update: my boyfriend left me for an intern at work and her manager called my friend about it

Remember the letter-writer whose boyfriend had left her for an intern at work, and the intern’s manager called the friend she’d been staying with about it? Here’s the update.

First of all, I’d like to thank you and the commentariat for the advice (and sympathy, and confirmation that my reaction wasn’t nuts). That being said, my update is a bit anticlimactic — by the time I got back from vacation, the offending manager had been moved to another location (a scheduled lateral transfer that I hadn’t been aware of).

Immediately upon my return, my ex accused me of spreading nasty rumors about the intern or using Diana as a proxy to do so in my absence, so my assumption is that the manager’s call to Diana was an oblique echo of that accusation. Since he had moved on, I wasn’t worried about any more trouble from him but it was a tip-off that my ex and the intern were attempting to do damage control at my expense, and people were taking them seriously.

This was sadly not the end of the drama with them and it became clear that, as multiple commenters suggested, the intern was indeed very much engaged in a one-sided war over the narrative, aided and abetted by the ex, including telling outright lies about me and the situation in general, which came back to me from well-meaning colleagues but was pretty detrimental to my mental health and ability to function as normal at work. This led to a complete breakdown in front of my boss (thanks to everyone who complimented me on how professionally I was handling everything! It didn’t last). As expected, he was supportive and escalated it to his manager and HR once he realized what was going on. Long story short, the official line from my grandboss was along the lines of “we don’t want you to do anything that could jeopardize your tenure, so you just keep your head down and we’ll make sure that it stops.” So that’s what I did and he held up his end of the bargain.

I did end up getting tenure (after 5 years at my job they either give you the nod or the boot — this all happened in the last few months of my 5-year trial period, what a joy) so I’m getting a raise and also a job for life if I want it. The intern’s internship ended in August and she was given a student position in another location. My ex’s area of responsibilities was changed to keep us from having to interact professionally. The situation is far from perfect but I do feel like I’ve weathered the storm with most of my professional credibility and dignity intact, and the intern’s smear campaign was clearly unsuccessful.

At the end of the day I’m glad that the intern’s manager’s inappropriate call gave me the heads-up that something funky was going on, and that the commentariat was clever enough to clue me in that the intern and the ex were trying to poison leadership against me. My management and HR did a lot of flailing (I think they were scared of lawsuits and also just unpracticed in dealing with this sort of thing, thank goodness) but they were supportive and they ultimately did right by me. After five years of chasing tenure, I feel like I can finally take a breath and figure out if this is actually what I want to do for the rest of my professional life. Thanks again for your advice, and I’ll definitely be relying on Ask A Manager if I do decide to take another path!

{ 219 comments… read them below }

  1. Xavier Desmond*

    Sounds like you had to wade through a lot of excrement to get there OP but I look at this as a pretty happy ending for you. I hope all that drama is behind you now!

  2. Anónima*

    Congrats. I’m glad it worked out for you in the end LW – and you DID deal with it very professionally and admirably. Karma ;)

    1. Dramatic Intent to Flounce*

      Agreed. I know it’s easy to think about the time you did lose composure as a failing, but given how your boss handled it, I suspect they recognized that this was a really extreme situation that would push anyone to their absolute limit.

    2. Clueless*

      I’m only reading AAM for a few weeks but I’m so curious to learn what “LW” stands for – could anyone share any light? :-)

  3. mcfizzle*

    I hope your ex doesn’t get tenure. I don’t normally hope for such things, but I’m going to make an exception in this case.
    LW – while it’s clearly been a heck of a ride, I’m so glad you’ve come out on top. You deserve it!

    1. MoreFriesPlz*

      Ex should be fired, not just because I hate him. Sleeping with a student intern is a huge abuse of power.

      1. 867-5309*

        Yes – I was hoping for more decisive action on the part of the organization around this. I am glad OP has some peace but the update beyond that was disappointing.

      2. Unsinkable_MB*

        100%. And the intern! Who would keep on a student worker who created that amount of drama for the professional staff?

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              Possibly. We don’t know all the context. My intuition says when an adult man and an intern-aged woman are both participating in a smear campaign, the intern isn’t the one pulling the strings or acting with full agency.

              1. socks*

                Yeah, the intern’s actions aren’t okay but also “lie about how the current partner is an evil witch who is evilly keeping poor innocent me from happiness, because she is evil!” is like page one of the cheater’s handbook.

                1. Carrie Oakie*

                  That what the ex was probably feeding the intern, who was more than willing to believe the narrative brace it’s TrUe lOvE! Ex would likely tell intern all the awful things OP did and said and intern, wanting to be a better partner, ate it up and did what young interns do, gossip. Ex definitely needed to be disciplined &/or fired, intern shouldn’t have been hired on.

                2. TiredMama*

                  Hard to know if that happened here but I’ve seen it happen enough times to be unsurprised if that is what happened. I’ve never been close enough to reach out to the new woman to pull her aside and say, stop the harassment of the ex, it’s a bad look and will come back to haunt you.

              2. Emi*

                Idk, it depends on a lot of factors that aren’t really outlined here. (For one thing, “intern-aged” isn’t a clear range; where I work, “interns” are sometimes grown PhD candidates.)

                1. Emi*

                  (Oh re:age specifically, I forgot that the actual age ranges were specified in the original letter and she’s probably still rather young even if an adult, so I mostly retract that part.)

              3. aebhel*

                I mean… to a degree, but a woman in her early 20’s isn’t a child with no capacity to make choices about how she behaves in the workplace. If she was being manipulated by an older man with no clout that’s unfortunate, but that doesn’t excuse her wholesale of her own complicity in both the affair and the smear campaign.

