my boss asked coworkers if my husband has violent tendencies

A reader writes:

I work at a university. Last fall, I was notified that my position of almost six years was being eliminated due to shortfalls in enrollment which affected the budget. I was given a generous amount of time to find a new position and had my director and Human Resources fully behind me in finding a new position on campus. I have happily been in my new position since.

I will add that although I was shocked at the news, I accepted it graciously at the time and after. In a conversation a day or two later, I told my director I understood it was a business decision and it was a good one that I couldn’t disagree with.

So what’s the problem? I’ve recently learned that that same director was asking around the department if anyone knew my husband and if he had a tendency toward violence and should the director be alerting security to the potential of violence on campus once my husband learned of my job elimination. There is nothing in my history or his that indicates potential for violence; we are quiet, stable people who enjoy gardening, our dog, and outdoor sports – nothing questionable, nothing with red flags. The only thing I can think of is my husband is a blue collar worker and in his ignorance, my former director is equating blue collar workers with potential for violence.

I am shocked and humiliated, but also incensed at his ignorance and discriminatory attitude toward blue collar workers. By asking this question around the department, I feel he has smeared my reputation and my husband’s. I do not know if he filed a report with security, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did, though I don’t know how to find out.

I am upset that our names have been related to potential violence anywhere, particularly on a university campus. How do I deal with this, do I have any options going forward, or do I simply have to live with the harm to my and my husband’s reputation? I also don’t want to cause problems for the person who alerted me; I know this director has been punitive and petty with his reports in the past.

What on earth?!

It’s possible that there’s a piece of this that you don’t know, and that would make it make more sense if you did. For example, maybe your director heard an alarming story about someone with the same name as your husband and it’s a case of mistaken identity. Or maybe he misheard or misunderstood an innocuous comment. Who knows.

I’m tempted to say it’s more likely that there’s an explanation like this, because it would be really bizarre for your director to just randomly decide your husband posed a potential threat based solely on working in a blue collar profession and to then go around asking people about it. But people are bizarre, and do all have all kinds of biases, so who knows, maybe that’s exactly what happened.

The most direct way of handling this would be to just ask him. You could say something like this: “Did you have any concerns about how Bob might respond to my layoff? I’ve heard from a bunch of people that you were asking if he had a tendency toward violence and if we had anything to fear from him. I’m really confused and wanted to ask you directly rather than assume anything.” You could add, if you wanted, “My husband’s most violent activity is yanking weeds from the ground when we garden.”

Depending on his response, you could say, “I’m really concerned that people now think Bob might be dangerous! Could you go back and correct the record with anyone you raised this with, including campus security if you spoke with them?”

If he insists on knowing who talked to you, you don’t need to name names. You can say, “I heard it from a few different places, and I don’t want to out anyone. I just want to get it cleared up.”

If you’re not happy with the results of that conversation, you could also talk with HR to make sure that they know what happened, and are clear on the fact that your husband is not a threat, and because they might want to talk to your director and shut this kind of thing down from happening in the future — although they’ll need to balance that against not wanting to discourage people from speaking up about potential threats, even if they turn out to be wrong. (Ultimately it’s better for people to speak up and be wrong than to stay silent and have something happen. But it’s not okay to report people because of their demographics — their profession, their race, etc. — and if that’s what happened here, they do need to talk to him.)

I know that may not feel like enough, when you’re feeling like your husband’s name has been smeared (and your own reputation perhaps affected as well). You have the option of talking with a lawyer about whether to address this as defamation, but I’m skeptical that would be the way to go here; defamation lawsuits are costly and time-consuming, you have to show actual damages, and there’s likely to be fall-out to you on campus from going that route over something that many people will perceive as not warranting legal action against a colleague.

That doesn’t mean what he did wasn’t really crappy; it was. I’d start with the conversation with him and see what you can learn.

{ 252 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Anonymous36

    I’m almost worried that this is one of those situations where denying it so vehemently will somehow still make people think your husband is abusive and your denials are the result of your fear, since you’re in an abusive relationship. Not sure how to prepare for that!

    Reply
    1. Hey Karma, Over here.

      I agree, which is why I think she shouldn’t deny it. She shouldn’t discuss it with people at all. She needs to talk to Prince Valiant and see what the hell he was thinking and then have him share with everyone that misspoke…AND WHY. Was is based on a mixed up name or was it some classicist slur?

      Reply
      1. OhGee

        Yeah, I would straight up ignore this. I assume anybody who heard the boss asking this would most likely think the boss was weird for asking such a thing.

        Reply
      2. Evan

        Lol, you meant “classist.” If the husband has a steady blue-collar job, he probably earns more than most classicists.

        Reply
          1. Anax

            There are so many classicist slurs. Latin is a BAFFLINGLY specific language when it comes to profanity – it’s not quite sfw, obviously, but the wikipedia article on Latin language profanity is pretty entertaining reading.

            Reply
    2. kittymommy

      Yeah, this. I mean seriously, what the ever-lovin’ hell is this guy thinking?? I think the LW needs to ask the former director about it and what his reasoning is? It’s just bizarre!

      Reply
    3. Future Homesteader

      That’s one of my first thoughts, too. But I think the answer there is to be calm and measured in raising this (which it sounds like OP would be, given the tone of the letter). There’s not much else that *can* be done, apart from bringing it up, saying your piece to the boss (and former coworkers, if necessary), and then letting it go unless there’s evidence of specific repercussions or if the boss takes this any farther.

      Reply
    4. Knork

      If I was LW’s coworker, I’m certain I would believe her denial and not think it was a case of “the lady doth protest too much.” Someone doing something as bizarre and inappropriate as the director is also likely to be completely incorrect.

      Reply
      1. MK

        It’s not that simple. If the OP reacts forcefully against this, it will probably mean that a lot more people will hear the story, many of which will not know her well (or at all). And the very unlikelyhood of the story works against her too; people might think that the director must have had some cause to consider violence a possibility, that he couldn’t have made such an assumption from nothing.

        Reply
        1. Observer

          The problem is that this is not an unreasonable chain of thought – everyone knows that abuse victims will sometimes deny the fact of abuse. And unless the former director has a reputation already, it’s going to be very hard for people to believe that he would do something so utterly unreasonable and bizarre.

          So, the OP definitely does have bit of a problem on her hands.

          Reply
          1. pancakes

            Regarding the director’s reputation, “I know this director has been punitive and petty with his reports in the past” suggests it isn’t sterling.

            Reply
            1. Observer

              I think that will help the OP. The thing is how well is the boss’ reputation known? Also, “punitive and petty” doesn’t necessarily mean “in the habit of jumping into the VERY deep end and reaching ridiculous conclusions.” So someone could easily think “I wouldn’t want to work for him, but that’ still a ridiculous thing to say about him.”

              I think that the people who suggested treating the suggestion about her husband like a suggestion that her husband has three heads and is an immigrant from Neptune is solid.

              Reply
          2. Traffic_Spiral

            One thing though – he’s not asking if he would be violent *against LW.* He’s asking about violence against the company if she’s laid off. For that, you can be a lot more straightforward – after all, if hubs was going to set the building on fire or beat up the receptionist, it’d hardly be something you could keep secret.

            Personally, I’d go straight to HR and say “Boss has been spreading rumors that my husband will commit some act of violence against the company if I’m laid off – I am understandably pretty upset about this.”

            Reply
      2. Mrs. H. Kenway

        Especially if she says it in a matter-of-fact, almost amused way: “The most violent thing Bob’s ever done is pull weeds, I can’t imagine where that came from,” as opposed to, “I cannot believe someone thought my husband would be violent! How dare they!”

        Both are totally valid, I’m not saying they aren’t. I’d be POd if someone implied that about my husband. I just think she’s more likely to be believed if she acts like it’s a ridiculous thought that she is totally unconcerned about instead of, well, sounding like she’s maybe Protesting Too Much, since some people really do think that way.

        Reply
    5. Lemon Pledge

      I can see why OP would want to address this issue but I agree that if OP appears upset about this then it confirms that her husband is violent in minds that are thinking that way. I think the only good response here is to laugh and say something along the line of “Wow the director obviously has never met my husband, or Oh I will have to see if the director will bump into the door repair people that won’t fix the door so they will agree with me or be scared.

      Reply
    6. dramalama

      Yeah, I kind of thought this too. It’s patently ridiculous, but I’ve been hit by the “why would you be upset if it was completely untrue” before.

      Reply
    7. Lynca

      My mother had this accusation thrown around after she got a black eye and nearly broke her collarbone. People she barely knew at work approached her to offer to report the abuse/take her to a shelter/etc. She was very firm and called out how ridiculous it was to automatically assume she was being abused just because she got hurt. My dad was a huge, scary looking guy. But a sweetheart who would never hurt anyone. It passed without incident after really being direct about how /ridiculous/ this notion was and telling people that she would report them HR if they kept harassing her about it. They were all social workers too which made it even more frustrating and bizzare to my mom.

      She also roped in her closest co-workers to shut the rumor mill down. Which they did because they knew and liked my dad.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        This is tricky though because a different scenario is “Beth came into work after her husband gave her a black eye and broken collarbone and no one checked in with her about what was going on, reinforcing his message to her that no one would care what was happening.”

        Obviously people need to temper this — it’s not okay to refuse to believe someone who says they’re fine. But it’s also understandable why people ask.

        Reply
        1. Lynca

          True. I’m just saying it’s not impossible to combat the notion of a false accusation even when people just don’t believe you. I definitely wouldn’t stay silent about that because that could have more serious repercussions.

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        2. Harper the Other One

          I took a martial arts class with my husband at one point where we did a lot of wrist blocks, resulting in noticeable bruises. My supervisor at the time handled it beautifully – in a slightly joking tone he said “I hope there’s a good reason for those bruises” but followed it up by saying that if there wasn’t and I needed help, that he and everyone I worked with would have my back. I felt like it was a great split between “there is probably an innocent explanation but if not we’re here for you.”

