good example of that narrative tendency.

              3. SallytooShort*

                That’s not remotely what happened. In what way were Ned and Cersei worst enemies? The Starks and Lannisters had never had any quarrel until very recently. And Ned know that quarrel was more his wife’s fault than anyone else’s.

                Also why would he think Cersei was vindictive? At that point, she was a long-suffering wife who had patiently accepted her husband’s affairs and abuse. The only vindictive thing was to order a literal *wolf* not be allowed around her children after one of them attacked, which is totally reasonable. She hadn’t killed Robert yet. She hadn’t done any of the later things yet. He had no reason to think the woman who accepted Robert beating her would be a mass murderer.

                And he told her so her children wouldn’t be murdered. Not allowing kids to be murdered is kind of a good thing.

                You are free to dislike anything you want. You aren’t free to just plain make things up. You were officially done over things that never happened.

                1. Laura*

                  Really, this plot point just shows that Ned is a massive thicko at politics who should never have been made the Hand, and goes on to demonstrate how important politics will be in the series. He’s a great fighter but a lousy politician!

                2. AnonEMoose*

                  Insisting that Sansa’s pet wolf be killed because of something Arya’s wolf did (when the wolf was only defending its mistress against Prince Sociopath in the first place) is pretty high up on the list of why I disliked Cersei. Cersei didn’t just order that the wolf not be around her little “angel,” she insisted that it be killed. Insisting that a young girl’s pet be killed for something another animal did reads as vindictive and spiteful to me. And it was pretty clear that Ned Stark knew that she hated him and his family by that point, and that’s one of the reasons she pushed to have the wolf killed – because she knew it would hurt a member of the Stark family, and that was enough for her.

                  But, bottom line…the books just aren’t to my taste. My reasons are my own, and I don’t have to justify those reasons to you or to anyone. That’s really what I was objecting to, is the “oh, but it’s actually awesome because” that I’ve encountered so many times before. I was attempting to do so fairly politely, and acknowledging that lots of people greatly enjoy them. Which is great. For you. And for them. George RR Martin is certainly not in desperate need of my money!

                  From this point, I will defer any further comments on this to the open thread, as I know this is off-topic for the discussion raised by the OP, and it’s already a really long comments thread.

            2. Wintermute*

              so if Jane is Cersei then… Ned is having an affair with Robert Baratheon?

              I think I understand what you meant but that mental image is too hilarious not to hold onto.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Excellent point. I don’t know I was thinking Angela might be even remotely reasonable.

    5. SheLooksFamiliar*

      This is one of those times when an associate behaves so badly that they forfeit that kind of courtesy. If Angela could behave appropriately, if she could understand why she should behave appropriately – especially since she truly wronged Jane – she would have done so by now.

      OP, please. Escalate NOW.

  9. Juli G.*

    OP, it might help credibility to acknowledge that yes, Jane is having productivity issues but you’re concerned that Angela’s behavior goes beyond that.

    1. SoCalHR*

      Agree with this too… Maybe even start out with that… “I’ve heard you comment regarding your concern for Jane’s productivity issues, I wanted to point out that in the 5 years she’s been here she has had very high productivity. I recognize that there has been a recent change in her excellent performance and I feel like I need to share with you the reasons for that change since her performance is being directly affected by inappropriate behavior by a staff member” and then go into all the details about Angela.

    2. B*

      As someone who has been through something a bit similar this is an excellent point. Acknowledgement with the explanation can go a very long way, especially for a new manager.

    3. Snark*

      And I’m concerned that the productivity issues are ultimately Angela (and Fergus’) fault to begin with.

      1. Lilo*

        The thing is, arguing that does not look good. People have personal stuff going on, but sharing that to “it is Angela’s fault” isn’t reasonable and will make OP looks biased. Your workplace expects you to your job.

        1. SoCalHR*

          I would 100% agree with you Lilo *IF* Angela wasn’t continuing to make attacks against Jane. If Angela had the affair and then treated Jane cordially/neutrally at work, then yes, at some point Jane needs to pull it together or find a new job (I personally would have trouble working with my exhusband’s mistress). But its the continued action that makes the original action, and its effect on Jane, significant.

        2. Delphine*

          This stopped being personal “outside-of-work business that shouldn’t affect work performance” when a supervisor in Jane’s department began having an affair with Jane’s husband.

        3. Snark*

          Hard disagree. I wouldn’t frame it as “it’s Angela’s fault” but it totally is, and I think pointing that out is critical to getting across how completely unethical Angela has been here.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            I disagree if you want to put blame for the divorce I think it has to be put on the husband Fergus. I highly doubt that Angela forced herself on Fergus. It takes two people to cheat. Angela could have been throwing herself at Fergus’s feet but if he didn’t want to cheat and ruin his marriage he could have chosen not to. Angela is responsible for ruining her relationship with her fiance.

            1. Temperance*

              Nope. There’s no need to absolve Angela of her behavior here. She’s destroying Jane’s career after throwing a grenade into her marriage.

              1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                Angela is destroying Jane’s career and that certainly is mean and unethical, but to follow your analogy Angela threw the grenade but the husband was the one who choose to willingly pick it up pull the pin, and put it between himself and the wife.

                1. Temperance*

                  I’m not giving Fergus a pass. I’m reacting to the idea that Angela is somehow blameless because she wasn’t Jane’s romantic partner. That’s just silly. Angela had her own relationship with Jane that was and is impacted by her actions.

                2. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  @Temperance In the overall situation Angela certainly isn’t blameless she bares a lot if not most of the blame.
                  Since Angela, Jane, and Fergus work together it is very complicated and many issues intertwine. What I don’t think Angela is to blame for is just the affair part. I still think if I were cheated on I would lay the sole blame for cheating on my spouse not the other person. It hasn’t not happened (knock on wood) but if it did maybe I would change my mind. But ultimately we have to agree to disagree.

        4. Wintermute*

          explanation is not the same as exculpation, plus we don’t know to what extend Jane’s performance issues are being in a bad place mentally to come to work and smile and be happy while Angela cheerfully tries to stab her between the shoulderblades, and how much of her performance issues are the result of actual sabotage from Angela. That is context the manager should have, and a reason to look for sabotage both overt and subtle.

    4. Sam*

      I agree. Productivity is an issue (even though it’s directly related to Angela’s behavior and is now being exploited by Angela to further harm Jane, which is super uncool), and acknowledging that will make OP less likely to come across as someone blindly defending a friend.

      I also wonder if OP has said something to Angela about her treatment of Jane. It’s fine if Angela wants to stop beating herself up over her decisions, but that doesn’t make it ok for her to pretend that her decisions didn’t have serious ramifications for other people or punish them for being negatively impacted by said ramifications.

      1. Delphine*

        I disagree. For example, if I’m being sexually harassed at work and my performance is taking a nosedive because of it, you don’t acknowledge that my performance has been poor as an issue separate from the sexual harassment I’ve been experiencing.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          But if someone if going through a divorce or other outside of work personal issue and their work severely suffers, good managers will have compassion and understanding but there needs to be a limit on how much it can suffer before something needs to be done and how long the work can suffer. In some situations even if a person is going through a really terrible time at home the work can’t be allowed to suffer. From my understanding Jane’s work had already taken a nosedive before Angela gave her negative comments about Jane’s performance.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            But Jane’s work is suffering because of a situation that Angela was partially responsible for causing and now Angela is using it to discredit Jane.

            Yes, someone needs to address the productivity issues with Jane, but it needs to be done in the correct context and Angela definitely shouldn’t benefit from her affair.

          2. Delphine*

            Because a supervisor in Jane’s department was having an affair with Jane’s husband–also an employee of the company. That’s not an outside of work issue anymore.

          3. sap*

            The thing is, there’s no way to know whether Jane is taking a productivity hit because she is in the midst of a divorce or because she is working with the person who slept with her husband.

            To continue the sexual harassment metaphor: if a guy in my social circle grabs my butt every time I see him at a party, my work productivity may take a hit because that sucks and I may have to process it, and it might not because I may be happy to be at work where nobody is grabbing my butt and I don’t have to think about that. It wouldn’t be superhuman for me to power through that and see no effects at work, and it also wouldn’t be outside the norm for me to be shaken up and be a bit distracted sometimes.

            But if my manager’s peer is grabbing my butt at work, I can’t avoid thinking about that *at work,* so it’s a work issue. My productivity drop from having my butt grabbed isn’t all due to the butt grabbing itself–because butt grabbing actually happens to women all the time outside of work and they don’t see a productivity drop. It’s due to being around the butt grabber at work, and having to worry about how to treat someone who grabbed my butt professionally, and whether they are going to retaliate against me at work if I try to stop them from grabbing my butt, and having to think about having my butt grabbed nonconsensually when I see them because that’s how the human brain works. It may *also* be true that I would have had a productivity drop from the butt grabbing even if it hadn’t been done by someone I work with, but there is no way to parse out how much productivity loss is baseline butt-grabbing loss and how much is coworker-related productivity loss.

            Similarly, Jane might have taken a productivity hit from having her husband cheat on her, or she might have thrown herself into her work and excelled. Both would be reasonable responses. But Jane would have to be superhuman to see the person her husband slept with at work every day and not have that make her think about the affair at work, and there is really no way to parse out how much of Jane’s productivity hit is due to divorce generally and how much of it is due to Jane having to deal with Angela–a participant in her divorce–at work. It’s not true that Jane would be taking a productivity hit from divorce whether or not Angela we’re involved, because women get divorced without seeing much work-related impact all the time.

            And that’s all on Angela. Jane didn’t choose for her husband to sleep with her coworker, in any way. Angela chose to sleep with a coworker’s husband. It’s pretty silly to say that Jane’s productivity should be treated separately from the Angela question, because it might have happened whether or not Angela was involved.

            Yes, it might have happened if Jane’s husband had slept with Jane’s best friend instead of Angela. But it was pretty much *guaranteed* to happen once her husband slept with Angela. Someone who takes a “maybe” and turns it into a “yes” is responsible for the yes.

      2. Luna*

        I think productivity should be mentioned, but for the purpose of letting the new manager know that this is not Jane’s typical work- OP should make sure to point out that for 5 years Jane did good work, and that it only declined at the time all this happened. I wouldn’t use the words “it’s Angela’s fault” because that sounds petty, but the manager should be told that Jane was a good employee before this, and that the low productivity is not her usual behavior.

  10. Lady Phoenix*

    I would speak up and I would encourage Jane to speak up as well. Angela has too much power over Jane and is abusing that power to harass Jane.

    I have a lovely idea that Jane found out about the affraid and blew the whistle, which caused the mass break up. Now Angela is angry that Jane broke her impending marriage and probably ended her affair, so she’s going to snipe at Jane until Jane quits.

    Now whether that idea is true or not, the fact of the matter is that Angela should not be managing Jane and she is abusing her managerial powers. At best, Angela needs to be transferred/demoted. At worse, Angela needs to be fired.

  11. Elizabeth*

    One of the ground rules we teach new employees is that compliance is everyone’s responsibility. You are obligated to act in an ethical manner and assist the organization in complying with all of the applicable regulations. This means that if you hear or see something that you believe to be non-compliant, you have an obligation to speak up, so that the organization can address the issue.

    OP, please tell the manager. Angela is not acting in an ethical manner, and she is jeopardizing the organization.

    1. Eye of Sauron*

      I don’t know if my post went to moderation or what happened to it, but I said basically the same thing as you did here.

      HR needs to know what’s going on, because of the relationships involved. I know generally spouses and family members can’t be in the same reporting line, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that specifically states that the new girlfriend of a soon to be ex spouse can’t be in the same reporting line, but I’m sure that’s covered under the spirit of the same policy.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I just found five comments sitting in the spam folder — not moderation (where I get alerted), but spam (where I don’t). Don’t know why, but I’ve released them now.

  12. Rock Room*

    I wonder if Jane would be more inclined to let the OP say something if she knew how it was impacting her behind the scenes. I agree with Allison’s wording to Jane in which she says she’s seeing some unethical things happen. If it were me, I’d have to say something. Jane is getting majorly screwed over.

    Man, I REALLY hope we get a satisfying update to this one.

        1. Augusta Sugarbean*

          Alison, I’m sure you must have said this at some point but do you work a full time office-type job in addition to all your advice column/article writing? (And if so, where did you get your Time-Turner?)

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I work a big chunk of time every week for The Management Center (but not full-time), and then do smaller chunks of management coaching/consulting for other clients.

            1. alexa, set timer for ten minutes*

              Alison I know people have likely said this to you before, but I will never be able to thank you for taking your time to create and cultivate this space. It has been invaluable to me as an employee and now a manager, and I’ve been reading since the very beginning. THANK YOU.

    1. non-anon*

      OP does not need Jane’s permission to say anything. And since it sounds like Angela herself shared the info with OP, OP could simply pass along that Angela shared this information and still keep Jane’s confidence intact.

      1. Elbe*

        I agree that when talking to management the OP should say that the info came from Angela and leave Jane out of it.
        It would still be good for the OP to give Jane a heads up about the discussion, though. She sounds like she’s struggling and the last thing she’d want is to be taken by surprise about people knowing her situation.

  13. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Does Jane know that Angela is unfairly disparaging Jane with the explicit purpose of harming Jane professionally?

    That might change things. It’s one thing to destroy a marriage; it’s another to harm someone’s paycheck and future career prospects.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      I think Jane should get a heads up so that she knows what the OP is doing and knows exactly what’s going on. I would assume Iane has some inkling that she’s being painted in a negative light, but that’s a good point—you can’t tell how much she is aware of.

      1. Collarbone High*

        Usually this scenario is a kind of paranoid magical thinking that Alison has to talk people down from — “my boss has a personal grudge! she’s sabotaging me! she blocked me from a promotion!” — but in this case THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT’S HAPPENING. I agree, Jane needs to know so she can take steps to protect herself and to understand that she’s not imagining this.

        1. Chinook*

          I second giving Jane a heads up about Angela’s behaviour. I do not doubt that Jane is second guessing herself at the moment and having outside validation that Angela is out tobget her would be a good thing, especially if immediately followed up with how OP is going to someone to get this to stop.

    2. Enough*

      LW needs to let Jane know what Angela is doing. The worse scenario is Jane gets fired but at the least it looks like her career is going to be going no where at this company as long as Angela is there.

    3. EddieSherbert*

      That’s true – if Jane isn’t aware that Angela sabotaged her job application and stopped her from attending the charity event, you should tell her when you talk to her about going to the manager. Jane might agree that it makes sense to talk to OP’s manager if she knows what Angela has been doing.

    4. The Person from the Resume*

      Yes. that’s the added wrinkle. Jane asked that LW not spread any “gossip” to avoid drama but she’s seems unaware that Angela is sabotaging her.

      The affair/divorce has moved beyond gossip and into relevant information necessary to explain the unethical behaviors.

      1. NewtoManagement*

        OP here- I really debated telling Jane about it but I don’t want to hurt her more than she needs to be during this time- she’s going through a lot with the divorce and that just seems like an adding “sting”. But, would probably make her more willing to let me speak up, or to speak up herself. I guess I would want to know, but I just feel a little protective of her at this time!

        1. Snark*

          You can’t protect her from information that’s important to understand what’s happening to her. She needs to know this, she needs to act on this, this may even be relevant in her divorce proceedings. I understand the impulse, but at some point, you’re doing her damage by attempting to protect her.

        2. EddieSherbert*

          I get the sentiment, but at this point, telling your/Angela’s manager is protecting Jane! And, assuming you want to run it by Jane before you tell management, I think the context of what’s going on is important.

          1. Anna*

            I think this is important. OP, at this point, by not bringing it to anyone’s attention, you’re actually protecting Angela from any consequences. Staying silent as a favor to Jane is actually going to hurt her more in the long run.

        3. Merry Listener*

          I really do get the impulse, but keeping this information from her will hurt her more in the long term than the harm you’re shielding her from right now. The “what she doesn’t know can’t hurt” doesn’t apply here, since she’s being hurt already (career wise, reputation wise with the new manager,…). How much this will impact her future at this company depends on how soon you/her take action. It seems like some damage has been done with the new manager, don’t wait and hope Angela won’t hurt Jane’s career further than that.

        4. Lynca*

          OP- If she’s unaware of what Angela is doing, she needs to know. And yes this may motivate her to speak up.

          A compromise might be for you to speak up together. Angela told you firsthand about what happened which corroborates Jane. So it gives the situation much more weight with a good manager.

        5. Lady Phoenix*

          I think that because you are a manager, you need to frame this with Jane that:
          1) This is not Jane’s fault
          2) Jane is not “causing drama”
          3) What Angela is doing is actively sabotauging Jane, not “spreading rumors”

          Essentially, you need to let Jane know that this is a huge workplace problem, not “gossip”/“drama”.

          1. Unsubtle*

            Even leaving the affair aside, if this is how Angela treats people she doesn’t like, she’s a bad manager, full stop.

            Managing people you don’t personally like in a professional manner is a core, basic requirement for managers. Angela’s failing at that, badly.