                1. Working Hypothesis*

                  She’s nineteen, the LW said so in another comment. If this is an internship, it’s probably her first quasi-serious job. This is not a combined recipe for knowing how the hell to juggle your personal life and your office environment, especially when you may well be getting heavy pressure from your adult boyfriend who’s *also* an experienced professional at the same office to handle it the way he wants you to.

            2. Working Hypothesis*

              We don’t know how much the intern was being influenced or pressured by someone who had substantially more power in the organization than she did. It’s not that low-status people *can’t* make their own completely independent choices to be assholes, it’s that when there’s a higher-status person in the picture, we can’t ever be sure that they actually did. I would be inclined to watch the intern very closely, and probably to have a pretty stern talk with her about how unacceptable that kind of thing is (along with making it really clear in private that if there’s anything I don’t know about how it all went down which might change my opinion, this is the time to tell me), but I don’t think I would do more to her at this point. I would, however, fire the guy who got involved with her… and if she chose once he was gone to throw a fit about that, I might not give her much more rope.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I like Yorik keep the intern on, but with a very, very serious conversation, documented to the moon (and with something signed by former intern acknowledging that they agree the conversation happened) stating that this was interns first and final warning, any future violation of the office conduct policy or any future harassing behavior towards LW will result in immediate termination.

            Intern not willing to sign that – we’ll best of luck in the job hunt, we will be happy to have HR confirm the dates of your internship with us.

      3. HoHumDrum*


        I mean LW said they were early 30s and the intern was “over 10 years his junior” so if anyone is “threatening the safety” of this MAYBE STILL A TEENAGER intern it’s the ADULT MAN WHO IS SLEEPING WITH HER OH MY GOD WHAT IS THIS WORKPLACE?? I mean I’m assuming she’s over 18 and I know she could be a bit older but still, this dude is a creep. I hope intern has someone in her life who will encourage her to leave him, this much older man who helped to make her the center of massive personal drama at her workplace. Not letting the intern off the hook, she’s responsible for her choices too, but wow I think this situation is so messed up in ways that are absolutely none of LW’s fault or problem and the fact that the intern’s manager thought it was appropriate to make it LW’s issue is awful.

        1. Gemma*

          Honestly, with the latest research indicating that human brains don’t hit full maturity until around 25 I’m inclined to letting the intern off the hook a bit. As you say, with some kind but firm guidance and some more life experience she’ll quite possibly be horrified and deeply repentant in a few years. The 30+ ex doesn’t have that excuse.

          1. aebhel*

            I’m not, and that’s absolutely not what that research means in terms of agency and choice. A college-aged adult is not a child and should not be treated as a child. She probably is being manipulated by a charming older man, but unless he actually pressured her into the relationship (which doesn’t seem to be the case) she is absolutely responsible for her own behavior here.

            1. Gemma*

              I’m not saying she’s a child and I’m not saying to fully let her off the hook. I’m saying that she doesn’t have the life experiences and the maturity to fully comprehend just how bad these things she’s doing are. Even a toddler has agency and choice.

              A three year old might choose to throw a pool ball at the table after promising to only roll them into the pockets. The natural consequences are that the balls get confiscated and that game is over. Years later the child might look at the dent in the table and feel bad about it; because now they’ve played pool and they understand why dents are a problem. But I’m not going to hold it over the child or dislike them for what they did.

              The natural consequences here are that the intern loses her position, OP is only ever cooly polite to her, and her reference mentions spreading gossip (and the ex gets moved on and isn’t allowed to interact with interns any more). I actually don’t think that she or the ex have been held to account enough. But still I don’t consider her to hold as much responsibility as the ex.

              If I were a colleague of these people and I met the intern in a hiring situation five years from now I would be open to the possibility that she might be a totally different person, and if she showed growth and change I would be willing to give her a chance (if she were the best candidate I now worked somewhere where LW didn’t work). I would not be so quick to assume change from the ex and would be extremely reluctant to hire him. That’s what I meant by letting her off the hook a bit.

      4. Dittany*

        AND he slandered one of his colleagues in order to get out of facing consequences for it. Either of those things is grounds for termination, in my opinion.

      5. Letter Writer*

        So this is sort of what I was referring to when I said that management did a lot of flailing – the attitude was along the lines of “we don’t really know what happened and we’re not equipped to investigate this and we aren’t actually going to try, but we can see that you are suffering and we’ll do what we can to make that stop.” It was pretty obvious from the beginning that the Powers That Be in my workplace were very much out of their depth and looking to smooth things over as quickly as possible, preferably without firing anybody. Obviously I disagree with that decision but it didn’t really surprise me.

        For those that are concerned about the intern – of course I agree that my ex is gross and it’s an abuse of power regardless but after the break up I “happened across” some of their correspondence and please be assured she was very much an active and enthusiastic participant in the affair and there is no need to be worried for her safety or that she was pressured into anything. And as far as I can tell the smear campaign was much more her initiative than his – he didn’t seem particularly concerned with image management but she evidently had a really hard time dealing with the consequences of her actions.

        1. River Otter*

          “ please be assured she was very much an active and enthusiastic participant in the affair”

          So was Monica Lewinski, and the narrative has really changed around her. I’m not saying the intern had zero agency, just that your ex had a lot, lot more.

          1. 867-5309*

            This is such an important note, “I’m not saying the intern had zero agency, just that your ex had a lot, lot more.” It in no way diminishes OP’s experience, and I also likely would not have made a job offer to said intern but the bigger share of accountability goes to the partner.

            1. Snuck*

              The maths on this one suggests the ex is in his early 30s, and the intern “more than 10yrs younger” is ?18-21?. I hold the intern to average intern standards – not very high expectations of maturity in this situation (which tests the maturity of fully experienced adults!), however I hold the ex to a higher standard, one presumes he’s been in the workforce a lot longer, understands professional norms more and should have been actively supporting the intern not to set fire to the world.