          Reply
          1. SusanIvanova

            My college boyfriend and I taught karate – that’s how we met. I went to the campus health center for something – I forget what, but it wasn’t any sort of injury – and got asked “Has your boyfriend ever hit you?” Mind you, this was completely unprompted, I hadn’t even mentioned *having* a boyfriend. It was just a standard question.

            Being a snarky sort I briefly considered saying “yes, every Friday”.

            Reply
      2. Mrs. H. Kenway

        The night before going back to work from my honeymoon, I walked into the bathroom doorframe and hit my eye and nose. I was terrified I’d have a black eye and have to go back to my work after my honeymoon and tell people I “walked into a doorframe.” (Which is right next to “fell down the stairs” for excuses, right?)

        Luckily my eye was fine, and I had an amusing story instead of an intervention with co-workers. But I was genuinely worried for a little while.

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      3. JSPA

        My mother was a keen outdoorsperson 65 years ago. That was unusual in a woman with an office job in a major US city, back then. At the time, ropes were heavy and made of natural fibers; backpacks were unpadded; stoves were not the safest; tents were heavy. He recreation was a constant source of rope burns, bruises, and the occasional camping stove burn. Practically every monday morning she’d come in to work with a new set of dramatic minor injuries. It took her months to figure out why so many people around her were discussing the concept of bad relationships and how to escape them. She only really figured it out when someone finally straight-out asked her who was beating her, if she didn’t have a boyfriend. She’d come from a more outdoors-y background, and had not realized that the injuries could be mistaken for anything other than what they (clearly, in her mind!) were.

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    8. Katie the Fed

      That’s why she shouldn’t even focus on the denial – just ask him with a tone like “did you REALLY ask if my husband was an alien from Neptune?!”

      Reply
    9. Bostonian

      There’s a huge difference between having a “what did I miss?” conversation with the director to clear the air and “denying it vehemently”. OP doesn’t need to scream from the rooftops, just needs to have a reasonable conversation with the director.

      Reply
  2. HR Ninja

    Although it would still be inappropriate to jump to such a hasty conclusion, can you think of any time you may have come to work with any sort of bruising or scratches from, say, a cat?

    Reply
    1. Lance

      In a similar vein, has your director met your husband at any point? Is there anything, literally anything, that might possibly serve as a factor in this huge leap to worst-case-scenario?

      Admittedly, it doesn’t change the fact that he needs to stop this, but it may not be hugely out of place to find out where he was coming from… while at the same time asking him to stop spreading such concerns.

      Reply
      1. Someone Else

        My first thought about this was that it might have nothing to do with the husband’s job or this specific husband at all. What if the last time this manager let someone go their spouse came in and threatened people? So boss this time thinks he’s preemptively trying to figure out if he should prepare for that, without considering how he’s needlessly spreading baseless suspicions.

        Reply
        1. sacados

          Seconded, I feel like it’s probably something like this.
          Either boss personally, or someone boss knows/a situation boss read about where someone’s spouse reacted violently after a layout/firing.
          It’s still a bit paranoid and over-reactive (and not awesome judgment, to say the least) that OP’s boss reacted that way. But my first thought is that’s what might be behind it.

          Reply
    2. Apostrophina

      Heck, or the gardening. I was working retail when I got my first cat and can still remember the nice old lady who looked at my arms and asked if I grew roses.

      Reply
      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

        Inherited 20 rose bushes that came with the house I bought, took care of them for several years (they have finally all died of old age now), can confirm. They will leave your arms scratched up something awful! Which is a possibility here, since OP and OP’s husband like gardening.

        Reply
      2. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

        Hahahahaha! I have scars *all over* my hands & arms from four things:

        1. Cats
        2. Rose bushes
        3. Insect bites
        4. Toaster ovens

        I am also really fair skinned, bruise EXTREMELY easily, and am a congenital klutz, plus I have ADHD. I am constantly covered with mysterious bruises, sometimes quite alarming looking, that I can’t even remember getting.

        I have often wondered if some the neighbors or local store employees think that my husband beats me.

        Reply
    3. Asenath

      I did that once, but the person who asked me about the scratches didn’t assume I was the victim of violence, she was just puzzled! When I told her that my new kitten hadn’t yet learned to restrain herself with her claws, she joked that I should send the cat to obedience training!

      Reply
    4. Tigger

      That is my thought as well, especially since the OP says they enjoy outdoor sports. There was a post on here a few years ago about a mountain biker who boss who thought she was being abused because of the bumps she got from her hobby.

      Reply
      1. CmdrShepard4ever

        Or the post from the person who was/is into a certain kink that was 100% consensual but left them with a lot of bruises.

        Reply
    5. Kool aid man

      When I first started really working out (got a trainer) I was so sore I could barely move some days. So I was wearing long sleeves to work to be more comfortable (since I wasn’t moving around to stay warm) and apparently making small noises when I moved and my boss brought me in to ask if I was being abused. I told her yes I was paying an exorbitant amount of money to a professional to help me look like J-lo and not the Kool aid man and right now I was forming muscles that have never been there.

      Reply
      1. Mimi Me

        My husband and daughter recently started back with Brazilian Jujitsu after a few years away from the sport. My daughter came home with a bruise on her arm that I know someone at school is going to question her about. Hell! I questioned (more teased actually) my husband about a bruise he got on his neck while rolling that looked like a hickey. If I saw my co-worker with a bruise on her arm or neck I wouldn’t immediately jump to the conclusion that her husband did it and then ask around the office behind her back about his temper. Domestic Violence is a real issue, but there are a LOT of bruises and injuries that really are clumsy people, hobbies, or of the unknown element.

        Reply
        1. Bee

          I was a fencer in high school & college, which leads to a LOT of very dramatic bruising. One of my teammates was a lefty who got hit in the same spot on her upper arm so often she had a near-permanent bruise. At one point her mom was on crutches and was like, “look, you need to wear sleeves that cover that, it is the exact spot to look like I walloped you with this crutch.” (Once I switched to epee it was all inner-elbow bruising, which comes with its own unfortunate associations.)

          Reply
          1. many bells down

            Oh gosh I had the same problem as a fencer. One day I asked the guy I was dueling why he’d always aim for that same spot on my upper left chest/shoulder and he said it was because he was trying to avoid hitting my breasts!
            I did a Tarzan chest thump to demonstrate the fiberglass inserts in my jacket and they all stopped hitting the same spot after that.

            Reply
            1. Bee

              Hah! Her problem was that people WERE aiming for her chest, and she parried just enough that they’d hit her arm instead.

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          2. Archaeopteryx

            I can sympathize too! I had a lot of collarbone/ arm bruises back in the day… And wildly uneven biceps between my sword arm vs my other arm. I used to say I looked like a crab!

            Reply
          3. LondonBridges

            My people! I fence in a college club, and the older members like to tell a warning story about a girl who has since graduated. She was in class one day that she also had with another fencer Wakeen with a couple spectacular bruises on her upper arm, and the professor asked what had happened, and without thinking she said, “Oh, Wakeen gave them to me!” The entire class was about to murder him before she thought and very quickly said “At fencing practice last night! Just fencing!”

            Reply
        2. Tigger

          Yep, I am a klutz and I bruise like a peach (I am currently sporting a bruise on my forearm from bumping my desk and one on my hand from an awkward handhold from SO ). My parents steered me to noncontact sports growing up because the school was concerned that I was a walking bruise

          Reply
          1. Anonymous Pterodactyl

            I’ve had cats for several years, but my previous ones have all been itty bitty kitties – like, ~9 lbs. We adopted 2 honking boys last summer – they’re each about 15 lbs – and holy moly. I wake up with new bruises on my arms and legs multiple times a week, just from them walking/jumping/standing still with uneven weight on one paw. Like, little kitty pawprints up and down my thighs! (Not even kidding. You can see the little toe bean bruises, which is the only way I can be confident it’s not my partner accidentally elbowing me while fast asleep.)

            Granted, I bruise pretty easily, but it’s starting to get ridiculous. We’re getting into summer now and it definitely makes me feel self conscious to wear shorts or skirts.

            Reply
      2. Ellex

        Last fall I moved 2 tons of crushed gravel, by the wheelbarrow-load, over a single weekend, from the back of my house to the front, and shoveled that 2 tons from the wheelbarrow under my front steps. I was moving stiffly for several days afterward, and I know my knees made some impressive cracking noises every time I stood up.

        I did get a few “are you okay” type questions, but I also did a lot of bragging about the amount of work I was putting into my home and yard renovations, so everyone took me at my word.

        Unlike the time I slipped on a cat toy and hit my head on the corner of a bookcase, giving myself a nice big bruise in the middle of my forehead. But that happened when I was working in a toxic, drama-filled workplace and I expected a lot of silly, unfounded gossip.

        Reply
        1. JSPA

          And there’s the thing–it’s generally socially safer and helpful to brag on such injuries, rather than try to cover up with extra foundation.

          At least until the point where they try to take you off of the health plan because you do roller derby, or stunt cycling, or extreme DIY home repair, or whatever your bruise-causing source of recreational delight may be.

          Reply
      3. Aurion

        Yeah, my coworkers are pretty used to it now, but I got some curious looks and side-eye for a while when I limped in with a new ache or injury several times a week (weightlifting + volleyball). Serious soreness, twisted ankle, a torn muscle in my forearm that legit made my boss gasp and ask if I’d been beaten up (I had a inch wide stripe of purple/green/yellow running from wrist to elbow), etc etc…

        They took me at my word when I laughed that I was fine, but I remember there was a time in college where a grad student did not look like he believed me when I insisted my wrist-to-elbow bruises on both arms were from volleyball.