            Angela’s also concealing her own bias, and other important, relevant information from decision makers and superiors, and letting that negatively impact a coworker’s career.

            All together, this raises wider ethical concerns about whether or not Angela is suitable to manage anyone at all.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Yes–if I were in the C-suite, I would definitely want to know about Angela’s behavior toward Jane. A bad manager causes all kinds of morale issues, and that will affect retention and productivity, not just of Jane, but anyone else who sees this happening and sees the company sit on its hands and do nothing.

              Not to mention, if I were Jane’s manager, I would want to know if someone were sabotaging my direct report so I could do something about it.

        6. AKchic*

          Feeling protective is okay, and natural.

          I 100% recommend telling her that this is happening, and telling her that as a manager, you *do* need to step in because that is your job as a manager, and that you will do everything you can to minimize the fall-out/gossip.
          Please let Jane know that what happened isn’t her fault, and that any blame/shame/whatever should fall 100% on Fergus for stepping out and on Angela for stepping out on her relationship, and then acting like she has within the workplace. Jane has done admirably and I wish her the absolute best.

          1. Chinook*

            Yes. You protect Jane by giving her an honest assessment about why this is not her fault, verifying that she is not paranoid if she feels like Angela is out to get her, and reporting bad behavior against her. She needs to know and see that someone has her back in a tangible way.

        7. Engineer Girl*

          Angela is HARMing her. You may need to HURT Jane to protect her from long term harm.
          Kind of like getting a root canal to get rid of an abscess. Your protection by not saying anything will eventually cause far more harm to Jane.
          Please understand the difference between hurt and harm. Hurt can’t be avoided under these conditions.

        8. Genny*

          OP, you have to tell Jane. This isn’t cruel gossip about her; this is someone actively sabotaging her career. She needs this info to decide how she wants to act. Maybe she still wants to avoid the drama of it all and look for a new job. Maybe she wants to loop in her manager about the situation. Maybe she wants to do nothing and just grieve for her marriage for a little bit. Regardless of what she decides, she needs to have the necessary information to make an informed choice.

          For what it’s worth, you can re-frame this in your head not as giving her information that will hurt her, but as giving back her agency. She probably feels like she doesn’t have control over anything anymore (her husband cheated, her marriage fell apart, her work is suffering, etc.). This would be one way to give her back some of that control she may feel she’s lost.

        9. Jules the 3rd*

          The other part of this: When you became a supervisor / manager, your relationship to the company and all its employees changed. Even those you don’t supervise, who have been friends. AAM’s got a lot of posts about the importance of ‘being friendly but not friends’. You probably need to check some of those out after you deal with this mess.

          As a *manager*, you have an additional responsibility to the company that is in conflict with your friend’s wishes. It’s not in conflict with Jane’s best interests, though.

          The best protection for Jane is honesty and disclosure. Angela’s undermining Jane to the new manager means it’s not just promotions at risk, it’s her job. No matter how much hearing more drama from Angela hurts Jane, losing her job will hurt more.

          You should follow Alison’s scripts – warn Jane, but fully and explicitly disclose the history with Angela and Fergus. Being ‘subtle’ or using euphemisms will either lead to no investigation (ineffective) or a full one, in which the affair will become known anyway. Might as well have that out in the first place.

        10. Been There, Done That*

          As someone who went through a divorce (marriage 1) that was reasonably civil and a separation (marriage 2*) that was incredibly ugly with a ton of cheating and gaslighting, PLEASE 1) tell Jane and 2) tell the next level up whether she wants you to or not. When you’re in the midst of this type of situation (even when it’s just a relatively civil divorce), far more mental energy than you realize at the time is spent on the divorce, finances, what-ifs, and self-flagellation. Add in when things start going wrong and you can’t tell if it’s YOU or someone else, it’s an absolute nightmare. Trust me, your decision making is not at it’s best and I look back on things I decided and wish someone would have overruled me on some of mine. Yes, when you’re in Jane’s shoes, it just seems like the hits keep coming and each one hurts. But trust me, it is better to get them out of the way early than to find out later. I think the betrayal I felt when it came out (sometimes years) later that people I had trusted knew about awfulness but hadn’t told me to ‘protect me’ was worse than what I felt from my ex & his girlfriend.

          Her situation sucks…but it’s one thing to have to pick up your personal life and an exponentially harder thing to have to pick up the pieces of your personal life AND have your career destroyed at the same time. I did one then both and even with a ton of support from family & friends and a previous professional network it was HARD.

          *yeah, if this marriage tanks for some reason (though we just celebrated our 10th), I am SO not doing it again!

        11. sap*

          I’d also be careful sharing too much with Jane, because it’s also possible that some of what Angela is doing is happening in a context where Jane isn’t supposed to know what Angela is saying for legitimate business reasons.

          For instance, the feedback Angela gave about Jane’s candidacy for a promotion seems like the kind of thing that actually should normally not be shared, at least not as liberally as the situation here would call for. It sounds like you’re privy to it because of your supervisor status.

          In other words, Jane might absolutely feel differently about disclosure if you shared everything with her, but it might violate your responsibilities if you did so. This really seems like a situation where your duty as a friend to Jane is in conflict with your duty as a manager, and unfortunately manager has to guide your conduct since this is a workplace issue. Angela is behaving badly, you know more about it than Jane because you are a supervisor and she is not, and because you are more informed than Jane is (and maybe than Jane can be), you need to exercise your own judgment rather than deferring to Jane.

        12. Not really a lurker anymore*

          Please tell her about chump lady. It’s a website supporting those who have been cheated on.

          chump lady dot com

  14. with a twist*

    I’m already anxious for an update to this letter. I hope the outcome is a positive one! Poor Jane has been through a lot, it sounds like, and it’s a wonder that the only way it’s manifesting at work is through a loss of productivity.

    1. Marillenbaum*

      Same! I’m rooting for Jane here: I want her to get a promotion, a raise, a cute new dog and a year’s supply of wine.

    2. Snark*

      Angela has really got Jane trapped in a catch-22 here. Screw her husband and tank her marriage, which kills her productivity, which she uses as ammo to shank her in the promotion process, which Angela then becomes the prime candidate for….Jesus, how much can you suck out of one person?

          1. Snargulfuss*

            Yeah, I didn’t think last year’s worse bosses were that bad (especially compared to 2016), but there have been some horrible co-worker stories lately…the fake arrest.

      1. with a twist*

        This sounds like the plot to a bad Lifetime movie, but one that ends with Jane exacting sweet, sweet revenge on Angela in the form of personal and professional achievements that she can rub in Angela’s face, while Angela flounders and fails once everyone sees her true colors.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          At first I was like “that doesn’t sound like the ending of a Lifetime movie!” but then I realized you said “BUT one that ends [nicely]”. Hahaha.

      2. Purplesaurus*

        I’m thoroughly grossed out by Angela. But I’m also struggling to figure out how OP can frame this to her manager without it sounding Days of Our Lives-y.

        1. Hills to Die on*

          Not sure OP can avoid that. Some things are just even more dramatic than anything on tv. I think OP just has to lay it out and let management and HR sort it out.

          1. Purplesaurus*

            Probably can’t be avoided, and Alison’s script is about the best you can do. It’s just so… wow. I don’t envy OP and hope he/she can muster the composure to lay it all out if that’s what she decides to do.

          2. Alternative Person*

            It might be worth scripting out and rehearing the main points to a point the LW can say them clearly and factually. In a much lower stakes situation, I had practiced what I wanted to say so when it came to the moment, the senior manager was very receptive and something actually got done when before it had been endless circling because the involved parties focused too much on the personal and not enough on the professional.

        2. Temperance*

          I think sticking to the bare facts – that Angela had an affair with Fergus, who is Jane’s husband, and Jane’s marriage is ending as a result.

        3. Chinook*

          She can’t because it is. Doesn’t mean it’s not real, though. Lice sometimes is weirder than anything you see in fiction.

  15. Eye of Sauron*

    So Angela is a supervisor in the same department as Jane, typically this means that Angela would have influence either directly or indirectly over Jane.

    Based on this alone, you need to say something to your manager or your HR department. Jane is, in your opinion, suffering undue bias and negative repercussions based on the relationship between Fergus and Angela. This could be considered a form sexual harassment, if I’m remembering my training correctly. (I think the situation I’m likening this to is when a person is granted favors due to a relationship and a person who is not in the relationship but is affected negatively by the favors can claim sexual harassment… or something like that).

    You really do have an obligation here to speak up about what you know, have witnessed, and suspect.

    1. TootsNYC*

      yeah, if there’s a reasonably decent HR department, it might be good to go to them to ask for advice. I’ve done that (and part of what I was doing was offering them an opportunity to step in).

  16. HRish Dude*

    I would be so tempted to not say anything because I’d be afraid the manager would perceive me as stirring up drama.

    I wouldn’t have the right answer in this situation, I suppose.

    1. SoCalHR*

      I know OP isn’t in HR – but in general, HRish Dude, sometimes the natural consequence of HR doing our jobs is that drama is stirred up (kind of like having to pick the scab to let the infection out so the wound heals…sorry for the gory example). But the same goes really for management in general.

      1. another Liz*

        This gross analogy is very apt, though. Because if you don’t pick that scab and let the gross out in a controlled fashion, it’s going to continue to fester, and sooner or later, it WILL rupture in a huge putrid mess all over the place.

    2. Snark*

      Sometimes drama needs stirred, my dude. That’s not a reason not to protect someone from someone apparently dead set on their personal and professional ruin.

    3. Myrin*

      I think this is one of those situations where a lot hinges on the delivery. The goal is to sound very unemotional about the whole deal, kind of detached almost, stern and straightforward.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, so much this! Detached and matter-of-fact — not scandalized or dramatic or invested in anything other than “here’s a work problem we need to solve.”

    4. Former Hoosier*

      And Angela should not have a say in anything in regards to Jane’s work even if it is accurate. It is tainted and cannot be treated objectively. This isn’t that she just doesn’t like Jane, she has a reason to be biased, there is an appearance of bias even if Angela hadn’t said anything, and she should not be allowed to have any say.

      1. JessaB*

        Plus there’s a seriously legit reason why Jane’s work is a little off and it all has to do with Angela causing the end of her marriage and having to still work with Angela who is being petty about it.

    5. Juli G.*

      I think there’s an ethical obligation.

      As an HR person, I would likely give Angela the opportunity to evaluate, acknowledge (or provide adequate info to explain), and change her behavior before I went to the manager but I can understand OP not making that decision.

      1. JessaB*

        As an HR person how could you? I mean she’s already sabotaged a promotion for Jane, you want to give her a chance to fail to fix her behaviour whilst still having the ability to continue to work with and sabotage JANE? You’re protecting Angela’s ability to stay managing Jane whilst NOT protecting Jane, the victim, from Angela? Oh no way. The only way this ends up fair to Jane at all is moving Angela away from her. Even if Angela is 100% fair, her mere presence is hampering Jane’s work. Her actions caused the breakup of Jane’s marriage and family and probably financial and living problems because a couple makes more than a single. Jane may have to move, may no longer have the things she’s used to having be able to pay her bills. No giving Angela chances that hurt Jane should happen.

        1. Snark*

          This. I think there’s some misplaced sense of fairness at work here, which is noble, but 100% inappropriate.

        2. Juli G.*

          Because I only have one side of the story. What if there are other legitimate issues with Jane that OP doesn’t know about? I should probably have added that I’d talk to Jane as well to understand her side of the story.

          I just would think it irresponsible to go off one side of the story without hearing the other.

          1. Plague of frogs*

            OP already knows both sides of the story. In fact, she’s the only one who does.
            -Jane told her about the affair.
            -Angela told her about the affair.
            -OP has observed Jane’s diminished performance due to the affair.
            -OP has observed Angela damaging Jane’s career in multiple ways, including one way that helps Angela’s career.

            The only question for Angela would be, “Are you damaging Jane’s career out of spite?” Angela would say no, and we all know she would be lying.

            1. Juli G.*

              I was telling you how I would handle it as an HR person if OP came to me and I had no other background on the situation. I objectively gather facts and make assessments off those.

              It was my counter to the “stir up drama” comments. It’s not drama if I address it objectively from all sides.

      2. Snark*

        I think you need to recalibrate your sense of your professional ethical obligations, because they’re to your employer. You have zero ethical obligations to Angela in this case – you have an obligation to protect your employer from an employee who is behaving staggeringly unethically, potentially exposing them to liability, and creating a hostile work environment.

        1. Juli G.*

          I need to confirm it’s accurate though. I have no reason to doubt OP but it’s always dangerous to not give everyone opportunity to speak to what’s going on. What if Fergus has some sort of pull over Angela and is asking her to sabotage Jane? Far fetched but you have to be thorough before taking action.

          1. JennyAnn*

            If Fergus has some sort of pull over Angela, then Angela is still absolutely responsible for her actions.

            1. Juli G.*

              I meant work pull and then, only partial. The company could be held liable depending on the circumstances that they got together and I could rabbit trail forever – which is why I just talk to all involved parties.

          2. sap*

            I don’t understand this. Angela also told OP about the affair, and OP has personally observed Angela weighing in on professional advancement decisions the company makes about Jane.

            That’s really all the information OP needs to know that Angela definitely has a conflict of interest with Jane and hasn’t disclosed the conflict or quietly recused herself from decisions affected by the conflict. Angela’s critiques may be 100% on point and the outcomes for Jane from any decisions she took part in may still have been the same, but that doesn’t make the conflict of interests not go away, and it doesn’t make Angela’s failure to disclose/recuse reasonable. She still is handling a conflict irresponsibly, and someone else needs to be monitoring the conflict since Angela clearly isn’t doing it on her own.

      3. Unsubtle*

        You’re right – there is. But there’s and ethical obligation to everyone, here: Angela, Fergus *and* Jane.

        It’s only ‘fair’ and ‘ethical’ to give Angela a chance, if you give Jane the same chance to change and improve her performance (and maybe get back into consideration for the position both she and Angela are up for) – which would likely require moving Angela away from Jane, and at least removing Angela from all input and feedback regarding Jane.

        If Angela’s the only one getting a chance to explain themselves and extra time to improve, that’s not fair or ethical at all.

      4. Juli G.*

        Eh, on looking at this again, I see my mistake. I’d skip the “adjust” if I found that bad behavior occurred but I stand by the objective assessment.

    6. Mike C.*

      Seriously? You’re in HR, you’re supposed to speak up when these sorts of unethical behaviors come up!

      1. Engineer Girl*

        I was coming here to say the same thing. Dealing with drama is an intrinsic part of being in HR.
        Acting on unethical behavior is an intrinsic part of being in HR
        Speaking up when the law is violated is in intrinsic part of being in HR.
        If you can’t perform these job duties then you need a different career!

  17. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    Okay, well, first of all screw Fergus for telling his (soon to be) ex wife not to tell people because he doesn’t want anyone to know. Honestly.

    Poor Jane. This is so, so awful. LW – I understand not wanting to say anything. But, sometimes, you have to break that confidence. I had a similar situation and I made the call to tell my manager before a situation blew up. I stressed, heavily, that this wasn’t to be common knowledge but that they needed to know. And I am so, so glad I did. It contained the damage. Was there some drama? Of course. Did I feel bad that I had to tell someone? Definitely. But I’d have felt even worse if I’d stood by and watched my friend get steamrolled while I knew I could do something.

    Jane is grieving the loss of her marriage and not, understandably, not thinking clearly. Please speak up on her behalf. She needs a strong ally right now.

    1. Observer*

      She is also clearly carrying responsibility that she shouldn’t be. As Alison says so often, if things get awkward, it wasn’t *Jane’s* doing, but Fergus and Angela. It’s not her responsibility to contain the fallout to either of them for them.

    2. EddieSherbert*

      +1 screw Fergus! Not work-related and not what OP asked about, but what a slimy guy. Yuck yuck yuck.

        1. Jolie*

          Me talking to a friend dealing with a manipulative “Nice Guy ™” who basically told her she should have sex with him because he was nice to her; she had zero interest in him in that way, but felt guilted and pressured :

          “And seriously… F*** this guy if he thinks you owe him sex! I mean NO, DO NOT F*** HIM! I mean you don’t need that douche-canoe in your life!”

      1. AKchic*

        As I like to say, “unf*ck that guy”. Because banging started this whole chain of events. He doesn’t deserve any more of it. Any fornication he once received should be retroactively taken away. He should be blacklisted from ever receiving anything other than Rosie Palm and her 5 sisters.

    3. Snark*

      An ex of mine cheated on me and then demanded that I “owed her discretion.” After lying to me about it for three months. I informed her that not only would I tell anybody I god damn well pleased, the request was putting me in mind of renting one of those inflatable floppy tube people used to announce going out of business sales.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        It takes some serious gall to betray a person and then insist that they not tell anyone they betrayed you.

      2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        Been there done that and got the T-shirt. Extra twist in my situation was that he first insisted I didn’t say anything because he didn’t want people thinking he was the bad guy and then said if I did tell people I had to explain how I made him into a cheater. o_O

        Needless to say I didn’t keep quiet

        1. Oranges*

          Okay, I’m of the opinion that an affair means the relationship was in trouble before clothes come off. This is a perfect example, the problem was that the other person was an asshole.

