my boss had a long-term affair with my husband, allergies on video calls, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My boss had a long-term affair with my husband

I recently found out that my spouse has been having a 2.5-year affair with his coworker, who happens to also be my manager. She has been doing this kind of thing for years and even after this came out, she is still doing this kind of behavior with other men, including her staff, most of whom are married with kids, me included. But her employees are not the only ones, this also includes resort guests. We work at a luxury hotel.

Can I anonymously email HR and inform them of what she is doing? I know it will not result in termination or even a final write-up. But what I am looking for is that they have a conversation with her. She is and has been destroying families for years. My thought is that if HR has this conversation, it will rattle her to stop or an investigation will begin since it does include fraternizing with guests, which is a huge no-no.

Anonymous notes usually aren’t taken seriously, but would you be open to talking to HR yourself? The issue isn’t so much that your boss has affairs; the issue is that she is having affairs with her staff, which is a huge legal liability for the company (as well as horribly unethical). The fact that she had an affair with her employee’s husband leaves her absolutely unable to manage you and calls her judgement (and her ability to remain in a managerial position) into deep question.

2. How can I fix my company’s dysfunctional culture?

I’m writing to you because I really don’t like my job, but I need a way to cope. It took some time for me to realize I want to switch fields (I’m burnt out and not enjoying technical work anymore), and I’m working on finding a job that will make me happier. But this is taking a while, and a pandemic that is unpredictable is not a good time to be unemployed.

I want to find a way to make this job less draining and upsetting while I’m here. Morale is low here, we’re overworked, understaffed, and have had several people leave in the last two months. Leadership and management have not been good at raising morale or having empathy even before we had to switch to remote work, and we don’t have a culture of good communication or collaboration. Think people feeling “attacked” by design reviews or deliberately misrepresenting problems and schedule delays because they “like to avoid conflict.”

I’m not in management, but I’m leading a significant project, and have about 7-8 years of work experience. I should be able to do something, but it feels impossible to change culture by myself. I’ve spoken to my manager, his boss, and another manager about our issues, and every time they have agreed with my assessment of the problems, then figuratively thrown up their hands and said, “I don’t know how to fix this, what would you do?” I don’t know either! I’ve not been given any leadership training, and I certainly don’t know how to fix a dysfunctional culture by myself. But I need to try, for my own sake, and for my colleagues’. My one idea (which was shot down because “people won’t engage”) was to have an open, honest discussion about how people are doing and what support they need. I would really appreciate any advice or strategies you have! I don’t want to spend every weekend dreading Monday morning.

I will say it bluntly: you cannot fix this. The reason it feels impossible to change the culture by yourself is because it is. Fundamental changes to a dysfunctional culture need to come from the top and senior leadership needs to be deeply bought in and committed or it won’t happen. Even then, it’s difficult work that often doesn’t stick.

That said, you could think about a few concrete changes that would improve your quality of life while you’re there and ask for those. They shouldn’t be anything fundamental about the culture because that won’t work and will likely be an exercise in additional frustration (for example, if they had agreed to hold that discussion about what support people need, it could have actually made things worse if nothing changed afterwards — because that kind of thing increases people’s cynicism about the company). But if it would improve your life to have the company pay for you to get training in X or back-burner a project you don’t have time for right now or buy everyone bagels on Friday, ask for it. That’s not going to fix the big problems, but it might make things more bearable while you work on leaving.

Read an update to this letter

3. If I apply for a job where my reference works, do I need to be sure I’d accept it?

One of my former managers, “Phil,” has been a great reference over the years. We don’t have a personal relationship, but we keep in touch by talking about our industry. Last January he gave me a glowing reference that helped me land a great (on paper) new role. Unfortunately, it has not been a good fit. I have nothing bad to say about the company … my duties are just not what I expected. I am not desperate to leave, but I have been casually looking for other opportunities.

I applied for a higher paying role at the company where Phil works now. I interviewed and they are requesting references. I want to use Phil as a reference, but my sister says I shouldn’t unless I am 100% sure I would accept the job. She thinks it would burn that bridge if I asked for his help again so soon, and then didn’t accept a job at his own company. Is that true? Do I have to accept a job offer if my reference works for the company?

No! I don’t think your sister is necessarily saying you should always accept a job offer if your reference works for the company (you definitely don’t need to) but rather it sounds like she’s concerned about you asking for his help twice so close together and then not accepting an offer there. But either way, you wouldn’t need to accept an offer. It would make no sense if you did; that would mean you’d be obligated to accept even if you turned out not to want the job or the salary they offered was too low.

It is true, though, that when you apply somewhere your reference works, you should be particularly considerate about how you navigate things. Assume they might be spending capital to help you and proceed accordingly — meaning, for example, that you shouldn’t apply if you’re not really that interested or stay in the process if at some point you determine you wouldn’t accept the job, and you definitely shouldn’t use them just to get a counteroffer from your current employer (you shouldn’t do that with any company, but definitely not in this situation) or tell them off if they reject you, etc. Otherwise you risk losing good will with the person you’re hoping will continue to be a reference for you in the future. But none of that means you can’t turn down an offer. Do it courteously and explain to Phil why it ultimately wasn’t right for you, and it should be fine.

4. Allergies on video calls

I recently started a new job that’s totally remote and I met the rest of my team this week. However, during this call, my allergies went absolutely haywire and I found myself sneezing and coughing and having to blow my nose during the call. I muted myself the whole time unless asked a question (so no one could hear me honking into a Kleenex), but how else should allergy symptoms be handled in a video conference besides muting yourself and trying to sneeze subtly? Was there anything else I should have done?

That’s about it! It’s also fine to acknowledge it — “I apologize, my allergies are going haywire” — but this isn’t a big deal! You were almost certainly not the only one on that call who’s struggled with allergies or similar symptoms. To the extent that anyone took note of it, it would have just been in sympathy!

5. How to turn down invitations to interview

I’m in the final term of my undergrad and have thankfully secured a job! I applied to a lot of jobs (like almost 200), most admittedly through one-click apply on LinkedIn and Indeed, which I soon discovered go nowhere.

I am still receiving invites to interview. What is the best phrasing to reject them with? It is almost always by email. I’m especially worried as I will be working at a consultancy that will potentially lead me to working with the companies I’m now rejecting! I know I’m overthinking it, but I can’t help myself.

“I recently accepted a job so I need to withdraw my application, but best of luck filling the position.” That’s it! That happens all the time, and it’s nothing to worry about!

{ 350 comments… read them below }

  1. Anononon*

    Poor, poor OP1. I think Alison’s advice is spot-on, but from OP’s letter, I’m doubtful as to it helping OP much. If they don’t think that HR would generally find this behavior actionable, I’m concerned that OP1 talking to them would do anything either. It just sounds super toxic.

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      I wonder if op thinks he wouldn’t find the boss having affairs with staff members actionable, but if the affair is with her direct report or direct reports partner, that might be something they would find actionable.

      I wonder, OP, does your company have an anonymous tip line that you could call. You say you work at a luxury resort, is it part of a bigger chain that might have a tip line. I’m worried that if she goes to her they are going to ask for proof, and I nthat case it could get back to the boss and it could cause problems for her.

      1. PT*

        A lot of companies do have an ethics tip line, and I think this would be helpful. But the complaint would need to be framed without a “ruining family” bent.

        “I am Lucinda Warbleworth and I am very uncomfortable working with Tangerina Jones because she is in a romantic relationship with my husband Wakeen Ferguson. I do not feel comfortable being managed by her any more. This is a conflict of interest.”

        The company will be like “whoa whoa whoa WHAT” and do some poking around.

    2. Beth*

      In a standard office, I’d agree—this level of behavior is salacious enough that there’s no way there aren’t rumors flying around. Someone higher up, or someone in HR, should have heard enough to take action by now. (Even if they didn’t have solid evidence, widespread rumors alone would be enough cause to warrant some serious conversations!) OP definitely should be prepared for the possibility that reporting could be unhelpful or could even backfire on them.

      I do wonder if this being a hotel makes a difference, though. A lot of hotels are chains, with HR and other non-location-specific branches likely working in a centralized location rather than sharing space (and gossip networks) with any one location. In a setup like that, it seems much more possible than usual that HR doesn’t know about this—or, if they’ve heard anything, it might have been one or two not-very-actionable anonymous reports, rather than either solid testimony or widespread rumor. It’s the kind of thing that a lot of people might feel awkward raising with a stranger who isn’t even on-site, after all. I think there’s at least some room for OP reporting this to actually make a difference.

    3. Jennifer Juniper*

      OP1: I’m so sorry.

      Get out get out get out. Your boss sounds like the type who would retaliate against you for reporting her for having an affair with your husband. Also, get tested for every STI known to man. She could have given him, and by extension, you, a little gift that keeps on giving.

      1. yala*

        I mean, I think that retaliating against a report of something this blatant would actually give OP some legal ground to sue from.

        That said, yes, absolutely get tested for. Everything.

    4. urban teacher*

      I’m wondering if HR would also go after the husband for sleeping with a colleague. It may be an issue for reporting.

      1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        To bad for Husband. He made the bed, now he can lie in it. If he has to get a new job as a consequences of his actions maybe he’ll think twice.

    5. Beth*

      LW #1 needs to be prepared for her husband and herself to lose their jobs. I’d be worried that the manager will throw them both under the bus.

  2. EPLawyer*

    #1 — YIKES.
    This is hot a mess. Unfortunately there is a good chance that HR already knows your manager is doing and … doesn’t care. Be prepared for that.

    I would make it less personal. You don’t want to look like the scorned woman. I would raise that she is sleeping with guests which is a HUGE No-No rather than complaining about your boss sleeping with your husband. Not that its right but it just looks like revenge for your husband sleeping around.

    You also need to have a long talk with your hubby. Maybe couple’s counseling. Or you have to decide that a 2.5 year is not a mistake and protect yourself and your kids. Talk to a family law attorney about your options.

    1. Jackalope*

      The thing that I think makes a difference here is that the manager is supervising someone married to the person she’s having an affair with. There are all kinds of reasons that people can’t supervise family members, good friends, etc., and this is also a situation where any reasonable person could be expected to have an issue with this. Not just because of the toll on the OP’s marriage, although that’s huge, but also because how could the boss possibly be a good and objective manager for someone whose husband she is having an affair with? How could the supervisée possibly manage to take feedback and not hear it with overtones of, “This is coming from the person who banged my husband for 2.5 years”? Even if the boss doesn’t get fired or demoted, most companies aren’t going to want her to supervise the OP anymore because they know it’s asking for trouble. (And that would be the case even if they didn’t think it was a big deal that the boss was having affairs; it’s just too tense of a situation to let the boss keep supervising her.)

      1. allathian*

        Yes, I must say I agree with Jackalope here, it’s simply inappropriate for anyone to manage the spouse of their lover.

        1. allathian*

          Things are further complicated by the fact that the manager is also a coworker of the LW’s husband… Unfortunately I don’t think this can be solved other than by the LW getting a new job.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Or HR firing the boss for egregious behavior. That would be much more appropriate in my book.

            1. No Name Today*

              If boss and husband are at the same level, should he lose his job for having an affair with a coworker?
              Or should she because she had an affair with a married coworker, or because the coworker was married to her staff member?
              Wow, writing that out it breaking my brain. Can you picture HR debating this?

              1. twocents*

                When this happened at my company a few years back, HR told both of them “One or both of you needs to move on by X. If neither has, you will both be let go.” One quit immediately and the other left a few months later.

                1. singularity*

                  Honestly, if I were in a situation like this, I wouldn’t want to work for this organization anymore and I’d be looking for employment elsewhere if at all possible. (I assume that if OP could quit and find another job easily, they would’ve done that.) Or if OP wants to stay with their spouse and not divorce (ie: go to therapy and work on it), then spouse would need to quit or get moved someplace else.

                2. 70C*

                  I’m bookmarking this. Brilliant and applicable to so many situations where there is more than one party in the wrong.

              2. JSPA*

                Boss is the one who’s doing a managerially-indefensible thing, that demands professional repercussions (especially with clarification that there has in fact already been some repercussions in scheduling for OP).

                Spouse is the one who’s doing the promise-breaking thing, that merits whatever level of personal repercussions.

              3. LTL*

                Given the power dynamics, no he shouldn’t be fired. OP is boss’ direct report so there’s a huge issue with consent in husband and boss’ relationship, at least as far as HR should be concerned.

                1. biobotb*

                  How is there the issue of consent, if OP’s husband is not boss’ report? Unless you’re saying she was using the threat of firing his wife to coerce him?

              4. kt*

                Boss should be fired because of behavior she chose to undertake that jeopardizes her ability to do her job/manage her employees. For instance, if I were a manager and I chose to enter into a business relationship with a client company, I might be fired, right, because it affects my ability to do my job. If I were a manager and chose to join an association that persecutes my employee for some reason, I could be fired (not necessarily would be, but could be). It’s just a plain conflict of interest.

              5. LizM*

                Husband’s job risk would depend on whether the company has a policy on relationships between coworkers that are in different reporting structures. And whether the affair was happening on company time or using company resources that husband or manager weren’t entitled to use.

                Manager is clearly, professionally, wrong.

              6. Kevin Sours*

                Having an affair with the spouse of your direct report absolutely should be something you can be fired for. I’m not sure why would be something HR would need to debate.

            2. Observer*

              Or HR firing the boss for egregious behavior. That would be much more appropriate in my book.

              Absolutely. But if the OP is right that this kind of thing has been going on for a long time, there is a very real possibility that HR won’t take appropriate action.

              I’ve said a couple of times in the comments that if HR is competent they will take action. The catch here is “If they are competent”. As we know, lots of time HR is NOT competent. And I suspect that hospitality (which is what it sounds like the industry the OP is in) tends to be dysfunctional this way.

              The main thing I think will have an effect on HR is highlighting the affairs with guests, because that opens them to liability in a way that is far harder to control than with employees (in their minds, at least.)

      2. Beth*

        This strikes me as an either/or. If HR is going to care about this, OP1 could cite either reason—sleeping with guests, or sleeping with her direct report’s spouse—and they should respond pretty seriously. If HR isn’t going to care, neither reason is likely to change that.

      3. Klio*

        Not to mention sleeping with her own underlings. That’s another power differential issue.

      4. AcademiaNut*

        Yeah – don’t supervise your lover’s spouse falls under the same rules as not supervising any other close relation. Even if it were a fully consensual polyamory relationship, the OP’s manager shouldn’t be managing her; the fact that it’s an affair just adds all sorts of grossness to it.

      5. A.N. O'Nyme*

        Yeah, this is what I would focus on as well. Be relentlessly professional and talk about the stuff HR can do something about – namely the part where you can’t trust her to give unbiased feedback. Frankly, HR can’t do anything about her “ruining families” (which, frankly, she is not guilty of unless there was some coercion involved like threatening your career, which is a whole other can of worms. It takes two to have an affair, don’t ignore your husband’s part in this. The only family she might ruin is her own if she happens to be married herself). Tell HR about breaking the fraternisation policies, tell them about the guests, and tell a counselor or family lawyer about the personal stuff.

        1. UKDancer*

          I agree. You can’t make HR care that she’s “ruining families” but they will care potentially about conflicts of interest or breach of rules and things which affect the hotel’s bottom line. Be as factual and dispassionate as possible about it with HR and see a therapist or someone similar about the way you feel about the issue.

        2. J Marshall*

          I have names of guests. It’s not like she keeps it a secret. Think narcissism, but a new level. She finds herself untouchable because 10 years ago she had an affair with our regional married manager who has since moved up even farther in the company.

          1. A.N. O'Nyme*

            In that case I would definitely tell HR about the guests, because that may open a whole other can of legal worms for the company. Frame it as concern for the company, not a personal attack on the woman your husband had an affair with. When discussing the affair with your husband, again, focus on the professional repercussions, not the “homewrecker” angle. When discussing the affairs with colleagues, raise questions about sexual harrasment (possibility of quid pro quo, especially when sleeping with subordinates. If she threatened your career in order to coerce your husband, I assume that would’ve come up during the extensive talking you two already did). Again, the point here is to be ruthlessly professional to try and ensure no one thinks you’re a woman scorned spreading gossip to destroy “the other woman”.
            Also, as mentioned downthread, having your name on the record will make it easier to spot retaliation, which should give you more legal protection than an anonymous letter. It is possible you will be the victim of retaliation regardless, so you may want to be prepared for that and have a lawyer on speed-dial. Personally I would even talk to a lawyer beforehand, just so you know what to expect and maybe get some help in how to phrase all this.

          2. Observer*

            I have names of guests. It’s not like she keeps it a secret. Think narcissism, but a new level. She finds herself untouchable because 10 years ago she had an affair with our regional married manager who has since moved up even farther in the company.

            Good heavens. Honestly, you should think about the possibility that you need to move on. Not because you SHOULD but because there is a good possibility that HR is going to fall down on the job.

            Bring it HR and be very clear about the issue with guests. And also, document the negative actions your boss has taken against you. Talk to a lawyer and find out if you might have a sexual harassment case here. In which case, your next step would be filing a complaint with the EEOC or the like.