        Reply
        1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

          When I was 19 I adopted a 9 month old malamute/German Shepherd mix, who was already big at that point and ended up being quite large. She was sweet, but very rambunctious, and we would play by “wrestling” on the living room floor almost daily. I bruise extremely easily (“like a peach” as someone said above) and always had bruises on my wrists from her teeth, even though she was “play biting” (not hard or aggressive.)

          My gynecologist would ask me EVERY TIME I saw her if the bruises were from my boyfriend, and I would patiently explain that they were from wrestling with my giant dog. I eventually took in a photo my mom had taken of us roughhousing just to shut her TF up.

          Now, on one hand, it’s great that she was concerned and asked about it at all, especially since this was the 80s, and DV was taken so much seriously back then (something I knew even at the time, having been a feminist for years by that point) but it really angered me that when I said NO, and explained the cause, that she kept asking and wouldn’t just drop it.

          The REAL irony here is that the BF I had at the time WAS an abusive alcoholic, but his abuse leaned much more towards verbal, emotional, and sexual rather than physical, and she had NEVER seen me with a mark that he had left- actually, NO ONE had. And her persistent questions & outright disbelief of my answers made me feel she was someone I could have NEVER have trusted to tell, even if she had started asking the right questions.

          Reply
      4. Elizabeth West

        Skating. Lots of bruises and scrapes from hitting rough ice, mostly on my elbows, but sometimes on hands and arms, and they looked a little like defensive wounds. And yes, someone asked me once, only half-jokingly, if anyone was hitting me.

        Reply
    6. PlainJane

      I’m a gardener, and I’ve come to work looking like I went a few rounds with a Tasmanian devil. My plants like to attack me. So do my garden tools. I also have a large, blue-collar husband, and I’d be pretty irritated if people jumped to domestic violence every time I had a visible scratch or bruise (or stitches from the time I nearly pruned off the tip of my finger, but I digress…). It seems like a fine line to be sensitive to domestic violence while not treating women differently in the workplace and putting them on the spot when they get injured.

      Reply
    7. Blue

      This is perhaps being overly generous, but I also wonder if the boss may’ve previously found himself in a situation where the partner of an employee responded to a firing or lay off in an incendiary way? If OP’s higher ed office is anything like mine, it’s not often that management is the one to decide someone’s leaving, so if he has limited and very negative prior experience, I can imagine him fearing something similar. Still completely non-sensical if there’s never been anything suspicious about this particular partner, but people (and especially academics, if he falls under that category…) often aren’t rational.

      Reply
      1. Forrest

        That was my first thought: that it was 100% about a bad situation the boss had been in before, and nothing to do with the LW or their husband at all.

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        1. Shoes On My Cat

          In another comment upstream you may not have seen yet the OP mentioned that he had laid off other people but hers was the first time he asked around about spouse-violent tendencies.

          Reply
      2. Katieinthemountains

        Came here to say this…it sounds exactly like the kind of bizarrely specific policy enacted because one time someone somewhere did something…the way my school’s student handbook stated that we were not to throw milk jugs out of the dorm windows.

        Reply
            1. CmdrShepard4ever

              This sounds like a great grade school science project, “what kind of milk container produces the widest liquid spread: carton, plastic gallon, bag, any other milk containers I’m forgetting? I skipped glass for hazards or broken glass everywhere.

              Reply
    8. hbc

      I came into my first day of work with a black eye once. No one said a word directly to me, but there were a few discreet questions asked of mutual acquaintances. I don’t know if the word got around that I play soccer and that my boyfriend was in another state at the time.

      That said, I think this is more likely some dude misunderstanding the Threat Assessment portion of the Active Shooter training.

      Reply
      1. Glitsy Gus

        I was wondering about that too, maybe he happened to read an article about some woman’s husband shooting her boss for firing her somewhere else and it got in his head. If he felt a little guilty about eliminating her position he might have just let his imagination and the prevalence of See Something Say Something get the better of him.

        I wouldn’t worry too much about correcting the record in general, other than a “that’s crazy. I have no idea why he thought that,” to anyone who asks directly. Most folks probably don’t believe any of it and though he was being weird. I would say use Allison’s script and bring it up with him, if for no other reason just to make sure he won’t get tackled by Security if he ever drops off your lunch.

        Reply
        1. Glitsy Gus

          Correction: I would say use Allison’s script and bring it up with YOUR FORMER MANAGER, if for no other reason just to make sure YOUR HUSBAND won’t get tackled by Security if he ever drops off your lunch.

          Reply
    9. sam

      my cat once gave me a black eye (as well as a few pretty terrible scratches on my face) and, well… it led to some interesting conversations for a few days.

      Reply
    10. Annette

      Why are there so many comments above about all the ways people have injured themselves by accident. Of course this happens. What does it have to do with OP’s situation?

      Reply
      1. Lissa

        Literally every time this topic or one similar comes up we get dozens of people telling stories about accidental injuries/abuse mistakes. I find it kinda fascinating but I guess people just really like telling those stories!

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      2. Traffic_Spiral

        People are confusing “violence against the company” with “domestic violence.” Personally I think they’re separate enough issues that one wouldn’t imply the other, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ .

        Reply
        1. Batman

          This actually isn’t true. A lot of the men who commit these types of random shootings (which often end up being mass shootings) have histories of domestic violence. It’s a much better predictor of who will commit a mass shooting than mental illness is, actually, but society doesn’t like to discuss domestic violence as much as it likes to discuss mental illness.

          Reply
  3. Hey Karma, Over here.

    No, you don’t have to let this slide. Yes, you can attribute good intentions to his actions, but the results were not good. He messed things up. He did not slander your husband, but he created a question about his character. This reflects on both your husband and you. He needs to fix this. He needs to tell you why he said what he did and then tell people the truth.
    And please hit us back and let us know what the hell he was thinking?

    Reply
    1. Klingons and Cylons and Cybermen, Oh My!

      Actually, Boss kind of DID slander Husband by asking a highly suggestive question about Husband’s character with reckless disregard for the truth.

      Reply
      1. Michaela Westen

        Like those magazine articles that lead with a question to scare you.
        Like “Are you eating right to prevent [obscure health issue]?”
        Well, I never thought about it before – and I’m not letting you scare me know, thank you very much!

        Reply
  4. Amber Rose

    Ugh. Sorry, I have nothing to add except my disgust at this dude, and my full support for whatever action you choose to take. I’m sorry you have to deal with this, it’s crap and it shouldn’t happen.

    If you do talk to this guy/HR, please come back and give us an update.

    Reply
  5. Robbie

    There is only so much we can guess without OP’s boss’ side of the story, but it is just so dang odd. The only reasonable thing I could think of is that they had an incident in the past with another employee or employee’s spouse, and are doing a blanket rule about security.
    Even then, it is so weird that I am dying to find out what your boss’ reasoning is!

    Reply
    1. JJ Bittenbinder

      That’s really the only thing I can think of as well. One of my previous jobs had a fairly robust public safety force and it was SOP to have a public safety officer outside the room in the case of an involuntary separation. By making it standard, they never had to enter into a flawed process of trying to determine who might be prone to violence.

      I also agree that a defamation charge would not be the way to go here. It might be Streisand Effect-adjacent, where an attempt to clear their names ends up damaging their reputations further. But definitely speak directly to him and figure out WTF his thought process was and why he couldn’t keep that thought process on the inside rather than verbalizing it to colleagues.

      Reply
      1. JSPA

        It’s not going to be terribly comforting if OP finds out that the boss would normally consider the person being fired as the safety risk, but decided that OP was not scary enough to worry about, and therefore transposed that to the husband. But it’s certainly a possibility. So OP should be prepared to not say, “why wouldn’t you think I’m just as dangerous as he is? Any finger can pull a trigger.”*

        *logical flaw musing are such a sweet trap for the literal-minded / been there / don’t recommend it

        Reply
    2. londonedit

      That was the only reasonably sensible explanation I could come up with, too. If there had been a similar incident in the past, then you could understand the boss having concerns about employees or their partners becoming violent in this sort of situation. But even so, any reasonable boss wouldn’t raise this issue by just going around asking colleagues whether anyone thought OP’s boss might turn violent – that’s just ridiculous.

      Reply
    3. TootsNYC

      I think OP can ask the old boss what his reasoning was, and what that worry was based on.

      But OP is only assuming it’s a bias against blue-collar workers.

      So I’d say, go in curious, not defensive or aggressive.

      And then once she’s heard the answers, then share–in an informational way, not a complaining one–that she is worried this will affect her husband’s reputation, and hers. And that if he can set the record straight with other people, especially anyone in the administration that he spoke to about it, she would appreciate it.

      Don’t be outraged–that’s not going to get what you want. You want him to understand why this is troubling to you, and YOU want to understand why he had any questions about it at all.

      Reply
    4. irene adler

      If so, then wouldn’t there be more people involved with discussing security? Or at least knowing about a ‘blanket rule’ concerning security whenever someone is laid off?

      I’m thinking we won’t be able to make a reasonable connection.

      Reply
      1. Bee

        I though it might have happened at a previous job, so this university has no particular concern but the boss is still carrying baggage.

        Reply
    5. Sloan Kittering

      Agree, that was my first thought. The blue collar job is a red herring, there was some other incident with some other husband that is causing the employer to ask these questions. Still, OP should ask what is going on and request that it be cleared up.

      Reply
    6. Squid

      That was my thought as well–that the boss (probably not terribly experienced with letting people go, in a university setting) might have asked this about anyone, and it has nothing to do with the OP’s spouse specifically. Workplace violence in this kind of situation is a valid concern (especially in the U.S.) and considering whether there’s a general need to have security measures in place around layoffs doesn’t seem wildly unreasonable. The problem is that the boss is handling the situation ineptly in a way that looks more targeted than he may intend it to.