          1. Chinook*

            ” I’m of the opinion that an affair means the relationship was in trouble before clothes come off”

            Problem with that thinking is all too often the assumption is that the non-cheating partner was part of the problem. Hence the shame spiral.

            1. sap*

              Well, healthy relationships don’t include consent violations.

              Abusive relationships were in trouble before someone started getting physical. Fraudulent relationships were on shaky ground before someone drained a bank account.

              A relationship usually is bad before cheating happens, but acknowledging that doesn’t imply that it’s the monogamous partner’s fault that the relationship was in trouble any more than publicizing red flags for domestic violence implies that victims are at fault for being hit. And Oranges’ comment specifically identified the pre-existing relationship problem as “the cheater was an a*hole before he started cheating.”

        2. Elbe*

          Wow. Did it never occur to this guy that the best way to ensure people will think that you’re not a bad guy is to simply not act like a bad guy?

        3. sap*

          “I will explain that I made you into a cheater by stubbornly expecting you to break up with me if you no longer felt I was meeting your needs, rather than expecting me to read your mind and do it for you.”

      3. Oranges*

        Yeah… no.

        I stabbed you because I just really needed to stab someone right then even though I know I signed a contract saying that I wouldn’t stab you. Stop bleeding AT me!

        1. sap*

          This really reminds me of the guy who got billed for dry cleaning the uniform of a police officer who shot him.

      4. AKchic*

        I told my ex-husband that if he wanted discretion, he shouldn’t have banged my sister and recorded it with the family video camera. I was (and still am) under no obligation to keep quiet about how MY marriage ended. However, if he wants to rewrite the ending, I have receipts and I’m not above clearing my name when he tries to pull the “evil ex-wife” routine.

        1. Oranges*

          The way that the cheaters think that they can get through breakups without a stain on their reputation amazes me. I don’t know why because it can be seen that they’re not that ethical in the first place….

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          *jaw drop*

          I have so many questions, but this is obviously not the right place for them.

          1. AKchic*

            I figure if my work life is going to be mundane, might as well make my personal life spicy, eh?

            No – not really. I just like to say I’m frakking my way to mediocrity, and I’m a glutton for punishment, which is why I keep marrying the worst of the ones I sleep with. Then I breed with them to really ram home the idea that I’m an idiot.
            There’s no application to be my spouse. The line starts to the right. I’ll get to the next one eventually.

            (If I didn’t have a sense of the ridiculous, I’d never have married them!)

      5. FD*

        Now I have an image of one of those floppy tubes with a big FERGUS IS A CHEATING A**HOLE cheerfully dancing outside the workplace front door…

        Not that that would be productive but.

      6. Elbe*

        Break up level: Inflatable floppy tube person

        Seriously, though, that’s such a crazy request to make. It takes a lot of nerve and anyone could guess that it’s more likely to produce exactly the opposite outcome. It’s not a shock, though, that someone who misrepresented her character to you would also want to misrepresent it to other people.

      7. Oryx*

        10 years later and my ex is still convinced I manipulated all of his friends and “stole” them because they don’t want to associate with a cheater. ::eyeroll::

      8. KellyAF*

        My husband’s ex-wife (an Episcopal priest) had an affair with a member of her congregation, then begged my husband to keep it secret so she wouldn’t lose her job. Because he’s a great person, he did.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          Um, perhaps someone needs to read about Eli’s sons?
          She needs to be removed until she repents and is restored.

        2. Plague of frogs*

          That sets off all sorts of alarm bells in my head. There was a minister in the church I went to when I was a kid who was using his position of power to manipulate several women in the church into having affairs with him. He would manipulate them when they came to him for counseling and were vulnerable.

        3. Mobuy*

          Nice one! My ex-husband (32) had an affair with his student (19). He didn’t ask me to keep it quiet, but I did. Then she (25) cheated on him with a Catholic priest (44). So it all came out right in the end.

    4. Cyberwulf*

      That’s called impression management. He also probably doesn’t want Jane to depose Angela in the divorce.

      1. starsaphire*

        Yep. This is super slimy behavior on Fergus’ part, and very much an abuser tactic.

        It sounds super reasonable and smooth and it’s framed as “let’s not stir up drama because we have to behave professionally at work,” but it really boils down to “Honey, you can’t tell people I mistreated you, because then YOU will look bad.”


    5. green*

      This. I’m amazed at how nobody has mentioned any of Fergus’ part in this. He was just as responsible for the affair as Angela. He works in a different department, but I’m sure the affair is affecting how he behaves at work too, and the work dynamics between him and Jane and Angela should probably also be addressed.

      1. Temperance*

        Fergus is a total tool, to be sure, but this letter is about Angela tanking Jane’s career after bedding her husband. Believe me, I’m sharpening my pitchfork for Fergus, too, but Angela is behaving like a Disney villain here.

      2. Michelle*

        Oh, no we are not forgiving or forgetting about Fergus. I think he definitely needs some sort of discipline or however extra-marital affairs are handled at work. I think he’s trying to “lay low” and hoping Jane will just go along so he doesn’t have to admit to everyone he is a slimeball.

        Angela is actively trying to harm Jane professionally, including speaking against her so Angela can get a promotion that Jane applied for and preventing Jane from development opportunities. Not cool.

        1. Natalie*

          I think he definitely needs some sort of discipline or however extra-marital affairs are handled at work.

          I’m sort of confused as to what you’re envisioning? A “normal” affair is not handled at work, because it’s not a work issue. I don’t think it’s a company’s prerogative to punish employees for fairly run of the mill relationship transgressions.

          The reason Angela’s affair is a workplace issue is that she is a) a supervisor, and thus has a responsibility to not get involved with subordinate employees no matter what the specific nature of the relationship is and b) is sabotaging another subordinate. The fact that an affair is involved is almost immaterial.

          1. Michelle*

            Of course normal affairs are not handled in the workplace. My thoughts where more along the lines of because Angela and Fergus work for the same company, albeit in different departments, they could have violated some sort of personal/romantic relationships in the workplace or ethics policy. We had a similar situation at my company- married coworkers, same company, different departments, one had an affair with a coworker in another department, things got tense, unmarried coworker started trying to damage the reputation of the spouse, both the cheaters were disciplined/spoken to and given rules to abide by in order to remain employed.

            Regarding point B: until the affair was discovered, Angela was not sabotaging Jane. So I think the affair is relevant.

            1. serenity*

              Regarding point B: until the affair was discovered, Angela was not sabotaging Jane. So I think the affair is relevant.

              Angela’s sabotaging of Jane’s reputation is the one and only thing that Alison (and we) are focusing on, so not sure where you’re going with this.

              Yes, some (a lot) of workplaces discourage workplace fraternization but usually only directly intervene when there is a relationship within lines of reporting. Angela and Fergus were in different departments, so that’s not at play here. Your attitude to this particular situation seems a little moralistic.

              1. Michelle*

                I was explaining why I though the affair was relevant. It’s really simple: no affair, no Angela going after Jame.

                As far as the sabotaging of Jane’s reputation being the only thing that people are focusing on: People veer off-topic and discuss secondary issues on this forum all the time, so I don’t understand why I get called out for it. There are quite a few comments about Fergus.

                As far as me being “moralistic”: I think if you engage in an affair with a person you know is married *and* you work for the same company that the married couple works for *and* you are engaged, then you have bad morals and extremely poor judgement. If you think that makes me “moralistic” then feel free to label me.

                This will be my last comment today because I see that this will quickly turn into me having to defend my opinion because I think cheating on your spouse is wrong.

                1. serenity*

                  I see that this will quickly turn into me having to defend my opinion because I think cheating on your spouse is wrong.

                  You’re more than entitled to hold that opinion, but as far as this blog is concerned, a) it’s none of our business and b) the workplace behavior and the problems that are being created by Angela are the only things in our purview and which the OP has asked Alison’s help with.

                2. Michelle*

                  Again, people discuss secondary issues ALL THE TIME so your insistence that I am somehow “wrong” for making a comment that is not exactly about the question is coming across as a bit adversarial. For example, several people have commented on Fergus asking Jane to not tell anyone about the affair/divorce and how that is considered “image management”. Some people are sharing personal stories. OP did not ask for personal stories or about Fergus’s image, but I don’t see you chastising them for commenting on those.

                  Things like this is what cause people to stop commenting. If you are going to chastise me for making off-topic comments, then you should chastise everyone.

                3. serenity*

                  Ok, there’s a lot of defensiveness going on there. I’m not this blog’s owner, I’m a commenter, and I’m entitled to share my opinion when and how I like as are you. The implication in your comments above that employees having an affair should be punished was what I’m pushing back on, a perfectly reasonable stance. As I said earlier, in a workplace if folks are having relationships with subordinates/managers then that’s usually a problem and can and should be addressed. It doesn’t look like that’s what happened here, and rather Angela’s damaging comments about Jane are what prompted the OP to write in.

                  If the simple act of me saying an affair is out of bounds to address in a workplace except under certain circumstances that are not in play here is causing you to want to cease commenting here, then that’s too bad and it’s on you to deal with. Sorry that you’re so remarkably thin-skinned about having your opinions challenged or gently questioned.

                4. serenity*

                  And to clarify, the affair should be addressed….by the OP, and in the manner recommended by Alison. That is, the details of Angela’s blackballing of Jane and the particulars of why this is unethical is something that OP should share with her manager.

                  While what Fergus did may be gross, he doesn’t seem to be retaliating against or sabotaging anyone professionally and it’s not his manager’s job to be punitive with him about his relationships with his former wife/current girlfriend or whatever.

            2. Natalie*

              If Angela was sabotaging a subordinate for any other reason, it would be unethical and worthy of bringing to upper management. That’s all I mean by saying the fact of the affair is basically immaterial.

          1. Jen S. 2.0*

            Although in the short term, I don’t know how OP has not yet stuck out her foot and tripped Angela, or purposely caught a cold and sneezed on her mouse and keyboard.

      3. tigerlily*

        I think that’s because Fergus doesn’t have nearly as big a part to play in this. If this was just a letter about two coworkers having an affair, sure. But Fergus’ transgressions don’t actually have anything to do with work and Jane’s job the same way Angela’s do.

      4. Chinook*

        I am happy that Fergus isn’t mentioned because nothing he is doing is affecting her professionally. Except for sleeping with a manager, he hasn’t done anything to harm her career (and, technically, his behaviour wouldn’t affect her professionally.)

        Don’t worry, he will suffer the appropriate consequences as his marriage ends – he isn’t getting off Scott free.

        1. sap*

          Yeah, Fergus is clearly a terrible partner and is, in his personal life, making unreasonable demands of Jane (that may relate to her job), but that’s not super different from any other divorce. I suspect that Fergus would ask Jane not to discuss his infidelity at work if he had cheated with a non-coworker–and really, Fergus’s preference that Jane not discuss their divorce too widely at work is the most reasonable way to handle workplace breakups. Fergus is *personally* a douche. OP complaining about Fergus really would amount to OP complaining about how Fergus behaved as a husband, which is gossip. I’m glad we’re not focusing on whether the way Fergus behaves in his personal time merits termination, because being a cheating scumbag isn’t a fireable offense, and definitely isn’t something that it would be worth disclosing over Jane’s express objections.

          1. Observer*

            and really, Fergus’s preference that Jane not discuss their divorce too widely at work is the most reasonable way to handle workplace breakups

            No, it is NOT reasonable at all. It’s more reasonable for Jane to be able to tell a few key people about it, so that they will cut her some slack while she gets through this.

            1. sap*

              “too widely at work” covers telling the need to know crew and nobody else.

              If you date/marry colleagues, the price is that you don’t talk about the relationship at work as much because they’re your coworkers colleagues as well. That doesn’t change when the relationship is over.

  18. Snark*

    I think OP needs to listen to the part of her ethical self that’s in favor of speaking up here. Angela is shanking Jane at work, who she already wronged terribly on a personal level, and as Alison says that’s just….unbelievably, screamingly unethical. It’s so unethical that if you know it’s happening, you become a party to the act, in my opinion. You can choose to stay out of it, but I think that’s a markedly uncourageous, ethically compromising decision, and I would personally find it hard to live with myself if I went that route, because I’d know I was complicit.

    1. Myrin*

      Speaking of which, what the hell is Angela’s deal? For how she’s behaving, you’d think it was Jane who had an affair with Angela’s fiancé and not the other way around! Has she always secretly hated Jane and only began an affair to begin with to stick it to her? What a cruel person.

      1. the_scientist*

        Right? Angela is……..not coming across as a good person at all in this, to put it mildly.

        If I were a manager I don’t know that I’d want Angela working for me anymore, to be honest. Yes, I know the affair happened “outside of work”, but Angela has demonstrated that she is *extremely* vindictive, and willing to lie or at least obscure the truth to get her own way. Those are not traits you want in an employee, especially one who has supervisory responsibilities.

        1. Lora*

          This. I would have Angela and Fergus both cleaning out their desks in a hot minute. Fergus is definitely doing Impression Management and trying to act like he isn’t some kinda a-hole. Totally understand why Jane wants to keep the divorce quiet – getting dumped for the Other Woman is a special kind of humiliation, even when the Other Woman is so terrible you’d feel better about being dumped for a blow-up doll; and no doubt Fergus is feeding her all kinds of “well Jane I wouldn’t have cheated if only you hadn’t nagged me about picking up my socks every third Wednesday of the month / if you had kept up with the Botox like Angela who Takes Care Of Herself / if you had cooked my favorite meal and massaged my feet every single night instead of helping our children with algebra” nonsense like Ferguses do. I get that. But truly, she has nothing to gain from keeping quiet and a lot to lose if her line management remains in the dark about the shenanigans here.

          I wouldn’t want people with such appallingly bad judgment and lack of ethics on my staff. Not for having an affair, for having an affair *with co-workers* and then bringing your personal drama to work. Seriously, is this not what nightclubs, craigslist and Tinder are for, finding dates from *outside* the pool of folks you spend 8-10 hours/day with?

          1. DArcy*

            Ehhhhh. I’m dating a coworker, but we were friends and romantically interested in each other before I was hired by her company. We’re in different departments of the company, so it doesn’t affect our work at all.

            In my experience, “nightclubs, Craigslist, and Tinder” are not at all viable dating venues for trans women.

      2. MashaKasha*

        Honestly, I thought there was a typo in the headline when I first saw this post. Then I read it. Un-freaking-believable. It’s like knocking the other person down to the ground, and then kicking them when they’re down.

      3. Lissa*

        Yeah I misread the headline at first as the cheated on colleague was treating the affair-haver badly just because that made sense, so I saw what I expected….then read it and was like…whaaaa….

      4. Malibu Stacey*

        I think it has to do with “Angela views herself as perfect and goes out of her way to boost herself up and put others down”. People like that are in a zero sum game with everyone they know.

        In Angela’s mind, she is somehow absolved of boning her coworker’s husband (and cheating on her own fiance) if Jane is shown to be a worthless employee.

      5. Jaybeetee*

        There are a few possible speculations to be made:

        1) Angela, all on her own, in rationalizing and justifying her behaviour, has painted Jane as a “problem” in her mind, in some way or another. Instead of taking responsibility for blowing up a marriage (not to mention her own engagement), she may have done some mental gymnastics to make Jane out as the bad guy.

        2) This process may have been helped along by Jane’s STBX, who needed to justify his own cheating – this is commonly done by trashing your spouse and trumping up hizzer flaws to make the marriage sound like a circle of Hell (rather than a regular marriage with regular issues, involving regular, flawed people). It’s possible Fergus said all kinds of nasty things about Jane to Angela to justify their affair, furthering Angela’s own mental gymnastics that Jane is “really” the bad guy.

        Basically – it’s easier for both Fergus and Angela to come up with reasons to blame Jane for things than own up to their own shitty behaviours.

      6. FD*

        Possibly, but I think it’s more likely she feels like Jane was ‘in the way’ of the love ‘she deserved’ and now she’s ‘making trouble’ by divorcing Fergus.

      7. Elbe*

        My guess is that she blames Jane for breaking up her relationship with her fiance, rather than blaming herself. People will jump through mental hoops in order to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions.

      8. Temperance*

        In my experience, the Angelas of the world see themselves as victims, and anyone in the way of what they want is a target and to blame.

      9. Fiennes*

        My guess is that Angela has worked up a fictitious version of Jane in her head — quite possibly fueled by anger or contempt from Fergus’s POV, which I bet she heard a lot of. Angela’s Jane is someone who *deserved* to be cheated on because of whatever character flaws have been invented and/or exaggerated through Fergus’s retelling. Angela is so focused on the imaginary Jane because that person vindicates her actions, and keeps her from having to deal with the real Jane, an actual human Angela has hurt terribly.

        We often find it hardest to forgive those we have wronged.

        1. MashaKasha*

          Ah, of course, the old “his wife didn’t understand him, and that was the only reason why he ended up in an affair with me”, yada yada.

      10. Solidad*

        Some women get off on destroying other women. She may be a narcissistic sadist.