              If I was managing both I’d be counselling the intern not to be slanderous in the workplace. The ex I would be holding accountable for a) his inappropriate workplace relationship (if he’s allowed to bonk interns then that’s different, but surely there’s a line somewhere in this seemingly academic employment location?!) and b) any attempts he has had to stir the pot his new squeeze has built. I would also impress upon him that while he cannot be held responsible for anyone else’s behaviour if he becomes part of a workplace problem he becomes part of hte solution. I think the outcome of transferring them all as far apart from each other as possible is best, with a firm note on files for any policy transgressions I presume.

          2. Letter Writer*

            I agree with you! I just wanted to clarify for people who were concerned that the intern might have been roped into a relationship against her will that that doesn’t at all seem to be the case here. It’s a fair question to ask given the age and power differential and I’m glad that the knee jerk reaction isn’t to blame the woman but rather to ask some very pertinent questions about what this 30-something guy is doing with a 19 year old. I just wanted to reassure everyone that there is no cause for concern and that my understanding is that the question was addressed to her privately by management as soon as they became aware of the relationship and I believe that if there had been any element of coercion they would have taken it extremely seriously.

            1. Texan In Exile*

              Still. That age difference at those two ages. And I assume she is a student and he is not?

              Gross gross gross. You dodged a bullet, LW.

              1. Properlike*

                And if that’s the case, I wonder if she got a job so that she wouldn’t come back with a sex harrassment claim later.

            2. Gemma*

              I’m simultaneously sad to hear that she chose to smear you with such gusto after already hurting you and happy to hear that your management would take her safety seriously. You have my best wishes LW.

            3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Okay – that’s making me judge the ex – in a “what the hades is wrong with you that adult women aren’t interested in you, leaving you to go chase the just barely adults that don’t know any better” sort of judging.

              And even though I’m annoyed by her behavior, I’m glad they were willing to quietly investigate for any coercion in the relationship. Still also bothered that your Ex wasn’t fired over this as well.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          So it’s a good thing you broke down crying, otherwise they might never have taken it seriously.
          Your ex and the intern sound like they’re made for each other, I hope they stay together just so they don’t make anyone else as unhappy as you were.

        3. TiredMama*

          Wish I had read this before commenting above. So gross. Sorry you had to deal with that. Hopefully you never have to deal with them again.

        4. HoHumDrum*

          Just to be fully clear: I do not think you are in any way shape or form required to worry about this intern or sympathize with her or anything. She’s part of your trauma, you are entitled to hate her forever if you want. Or whatever, the point is you owe her nothing and if anyone would make you feel judged or wronged for not being her biggest fan they are out of their gourd.

          I do think that it would be good for her if other people who are not you would help her see how messed up this all is and help her make better choices. She is young, and he is so much older, and because she’s not my partners new conniving girlfriend I do feel sorry for her on some level.

          But that has nothing to do with you, a person who has been deeply wronged and are entitled to not care about what her specific problems are. Best of luck to you moving forward, I’m so sorry this happened to you.

          1. Letter Writer*

            Just wanted to say thanks for your understanding and empathy. I recognize that other people’s compassion for her isn’t necessarily misplaced but as the victim of her poor choices and inappropriate behavior I find her quite literally insufferable and it feels nice to have that validated. Unfortunately she seems to have convinced the people in her immediate circle (mostly other interns) of her own righteousness so I don’t see her getting any useful guidance there but I feel pretty cringe about plenty of (extremely tame and benign) stuff I did in college so maybe time and natural personal growth will do the job for her eventually.

            1. Marillenbaum*

              You’re fine! She stinks, and with any luck your trashpile of an ex never gets tenure and has to separate, and she never applies (or passes the exams) so you never have to see either of them again. My fiance (who I also worked with) recently ended things, albeit without infidelity, and I definitely get scared that he’s going to return to headquarters and I’ll end up running into him in the hallways, so I feel for you. Fingers crossed you never have to see either of them again once this tour is up!

        5. Observer*

          And as far as I can tell the smear campaign was much more her initiative than his – he didn’t seem particularly concerned with image management but she evidently had a really hard time dealing with the consequences of her actions.

          That doesn’t make him sound any better. Either he didn’t care about the impact of their behavior on her, or he knew that it would all turn out ok, but he still – with the advantage of 10 years of work experience – went along with it. That’s pretty gross, despite it nor being his initiative.

          All you’ve told us is that she’s not a nice person. But, to be honest, all that means in this context is that they probably deserve each other.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            From a further update she is all of 19 – so I’m going to give her the slimmest benefit of the doubt that immaturity was part of her thought process in going for the smear campaign. Goodness knows we have all done plenty of boneheaded things at 19 (even if we almost instantly after the fact realized that was a colossal mistake and something we never should have done).

    1. MoreFriesPlz*

      Yes! I was bracing for general incompetence after that first phone call, and actually breathed a sigh of relief when I read “and he held up his end of the bargain.”

    2. 2cents*

      Right? In a world of horrible bosses, it was refreshing to see people who 1) have enough common sense to see through what was happening here, and 2) care enough to do something about it. LW was dealt an awful hand but at least the people who were involved (Diana, her boss and grandboss) did the right thing.

      1. Letter Writer*

        Yes! It has really been awful but the feeling that my management had my back (and also my coworkers, who covered for me happily when I was dealing with all the logistical fallout like having to find a new place and move and were unfailingly supportive and kind) was a huge help in getting me through the worst of it. To all of the managers here – I know this probably seems like a massive headache and the easiest response would be to say “that’s the chance you take when you date a coworker, suck it up” but going the extra mile to be sensitive and accommodating here helped my managers retain me and reinforce my loyalty and commitment to this organization way more than a pay bump or any other incentive would have, and helped me get back on track more quickly. Just something to keep in mind :)

  4. Bookworm*

    What a mess. I’m so sorry that you went through all of that drama but am glad that it does seem to have mostly/ultimately worked out. Thanks for the update, OP!!