      Reply
    7. BethRA

      Or the Director has no experience with laying people off, and “has heard stories” and wants to “be on the safe side.” Which is not to say this isn’t ridiculous – it is – but I’ve certainly heard people assume they have to assume and prepare for the worst, even if it isn’t reasonable.

      Reply
    8. Noah

      Or maybe there is no other incident, but the assumption that this is blue collar bias seems like a stretch. It’s *possible*, but it’s one of many possible explanations, others of which I think are more plausible. In my estimation, the most plausible explanation assuming OP isn’t intentionally leaving anything out is that another coworkers spouse had recently threatened him in some way and he is making this inquiry about any person with a (probably only male) significant other. That would certainly be far less bizarre.

      Reply
    9. Rock Prof

      At one of the university’s I’ve been at, there was a woman was murdered by her ex-husband in the middle of the day while she was working (in a completely different department then mine). There was a restraining order in place on campus (and in general) against him, and she was supposedly in a somewhat secured place, so there were a lot of protections that fell apart. After that, there was a lot more active diligence and security measures put in place. However, NONE of them involved asking random colleagues if they thought someone’s partner/ex-partner. So, even if there was something systematic put in place after some terrible incident, basically rumor-mongering via questions was not the way to go.

      Reply
      1. Eukomos

        It probably isn’t a systematic thing, just the old boss dealing with feelings about a previous incident poorly.

        Reply
  6. Justin

    Our puppy jumped at my wife’s face over the weekend (he was excited because he is a puppy and life is exciting). We’ve given no one any reason to believe we’ve been violent with one another, but something like this (which left a bruise) could be the only thing I could see, since you do indeed have a dog.

    But definitely ask around and be clear that there has never been anything going on (though as noted, they might not believe you since an actual victim might say that). Ugh, this all sucks.

    Reply
    1. Myrin

      Yeah, I’m pretty sure it was in an open thread not too long ago – I, too, distinctly remember reading it very recently.

      Reply
        1. Myrin

          Ah, I actually thought you’d pulled it from their because you found it interesting enough to be a letter! (Which it is – I followed the discussion in the open thread with interest.)

          Reply
        2. Adlib

          To be fair, you DO have a note about not reposting submitted letters into open threads on every open thread post. :)

          Reply
        3. Katie the Fed

          FWIW, I like that the good ones might get published separately because I rarely have time to go through the 1600 comments in a Friday threat to find a good guffaw-worthy question.

          Reply
    2. Murphy

      Aha, found it in Friday’s open thread.

      Yeah, this is crazy. I have no idea what would cause someone to jump to that reaction in the absence of any worrying previous behavior which doesn’t seem to be the case here.

      Reply
  7. Countess Boochie Flagrante

    What on earth?!

    OP, please update us on this after you speak with your director! Short of some kind of existing issue that you’re currently unaware of, it’s just so weird for this person to be concerned about the reaction of the spouse of someone who accepted a gracious — not even really a layoff, since you’re still working at the university! That sounds like more of a transfer than anything else (unless I guess you aren’t technically employed by the university itself now, or weren’t before, or…?) . That’s just such a weird situation.

    Reply
  8. The Man, Becky Lynch

    I’m so enraged on your behalf. It reminds me of the time I fainted and gave myself a black eye from the fall. It was a bizarre incident but I was running on fumes, burning my candle at both ends and on morning after my shower I woke up on the floor.

    There were multiple questions from multiple people assuming it was done by my partner. Who was out of town and didn’t live with me. So I really do think it may be that you came in with some kind of injury you didn’t think of at some point in your six years there and they automatically assumed your husband is abusive.

    I would certainly approach him and ask him about his concern and let him come up with some justification of his own. Then it brings it to the forefront and you don’t have to have this weighing in your mind.

    It’s not because your husband is blue collar, I think you’re projecting there. Mine was in journalism at the time.

    Reply
    1. Shoes On My Cat

      Lol! I used to do karate and kickboxing. It was fun!! One night we were practicing evading/escaping choke holds. Cool class! (Evening class, after work) Came to work the next day and multiple people kept stopping me and asking how I was doing, asking me how recent dates had gone, etc. It was weird. Then I went to use the washroom. And realized that my boat neck sweater should have been a turtleneck. PRACTICING escaping choke holds still leaves bruises! On the other hand, I went back to each and every kind person (both genders, multiple orientations) and explained the night before with a request to repeat this conversation if they ever felt cause for concern again. Over a decade ago and I still have warm fuzzies for my colleagues & bosses there! (Late 90’s so well ahead of mainstream awareness)

      Reply
      1. Mimi Me

        I commented above, but my daughter and husband do Brazilian jujitsu and run into the same issues. They recently restarted after several years away from the sport. My daughter is now in 8th grade and rolls with older kids so the bruises she’s come home with aren’t the easily explained ones she had in elementary school. Right now she’s sporting a nasty bruise on her arm and I am steeling myself for the questions I know will be coming this week at school.

        Reply
        1. Laurelma_01!

          Wonder if your daughter needs a t-shirt saying she does jujitsu to wear to school. It’ll throw it out there, without the verbal explanation. Or is that too much!

          Reply
          1. Shoes On My Cat

            If that is possible, it’s a great idea! Or if there is a “what I did over spring break” presentation. Then at least the other kids would know and the teachers talk. Plus clouding in the principal as noted below. Good luck and have fun!

            Reply
        2. TootsNYC

          I would think she could preemptively go to her teacher and the principal and explain the sports thing.

          Reply
      2. TootsNYC

        There’s a scene in Tamora Pierce’s Protector of the Small series where her female protagonist, who is in training to become one of her kingdom’s first female knights in generations, goes to the women’s baths and has all the attendants and other customers asking her similar questions and reassuring her that the magistrates will deal with “her man.”

        And she has to explain that these are training bruises.

        Reply
      3. so my cat can have a better life

        This is my life. I’ve practiced karate for the last eight years, and I often have bruising on my shins and forearms. Many times well-meaning co-workers (as well as total strangers from the public) have adopted concerned expressions and assured me, “You don’t have to put up with that, honey. No man’s worth it.” I always laugh it off and explain about the karate as kindly as I can (so that they’re not embarrassed or scared off of taking an interest in what they perceived to be a woman who might be in a bad position). Things I never mention (because why complicate the matter?): my boyfriend also practices karate at the same place, and sometimes those bruises come from practicing with him!

        Reply
        1. Shoes On My Cat

          If he brags to his guys friends about the bruises you unintentionally leave on him (because he’s cool with dating a badass) -then he may be a keeper!

          Reply
  9. Old Cynic

    I have the flip side to this. I complained once (1992-ish) to HR about my boss. They spoke with her. She came back to me the next day and said her husband was upset and that I needed to know he has a gun. I related this to HR and their response was they had met the guy at the Christmas party and he seemed real nice and they were sure I had nothing to worry about. Nothing was ever done and I was on pins and needles for months.

    Reply
    1. Antilles

      That’s ridiculous, since even if they thought the husband was just spouting off, threatening an employee should be pretty clearly out of bounds.
      Though I’d guess the response would be a lot different in 2019 than it was in 1992, which predated Columbine, Virginia Tech, and mass shootings so common that they’re forgotten within a month.

      Reply
      1. The Man, Becky Lynch

        Sadly that’s not the case. Even in post-Columbine era, this happens all the time. Look at how many times there’s been a shooting and the aftermath was “we knew something was wrong and they were a loose canyon, we had them flagged as a potential threat” and still they managed to commit their mass shooting.

        Reply
    2. The Man, Becky Lynch

      So she straight up threatened you and HR was all “LOL Nah, he’s nice tho.”

      Classic. This isn’t even an issue with a potentially violent man, it’s a boss making what may or may not be idle threats.

      Reply
        1. The Man, Becky Lynch

          No. This kind of comment is used as a threat in most cases and swept under rugs as “warnings”. It’s a scar tactic. She most likely knows darn well that her husband isn’t going to shoot someone for reporting her to HR but OP didn’t know that.

          It’s the “My dad could beat up your daaaaaaaaaaad” version in adult life.

          Reply
    3. Boop

      I think I just lost my mind – that was an actual threat from your boss!! HR’s assessment of her husband’s likelihood of becoming violent is NOT the issue here. The issue is that your boss threatened you! Doesn’t matter if it was unlikely to happen, or even if her husband actually had a gun or not. That HR department screwed up big time by not addressing the real problem – your boss! Was the workplace dysfunctional in general?

      Reply
      1. Old Cynic

        Yeah, it was pretty disfunctional. Mixed blue and white collar environment.

        One of my colleagues at the time was murdered as he slept by his wife for beating her. Management thought he was a great guy too. Planted a tree in his honor outside the building.

        Reply
      1. The Man, Becky Lynch

        It was different in terms of what was reported. Then we went into sensational journalism in the later 90s. The time of “Bullies gonna bully, just fight ’em back” era ended when the news cameras started showing up. Literally a few years. The first nationally publicized school shootings were in 1996-1997.

        Reply
    4. hbc

      Geez louise, the point is not whether or not he would do it. We had an employee telling people her husband was going to come beat up another employee. The reassurance from people that knew her socially that he was not in any way on board with her awful behavior only meant that we didn’t call the police. Her ass was fired for making the threat–because an empty threat is still a threat.

      Reply
    1. Totally Minnie

      That was my thought. It’s possible that this director has had an experience in the past where a spouse reacted badly and now he projects it every time he has to fire someone.

      Reply
  10. Nope

    OP, by “outdoor sports” did you possibly mean anything that involves shooting sports? I generally try to keep my shooting hobby to myself at work (also academia). However, the supervisor is being ridiculous for making assumptions about what others have pointed out is a demographic. Not sure there is anything you can do about it other than changing his assumption by continuing to be a lovely, stellar person.