        <aybe she's enjoying this.

    2. Katherine*

      “I would personally find it hard to live with myself” is a bit harsh and condescending, IMO. The OP made it clear that she’s stayed out of it so far *at the request of the wronged party*, not because she’s a “markedly uncourageous” wimp who’s afraid to stand up for what’s right.

      1. Snark*

        And if I’d said any of that, you might have standing to be this aggressive with me, but I really didn’t, and everyone else who’s replied to me understood what I was actually saying.

        1. Katherine*

          I’m sorry…..if you’d said any of that? Both phrases in quotes are direct quotes from your comment.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          I generally really appreciate your comments, but I keep re-reading your comment to see how you didn’t say what Katherine said you did, and those are your own words, as she noted. You did say that staying out of it was “markedly uncourageous” and that you would find it hard to live with yourself. Did you mean something else?

  19. Gerry Larry Terry Gary*

    Isn’t this a point when HR should weigh in? Even if Angela isn’t Jane’s supervisor,- she is apparently still able to shut down advancement opportunities and should be completely removed from influence.

  20. Unicorn Ranger*

    I was actually thinking that OP should encourage Jane to speak with management and possibly HR. That way at the very least they can understand her drop in productivity, etc.

    1. CBH*

      I agree with this. Exposing the affair does not mean Jane is being unethical. I truly believe Angela is using her seniority as power over Jane. If it turns into he said/ she said I’m sure there is enough outside supporting evidence to at the very least have Angela not have any type of authority over Jane. I’m not stating this to get into an ethical debate, but as for Jane doing her husband a favor by not saying anything, as far as I am concerned he lost that right when he cheated on her. He has no right to ask her to behave in such a manner to “save face” in the company, neither does Angela. This is really a blurry line between business and personal but I think the lines have been crossed with the denied promotion, charity event and declined performance that at the very least HR should be informed. OP I understand your dilemma but it’s nice that you are trying to do right by Jane.

    2. JS*

      Agreed. I dont think it is OP’s place to reveal the particulars although they can certainly mention there is a personal conflict between the individuals. Situations like these are less messy the less people who aren’t directly apart of the conflict get involved. OP should remain supportive of Jane’s fair treatment but Jane needs to be the one to reveal the details.

      1. Temperance*

        I disagree. I think “personal conflict” implies some sort of mutual issue, whereas the wrongdoing is solely Angela’s fault here.

  21. Millennial Lawyer*

    OP please say something! It has crossed personal into serious ethical/professional issues that have damaged morale and actual business. Also, what if Jane gets penalized in some way because you didn’t speak up? (Not to say it would actually be your fault – you have nothing to do with what happened – but it is a possibility that Jane could suffer a consequence if no one knows what is going on.)

    Also, I hope Jane stays strong and does what she needs to do for her own a) mental health and b) professional success. She’s suffered so much disrespect and doesn’t owe Fergus a thing.

  22. JS*

    OP, as a friend have you tried talking to Angela about the way she is treating Jane? You say they are both your friends as they both confided in you and told you about the affair as a friend. Angela seems like the type she may not be receptive to it but she also might respect you enough as a fellow supervisor and a friend to check herself and the way she is treating Jane. I would let Angela know if this continues it is unethical and you will have to report it and from now on she cannot comment on Jane’s work ethic/performance. I would do this first before talking to your manager only out of respect for Jane’s privacy which she has asked for.

    However, I do think you have a responsibility to let Jane know Angela’s bias against her regardless, that way she can decide whether if she wants to continue to be quiet about the situation at work or speak up. This is unfairly effecting Jane’s personal career when she was the one cheated on by her husband and coworker who all work at the same company. It’s understandable why her moral and productivity would be low. Angela should be THANKFUL that Jane hasn’t caused a scene or made drama.

    Alternatively if you do not feel comfortable with confronting Angela before your manager, you can still confront the manager without revealing the details of the situation. You can just say there was a grave personal situation that involved Jane, Fergus and Angela and it is effecting their work interactions with each other and causing Angela to misrepresent Jane’s work. This way you don’t give out any information that Jane wouldn’t want you too. This way as well you don’t reveal your involvement or how much you know, just stick to the facts. Of course the manager will likely talk to Jane, Fergus and Angela to get their stories and will find out what happen but at least they control their own stories. Additionally your telling the manager this way looks like you are a concerned employee rather than a friend who is bias and gossiping (not to say you are but in keeping mind with the perception anyone could have).

    1. NewtoManagement*

      OP here- yes- I did talk to Angela originally, which led to the whole “I’m moving on…” comment from her. After that I pulled her aside when she mentioned production to say that Jane is going through a tough time and I think we need to be reasonable about her productivity levels, to which Angela told me that she herself was breaking up with her finacee and still maintains productivity, so it’s no excuse (yeah…. you and Fergus caused it!). To be honest since this whole thing the friendship between Angela and I is gone, I just cannot look at her with any respect or as a friend anymore.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        I think that’s awesome you already tried to talk to Angela, but her response definitely makes me even MORE certain you should take this above her. Not appropriate at all.

      2. Oranges*

        Yeah, that’s what happens when you sleep with a married person. No you didn’t make any commitments but it’s a crappy move on your part. I can see staying with a friend who made one bad decision and understood that. Angela doesn’t really sound like she understands though…

      3. JS*

        Thank you for responding OP! Wow a major sensitivity chip seems to be missing from Angela. That’s insane. Not to say this situation hasn’t negatively effected everyone, but as Jane being the one “left out” and the only one not emotionally detached from the relationship they were in, she should be given the most consideration especially since she works with Angela and Fergus. Jane tbh seems like a saint as I do not know anyone who has taken such a level headed approach to being cheated on when both parties are in the workplace.

        Definitely time then to confront your manager and the other supervisor, however I would let Jane know first regardless of how much or how little you say. Although you would know best but I would consider the amount of sway Angela has and the politics at play in your office. At the end of the day you should fight for Jane as a friend and supervisor but I would be careful that Angela does not turn on you. You want to position your involvement as work oriented as possible so Angela cannot manipulate the situation and make your concern seem biased especially now that you are (rightfully so) pulling away as a friend.

        Good luck OP! I don’t see away this plays out well for Angela in the end (especially if you have good managers!) but she really has no one to blame but herself since Jane has been more than kind in keeping everything so discrete in the office and saving both Angela and Fergus face and professional integrity.

      4. Engineer Girl*

        Angela is able to maintain productivity because **she** was able to make her choices for her own benefit. She did not have someone else’s choices rip into her life and upend it.

        1. Chinook*

          Exactly. Angela chose to cheat which broke her engagement. Jane made no choices and lost her marriage.

          Plus, in this case, comparing an engagement to a marriage is a false comparison. One is a lot harder to unravel than the other legally and, emotionally, you have already chosen forever vs. planning to make that choice. Normally I wouldn’t make the distinction but Angela is showing that she really doesn’t understand nor care abour how this affected Jane.

          1. sap*

            Yeah, normally I’m not all “marriage is so much Specialer than not marriage,” but there is literally no way to get unmarried without dealing with your ex because divorce is a legal process that takes time to complete. You *can* leave your fiance unilaterally without much mop up (maybe you have to sell a house, maybe you have to negotiate over wedding deposit responsibilities–though if you legit want 100% out it’s possible to avoid a lot of that by just unilaterally assuming all financial responsibility and eating any losses if you can afford to). You just CANNOT do that in a marriage. In most states, your spouse owns all of your stuff too. Until you’re *legally divorced,* the presumption is that your spouse still owns half of your paycheck (once you’re separated that changes but you actually have to show that you’re separated).

            So even if the wound from losing a marriage is no deeper than the wound from losing a fiance, it takes longer to heal because you can just completely stop dealing with your fiance and you can’t just stop dealing with an ex-spouse. It is not the same thing, even in the best case, which this is clearly not.

          2. Sam.*

            I get your point about legal ramifications, but there could be plenty of legal issues to deal with even without a marriage (home ownership, child custody, etc). And more than that, the issue is that Angela made this choice, knowing what she was risking, and Jane didn’t get that opportunity. So I think Jane’s in the crappier position, even if she had been the unmarried one.

      5. AKchic*

        Avoid Angela at all costs.

        She is only out for her own self-interest and will happily stab everyone else in the back to get exactly what she wants, regardless of the needs of the company, or frankly, the needs of anyone else within her social circle.

      6. Lora*

        Breaking up with a fiance is not nearly as traumatic and messed up as a nasty divorce. Even if there aren’t children involved, the dividing up of shared assets, having to sell the family home or buy the other person out, the financial pain of not just lawyers but cashing out your 401k / pension and dividing up savings (even if it’s a bank account into which only you have been putting money, it’s still “marital assets” and therefore half theirs, which feels like an extra punch to the gut), plus the constant little discoveries of what *else* Fergus was lying about as you put things in boxes and clean out your soon-to-be-ex’s space, are downright psychological torture. Bonus points if your lawyer hires a forensic accountant and finds all kinds of other chicanery.

        It will take some time for Jane to learn that she is the real winner after the divorce is final…because she doesn’t have to live with a lying, cheating jerk anymore.

      7. Elbe*

        I definitely rolled my eyes when you mention she said that she’s “moved on from it and doesn’t need to beat herself up anymore.”

        I would love to know when, exactly, Angela beat herself up over this. Breaking up with the boyfriend who you’re currently cheating on is absolutely nothing like divorcing your husband because he blindsided you by cheating with a coworker. Angela doesn’t have to see her ex at work, Jane does. Angela doesn’t have to see the “other woman” at work, because there wasn’t one for her.

        It sounds like Angela doesn’t care about anyone and can’t grasp that Jane does, and that it’s affecting her. I’m glad that you ended your friendship with Angela, OP, because she seems like a human wrecking ball.

      8. ML*

        Good work trying to get Angela to see sense first thing. She’s shown you who she is, and that’s a person who is only out for herself no matter who she steps on to get there. In your shoes I would let Jane know how Angela was interfering with Jane’s career, and say that because of that behavior, you can’t ethically keep silent anymore. Warning Jane lets her prepare for any questioning, so you can be as kind as possible while still informing your workplace of the ethical issues Angela is causing. (also suggesting poor Jane google the Chump Lady and peruse her website for awhile might be a good thing for her personally)

      9. Elizabeth West*

        Ugh. I hate her.

        Do not do not do not tell Angela before you go to HR or the manager. Do not forewarn her. She will sabotage you, I’m sure of it. And please, please do, please tell them NOW. Jane’s job is in serious danger from Angela’s shenanigans.

        I’m wringing my hands over this. YOU HAVE to tell us what happens. I feel so bad for Jane, I can’t even.

  23. Observer*

    OP, what Angela is doing is so unethical that her manager needs to know about this, not just because she’s being unbelievably disgusting to Jane, but because she is clearly someone who you can’t trust in general.

    Keep in mind, even outside of the issue with the affair, if she was planning to throw her hat into the ring, she should not have given an “opinion” on Jane’s qualifications. That’s an incredible conflict of interest.

  24. Competent Commenter*

    I understand the OP would be reluctant to say something when Jane asked her not to. However, Angela also told the OP about the affair. To me that gives the OP some standing to report what’s going on without technically going back on any promises of secrecy to Jane. I know I’m just rules-lawyering here but maybe that will ease the OP’s mind a little. Because man she should absolutely be reporting this.

    1. sap*

      This is absolutely not just rules lawyering. Angela *talking about the affair* is misconduct in itself. Angela should NOT be going around talking about sleeping with Jane’s husband, full stop. That is not appropriate behavior, especially since she’s higher on the food chain than Jane. Angela sleeping with a subordinate’s husband is bad enough, but telling that subordinate’s coworkers all about it makes it worse. If I were considering Angela for a promotion, knowing that Angela was spreading information about a coworker’s marital trouble would be enough to knock her out of contention, even if Angela wasn’t causing that marital trouble. That’s just not how conscientious supervisors behave.

  25. LouiseM*

    Why does the OP specifically need to tell the new manager about the affair? If I heard that about one of my new direct reports I would have a hard time making eye contact after that. I don’t see why she can’t just let her know Angela and Jane have a difficult personal history (true), that the reason Jane’s productivity has been lower lately is because of problems at home (true) and that you think, because of the difficult personal history, Angela was being uncharitable by suggesting Jane not attend this event. That keeps her involvement firmly on the “this is a work problem” side of things.

    It’s funny that there are so many letters from people who are tired of coworkers asking about their personal lives, and yet when a reader has the opportunity to get involved in someone else’s personal life, everyone is suddenly all for it.

    1. Murphy*

      I think “difficult personal history” undersells the issue, and if someone came to me with that, I’d ask them to explain.

      Obviously the concerns here are how it’s affecting work, but you can’t ignore the personal part of it either.

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        I agree. Difficult personal history could be a lot of things. Also, it suggests they’re both at fault which doesn’t appear to be the case at all.

      2. Myrin*

        Yeah, and it can also mean anything ranging from Angela being totally at fault on the one side over both of them being equally at fault to Jane being totally at fault on the other. There’s much more clarity than such vagueness needed here to really convey what’s actually going on.

      3. Former Hoosier*

        I agree. And this is not a situation of a coworker being inappropriately nosy or interfering. OP has first hand knowledge from two sources that there was an affair (so it is not gossip) and she has personal knowledge that Angela appears to be acting inappropriately to Jane. It isn’t OP who has caused the drama, it is Angela and Fergus. And if the OP was just sharing that there was an affair that would be inappropriate, but the private actions of Angela and Fergus are affecting the work environment as well as Jane personally and that is neither the OP’s fault or Jane’s.

        Creating a drama free workplace does not mean that you can totally prevent drama from being present. Neither OP or Alison are suggesting telling random co workers or spreading the information. Jane does not deserve to be treated poorly by Alison and it is clear that is happening.

        And if there are issues with Jane’s work, it should be evaluated and adddressed by someone who is not Angela. Angela is biased by default.

        1. Former Hoosier*

          And I have told employees to keep personal dislike or another employee to themselves and handle it but this goes far, far beyond that. It is not just personal differences.

    2. Eye of Sauron*

      No it has to be specific. Because the past affair provides background and the potential ongoing relationship between Fergus and Angela has a direct impact on Angela’s ability to be a supervisor in a group that includes Jane.

      I suggest that if a person is squeamish about this situation, then they are not in a position to manage a team. As a manager you are often placed in a position to hear uncomfortable and image changing information. That is part of the job and cannot be avoided.

      Seriously I’ve been told about arrests, legal troubles, murder investigations, bank robbery investigations, marriage details, domestic abuse, custody issues, drug use issues, etc. All of these relating to people who report to me (directly or indirectly). This is why I get paid the big bucks… metaphorically speaking. It’s my job to manage the people in these situations.

    3. Gerry Larry Terry Gary*

      The vaguery of ‘difficult personal history’ redistributes blame in a way that may not benefit Jane.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, very much so. As Snark wrote above, knowing about the affair is critical to understanding the dynamic. Otherwise it could just sound like petty interpersonal drama, and the manager could easily choose not to get involved in that, or could default to giving the more senior person (Angela) the benefit of the doubt.

      2. Snark*

        And it also carries water for Angela in a way I think is 100% unnecessary. The full situation needs to be laid out to understand the catch-22 Angela has put Jane in.

    4. Snark*

      “It’s funny that there are so many letters from people who are tired of coworkers asking about their personal lives, and yet when a reader has the opportunity to get involved in someone else’s personal life, everyone is suddenly all for it.”

      OP didn’t go looking, but she learned things – from BOTH of them – that sort of obligate her to get involved. And if Angela is shanking Jane to get a promotion and limiting Jane’s professional oppportunities, that is now a professional issue.

      Your view on this is really whacked.

      1. Natalie*

        Nor is this situation about random coworkers – the LW is a manager, and thus has a higher level of professional responsibility, as is one of the parties involved.

      2. Shiara*

        Also the weapon Angela is using to hurt Jane professionally (the lowered productivity) is the direct result of her harming Jane personally, and without that as context, it’s a lot easier to shrug off as “well, but Jane has been unproductive, so while you may think this is the result of a difficult personal history, I see no reason to believe Angela isn’t being objective.”

        1. Oranges*

          Even if you took the affair out of the picture. Poof! Having a ten year marriage dissolve is gonna be hard and will impact your productivity. Good managers will understand this and see what they can do to keep a good employee with guidelines around what they need.

          Angela saying she’s not having any issues from dissolving her engagement so Jane shouldn’t have any issues about her marriage dissolving bugged me so much. (Statement made by the OP in comments).

      3. Former Employee*

        This reminds me of “One of these things is not like the others”.

        Deciding to involve yourself in the personal business of your co-workers is completely different from saving a co-worker from the evil machinations of a fellow employee who is out to get her.

    5. LavaLamp*

      That’s because this is personal and professional mushing together. When your boss has an affair with your spouse that’s gonna have work consequences no matter how stoically stoic you are. And when those consequences are that said boss is now treating you like poo because of this situation, it’s a huge ethics issue. No one is saying to go about shouting about affairs and misdeeds, just quietly letting HR and whoever else know that Boss is being an unethical jerk and Jane is not this bad employee she’s being made out to be.