      6. mreasy*

        Yeah this absolutely should not be allowed to stay the situation – the manager should be moved elsewhere at the very least, so OP is not in her reporting chain.

    2. MK*

      If the OP doesn’t mention the affair with her husband and it comes out later, she will come across as slandering her boss because of it.

      1. Forrest*

        It would be an incredibly weird process that blamed someone for “slander” because they had a grudge against someone for doing something that was actually worse than the slander allegation! If it comes out that someone had an affair with someone who is a co-worker AND their direct report’s spouse, and the reaction is, “Oh, well, Direct Report clearly held a grudge, we shouldn’t take anything they said seriously”, that’s one hell of a set of priorities.

        1. MK*

          My point was that if the OP goes to HR with allegations that the manager is sleeping with clients, and then it comes out that the manager is having an affair with the OP’s husband, people will wonder if she is making up the stuff about clients to get revenge. And of course the credibility of the OP’s accusations is going to be affected by her having a personal grudge against her manager.

          What would be “correct priorities”? Ignoring the fact that the person who accuses the manager of sleeping around (and is unlikely to have proof) is a wronged wife?

          1. Forrest*

            But if you accept that OP is a “wronged wife”, it means you believe that a manager IS sleeping with one of her colleagues who is also the spouse of one of her direct reports! I definitely think correct priorities would be disciplining that person!

            1. MK*

              It is the site’s rule, or at least convention, that we take the OP on their word, so I commented taking for granted that the content of the letter is accurate. If I was HR and an employee came to me with a story about their manager sleeping with hotel guests, without disclosing that this manager is also their husband’s affair partner, I would investigate to find if the accusations are true, and I would find out about the affair. Naturally that would make me wonder if the whole thing about the guests is a revenge slander.

              As for disciplining the manager for sleeping with the husband, it doesn’t sound as if it’s actually against company rules, certainly the OP doesn’t think it will lead to anything. And in that case, the husband should also be disciplined , which I doubt the OP wants.

              1. EPLawyer*

                Truth is an absolute defense to slander. If the boss IS sleeping with guests, then the LW has accurately reported it. It is not slander. It might be revenge, but it is not slander.

                1. JSPA*

                  What’s true in the abstract isn’t particularly relevant.

                  Hotels are their own thing. In most workplaces, if anyone is naked and drunk on-site, including customers, that’s already defined as a problem. In a hotel, it’s normal for some customers to drink, take ambien, have sex, watch porn, walk around in bathing suits, be naked inside their rooms when someone knocks on the door. It makes proving misbehavior that much more difficult. And invading guest privacy except for serious crimes (or issues that disturb other guests) undermines one of the basic tenets of what it means to be a responsible hotelier.

                  As a result, it’s not easy to follow up on claims of employees sleeping with the guests. There’s a very high “not wanting to know / not liking the risk-benefit ratio” bar to clear. (Especially as the dynamic so often runs the other way, with guests sexually harassing or assaulting staff! Hotels should be more leery, not less, of firing staff for “sexual contact, dynamic unprovable.”)

                  Add in that in many hotels, some level of flirting, personal familiarity, double-entendre between female hotel employees and male guests has been not only allowed but encouraged, in the name of “charming” and retaining guests.

                  Short of having video and audio of entire encounters, “looking into eyes and smiling” and “putting hand on arm familiarly” or, “not slapping or complaining about guests who squeeze your bottom or go in for a drunken kiss” can all be waved away.

                  Where does that leave us?

                  If someone made “pattern of sex with guests” accusations, doing it from a place of “no axe to grind / just being professional here” would carry some extra weight.

                  Likewise, doing it from, “didn’t mention affair with my husband” might make me weight the possibility that they were misinterpreting the (many) micro- and (occasional) macro-harassments in a more negative light than necessary. That’s without assuming “wronged women will lie for vengeance” or similar BS.

                2. MK*

                  I was using slander in a more general sense, that she might be perceived as a wife badmouthing her husband’s affair partner. Whether she would be committing the actual civil or criminal offense of slander, whether she could prove in court that it’s true, whether she even wants to go there, that is another matter.

              2. Forrest*

                But it’s not just “sleeping with a co-worker”, it’s “sleeping with the spouse of someone I manage (who is ALSO a co-worker)”. Like, the conflict of interest there is HUGE.

                If this is an organisation which decides to censure someone for reporting the wrong thing when they are in such an impossible, personally painful and unprofessional situation, the rules of the game are absurd and so fundamentally skewed against OP that the concept of “doing the right thing through the right channels” is meaningless.

                1. MK*

                  Look, the simple reality is that if the OP reports her manager for promiscuous behaviour without disclosing her very personal conflict with that manager, she will look skeevy and her complaints suspect. The professional and straightforward thing to do is disclose what she knows as facts. If you want to believe it’s absurd that HR would be less ready to take the OP’s word after finding out she hid this from them, ok.

                2. Forrest*

                  I think OP should report the affair because I think “my manager is sleeping with my husband” is a far bigger breach of professional ethics than sleeping with guests. But I just find it bizarre that they chose NOT to report something as deeply personal and humiliating as *their own husband’s infidelity* someone would judge them for that or find it shady or suspect! I just think it would be completely obvious why someone might try and find a way not to discuss that with their employer!

              3. LTL*

                As for disciplining the manager for sleeping with the husband, it doesn’t sound as if it’s actually against company rules, certainly the OP doesn’t think it will lead to anything. And in that case, the husband should also be disciplined , which I doubt the OP wants.

                As some comments have pointed out, there’s a power dynamic between husband and boss which is a huge problem in terms of consent. How free do you feel to say “no” when your spouse’s manager shows interest in you? Whatever the actual nature of their relationship, HR should take this very seriously. This is not a woman who should be in a position of power.

                Not to mention the conflict of interest in being managed by your spouse’s lover (or ex-lover).

          2. IndustriousLabRat*

            I think this is a good point you’re making. If LW#1 does go to HR, omitting the husband bit entirely would come across as odd, if discovered later.

            Frankly, this whole mess is a complete ditch-job-and-husband situation; not necessarily in that order. Looking at it from the husband’s twisted perspective, who in their right mind thinks, “ohheyyy!!! I should totally have a long term affair with my WIFE’S BOSS!” ?! NOPE. There’s a difference between a drunken one night stand (also wrong, but worth counseling) and going back for more, for YEARS, complicated by the work relationships, and it’s absolutely an enormous lack of judgement, caring, empathy; you name it, on both of their parts. This is, in my admittedly biased opinion as a person who, as a kid, had to endure the fallout of long term parental infidelity, beyond counseling.

            I’m not sure if, in this predicament, I would even approach HR until it was with a letter of resignation in hand and a new job lined up. Especially if raising these concerns might jeopardize LW’s position and therefore financial independence.

            I think my only advice to OP involves a divorce attorney and a good refreshing of the ol’ resume. IF the resort is corporate enough to do exit interviews, great. But I fear this is very likely to be a case of “your boss sucks and isn’t going to change”.

            1. J Marshall*

              My financial situation had already been compromised. She creates my schedule and has reduced my hours significantly but uses the covid excuse. I have been there 12 years and a loyal hardworking employee who is well liked by many. She on the other hand is not. Why should I be the one to leave? But I get it, lifes not fair. I was just hoping to finding a loop hole as to not air my filthy laundry and not lose a job I do like overall.

              1. Colette*

                That’s a sign that you really need to go to HR and tell them that your boss had an affair with your husband and that now she is cutting your hours.

                1. myswtghst*

                  Absolutely. For this to be treated as what it is (retaliation), HR will need that context.

              2. Observer*

                Why should I be the one to leave?

                Ethically? You are 100% right. As a practical matter, you may not have a choice.

                The ONLY way you stand a chance of something going the right way at work, is to be honest about the affair. Not in a “she destroyed my marriage” way. But “she reduced my hours to enable the affair / the retaliate against me when my husband resigned.” That’s actionable and something that HR SHOULD take very, very seriously.

                From what you say, though, they may not do anything. In which case your only tenable solution is to go elsewhere. It’s not fair, to be sure! But you need to look at what will help you move forward not what would be the fairest thing in a perfect world.

              3. Mononoke Hime*

                OP, sorry you’re going through this. You may want to speak to an employment lawyer before making any move as she is already retaliating against you and causing you financial hardship. This has moved beyond just “complicated work relationship” and there may be legal ramifications/recourses for entities involved. Best of luck.

              4. Lora*

                I will give you the best piece of advice my divorce lawyer gave me: the court (or in this case HR or management) is not there to make things fair. It’s there to make sure you get what the law says you should get in terms of money. That’s it. Let go of the whole idea of justice or fairness, because it’s not going to happen. What you can get is money on the way out the door, and even then, don’t expect a lot. The real gift of divorce or quitting a job is that you are FREE of the drama and weirdness and all these evil people, so you can go make something better with your life. You can’t get justice. You can get freedom, or something close to that.

                The vast majority of bosses do not sleep with their colleagues or their employees’ spouses. The vast majority of jobs do not tolerate a lot of office sexytimes at all. Shockingly few companies have a duck club, I promise, and I’ve worked for some truly weird ones.

                Companies really don’t care one bit about loyalty. They will show you the door in a hot minute if it makes their balance sheet look better next quarter. They care a little bit about hardworking, in the sense that it might be a little more expensive to replace you than otherwise, but they will certainly make do. Some will sorta-kinda care that you are well liked by your colleagues, but if it’s politically more advisable to align with the boss and her wide array of lovers, they will do that. They usually do figure it will be more expensive and difficult to replace a boss than her employee – financially she is literally worth more than you as far as the company is concerned.

                I would definitely plan for a new job at the bare minimum…and have my paychecks from the new job direct-deposited to an account in my name only.

                1. DJ Abbott*

                  If you haven’t already, start having your paychecks deposited into an account with your name only right now.
                  If your arrangement is to share funds with your husband, you can transfer it from your own account to your joint account. Please protect yourself financially by not allowing him direct access to your pay.

                2. myswtghst*

                  This is good advice. Unfortunate as it is, life is often unfair, and things don’t always go as they should. I have always appreciated AAM because Alison balances the way the world should be with how it actually is, and I think this is one of those times where it’s pretty clear what should happen (OP should be moved to a new manager, and boss should be investigated for inappropriate relationships with subordinates/guests) may not happen, and OP should be realistic about what comes next.

              5. Liz*

                It’s not your filthy laundry you’d be airing by going to HR. It’s hers and your husband’s.

              6. Ellie*

                If she is already trying to push you out, then you have nothing to lose by talking to HR. If HR won’t listen, is there anyone higher-up that would be sympathetic to your story? Alison is right, an anonymous note isn’t worth anything, but you have a real grievance and you are alerting them to something that could take down the whole hotel. If they have any sense at all, they will listen to you.

                I am so sorry.

              7. Momma Bear*

                IMO it is not your “laundry” but hers. If she is already retaliating by reducing hours, you need to loop someone else in.

            2. EPLawyer*

              Here’s the realith though — you stated further up that she slept with a married boss and he has moved higher up the corporate chain. She is probably protected. You — despite being liked — are not. So you have to HIGHLY professional when discussing this with HR. Do not go with “homewrecker ruining families” no matter how you feel.

              You also need to be prepared for the fact that she will continue to be protected even after you report it to HR. Which means you might be the one to leave. You have to have an exit plan. If they prefer to keep her over you for … reasons, you might be the one let go 12 years of loyalty of not. We say this a lot here, loyalty to a company goes only so far. The company will fire you in a HEART BEAT if it makes business sense to them. Or even if it doesn’t.

              Would it be retaliation for reporting the favored person to HR. Probably. Would it take years to prove it in court? Oh yes.

              things are a mess for you right now. Its hard to sort through it.

              1. J Marshall*

                Quite the mess. I am beginning to understand that only karma will sort this out and I need to stay away from it. Protect myself and hopes that she messes with the wrong wife of a guest.

                1. Observer*

                  Protect myself

                  That is absolutely job #1. Job #2 is protect the kids.

                  Husband? A faaaaaar third, *if* you think he’s worth the effort. Otherwise, find a way to get out of that, too.

                2. Tilly*

                  For the record, I get the anger and I don’t judge.
                  My ex had an affair, so I tracked her down…and had my own affair with her. Oh, the laughs we had over wine about the idiot we had in common!
                  Then my ex had another affair, and I tracked her down too…and had my own affair with her, too! Oh the laughs we had!
                  (I wish I was making this up, but I’m not.)
                  And then I was like, seriously, what am I doing here? I’m an accomplished professional in my mid-30s, what am I doing with this attractive clown who is clearly moments from disaster.
                  So, I ditched the clown, and now I’m married to a wonderful person about whom I don’t have to worry about talking to HR.

        2. MK*

          My point was that if the OP goes to HR with allegations that the manager is sleeping with clients, and then it comes out that the manager is having an affair with the OP’s husband, people will wonder if she is making up the stuff about clients to get revenge. And of course the credibility of the OP’s accusations is going to be affected by her having a personal grudge against her manager.

          What would be “correct priorities”? Ignoring the fact that the person who accuses the manager of sleeping around (and is unlikely to have proof) is a wronged wife?

          1. WellRed*

            If an investigation is started and it’s as bad as it sounds, they’ll find evidence, not just conclude OP is lying. However, OP needs to bring up the spouse too because it will come out and will look odd, as others point out.

            1. MK*

              Maybe they will find evidence, maybe not. You would be surprised how difficult it is to prove things that “everyone knows”. People who like to gossip about other’s sexual behaviour are not always willing to go on record, they backtrack, they change stories, they suddenly aren’t sure, etc. Sometimes it’s because they didn’t know anything and were repeating rumors, sometimes they just don’t want the hassle.

              1. myswtghst*

                And if she really is targeting married men, how many of them are going to want to go on the record about their affairs?

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, but OTOH I just can’t see why this should be an issue at all? I mean, we’re all human. I suppose it depends on how public your job is, but unless you’re doing a live webinar or presentation to really, really exceptionally difficult customers who think customer service employees are robots and not allowed to show the least bit of humanity and where the worst of the sneezing can’t be edited out, I really don’t see the problem. People are people and if as long as others don’t have to listen to the honking, what’s the problem?

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes, allergies happen. I have hayfever so I tend to say something like “I’m sorry my hayfever’s bad at the moment and it sounds worse than it is. Just ignore it.”

        I’ve never known anyone say anything adverse about it because bodies happen and people have issues.

        1. Distracted Librarian*

          Same. My allergies acted up during a job interview last spring (thanks, allergies. Thanks a bunch.). I was embarrassed but just said something like, “I’m having a bad allergy day, just a moment,” then muted myself, blew my nose a couple of times, unmuted, and went back to answering the question. If it bothered the search committee, they didn’t show it, and I got the job.

      2. Allonge*

        Also: is it not so much better than having the same thing happen live? I am grateful that I can mute myself for any sneezing fits and even stop the video temporarily if there are extreme visuals happening.

        But yes, human bodies have human glitches. Don’t worry about it, OP.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          My poor boss had a sinus infection earlier this year and had to lead a meeting where he couldn’t mute himself. He apologized several times, but it still was pretty gross to listen to him have to stop and sniff up the *stuff* so that he could continue to speak. He would mute himself if he wasn’t speaking, but he could only do that so much. I felt bad for him, and I know others did, too. It happens!

      3. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Ish, depends on the interviewer really. I can get into massive sneezing fits (tree pollen is an absolute git and I can’t handle antihistamines of any type) so bad that they’ll give me a migraine at times, which makes conversation a little difficult.

        My staff on calls are kinda used to me going on mute and looking like I’m having a full epileptic fit (am also epileptic, had to explain that I’m fine) but an interviewer may get seriously concerned. I’ve had one ask if we should reschedule the interview after I’d sneezed badly enough to start retching!

        I’d say though that it’s far better to be doing that on a conference call. The one in office interview I went to and started sneezing at, I had to get up and leave the room to go outside. I couldn’t expect them to know my sneezing wasn’t infectious and I so needed a new mask after.

        1. a*

          Last March, the week before everything shut down, I had to testify in court when the onset of spring allergies meant I couldn’t stop coughing. My court transcript, at one point not long into the ordeal says “Sorry, just allergies.”

    2. pandop*

      Me too.

      I am amused when the system flashes up the message about you being on mute. Yes I know I am on mute, no I do not need to unmute so the rest of the team can hear me sneeze!

      1. Chilipepper*

        The notification is helpful bc even after one year, a surprising number of people start talking while their mute is on. Only a fraction of them see the notification that mute is on, but it is helpful to some.

        1. Evan Þ.*

          +1. Every week or two, I still have a meeting where it takes someone several seconds to unmute himself.

    3. Virginia Plain*

      My sympathy too – I don’t get hay fever but I have caught a (non-pandemic-related) cold and am about to dial in to a teleconference. With judicious use of mute to hide my nose-honks (advantage of meetings not in person = no jokes about it being foggy on the Thames today) and my extravagant sneezes (if I had kids they’d all be in macs and sou’ western like North Sea fishermen, for their own protection!)