  5. I'm just here for the cats!*

    Congrats! Glad everything worked out even though it was messy and emotional.

    I still don’t get that manager. If you were away for a week how were you spreading rumors and such? Through your friend? That would be an issue to talk to her not you.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      I think the intern and/or ex were engaging in a two-pronged smear campaign. One was that the LW was spreading rumors. The other was that the LW was making threats. The manager was responding to the second.

      1. MoreFriesPlz*

        But to OPs temporary roommate. It’s not the right person to address anything to. Unless they were implying the roommate was the one spreading rumors? In which case they needed to be way more clear because OP and roommate both came away with a different message.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I stand by my theory that the intern’s manager thought “Who has ovaries here? LW and the friend she’s staying with: they’re the ones who will smooth this all over.”

          1. quill*

            Yep. Not in so many words, but the only man involved was the ex… so they had to go and find a woman who was adjacent to the problem.

          2. I'm just here for the cats!*

            Or, “The women and their emotional state” are going to cause problems so I need to head this off before it can start. Implying that the minute the op got back to the office there would be a cat fight

          3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Yeah – that manager is leaving me with a very bad taste in my mouth. Hoping that transfer doesn’t involve him still managing people.

        2. Letter Writer*

          I’ve discussed it some more with her and neither of us can figure out if he was sniffing around trying to get information from her about what I was up to and whether he needed to intervene to protect the intern (*gag*), or whether he was accusing her of acting as a mouthpiece for me since the rumors blew up while I was away, or what he was thinking honestly.

          1. Artemesia*

            I don’t understand why the ex was not fired for having a relationship with the intern. Period. End of consideration. And I don’t understand why the intern was then re-hired for another position. I might not have fired her internship but I sure would not have offered her another job. But the ex needed to be fired as a much older adult in a position of authority who abused his position to move on a very young intern.

            1. tangerineRose*

              Yeah, that bothers me too. 30 years old in a position of authority over a 19 year old intern is just gross.

            2. Letter Writer*

              I agree with this completely but I was very conscious about projecting to management that I was looking to protect myself and regain a tenable working environment and some level of normality, and not trying to be vindictive or vengeful, so I couldn’t come out and ask why they would still want these people in the organization. I assume it goes back to them just wanting the whole thing to blow over as quickly as possible and feeling like firing people wasn’t the best way to do that. I think it’s a terrible precedent to set both for the interns (“take up with an older, not-single colleague and slander his girlfriend who is also your colleague and your position will be secure!”) and for the employees (“open season on interns, boys!”) but it’s not my decision and next time it won’t be my problem ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

              1. Working Hypothesis*

                LW, it’s absolutely not your job to convince your company to fire these people, even if they really should be firing these people. Not your circus, not your monkeys. I think you did a terrific job of standing up for yourself without dragging yourself further into a mess which you should never have had to handle. Yes, at very least the guy should’ve been fired and likely so should the intern, but you have had enough to cope with in all this and you shouldn’t need to take on the rest! That’s your company’s job to do.

            3. HereKittyKitty*

              Because academia doesn’t give a crap. I participated in an investigation of a professor as a graduate student, who openly slept with his former undergrad students and even sent “artistic” porn to undergrad students, and often inappropriately contacted undergrad students outside of class. All this was documented. My friend who was preyed upon as an undergrad student and was currently a grad student was told that “if it was so bad, why did she respond nicely to his emails” as apparently not actively cursing out your professor in an email and instead ignoring it or sending a neutral responses means you must have been fine with it so it was fine for him to do. He was cleared of wrong doing and promoted to head of the department right after. When I contacted the chair that I was uncomfortable with a man I testified against being in charge of whether or not my thesis would get signed off on she told me to simply “forget about what happened” and said I could leave things in his box that needed to be signed instead of having to meet him face to face. I have more stories, but basically, this does not surprise me at all.

              1. Anon for this one*

                I’m an academic and could see this happening very easily.

                One of my former colleagues was infamous for being on his third marriage and that each of his three wives had been his former undergraduate students. He doesn’t work at my university any more, but when he did it was seen more as a matter of gossip than him being a predator. It was excused because the former students had finished his courses before he initiated the relationships.

                Similarly, at a different institution, the former head of a department level program had married a former student and the reaction was the same. Shrug and “but she finished the program before he asked her out.”

                I think that sending pornish pics would lead to discipline now, but only mostly to manage institutional reputation post Me Too. Academia is unfortunately infested with arseholes. (Many, many good people, but still, it broken-stairs the arseholes.)

      2. I'm just here for the cats!*

        I know it was the intern and the ex that were doing this. But if the manager knew that she was out of the office for a week, and it sounds like the breakup happened right before her scheduled vacation, how would she be spreading rumors if she’s not in the office. And if the other friend was the one to do the rumors on behalf of the OP then the manager still can’t blame the OP.

        1. Snuck*

          Eh, in this day and age of email, WhatsApp and so on… being absent in person wasn’t necessarily absent from the general work pool. And she was staying with another work colleague…

          I don’t know the most effective way to handle “she said nasty things about me” rumours – it’s a she said/he said issue and there’s rarely proof if it’s verbal (but loads if it’s online … it never ceases to amaze me how far people go on devices, and how little they cover their tracks!). I tend to fall on the line of “it’s not appropriate to work so both/all of you shut it, get back to work, and if there’s more distraction about this or anything else and less work than required done we’ll be talking about work loads”… but I actively try to avoid hiring people who live in drama. You can’t always get that last bit right, but if most of the workforce is mature and rises above it, you can usually wrangle the odd one.