    6. Sam*

      “Difficult personal history” suggests they’re both at fault, which is very much not the case here. Angela’s poor treatment of Jane is rather important in understanding just how unethically she’s behaving. I’d also say that keeping it so vague also reads as way more gossipy to me – like you’re saying something just to say something without actually providing necessary information.

    7. Mike C.*

      The difference here is that the specific context of what happened in their private lives directly explains the nature of what is going on in the business world.

      Furthermore, if you don’t speak up, you’re an accomplice to this very unethical behavior. That’s not an acceptable way to go.

    8. Natalie*

      Aside from what other’s have said about possibly underselling the source of conflict here – wouldn’t it be a huge deal for a manager to be having an affair with a subordinate’s spouse, even if there was no sabotage happening? Regardless of how they want to conduct their personal life, they should have the good judgment to look outside of the company, or the company’s spouses, for affair partners.

    9. Temperance*

      I really dislike this, though, because it implies some fault on Jane’s part, where there is literally none. Angela chose to have relations with Jane’s husband, and then, for some reason, punish Jane for her own actions.

  26. NW Mossy*

    This is going to be a situation where you have to choose between what’s the right thing to do professionally (talk to the manager about Angela/Jane) and what you would like to be able to do (protect a friend’s feelings). These come up from time to time, and Alison gives you a couple good scripts to thread the needle between professional and personal obligations.

    It’s one of the crappy parts of working with people you care about personally – you do sometimes end up with divided loyalties and are forced to pick sides. In the end, it’ll end up being more compassionate for Jane to take the short-term hit of the betrayal of confidence for the longer-term gain of not having her career sandbagged.

    1. SoCalHR*

      ^^ your last line is spot on – its really for Jane’s overall well being that OP needs to say something. Otherwise Jane is going to end up divorced AND unemployed because of Angela!

  27. CatCat*

    Sounds like Angela has perfected the art of tearing people down. The description makes it sound like this is how Angela operates (“Angela views herself as perfect and goes out of her way to boost herself up and put others down”) but the steamroller that is Angela is a especially damaging with respect to Jane because of the affair.

    What a toxic person to have to work with. I’m sorry you’re in this pickle, OP.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      Yeah, nothing you can do about it OP, but wow, Angela does NOT sound like management material!

      1. MashaKasha*

        Right? What on earth gave Angela the idea that she is perfect? She is not even qualified to do her own job.

      2. Temperance*

        Besides management material, I feel like people like her should be barred from contact with other humans.

    2. Tuxedo Cat*

      I worked for someone like Angela but without the affair aspect. It’s truly remarkable how well she was able to elevate herself and tear others down and still convince her supervisor that smelled of roses.

  28. Lilo*

    I would speak up to your manager, but then I would disengage a bit. Make sure the boss is aware of the situation, but pushing it too hard could look like you are inserting yourself into others drama. If Jane’s performance has fallen, there are good reasons for her to not get a promotion or go to events, and you can look a but too much like you are focusing on personal issues.

    Raise it once, but then I think take a step back. If I read the letter correctly, none of these people are in your line of reports, so it really just needs to be their own supervisors who handle this.

  29. Morning Glory*

    I may have missed something, but I didn’t see anything that said Angela had also confided in the OP about this?

    1. Purplesaurus*

      There’s so much, it would be easy to miss.

      Angela views herself as perfect and goes out of her way to boost herself up and put others down. She has admitted the affair to me (again, as a friend) but has told me she’s “moved on from it and doesn’t need to beat herself up anymore.” Meanwhile, she and Fergus continue to talk and see each other at least socially.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        Angela thinks she doesn’t “need to beat herself up anymore”, but is fine with beating up Jane. Nope.

    2. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      Angela views herself as perfect and goes out of her way to boost herself up and put others down. She has admitted the affair to me (again, as a friend) but has told me she’s “moved on from it and doesn’t need to beat herself up anymore.”

      1. Marillenbaum*

        Clearly, homegirl hasn’t beaten herself up about this NEARLY enough if she thinks tearing Jane’s career to shreds is an acceptable course of action.

          1. fposte*

            Yup. I can’t remember where I saw a great dissection of this phenomenon, but it’s unfortunately common to fall into a practice of punishing the person you’ve wronged.

            1. Helena*

              Yes I’ve read this too. It’s like the flip side of making people like you by asking them to do you a favour – instead they have to hate you because when they look at you they are reminded they’ve screwed you over.

              The thinking goes:

              I feel guilty about how I treated you ->
              That makes me feel bad ->
              You make me feel bad ->
              You are a bad person for making me feel bad ->
              I’m now the victim in all of this ->
              I am perfectly justified in sticking the knife in

  30. Tuxedo Cat*

    I agree with Alison’s advice so much. The way Angela is acting, Jane will probably professionally suffer even more if this isn’t shut down ASAP. She could possibly lose her job if Angela is that manipulative. Also, do watch YOUR back. If Angela is this vengeful against Jane, who doesn’t appear to have done anything wrong, she will probably be worse towards you. Not a reason to not do the right, but a reason to watch out.

    Also, do you think Jane would be receptive to knowing you wrote in? As long as you’re not violating any confidentiality that was expected, like about the job she didn’t get, I think it might be useful for her to read the comments and Alison’s advice for herself. I’m sure you’ve been a great friend (you are, for writing in), but I think sometimes it’s useful to see random strangers who have no stake in her see that what happened is wrong and that it’s not in her best interest to just let it happen.

  31. Elsewhere1010*

    If feels to me like Angela has not moved on, not in any productive way, and her goal is to either fire Jane (for not doing her job) or to get Jane to quit by manipulating the work environment.

    In addition, I’m getting the impression that it’s entirely possible that Angela and Fergus aren’t “over”, though they may have gone into deep cover. It’s awfully convenient that Angela supplied the OP with the information about the affair being over and having moved on. Sounds like a, “Nothing to see here folks, move along, move along” moment.

    1. MashaKasha*

      OMG you are right! Your comment reminded me of how, when Then-Husband and I were leaving Home Country to immigrate to the US with the kids, we’d sold our apartment a few weeks before leaving, and I made a point to have a chat with every one of my friends and acquaintances where I’d comment, “hah, can you believe we never even saw the money? The realtor’s office moved it straight to a bank account in America.” There was no bank account in America. We’d gotten paid in cash, like everyone else did back in those days. The money was in our apartment the entire time. Crime rate was through the roof and I did not want anyone to know we had the cash. It seems to have worked, because no one tried to break in or rob us or anything.

      Not that it matters whether Angela is still involved with Fergus or not – she’s certainly welcome to this wonderful catch of a man – but she needs to get off Jane’s back.

  32. Kat B.*

    I think there’s probably room for some subtlety here – I might go with something along the lines of “I feel the need to make you aware of a particularly tricky situation that I’m not sure if you’re aware of. Angela and Jane have a particularly fraught personal relationship. I don’t want to disclose too many details since it’s not mine to tell, but I’ve been concerned about the dynamics between them, particularly since Angela has been getting to weigh in on Jane’s professional opportunities. Jane has been going through a particularly difficult time personally recently, and her work has been temporarily impacted, but she is happy here, is great at her job, has a terrific track record, is wonderful to work with, and I’m worried about her long-term prospects being undermined by Angela’s conflict of interest.”

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think you can do that without saying what the conflict of interest is. It’s therefore a lot more matter-of-fact to cut to the chase. “Angela had an affair with Jane’s husband, which she herself has admitted to me, and since then she’s been treating Jane unfairly and blocking her progress here. I’m concerned about the effect of this conflict of interest on the workplace.”

      1. LavaLamp*

        I dunno why either. No one is advocating stamping Angela with a scarlet letter. Just shining a light on her being an unethical ass.

      2. fposte*

        I suspect some of it is because Jane seems disinclined to share the details broadly. But they’re material here–you really can’t talk about the problem without noting the affair.

      3. Eye of Sauron*

        Agreed. This is one of those times that the whole situation needs to be made available to both the manager and HR.

        I think the only time a msg like this would be appropriate is if a peer was going to a manager/supervisor/hr who didn’t feel as though they should be involved. It would give the manager/supervisor/hr enough to start an inquiry. Maybe that’s the perspective of those suggesting the vague scripts?

        The difference in the situation with the LW is that she is a supervisor. She needs to provide the details.

      4. Kat B.*

        I just think there’s some value in respecting Jane’s wishes, particularly if the OP isn’t 100% sure the manager will handle things tactfully. If the OP’s faith in the manager is ironclad, then yes – go for it. Tell the whole story. It would lose some forcefulness without the “Angela is a homewrecker who is now undermining Jane while she goes through the divorce” element, but I think there’s room to explain how the situation stands, who the aggressor is, and why it’s important to address without necessarily airing *all* of Jane’s dirty laundry.

        1. Eye of Sauron*

          In some cases a person who knows about an unethical situation is just as responsible as those who create the situation.

          Imagine if Jane sues and during the investigation it comes out that the OP had knowledge of the situation and didn’t tell anyone. Don’t think for a second that the LW isn’t going to get swept up with Angela and Fergus.

        2. Snark*

          At this point, though, it goes beyond Jane’s wishes. The ethical lapses are affecting business decisions.

          1. Lora*

            THIS. Jane may not realize that yet, but it’s true. Bet you a dollar Fergus is snowing her with nonsense that makes her feel like she has dirty laundry – even many marriage counselors try to give you a line of crap about how affairs are really the chump’s fault for not being special enough or whatever. I wouldn’t doubt she’s hearing all around what a dreadful person she is who thoroughly deserved it.

            Best thing is to be factual and blunt: “Angela and Fergus had an affair, and now Jane and Fergus are getting divorced as a result. Angela has not been very nice towards Jane in other ways, specifically by talking crap about Jane’s work performance while she is dealing with a nasty divorce. Fergus is trying to hush it all up.”

      5. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Yeah, this is the kind of situation where the nature of the “interpersonal conflict” is a critical piece of information.

      6. Mike C.*

        It’s starting to drive me up the wall. I get that it’s sometimes difficult to be direct but we’re adult here and part of being an adult means sometimes having to be uncomfortable to do the right/moral/professional thing. We can certainly discuss ways to do it, but avoiding the specifics isn’t going to cut it and will likely involve otherwise good employees eventually leaving or being fired.

        1. Reba*

          I don’t think it’s about trying to be euphemistic about the ugly details.

          It’s trying to thread the needle between a friend (Jane) speaking to you in confidence and the obligations to the workplace.

          1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

            To me, this is the difference between a friend and a good friend. To spare your feelings, a friend may not tell you there’s spinach in your teeth so you aren’t embarrassed. A good friend will not only tell you there’s spinach there but also lend you a mirror and perhaps a toothpick to remove it. In my opinion, momentary embarrassment is preferable to long term humiliation.

            1. Reba*

              Yeah, this is such a big deal that trying to spare her feelings now (by not telling about the affair/divorce or only hinting at it) would do much more damage in the long run.

      7. MashaKasha*

        Neither do I. Cons: this would put Jane in a bad light, and do more harm to her than good in the end. Pros: …???

    2. Queen of the File*

      I want to believe there’s a less dirt-dishy way to bring this up with the manager, but I really think they need to know that Angela is the cause of Jane’s difficult time and has a motive to act out against her. I think if you describe it as a fraught personal relationship you risk the manager getting an impression that both Jane and Angela are in the wrong and they need to work it out. People generally don’t want to deal with difficult things, so I think if OP is vague about it, the manager is more likely to imagine it’s something less serious.

      1. Snark*

        “I want to believe there’s a less dirt-dishy way to bring this up with the manager”

        I’m not sure I understand this impulse. Yes, you avoid airing drama when you can, but…..this is not a situation where I think you reasonably can. The adultery is key to understanding what is going on here, and the deeply unfair dynamic between Angela and Jane.

        1. Decima Dewey*

          Arguably, OP should lead with the affair, emphasizing that this is not gossip, but confirmed by Angela herself.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          Queen of the File seems to be agreeing with you that this isn’t a situation where you can reasonably avoid telling the affair. They said they want to believe there is a way, but there isn’t. The impulse is a good one–wanting to protect a friend’s privacy and vulnerability and preserve a confidence–but QofF agrees that it can’t happen here.

    3. Agathe_M*

      Yeah, the trouble with this approach, as someone mentioned above, is that “personal relationship” goes both ways. It’s easy to hear that as “Jane and Angela don’t get along and it’s partly both their faults”.

      But what’s happening here is Angela being completely and entirely at fault, and also an exceptionally terrible person. Though OP shouldn’t say “exceptionally terrible person”, that really needs to be conveyed, and full context in this case is the only way.

    4. Shiara*

      I feel like all the circumlocution and references to Jane having a difficult time personally, etc, is a lot more gossipy and drama stirring, and therefore ineffective, than being as blunt, direct and unemotional about the facts of what has happened as possible. Being direct paints a very clear picture for the new manager. Trying to be subtle and discrete leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation, misunderstanding, and, given that Angela has thus far made a good impression on the manager, makes it very easy for the manager to dismiss this as the LW trying to start trouble.

      1. Stacy*

        I agree. But the LW can be blunt, direct, unemotional–and still encourage discreetness for Jane’s sake.

    5. Ainomiaka*

      The problem I see with this is that it hides the underlying unethical behavior -Angela is actively trying to sabotage Jane, and that needs to be pointed out. I’m not sure if there is a way to have why not come up, but I guess maybe?

  33. KDat*

    The Angela’s of the world should not be allowed to to get away with these destructive actions without being held accountable to the chaos they create. And that’s specifically referring to the damage she is doing to Jane’s career in the workplace

    Speak up!

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Seriously. This woman is a real class act. I’m enraged on Jane’s behalf.

        OP, please say something. Angela is setting Jane up to be fired. Has she not already done enough to this woman?

  34. Wren*

    I’m wondering if Jane, in her misery, is missing that Angela is sabotaging her career, and if this is made clear to her, she would not be so reluctant to speak/allow OP to advocate for her. I hope that once the OP talks to her, she will give her blessing to the OP discretely talking to the manager about the situation.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Maybe, but I don’t think OP needs her blessing. This is a clear ethical violation (the sabotage) and OP cannot let this get swept under the rug. In this case, it would be standing up for Jane, even if she does have to disclose the nature of the conflict. And I agree with those who said she should.

  35. Jam Today*

    Angela seems pretty determined to replace Jane in every element of poor Jane’s entire life. This is veering into some single-white-female territory here. Lordy.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I’m wondering if 1) Fergus and Jane really are over and Angela is punishing Jane for that, or trying to get rid of her so she doesn’t have to be reminded that she blew it / nobody will find out. Or 2) they’re not over, and she’s trying to push Jane out so they can be open about it.

      Either way, she’s horrible and must be stopped.

  36. Muriel Heslop*

    My eighth grade class is outraged at Angela’s behavior. If it’s too “middle school” for middle schoolers to tolerate, then it definitely breaches a level of unprofessionalism that should be reported.

    Good luck, OP! This is a really tough situation for you. You have our sympathies.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I could so get behind “Does your rationalization pass a panel of middle schoolers?” as a test.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I love that you do this. If you’d ever be interested in us doing something more official with your class, please email me — I’d love to figure something out!

      1. JessaB*

        You could also ask the Nieces. I bet they’d weigh in too. But that’d be awesome “has this passed the middle school test?”

      2. Snark*

        I love it. Kind of an eighth-grade Greek Chorus. “Your workplace is full of bees, but if you don’t believe me, let’s get a vote from the middle schoolers!”

        1. fposte*

          Now I’m thinking of England’s Mitchell Brook Primary School, who regularly act out ongoing news stories as a clue in the Big Fat Quiz tv program. It’s adorable.

      3. Sakura*

        Oh my gosh, I bring up this blog to my 8th grade class all the time! Just yesterday I was telling them about the woman who bullied a girl in high school, and then could not get a job in the industry because her victim was a rock star and wouldn’t work with her. They were shocked!

      1. Lady Phoenix*

        WTFIWWY made an excellent idea for Marketers: hire teenagers. If a teen chuckles at the product, then chances are the product should be renamed/changed… otherwise you get ideas with too much sexual innuendo.

        If you want an example, there was a bronze statue of a Catholic priest giving a kid bread… but the way the priest’s arm was lowered and the position and location of the bread made it look like he was asking the kid to… well… perform fellatio. The statue was covered up with plans to demolish.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          I do that for my wife :)

          She’s an artist and some of her designs get a little abstract and she’ll ask me to check for her. If there’s a face to be seen in the image, I will see it. If there’s a dick to be seen in the image, I will see that, too. My brain does this without me asking it to.

    3. oranges & lemons*

      I kind of love it when teachers bring Ask a Manager questions to their classes for comment.

    4. 2horseygirls*

      LOVE the sanity check from 8th graders! I have done that on occasion with my own 17yo DD — names and details changed to obscure those she might know, but it is nice to know that I am on the right, basic-decency track.