        1. Chilipepper*

          Lol, where I am from, no one knows what a Mac (not a computer?) or a sou’wester are!

          1. Virginia Plain*

            I’m on a one-person quest to spread the delights of British English idioms to the mostly American commentariat here! They’ll all be saying “well I’ll go to the foot of our stairs” and “faffing about” and “still, mustn’t grumble” and “he’s in such a strop” and “hell’s bells, you mean he trousered fifty quid for that rubbish? He’s having a bubble!” in no time. Whilst eating marmite on toast and wearing wellies.

            1. Clisby*

              I didn’t realize “the foot of the stairs” was British idiom. It’s very common where I grew up, in the American South. Just like “the head of the stairs.”

              1. UKDancer*

                No it’s a very idiomatic expression “well I’ll go to the foot of our stairs” meaning “I’m very surprised.” My Nanna in Middlesbrough used to say it along with “well I’ll go to our house.”

                I’ve not come across the expressions outside the North East though.

                1. Jean (just Jean)*

                  I imagine that “I’ll go to the foot of our stairs” packs the same wallop as one of my favorites from the American South: “hornswoggled.” As a verb, it means to deceive or cheat someone, often through flowery, false language. As an adverb (adjective?) as in “I’ll be hornswoggled” it means flabbergasted, floored, rendered speechless in shock, and/or in a state of scraping one’s jaw off the floor.

          2. Virginia Plain*

            For the avoidance of doubt mac is short for macintosh, a type of waterproof longish coat (like a trench coat). Distinct from a cagoule which is a short waterproof jacket, one layer of usually luridly coloured nylon fabric, beloved of hikers and Boy Scouts. No idea what the American version is.
            A sou’wester is an old fashioned rain hat, brim turned up at the front but drooping at the back, often bright yellow.

            1. Jack Be Nimble*

              Pretty much all light-weight waterproof jackets are just called raincoats in the US! An unlined waterproof coat might be called a windbreaker depending on the style, but I don’t think most places get enough rain to bother distinguishing between different styles.

              I’ve also had some vicious allergy attacks on calls lately, I just turn my camera and microphone off and do whatever gross things I need to do to make myself presentable.

    4. Western Rover*

      It’s not unusual to see people turn off their cameras at my company. I assume that the person is in back-to-back meetings and needs a minute while Fergus is droning on to take care of some personal need, whether eating, sneezing or whatever.

    5. Delta Delta*

      Same! If OP is in the northern hemisphere right now where everything is blooming, chances are good other people on the call are also suffering from pollen-borne allergies right now too. Might even lead to a little bit of, “hay fever, amirite?” sort of commiseration among the group.

      And also, re: your user name – I loved Funny Cide! Everybody loves Funny Cide!

  3. Beth*

    OP2: Alison is right that you can’t change a toxic culture. I hope you listen to that advice. I also want to add to that, it sounds like you feel very responsible for at least trying to improve things for your coworkers. I want to assure you that you’re not! I hear you that you’re a project leader and a reasonably experienced worker, but neither of those comes with a responsibility to restart company culture from scratch. That’s CEO level responsibility. Don’t beat yourself up over not being able to handle what was never yours to carry in the first place.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      There is a saying I’ve heard: culture eats strategy.

      The culture of an office (or family, or friend group, et cetera) is formed by bigger forces than LW 2 has. Her desire to change the culture, although powerful, is smaller than the likely years of drama and dysfunction and toxicity and habit and ruts that formed this culture. As noted, change from the top, with real buy-in and effort — not just lip service — from the people who matter and have power and influence, goes a long way.

      Note: I actually generally like my job just fine, but in my office, we’ve had several people hired as culture experts whose job was to improve the culture, which for sure has its issues. There was one lady who kept planning flash mobs? They’ve all come and gone; they were beaten by the fact that the culture was just way bigger than them, and they didn’t have the support and buy-in. That is, the culture … ate all of their strategies. The people at the top thought hiring a culture expert WAS what they did to improve the culture. I don’t want to say that the culture is what it is. It IS possible to improve morale and engagement and atmosphere … but one lone person in the middle of the ranks trying to force fun on everyone else usually isn’t going to do it.

      1. MK*

        The problem I saw in these initiatives is that they are trying to ensure cooperation from the base. However that is usually ineffective, firstly because low-level employees don’t have the power to make change and very often cannot be convinced to comply, because some of them will be partbof the problem, others won’t care, some will be apathetic and others won’t believe change is possible.

        The only time I have seen a culture shift was basically the top person in a highly hierarchical organization acting as dictator. They came in, listenied to everyone, identified what they wanted changed and ordered everyone to comply or get out (transfer, not quit). No ifs, no buts, no further discussion, unless there was an actual problem caused by the changes (and it had better be an actual problem, not something caused by malicious compliance or the personnel being unwilling to change).

        1. LQ*

          Dictator has been the only way I’ve seen change happen too. And a dictator with the power to get rid of the unwanted culture holder-ontoers and bring in new throughout the organization. The larger and deeper the organization the harder it is to root out those people (good and ill) and the more the culture is a slow lumbering thing. A smaller org where the boss can hire and fire at will? Sure, they can totally change it quickly. I don’t know what the limit is but I imagine once you get past a few hundred it’s harder to do and you get little pockets and sub-cultures by division heads too.

        2. MassMatt*

          I was going to say something like this. Cultural change is HARD, and the larger the organization and longer it’s been in place the harder it is. Even when CEO’s attempt to dictate serious change, they don’t always succeed, as examples as different as Wells Fargo and the Vatican testify.

          OP, you need to take all that energy you were hoping to use to change your company and instead use it to change your career. If the culture is terrible where you are working, it will be much easier to find a better job than change the whole organization.

      2. Ganymede*

        I am definitely stealing “culture eats strategy”… I am currently running a renovation project on the village hall of my tiny English village and this, along with Eisenhower’s “Plans are nothing. Planning is everything” might have to go up in a frame on the wall.

        The other good one is “Fish rots from the head”, and what MK says bears that out in the opposite direction – sometimes you just need someone to come in, grab the organisation by the neck and shake it. Then set a good example of stepping up, getting things done and not hanging on to useless ideas/atmospheres/behaviours.

        1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

          I had a friend who used to use the expression “What do you expect from the body when the head is rotten?”

      3. Katefish*

        “Culture eats strategy” is a great saying! I walked into my first paid management job knowing that the company was dsyfunctional (internal promotion), and while I did my best to make things positive for my team and increase our revenue, it had no long term impact on the top management’s extensive issues, and the company ultimately folded.

      4. Smithy*

        Culture eats strategy is just so true.

        I work in fundraising, and when a team’s direction goes….off, at the end of the year if the money has come in, it’s very often that no one’s going to force a serious change. So I’ve been on teams where you start the year, mapping out your strategies, setting individual goals, etc. And then come of the end of the year, very little in those documents might reflect what you actually did. Managers would then do performance evaluations about nothing related to your goals or team strategy (cause that had gone out the window, and even if you showed you achieved all of your goals – it didn’t really matter), and then the process would start all over.

      5. LW2*

        LW2 here! What a great phrase – culture eats strategy. I’m going to remember that. It explains what’s happening at my company so well.

    2. Grump*

      Yes, OP2, please take Alison’s advice. I spent nearly 9 years in a toxic organization and, after moving into a mid-level management role about 5 years ago, poured a ton of time and energy into trying to improve its culture. Upper management encouraged this through various committees, initiatives, and plans aimed at improving culture and other significant workplace problems, all of which now appears to have been part of a pattern of extracting our ideas and then ignoring them, leading to even worse burnout. The best thing I ever did was leave. The second best thing I did in the meantime was get my team concrete resources and remove as many barriers to their success as I could. Things like giving them more control over the work they were doing, rebalancing their workloads and moving deadlines so they weren’t drowning, eliminating needless bureaucracy and paper-pushing, and automating certain tasks to free up time. Good luck to you!!

    3. Cat Tree*

      I wish I had this advice about 8 years ago. I had worked a couple of years at Prestigious Company in my industry, and then left voluntary to get ahead of impending layoffs. I got recruited by a much smaller company in a tangential industry. They wanted me to use my experience at Prestigious Company to drive improvements at their company. I was only a mid-level individual contributor and probably a bit naive. But I went in optimistic because my direct boss, the plant manager, and the corporate VP wanted me to do this.

      The whole thing was a mess. The whole *company* was a toxic wasteland. A small handful of others were also brought in from outside to change things, but we never got the support we needed and had been led to expect. The VP was completely unwilling to intervene over serious issues, and would intentionally remove everyone from email cc when he replied, even when he agreed with me! He refused to show any public support for any of us. I tried not to bug him, only contacting him when we had serious issues that I couldn’t ethically ignore. The second-in-command at the plant level was hugely insecure about his incompetence and seemed to disagree with me about everything just for spite. He did not like a young woman knowing things he didn’t (and what he didn’t know could fill an Olympic sized swimming pool). His manager, the very plant manager who encouraged me to bring change, never backed me up in front of this guy (although he also would agree with me privately). Much of the work that needed to be done to improve things just never got done, and I had zero authority to make anyone do anything. The higher ups that brought me in refused to let me “borrow” their authority. Instead, they just insisted that I do everything myself, even when I literally could not. I didn’t know the term “missing stair” at the time, but at least half the stairs there were missing and it was easier for management to dump everything on the few functioning stairs.

      I should have run for the hills after my first week at that place. But I held up hope that I could be successful. I got burned out pretty fast, but wanted to stick around so I wouldn’t look like a job hopper (previous jobs were 8 months then 18 months). It was awful and I hated going into work every day. About two years in, I was recruited by another company and jumped on that. That place was mediocre, not fantastic, but at least no one was pressuring me to change the culture.

      In retrospect I learned a lot of things. Culture change must come from the top down, and I really couldn’t have been successful in my position without that. I also learned that job hopping isn’t especially bad in my field, especially once I had Prestigious Company on my resume.

    4. Lyudie*

      I took a whole graduate-level course on organizational culture and change. It’s a whole entire field of study/practice and there are people whose whole job is getting paid to consult with companies to change the culture. Even if it was OP2’s responsibility (and it isn’t) it’s not something one individual contributor can do. OP2, this is a crappy situation but it’s not on you to fix. I hope you can land somewhere better soon <3

      1. Lora*

        Yup, same. We were taught you need a pilot program demonstrating the benefits of change across different levels to get buy-in, but after that 70% of everyone – from senior management all the way down to the guys on the shop floor – needs to either get on board with the change or be fired. There’s about 8 stages, each of which takes a looooong time to implement, cannot be skipped, and there’s a lot of making sure small wins are noticed and rewarded to keep people committed, old behaviors are no longer tolerated, etc.

        TBH I think I lot of it comes down to who the company is willing to fire. If there’s a VP who is an a-hole, but they won’t fire him because he gets the best sales results, nothing is going to happen.

      2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        I’m sure that consultants are nice people…but, I’ll tell you one of the things that kills morale the fastest around my org is that they keep hiring consultants to tell management the SAME THINGS we, the long-time, perfectly capable in-house people have been saying for years, and then they have the audacity to act like this is new info.

        1. AskJeeves*

          Yep. I’m sure there are good culture consultants, but it’s also something that orgs with terrible culture like to do to seem like they care about making change. My old job paid a consultant to tell us all our ennaegram type. But anything staff actually wanted – sorry, no budget!

          1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

            One of the things with even good consultants in my experience is that they usually do a great big fancy report/presentation based on generic “best practices”. They interview top level management to come up with their recommendations, and then they aren’t the ones to implement the changes they consulted on…they’re paid and gone.

          2. Lora*

            Yup. You need 1) the majority of senior level people on board 2) a large budget 3) at least one serious axe-man whose job will consist of firing lots of people in a fairly short amount of time 4) a plan for how you’re going to operate after/while firing a big chunk of staff who wouldn’t get on board with the changes. And even if you identify let’s say 10% of the company who are Bad Culture Perpetrators, a HUGE additional amount will leave voluntarily just because mass layoffs make them nervous. Plus your normal turnover, whatever that is – so realistically you need to figure out how you’re going to operate with 1/3 your staff missing and needing constant replacement, but if the culture is not good it’s also safe to assume that nobody will want to work there and you’ll have a hard time getting qualified applicants…companies really get into a spiral where they lose people they can’t replace until they truly cannot function, try to stop the bleeding with contractors, cannot, and start to really fail. Not just a “things aren’t efficient, we aren’t making nearly as much money as we could be” but a “oh crap we just lost our three biggest customers, now we are down 40% of our revenue” failure. It’s a difficult spiral to pull out of.

        2. MassMatt*

          You must have worked at an old employer of mine. There was one (major) department that was creating huge bottlenecks and losing business for the overall company. This was very widely known, and every 2 years or so they would hire an outside consultant to study the problem and propose solutions. A report would be issued and then… nothing. In another 2 years, the same thing. When I was there for one cycle I naively thought “great, now it’ll get fixed”. A colleague who’d been there longer laughed and said no, this is at least the fourth time they’ve done this. Good for the consulting business, I’m sure.

  4. Laika*

    Oh hey OP#2! I’m the letter-writer from “My boss asked me to create a list of solutions to awful morale” that Alison linked in her reply to you.

    Since writing that letter about a year ago, all but 3 people in that department of 12 quit, and several front office staff have too. I eventually also quit, but not until after a long dragged out and obviously fruitless attempt to, like you, make a difference for myself and my colleagues. I even tried to stay on part-time, that’s how bad I wanted to make it work! But even at part-time they found ways to be the worst employer imaginable. Impressive, really.

    If you want to start a singlehanded campaign to improve things for yourself and everyone else, okay, go for it. But know in advance things are very, VERY unlikely to change. Be sure you have the emotional bandwidth to take it on, because there’s no script and there’s no magic bullet. You’re probably going to have to sit through a LOT of meetings repeating yourself and trying to justify to someone else why you and your team deserve to not feel like garbage at work for 9 painfully long hours every day. Make sure you have the social capital to spend if you see yourself working there long-term, because you can only uselessly rock the boat so long and so loudly before it gets weird. You can try (I sure did!) but sadly, ultimately, your employer has no motivation to change. The dysfunction is baked right in; the people who can make that change either know about the problems and don’t care, or aren’t listening and don’t care.

    I can say for me, the energy spent wasn’t worth it. I burned out in a big, hard, very bad way that I’m still working through. So my totally unsolicited advice is to take it on only if you truly have the time and energy (and it’s not, like, a last-ditch self-preservation thing, like a whale throwing herself into the beach). It’s hard, it’s tedious, and, like Alison says, when you pour your energy into it and then find nothing comes of that, deeply demoralizing. Best of luck, OP.

    1. Gone Girl*

      And like we discovered with Basecamp the other week – if there’s no buy-in from the top, even something like a DEI committee made up of a third of the company can still fail to make a company-wide impact (or in BC’s case, be unceremoniously disbanded 3 months later).

    2. Antilles*

      Great advice. I’ll append my personal experience too.
      My first company out of college was founded a couple decades prior to me joining, with a workaholic culture. In the early days of the company, “bringing in cots to sleep at the office” wasn’t even a joke, it was something they legitimately did. When I joined (a couple decades into the company’s existence), a lot of the top managers had had aged into middle-age with families and kids and etc and wanted to be more work-life balance friendly. Senior management made a big push to change the culture since they directly wanted it themselves, the initiative was fully backed by the CEO and Board of Directors, the company was willing to back it with money in terms of hiring extra staff to cut back on workloads, and so forth.
      Simply put, in terms of “management buy-in”, it was about as bought-in as you could reasonably expect. And yet, when I was there, after several years of this push, it was *still* a more work-heavy culture than almost anywhere I’ve ever worked.
      In other words, even in near-ideal circumstances with full support, changing established cultures is slow and grinding process. In OP’s circumstances where it’s not clear top management even acknowledges the problem? Not going to happen, sorry.

    3. Smithy*

      I think that answers like this are why often the answer to “how do I survive working at a dysfunctional place” isn’t about how to change it. Rather the advice most often is around doing what you need to do to get through the day at work – no more, no less. Do everything you possibly can to accommodate your own stress and mental health needs.

      Instead of hoping to save up PTO to cash out in full when you leave, be really mindful of taking more time off if that helps recover or have the energy necessary to apply for jobs. If you have sick days that don’t carry over and you’re not typically someone who uses them all – when you get close to the end of your fiscal year, consider how you might use them. Whether it’s to schedule a doctor’s appointment for 9am but use the whole sick day or take mental health days or truly just use them as defacto burnout/extra vacation days.

      If you have the money are there services that would make life easier? Someone to clean the house, a meal service, laundry service, regular massages – something that just makes surviving this job while actively applying to new jobs easier.

      All of that will still take time and energy, but be more far likely to help someone leave a bad job that try to fix it.