          1. Letter Writer*

            Hey so if my management’s response to two of my coworkers destroying my personal life and then trying to vilify me in the workplace to make themselves look better had been “shut it and get back to work” I would have quit on the spot. Employees are also people, and while I agree that drama has no place in the workplace I think that empathy certainly does. None of what I went through was the result of choices that I made or actions that I controlled and if my managers had been callous towards my suffering or started threatening me with consequences if my work slipped (while I was sleeping on a friend’s couch, packing up my old apartment and looking for a new one, and severely depressed) it would have been an easy decision to leave. My organization has invested easily tens of thousands of dollars in my training and development – a little patience and flexibility seems a small price to pay for retaining that investment. Maybe the people you hire are easily replaceable but even so I don’t think it’s particularly moral to expect your employees to behave like robots.

            On the same note, on my original post one of the commenters suggested I tell management that I was willing to work with the intern or the ex if necessary. This is absolutely untrue. No job, not even my dream job (which this is), is worth the kind of anxiety and pain I would experience having to interact with these people professionally. I didn’t ask management to move my ex so I wouldn’t have to work with him – they did it on their own initiative because it was an obvious act of mercy that cost them little and gave me peace of mind. Even though the outcome of all this is far from ideal for me, those acts of kindness and compassion from the Powers That Be are the reason I’m still at this job. I have spent five years going above and beyond for them and when I was down they came through for me where they could. Your “shut it” philosophy sounds like a recipe for high turnover and employee dissatisfaction.

          2. Despachito*

            If someone accused me wrongfully about “saying nasty things about them”, I’d be livid if you told me “BOTH of you shut it”. It would imply that I did something wrong, but in fact it would be just the person slandering me… and you as a manager doing nothing.

            I understand that it is likely to be a “she said-he said” situation, and that a manager is not a policeman, but wouldn’t it be appropriate to at least try to ask around whether I have really been slandering that person? (I must admit I do not know whether this is feasible or even recommendable, as for example in an investigation of bullying many things which might seem fine would actually be terribly wrong., but I am wondering whether the manager REALLY has no means to find out the truth)

            1. Letter Writer*

              Yeah…if that had been the attitude towards me I would have quit on the spot. When an employee is in crisis, responding with “be quiet and make sure you get your work done or else” seems like a good way to lose that employee and possibly other employees who don’t feel like working for a callous employer.

          3. Rainy*

            Sounds like you’ve never been the target of a smear campaign, which is great for you! I am very pleased. But if this ever happens to someone you manage, I hope you respond differently to what you’ve just described.

    2. Berkeleyfarm*

      I think that the other manager made a professional decision on a course of action on their own initiative … that was not a really good course to take.

      Admirable instinct to take the intern’s reports seriously and try to protect her … but execution was really off and the HR department should assign some more “manager training”.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Given that they were transferring to a new department I wonder if this was a very poorly executed “CYA Investigation” in their own initiative. So that when everything came out after the transfer old manager could point to the call and say “see, I tried to investigate but no one would cooperate with my investigation.”

  6. Catalyst*

    OP – I’m really happy that this all worked out for you, though it sounds like it got a bit awkward, and that your boss and grand boss had your back. Hope everything works out regardless of what you decide to do in your career going forward. :)

  7. Petty Vengeance is Still Vengeance*

    Two things I wish I knew:

    1) Did the cheaty ex-boyfriend get tenure? Hoping not!
    2) Are he and intern still together? Also kinda hoping not!

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      2) Oh, I don’t know. They seem like they are made for each other. Or, if you prefer, deserve each other.

      1. Dancing Otter*

        As my sister said of a couple we both dislike, “By being together, they’re saving two other people.”

    2. Letter Writer*

      My ex started a few months after me so his hearing will probably be held towards the start of 2022 – honestly it would surprise me if he didn’t get tenure since his work performance has been well-regarded, at least while we were together. But my written evaluation gave a lot of weight to my personal qualities (in addition to the quality of my work) so I think the best I can hope for in terms of karma is for him to get some pretty uncomfortable feedback about his behavior and judgment while still being granted a permanent position.
      My understanding is that they are still together but I’m more optimistic about karma coming into play there eventually, and I’m happy to be patient since the longer it takes, the worse it’s likely to be.

      1. Woodsfull*

        In situations like these, I find comfort in how true “how you get ’em is how you lose ’em” often turns out to be.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        I’m not sure what “tenure” means in this context, but an observation about departmental faculty voting on tenure for an assistant professor is that they are not only voting on the quality of the candidate’s work, but on how they feel about spending the rest of their professional lives with this person. The first is, or should be, the primary consideration, but the second can tilt a borderline case.

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          That’s my wonder, too. If there is someone willing to show such horrible judgment as to sleep with a student intern and create such workplace tension as a result, I would NOT be voting to make them a permanent part of my department. No thank you, take that mess somewhere where I can’t smell it, thanks.

          1. tangerineRose*

            This would bother me too. I feel like if they grant him tenure, they’re opening themselves up to lawsuits in the future. Somehow I have a feeling he’s going to “trade in” his 19 year old for a new one when this intern gets older or when the new relationship isn’t as exciting.

          2. MoreFriesPlz*

            Seriously. Idk if it’s a vote or who’s voting, but if I knew a coworker had done this I would vote against them no matter how good their work had been otherwise. I don’t trust the integrity or judgement of a grown man who sleeps with a teenage subordinate.

        2. Artemesia*

          I’m assuming it is not a university since tenure is normally granted at 7 years, but some other agency that allows tenure. It would not surprise me if a college ignored hitting on interns as there is a long tradition of professors sleeping with students. I was actually once in a faculty senate meeting of a major prestigious university where some older male professors argued against enacting a firm policy against sexual relationships with students. It passed, but there were people who apparently think grazing in the student pastures is a perk of their position.