    Reply
    1. Original Poster

      Outdoor sports mean fishing, I could have been more clear on that. If he were worried about guns then he should have asked the question of my brother in law, who hunts :)

      Reply
  11. Yikes

    Unless the director is just crazy (a real possibility), I think there must be some backstory here. Maybe another employee who was laid off in the past had a violent spouse who caused trouble, and the director was just trying to stay ahead of a potential issue. Either way, it doesn’t sounds like he handled it very well, so it’s worth asking him to clear the air with anyone he may have approached.

    Reply
  12. neverjaunty

    Can we please, please retire this myth that consulting with a lawyer means “and then you will immediately have to file a lawsuit”. We don’t tell people with health concerns that they should be skeptical of seeing a doctor because they might have to undergo surgery.

    This director is trashing the OP’s reputation in a very serious way for no apparently reason. (Or, someone is spreading a nasty rumor that he is.) A serious, formal inquiry is not a bad idea here, and getting advice from someone who can handle it formally – which is unlikely to require filing a lawsuit – is far from the worst idea.

    Reply
    1. Lynca

      Not just trashing the OP’s reputation but her husband. Reporting him to Security with no basis? Our local university campus has police security (they are an extension of the local city PD) and I’d be worried he could get arrested just for being on campus based on being considered violent.

      Reply
      1. Madeleine Matilda

        OP only speculated that the director may have reported it to security. She doesn’t know that actually happened.

        Reply
    2. PlainJane

      And the OP presumably will be job-hunting because of the layoff. The last thing she needs is for a rumor to get out to other employers that she has a potentially violent spouse.

      Reply
      1. Madeleine Matilda

        OP’s position was eliminated and she was given another position at the same university so there was no adverse impact on her job prospects.

        Reply
  13. Austriak

    I know this isn’t going to be a popular thing to say but I would let it go. The director obviously thinks highly enough of you that he went out of his way to help you find another position. Unless he uses his unwarranted fear against you, you do not really accomplish anything bringing it up other than potential new issues and drama.

    Also, remember that he did not accuse your husband of being violent. He was asking if he was, probably due to other experiences or stories he has heard (not specific to your husband). I’ve done a lot of interviewing and hiring and one of the lessons that I have learned is that there are a lot of crazy people out there. Not everyone is as normal or rational as you and your husband.

    This sounds like something that will pass quickly. In a month or two, no one will remember this ever happened. You may feel that your reputation has been hurt but it hasn’t. Things like this already seem worse than they are. You said that you enjoy your new position. Just continue to enjoy it and stay above the drama.

    Reply
    1. Esme

      I’m here. This *is* a concern that employers need to think about. I’m guessing this has nothing to do with your husband’s career and more to do with the fact that nearly daily, we hear about disgruntled employees or employees’ spouses or employees’ former parters entering a workplace with a weapon and murdering people.
      If the director is otherwise a rational person, I would assume that this was a bumbling attempt to ask if there was any cause for concern and not necessarily a personal slight against you or your husband. Humiliating? Absolutely. Is there a better approach for the director to gauge the risk to your workplace? Possibly. But I’m not going to fault him for trying to be proactive to protect his employees, just for being awkward about it.

      Reply
      1. Forrest

        The only reason I can think of for pursuing it is that if there is a real or perceived security threat, this is a *terrible* way to assess it. Asking, “anyone know if Jane’s boyfriend is likely to tell you who is racist or classist, but not a lot else.

        I wouldn’t approach this from the “you have damaged my reputation” angle, mostly since it seems so ridiculous that I can’t imagine it has damaged LW’s or their husband’s reputation. But there’s definitely a, “this org needs to do a better job of training/supporting their staff with making people redundant / personal safety” angle.

        Reply
      2. Original Poster

        I would agree if director had ever asked this prior of people let go or leaving disgruntled. He hasn’t. Until me.

        Reply
        1. Shoes On My Cat

          Oooooh! That is really specific. Yeah, if you can follow Alison’s advice, that would really be a significant push to do so since you/your husband was singled out.

          Reply
    2. Marinko

      This might not be as unpopular an opinion as you think. Obviously the director has some bad information, but if your department coworkers are sensible, they will not assign any significance to the director’s weird questions. They might already think he’s totally off-base – being punitive and petty doesn’t win a lot of credibility – and will let his concerns die there without going any further. Since nothing is actually going to happen, it will seem even more bizarre of him to have asked the farther you get from this.

      Reply
      1. hbc

        I agree, and I think the only credibility lost at this point is the director’s. It is patently ridiculous to base security decisions on hearsay and polling. The security-conscious people will be horrified by the idea that he might loosen things up just because OP never mentioned to Jane or Fergus that her husband is scary, and the more laid-back people will wonder why he’s worried that the Least Painful Layoff Ever will result in bloodshed.

        Reply
    3. Arctic

      I’m not sure I entirely agree. But, yes, this seems like it has a lot of potential for the Streisand Effect.

      Reply
    4. INeedANap

      But surely there is a more discreet and respectful way to go about asking these kinds of questions!

      Asking multiple people in the department where OP worked is basically a guarantee for drama and rumors. If you’re a manager, you should be able to handle sensitive conversations a lot better than this manager did.

      OP could certainly accomplish something by bringing this up just by pointing out to her former manager that he handled his concerns very poorly, and that while the sentiment behind it is understandable (trying to protect both OP and colleagues from crazy people), the way he went about it was damaging and insulting.

      Reply
      1. Rebecca1

        I want OP to bring it up to the manager so as to satisfy my curiosity about why he thought it was a good idea in the first place.

        Reply
      2. Southern Yankee

        +1! The point of bringing it up is so the manager will understand he needs to learn a better way to assess or mitigate the potential security risk so he doesn’t malign the next employee.

        Reply
      3. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        This.

        I was part of a huge layoff a few years ago. Did my company take some steps to be watchful for unhinged responses? Yes. Did anyone get low-key accused of being on the edge of violence? NO.

        Reply
  14. Shoes On My Cat

    I second or fifth… Alison’s WTF. Plus her wording “I heard from a few different sources” is perfect-& if he keeps pushing for a name, so what? One, that’s a misdirection that will allow him to derail your question, so don’t go there. Keep bringing the conversation back to YOUR point. He needs to step up, man up, and answer. Two, what is he going to do if you don’t give him a name/s? You don’t work for him anymore!! And any comments he makes to others how you won’t answer will make him look, um, petty! Get your answer. It could be just as simple as your husband is a man and your old boss is focusing on that. Or perhaps old boss made a comment about you in Dear Husbands hearing that he *of course!* shut down and petty old boss has that on his mind…..find out so that you can get this squirrel out of your brain and move on. Good luck!!

    Reply
  15. Jessen

    I’m honestly also wondering how clear the guy is on who OP’s spouse is. It’s quite possible that he actually has some other man in mind entirely, and is just wrong on who OP is married to.

    Reply
  16. Mae West

    Until recently, I would’ve scoffed at the idea of a classist boss. I work for one and it’s maddening! I think it affected my initial offer and probably continues to affect how she manages me/us.
    On the other hand, my next thought is that perhaps OP’s boss is hyper reacting to the many workplace/school violence news reports. Boss may have done this with anyone being let go.

    Reply
    1. PlainJane

      Trust me, classism is alive and well in academia. Signed, an academic with a blue collar background married to a blue collar man (And now if you’re of a certain age, you’ll have a nice Styx earworm rattling around in your brain for the rest of the day. You’re welcome.)

      Reply
          1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

            That song totally becomes less annoying when you pay attention to the lyrics and realize just how off the rails it really is.

            Reply
      1. Former Admin turned Project Manager

        thanks for that…

        I’ll take those long nights
        impossible odds,
        keeping my eye to the keyhole…

        Reply
  17. irene adler

    Could this be an ethnic stereotype the director is assuming about the husband? Which doesn’t make this situation any nicer.

    Just to illustrate:
    When my Dad passed away completely unexpectedly, we were all devastated.
    My Grand Boss made some comment to the effect that my Mother must be so relieved now that Dad was gone.

    Relieved? I beg your pardon?

    He said that men of my Dad’s ethnic background are known to beat their wives. “It’s an established fact,” he explained. “So she’s no doubt relieved that she doesn’t have to endure this any more.”

    I was speechless. My Dad cherished Mom.

    Reply
    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

      O. M. F. G.

      That’s horrible, I am so sorry that you had to deal with that, and while you were grieving no less!!

      Reply
    2. Observer

      Are you still with these folks?! I can’t imagine what that conversation must have been like for you.

      I hope you reported this to HR – even though I’m sure many HR departments would not do anything about a single instance (even though they SHOULD) I’d want to make sure that they are on notice that they have a racist jerk with no filter in a supervisory position. This way it’s harder for them to ignore when he pulls something legally more serious – and makes it easier to take them to the cleaners f they do ignore it.

      I hope you are working for much more decent people now.

      Reply
    1. Original Poster

      copied from my comment below: I googled my husband’s name when we were dating :) My husband has one of the most common names in America. First name and last name. There are literally millions. When I married him, I went from being one of a kind (very ethnic last name and anyone with that last name is related to me) to being one of at least 5,000 – on Facebook alone.

      Reply
  18. Lana Kane

    Not to excuse this person by any means because he really fracked this up, but the very first thing I thought was that this might be anxiety over all the workplace violence we’ve seen over the past few years. Coupled with the many stories of spousal violence that spills over to the workplace. Without knowing any other details, I think this is where he’s coming from.

    Reply
  19. Safetykats

    I’d like to point out that the director’s concern about “violence on campus” sounds much more like he/she is worried the husband is going to come shoot up the departmental office than he/she is worried about domestic violence. That’s a much weirder situation. I’ve been in a situation where employees reported to me that they were worried about potential domestic abuse (turned out the woman in question had joined a roller derby team and just wasn’t very good at it yet), but I was never concerned that roller derby grrrrrrl’s boyfriend represented a potential threat to all of us.