      1. AskJeeves*

        Yes! You can’t save everyone — and you don’t have to run yourself ragged trying. Just keep your head down and focus on maintaining your mental health, getting your job done, and getting out of there asap. Also, if you are overworked, set boundaries and stick to them. Don’t burn yourself out to protect the organization from its own poor management.

      2. Laika*

        Yes, absolutely! This is all great advice. In retrospect, this is all stuff that would have helped me immensely in my situation. I did a lot of begging/wheedling/fact collecting/presenting slideshows/assembling reading lists, all hoping it would somehow prove my case. What it actually did was waste my time, suck up my last bit of emotional fortitude, and give management a chance to nod thoughtfully and pretend like they were listening, then keep on doing nothing.

        All that energy I spent should have absolutely been used on job-hunting or taking care of myself outside of work. Instead, I just burned out even faster. I wasted so much energy thinking I could solve the problem if I just complained loud and long enough.

        1. LW2*

          “I wasted so much energy thinking I could solve the problem if I just complained loud and long enough.”

          LW2 here – that is exactly me right now. I’m sorry you went through that! I definitely feel burn-out happening… you are right I need to refocus that energy elsewhere.

  5. John Smith*

    #2. I fully sympathise as I’m in the same position. I managed to get counselling therapy for the stress my job, sorry, managers cause me and learned a few coping techniques which have really helped. Is something similar available to you either through your organisation or privately? If you can learn not to expend emotional energy at work (i.e, not give a fuck), it will help.

    I’m regularly spending hours doing a task that would take minutes if managers implemented a recommended cheap, easy and simple system, but they won’t. It used to wind me up no end, but I thought “if they want me to use the organisations time this way knowing there is a better and quicker way, that’s up to them. The problem is theirs, not mine”.

    Good luck with job hunting. I hope you get out and find an employer who values you.

    1. Texan In Exile*

      That’s the dilemma and I think that’s the point we need to reach: This is not my problem, it’s the org’s problem, and I am not going to work OT to fix it.

      I had to sit on my hands yesterday to keep from getting my work computer out and getting some things done. I am in a new position with a great boss but in a completely disorganized dept with no objectives or boundaries, so any work that comes in, we do it whether it makes sense or not. I have some hard deadlines I might not be able to hit if I am required to do the little things that should not be part of my job.

      I am not paid enough to work more than 40 hours a week and I will not work more than 40 hours a week.

    2. Mockingjay*

      “if they want me to use the organizations time this way knowing there is a better and quicker way, that’s up to them. The problem is theirs, not mine.”

      Preach. My company is really good, but we’re a support contractor to a certain department of a government agency. If there is choice between a difficult, manual, labor-intensive method and a simple tool to streamline a process, the agency department will pick the bad method every. single. time. Baffles me completely, since I’ve supported other departments in this agency which were fully on board with cost-effective, smart processes and tools to do work. I was actually hired into my role as a changemaker because of my background in effective processes and documentation. Five years later, nothing has changed. They get the work done, but it’s always last minute, quality suffers, and there’s usually no record of work performed because no one finishes reports. No one seems to care, so I’ve stopped caring as well. I do my stuff well and accurately, then I log off.

      This is my last role before retirement, so I really am not invested in wearing myself out on a lost cause. Learned that at ExToxicJob which had many of the same issues that OP 2 is experiencing.

  6. Language Lover*

    OP #1

    I’m sorry you were betrayed by both your husband and your boss. It’s bad enough to have a marriage or a job go south but when they both go south because they’re linked, it must cause unimaginable stress.

    If you decide to approach HR, you’re going to have to be prepared to discuss the professional ramifications rather than the personal ramifications of her actions. I could be wrong but I feel like you want your employer to talk your manager out of being a “home wrecker” type of person. HR isn’t going to do that. If they’re half way decent, they’ll be more concerned with the fact that she is having inappropriate relationships with coworkers that do prevent her from being able to do her job well (like manage her affair partner’s spouse.) And does your resort have fraternization policies regarding guests? If they do, that’s something you can approach HR with as well. If they don’t, then that may be a dead end.

    In addition, I’d recommend trying to keep your points to them about things you know occurred as opposed to bringing them gossip. It’s not that you can’t mention you had heard rumors but specifics, like your husband confessing his affair with her, will carry more weight.

    1. Muriel Heslop*

      I worked in luxury hospitality for many years and I think this is great advice. In none of the places that I worked would this boss’ behavior been tolerated indefinitely except for one privately owned 5-star luxury restaurant and that place was a cesspool.

      OP, I hope you can find a member of senior management/ownership that can help you with this. I can’t imagine they don’t see how professionally problematic your boss’ behavior is in many ways.

  7. Well...*

    OP#2, I’ve seen bottom-up change in academic departments, usually seeded by the grad students. Student groups have secured:
    -institutionalized tutoring centers for underrepresented undergrads, staffed at first by volunteers but eventually by paid TAs.
    – gender neutral bathrooms (a union contract helped with that, but the contract’s language didn’t guarantee that access meant a bathroom IN the building, and for years there was just one bathroom on the whole campus a 15 minute walk away, hidden figures style)
    – grad students went over the depts head and had an audit about the prelim exam (an exam which determines your ability to stay in the program) resulting in the department addressing concerns and changing the parameters of the exam (lack of transparency in grading, criteria for questions, etc)
    – a portion on microaggressions and implicit bias added to the graduate student teaching training and orientation.

    It can be done, but in a world where you are free to leave for a different job, that’s probably the path of least resistance. Also in my case the dept culture was more lazy apathy than aggressive dissent (aggressive dissent was present in a minority of powerful faculty), but things really did change over a few years.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think the difference with those is that they’re specific programs/initiatives, not culture shifts around things like communication, collaboration, workloads, morale, etc. It’s culture shifts that really need to have buy-in and work from the top.

      1. Well...*

        Thats a gold point, and I hope I’m not too off-topic, but in my experience these initiatives did accompany culture shifts. The department went from a place where problems were “your fault because you aren’t good enough” to problems were something the group could solve. The training on implicit bias was meant specifically to seed cultural shifts, even without full faculty buy-in. When I said things changed, I meant the culture did change.

      2. tamarack and fireweed*

        There are a few reasons, I think, why bottom-up, and specifically student-led initiatives have a better track record of enacting cultural change compared to top-down driven ones in the academic environment. (I’m myself part of a DEI initiative in my institution that is part of a real movement to push things along, and it was initiated by our program’s grad student association, for example.)

        1. Much weaker reporting structures of the key academic roles (eg. professors) than in the private industry. I frequently hear junior researchers (grad students, postdocs, research support staff) express the opinion that their PI “doesn’t really have a boss” or “doesn’t report to anyone” even though this is manifestly untrue. (A professor / PI typically reports to a dean or an institute director, or may have dotted-line reporting relations to two or even more of them.) If a professor/PI brings in funding, gets papers published and teaches their classes, there’s very little that higher management can really do to change their attitudes from above.
        2. Autonomy, with a tradition of getting things done in self-selected teams and committees: Academic faculty are usually empowered, and expected, to take initiative and decide to join working groups and committees (not just stuff like the faculty senate – this includes research collaborations, outreach projects, grad student advisory committees… that is, a lot of the day-to-day of being an effective academic).
        3. Students can bring a lot of energy to an institution plus the legitimacy that comes with being a revenue center – whether they pay tuition out of pocket or are covered by grants or per-student base funding. Students can and are often willing to stick their head out when faculty is too timid to do so.
        4. The problem is frequently in the middle – what the students want and what a (good) dean or director or provost would like to see happen may well aligns somewhat, but the ossification is with the people who are now mid-career academics and averse to change.

        This said, as 4. alludes to, Alison is of course right that buy-in from the top is absolutely necessary – and its absence is likely to lead the nicest bottom-up initiative to failure (or indeed some unit into a mutiny against their administration… which happens too). It’s more like, IF you have a receptive or change-seeking leadership THEN you need a grassroots / bottom-up / student-driven (with multipliers from all other levels – staff, faculty…) initiative to trigger a movement that reaches throughout the organization if you’re dealing with the kind of herding-cats situation that academia is made of (for good reasons).

        1. Well...*

          Great points all around! The only contention I will raise is that PhD students aren’t always so safe. Many survive on TA funding. In fact, last year UCSC fired PhD TAs who were on a wildcat strike.

      3. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        I think that’s the best way for a culture shift that actually sticks though; break it up into smaller programs and initiatives instead. Sometimes a subtle shift in one problem area can domino exponentially — at least it might get a few of the problem employees to leave on their own.

    2. MK*

      In academic departments students are the population the organization serves, at least in theory, and so have a different kind of voice. Employees are not in the same position.

      1. Allonge*

        Having a group of students (or staff) is also a different setting than having one employee – this comes on top of the person’s regular work and there are only so many hours in a day.

      2. Well...*

        I don’t think that really applied to grad students in my dept, where the majority were PhDs. They are far more similar to laborers than customers.

        1. lin*

          I don’t think the difference is in them being customers in terms of paying tuition, more that grad students’ training and development is at least nominally and often actually a key goal of the institutions they’re a part of. I think grad students sometimes underestimate the extent to which this colours the nature of their interactions with faculty and staff.

    3. deesse877*

      I’m also an academic, and I similarly believe that grad students–whatever their funding and labor requirements–are significantly more likely to get concessions on culture than regular employees. Grad students **are the future** of the academy in a way that has no parallel in ordinary employment situations. They can exact certain concessions on that basis that others–including, I would point out, post-degree contingent faculty–cannot.

      I also would need to see the culture changes you name remain in place for at least five years after the founding cohort has cycled out completely to truly believe the culture has permanently changed.

      1. Well...*

        The dept I was talking about was a large, public, not-ivy-league school. We were frequently told faculty positions were vanishingly unlikely to be within our reach. Believe me, we were not treated as if we were the future of our field.

    4. Beth*

      My experience as a grad student is that in a good department we often have leeway to create a specific, narrow change. But if we propose anything too large in scope or too different from the status quo, we’ll get shut down and we really don’t have much power to do anything about it.

      This is in large part because our higher-ups are specifically our mentors and teachers as well as our bosses and are often primed to be trying to support us—any changes we can get made are based on them having the goodwill towards us to let us borrow their authority. This can be helpful, obviously, but can also get really paternalistic! Sometimes what we think we need and what our faculty thinks we need are different, and that often ends up devolving into a weirdly parental tone. It’s very weird as a 30 year old adult (and in the middle of the age range in my department, we’re not mostly fresh out of undergrad!) to bring up a carefully considered proposal with universal grad student support in the department and to have that ignored and be told that we just have to trust them to know what’s best.

      It also means large-scale systemic issues rarely get addressed. For example, one of the most widespread grad student problems is simply that we don’t make enough money. The people who have the power to change that don’t have any interest in doing so, so there’s very little we can do about it. (We do have a union at my school, and I’m very grateful for it! But the union works very hard to make small impacts. University administrations are powerful things, and very hard to shift, and even in United numbers we’re not strong enough to make much of a dent.)

    1. WS*

      you also need to have your name on it so there’s a paper record of what has happened and you then have some recourse if/when she retaliates

      Yes, this! Vitally important! Even if HR does their job properly so she doesn’t know for sure it’s you, it’s a fair guess. If you suddenly become a “problem employee” when you haven’t been before, HR knows exactly why. If you do this anonymously, the boss can make exactly the same guess and punish you just the same, and you’ve got nothing to point to and say, “Look, this is when it started.”

    2. a sound engineer*

      Yes! Seconded making an on-record complaint. Whether you specifically are singled out or your entire team feels the punishment, it’s important that there is a record so that if retaliation does occur, it will be seen in context and as a result of your original complaint, instead of looking like something unrelated.

    3. Someone On-Line*

      “Leave a Cheater, Gain a Life” by Tracey Chapman is fantastic, as is the FB group Chump Nation. Even if you’re not ready to leave, or ever going to leave, it will help you make sense of things in your head. Or at least provide solidarity.

  8. a sound engineer*

    Nothing but sympathy for you, OP#1.

    Alison’s advice is spot-on. One thing I’d add: if you do go to HR, make sure to focus on the professional consequences of what your boss is doing. Understandably, your letter is focused more on the personal side of things, but it will not help your case to frame it that way. Stick to the facts: manager is sleeping with coworkers (which affects her ability to manage effectively), manager is managing the spouse of her affair partner (HUGE no), and manager is sleeping with guests (which in your own words a big no-no).

    If it helps to release some of the emotion around it, make a list of the instances you’re thinking about and write out all of the emotions and feelings that you have about the personal consequences of your manager’s actions. Let it sit for a bit, and once you’re feeling calmer come back, go through your list and reframe each issue in terms of its professional consequences – go from “It sucked that Jane had yet another affair, this time with the guest in Room 303, and his wife caught them, caused a big scene, and it fell to me to clean up the mess for the third time this year, I was short on sleep for the rest of the week” to “Jane broke the no fraternization policy on X date and a big scene was caused when the wife found out; I was pulled away from working on important tasks Y and Z to smooth it over, which involved comping the stay and doing A, B and C that cost the hotel $$ extra.”

    Obviously this is a made-up example, but you get the idea. Focus on the facts of what happened, and how they directly affect your workflow and completion, team dynamic and other tangible things. Showing these things make it a clear issue that HR can take action on. Coming at it from the “Jane is a home-wrecker” will make you look like you are more concerned about revenge than all of these clear signs that Jane is unable to do her job well.

    Best of luck, and I hope you can get yourself out of that environment soon, whether in the form of a new manager a new job altogether.

    1. Camellia*

      This is excellent advice. And a great example of how to take something from the ‘personal’ level to the ‘professional’ level. Hopefully the OP has concrete examples like this to use.

  9. Green great dragon*

    Should #5 actively withdraw applications from companies they might be working with? I know it’s par for the course that people drop out, but as an occasional hiring manager it would be nice not to have to spend time on a form from someone who’s no longer interested.

    1. Texan In Exile*


      In 2020, I applied for over 130 jobs.

      I got 15 first interviews.

      A handful of second interviews.

      And one offer.

      In my years of job hunting, I have been ghosted so many times, including by an employer who flew me in for the interview. I do not feel particularly compelled to notify the companies that did not contact me that they can take me out of their systems.

      1. Voluptuousfire*

        It’s kind of shocking at how many companies had sloppy to horrid recruiting this time around.

        In October, I had 3 out 4 of interviews fall through, all over two weeks—one hired someone quickly, one had 8 (!) candidates in final rounds for a role and closed out the role, one job didn’t actually exist and eventually came to fruition.

        The fourth interview was for a horror show of a company that’s still hiring for some roles in May.

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        In my years of job hunting, I have been ghosted so many times, including by an employer who flew me in for the interview.

        I had to read this a few times to realize the ghosting was after the interview and not just declining to pick Texan in Exile up at the airport–with my last few interview experiences, both scenarios are plausible…

      3. OP5*

        Hey, I’m OP#5! I had a similar ratio of responses, but most of mine were for a numerical reasoning test or a one way video interview. So even at that point, I still hadn’t been in contact with a human being and would most likely get screened out by AI or no contact at all.

    2. Colette*

      I don’t think they need to withdraw unless they have been contacted for a phone screen or interview – after they’ve been in touch with someone at the company, they should withdraw. But if they’ve just applied and have no idea what the status of their application is, I don’t think it’s necessary to withdraw.

      1. Beth*

        Even after a phone screen, I probably wouldn’t reach out. If I’d been on site for an interview, at that point I’d probably notify them—at that point, you’re likely a finalist. But based on personal experience, I wouldn’t expect an employer to reach out to tell me that I was out of the running after just a phone screen, so it wouldn’t occur to me to proactively notify them that I was dropping out at that stage.

    3. D3*

      Yeah, that’s a no.
      Companies ghost applicants waaaaaaay too much that I don’t really care to take the time to “unapply” for multiple jobs that haven’t even bothered to acknowledge my application.
      Hiring managers only ever care about their own time. So sure, it “would be nice” but let’s face it, do you show your applicants the same respect? Do you respond with a decision to *every* application in a timely manner? I’d bet you don’t.

    4. Beth*

      I mean, as a worker it would also be nice not to have to spend a bunch of time on a resume AND a cover letter AND filling out an online ‘work history’ form AND etc for a job posting that might well screen me out before a real person ever sees my application. I think this is just an annoying feature of the modern job market; it’s just not an efficient process, so on all sides of hiring, we end up having to do a fair amount of paperwork that ends up being pointless.

  10. Green great dragon*

    Should #5 actively withdraw applications from companies they might be working with? I know it’s par for the course that people drop out, but as an occasional hiring manager it would be nice not to have to spend time on a form from someone who’s no longer interested.

    1. anone*

      It seems parallel to the experience of applicants not hearing from hiring managers unless selected for an interview–sure, it would be nice to get the extra communication, but it doesn’t seem to work that way. I don’t know that hiring managers can expect a consideration that applicants themselves aren’t able to expect. It’s just one of those things. Especially if this person has had to apply to hundreds of jobs–that’s just way too many to formally withdraw from, especially since lots of those probably went nowhere. It’s just part of what goes into hiring; sometimes people stop being available.