          During the years I was coming up, this was typical. As a very very naive and inexperienced freshman, my honors philosophy 101 professor propositioned me. I was saved primarily by my inability to even comprehend that he was serious about it. Every one of my major professors in undergrad, masters and doctoral programs propositioned me; they were very good about taking ‘no’ for an answer and I didn’t feel it negatively affected me but still it was inappropriate and commonplace. And I was not some raving beauty. I was young and youth is attractive, and a fairly attractive young woman — but not flirtatious or outstandingly beautiful. It was just pervasive in academic environments and continued during the years as a young scholar — I don’t think any young women attending research conferences were not propositioned by more established professors often in the guise of ‘hearing more about your research.’ It is really deflating to think you are being singled out as a scholar by someone important and then to discover they just want in your pants.

          The company/agency/university here in the OP’s situation should have a firm policy on this and this guy should have been fired for boffing the intern.

          1. Artemesia*

            by ‘major professor’. I am referring to the person in charge of my thesis or senior project i.e. essentially advisor.

          2. Richard Hershberger*

            When, if you don’t mind saying, was this? This has a very 1970s feel to me. I was undergrad in the ’80s. While I’m sure this still went on, I wasn’t aware of it at the time, and that in a humanities major with lots of female students. Of course I also was utterly clueless, entirely capable of missing the obvious.

            1. Suddenly_Seymour*

              Not the original thread poster, but I was in the room during a staff/faculty meeting at a college in 2018 where the argument was made by a long-tenured male faculty member that hard-and-fast rules regarding interpersonal relationships between current undergraduates and faculty were not in the realm of policy, and that to try to enforce any such rules would be an overstep. The gist of the argument was that the community should police itself and call out members individually on poor choices/behavior, and hold the person/community accountable in that way.

                1. Suddenly_Seymour*

                  I think the worst part was he wasn’t even one of the several faculty members that had already been pinged to be on my radar by my students or other younger female professional staff. I had one student explain to me how she and her professor had a long conversation about the “inherently sexual and passionate process” of engaging in study together. Horrified.

            2. tangerineRose*

              I was a computer science major in the ’90s and am female and didn’t get hit on by any professors. Maybe I was too clueless to notice or too shy.

              1. Snuck*

                Bwahahah. Ten cents they were all raging complete introvert nerds and had no idea how to hit on you :P I studied Pscyh in the 90’s and dated an electrical engineering student… and basically none of his mates, nor any of the IT students in the large student housing I was in had any idea how to approach females with confidence. I can’t think of a single one I’d say “this guy made moves on women”.

            3. Texan In Exile*

              A professor (who was my mom’s age and married) I worked for in grad school in the early 90s and again in the mid 90s after I returned from the Peace Corps propositioned me.

              He said something about visiting the city I had moved to (I had to call him with a question about my last paycheck). When I told him that of course he and his wife – whom I knew – were welcome to stay with me, he said he could come by himself and we could practice sex together.

              Yep. That’s what he said.

              I was horrified and told him to stop. I reminded him that he was married. (It seemed kind of insulting to remind him that he was also OLD OLD OLD and hence completely undesirable, but isn’t that understood?)

              He wouldn’t stop, so I hung up on him and haven’t talked to him since.

              He is very well regarded in his field – has consulted to the White House, etc.

              I am pretty sure this sort of thing still happens on campus, even now. Boys will be boys, right?

              1. Texan In Exile*

                PS I am not particularly attractive – I looked (and look) like a normal woman who can’t be bothered with doing too much with her hair or makeup and I am a bit plump. Very very average. So it’s not like my beauty was driving him wild.

                1. Working Hypothesis*

                  I understand why you felt you had to say this, but I really think it’s awful that this kind of disclaimer even needs to be part of stories of this kind. Beautiful women have a right not to be harassed by their professors too! We should not need to put down our own looks in order to claim that there’s something wrong with the slimeballs who do this. It’s wrong regardless.

                2. Despachito*

                  Even if you were the Venus of Milos herself, it would be no excuse for him.

                  If someone is not capable to control his behaviour, he should not be let loose among people, let alone TEACH them.

                  It always makes me sad if someone feels the need to say what you say about the attractiveness, or not being flirtatious – it is absolutely not your fault but I can see in it the reflection of the skewed, gross perspective of “she was asking for it” which was instilled in us for centuries so deep that we still feel the urge to deny it.

                3. Texan In Exile*

                  Working Hypothesis and Despachito – holy smoke I never even thought of it from that perspective! You are both so right – there is NO excuse ever.

                  Thank you. (And now I am every more cranky and more determined to smash the patriarchy.)

              2. Sophie*

                I’m sorry but I hate the saying ‘boys will be boys’. Most men are perfectly capable of not doing this kind of disgusting stuff. Many men would be appalled by the very idea. Being male is not an excuse or a reason. Unfortunately ‘creepy misogynist jerks will be creepy misogynist jerks’ doesn’t really roll off the tongue.

            4. Dr. Anon*

              As someone who finished my graduate program in the humanities in 2016 and have lots of connections with people still in academia, this still happens A LOT and has never stopped happening – in the US, in the UK, and presumably in the non-English speaking academic world. Just recently, a major report was released on two Oxford professors. There was a recent slew of articles about a Yale Law professor. It is endemic to academia.


            5. Esmeralda*

              Google “sexual harassment academia”.

              I’m in my 60s; my husband’s dean gets handsy at social events. I stay away from him at parties, as does every other woman there.

              Dating and harassment of women at all levels, from tenured professor down to interns, grad students and post docs, undergrads — it’s widespread and many of the perpetrators are not subtle or sneaky about it, because they don’t have to be. I can only speak about the US, but from personal experience (mine, my colleagues, my students) as well as what’s published, yeah.

              There isn’t an industry without Me Too. Given the heirarchical nature and precariousness of employment in academia, it’s just what you’d expect. Alas.