  37. AKchic*

    Yeowch. Angela and Fergus ruined Jane’s home life, now Angela is kicking it up a notch and sabotaging Jane’s career while Fergus gets off scot-free?

    I feel terribly for Jane. She has kept quiet to minimize her own embarrassment and because Fergus asked her to. Sorry, but having been the cheated on spouse, I can tell you that once you’ve shamed yourself, you lose all considerations after you disrespect your partner and marriage. Cheating doesn’t say anything about the person being cheated on, it says everything about the cheater.

    Going back to Angela – we could sit here and analyze why she’s doing this until the cows come home. She’s angry because her engagement broke off (natural consequence of being cheated on). She could be trying to eliminate “the competition” and actually think she’s competing with Jane in multiple aspects (especially if she is continuing a relationship with Fergus).

    I agree with Alison that this issue does need to be brought up with upper management and that Angela should *never* be allowed to have input on Jane’s career or work in general, nor should she have any input on Fergus’s and they should be treated as any other “coupled” employee set (given the same guidelines that Jane and Fergus originally had). Couch it in terms of “you have admitted to being together at one point, so if you choose to make it official, we expect X behaviors”.

    Ultimately, I just wish I could give Jane a hug.

    1. SoCalHR*

      Maybe he and Jane can get together and live happily ever after (oh wait, we aren’t actually reading the plot to a Lifetime movie? my bad)

  38. Desi Jane*

    Shout out to the OP for writing in, and for Alison taking the time to respond.

    These situations where you’re watching injustice in the workplace at the hands of a petty person and are afraid of speaking up and breaching a friend’s confidence are so difficult to navigate. I’m glad you can carefully do so, but every situation is unique and the approach is not a “one size fits all.” I am hoping we get an update from this OP when he/she has one.

  39. PersephoneUnderground*

    I think it’s especially important that OP speak up precisely *because* she is a somewhat neutral observer (she is clearly close enough to both parties for them to have told her these things, so not the friend of only one of them).

    Jane probably feels she really *can’t* say anything without it appearing as though she’s bringing her personal drama to work, which is probably the source of her request to the OP not to tell anyone. But that means the OP is the one who has the power to act here- Jane can’t be held responsible for “causing drama” if the OP acts against her instructions, so making sure to say Jane didn’t want it brought up but you felt ethically obligated to act is very important. (Ok, Jane could be blamed anyway, but it’s much less likely in this scenario.) Jane is in a scenario where she likely can’t defend herself without looking like a drama llama, so she’s erring on the side of putting up with it.

    *But the OP absolutely can defend Jane, and should.*

    (1- Sorry for the overuse of “*” but I’m not sure if bold tags would work here, and I needed some way to emphasize things! 2- Haven’t read all the comments, but that’s my two cents. Apologies if I’m repeating something already said.)

    1. TootsNYC*

      Also, Jane’s framing would be “Angela is being mean to me.”

      Our OP’s framing can be “Angela is behaving unprofessionally.”

      Which would get a more just outcome?

    2. Observer*

      Very much this. You don’t actually know what Jane WANTS. You know what she thinks she needs to do. And you also know what actually needs to happen.

      Story time: Years ago a close friend of mine was having a significant problem with her husband. They guy was doing something really stupid that was affecting her in a significant way and she couldn’t figure out a way to get him to stop. Some friends got wind of the situation (from him) and they basically told him “You ARE GOING TO STOP doing stupid thing!” (And he did.)

      At first she was upset – she told me she didn’t understand why they didn’t talk to her first. I pointed out that by not talking to her first, they made sure that her husband could not reproach her for her part in the situation. They also made sure that she didn’t have anything to reproach herself with – she couldn’t have played the heroic dutiful wife even if she wanted to in this scenario.

      Jane is clearly accepting responsibility that really is not hers. That means her actions are not about what she wants necessarily but about fulfilling obligations she things she has. I think it’s legitimate to sidestep the whole thing, especially since you heard about this from Angela.

  40. Bette*

    “Jane and Fergus are now getting a divorce. Angela and her fiancé have called off their wedding and have broke up. I am not postive that something is still happening between Angela and Fergus, but there is evidence to suggest that there is. I am livid with Angela for letting this happen.”

    Why are you only livid with Angela? Why aren’t you also livid with Fergus? Why are women always held responsible for the fidelity of men?

    1. Snark*

      You’re not wrong, and Fergus is a garbage-ass dude. In this particular case, I think Angela’s supervisory role and subsequent actions add another scoop or two of ethical opprobium onto her plate.

      1. Bette*

        I don’t disagree, but based on the language and the placement of this sentence before the OP gets into all the ensuing shenanigans, clearly what Angela “let happen” was the (potentially ongoing) relationship with Fergus. The other stuff is stuff that Angela “made” happen.

    2. Shiara*

      Clearly Fergus bears a great deal of blame, but he’s not in the LW’s department, and she therefore knows him significantly less well than Angela or Jane. He’s therefore not relevant to the management dilemma that the LW wrote in about, so I think it’s understandable that she focused on her anger at Angela.

      1. serenity*

        Agreed. Fergus also isn’t the one proactively trying to damage Jane’s professional reputation, so let’s think clearly here and not wield pitchforks for everyone involved in this situation. They’re not acting the same at this point, which is what OP wrote in about.

    3. Oranges*

      Agree. I think that the LW is at BEC stage with Angela AND getting her info from Jane. Jane is gonna blame Angela since feelings and logic don’t mix sometimes.

      Affairs mean the relationship was in dire straits even before one piece of clothing came off. This doesn’t excuse at all the fact clothes came off though. An ethical way to navigate would be to tell your SO when you feel like you might act upon your attraction to other people and figure out things together. Even if what you figure out is that you’ve grown too far apart/you’re not in love/whatever.

      1. Temperance*

        Oranges, I do not agree with you. Cheating does not mean that “the relationship was in dire straits”. That is simply not the case in all circumstances, or probably even most, nor is it relevant. It’s just something that cheaters say to alleviate their guilt and shift blame.

        From the facts included, we know that Angela is having an adverse impact on Jane’s career.

        1. Oranges*

          The relationship might be in dire straights because one of the people (the cheater) is an asshole. I’d say that’s 95% of the time the case.

        2. Oranges*

          That’s why I put in the disclaimer of doesn’t mitigate the cheating. Cheating is a deep betrayal that means for whatever reason you put your own pleasure before the pain of the one you married. That isn’t okay, ever. And that you did so… means that congrats, you’re an asshole.

          I just hate the idea of “everything was perfect until she came along” it just… no. That’s not what happened. I also don’t want to veer into the “only a hungry dog roams” BS either. Because there’s nothing the other person could have done.

          Does that make sense?

          1. Lora*

            The thing is, plenty of times the cheated-on spouse was genuinely unaware there were any problems in the relationship. Many many MANY cheaters are fantastic at hiding their tracks as well as they hide their true feelings (assuming they aren’t total sociopaths and actually have any). The first time the cheated-on partner finds out anything is less than wine and roses is the day they find a cell phone bill irregularity after years of cheating. In a lot of ways, that’s more traumatic than knowing you have problems in the relationship; your whole reality is simply turned upside down.

            Have had multiple people in my family and many more in the friends and acquaintances circles who had been married for decades, had lovely children, went on date nights with spouses and took family vacations, by all appearances happy as could be, then turn around and the spouse is caught screwing the babysitter/pool boy. Heck, I’ve known people who announced that they were gay and running off with their new same-gender partner after multiple decades of heterosexual marriage, leaving the ex-spouse in absolute shock.

            It happens. People are good at hiding things when they are motivated. Especially if they are narcissistic a-holes who get a kick out of two or more lovers fighting for their attentions and/or have a lot to lose financially.

            1. Oranges*

              Yep. Agree with that 100% so maybe I should say that “Angela” was the catalyst but not the reason the marriage exploded? The marriage exploded because one partner wasn’t being honest well before clothes came off?

              We can’t control the fact that we are attracted to other people when in a committed relationship. We can control how we react to that. We can be honest with our partner when the attraction becomes an actual issue (I wouldn’t want to know my partner’s every lady-boner but I would want to know about it when it interferes with “us”). We can try to figure out what is happening that I want to actually act upon that attraction so that we face this thing together. Or I can be a douche-canoe and hide it and think that I can act upon my attraction without consequences.

              I think that if we took away the shame, the feeling of personal failure, that comes from being attracted to other people and wanting to act upon it. It might be better for marriage as a whole? If I’m hiding my feelings because I’m ashamed and nothing changes and I act on those feelings (even if by acting I mean breaking up and immediately getting together with the other person) would it have been better for the relationship if I didn’t feel that shame in the first place so I could tell my partner? On the other hand, if I’m hiding only because I want to act on my attraction by ignoring my vows (aka get my cake and eat it too) that’s a different kettle of fish.

              I don’t think my idea was fleshed out enough when I wrote the above (which is why I like discussion it causes me to put words around my ideas and consider them more closely).

          2. nonegiven*

            Cheaters cheat. They rarely do it only once. They cheat on one SO, odds are they’ll someday cheat on another.

      1. As Close As Breakfast*

        And this is a letter asking for advice on the issue OP is facing at work. Which only involves Jane and Angela. It’s not a letter asking advice on the dissolution of her friends marriage and all of the events leading up to it. Nor is it an open letter to Fergus the Tool. Although, I wouldn’t mind reading that…

    4. fposte*

      Fergus is an ass in the marriage, which the OP is not party to; Angela is an ass in the OP’s department.

      I’m generally on board with the “it’s the fault of the partner, not the affair partner” thinking but in this case it isn’t about who’s got agency in the affair but who’s got agency in the office, and it’s Angela.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yup, this. This is different because of all of Angela’s subsequent evil workplace machinations.

      2. Tuxedo Cat*

        Yeah. I imagine the letter writer wrote this letter with the whole situation in mind. If this were just about an affair, it would be problematic to focus on Angela. However, Angela is going after Jane professionally. That takes it another level.

    5. Lissa*

      Could be that LW doesn’t really know or care about Fergus, but since she was friends with Angela there’s that added element of “I can’t believe someone I liked is acting like this.” also all we know about Fergus is he had an affair, which is obviously super crappy, but Angela is also career sabotaging. I agree with you that women get unfairly blamed but this doesn’t seem a case of that to me – the letter is about Angela, not Fergus.

    6. AKchic*

      Right now, we are focusing on the impact Angela is having on Jane’s career. Fergus can go sit on a 10ft tall extra-prickly cactus. On *that* we can all agree. However, right now, Angela is purposely sabotaging Jane’s professional life, which will have impact on her personal life, which adds an extra layer of heinousness to this whole issue.

      Let’s recap:
      Angela, an engaged woman is a supervisor of Jane, a married woman.
      Angela knowingly engages in a sexual affair with her subordinate’s husband, who is also a coworker
      Angela knowingly continues to sleep with her subordinate’s husband (because we know it wasn’t a one-time thing).
      Angela and Fergus are eventually found out by Jane (we aren’t told here how this comes about)
      Fergus and Jane start divorce proceedings
      Angela and her fiancé break up
      Jane’s work declines due to the stress of working for her soon-to-be ex-husband’s mistress, as well as the stress of a divorce from a lout
      Angela uses her position to continually tank Jane’s advancement and educational opportunities
      Angela denigrates Jane to at least one manager (the OP, when discussing her decreased work production), which Angela is directly partially responsible for.

      Angela made conscious choices at every step and chose these actions. She did not slip on a banana peel and fall with no underwear onto Fergus’s naked genitals. She did not just magically open her mouth and negative things fell out of her mouth of their own volition. She chose to say those things. She has actively chosen to do the things she has done.
      Fergus has been a driving factor for everything she has done, but let us be clear, Angela is a grown woman with a mind of her own, and clearly, she can do what she chooses to do.

      Fergus is not getting a free pass. The horrible things I wish upon him can’t be said here. Or on most websites. But in context of the workplace, Angela is the one who has power over Jane, not Fergus, therefore she is going to get our focus, and our ire.

      1. 2horseygirls*

        Sounds good except for the first line – Angela is NOT Jane’s supervisor.

        From OP: Angela is one of the three supervisors in my department, including me, but is not Jane’s supervisor.

      2. RVA Cat*

        There’s also the fact that even if they weren’t divorcing, Fergus’s comments on Jane’s job performance would have no weight if they have any kind of nepotism policy.

        I love the slip on a banana peel bit…

        1. AKchic*

          Yes, the nepotism issue *could* come into play here.

          “Sorry Grandboss, but Angela cannot be impartial in any decision regarding Jane since she is Jane’s husband’s mistress.” Although, I personally prefer the term “sister-mistress” until the divorce is finalized. I mean, outside of work, Jane can call her whatever she wants. I just think “sister-mistress” adds a little whimsy, and makes it sound like there could be more siblings out there.

    7. FD*

      Think of it this way. The issue right now isn’t the affair. Having an affair makes Angela and Fergus a**holes. However, that alone isn’t a disciplinary matter.

      The issue is that Angela is using her authority to harm another person for personal reasons, rather than for reasons relating to the job. That is a disciplinary matter.

  41. voyager1*

    I would go to the new manager. I would say this “I noticed you go to Angela a lot about issues and some of those involve Jane, you maybe didn’t know this but there is some strong feelings between them. Angela was caught having an affair with Fergus, Jane’s husband.”

    After that I wouldn’t say any more. Also depending on the workplace norms, I might substitute more salty language for affair just for some shock value. Any decent person would be able to understand why Angela has it out for Jane then, just like AAM said. I just would use more stronger language then AAM suggests.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      I would say more – I think it’s important to spell out that Angela having any input on Jane is problematic, and that Jane’s past performance is not consistent with her current performance or Angela’s input.

  42. EmilyG*

    I agree that something should be said but it’s important for OP to consult Jane first, because who knows what is going on in their divorce. Sticky negotiations arise about things like pets and real estate. It may be that Jane is not rocking the boat at the moment in the interest of getting something that will be helpful in her future life, but once that’s sorted she’d feel differently. There could be a timing issue that OP isn’t aware of, that is. This might be based on my wish that Jane take stupid Fergus to the cleaners…

  43. mf*

    You sound like a good friend, OP. I get why you want to keep Jane’s secret. But this is starting to affect the business–they are unable to make informed hiring decisions when it comes to Jane because Angela is retaliating against her. So yes, Jane’s manager (and HR) needs to know about this.

    The best I think you can do is offer Jane the chance to report Angela’s behavior first in case she wants to control how this news is released. But it may also benefit her to *not* say anything. If it comes from you, Jane will not appear to be trying to harm her husband’s mistress. (I can imagine a scenario where Angela spins this whole thing so she appears to the be the aggrieved party.)

  44. animaniactoo*

    OP, at this point, I would be blunt to Jane that Fergus can “not want people to know”, but Fergus is not the only factor here, and since Fergus’ behavior is having an impact on Jane’s work life, Fergus’ wishes are not top priority here.

    And that while Jane can “not want the drama”, Jane is getting plenty of drama simply from the fact that Angela is not behaving ethically towards her, and opting out of standing up for herself by simply relaying facts and allowing them to be known is damaging ONLY Jane while not actually avoiding any drama. In the absence of facts, Jane is allowing a perception to flourish that is being actively encouraged by Angela.

    Therefore, Jane not only can but SHOULD allow both the divorce AND the affair to be known while still taking the high road and choosing not to discuss any of it other than acknowledging the barebones facts that such things are happening. With the full facts in evidence, everyone else can weigh the subsequent words and actions for themselves. Now, before Jane’s work reputation has gone to pieces, and may not be recoverable even after Angela and Fergus publicly become a couple.

    It’s also possible to say to Jane “I agreed to keep your confidence because we’re friends and it didn’t seem to be impacting anything at work. Unfortunately, due to no fault of your own, it IS impacting work because of things that Angela has weighed in on where she should have recused herself due to the conflict of interest. Given that, can you live with me giving the people who need to know that only the overview of this situation? Still keeping it from broad public knowledge – although I admit it may leak – but allowing the people who need to know to act in this situation for the benefit of you and the company?”

    1. Natalie*

      I personally wouldn’t leave it up to Jane – it’s a serious enough ethical issue IMO – but your script still works great if you just change the questions to statements. It would certainly be a kindness to Jane to alert her to the fact that you are reporting this situation.

      1. animaniactoo*

        You can start it as a question and move to “I’m sorry, I think this is too important and ethically I would not be doing *my* job if I don’t say something, so I am going to have to discuss it with grandbosses.”

        Starting it as a question can be a way to take care of Jane emotionally, but it could also backfire in having Jane feel that rather than feeling like at least OP tried to consult with her and make it work, she lost more agency in having it taken out of her hands. She might react better to it never having been presented as being in her hands. I think that’s something OP should make a judgment call based on her knowledge of Jane and how clearly she thinks Jane is thinking/viewing/reacting to all of this.

        Ultimately, this might be one of those situations where there are no “good” answers where there’s a good solution for everyone, you just have to muddle through to what you think is the best big picture action and accept there’s going to be some fallout.