      1. Caroline Bowman*

        this totally.

        ”if you don’t hear back in 14 days, your application was unsuccessful”. I’m guessing that many of these applications were made far longer-ago than that and so she now has no need to contact them at all.

    2. Allonge*

      Maybe if they got an ancknowledgement email with a big button that says: If no longer interested, please withdraw your applicaton here. But otherwise, no, it’s just part of the game.

      And frankly, in my experience, we spend no more than 15 minutes on any one application, frequently much less. If removing the application from the pile takes more time than that, it’s not really a net positive.

    3. Alice*

      If a company takes a few weeks before contacting applicants for the first time (OP mentioned applying “some time ago” and they had time to interview and accept another offer in the meantime) they should expect that a few applicants will no longer be available.

      1. OP5*

        I’m the OP here. Alison edited my letter a little (I am a wordy writer haha). I had a call back to an application from December just last month. I haven’t actually applied to any jobs since late March, as that’s when I accepted an offer. So anyone contacting me now has had my application for a minimum of 6 weeks but I’m seeing an average turnaround of 3-4 months really.

    4. Kevin Sours*

      Unless it’s an active process (for instance a phone screen or an interview in the last few weeks) I wouldn’t expect so. I mean, do you contact every candidate to submit an application to tell them they are no longer under consideration?

    1. Lily*

      “OP, your boss doesn’t ruin families, the married people who cheated did. She obviously did things [that] are morally wrong but didn’t ruin your family, your husband did that.”
      I came here to say this.

      1. Cordelia*

        Yes so did I. OP1, I’m very sorry for what you are going through, but it takes two to have an affair, and it was your husband who cheated. HR aren’t going to get involved in this kind of thing, they are not the morality police and are not there to stop the “ruining of families”. What you could do is speak to them to say you are unable to be managed by this person because of what has happened; that is something they can and should be able to intervene with. Everything else I think you need to consider as a family problem, not a work problem. I’m sorry to sound blunt, I do feel for you and the awful situation you are in

      2. Jennifer*

        I disagree. Obviously the married person is also at fault, but if a person knowingly enters into a relationship with someone that is married and monogamous, they know that they could potentially ruin that family. They do bear some responsibility here.

        1. Chester*

          No one is saying that. They are saying it’s not the jobs responsibility. But if you spend all of your energy getting mad at the other person who is NOT your spouse, you are avoiding the real problem.

          1. Hiring Mgr*

            There are two problems though – one with the marriage and one with the work.. It’s not the job’s responsibility to fix the marriage but it certainly is their responsibility to address the inappropriate workplace behavior

          2. Jennifer*

            She’s being managed by someone that had an affair with her husband. How can that not affect your job?

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              I think you’re mixing up the issues, Jennifer. You said, ‘but if a person knowingly enters into a relationship with someone that is married and monogamous, they know that they could potentially ruin that family.’ While this may be true, it is not the employer’s issue to manage, let alone resolve.

              Then you said, ‘She’s being managed by someone that had an affair with her husband. How can that not affect your job?’ This is not the same issue. Yes, the OP can and maybe should ask for a transfer, but she cannot point out her boss is a homewrecker.

            2. Jennifer*

              @SheLooksFamiliar Yes, I was responding to comments about two separate issues. I agree that she shouldn’t go into HR calling her boss a homewrecker, but should focus no the impact to the workplace.

            3. Paulina*

              Additionally, this is at a resort, and it’s common at some resorts for families to all work there, both members of a couple, etc., due to location. Any serious family problem can quickly become a workplace problem, and any manager there should be well aware of this.

        2. SchuylerSeestra*

          Yeah, the boss knows the person she’s sleeping with is married. She’s still in the wrong.

          1. Scat*

            And she knows he’s married to a member of staff…now that shows a lack of judgement on her part which HR could get involved in

      3. NYC Taxi*

        Yup. She should be talking to her husband, not sending anonymous reports. He her real problem.

        1. i'm back*

          So being managed by a supervisor who has had an affair with your partner is not also a work issue??

        2. Observer*

          It’s not an either / or thing.

          She needs to be talking to her husband – and facing the reality that HE is the person responsible for shredding their marriage.


          She needs to be talking to HR – and focusing on the work impact.

          The only thing that she should not be doing is sending anonymous reports. They never end well.

          1. NYC Taxi*

            Exactly. Work doesn’t care about your family issues and will dismiss any of that as a homelife drama. But they will care about the impact on the business.

        3. aebhel*

          The husband is to blame for wrecking the marriage. The fact that the boss is (apparently repeatedly) having affairs with her staff and her staff’s spouses is absolutely a real, work-related problem, though, and she should not be managing people with that kind of poor judgement and lack of boundaries.

      4. Joan Rivers*

        Yes. I doubt she and the husband spent any time talking about his 4 kids. Or his wife. In those moments he forgot they existed. Wife needs to face that fact. He may never have mentioned his family to her.
        Marriage counseling!
        Lawyer — re: your standing if you were to divorce AND re: helping you at work

      5. Black Horse Dancing*

        THIS! The first thing that caught my eye. Boss ruined no one’s family–the cheating spouses did.

    2. I take tea*

      Thank you! I read “She is and has been destroying families for years” and bristled as well. I feel for OP1 – who wouldn’t – but the married persons are never without fault in these situations. It’s their responsibility not to cheat, just because the opportunity is there they don’t have to act upon it.

      1. Snow Globe*

        This is true, but more to the point, since this is a work advice column – HR isn’t going to step in because the manager is ‘destroying families’. OP just needs to leave that kind of language out of it all together, if they speak with HR. Just focus on the inappropriateness of personal relationships with staff and guests.

        1. The Rules are Made Up*

          I don’t even think OP should mention the guest relationships unless she knows that for a fact and has proof. I feel for the OP but that sounds like one of those things that started as something she actually did like the affair with OP’s husband and maybe another relationship or 2 and that snowballed through the workplace rumor mill into “Boss sleeps with everyone! All her staff, everyone’s husbands, guests at the resort, she’s just ruining marriages left and right.” and maybe only 10% of it is actually true.

          OP KNOWS that Boss had an affair with her husband and therefore she should absolutely not be supervised by her, that needs to be discussed with HR everything else unless verified should be left out of it.

      2. J Marshall*

        I am 6 months post finding out. My spouse and I have delt with our side intensely. He was a manager in a different department so my spouse and I never worked directly together. I understand that it takes two, but there are many innocent people under that umbrella that dont get a choice in these two people making the correct decision. I have four kids that didnt ask for this discord in there home. I dont want to go to HR and tell them my case. My schedule has already been manipulated. I am in the process of trying to get transferred out, but covid has made it very difficult because of business levels.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Your spouse is the one who caused that discord in your home to your four kids. You say you’ve dealt with it intensely, but you still seem to want to lay the blame at the feet of your boss.

          The bottom line is that your boss is incapable of managing you fairly because of her relationship with your husband and the only way you can protect yourself is to talk to HR and demand a transfer. HR is not going to care about your home life.

          1. tangerineRose*

            I think the husband is more at fault (he’s the one who made the vows), but the boss was certainly an accessory.

        2. Observer*

          If you are still framing it as what SHE did, then you have NOT adequately dealt with your end of it.

          You are right that you and your children are the victims here. But be very clear, the PRIMARY perpetrator here is your husband. That doesn’t make her a good person or absolve her of blame, of course. But she is not the person you should be focusing on.

          In terms of HR and your schedule, that’s a different issue. What you should be telling HR is that your supervisor has been taking negative action against you because of her affair with your husband. That is absolutely something that decent HR will take action on.

          As for the other stuff only mention it if you have some solid evidence. It doesn’t have to reach thw status of what would be presented in court, but it should be stringer that “everyone knows” or “there is lots of gossip”. And stick to stuff that’s a work issue – affairs with direct reports, affairs with guests (which opens the organization to liability), affairs with spouses of her direct reports. These are workplace issues and should be framed as such.

          1. Momma Bear*

            I agree that while he might be doing some clean up by leaving, he broke your trust and may do it again. How has he responded to putting you in this situation, including the retaliation on your hours?

            I do agree that HR needs to know that she’s vindictively reducing your hours. That’s a job issue, even if it does include info about your spouse.

        3. Tilly*

          I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with this. I agree with others re: your husband is who broke commitment, this woman did not make a vow to you or your children. But, reasonable minds can differ on that, I suppose.

          The bigger point: If you want HR to take seriously, you will frame in terms of work impact. Phrases like “she’s tearing families apart” or other home-wrecker spin will just make you sound like a woman scorned, and they will disregard you. I’m not in HR, but I am in divorce (lawyer) and it is VERY common for people to want to blame the other/new/next person and to want revenge. A lot of times, the new person didn’t even come around until after the marriage – but it’s still easier to blame them, I guess. Those words “tearing apart families” just rang in my ears, and made me think of this very differently. I think your HR will probably have the same reaction. If you want HR to do something, I would suggest different framing.

        4. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          Well, there’s good news and bad news in what you just said – You mentioned your schedule being manipulated (presumably as a form of retaliation or enablement by her). This is actually the good news for you – that is something concrete which is actually actionable by the company, and which HR should want to do something about, since knowing and not stopping it could open them up to some liability.

          You also said you don’t want to tell HR about your case. The bad news is, if you insist on keeping things private, HR will never know and be able to do anything to help you. That probably feels unfair, because you’re hurt and embarassed to discuss the topic, but the truth is that HR doesn’t have time to do investigations on the basis of every anonymous complaint that comes in – many of which would boil down to sour grapes and incomplete points of view, if they were investigated.

          Like many others, I would highly recommend seeing someone to help you reframe your view and overcome that embarrassment – a therapist, a priest, or just a long time friend who you value the counsel of. If you can move beyond being embarrassed to talk about about what your husband and she did, you actually might be able to make the change that you want – the one where she gets in trouble, you get vindicated, and you get to keep your longtime job that you don’t want to leave.

          If you can’t get to the point where you will talk about what happened, and how she is concretely abusing her position because of it, then the door of getting corporate to do anything to make your life better is almost certainly closed.

        5. Tired of Covid-and People*

          J Marshall, I so sympathize with you. For some reason, this commentariat leans toward absolving the unmarried partner in an affair of any responsibility for the cheating. I heartily disagree with this. Without a “partner in crime”, so to speak, a spouse cannot cheat no matter how much they may want to. People who knowingly have affairs with married people are complicit, full stop.

          However, companies are not the morality police, so their role should be limited to ensuring that affair partners do not manage each other or the innocent spouse.

          Good luck to you.

          1. Black Horse Dancing*

            The married spouse can ALWAYS find someone to cheat with. The boss here didn’t break a vow to OP. OP’s husband did. The damage to his family is his to deal with. Should boss be going for married people? Most will say no. Should married people take up her offer? No. They broke a vow, she didn’t. Just because she offers, no one is forced to take it. If I have doughnuts and offer you one, you can tell me “No, thank you.” Even if the doughnut really looks tasty, you can say no.

            1. Shenandoah*

              The boss could also find people to sleep with that are not the spouse of their direct reports? There is an implicit social contract to not sleep with the spouses of people whose livelihood you have control over. Neither are blameless here.

            2. Ellie*

              There are people who do go through life deliberately ruining and destroying people’s relationships though. They’re not nearly as common as the poor fools who actually believe the lies, and they’re only staying for the kids, etc., but they’re definitely out there. I know one woman who cheated with friends, relatives, co-workers, the spouse of a terminally ill friend, their kid’s parent’s friends… it just got worse and worse. I know a man who worked his way through half the town on some ego trip, friends, people he employed, friends of his wife’s, etc. – you name it. Whoever he could get. You’d be pretty disappointed if your spouse cheated with someone like that, but one affair next to hundreds? I’d say they’re worse.

          2. Artemesia*

            It is like they have never lived in the world and observed women (or men) who make sport of seducing people who are partnered. Heck we had a girl like that in high school who always went after boys who had girlfriends. I have seen women in the workplace who go after married men and one after another bust up marriages. This is not a couple of people who worked together and fell in love — this is a sort of predatory behavior. There are many men who do the same thing. The husband is of course a jerk for being so gullible and disloyal to his marriage; but the woman who makes a sport of seducing married guys is also a menace in the workplace. This is someone who should be ‘blamed’ for the damage caused in addition to the husband who couldn’t manage his own libido and be true to his marriage.

            1. Case of the Mondays*

              This, this, this. I actually know someone through my job who treats breaking up marriages as a sport. She convinces the guy that she’s the one. It’s not even just a physical affair. Then, when he finally leaves his wife to be with her, she’s no longer interested in moving on to the next. It is disgusting and predatory.

              The cheating spouses certainly aren’t innocent but they were trapped up in someone’s game.

            2. Detective Amy Santiago*

              Unless the spouse is claiming they were in a position where they couldn’t consent, they were an active and willing participant. No one is saying the boss is innocent, but LW #1 can’t put all the blame on her. Of course boss is a trash person for knowingly pursuing married men. However, if OP portrays it that way to HR, she is going to look ridiculous.

            3. Violette*

              “The cheating spouses certainly aren’t innocent but they were trapped up in someone’s game.”

              No. No, they weren’t. They chose to play a game that they shouldn’t have played at all. They aren’t gullible children being lured into a house made out of candy in the woods. They’re grown adults making adult decisions that come with adult consequences.

              I am not in primary relationship right now but, back when I was, Chris Hemsworth himself could have courted and tried to seduce me all he wanted and I would have said, “No. I’m flattered that you’re flirting with me but I’m in a committed relationship.”

              If I really, really, REALLY couldn’t live without Chris’s attention, I would have told my partner that the relationship was over because, clearly, I was able to find other offers more tempting.

              And the times that my partners have cheated on *me*, I’ve flat-out told the other women that I’m sorry they hooked up with a loser, whether they knew about me beforehand or not, and that they (and I) deserve better. My relationship isn’t her responsibility. And then, of course, I dumped the guys.

              Lastly, I always find these “blame the Other Woman” arguments interesting. They always go something like, “Marriages are a community responsibility, which is why traditional vows ask the people present (the community) to support the newlyweds. So someone who goes after a married person is going after the community.” Which, one, I cannot imagine people really truly want the community at large involved in their marriage, and, two, it always sounds like they’re teeing up a ‘free pass’ for their own affair. “How could you *possibly* expect me to say No to him?? He *seduced* me! It’s his fault for causing strife in our marriage, not mine! I am not responsible for my actions, the *community* is!”

              I mean, I know why wronged spouses trot this stuff out. Their world has been turned upside down and if they can place blame outside the relationship then maaaaybe they can go back to thinking the relationship is a safe place, so long as that outside threat is dealt with. What’s harder to come to grips with is the fact that the danger is *inside* the relationship. It exists whether this particular Other Woman was ever born or not. The spouse cheated because, somewhere inside of them, they thought it was an OK thing to do. And the spouse really, really wants you to think that the only reason they broke their vows and lied to you was because of that Outside Threat. “If only that Temptress hadn’t come along, I’d still be the great man you know I am. Oh, that terrible, evil woman. She has done this with so many other husbands, such is the great power of her seduction. I was literally helpless. I encourage you to be very, very upset with her.”

            4. Case of the Mondays*

              Violette, I didn’t mean to make excuses for the cheating spouse. I agree that they shouldn’t have been capable of being lured. I haven’t been cheated on (to my knowledge) so I’m not speaking from experience as a woman scorned blaming the other woman. I just think it is gross when a woman (or man) enjoys breaking up marriages and then laughing about it later.

            5. biobotb*

              Unless the boss coerced the LW’s husband (which would be a different thing than having an affair with him, and hopefully something he would have explained to LW; also difficult to do as he didn’t report to the LW’s boss), he wasn’t trapped in anything.

              Also, how would he be gullible? Are you arguing that he’s so stupid she could trick him into thinking that cheating on his wife isn’t actually cheating? He wasn’t tricked into anything; he wanted to cheat (2.5 years! That’s not a mistake!).

          3. Observer*

            For some reason, this commentariat leans toward absolving the unmarried partner in an affair of any responsibility for the cheating.

            That’s just not true. Many of us actually capable of walking while chewing gum. Which is to say that we can recognize that this woman is a piece of trash (to be kind and workplace appropriate) while ALSO recognizing that the primary person who *betrayed* the OP is her husband.

            Having said that, neither is an issue that the OP can bring to HR. In a properly functioning company, what the OP could bring to HR is the following facts (assuming the OP has some proof): Boss is having affairs with guests, Boss is having affairs with people in her reporting chain, boss had an affair with the spouse of her direct report (ie the OP’s husband) and Boss has taken negative action against OP because of the affair. These are all workplace issues that HR *SHOULD* take action on. Whether they will is another story.

          4. biobotb*

            Pointing out that the married partner is the one who chose to cheat and ruin their family does not absolve their affair partner of responsibility, it just places the majority of the blame where it belongs. The monogamous married person is the one who is ultimately responsible for their marriage, not an outsider.