            6. Retired Prof*

              In the past five years my institution has had a major scandal along these lines. Professor expecting “payment” for taking students to conferences. Definitely not a thing of the past.

            7. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              I was in college approximately 20 years ago, and had two professors who were definitely looking for “relationships” with the student body.

              What made it grosser for me – both those guys taught in the College of Education. You’d think they of anybody should have known better….obviously they thought the rules didn’t apply to them since their students were now legally adults.

            8. Mid*

              I wouldn’t assume that. A very promising professor didn’t get tenure because he was sleeping with students (yes, plural) at my college in ~2018, but that entire department is known for that “issue” and the tenured ones just get away with it.

          3. Jules the 3rd*

            This… is apalling. I was in college in the late 80s/early 90s, and I was pretty conventionally attractive (tall blond curvy and cheerful; face medium). No professor ever hit on me (thank god) or asked me out. My dad was a professor for 35 years, early 70s to late 00s, and he never asked out any of his students either. He knew the power differential was not ok, plus he really likes my mom.

            1. Properlike*

              Everyone commenting on their looks in their stories about harrassment… you all realize that propositioning is about power, right?

              It’s upsetting how we women have internalized even this version of “but what were you wearing that caused him to harrass you this way?”

              1. RadManCF*

                It seems to me as though a lot of folks are emphasizing that they don’t consider themselves to be exceptionally attractive, which seems to be implicitly making the point that the propositioning is about power.

                1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  Thirding the lack of conventional beauty reinforcing for me that it’s about the power differential mantra. Those jerks were doing it because the power structure lets them get away with being sleazy jerks.

      3. River Otter*

        “ my written evaluation gave a lot of weight to my personal qualities (in addition to the quality of my work) so I think the best I can hope for in terms of karma is for him to get some pretty uncomfortable feedback about his behavior and judgment”

        I hope that, too. However. There is a pattern in the working world where women and men of color (and probably queer men, but I have never seen a study including sexual orientation) get evaluated on personal qualities to a degree that white men do not. You don’t mention your ex’s race/ethnicity. If he’s not white, you might get your hope. If he is white, I’m not optimistic about your hope.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          That is a fair point–we’ve certainly seen through many horrible cases how women and men of color are often judged by the worst things from their past while white men are judged by their expected bright future. But hopefully for something like this they have explicit procedures and processes in place for such an evaluation!

      4. A Wall*

        As my mom would say, “it’s good when a-holes are together and not messing up two other normal people’s lives.”

      5. The Starsong Princess*

        Your organization would be making a mistake to give him tenure. An intern-banger is a lawsuit waiting to happen and they won’t have any deniability. But you are wise to just step back and let him blow himself up.

  8. e271828*

    I am appalled that they are keeping the intern on. That gossiping and rumor-spreading is not something anyone wants in a workplace and I would be averse to having the potential for it occurring again—say, if intern doesn’t get a promotion she wants. The ex should be on a PIP at least.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Me too. She’s shown you all who she is. This is an INTERN who was causing drama in the office. You cut your losses with someone like that. Not just move them to a different location.

      1. Artemesia*

        I can. believe they didn’t fire her as an intern, but it is so inappropriate that they then offered her a job. He should have been fired and she should have been allowed to leave when her internship was up.

  9. Orange You Glad*

    I’m glad things eventually worked out for the OP. I’m surprised the intern wasn’t let go once the rumours came to light.

      1. Lilo*

        Ad with this morning, this is dumb.

        Anyone can sue when they get fired. Anyone with a piece of paper and a filing fee (or an I
        forma pampers petition) can sue. The solution is not to never fire someone. It’s to fire someone for clear legal reasons (here, the harassment of OP) and to document those reasons.

          1. Lilo*

            Not necessarily. It’s a LOT harder under state law to prove discrimination than most people think. Because they are not the same employment level, it’s not quite equivalent.

            1. Observer*

              In this case, it makes it WORSE. Because she’s the lower level employee with the least amount of power here.

  10. DW*

    I’d fire the intern tbh. She started an office relationship (meh) and engaged in nasty rumor-mongering against her SO’s ex (yikes). That’s unprofessional rising to the point of possible sexual harassment.

    1. Clefairy*

      I kind of feel like more of the blame lies with the boyfriend, honestly. I’m sure he wasn’t someone directly over the intern, but there was still an imbalance of power there, and I’m sure the intern/new girlfriend took a lot of cues from him. What a giant man-baby.

      1. MoreFriesPlz*

        I agree. Fire them both. This kind of rumor mongering is not a good start to her employment. And the X is even worse.

    2. Gerry Keay*

      Uhhh if there’s any firing, I think the ex is the person who should be fired in this situation, ie the person who has the power and who started an affair with an intern.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Sure, but it is concerning how many comments are only focused on the intern. Though this is the first I’ve seen go so far as to say the 19 year old should be the one fired for sexual harassment rather than the 30-year-old man sleeping with the teenage intern.

          1. Despachito*

            But wait, did anybody say it would be for sexual harassment?

            My understanding is that the intern was a lot more active in the slandering than the ex, and if so, that’s what should have her fired.

            As for the ex, it would be slandering (although possibly to a lesser extent), but mainly the abuse of power (IDK whether his behaviour would be sexual harassment as the intern apparently consented, but I think that what it REALLY was would be more than enough.)

    3. Engineer_girl*

      The full time employee is more at fault. Even if the intern isn’t his direct report, a relationship with an intern is a very sketchy power imbalance. So they can’t fire her without inviting a sexual harassment suit. Morally he’s the one who cheated-not her-but that’s not really a workplace issue.

      1. Mannequin*

        She’s wouldn’t be fired for the cheating, she’d be be fired for attacking OPs reputation and spreading rumors about her.

    4. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I don’t blame intern for started the relationship. That sounds more like “she chased my husband and he got himself caught” or “she got pregnant.”