    At any rate, I think HR is the right venue for this discussion – just as security and HR would have been the right place for the director to voice any concerns – rather than doing their own weird detective work. I would think that BOTH security and HR would have something to say to the director about this.

    Reply
    1. I'd Rather not Say

      I was thinking the same thing. While I think OP would get some relief by asking the boss what his motivation was for doing this, I also think HR and campus police should be involved in making sure this boss gets relevant training in how to handle this sort of situation if it comes up in the future, because instigating gossip is clearly not appropriate.

      Reply
  20. Utoh!

    I wonder, in this day and age, if this is now just part of a checklist when someone leaves their position (for any reason) to weed out a potential threat. It does seem to be a stretch, but again I know companies are really tying to (over) do everything they can to make their workplace safe (campuses especially!). Just a thought I had had that perhaps this was not the director doing this on their own, but at the direction of HR or some other campus authority.

    In any case, I do hope OP asks for their peace of mind why this questioning was done.

    Reply
    1. Arctic

      I can’t imagine any checklist that involves going around asking people about the personal life of an employee.

      I get that the concern is office/campus safety. But it only invites gossip. Nothing concrete.

      Reply
      1. Boop

        Exactly. It may be legitimate to be worried in a general sense about the possible repercussions of any employment action, but this is not the way to handle it.

        Sounds like possibly a new/inexperienced managed who’s heard a few horror stories?

        Reply
    2. Semaj

      I think this is exactly what’s happening.

      I work at a University in HR and when someone is terminated or a position is eliminated there’s a threat assessment that’s conducted. It shouldn’t be handled by the position’s supervisor, there should be a dedicated team for this. Where I work it’s a combination of EAP and the University Police Department who perform these services.

      Reply
      1. Boop

        This seems very sensible. If you don’t mind sharing, what steps have been taken in the event that the assessment indicates a threat is possible?

        Reply
        1. Semaj

          Disclaimer that I’ve never been involved in something like this, I’ve just heard through the HR grapevine.

          From what I understand, they:
          – Have the employee meet with an EAP counselor if they’re agreeable to do so
          – Have the police department on-hand and physically nearby, although not visible to the terminated employee
          – Have the supervisor/whoever is doing the layoff coached by EAP beforehand

          Reply
  21. voyager1

    Serious questions LW,

    Have you ever googled your husband’s name? I wonder if that is all the Director did and found something distrubing.

    My next thought is are there any social media pictures/public pictures/profiles/comments of your husband doing ANYTHING with a firearm INCLUDING just talking about them.

    Sounds like to me your director is scared your husband is going to go on a shooting rampage. You need to talk to your boss about why he is making these claims.

    Making claims about violence or workplace violence isn’t funny or something to throw around lightly.

    This whole situation is just WTF…..

    Reply
    1. Arctic

      It’s a good idea to double check on Google and Social Media. Just because on the off chance there is something out there (or someone with a similar name) it would be awful to have the LW pushing back and then be confronted with “evidence” of concerning behavior. And sometimes the way people act online has no correlation to how they are in real life.
      BUT I think it’s pretty unlikely that this is what happened. I think it’s a mixture of concern about safety (gun violence in the news) and plain old classicim (no matter what safety concerns he likely wouldn’t have inquired if her husband was a professor.)

      Reply
    2. Original Poster

      I googled my husband’s name when we were dating :) My husband has one of the most common names in America. First name and last name. There are literally millions. When I married him, I went from being one of a kind (very ethnic last name and anyone with that last name is related to me) to being one of at least 5,000 – on Facebook alone.

      Reply
  22. Semaj

    I don’t think the blue collar work had anything to do with it. There are general threat assessments when employees are terminated and positions are eliminated and one of the considerations is – is this employee likely to come in here and shoot up the place? Obviously this should be handled by someone other than the direct supervisor, the Police Department at my University offers this service, but this just sounds like a clumsy, heavy-handed way of him considering what fall out there might be from letting you go.

    Reply
    1. Arctic

      I really strongly doubt he would have been asking if the husband was prone to violence if he was a professor or had another white collar job.
      And gossiping with other employees about violent tendencies of a co-worker’s husband isn’t just “clumsy” it is completely unprofessional, ineffectual and not how any threat assessment would ever work.

      Reply
      1. Semaj

        I’m not arguing that what he did was correct or professional, but I do think that’s where he was coming from.

        Reply
        1. Arctic

          I think it’s possible that both, yes, this is where his mind is at and that it wouldn’t have happened if the husband wasn’t blue collar.

          Reply
    2. Not Me

      I agree with this. Although it’s very rare for a spouse to have a violent reaction to a work place situation.

      It makes sense for the direct supervisor to consider whether or not the employee may become dangerous in a termination conversation/situation though. Theoretically they should know the person well. HR should be considering this possibility too.

      I’ve had building security on stand-by or literally standing by in the hall when terminating employees before. It’s not uncommon.

      Reply
    3. Original Poster

      Semaj, I would agree with you had the question been asked about employees let go in the past. Two specific *firings* (not layoffs) come to mind, both working directly for this director. One employee was very angry about his dismissal. This question was never asked about him or his wife. Both white collar, one academic. The second employee was dismissed due to substance abuse on the job. Potential for violence was never a question for again, either employee or spouse. Both white collar.
      And to be honest, my mind didn’t automatically go to it being an issue of blue collar. That was brought up by someone else of whom I spoke to when I found out about this and they essentially said “one of these things is not like the other…yours is blue collar”
      That said, I’m not stuck on it being that, but it is the only thing that makes my husband different from the other employees or spouses.

      Reply
  23. Anon4This

    Ugh, this is so timely. I am a manager at a large corporation and an employee who sits near my team (but reports to a different line in the hierarchy) has made not one, but TWO active shooter jokes in the past week about an employee who will get laid off in the next couple months (the employee knows he’s being laid off, he is working with us during this period with no issues I know of so far).
    I’m currently going back and forth between reporting this, just to have it on the record, in case something comes up…and keeping in mind it’s most likely nothing more than a distasteful joke and I don’t need to hall monitor EVERY single thing people say.

    Reply
    1. Katie the Fed

      Honestly? Report it. Best case scenario it was a joke and now it’s going to be awkward. Worst case is…really bad. And you don’t want to be the one giving the interview to the local paper saying something like “he kept making jokes about shooting up the place but nobody thought he’d really do it!”

      Reply
      1. CmdrShepard4ever

        I think it was coworker A joking that coworker B (the one being laid off) is going to shoot the place up. I agree it should be reported so that coworker A making the joke can be told that is not an appropriate thing to say or joke about.

        Reply
    2. Drax

      I’d also wager if you are in management you could probably just talk to the directly about it Not Being Okay. I’d still let their boss know what they are saying and what you told them.

      Reply
    3. Not Me

      Report it, immediately.

      Distasteful jokes at work do need to be “hall monitored” and shut down. That’s literally your job as a manager. These kinds of things can quickly escalated and turn into a very bad situation.

      Reply
      1. CmdrShepard4ever

        I agree this is similar to people who flippantly make a remark regarding bomb(s) / violence at airports. At this point everyone should know you don’t even say “Dude that movie/food last night was the bomb.”

        Reply
  24. Drax

    This was in the open thread on friday, but I stand by what I said there.

    If there is nothing that would hint towards fact, this reflects poorly on the boss not you. If I’d worked with someone for 6 years and out of the blue my boss started asking about violence because her husband is a blue collar worker – I’d look at him like he had 6 heads. It’s so profoundly ignorant of real life that this would be Crappy Thing About Boss not LW’s husband. Especially if the director is known to be petty, I’d assume you did something to annoy him and this is his petty revenge.

    Reply
    1. CmdrShepard4ever

      I agree that if the director said “Hey since John Smith’s husband is a blue collar worker do you happen to know if he has any history of violence.”

      But if the director said “Have you seen or heard of any instances of John Smith’s husband having any incidents of violence.” I might think the director knows something I don’t.

      Reply
      1. pamela voorhees

        One, love the username.

        Two, totally agree. My first and only thought on being asked “do you know if John has a history of violence?” is “John has a history of violence and I need to be concerned.” This is going to be a major issue in the perception of OP and family, no matter why it’s happening. Do exactly what Allison said!

        Reply
    2. Original Poster

      Drax, I read your comment to my husband and we both thought you made a valid point – it was of comfort to us both. Until I feel confident about my next move, should there be one, I will continue to sit on it. Thank you for your response by the way.

      Reply
    1. Original Poster

      I’d like to this it isn’t. I still feel that eliminating my position was a good business decision and one I would have made myself.

      Reply
  25. Aspiring Chicken Lady

    I’m thinking … if boss has a concern about potential violence resulting from a layoff, HR/Security are the people boss should go to first. Those are the people who would coordinate any potential safety plan required. And possibly actually ask the person most likely to know of a husband’s potential for violence … the spouse who was laid off. So boss who starts asking random people needs some HR coaching about appropriate safety planning.

    (Also, I would be so PO’ed if someone thought that just because I had a husband, HE would be the obvious person to violently handle my layoff. That’s just kinda creepy and sexist to assume that he would own my reputation enough to have to protect my honor or whatever. Obviously, I’m not a fan of violently handling layoffs, but in the 2000s, I think we gals can and should conduct our own business relationships.)

    Reply
  26. animaniactoo

    Honestly, I disagree with Alison’s advice here in that I think it is likely to be uneffective and more likely to actually cause the director to double-down and possibly have others to view the retractions with suspicion.

    I think that addressing it with the Director is unlikely to create any positive results, but OP can turn the narrative so that the focus is on out-of-the-blue Director assumptions that seem to be some situation of 2 + 2 = 7. Talking to a couple of the co-workers that she’s closest too will probably be enough to move that along. That and time. Which is annoying… but still the best method for “proving” that there was a confused director, not a problem in her marriage.