        6. Paulina*

          I understand that you don’t want to go on the record with specifics to HR. But what you’re hoping for — that you could tip them off anonymously and they would investigate — is only going to get anywhere if someone goes on the record with specifics. If anyone else was comfortable being the first one to speak up, they would have already done so. So even if the company does go so far as to investigate based on a tip, they’re likely to find nothing except rumours, your boss will be cleared, and she may feel even more license to continue because she’s been cleared.

          I don’t know what would happen if you talk to HR, but it’s easier to get others to step up when there’s already one person officially complaining. It’s up to you whether you’re willing for that person to be you, but I don’t think you’re going to get anywhere hoping it’ll be someone else. And if your boss is abusing her power over you to mess with your work schedule, then that by itself is an HR problem, and one that would have evidence.

      3. yala*

        “but the married persons are never without fault in these situations”

        Normally I’d agree 100%, but considering the circumstances, and the fact that she does this with STAFF and their spouses…can we rule out the possibility of coercion?

        1. Allonge*

          I don’t think we can rule out coercion, unfortunately, but then we need to lose the ruined family part, and fast. If there was coercion, then there is a husband who was sexually assaulted, which is a criminal matter – and probably just as hard for a family to overcome, but it is not a home wrecked by unfaithfulness.

    3. Temperance*

      Did this need to be said? I know that it’s popular not to shit on the other woman, but this is someone who is constantly pursuing married hotel guests and apparently the spouses if employees.

      1. MK*

        Yes, I think it is crucial. The OP is the one focusing on the effects the manager’s behaviour has on “families”, not on the business or even her own work environment. Apart from the blatant misogyny, it is in the OP’s best interest to approach HR as professional with a workplace concern, not as a wronged wife trying to stop the homewrecker from doing this to other families.

        1. No Name Today*

          Agreed. Not debating whether or not manager has been doing this for years, just pointing out that OP is contacting HR about now, when personally affected by it. OP needs to share only the work-related affects of this terribly personal situation.
          Throwing in “and she’s always doing this, even with guests” unless you can really back it up, will only distract from the real issue, which is OP needs a new manager.

        2. Quickbeam*

          My spouse used to work at a famous wilderness school and it was widely known that one of the perks of the job was sex with (adult) students. Until an outraged spouse sued and won for alientation of affection.

          The school then put a stop to the “take all you can get” side relationships.

          1. Ash*

            The spouse sued the *school* for alienation of affection? Or sued another student? Alienation of affection laws are only on the books in a handful of states.

            1. Quickbeam*

              The suit stated that the school promoted a laxity in it’s student/teacher relationships. And it kind of did. But it changed dramatically after that. The wife ran off with her instructor.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Yeah, I’m not ready to side with the majority of the commentariat on this either. This seems to be a kind of a sport to this manager; how many coworkers and customers she can get away with having an affair with. This is a legal disaster waiting to happen – one day she’ll have an affair with the wrong guest. She probably needs therapy, but in the meantime, yes she is destroying families, for kicks apparently. (Though to somewhat agree with the majority, one, it is wild that so many men at OP’s workplace have been willing participants, which probably doesn’t speak well of the workplace climate there as a whole; and two, “she’s destroying families, make her stop”, is indeed the angle that has never worked, and is not needed in this case, because this manager is a threat to the business and that will get far more attention from HR.) My comment is extremely mild to what I would’ve said if it were a male manager engaged in this behavior, so there’s that.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Well, no–the men who are taking her up on her offers are destroying families. If they didn’t play along, none of this would be happening.

          Is she a creep? Absolutely. But she’s only succeeding because married men aren’t taking their commitments seriously.

          1. MassMatt*

            In general I agree that the fault lies with the married partner, not the person they have the affair with. But this person is a manager, it’s entirely possible she is coercing/pressuring her subordinates into these affairs. If this were a man I think it would go without saying.

            The OP says above that they have already had their schedule changed by the manager as some sort of punishment, or perhaps to make carrying on the affair easier.

            1. Ash*

              This is a good point, that perhaps she is pressuring people into having affairs with her (although I can’t see that working with guests; she has no power over them). If the gender roles were reversed, we would likely be much more wary, perhaps even outraged at the male abuse of power.

            2. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

              If she can point to the schedule change as a direct result of the affair would it open the hotel to liability issues under harassment? I’d have a conversation with HR about of course you don’t want to get sued over the very toxic environment created by a manager who sleeps with coworkers/coworkers spouses/ and guests.

            3. Observer*

              @Ash, I think you are missing something. Most people are NOT saying that what she is going is OK. And Alison is pretty clear that there is an abuse of power issue here.

              What most of us are saying is that the OP needs to separate out the two different issues. One issue is the affair – that is on her husband, and she needs to deal with it without pointing fingers at the other woman. Especially since in this case, the woman involved is not his supervisor, so it’s not a matter of coercion. This is NOT something that it any concern of HR. If she focuses on the “homewrecker” piece she will not be taken seriously.

              The second issue, and one that she absolutely SHOULD take to HR is the abuse of power. It’s telling that she doesn’t even bother to mention that the supervisor has messed with her schedule until she got challenged by some posters. She is too focused on the issue of “destroying marriages” for her own good! Because if HR is at all competent, the WILL recognize that the woman is TERRIBLE manager who is putting the company at risk with this kind of behavior. But it needs to be framed that way or the actual workplace issue gets drowned out.

            4. i'm back*

              @I’ve Escaped Cubicle Land who would be suing about what? you can’t sue because something is “toxic”

            5. yala*

              Yes, thank you. It could even be the case with some of the spouses as well. As IWTitB said–it seems to be a sport with her, and given the massive lapse in judgement, and the way it almost seems like the cruelty is the point (there are, in fact, plenty of single people or people in open relationships in the world, so specifically going after married folks means that part of the appeal, for her, is that the result is hurting people)…yeah I don’t think we can rule out the possibility that in at least SOME cases (if not specifically this one), coercion has been a factor.

            6. yala*


              “Especially since in this case, the woman involved is not his supervisor, so it’s not a matter of coercion.”

              That’s not necessarily true. A supervisor could still coerce the spouse of one of their employees by threatening that employee’s job if the spouse doesn’t go along with their demands.

              Again, not saying that’s what happened here, just that just because it’s OP’s supervisor, and not her husband’s supervisor, that doesn’t mean coercion is completely out of the question.

          2. brighidg*

            It also sounds like they’re a boss possibly abusing their power.

            OP needs two lawyers – an employment lawyer and a divorce lawyer.

        2. Jennifer*

          I also wonder if these relationships are 100% consensual? She is the one in the position of power and can hire and fire people at will. Is she threatening people to get them to go along with what she wants? I just find it hard to believe that she’s soooooooooo irresistible people are just willing to throw their lives out the window for one night with her. If she were a man, these are the questions people would be asking.

          That’s why boss/employee relationships are murky.

          1. Jennifer*

            This actually reminds me of the situation with Tavis Smiley. He hosted a show on PBS. It was well known around the office that in order to work there, you had to sleep with him. Otherwise he would make your life miserable there until you quit or got fired. He considered those relationships “consensual” but they weren’t.

          2. LQ*

            Boss is not just the boss of the person she had an affair with but the person she had an affair with’s spouse too! That’s 2 times the manipulation here. This is not ok. You don’t have to do an actual threat to have that threat hang over someone in that kind of situation.

          3. Detective Amy Santiago*

            It doesn’t sound like she is in a position of power over OP #1’s spouse. I think Spouse and Boss are on the same level in different departments, thus are peers.

            1. Jennifer*

              She is the OP’s boss, so she does have some power here since she has the authority to fire her, which would affect her spouse as well.

              Plus, we’re not just talking about her affair with the OP’s spouse here.

            2. Pixx*

              I feel like “she threatened to fire OP if OP’s husband didn’t sleep with her” is a couple of steps too far into wild speculation.

              1. tangerineRose*

                I’m guessing if the boss did that, the LW’s husband would have told the LW about it right away when the LW found out about the affair.

            3. Yorick*

              I don’t think she had to directly threaten to fire OP for OP’s spouse to have felt some pressure to engage in the affair due to her position as OP’s manager.

            4. Jennifer*

              @Pixx I’m not saying that necessarily said those words out loud. It’s implied, based on her role.

            5. Violette*

              She held sway over him for TWO AND A HALF YEARS?? That’s. . . some serious-level coercion for one co-worker to have over another.

              Also, the OP describes it as an affair, not, “My supervisor told my husband, who is a peer with her, she’d have him fired if he didn’t have sex with her for 2.5 years until. . . [unknown reason why sexual coercion stopped].”

            6. Jennifer*

              @Violette As long as she’s his wife’s boss, the imbalance of power is there.

        3. i'm back*

          >This seems to be a kind of a sport to this manager; how many coworkers and customers she can get away with having an affair with.

          > yes she is destroying families, for kicks apparently.

          This seems to be generously editorializing things

          1. jolene*

            I don’t really think so. I’ve known a few women and men who take a positive pleasure in doing this. It happens. Doesn’t absolve the cheater, naturally, but the people I’m thinking of have been highly attractive and sexual heat-seeking missiles. It’s pretty compelling to have someone like that come after you.

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I mean, the only other two options are that she either genuinely falls in love with each of these peers, subordinates, and customers, or that she sleepwalks into intimacy with all of them by some kind of a chain of unfortunate accidents. I’d say mine is the most likely version here.

            1. i'm back*

              She can enjoy sleeping with people and not care at all about the repercussions. Sport, love or accident are not the only options. I’m not saying her behavior is ethical. I’m just not adding in speculative, “gamifying” motives.

            2. yala*

              I mean, if she just enjoys sleeping with people and not caring about the repercussions, it’s still pretty weird that she keeps going after married people. There are loads of single folks too.

              1. tangerineRose*

                “it’s still pretty weird that she keeps going after married people.” Yeah, this.

            3. jolene*

              Ah no, the fact that they’re married is a key element. These people are inherently damaged and extremely destructive.

      3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Yeah, this is not some sweet young thing who didn’t realize he was married or a woman who thought they were really in true love. The is a woman who, in full power of her position, decided to make a hobby of sleeping with married men. She knew that there would be other women with hearts broken because of this, she knew there would be kids with parents who divorced and she went ahead and did it anyway. I don’t care if she was or was not technically a homebreaker, she is definitely a bitch. OP is quite justified in despising her heartily.

        If it was a man who went around sleeping with his employee’s wives, I would feel the same.

        The point about wanting to approach HR about the professional parts of the issue only is well made though.

        1. Jennifer*

          I don’t condone the name calling but agree with everything else. This woman is in a position of power and is using it to hurt others. She’s not some naïve youngster new on the job and was deceived by a married man.

      4. Allonge*

        I think so. Not because boss is behaving ethically, or a woobie or anything like that – she knows what she is doing, and I would not want to be her friend or lunch buddy.

        But HR cannot enforce marriage-saving measures or prevent cheating, and OP needs to go to them with a request they can help with. If OP asks that they stop her to save all the marriages, the very reasonable response will be that nobody is obliged to sleep with her. If OP goes and says: I am feeling uncomfortable being managed by boss and I see a risk to our resort as a scandal is likely, that is actionable.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          And if the schedule change is in retaliation, then please tell them about it, OP.

      5. JSPA*

        And, given that they misuse power with subordinates, it’s not beyond the pale to suggest that they might also be manipulative with potential affair partners (whether that’s through threats or promises). “Joking / not joking / of course I’m joking blackmail joke,” done with the “being so cute” act, can be pretty destabilizing. With guests, that can be via “here’s a special favor / well, you took the special favor, now one of us could be in trouble / I only did it because…”

        Not saying this is common, or a default presumption. If there had been no power-play against the OP, I’d tend to swing the other way (i.e. boss has zero boundaries and strong extracurricular interests and talents, believes that sex exists outside of the framework of all other relationships). Nor do I want to imply that boss is in a position of particular power, systemically, relative to the affair partners!

        But people who are skilled at manipulation don’t have to be in a position of absolute power to make some pretty devastating power moves.

      6. LQ*

        I’m very much of the opinion that it’s the cheater’s fault. But this is a woman who slept with a subordinate, many it sounds like. I’m entirely on train destroying families. Even if it was 100% consensual the power dynamic, not only does this boss hold the role of boss but ALSO holds the role of boss to the spouse? That’s like CW tv show level’s of power abuse, not a “it’s the one who was in the relationship level”. This boss is absolutely destroying families.

        1. Clisby*

          But that’s not an issue to take to HR; HR is in no way responsible for preserving families. The issue for HR is this manager’s complete conflict of interest in managing OP.

          1. Alex*

            That an employee may be pressurising junior employees and clients into having sex isn’t an issue HR wants to hear about?

            1. Alex*

              Taking the OP at face value this is a woman who has had several affairs including with her own staff. Whilst most workplaces probably have some staff open to having an affair for no particular reason there is either an unusually large number of such people in this company or the woman in question is abusing her position in order to get people in bed.

          2. Paulina*

            HR is not responsible for preserving families. But at a resort that has a lot of families working there, enabling stable personal relationships may indeed be in the workplace’s best interests.

      7. pancakes*

        “I know that it’s popular not to shit on the other woman, but I think we should, at least a bit.”

        1. Temperance*

          This woman is going on a walkabout through her workplace, including her guests, employees, and employee’s spouses.

          1. pancakes*

            Do you think that anyone who doesn’t make a point of condemning her behavior is endorsing it? Or that people contemplating an extramarital affair will decide not to because they saw your comments condemning an unnamed stranger?

            1. Temperance*

              Not necessarily, but they *are* making it a point to shame the victim for being angry at the mistress/her boss, pointing out that her husband is the “real” guilty party. That’s BS.

              The kind of person who engages in an extramarital affair, on either side, knows what they’re doing. I’d just rather back up the LW, who is clearly hurting and was clearly harmed by both parties to the affair.

              1. tangerineRose*

                Yeah, it’s perfectly reasonable to be angry at the mistress. She knew the man was married and had an affair with him anyway. I do consider him more to blame, but she was also doing something wrong.

            2. pancakes*

              I don’t agree that it is shaming for people to say the letter writer should reconsider framing the destruction of families by affairs as a thing that happens unilaterally, or to say that it isn’t the best framing to approach HR with.

              People can feel however they want to feel about being disagreed with, of course, but I think it’s a reach to describe this site or this post as one where people are permitted to and do “shame” one another. This is a pretty respectful discussion. Most on this site are.

          2. myswtghst*

            Do we know that, though? Even if we take OP at her word, it sounds like a lot of this is speculation fueled by the rumor mill in the wake of a pretty emotionally devastating revelation.

      8. Koalafied*

        A language pitfall you have to watch out for when you’re reporting wrongdoing is, “Person created Outcome.” Even if that’s true, it’s missing a critical step in the chain of causality and omitting that step hurts your credibility. The language needs to be, “Person knowingly took Action that resulted in Outcome.”

        Eg, if you’re babysitting you don’t tell the parents, “Alex knocked over the TV while you were gone!” if the complete story is, “Alex got upset about losing his video game and threw his controller across the room, hitting the TV causing it to fall over and break.” The first phrasing seems to imply that breaking the TV was what Alex explicitly set out to do, rather than a consequence of his failure to control his temper and his choice to throw the controller at the TV. In this scenario, Alex is completely at fault, can be expected to have known better, and the TV did break as a result of his actions. But saying, “Alex knocked over the TV,” paints a mental picture of Alex literally standing next to the TV giving it a shove, maybe with a smug sneer at the babysitter as he delighted in watching the TV shatter. It’s a misleading statement that seems designed to paint Alex’s already inappropriate behavior in an even worse light.

        Yes, boss is engaging in behavior that destroys families. And maybe that’s exactly what she wants to do. Or maybe she’s a selfish, unempathetic person who cares only about her own sexual desires and repeatedly leaves broken families in her wake without apparent remorse. Both are horrible things to do, but they’re not the same thing, you don’t have enough info to know which is the case, and when you describe what happened by cutting straight to, “Boss is rampantly destroying families,” as the action to be reported, rather than a consequence of her actions, you make yourself seem too close to the situation to be unbiased in your reporting. That will cause the other person to wonder what other details you might be glossing over or subtly misrepresenting in order to paint the person who wronged you in the worst possible little.

        The report needs to be, “Boss had an affair with my husband. This has obviously been very painful for me and hard on my entire family. I can’t be expected to continue reporting to someone who continually violated my trust over a long-running affair and showed a complete lack of regard for my family, so I’m requesting a new manager.” Make it clear what the action was (boss had an affair with my husband) instead of skipping right to the outcome (boss ruined my family).

      9. INFJedi*

        Did this need to be said? I know that it’s popular not to shit on the other woman, but this is someone who is constantly pursuing married hotel guests and apparently the spouses if employees.

        Or perhaps even employees? Because if that is the case, there is a huge power-conflict as well as she is the manager and the employees might be her staff…

        (And of course, 2 people are wrong in an affair, but I do understand OP’s frustration as well)

      10. Observer*

        but this is someone who is constantly pursuing married hotel guests and apparently the spouses if employees.

