updates: husband’s boss is sleeping with married department head, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are five updates from past letter-writers.

1. My husband’s boss/our friend is sleeping with their married department head

Thanks for all the great advice and script for talking to my friend about the situation. Using that, I asked her tell my husband and offered to tell him myself. She apologized and felt terrible, and said that she never really meant for me to keep it from him or expected that I would. She didn’t feel like she had the rapport to do it herself (since we had a more intimate/personal friendship and they have a more comradely one) and asked me to, hoping he wouldn’t think too poorly of her.

The readers all insisted on full disclosure, and were pretty intensely set on me needing to tell him everything no matter what. However, I’m happy to say that I was right in thinking he honestly preferred not to know, and was 100% understanding of me keeping Jane’s trust on a sensitive issue. When we talked, I started with the broadest strokes (“Jane isn’t really leaving because of burn out, and I don’t want you thinking otherwise”) and got more specific. He stopped me when I told him she had fallen in love, and didn’t want anymore detail. He would be mandated to report the people involved if he knew, and preferred to stay out of it especially considering his friend’s genuine emotions were involved. My husband told her privately he didn’t hold it against her, she moved, hasn’t seen the Man in question, and is dealing with heartbreak in healthier ways.

Thanks so much again, and to the readers, as I’d struggled over this issue for a long time! I’m glad some of my instincts were right but I’m also glad that the secret is off my chest. It remains to be seen if they stay split, but I’ll still be seeing lots of the Man since apparently he’s related to a new coworker at MY job!

2. I accidentally embarrassed my friend’s boss — but I was right about what I said

I actually wound up not apologizing even after your thoughtful advice. As it happened, soon after the confrontation with Ariel I started hearing Sam complain more and more about Ariel acting punitive about small things. He wound up leaving the company, which reduced the time I spent talking to his boss to effectively zero. It didn’t seem necessary to bring up the incident to someone I talk to so rarely, and as more time passed I forgot about it pretty quickly, and I think Ariel did too. I think apologizing would have just made it into more of a “thing.” But I appreciate your advice and the kind words from sympathetic commenters. Thanks for helping!

3. I hate working from home — how can I make this better?

All the comments where incredibly helpful and I took a lot of the commenter’s advice including work from home meet-ups, getting “dressed” and trying to take a walk to help break up the day. Looking back at my letter now I am amazed because now I LOVE working from home. I am so much more productive than I have ever been and get more time with my family. I love that I can start dinner while on a conference call. Working from home has been great and I appreciate all the advice to help me get to this point. Thanks all!

4. I interviewed for a job that didn’t match the job posting — and other things seemed off (#3 at the link)

I have an update to my recent letter. I ended up turning the job down. As the interview process continued, it became clear that the role was not as advertised and—more concerning—that the different higher ups had different perspectives on what the priorities for the new employee would be. It was a difficult choice because my job search has been (and continues to be) so difficult. I’m just now getting over demoralization caused by some very dysfunctional workplaces and terrible managers, so I’m extremely wary of putting myself back in that kind of environment again.

5. How can I get out of dressing up for Halloween at work(#5 at the link)

I ended up dressing up, as things started rapidly improving by the end of the month. My spouse had been laid off early in the month – this was the enthusiasm-sapping event to which I referred – but they got a new one about a week and a half later (because they’re awesome), so things were looking a lot better.

The commenters made some wonderful suggestions, and I appreciate every one of them. I ultimately dressed up as a Disney character, as that was my team’s theme. However, if I ever find myself truly lacking the desire to dress up, I will most likely employ one of the strategies recommended by the amazing comments section.

{ 23 comments… read them below }

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh, interesting. The OP sent it in as Julia, but yes, she must have meant Jane. OP, if you see this, I’m going to change the name in the update so it doesn’t cause confusion!

  1. Detective Amy Santiago*

    #1 – I’m glad that you were able to ease your husband’s anxiety by telling him as much as he wanted/needed to know.

  2. Bend & Snap*

    #2–I read the original letter as Ariel was punishing Sam because of the LW’s reaction to the weight comment. Or was I wrong? If I’m right, I’m not sure why an apology wasn’t forthcoming.

    1. Agent Diane*

      That how I read it too: in which case Ariel continued to pick on Sam and…Sam left? Not sure that’s a great outcome.

      1. LeRainDrop*

        Yeah, I agree. This was disappointing. Sounds like LW didn’t want to take any responsibility for their poor delivery based on the weight principle. LW basically just procrastinated on apologizing for so long that she didn’t feel it was appropriate to do it anymore.