    The primary way to address this would be to express complete confusion when she talks about it to other people.

    So, not vehement denial but utter bemusement “I… have no idea where he got that impression? I think the most violent thing Bob’s done might be yanking weeds. I’ve been racking my brain and I can’t begin to figure out what I might have said or done to give Director the impression that there might be a problem. I’m just so confused about what Director was thinking. Do you have any idea?”

    If she addresses it with the director at all, I think it should be a simple question of asking why the director thought there was a reason to worry. Was there something OP has said or done to cause director to think this was an issue? If director says something that makes sense to OP, then OP can address that. If they say something that confirms the blue-collar suspicions or makes no sense, OP can say something along the lines of “Hmmm. I’m not sure you realize, but it seems there’s now a widespread impression that my husband is violent and I have a problem. I wish you had talked to me about your concerns since there wasn’t anything solid to go on, and it really bothers me that people have this impression now since it’s just… not true.”

    If OP decides to go this route, the narrative to others becomes “I wish Director had talked to me instead of asking so many people. He took something out of context/had some idea that [X] and now it’s become this whole other story. I can’t believe how far it’s spread.”, with an air of exasperation and bemusement.

    ————————-

    N.B.: I’ve made the assumption that OP is female based on director’s concern and actions which I think would be less likely to have happened if OP is male, but that’s just an assumption and I want to acknowledge that OP might be male.

    Reply
    1. Original Poster

      Nope, I commented below that this question has never been asked of other departing employees. At least those employed in the department I was in are, primarily, with white collar employees.

      Reply
  27. Madeleine Matilda

    Two things in the letter struck me. The first was that OP states that her boss and HR helped her secure a new position and gave her plenty of time to do so. In a situation where she was laid off from her job but not from the university and given assistance to find a new position, I can’t figure out why the boss would be concerned about the husband’s reaction. The second was OP said she learned about the director’s questions about her husband. I always try to question second or third hand knowledge when it is shared with me because it is so easy for people to unconsciously alter what they are told as they share it. I hope OP will send an update once she talks with her former director because there are too may unknowns here.

    Reply
  28. probably not licensed in your jurisdiction

    Are you sure about needing to show actual damages? I believe it varies by state. I recall several years ago researching defamation (libel) in Oklahoma, which distinguished between libel per se and libel per quod. I think if it’s libel per se, the plaintiff doesn’t need to show actual damages. Don’t know which state the OP is in, of course (assuming it’s even the U.S.)

    Reply
  29. Independent George

    This letter stood out to me. My alma mater had a terrible crime committed on campus last year. A student was murdered by an ex-boyfriend. The incident has rattled my community and the president of the university is enacting many new policies to address domestic violence on campus. My mind went here thinking OP’s director could be overcorrecting for another unrelated incident. This is hopefully a stretch, but if it is due to other domestic violence incidents, Alison’s suggestion to ask directly should clear that up.

    Reply
    1. StateOfThings

      It’s depressing that I think I might be able to guess which school is your alma mater but that I’m not completely sure because These Things Keep Happening.

      Reply
  30. JSPA

    I’m wondering if your husband has a gun license or has talked about hunting? Many people do, but it’s far less common in academe, and people who live in gun-free social monocultures have been known to make deeply unwarranted assumptions about gun owners. This overlaps white / blue collar assumptions, but is distinct.

    Alternatively, do you commonly use the formulation “my husband will be angry about”? This is another class divide (or urban/rural) thing that’s come up before here. Families who normally discuss all decisions and are deeply involved in each other’s daily routine tend to jump to “what my spouse / kids / parents will think of this” in conversation fairly quickly, while people who are used to keeping their professional and personal lives more strictly segregated won’t normally do so, unless there’s something “red-flag-y” going on. There’s also a stark difference in accepting “anger” as an everyday, valid emotion (and calling it by that name). Again, strong blue/white divide here, but it’s not “anti-blue” discrimination per se: it’s a misunderstanding caused by a bifurcation in how we use language.

    I think of working class friends commonly saying, laughing, “he’ll be so PO’d!” and when I express concern, the response is, “Oh, it’s fine, he’ll yell about how stupid thing are, and then he’ll get over it, it’s fine.” Academic friends, by and large, if there’s overt anger–let alone frequent overt anger–in the relationship, things have gotten out of control and poisonous.

    I figure that if you work with big things that can crush you, you need to be able to access the full scale of human expression and emotion to work safe. In academe, you’re using your “inside voice” and triple-thinking everything that comes out of your mouth. That’s really different training. The person caught in between is stuck with “code switch” duties. I find that when I even think of construction-related work, or the people I do construction-type tasks with, I default to much freer self-expression than when I think about science or talk to other academics (even if we’re not in the same field).

    I’ve also seen white collar people get weird about other trade terminology. You can’t say Female and Male threads (even though the industry standard terminology is indeed Female and Male, eg FPT and MPT), you have to instead refer to “internally-threaded” and “externally threaded” connectors, at risk of getting side-eye for making a sexualized reference. Etc Etc.

    Still no excuse for bringing it up with other people, rather than with you, first. That aspect’s just bizarre.

    Reply
    1. Original Poster

      My husband doesn’t hunt; he fishes, so no guns or gun talk. Also, though we clearly aren’t perfect people, we don’t fight or argue much and he especially rarely gets angry, even when I think he has good reason to. He’s more of an “it happened, can’t do anything, it’s over and let’s move on” attitude. I imagine I’ve said over time something like “oh, NAME isn’t going to appreciate that” but him being who he is I think it unlikely I’ve ever said “my husband will be angry about that…”

      And while second hand, I did hear this report directly from a person he asked the question of. I feel it’s reliable, though I could be wrong, of course.

      Reply
      1. JSPA

        Then I’m out of “innocent trigger” / “not intentional discrimination culture clash” options. I guess I’d go with, “decide if what matters most is getting an answer to ‘why’ or putting a hard stop on any risk to spouse.” I’d prioritize the second one, by going to security first, and to HR second, in both cases saying you’d heard that an ex supervisor had speculated wildly and wrongly about your husband, and that you wanted to make sure that your husband is not at any risk, if he comes on campus to pick you up or attend an event with you. Once that’s locked down, you could loop ex boss in: “After hearing strange secondhand stories about you enquiring about my husband, I have spoken with security and HR to make sure that my husband is not under any sort of ongoing suspicion or threat assessment. Without speculating why you did it, I wanted to express my extreme distress that you would raise the possibility of my husband being a violent person in any circumstance. Such suggestions are deeply hurtful. If they persist in security files they are also a real risk to the person being placed under suspicion–especially as they don’t know that they’re under suspicion. Making such enquiries should not be a default when someone leaves or changes positions, when nobody is upset, and nobody is being terminated “for cause.” Especially when the person in question will continue in another role on the same campus, and their spouse will occasionally be on campus as well. Would you want your spouse, your parent or your child to be put under lasting suspicion if you change job titles here?”

        Reply
      2. JSPA

        P.S. didn’t mean to imply that you were out of line or that I mistrusted your secondhand information! Boss was out of line for not coming to you with any worries. Pretty much signals that he doesn’t give a flip about your safety, y’know?

        Reply
  31. UniversityStaffHere

    Any other university staff seeing this and not all that surprised? I think, with all the shootings and stuff you hear about, the “could this trigger a violent incident” anxiety is more widespread than you think on college campuses. We are all required to watch “Run, Hide, Fight” videos every so often (youtube it), etc. The director’s behavior is misguided and OP has a right to be outraged. I’m just saying I don’t find it surprising.

    Reply
    1. Original Poster

      I would be less outraged if it were a concern that came up with anyone being let go. This question has never been asked of those regardless of feelings on the part of the departing or those with white collar spouses.
      It is the environment that you speak of that has caused me to be so concerned with my/our reputation(s). You hear something like that about someone and it now becomes a real possibility in your mind and you think of it when you see them.

      Reply
      1. UniversityStaffHere

        I completely get what you are saying, please don’t get me wrong! Big campuses are big rumor mills and also mean delicate reputations. I think Alison’s suggested approach the director is fantastic. I just was not even slightly surprised to see you work in higher education!

        Reply
    2. AnonyMouse

      Not surprised, but for different reasons. Most of the student affairs professionals I work with preach being non-judgmental with students but are SUPER judgmental with one another! When the OP suggested that an assumption may have been made based on her husbands career, I was like “color me not shocked!” There’s so much pretentiousness in higher ed over titles, degrees, etc, so I’m not surprised that someone in higher ed would think less of a blue collar worker. I think Allison’s advice is spot on for the OP, approach your boss about this and I would ask them what gave them that idea.

      Reply
  32. Indie

    Based on what people are saying about campus security assessments being a possible starting point I think I’d go with the phrasing ‘standard practice’ – “I just wanted to ask if these enquiries were standard practice relating to layoffs because I can’t think that anyone would be specifically concerned about Bob. Unless he has an evil Google twin.”
    When they demur, add “Problem is that simply mentioning his name means it’s gone over as though my husband and I have actually threatened security or something. The other problem is that if we make these random inquiries a habit then we’re going to end up either defaming someone or appearing as though we are judging them based on class or ethnicity.”

    Reply
  33. TheTiredEnegizerBunny

    I’ve had similar issues at work. There was a team that was removed from a project due to ethics concerns I raised. One of the coworkers retaliated and made my life hell for 3. 5 years with threats, bullying, sabotage, and smearing.

    He would joke repeatedly about me bringing in my gun to our building (federally prohibited by the way) . I have never owned a gun and he knows it. At one point we had another employee from a different company come in and ask me point blank if I had hurt or killed anyone lately and if I had a list. I shortly filed with hr and employee concerns, which is a very difficult process. I ended up hospitalized for several days from the stress and off work for several weeks.