        Which makes her a pretty bad person, and and also a very bad employee. But from an employment perspective, HR will probably not care. And even if they do it’s easy to see that they are likely to feel that taking action on someone’s personal failings is not a great idea.

        And, to be honest it totally obscures some very real issues that the employer NEEDS to take seriously. That’s not the in OP’s best interest. Notice that in her original letter, the OP just talks about how the manager is a homewrecker and wants her stopped. It’s only in responding to people’s comments that she mentions that her manager has messed with her schedule! Talk about burying the lede. THAT is what she should be going to HR about. THAT is the kind of thing that Alison (probably) had in mind when she said “The fact that she had an affair with her employee’s husband leaves her absolutely unable to manage you and calls her judgement (and her ability to remain in a managerial position) into deep question.”

      11. LTL*


        There have been a lot of letters where commentators have made the point that well, it’s the married partner’s responsibility, and often that was appropriate and relevant since the cheated on spouse was tempted to cross work boundaries. So a gut check was helpful.

        That’s not the case with this letter at all. OP should keep the “ruining families” language out of her conversation with HR, that’s good advice, but she did not ask for anything outside of work advice. Telling her to reframe the situation in her head to be more objective is outside the scope of the letter.

        And to be quite blunt, if HR brushed off a manager sleeping with a direct report’s spouse because of said report’s language, they’d be wildly incompetent. It’s still in OP’s best interest to focus on the facts and direct observations when she reports this. But if HR or an anonymous tip line shrugged off such serious accusations without investigation, that would be squarely on them, not OP. No matter how it’s reported to them, they have an obligation to at least look into it.

        1. Observer*

          You are right. But we already know that HR is going to be predisposed to protecting the manager. And we also know that the OP’s focus on the manager being a homewrecker has lead them to not mention some stuff that is absolutely the provenance of HR.

          Which is to say that the OP has every right to be angry at this woman, but when going to HR she needs to focus on the stuff that they need to be dealing with. And that’s not her marriage. Sticking to the work stuff gives her the best chance of a reasonably good result.

          1. Paulina*

            I agree. Though I think that the power imbalance may be encouraging OP to focus on the “homewrecker” angle; if this was a one-off, and didn’t show extremely poor judgement on the part of the manager, HR could be expected to protect the manager. It’s the pattern that makes dealing with the manager more important. But any complaint still needs to focus on the workplace repercussions.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          This is exactly where I fall on this one. If you look through my comment history on this site, I’m never one to come down hard on the other woman/man for homewrecking, destroying families, someone that “stole the spouse’s man/woman” (lord i hate that phrasing) and the like. 99% of the time it is way more complex than that. And then there’s OP’s boss. She’s engaging in some seriously sociopathic behavior, which by the way is putting her employer in serious jeopardy, she does not get to look innocent in all this just because she and I have the same body parts. Imagine the outrage in the comments if OP’s boss were a man.

        3. Allonge*

          The thing about the reframing advice is – OP needs to be clear what they want HR or the company to do. And that is where reframing of what happened comes in – HR has no time machine, HR may or may not have any anti-fraternization rules to enforce, therefore they cannot stop homewrecking and family-ruining. They cannot. Even if fired, boss can keep coming back to OP’s husband and sleep with him until the sun turns supernova, as long as husband is game.

          Should HR take action? Sure. First, it would be appropriate to reassign OP to another manager, second, investigate if boss is abusing her powers or could be seen so (likely). I don’t think HR is in a position to say to boss: you cannot sleep with married people. They can fire her, for sure.

          And that by the way, still leaves OP with the same ‘broken’ family they have now.

        4. Jennifer*

          Yes, it’s wrong to tell people ‘you have to phrase this exactly right or no one will take you seriously.’ It’s understandable that she’s emotional and not everything is going to come out perfectly. A competent HR person will look past that and investigate the issue. If they don’t because she doesn’t phrase it “properly” in their minds, they simply aren’t a competent HR department. If that happens, maybe it’s possible to take it to a higher manager.

          1. Artemesia*

            That is exactly what this column should do, advise this understandably enraged woman how to phrase this to get results. The homewrecker stuff paints her in a way that is likely to get her dismissed. HR is never the bravest sharpest blade in the drawer and often avoid conflict (oddly since it is their job) and especially conflict with managers. So advising her on how to reframe this and rephrase it when going to HR is precisely what we should be doing to help her get what she wants out of this.

            1. Jennifer*

              I agree. The OP will have a step up if she goes to HR thanks to Alison. However, I think that any competent HR person should be able to do exactly what Alison did, which is dig through the OP’s emotion to the very real employment issues.

        5. Cordelia*

          but perhaps suggesting she reframes the situation in her head to be more objective is the work advice. Going to HR to say this woman is a home wrecker who is ruining families is not going to get the results she wants – the HR person is highly likely to see this in the same way that many people here have. They will see this as a family problem, or perhaps a husband problem. Objectively, that is what it looks like – of course OP can’t be objective, how could she in this unhappy situation, but in order for her to be able to get any changes in her work environment, she might need to be able to see how “objective” outsiders might view this, and plan her communications with HR accordingly.

      12. Artemesia*

        If you are running a resort and have an employee who ONE TIME has a fling with a married guest, that person ought to be fired. That is massively damaging to a business.

        1. Observer*

          You are right. And I hope that the OP has some strong evidence that her Boss did this on several occasions. Because that’s the kind of thing that could get her in trouble despite having a protector in high places.

      13. Æthelflæd*

        Are they though? It’s unclear if the OP has any proof of this beyond rumors. Maybe those rumors are accurate, but it is just as likely they aren’t. I know we are supposed to take the OP at face value, but all I read in that post was that they were incredibly angry and pointing the blame at the “home-wrecker” and how they ruin lives and are amoral – no actual proof. I GET the anger and wanting to hate the woman who your husband cheated with, but their anger is not actual evidence of anything going on with other people.

        1. myswtghst*

          This is where my mind went – even taking OP at her word, I’m not sure these are things she has direct knowledge of, and it’s easy to buy into rumors when they align with what you know to be true. While HR should be concerned and want to investigate possible involvement with subordinates and/or guests regardless of how they’re made aware of the possibility, they’re more likely to take it seriously if it doesn’t feel like gossip from someone with a (totally understandable) axe to grind.

      14. Ellie*

        Yes, in this case the husband isn’t even employed by the hotel anymore. She is, and if she’s having affairs with other staff and guests, then HR need to know about the toxic environment she’s creating. Its got nothing to do with the husband anymore – he’s the letter writer’s problem now.

        If she can raise it with HR professionally it will help her case, but if someone dropped this shitstorm into my lap, I would do my best to look past any bitterness I was seeing from the wife, and do a proper investigation regardless. This is terrible behaviour.

    4. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      You know, the precise allocation of guilt doesn’t really matter. OP’s husband betrayed her as a wife by sleeping with her boss, but her boss also betrayed OP as employee by sleeping with her husband. OP doesn’t have to blame each of them in exact value of those offenses; she gets to be totally flaming mad at both of them. Because both of them are awful!

      1. Neptune*

        Yes, I think it kind of sucks that whenever this type of thing comes up people tend to jump on the women who’ve been cheated on to scold them for not expressing their hurt in exactly the right way and not apportioning the blame with precise accuracy. It’s like even in the most obviously, plainly hurtful situations women still have to express their emotions only in the approved way or suddenly they’re the ones who deserve a telling-off. Sometimes people who have been horribly betrayed don’t convey their feelings in a perfectly sympathetic way in a 150-word letter to an advice column, news at ten.

        I do agree with the other posters that OP should leave the “destroying families” thing out of it because it just won’t help much, but I think she’s allowed to be as mad as she likes at both of them and all the “well ACTUALLY”-ing is unnecessary.

        1. EmmaPoet*

          Yeah, I think this is a “both of them suck like hard vacuum” kind of moment. The OP should leave the “destroying families” part out when talking to HR, but being mad is a healthy reaction RN.

          1. Artemesia*

            The most bitter thing here is that her husband knowingly slept with her boss; he could not have strayed in a way more calculated to hurt his wife. So both boss and husband have done a thing they KNOW will cause maximum damage. They are both loathsome people.

        2. Jennifer*

          Exactly. This woman is her boss and slept with her husband. She’s allowed to be mad at her. This isn’t a relationship advice column so for all we know she’s even more angry and hurt by her spouse. A lot of people experience a roller coaster of emotions after finding out something like this. Today she may be angrier at the other woman, tomorrow it may be the husband, or both, who know? It’s not fair to jump all over someone for not expressing their feelings in what they consider to be a perfect way.

          1. Cordelia*

            OP can express her feelings however she likes, and I haven’t seen anyone saying otherwise. However, if she expresses her feelings in this way to HR she will get absolutely nowhere. That is why this is relevant in a work advice column

            1. Jennifer*

              Not if the HR is competent. Alison managed to see through the emotion and get to the heart of the work-related problem.

            2. myswtghst*

              @Jennifer – If the company does not have a policy against fraternization, and OP submits an anonymous complaint that sounds more like exaggerated rumors, most competent HR departments aren’t going to expend the resources to conduct a thorough investigation.

              And even the most empathetic HR rep is going to need to know about the perceived retaliation and conflict of interest in order to take action, so it’s helpful if OP leads with that.

        3. LTL*

          This. There’s a certain irony to the comments pointing out how blaming the other woman is misogyny when they’re demanding a woman going through hell react in the perfect way.

      2. Temperance*

        Totally agreed. I hate how the victims of extramarital affairs are shamed for not appropriately punishing their spouses and not holding the affair partner blameless.

        It’s mind-boggling to me in general, but in this situation in particular.

        1. Infrequent_Commenter*

          I’m not a counselor, but I bet it’s a defense mechanism to try to save the marriage by shifting blame. Is that healthy? Dunno, not a counselor.

        2. Æthelflæd*

          I think most here aren’t “shaming” anyone, but rather pointing out that her e-mail is filled with emotional allegations that won’t get her anywhere with her employer. She also seems hyper-focused on the boss about the “home wrecking”, which will again, not go well with the employer/HR in a even remotely functional workplace.

        3. Cordelia*

          where is the “shaming”? I don’t think anyone is doing that. And no-one is criticising the OP for not reacting in the “perfect way” – OP wrote in asking for work advice, and people are suggesting the best way to address things with HR; be factual, focus on the work aspect and explain why she cannot be managed by this person. We can all feel very sympathetic to OP, but ongoing debates about how blame should be apportioned probably won’t help her very much

          1. aebhel*

            There’s a comment upthread directly calling the OP a misogynist for being pissed at her boss, and quite a bit of really scoldy ‘advice’ that’s well outside the scope of what she’s asking for from this letter. ‘Don’t use the term homewrecker when reporting this to HR’ is very different advice than ‘OP is probably inventing all these rumors about her boss, and anyway any anger she has toward her boss is just misdirected ire at her husband’. The former is good advice. The latter is useless shaming.

      3. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yes, they are both awful, but in the context of work, the only *actionable* awfulness is that the boss is sleeping with people she manages. And the OP will not be helping her case if she complains about “families being destroyed” by this woman.

      4. Shenandoah*

        Strongly agree – the husband likely has make explicit promises to be faithful, but there’s an invisible contract for bosses that absolutely includes things like “don’t sleep with the spouse of thy direct report.”

      5. Here we go again*

        +1 OP has two problems. A work problem and a marriage problem. Normally I’d say it’s the only the cheating spouse’s fault. But since the person he cheated with knew he was married it’s both their faults. It’s unethical for managers to have affairs with employees spouses. There is no way that when the truth comes out that it doesn’t create a work conflict. ( I think your HR would like to know if employees of the resort are having sex in the hotel beds.)
        I wish OP the best in the future but there is no easy answer for her problems. I think she needs a good lawyer or maybe two a divorce lawyer and and maybe an employment lawyer (I’d consult with the divorce lawyer on that)
        This whole situation is a mess! I feel so bad for her and her kids. This will probably result in a firing of someone and a broken family.

    5. biobotb*

      Yeah, the only way she “ruins” families is if these weren’t really affairs, but she was using her power as a manager to coerce people into sexual relationships. Which would be completely different and seems like it would be definitely worth going to HR for if LW had evidence of that. But otherwise, it’s whoever agrees to have an affair with her who is ruining their family.

      1. tangerineRose*

        The boss is sleeping with a man she knows is married to her direct report. That’s just wrong.

    6. Kevin Sours*

      Sorry but boss isn’t an innocent figure here. You are correct that HR shouldn’t be acting as a morality court here but the boss was *way* out of line. This isn’t a “personality conflict”. This is a complete failure of professionalism and good judgement on the part of a manager that calls into question their qualifications to *be* a manager. OP shouldn’t *need* to be reassigned and shouldn’t be at the expense to their career. If somebody needs to be reassigned it should be the manager.

  11. Seeking Second Childhood*

    OP3, Did you accept the job January 2020 or January 2021?
    I’ve run across two conflicting uses of the ‘last xyz’ phrase. If you’ve been there 14-15 months you’re fine. But if you’ve been there 3-4 months, you should talk to your friend about the issue first.
    If 3-4 months on job…
    First thing I as friend would ask is have you discussed this with your manager?
    If the job was badly described to you by the interviewer, most friends will be understanding; that’s pretty clearcut. But if staff changes in the last 3 months have driven a temporary change in your job, they may be able to say if that’s how long the hiring cycle takes. Some jobs are extremely seasonal –and friend will ask why you didn’t request a temp like your predecessor always did. Many jobs have a small % of low-priority tasks that someone leaving might push off–and your friend will point out you’re almost through that backlog, or that you can push it off too or that your boss & predecessor were talking about maybe splitting your role into 2.
    And although this is not necessarily your problem, if your friend got a bonus for recommending you, the company might not pay it if you leave *that position* within a defined period of time. ..and have already spent it…on which case it very well could burn a bridge.

    1. Firecat*


      I’m 9 months into a role and it was pretty clear 3 months in that my role and what was described were a mismatch. Now the role has been spelled out and my hunches at 3 months were spot on.

      If it’s enough of a deal breaker to want to leave, honestly bailing at 3 months is better then 15 months. For me the company is awesome enough that I’m dealing with the role until I can pivot internally.

    2. Not All*

      I’m a bit confused why LW3 didn’t reach out to her contact at the very beginning to say “hey, I was seriously misled about what this job would be. I’m thinking about applying for position X at your company but don’t want to have a mismatch again. What can you tell me about position/manager/company?”

      I don’t think I’ve ever applied somewhere where I had a contact and didn’t try to get the inside scoop on culture issues first. I’d still take that approach now.

  12. Bookworm*

    #2: Do we…work together? :P No, your letter does not quite describe my situation but I have to agree with Alison’s advice. A recent conversation nailed her point (it comes from the top) for me and I would say it’s true. You’ll be battling years of entrenched behavior. I didn’t try to make the change until recently (and even then, only on a personal level because I think the pandemic has worn me out) and even now I find management to be completely inflexible despite the consistent feedback (for years!), increased (!!!) turnover, etc. It didn’t go well.

    Which is not to say it won’t for you but I agree with Alison. There may be some things you can ask for to help cope in the meantime but otherwise you can’t change a toxic workplace. I’m sorry you’re going through this. And good luck.

    #5: Yep, this happens to old peoples, too. Ironically after getting hired into my current job I had one application in progress (as in, I was in the interview stages) and 2 separate positions contacted me (one was a fishing expedition and one was an application that I had applied to but they said they had to pause on hiring for a couple of months) to ask if I was interested. Don’t sweat it. Also, congrats on your new job!!

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Yeah, unfortunately, while people in our office may want to make changes, everyone above us with the power doesn’t want to. You just have to accept that.

  13. TimeTravlR*

    My workplace is undergoing a culture change, a very much needed one. It is early days yet but I have high hopes. There are some key people who will probably retire soon too which may help it along. I know it’s going to be a long road but I am so thankful that we finally have a grandboss willing to put in the hard work to make it happen. I have had to write to Alison more than once about the previous one!

  14. Niii-i*

    LW 2:

    I’ve been there! For a year now. Some examples from our totally bizarre office culture:
    – nobody is in charge of meetings, no preparation is done and more often than not, we spend the first half an hour trying to understand Why Are We Here?
    – we don’t have any shared documentation on projects, so even one person being sick or on a vacation means that meeting has to be cancelled, because we have no idea, what they are doing, if they have any input for the meeting or not…
    – responsibilities are not named, so projects or even clients don’t have any one person who would know the whole picture.