    2. gecko*

      While maybe serving as the inciting incident, LW isn’t really culpable for Ariel punishing Sam inappropriately. I think the LW’s idea was, apologizing would just make it worse by reminding Ariel of the incident. It’s a reasonable decision to make–both because of that justification and the difficulty of speaking to Ariel. Though it’s not my preferred course of action in the context of giving advice, I don’t know if I’d have done different!

    3. Rhiiiiiiannnnnnnon*

      I agree. I also think it is odd for LW#2 to assume Ariel forgot about the incident… If someone snapped at me (so strongly that multiple gasped), I would have a hard time forgetting. I feel like its just a bad idea not to clear the air with an apology, especially when Ariel probably didn’t have any ill intent with her weight comment.

    4. KimberlyR*

      But I would argue that Sam is better off with a boss that isn’t as punitive as Ariel. Maybe LW’s comment directly caused the criticism (although I hope not!) but Sam shoudn’t want to work for a boss that punishes him for someone else’s comment. I hope Sam is happier where he is now and I don’t think the LW needs to go back and apologize this late in the game.

  3. Seeking Second Childhood*

    #4 I’m so glad you passed on that job. I once made the mistake of taking a position where the VP of Marketing was the hiring manager — and he described it very differently than HIS boss the president. The president was clear that the company needed an admin, but I drank the VP’s KoolAid because I would be marketing assistant in a few months when they hired a receptionist. Instead they hired an executive assistant over my head and put me at the front desk as the receptionist. Happily it all played out in such a short period of time that I was able to portray the position as just one more Great Recession temp job. (Oh and the ambitious VP? He was let go 24 hours after I was.)

  4. Cringing 24/7*

    Props to OP #1 for their reveal technique. Painting with broad strokes and providing more information only up to the point until their husband didn’t want any more – it’s not a method I probably would have thought of (or even considered) beforehand and I would’ve just word-vomited the whole secret. I’ll definitely keep this in mind for the future – thanks for the update OP!

    1. Karen from Finance*

      Same. I would have just blurted out “Jane’s having an affair” or something. But I can see how OP’s technique was much, much better. I can see my own partner reacting in a similar way to the husband in this situation. I’m glad this all turned out for the best.

      I hope Jane does get better. It sounds like she’s having a rough time.

  5. Hmm*

    #1 – I’m happy it worked out for you! There were actually some of us in the comment section that said more along the lines of what you did (lots of couples don’t share EVERY detail, and if they’re okay with that, that’s okay!), though it sounds like we were buried. All relationships are different, I’m happy you figured out what works for you! :)

    Also, that’s hilarious you’ll still be seeing him! Small world, eh?

  6. Costume Idea*

    OP5 (and anyone else this idea might help out) – another idea for the future is to dress up as a Where’s Waldo extra (normal street clothes is all that’s required). I had a friend who did this this year for a party that they were being forced to go to.

  7. Michaela Westen*

    “It remains to be seen if they stay split, but I’ll still be seeing lots of the Man since apparently he’s related to a new coworker at MY job!”
    Wow, small world! Does he come from a big family? Are you in a small town where everyone is related or knows each other?

  8. TonyBoy*

    OP3 – don’t tell your co-workers that you’re cooking dinner, doing housework, etc on conference calls. Lots of people (especially those that have to spend all of their work time working) will think that you’re not giving the call your full attention. You may be opening yourself up for trouble – if you miss a call or don’t complete a task, it might be thought its because you’re busy with personal business. I know that I wasn’t too pleased when I urgently needed information for my client from a colleague at 10:00 in the morning (he was working from home), and when he returned the call an hour and a half later told me he couldn’t answer because he was out feeding his horses.

    1. Mary*

      In contrast, when I worked from home our contracts strongly encouraged us to do errands around the house (walking the dog and hanging washing out were literally mentioned in our contracts!) because getting up from your desk and walking around is a great way of avoiding muskulo-skeletal injuries.

    2. Katie*

      I’ve been on conference calls with WFH people who were clearly doing other things at the same time and it’s irritating as heck. Just be discreet.

  9. Mongrel*

    I got moved to working from home after they shut our office and moved our jobs to another office.
    The biggest thing for me, compared to the occasional day that I used to dial in on, was setting up an office ‘lite’ environment.
    My computer is setup for gaming so the space is unsuitable for prolonged work, it also has the games on it….
    Now I’m in a corner with a proper furniture, snagged with permission from the old office, and a decent laptop, so now I have a work space and a leisure space.

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