    While the claim was determined as unsubstantiated by employee concerns, the company took large steps to address it and shut down the harrassment. It’s been roughly a year and things are great. Normally, that’s not how it turns out. It’s not fun to deal with at all. My condolences to the OP.

    Reply
    1. Original Poster

      I am so sorry to hear your story. Joking in such a manner is in no way funny, and in our current environment can make someone’s life hell. I’m glad you were cleared, but I am so sorry you had to go through that.

      Reply
      1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

        My husband was in high school when Columbine happened. Because he was a spooky, black wearing “weirdo” (who is completely non violent in any way, and was/is super funny, not mopey or depressed) other kids that didn’t like him for that were constantly sending in fake letters to the school that were supposedly from him that said he was going to shoot up or bomb the school. He didn’t get arrested or expelled because the notes were very, VERY obviously not his handwriting (his is quite distinctive), but the school officials harassed him and forbid him from having a locker or carrying a backpack or book bag. And he was constantly bullied by other students (and he was already over 6’ even then!)
        He almost dropped out of high school because of it. The only reason he didn’t was because a really nice teacher that ‘got’ him (and his ADHD and other learning disabilities his crappy parents denied him having) and had him finish out his time in continuation school.

        And then the school asked him if he wanted to walk in his graduation (and pay for the privilege LOL) and he told them to fuck off.

        This kind of shit actually does harm people.

        Reply
    2. CmdrShepard4ever

      The claim of you being violent/ going to bring a gun in to work, or your claim against the coworker for harassment was “unfounded?” It sucks you had to go through that I’m sorry.

      Reply
      1. TheTiredEnegizerBunny

        It was a one on one situation. No coworker overheard, turning it into he said, she said. Many of the other issues were also one on one. The main employee was in his estimated 60s… He was not new to how to get away with things.

        It was frustrating from a formal compliant perspective. The situation happened, but there was nothing to support it and no one to confirm it. HR/management took it much more seriously than employee concerns and have made sure there were no more actions. I’ve worked there 7 years and the last year has been the best it’s ever been. So happy ending, but a lot of hassle to get there.

        Reply
        1. TheTiredEnegizerBunny

          The claim of harrassment was unsubstantiated. *

          They didn’t even entertain the idea of me bringing in a weapon, which is appreciated because it felt like such a smear of character.

          Reply
  34. Original Poster

    OP here: it wasn’t until asking this question on this board that I realized the director might think the violence would be directed at me. My assumption was the possibility of violence would be directed at him.
    That said, no, I do not believe there is anything that has happened or been said over the 6 years I’ve worked here that would concern anyone. Anyone that knows me has heard about our live through casual conversation and the general consensus was best summed up by my co-worker recently “it is clear from the way you speak of your husband that you have a very caring relationship and enjoy taking care of each other.”

    And though I don’t know that it is my huband’s blue collar profession that caused the worry about violence, there is literally nothing in either of our histories that would cause that concern. Additionally, director has let go of someone who was very angry at him and the question of violence from that employee or his wife was never asked or made a concern. This director is also very hierarchal and has a tendency to think those outside academia or even in positions below him are literally below him.

    Ironically, should anyone have worries about me or family, prior to working at this university, I was in a profession that generally requires FBI background checks, which I have passed with flying colors. My history is actually documented.

    Reply
    1. Rose

      What was the context of you coworker telling you that the Director said this and why were they sharing it? And has anyone else mentioned it. Why do you think there has been harm done to your reputation? I would think most people would just be like “what an odd thing to ask” and move on. In a best case scenario what would you like to happen? Just playing Devil’s Advocate a bit.

      “Additionally, director has let go of someone who was very angry at him” & “This director is also very hierarchal and has a tendency to think those outside academia or even in positions below him are literally below him.” seems like you kindof answered your own question here.

      Reply
    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss

      If what you were told is 100% what the director said and intended by his comment, then yes I would be outraged as well. But there are so many possibilities, I feel like you may be jumping to conclusions. You’re hearing his comments through the grapevine, and as someone who always fails at the telephone game, his comments could have been re-worded or taken out of context of a larger conversation. It could have been a joke, as in “do I have to worry about her husband coming to kick my butt after I let her go?”, and not necessarily that he was seriously concerned about an act of violence. I’m not saying you don’t have a reason to be upset, but if you’re considering confronting the director, I would make sure you’re getting the information from someone who had a direct conversation with them, and not someone who heard about it second/third/fourth/etc. hand.

      Reply
      1. morethanasecretary

        Something along this line actually caused my boyfriend to break up with me. I had told some friends how we had gotten into a fight (on facebook), and someone said the usual, “want I should kick his butt?” Well one of his friends decided it would be fun to play around and actually told his family that I have a bunch of guys wanting to beat him up. Oh, the hilarity that ensued….

        Way too many third parties giving their own opinion of things are involved with this scarnario. I’d ask the guy just what he said, and who he said it to because it’s getting back and it’s putting him in a very poor light.

        Reply
  35. Jam Today

    Not an attorney but without going down the defamation road, would it be worth paying for an attorney to draft a cease & desist letter to get the gossip shut down?

    Reply
  36. AKchic

    This situation bothered me, so I needed to consider it before I gave my opinion on it. I’ve been open about my first marriage. It was abusive. To the point that my leaving was punctuated by gun violence/death threats, multiple violated restraining orders, my having to change jobs twice, moving multiple times, changing my phone number multiple times, having multiple false cases with CPS called in against me, and nearly going no-contact with my mother… all within the year it took me to kick him out and get our divorce finalized. It has been 16 years and I still look over my shoulder and have certain precautions online. My kids take certain precautions online as well. I am going to try not to let that color my judgement of this situation, but felt that it should be mentioned, because *everyone* at the job I worked during my marriage and the one I worked while I was divorcing were aware of the abuse, the legal interventions, and both job sites were restricted (federal and state government employers) yet he still trespassed to harass me, my coworkers, and my managers when challenged and told to leave. He always walked, so he was able to evade police.

    The best way to handle this, from my perspective, would be to talk to HR. This is serious. If the boss was so concerned about LW’s welfare, they should have gone to HR to discuss options rather than generating a potential rumor mill as they did. Instead, they generated this rumor mill and it has now caused potential odd feelings for people towards LW’s husband, and there will always be a cloud of suspicion, odd sympathy, and concern for her when they talk, as if they are trying to discern any possible abuse and openings to ask if she needs help, when she doesn’t need any. The boss took a gross and unfounded bias of their own and ran with it, to the LW’s detriment. Any retaliation should be reported.
    To anyone who brings it up to you, I would be honest. “I don’t know why [Boss] would think that. My husband isn’t that kind of person, and he doesn’t even know my home life, so that kind of speculation is grossly inappropriate.” Or, one of Alison’s scripts.

    Reply
  37. Ico

    While classism was suspected by the LW and someone in the comments asked about racism, no one is addressing the obvious sexism here. Instead people are half-excusing the boss’ behavior (“maybe he’s worried because of a past incident”, “maybe he heard something about someone with the same name”) and victim blaming (“does he ever talk about guns?”).

    Apparently the boss wasn’t worried about the (likely female) LW, but suspects the husband because he’s male. Acknowledging that is important.

    Reply
  38. morethanasecretary

    So, all politicians lie, all police take bribes, and all mechanics are wife-beaters? That seems bizarre. There has to be more going on in the boss’ head than classism, especially if he has never shown any indication of this previously and this is the first time the boss has shown an interest in her safety. What is more than likely is there was a previous incident where someone got laid off, and someone’s spouse got over-reactive, (to the surprise of all and sundry) and the boss is being a world class doofus in not trying to have a repeat performance

    Depending on the relationship with the boss, have the conversation first, but definitely have the conversation with HR. I can understand how reputations carry a lot of weight in an educational setting, but this is a safety issue. The last thing anyone needs is having your husband detained by campus security if he chooses to surprise his spouse for lunch one day.

    Reply
  39. zaracat

    It’s easy for something that starts as an innocent query or expression of concern to spiral out of control. I’m thinking back to a situation shortly after I started my first full time job where I noticed bruises on a colleague and because I was young and inexperienced and not sure what I should do, I discretely asked her boss for advice (my own boss worked offsite). Next thing I know her boss has blabbed it all over the office that colleague is being abused by her partner and naming me as the source of that information. So much for confidentiality. Massive loss of trust in me by colleague, and it turned out that the bruising was due to a sporting activity.

    In LW’s shoes I’d definitely talk to director and find out what is going on, especially to make sure people aren’t jumping to conclusions based on stereotyping or completely unwarranted assumptions.

    Reply
  40. PlainJane

    I second Alison’s WTF and raise it a hearty “DUDE!”

    All I can think of is that he’d been reading about various bits of workplace violence (some of which is triggered by layoffs) and so his fear was at a high point. News cycles can affect things like this, and MAYBE that was what put his mind there. But yeah. That’s an aberration, and no, it shouldn’t be assumed. And yes, I’d guess it has a whole lot to do with class issues.

    Reply
  41. AnonLife2

    Don’t know how big your university is, but mine is small enough that everyone knows each others’ spouses via university events, like recognition dinners, banquets, holiday parties, etc. If it got around that my husband was suspected of being violent and abusive, it would essentially be career homicide committed by the person who started the rumor. It would mean I could potentially not move up the chain to Dean or VP, since the spouses of those positions are generally expected to be on campus for various employee-related events. Even without going to that level, this rumor would change the entire way I interacted with my university, colleagues, and collegiality-building events, as spouses go and are part of the networking (including off-campus, impromptu events hosted by various individuals that could influence tenure decisions and committee appointments…I mean, you want your name around in a good way before going up for tenure, so that people actually know you exist).

    Seriously. For my campus, this would be a BIG. DEAL. And I would have already involved HR yesterday, and I would be demanding at least one peer-reviewed head on an academic platter.

    Reply

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