    Add to that: Sometimes I feel like I am Alice in Wonderland, since many of my colleagues seem to think that This Is Fine. But then I have talked to other people who feel just as confused as I am. But I think these are also the kind of things that I can’t change from the bottom, so tomorrow will be my last day. :D

    Some things that have helped me while I have been stuck here:
    – making my own processes as smooth as possible: for example, making concrete lists of tasks I can do to prepare for meetings, and offering to share some of my own documentation whenever I feel it will help other people on their work.
    – Asking questions and saying no: I have asked people to clarify the agenda of the meeting and sometimes said straight out that I don’t feel that I have anything to add to thte matter and can not attend to this meeting
    – Given my boss concrete, written suggestions on small improvements. These have led to nowhere! :D But, she gave me a lot of good feedback and later asked me to take part in a different and challenging project because I had “good ideas”, so it made my work more bearable and resulted in nicer projects.

    All in all: I have tried to make changes in my own, day-to-day work, so that at least I have some clarity and sense of control in what I do. And trying not to give a damn about that other stuff. AND Big one: I am not giving this company anymore than my bare minimum. That has been a really important thing to learn.

    Good luck!

  15. HRBee*

    OP1, I agree with everyone else saying I’m never going to be able to “stop” your manager from doing what she is doing, but I disagree that there is nothing HR can or should do. I’m not here to get involved in the sex lives of employees, but a manager having an affair with their direct report’s husband is another thing. I don’t care about affair. I care about the astounding lack of judgment to continue managing their affair partner’s wife. Just like any other conflict of interest, I would have expected (and have policies in place saying so) that the conflict must be disclosed so that I can reassign as necessary.

    I’m well aware that most people aren’t going to admit to having an affair and especially to HR, but I’m not sure I could trust her to make decisions in a management capacity for my business. Regardless of what the final decision might be, I 100% would want to know that this happened/is happening so I can protect your professional life. You need to be moved away from her immediately. Beyond the obvious possible retaliation, you won’t be able to grow or advance or learn from this woman in any professional capacity and that is absolutely my job to make sure you have that opportunity.

  16. Responsible Party*

    FYI, OP#2, even when you’re one step from the top of the org chart, trying to change a dysfunctional culture can get you thrown out on the street after 20 years. There’s reasons things are the way they are. Just sayin’.

  17. Doing the best we can*

    LW1, if you really think HR will not do much, I’d talk to a lawyer before your meeting with HR. Not to sue to but to get the legal facts about your situation. It can help to prevent retaliation against you and get some insight into any possible legal liabilities for company. It’s very possible some of the subordinates might have valid sexual harassment claims again the boss and employer. Also, if the male coworkers are getting perks/benefits from the affair it could open the employer to a tittle IX lawsuit. Not saying it’s a slam dunk case but probably enough move forward for a trial with a chance of success. Having a better understanding in the legal situation might help you in going to HR and feel more confident.

    If you approach it with the professional facts and concerns for the company as well as concerns for your career it might go better. Don’t focus on her being punished, focus on you not being able to be managed by her and any move not hurting your career.

    1. JKateM*

      This is what I was thinking. If so many people have been involved with her on all levels of the company, maybe she’s just the type of person everyone wants to be with, but more likely there is some other benefit to these relationships. I was thinking some type of quid pro quo that she is able to give as a manager. If it were a male manager I think a lot more people would be thinking along these lines. But I agree the “homewrecker” terminology is not useful and is hardly accurate unless these people are being pressured into such affairs. In that case it still wouldn’t be about the affairs but the harassment.

  18. voyager1*

    LW1: I am not quite convinced that HR will do nothing, even if this is done anonymously. I do think that having your name on the complaint would make it go further. Lastly you mention other men, if there is a group of spouses that are victims of this, perhaps go as a group. Since this is a hotel, is there a written policy about not sleeping with the guests?

  19. Michelle Smith*

    LW#2 Mirrors my experience so closely in my current job, I had to stop and try to remember if I’d submitted a letter and just forgot about it. Solidarity.

  20. agnes*

    LW #1 you have a legitimate reason to talk to HR since this person is YOUR manager and there was/is a personal relationship that interferes with this professional one. I’d focus on that, not on the manager’s other relationships. You should not be in this person’s reporting structure. I”m sorry about your personal situation–that’s hard to find out. I wish you well.

  21. Antilles*

    “I muted myself the whole time unless asked a question (so no one could hear me honking into a Kleenex), but how else should allergy symptoms be handled in a video conference besides muting yourself and trying to sneeze subtly?”
    Even if you didn’t have allergies, I think muting yourself the whole time unless you’re actively talking should be the standard. There’s just so much background noise in people’s “home offices” that it’s more pleasant for everyone else if people stay muted as much as possible.

    1. NotGoneGirl*

      Yeeeees, my new team is terrible at this. We have a status meeting where everyone generally talks one at a time (unless you want to jump in with a comment/question/answer) and then number of people are are unmuted and causing shuffle/snuffle/Darth Vader/feedback echo is always amazing.

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        It’s f*cking 12+ months into major work-from-home and your colleagues aren’t muting themselves while not speaking?

        My boy is in third grade and he/his classmates are capable of doing this. This reflects something deeply wrong at your organization in terms of technology and meetings. W T F.

        (yes, yes, of course some people are accidentally unmuted – everyone makes mistakes. But if this is a thing with multiple people unmuted I have to wonder about the maturity or intellect of the people on these calls)

        1. JustaTech*

          Yup, there are people at my work who *still* don’t understand that they are the source of all that annoying background noise.
          I hadn’t realized how annoying it was until I was on a high school reunion zoom with 15 classmates and many, many small children and everyone was on mute the whole time unless they were speaking and it was glorious!

      2. Loosey Goosey*

        This is my pet peeve! But also, the meeting host needs to learn how to use the “Mute All” tool. It drives me bonkers how few people have learned to navigate their Zoom tools.

        1. OyHiOh*

          My entire organization is thankfully comprised of people who, when they run into a technical issue with something like Zoom are curious enough to ask “hey, how do I fix this” or “can we change that?” leading to significant improvement in the quality and function of our meetings over time. Unfortunately, a lot of people just do not have this curiousity. “It’s technology. what do you expect?!” throw up their hands and deal with it, while complaining about how awful the meetings are.

  22. Nonny*

    My most congested sympathies to OP#4–I have incredibly bad allergies and sinus problems that result in exactly what you mention, and what you did was perfectly fine! At this point my team is familiar with my sneezy episodes, but sometimes if I’m on a call with someone new or meeting with a different department, at the very beginning of the meeting I’ll throw out a general “I’m having a rough day with my allergies, but please know that I’m not sick–I’ll probably keep myself muted unless I’m answering a question, just so everyone is aware.” I’ve found that this has been helpful especially in COVID-times, and people seem to accept it and move on rather quickly.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yup – my boss actually sent out an email acknowledging that hayfever season was here. She said I get allergies too – but please remember that fevers don’t happen with allergies, and to please keep yourself home if you have a fever.

      (We’ve been back in office for a while now, spread out for social distancing. We also are fortunate to have a sick leave balance that is separate from our vacation time.)

  23. Jennifer*

    #1 I’m very sorry for what you’re going through. Do you have proof of the relationships with other employees? I obviously believe what happened with your husband, but the other stuff, is that is based on evidence or rumor? It kind of reminds me of situations where a person did something scandalous at work and after more stories just kept coming out about that person. Many of them were exaggerated. Just make sure you have evidence and people willing to back up the story before you go to HR.

    1. LizM*

      I agree, I think it’s very important to focus on what you know, and how it’s impacting you or creating risk for the company.

      I would structure my complaint like this:

      – This is what I know. Husband told me he had an affair with Boss. Since the affair ended, Boss has started cutting my hours. Bob told me he’s also having an affair with Boss, his hours are not being cut.

      – This is how it’s impacting me professionally. I am not making as much money as I would be if I was getting all of my hours. Having my employment negatively impacted because of my husband’s affair is creating a hostile work environment. (You may want to confirm with an employment lawyer if this rises to this level, but I suspect it would).

      – This is what I want. I would like to be transferred to another team so that I do not have to report to the person my husband had an affair with, and so that she does not have power to influence my livelihood.

      At that point, you can mention, “Boss has also told me she’s had affairs with other coworkers and guests. I’m worried about potential liability to the company as well as the potential for negative publicity if this becomes widely known or a guest or guest’s wife/partner complains.”

      Basically, the main focus is on how the company can make it right for you, but it also discloses additional info if they want to look into it.

      I do feel for you, I can see wanting to move on from this chapter and not dredge it up through HR or have to air your dirty laundry. But unfortunately, it’s really hard for HR to act on rumors, and companies are careful about how they ask questions when they’re acting on rumors, because even the act of asking questions can create gossip. This gives them something solid to look into, and a place to start. It’s likely they’ll uncover the other wrongdoing as part of their investigation if they’re halfway competent.

      I would still start working on an exit plan and consult an attorney about your rights. It’s not fair (nothing about this situation is fair), but it may be what you need to move on with your life. Even if she hadn’t had an affair with your husband, I can’t imagine continuing to work for a manager who you think of in those terms, or for a company that doesn’t address it.

  24. Nanani*

    #1 – you have a husband problem.
    Getting HR on your side and watching them impose consequences won’t fix that.

    Absolutely watch out at work and get your employment situation improved but also, that will not fix the fact that your husband had an affair for years. This is also a personal relationship problem.
    It’s not the boss that did everything. Your husband is not an innocent victim here, he cheated on you for years.

    Just be careful and don’t let the fantasy that consequences on the boss will fix everything (it wont) cloud your judgement.

    1. Temperance*

      No, she also has a boss problem. Because that’s a really horrific thing to do; boss is also pursuing her male subordinates, which stinks a lot of quid pro quo sexual harassment.

    2. Sylvan*

      No, OP’s boss has been pursuing people at work, including people who work for her. I’d be surprised if she hadn’t already sexually harassed someone.

    3. Macaroni Penguin*

      There’s still a boss problem going on here to focus on. 1) The boss is having sexual relations with paying hotel guests. 2) The OP reports that boss has been cutting her work hours in retaliation. Those are two concrete employment topics that the OP can discuss with HR.

    4. LizM*

      She has a husband AND a boss problem.

      Yes, her husband is also at fault, but you don’t accidentally have a 2.5 year affair with your employee’s husband. Boss is in the wrong too, and OP deserves not to have to work for someone who would do that to her.

    5. JustaTech*

      The OP said upthread that she is being retaliated against by getting worse shifts, so she does have a boss problem that HR needs to know about.

      So she has both a husband problem (in counseling) and a boss problem (needs to go to HR).

  25. Sylvan*

    OP2, I’m sorry you’re in this situation. Given that the place is understaffed and overworked, you shouldn’t add to your own workload. Fixing company-wide problems is too much to pile on top of your current responsibilities. Instead of trying that, take it easy on yourself. You’re responsible for looking out for yourself and being a good coworker to the people around you*. That’s it.

    * This isn’t the culture change you want, but it’ll make a difference to those people.

    1. Sylvan*

      Also, did you know there are people who build their entire careers by fixing dysfunctional workplaces? I’ve met two (one in a university and one in a workplace), and it looks like they have a very hard job that requires specialized skills. I wouldn’t try to take on their work.

  26. unpleased*

    OP1, I just want to point that I think you should absolutely ask HR if you can be moved. But I also want to just point out a couple things. Whatever compels this woman to do what she’s doing is not going to stop just by virtue of a talking-to. She could have had one by now, and it hasn’t been your business to know what is in her personnel record. You need to proceed as though you can talk to HR and tell them why you need to be moved, but you should also be prepared for nothing to change except that you end up bearing the burden of all this upheaval.

    Second, I am curious what your plan is with your husband in case he loses his job because of this. And, honestly, the real answer here is that you both need to find new jobs. If your plan is to stay together the forecast for you is not great if you constantly remain enmeshed with this person in one way or another. The other thing is, your husband kept a 2.5-yr long affair with your boss going. That’s long enough to be in love with someone, you know? You in particular need to look for new employment. You may be able to rebuild your marriage, who knows. But you can’t do the best for yourself–including giving yourself the space to deal with this betrayal–in this job.

  27. Dasein9*

    WRT OP2, I feel like this is a question that comes up a lot: How can I best cope with and navigate a bad working situation?

    I’d really like to see maybe a series on this. Just leaving isn’t always feasible, especially during a pandemic, but in the before times as well. And it could really improve a lot of people’s lives if we could crowdsource methods and techniques for surviving bad workplaces with minimal impact to our health and perspective of what is and is not acceptable.

  28. Phony Genius*

    On #1, i would imagine that working at a luxury hotel is probably similar to working on a cruise ship, minus the motion sickness. (One of my parents worked at one decades ago.) I have read several articles written by current and former cruise ship employees that describe life for the staff. Some of their stories would make “Duck Club” seem tame. Basically, they say management doesn’t care what you do with whom. Except if you get involved in any way with a paying guest, you are instantly terminated.

    HR’s ears will definitely perk up if they hear that the boss is getting into relationships with guests. But be prepared to provide proof of some kind. Will any of your co-workers agree to corroborate your story?

  29. El l*

    Re Fix Dysfunctional Culture:
    I’m in a pretty similar situation right now. My experience:

    If you aren’t actually management, no matter how much behind-the-scenes influence you have – or how flat your organization is – you can’t change anything. You are not in the room where the real decisions are made. You are not in a position to make people do things if/when they resist. You are not empowered. Only actual, titled leadership is.

    She’s right. Focus on what you can control. If a project is not important (to either the organization or you), be ruthless about putting it on the back burner. Emphasize projects involving the people you actually can collaborate with, and ignore the rest. Try – as much as possible, which may not be much – to be the change you wish to see. That’s all you can do. Good luck.

  30. Suz*

    OP#4 – No need to worry about it. A quick comment to indicate you’re allergies are bothering you is all you need to do. Something similar happened to me last week. My boss and I were interviewing a candidate for a position on our team. He had a sneezing attack during the interview. He simply apologized and said his allergies were bad that day. And I replied that mine were bad that day too. That was the end of it.

  31. IvyV*

    OP #2 — lots of folks confirming that you can’t change the culture, but fewer suggesting how to survive it. I’ve been in your exact situation and have some suggestions. I even wrote a post on my own blog about it, and am stealing some key points:

    Deal with your own stress first. There are known proven methods for reducing stress. Sure it doesn’t make the job better, but it might make you feel better. As usual with stuff that’s good for you, the ways all sound boring and prosaic and we all known them already: sleep, exercise, vegetables, mindfulness.

    Stop Trying So Hard (Where It Doesn’t Matter). If you are stressed and drained and upset then the best thing you can do is pull back, stop giving so many f~*^$ (save them for when you really need them), and don’t try so hard. I’m not saying do nothing, but stop trying to change the things you just can’t change and realize that it might not be possible to do a good job in that culture. If you expend less energy on work you have more time and energy to find something new.

    Refocus. Work is a big part of people’s lives, but it’s not the only part. Even if your job sucks, it doesn’t mean it has to suck the life out of you. You need things in your life that aren’t about striving and goals. You need stuff that makes you feel happy and better. Find things that bring you joy and a sense of fulfillment. Find things that make you happy outside of work. Spend your weekend doing those things so enthusiastically that you don’t have time to stress about Monday.

    Bonus, all these things will help with your job search as well (you’ll be relaxed, you’ll have energy, you’ll have things to talk about that aren’t work). Best of luck!

  32. singlemaltgirl*

    LW#5 – i always appreciate when a candidate replies to withdraw so i’m not left wondering, ‘did the get my email?’ kind of thing. it always sticks out in my mind (in a good way) when someone let’s me know in a professional way and i always wish them well.

    1. OP5*

      I always reply to withdraw if they contact me! I don’t withdraw from applications actively as there are so many, and I haven’t heard from most in months.
      It’s just the phrasing. Alison edited it, but I had a recruiter whose job offer I refused get really pissed off with me on the phone and left me worrying other people would react similarly! So was wondering what the best phrasing is. Had two lovely exchanges just this morning with recruiters so I’m feeling a lot better about it.

  33. burnt toast*

    OP #2, I’m in the same boat as you :( Some things I started doing to cope:
    1. I distract myself into exercising more. I had to do this because the exhaustion from my work day made it so much harder to get started, but if I did something else while exercising then it was achievable. I also set my goals very low to start with so it helped me feel I accomplished something instead of feeling like Another Thing I Can’t Do.
    2. I keep little post-its of affirmations and advice to look at throughout the day. They’re things that normally may be obvious but are helpful reminders when you’re stuck in a chaotic environment.
    3. I limit my normal news intake and increase my happy news intake. There are a bunch of places that share nothing but happy news and they in turn make me happy. I read these on my lunch breaks, or first thing in the morning.
    4. At work I make reasonable boundaries and stick to them. I won’t work extra hours just because we’re understaffed, even when I see coworkers doing the same. It sometimes makes me feel guilty but I have to remind myself that I need to put myself and my health first.

  34. LW2*

    I’m LW 2- thank you to all the commenters and to Alison! It’s reassuring to hear that this isn’t my problem to fix. My job description has been “find problems and fix them” so it seemed natural to take this on. But a lot of you who talked about the toll are right. Pandemic totally destroyed the boundaries between work and life- and I’m just realizing the effect of that.

    Focusing on small concrete things is great advice! Off to put that into practice!

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