    2. Stormy*

      Until I saw your comment, I missed that Jane was acting on Fergus’ wishes to keep things quiet. Is this poor lady gunning for sainthood? Who gives a good goddamn what Fergus wants? If he’d asked me to keep all this quiet I’d be like “Oh, sorry, just hung up with Lamar. Billboards bought and paid for. What was your question?”

  45. Reva*

    Angela reeks of entitlement. I’m glad she got ‘past’ her actions, but not only did she have a part in hurting Jane in her personal life, she is now trying to torpedo her professionally. That being said, I completely agree that you need to let the manager know what is going on. As a clinician, I really hope Jane is seeing a therapist or at the very least talking to the EAP if there is one through work. It’s a lot to handle.
    Please update us! I am hoping for positive outcomes for you (OP) and Jane!

  46. I Didn’t Kill Kenny*

    If you do speak to Jane about telling the manager, be explicit that Angela is sabotaging her professionally. Jane may not want drama but I’m sure she wants to keep her job, at least until she finds a new one.

    Also, if there are productivity issues, a good manager shoukd take these circumstances into consideration.

    Angela is a bitch. Let’s hope karma knows her address.

  47. Stacy*

    I wonder if the OP could encourage Jane to go to the manager? Or they could go together? It might help Jane take matters into her own hands, and help the OP not be seen as someone trying to stir up drama–but supporting an employee who genuine grievances.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      I really think the OP would be better off going to Jane first to explain why she has to discuss Angela with their mgmt, and then go alone to the mgr. It’ll be easier to pull off the professional tone that this needs without Jane.

      Also, OP is the witness to Angela’s (un)professional behavior, which is what OP has the right to address. Jane is not a direct witness to the work-related actions.

  48. Miss Elaine e*

    After reading all this, I can’t help but wonder if Jane previously did something to Angela to make Angela do all this: Wrecking her marriage and career. (I’m not excusing Angela by any means but to want to destroy someone so completely…)

    1. SheLooksFami*

      Please don’t pull on that thread, Miss Elaine, even if you call it conjecture.

      It’s more likely that Jane’s then-husband trash-talked Jane to justify having an affair. Angela then felt justified in having the affair because, hey, Jane’s a lousy wife and doesn’t deserve Husband. Now she is triumphantly flaunting her edge to further humiliate the awful ex-wife who couldn’t keep her husband happy like Angela could.

      I’ve seen this more than a few times. I even lived it myself, thankfully without the work drama. Just at church. But that’s another story. Sometimes, the Other Woman is just a petty jerk who needs to make the ex miserable in order to raise their own self-esteem. It happens.

      1. fposte*

        And this is kind of like the tickling co-worker letter. Even if Jane peed in Angela’s cornflakes, this isn’t how you deal with it.

    2. Tea Time*

      It sounds like Angela is going overboard to make herself seem like she is the better person- an insecurity she probably wouldn’t have if she truly felt wronged by Jane. I think deep down she knows that what she did was bad, so she’s overcompensating by being extremely righteous and humiliating Jane.

      Plus, Jane’s overall professionalism in handling this situation leads me to believe that she wouldn’t be the type of person to do something that could prompt that kind of revenge.

    3. AKchic*

      There is no evidence or even discussion that from the individuals involved to even hint at this idea. That is soap-opera drama.

      This is plain old Fergus wanted a new piece of tail and found Angela’s tail to be quite receptive to his advances.

    4. LCL*

      We can wonder, I know I always question people’s motives. My experience has been the Angelas and Fergus’ of the world do this stuff just ’cause they wanna.

    5. Miss Elaine e*

      I apologize. I should not have introduced this speculation on what is a business/workplace advice site. I got all caught up in the soap-opera-esqueness of this situation and pondered how in real life, for the most part, people are not generally all good or all evil. Also that we only know what OP says.
      Thanks for correcting me for my inappropriate and unhelpful post. It won’t happen again.

  49. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

    Ok, OP, two things:

    1) The part you are seeing as far as Angela’s influence on Jane’s career may not be the only part going on. How do you know Angela isn’t putting a bug in the right people’s ears to get Jane managed out? You are only seeing part of the problem.

    2) To me, this reads as something that has some serious trouble-making potential as far as the company goes. Whether that’s a lawsuit or something more mild, I don’t know, but I wouldn’t want to sit on this. It smacks of something that may come back to haunt you (“OP, if you knew this, why didn’t you tell HR before XYZ happened?”).

    So, that being said, take all the drama out of it. Bring it to HR and the new boss like you’d bring any other conflict they’d need to be aware of. Maybe something like, “NewBoss, I wanted to let you know about a situation on the team. My understanding is that Angela had an affair with Jane’s husband (now ex), and there is still some fallout around it. I wanted to let you know because I wanted to make sure our team avoided any appearance of impropriety when it comes to evaluations and reviews.” Or any other decision-making stuff, of course. You could add that it was a recent event.

    You can mention a lot of other stuff, but I think that sentence would put any good manager on alert. I say “husband” instead of “ex” so that the manager knows it was during the marriage. Also with that sentence there’s no “well you are her friend so you are defending her” or “Angela’s annoying and I dislike her” that they can say skews your interpretation of events. It just is.

    1. Temperance*

      I think that you need to give concrete examples of what you’ve seen with Angela, though. Instead of “appearance of impropriety”, it needs to be clear that Jane has lost opportunities due to Angela, and what those opportunities are.

    2. 2horseygirls*

      The only thing I might change is:

      Angela confirmed to me^ that she had an affair with Jane’s husband, which led to Jane’s and Fergus’ recent divorce. I have observed Angela speaking negatively about Jane in relation to Job Opening and Charity Event*, and wanted to make you aware of the personal situation involving Jane, Fergus, and Angela that may be influencing Angela’s perspective. (Insert additional gory details here as needed.) I also want to ensure our team avoids any appearance of impropriety or bias when it comes to promotions, opportunities, evaluations and reviews.”

      ^ ‘My understanding’ could imply you overheard something in the ladies’ room, or around the water cooler secondhand. ‘Angela confirmed to me’ is firsthand knowledge.

      * This detail is specific, measurable, and work-related – ‘some fallout’ is not.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        This is very good. If LW is going to speak up, then this is the only way to go. Strong statements supported by concrete facts leading to a clear conclusion.

  50. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    LW to the new manager: “Speaking of disengaged. Angela has also become exactly that. Since her fiance found out she was sleeping with Fergus, she’s not engaged anymore. You met him. He works here. He’s not engaged though. He’s married. Well, not married anymore. His wife asked for a divorce. You met her. She works for you. Her name is Angela. You remember? The one who’s professional abilities Angela criticizes about to you. Yeah, her.”

  51. Justin*

    Why are people bad? Not even the cheating (there but for the grace of god, etc) but the doing so in the workplace and blowing up two relationships, etc. This is why sitcom characters are not people to emulate!

    LW, speak up if you can. Tell Jane you feel you must because it will just stay unpleasant if you don’t.

      1. AKchic*

        Fine, but I get to be the weird, nerdy Blanche/Abby/Penelope/Deadpool hybrid of the group. (Yes, Deadpool, because I will totally break the 4th wall)

  52. Oranges*

    LW, I agree with AAM but I want to call your attention to a slight relationship issue. I think you might be overly blaming Angela for the dissolution of Jane’s marriage. I assume that Jane is blaming the divorce ALL/MOSTLY on Angela because her feelings over/about Fergus are complicated to say the least. I think that you need to be aware of this just because it’s easy to fall into the “Everything’s Angela’s Fault” especially with what Angela’s doing at work.

    Don’t bring this up to Jane. Don’t bring this up to Angela. Just be aware that this might be skewing YOUR perceptions around Angela (making her look worse*) and Fergus (making him look better).

    *Only the perceptions around Angela’s part in “breaking up the marriage” only. She sounds pretty… not good from everything else you’ve told us. I don’t think blaming the “other person” for the divorce is healthy in the long run for Jane. Right now though she doesn’t need that, she just needs a safe place where she can be in pain without judgement.

    1. Elspeth*

      I don’t believe LW is “overly blaming” Angela for the dissolution of Jane’s marriage – she’s angry that her friend (formerly, now), Angela is treating Jane so terribly.

  53. ChrisC*

    One detail which I think is important: Jane is seeking a divorce, which means she is likely already talking to a lawyer. So if the company has any legal risk from this conflict, chances are that Jane will know about it (due to her already getting legal advice), and know the right way to act on it.

    And speaking of legal risk — is there additional risk to the company or the OP if they keep their mouth shut? Right now OP has been notified of Angela’s bad behavior, and this means management has been notified. If the company fails to address Angela’s bad behavior after this notification, does this expose them to any additional liability? (IANAL, I’d be interested if any real-lawyers-but-not-my-lawyers would comment…)

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      Speaking of lawyers. Her divorce lawyer would probably LOVE to know that the mistress is actively sabotauging their client’s worklife. It would certainly make the proceedings… interesting

  54. Specialist*

    I think your letter to Ask A Manager is actually pretty factual and reasonable. You are mad about the situation, but you aren’t saying that so-and-so is a little weasel with delusions of grandeur or anything really nasty. Can you print it out, hand it to your manager, and say you wrote it and would the manager like to set up a meeting with you, manager, and HR? I really think you need to spill all of this to the manager and HR. This affects the company beyond your manager’s position, and this really needs to see the light of day. I recommend that you move on this today.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      NO!!!! Do not undermine yourself like this!

      There are situations where it’s appropriate to print out an advice column for a problem you don’t want to address directly (stinky or loud coworkers), but as a supervisor, if you choose to address this, you must do it in person and directly. Do not tell people you’ve taken this to a third party!

  55. Q*

    I’m outraged by this, Angela has the gaul to cheat with Jane’s husband, then uses her position to advance herself and put down Jane? There’s clearly no moral compass operating, and it makes me wonder what kind of other decisions she is making as a manger that are way out of bounds. I think the OP needs to get these actions documented with HR, so it provides a clear trail should future issues with Angela come up in the future.

    1. Not The Maid!*

      I’m off the belief that you are who you are wherever you are. If the mind can be unethical in one setting, it isn’t a far leap to be unethical in another setting as well. So while I dont want to bring peoples personal lives up at work, personal character can effect virtually anything.

  56. ResuMAYDAY*

    I wish I read this letter only after the update was available! My heart is breaking for Jane. I hope Fergus and Angela show up to work tomorrow with matching cold sores.

  57. Goya de la Mancha*

    Angela has already screwed Jane in her personal life, she needs to stop doing it to her professional life as well. I would feel obligated to speak to a higher up to bring the situation to light. It might not work out how you want it to (I imagine they won’t walk Angela out in a walk of shame only to have Jane replace her, like I would want ;) ), but at least Angela’s actions will be acknowledged by the higher ups and out of your hands as a supervisor/employee.

  58. Queen of Pents*

    Yeah, I would have a heart to heart with Jane and tell her exactly why you need to go to a manager/HR. I know, if I were Jane, I would want a friend/ coworker to have my back if they saw this going on. I understand why you would want to talk to her about it first and give her the opportunity to go to HR or manager on her own, though.

  59. Lana Kane*

    I think Alison’s scripting here is spot on (both with Jane and your manager). That wording, and delivering it in a neutral, businesslike tone should definitely get the attention of any good manager.

    Jane will be tickier. But again, the scripting lays it all out in a reasonable manner. She may still be upset anyway, but ultimately you have to weigh the options and choose the one you can live with the most: keep her secret but allow Angela to ruin Jane’s career and possibly give her footing to do the same to others, or have Jane upset with you but stop Angela from really toxifying that department up.

  60. LCL*

    I have seen some really petty behavior at work directed at another employee that had nothing to do with any affairs. I would look at this as an issue of Angela is being unethical in lying about another employee and sabotaging her career, and I would bring it to management’s attention. I would make my case on Angela’s actions, and mention what you think is the motive, but whatever the motive it is evil and must stop. In most cases of workplace affairs I believe to stay out of it.

    1. Elspeth*

      As a manager, LW can’t really stay out of this “affair” because one of the affair partners, Angela is directly using her position as a supervisor/manager at this company to undermine the injured party, Jane.

  61. Erin*

    If I were Jane I would also tell OP not to tell anyone, would be embarrassed I got cheated on, and wouldn’t want people to look at me differently. But given everything that’s happened since, I’d also be really, really relieved if OP took that burden from me and let someone know I was being treated unfairly.

    There’s also something to be said about sticking up for someone else VS sticking up for yourself – I think it would look more viable coming from the OP than from Jane. And frankly, Jane has been through enough, and shouldn’t have to be put in the position to speak up for herself now.

    I’m not Jane, of course. And people handle these things differently, and react differently. But just saying. I think there’s a strong possibility Jane will end up being happy that you spoke up.

  62. Super Duper Anon*

    Ooh I have a similar story but it involved my best friend “Kate”.

    I hired best friend Kate’s fiance (Fergus) and he worked under me. He became really good friends with another one of my female employees (Jane). I always got bad vibes from that close friendship, but nothing concrete. It just always seemed weird and he never actually invited his own fiance to hang out when he was doing things with Jane. I was so suspicious that he was at least emotionally cheating or something. One example is Jane had a birthday party and specifically said he wasn’t allowed to invite Kate and he went anyway. Kate and Fergus get married, then a few months later another employee called me up to say she was hearing rumors about Fergus and Jane having an affair and it was an open secret among the whole staff. My suspicions were confirmed.

    I was no longer their direct manager by then because I had moved up, or else it would have been way worse. I decided to confront Fergus and tell him what I heard (without revealing the source) and that I didn’t need to hear whether or not it’s true, he just needed to tell Kate about the rumor or I would. Before doing that I also told my own boss about it to get advice on where to draw the line between professional and personal and I told HR as well. He confessed to the affair and Kate stayed with him. Jane doesn’t work here anymore.

    tl;dr: My best friend’s husband was my employee and he cheated on her with another employee and I exposed it. I’m never hiring personal contacts again.

    1. Super Duper Anon*

      That makes it sound like Jane was let go. Not true, she had already reduced her hours and then left entirely not too long after the big reveal.

    2. WayAnonymousForThisUn*

      I feel you. I caught my BIL trying to cheat on his wife. He had an active dating profile and had messaged a friend of mine… who happens to be in the same kink group I’m in. He was publicly outed by the girl he messaged.

  63. CBH*

    A little off topic, but I wonder if there is a way to spin/ report this without betraying Jane’s confidence. Is there a way to have HR look into Angela’s relationship with Fergus. I can’t help think that Angela thinks she “won” Fergus and is trying to help him professionally and advance the corporate latter quickly while destroying Jane. Angela sounds very narcissistic.

    Regardless OP you need to report this situation to help Jane at the very least. I think Jane is smart enough to know in the future that you are only looking out for her.

    Angela (and Fergus by default)’s actions have me furious!

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      The best you could do is say, ‘Angela told me she’d had an affair with Fergus, and now Angela is providing input on Fergus’s wife. That seems like a conflict of interest, and I’m really disturbed that Angela did not recuse herself voluntarily.’

      But if they talk to Jane and she says ‘oh, yes, I told OP about it’ then OP ends up looking pretty bad.

      1. CBH*

        After thinking a bit more about my comment, (I stated in a below comment) – I wonder if Jane told OP in the sense that OP would “have” to tell someone since she is a manager. Jane sounds a little lost and overwhelmed with the situation.

  64. RecreationalModeration*

    I suppose it would be unacceptable to wait until the entire office has gathered for some event—say, Lumbergh’s birthday cake—and then call loudly, across the room, “Hey, Angela! Good to see you! So … you and Fergus still banging each other, or has that stopped now that Jane’s divorcing him?”

    Okay, yeah, completely inappropriate and I might not do it. But I think about it.

    1. AKchic*

      I’m the type that would do it. Or encourage Jane to do it on her last day at the office after she’s found a wonderful, better paying job. Have a going away party and as she’s leaving, turn and say “Oh, Angela – have fun with Fergus, or have you moved on to some other married coworker yet? It’s okay, poppet – we know you weren’t *wife* material anyway. Not with your insecurities. Good luck.” Then smile to everyone, wave, and leave.

  65. Anon for this (because I’m paranoid)*

    LW, I’ve been in the position of having to report something personal to my manager that was told to me by a coworker. It wasn’t quite the same level of drama, but it had a similar impact on the workplace. I had to deal with it immediately because of the nature of the issue (otherwise I might have posted in on a Friday open thread!) My manager was grateful that I told her and did her best to keep me out of it as the reporter. My coworker was a little upset about it for a while (she asked me if I “told on her” and I confirmed it with no hesitation) but later agreed that it was the right thing to do and appreciated my concern. It’s definitely an uncomfortable situation but there could be worse consequences if you don’t say anything. Good luck.

    1. Queen of Pents*

      Yeah, I would hope the fact that Angela was giving input on other applicants for a job she was applying to, would hurt her credibility on the other things she had said about Jane. It appears to not of, as it is looking like Angela will get the job. All the more reason OP needs to speak up.

  66. Elbe*

    Cheating on your spouse, or cheating with someone you know is married, is bad on its own. But both Angela and Fergus were aware that if their affair became known, Jane would have to continue to work with both of them. They knew that they were putting her in an even worse situation than a typical affair, and I’m outraged at both of them.

    Angela’s behavior is over-the-top bad. This is definitely a professional issue, rather than just a personal one. The OP’s impulse to take this to management (or HR) is spot-on. Angela knows that the OP is friendly with Jane, so if she’s bashing Jane with the OP present, what is she saying in other situations? I have a feelings that this is the tip of the iceberg.

    Side note, though: isn’t it a red flag that Angela was giving feedback on a candidate for a job she then applied to? Even without the affair added in, this seems like a no-go to me. I feel like this alone should damage Angela’s credibility.

  67. Sigh*

    Go to HR/Manager, spell it all out in every glorious detail. Have times of conversations, including when Angela was critical of Jane. If there are other instances from before you knew about the affair, have them recorded too.

    Acknowledge that you are Jane’s friend and she told you this as a friend, but as a supervisor with a responsibility to the company to report ethical issues that open you up to potential legal issues and at the very least severe morale issues, you feel obligated to inform HR .

    Then, hopefully, watch Angela and Fergus both get fired/severely disciplined and Jane be given the sensitivity and security she needs to continue to have a good performance at work.

    1. CBH*

      I wonder if Jane in telling OP as a friend, was hoping OP would “have” to tell HR. To me it seems like Jane is lost and this was her way of reaching out.

      I agree let’s hope that Jane can watch Angela and Fergus get fired.

  68. Jim*

    Where is the third supervisor in this? That would be the one Jane reports to, no? Or, if Jane directly reports to new manager, then the three supervisors (OP, Angela, number 3) would contribute three opinions on Jane’s performance/opportunities. Why does Angela’s view count so strongly in this?

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Because abusers are often very charming, and negative feedback stick harder than positive, *especially* if recent productivity has taken a hit.

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        One manager from my past that I’m thinking of was expert-level at this behavior. She was able to paint others in such a way that they took 100% of the blame, even though she was largely at fault. And she was able to do this in a pleasant, nice way so she didn’t look like a jerk unless you were outside looking in (like I was, thankfully).

  69. DJ*

    Yes speak up to the relevant manager mentioned here. Nasty little cows
    like Angela shouldn’t be allowed to destroy others jobs.
    I’d tell Jane why you’ve seen happening and that you are going to talk to the manager and why saying you don’t want to see her job opportunities affected. If Jane says I’m in no position to take on additional work or promotions say that’s understandable but when you do want to you have the right to be considered fairly.
    When I’d talk to the manager mentions Janes prior excellent performance and how she’s dealt with the situation professionally (Jane’s not trashed Angela nor made a big deal about her divorce).
    Hopefully not only will this be dealt with but they also do something to protect Jane ie ensure Angela is not seated as far away as possible

  70. Jules the 3rd*

    I’m surprised so few people have said this: Angela is harassing Jane.

    The harassment is not because Jane’s in a legally protected class, but it’s still harassment and bullying. Jane’s career and current job are at risk.

    This doesn’t lead to the same legal consequences of being harassed for being a member of a protected class, but the ethical and department dynamics issues are similar. Not addressing it gives the signal that it’s ok, and that is not a signal of a healthy workplace. It is the job of management to promote a healthy workplace.

    We are in a moment where people are learning how to stand up to harassment, and where the risks in doing so are historically low. OP, I really hope you have the confidence to step forward and professionally address Angela’s unprofessional behavior. I think you risk a lot more by staying silent.

  71. Susana*

    Angela is behaving extremely unprofessionally (though it’s not clear whether Jane is indeed qualified for this supervisor position, it’s unacceptable that Angela be allowed to weigh in at all). Still, I’m floored by the tone of this letter, which directs all of the anger at Angela and none at her lousy cheating husband. Working with the woman who had an affair with her husband is awful – but so is working with the soon-to-be-ex who cheated on you. And it’s Fergus who broke a commitment to Jane, not Angela. I’m not excusing Angela in the slightest – and the only way anyone should get involved is by assessing the impact on work – but why is the woman being forced to accept the entire blame for the affair? Fergus isn’t a cat Angela stole from jane’s front yard. He’s a person and made his own decision. And asking/telling Jane NOT to tell people about the divorce? Red, red flag. It’s not his thing to keep secret. It’s her life, too, and she gets to discuss it if she likes.

    1. AKchic*

      As stated above, right now, we’re focusing on the work impact aspect, which is strictly Angela’s bailiwick. Why? Because if Angela tanks Jane’s professional life, it will add to Jane’s personal woes. Fergus is 100% responsible for Jane’s personal life issues. He is only 25% responsible for the work life issues. Had Angela recused herself from any work decision in Jane’s life, then he would have been 50% responsible for Jane’s work life woes. Since Angela refuses to recuse herself and is taking the petty road and sabotaging Jane, Angela gets more blame in that arena.

    2. MashaKasha*

      Fergus is a piece of work, without a doubt. But he is not the one who brought this deeply personal and messy stuff into Jane’s workplace. He is not the one trying to undermine Jane and cut her off promotions and ultimately put her out of a job. That’s all Angela. Fergus has behaved terribly in his personal life, but we have no information on whether or not he is acting unprofessionally at work. Angela is.

      I see this entire thread as assigning the blame for what Jane’s career is turning into. NOT for the affair. That’s a separate portion of the blame.

  72. DaniCalifornia*

    Can we add a poll at the end of the year to vote on who the worst coworker was? Because right now, Angela would be the winner!

    I hope she (and Fergus for that matter) always feel like they have rocks in their shoes but can never find any.

  73. Lady Phoenix*

    I reread thisnletter again and holy shit, I think Angela is try to get Jane fired/let go.

    You need to speak about Angela’s conduct NOW and how it has not only affected Jane’s personal life (by ruining her marriage) but her worklife (affecting Jane’s producitivity, keeping Jane from networking and premotions).

    I thought Angela was bad before… but it really does sound like she is trying to get Jane out of there.

    Angela needs to fuck off and so does Fergus. The only reason why I am not commenting on Fergus as much is because doesn’t have as much power over Jane’s job like Angela does.

    Like holy fucking shit. This IS the worse coworker of 2018.

  74. Indie*

    Betrayed spouses are often shamed into silence, made to feel it’s ‘our problem ‘ and ‘washing dirty linen’ by the cheater and as though its ‘bitterness’ or classless’ by a victim blaming society to speak out. If it were not for this terrible cultural disposition Jane would be able to tell her manager that she’s had a terrible shock which will be affecting her work. But that she’s a trooper who’s doing more than you’d expect. Yet she’s powerless under the code of silence to fend off an active attack! Even here, comments that it’s dishing dirt unnecessarily puts strain on such victims and her friends to remain silent. Look, no one’s posting stuff on social media, or calling her choice names in the office, it’s an objective third party, who is justly disgusted, who needs to tell the truth in no nonsense terms, without Victorian euphemisms, that one co-worker is actively destroying the personal and professional life of another. That’s it.

    1. Been There, Done That*

      THIS!!!! Most people still don’t know the reason my first husband & I divorced and the assumption is just that we got married too young & grew up in different directions. That’s true to an extent…but it definitely wasn’t what triggered the divorce.

  75. Noah*

    Oh, gosh, please don’t say this to Jane: “I know that you don’t want to share what happened with anyone at work, but I’m in a really awkward position now that I know — because I’m seeing clearly biased behavior from Angela that I have an obligation to talk to (manager) about. At this point I feel like I need to talk with (manager) about what I’m seeing, but I promise you that I’ll be as discreet as I can and stress that you didn’t want to share this with anyone.”

    This is arguably an admission of sexual harassment by Angela. Saying this to Jane could easily get OP fired if her employer finds out. This type of disclosure to an employee wouldn’t be protected by whistle-blower laws.

    1. Elspeth*

      How would the OP get fired? As a manager, she has no alternative to go speak to her manager and/or HR and tell them what’s going on – that Jane is being harassed by her now ex-husband’s affair partner, Angela!

    2. Jules the Third*

      It’s not sexual harassment – Jane is not being harassed because of her gender.

      This *is* harassment, but it’s not sexual. In the US, that means it’s not illegal. If it goes into some illegal action, like slander or assault, they can charge on that, but because Jane’s productivity has dropped (naturally!), she probably can’t even get Angela on slander.

      1. Gadget Hackwrench*

        Harassment is VERY MUCH illegal in the US, even if it’s not sexual. It’s just way hard to prove the “for no legitimate purpose” qualifier that’s attached to non-sexual, non-threat harassment behaviors when your harasser works with you. She can do all of those things under the guise of “work related purpose” thus sheilding herself from accusation. It doesn’t much matter either way because as long as Angela is doing this behind Jane’s back, it’s not going to qualify for harassment. Angela has to say things to or in front of Jane to make it harassment… otherwise it’s just lies, maybe slander, but not harassment.

  76. His Grace The Duke of New Jersey*

    Dear God. Yes, do speak up. What Angela did was petty af, and dishonorable.

  77. Candi*

    LW, please speak to your manager. Angela is being horribly unprofessional in her behavior towards Jane, regardless of the cause.

    This isn’t just about what’s happening now, it’s about Jane’s work future -her job now, her opportunities within the company, her references if she gets let go for whatever reason (if nothing else, layoffs happen), her standing in the industry. (You’ll be a good reference, but you aren’t the only person at the company who might get called.)

    Angela is rather thoroughly poisoning the well. Please try and flush it clean.

  78. Hera Syndulla*

    I’ve been thinking about this how OP could vaguely explain the situation without breaking Jane’s trust, but alas I cannot find a correct way that tells the exact problem. Telling about the affair between Fergus and Angelina seems unavoidable to me.

    This context explains why Jane’s performance is down and that Angelina is kicking her down further and that Angelina is far from an objective observer complaining about a subordinate.

    What Angela is doing is so, so wrong and must be told to upper management.
    What she is doing to Jane is unethical and bullying and can destroy Jane’s career. It shows a lot about her character. Who is to say she won’t exploit others the same way (doesn’t mean she has to interfere in a marriage, just find something that another co-worker or subordinate is struggling with in RL but that person keeps it hidden while it does have an impact on the work-performance, and then telling upper-management s/he has to go… and in Jane’s case Angela is even part of the cause!)

    I wouldn’t want to work with an Angela. She is ruining Jane’s career out of spite.

    Like Jane, I would probably feel mortified when the affair and divorce are made public. However I would be more upset if my silence about it and the vindictive nature of Angela would cause me to lose my job (which would cause me extra tress next to the shame I’m feeling of the failed marriage).

  79. NewtoManagement*

    OP here (again). As always- thank you Alison for you spot on advice! And THANK YOU to everyone who commented for giving me the reality check to see what’s right.
    Admittedly, I was not focused on the right things. I think (being a new Supervisor) I was so focused on “you shouldn’t be friends with team members” and “you shouldn’t disclose management discussions to team members” and “you should be impartial and not give in to gossip” that I wasn’t seeing how much of an outlier this situation was. The transition to supervisor has been eye opening. I could go on forever about what I thought it would be like versus what it is, but that’s not the point. I was thinking about the “rules” of a supervisor and they were making me hesitant to come forward because this is a personal friendship and it does, as many pointed out, play out as a soap opera!
    What I was not focused on was the right things- integrity, morality, and loyalty to the company.
    Jane is quite honestly one of the most lovely people you will meet. But, very stoic, and does not let a lot of people “in”. Which was one of my hesitations as well. Although she is probably not seeing clearly there is no doubt in my mind that going forward with this I will lose a friendship of someone I admire a lot.
    I am no longer friends with Angela. This happened very naturally but I just cannot see her the same. But, Angela isn’t a one-dimensional character. I don’t excuse her, I don’t condone her. I just think when you work with someone 40+ hours a week you don’t see what only a letter can capture. She originally came to me with a “wtf did I just do” situation. She disclosed it to me before Jane did. But shes… changed. And I can’t support who she is being now, professionally, or otherwise.
    Some commenters have mentioned this so I need to make this clear- I do not in any way shape or form excuse Fergus. I don’t blame Angela more than Fergus. I just don’t work with Fergus. I don’t know Fergus. Fergus did not have an affair with a team member’s spouse. Morally and as a friend, I would love to kick Fergus in the balls for what he did. But, sadly, I never walk the same hallways as him at work so the opportunity just hasn’t come up.
    Anyways, even as writing my submission (and without the influence of the 9 million other things I have to deal with in a day) I thought “this is crazy- why aren’t you saying something?!”. And with my old manager it would not have been an option. Under my new one, I don’t know. She’s been there 4 weeks, I get the sense she would be reasonable.
    But, its not about that, or me coming off as a gossip. It’s about Jane’s unfair treatment. I will talk to Jane before I do anything and disclose the whole situation. And then I will go to the manager. I really appreciate Alison’s and others scripts for this.
    Deep breath, and wish me luck!

    1. Bob Vance, Vance Refridgeration*

      Good luck OP! I feel for you, it seems like you’re dealing with a lot- and you’re right- management positions are not easy to deal with! But just keep what some writers have said in mind- if Jane got fired tomorrow, wouldn’t you wish you said something? Please keep us updated!!!

    2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Thank you for the update and good luck! You’re doing the right thing, even though it’s not easy. That’s a good sign. Wishing you and Jane the best.

    3. AnonEMoose*

      I’m so glad that you’re going to speak up, OP. Please do update us; I hope everything works out well for Jane!

    4. CrumbleCrumbs*

      Good luck Op. Just make sure when you run this by Angela you emphasize that you want to protect her professional carrier despite everything that happened. Don’t make it seem like you are trying to stir the pot, but rather that you are coming at this like any other supervisor would. In the best interest of her professional carrier.

      1. Elspeth*

        It’s not a good idea to run it past Angela – she’s the one trying to get Jane fired, after all, and she’s shown that she’s not above unethical behavior. It would serve LW better to talk to new manager first, because Angela could make up a story and make it seem like LW is biased against her.

  80. Gigi*

    OP do speak up! Angela is putting Jane’s job at risk and it’s completely understandable as to why Jane’s productivity has dropped considering everything she is going through. You can’t let Angela get away with deliberately sabotaging Jane’s professional life when you have the potential power to put a stop to this. Oh and please give us an update once you have dealt with this.

  81. AnonAnon*

    This is such a sad situation.

    I noticed a complete lack of Fergus in this drama, so despite him being an equal initiator, he has potentially got off quite Scot free in the workplace. the root issue of the situation: the affair – and the subsequent fallout, are both linked. If it’s not discussed sensitively with *all* parties there is the potential to be punitive on the women only.

    There is the real potential that something is quite wrong for Angela and she is acting out (not that I condone it) Maybe Fergus is poisoning the well and she is gullible enough to do his bidding. We just don’t know. If both the women lose credibility, or are open to rumour, it leaves Fergus with a higher status, or if they leave – to give Fergus a fresh slate to cause more problems. That to me, is not equality in the workplace.

    I don’t have an answer to the above but I’d like to know anyone’s thoughts on it. What could be done?

    1. Elspeth*

      The LW isn’t dealing with Fergus, though. Yes, Fergus is absolutely equally to blame for the affair, however, LW is asking for help in dealing with Angela who is poisoning the well for Jane.

    2. Observer*

      It doesn’t really matter why Angela is doing it, etc.

      It’s not the OP’s place to deal with the affair. What IS her place is to deal with a work place issue. Also, the only thing she can realistically do is to deal with the professional issues at play. And that really IS totally on Angela. If Fergus is playing into that, Angela is going to have to find some way to bring it up.

    3. Indie*

      The truth just has to be told in plain factual terms with no value judgements. “Angela and Fergus did x” “Angela has since said y”. Why it happened is not relevant. If you start psychoanalysing them with additions like “because shes a (amatuer diagnosis)” or “its well known that Fergus is controlling/manipulative ” then you lose all moral high ground as the truth-teller focusing on practicalities. I don’t think it’s likely, but say Angela is being controlled; well that defence is for her to make. If she’s unable to verbalize his effect, then at least others will stay her backstabby hand until she sees the light.

  82. Chriama*

    Would this fall under sexual harassment, from a legal perspective? Maybe no because Angela had an affair with Jane’s husband and not with Jane. But it definitely sounds like something that would be an HR and PR nightmare if Jane was fired or demoted because of. I’m sorry for Jane. She’s trying so hard to be professional and Angela is trampling all over her. I think that she should stand up for herself, if only to prevent Angela from being able to ruin someone else’s life the way she’s trying to ruin Jane’s.

    I desperately hope for an update with good news soon.

  83. CrumbleCrumbs*

    Wow this is terrible and I really feel for Jane. OP, you need to speak up. This isn’t fair to Jane. Her entire world is falling apart and it doesn’t seem like Angela has moved on from the affair if she is trying to hurt Jane’s reputation. This is clearly wrong. If I were Jane, I would leave that work environment. It will only be a daily reminder of the betrayal that occurred.

  84. RUKiddingMe*

    “I think you have an obligation to speak up when you see this kind of wrongdoing —”

    This applies think to life in general. Too often we stay silent when we really should speak up. OP please say something.

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