      It’s not that “stole OP’s man,” or even that she started a relationship with a senior coworker (bad idea. Don’t do it) but in this case only that
      she started a slander campaign against an established employee.

      Boyfriend was in the senior position. She wasn’t even an employee, but an intern, essentially a guest of the company.
      He, as a host representing the company, should have acted like like and not started a relationship with her.
      As an intern, and guest if the company, she should have not responded to any overtures he made and instead report them to her school. (She also should not have flirted with him, but he should have shut it down)
      She definitely should have kept her damn mouth shut after getting involved with a coworker, I’m a relationship or not, keep it to yourself.

      Again. They deserve each other. Let them get married and gossip about the neighbors. OP is better off.

      1. Lilo*

        I would not be saying “fire the intern” if it was merely the relationship. She lied about an employee. She has to go.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          I agree. And I agree with that reason. Bad judgement is one thing. Acting maliciously is another.

      2. ArtsyGirl*

        Even worse she is a student intern and more than 10 years younger than the OP and her ex who are in their early 30s. Therefore she is either still a teenager or in her very early 20s. Not only is the OP’s ex benefitting from the power inbalance of their positions, he is taking advantage of someone who is still in school. I am not excusing intern’s bad behavior, but I give her more leeway acting like a high school mean girl because that is basically what she is. OP’s ex could have stopped the personal attacks but it was probably easier for him to do this than face the fact that he is a creep who is engaged in a highly inappropriate relationship.

    5. Observer*

      She started an office relationship (meh) and engaged in nasty rumor-mongering against her SO’s ex (yikes).

      *SHE* started an office relationship? If you’re going to fire someone, it’s the Ex who should be fired. HE started a relationship just as much as she did and he has MUCH more power in the dynamic. Same with the rumor mongering.

      Fire him? I agree, they should have done that. The intern? Maybe.

      1. Coder von Frankenstein*

        They should both be fired. The ex’s actions were more egregious, but both of them are way over the line.

    6. DW*

      When I wrote this I wasn’t thinking about the ex, because that’s a whole different issue of employee management. I was thinking about the temporary worker who doesn’t bring the same amount of value to the company and whose employment is much more tenuous. The ex is an existing employee who should be dealt with through normal disciplinary channels – but the intern can just be fired, straight out, and instead they reassigned her and kept her around. That’s my issue.

      1. Ally McBeal*

        I wonder if there wouldn’t be more legal risk if they fired just the intern and not the ex as well? This is definitely a BOTH situation, but timing seems important here.

      2. A Wall*

        Agreed, I see why people are extra baffled about the intern. It’s not because her role was worse (it wasn’t), it’s because interns don’t usually get hired on unless they’re very good, and you’d expect an intern involved in shenanigans to not be kept on. It can take time to put things together to let an established employee go, and there are other routes of disciplinary action that won’t exactly be announced, so him not immediately having to pack up his desk doesn’t mean it’s getting brushed off. But simply not hiring an intern whose internship is ending is easy as hell, so her proceeding on into a job at the company does indicate a necessary minimum amount of brushoff and is also pretty baffling.

      3. Letter Writer*

        Maybe she had already secured the student position before the relationship came out and my org didn’t feel they could rescind the offer without exposing themselves to legal issues? That’s what I’ve been telling myself to keep from being too angry about it because otherwise it really is a bit of a slap in the face.

        1. Observer*

          I suspect that that’s what it is. I mean the position she seems to have gotten sounds like a normal move.

          To be honest, I think that while your boss and eventually HR handled things well once you made it clear what was going on, I can see why the whole things feels like a slap in the face.

  11. Allornone*

    I’ve been there, OP. It sucks. My ex and I worked together a long time after that and remained in the same circle of friends, which kind of made it harder for awhile. But for five years, his girl spent so much time and energy hating me and trying to discredit me to management and our friends, that at some point, it became laughable. It was all one-sided. Eventually, he broke up with her (after finding out she was cheating on him the whole time) and he and I salvaged a bit of friendship. His girlfriend now is awesome (more awesome than him, honestly) and I’m with the man I plan to spend the rest of my life with. Oh, and we all finally work in very different places.

  12. Clefairy*

    Wow, I’m sorry you had to go through that, OP. Congrats on tenure! And congrats on weathering the storm and it all resolving (more or less).

  13. Hills to Die On*

    I am glad it worked out well for you (even though they kept the intern, the ex and the nosy manager, wtf), and I hope you find a new, better relationship to!

  14. Triplestep*

    I don’t think you need to worry about this hurting your credibility in the long run. I think the situation provided people with something out of the ordinary to focus on for a while – and that probably felt awful to you while it was happening – but people who know you probably questioned the legitimacy of the things they were hearing all along. Your behavior now is proving they were right to do so.

    For anyone anyone in need of a phrase to use in the face of rumors being generated about them, a good one is “Hmm. That doesn’t sound like me, does it?” It doesn’t impugn the source (so it’s taking the high road) and it puts it right back on the other person for even entertaining that it might be true.

    1. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

      A canned response like that or honestly even a slightly-too-long pause with a look of shock and bewilderment on your face. Maybe combine them when the accusation is just that wild.

    2. Tina*

      This is exactly what Angela on The Office said when Andy asked if she was sleeping with Dwight (she was).

    3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      thank you Triplestep, I’ll file that away in my “useful reactions” folder!
      (I never think of the right thing to say until 3am)

  15. MoreFriesPlz*

    I’m so sorry for all you’ve been through and amazed by your strength and integrity! A breakdown was well earned, and doesn’t negate how well you handled this, and if I were your boss I can only imagine I’d be totally nonjudgmental and brainstorming ways to help. Any reasonable person could have a breakdown in this circumstance. You still handled it incredibly gracefully.

  16. Lobsterman*

    Good grief, why keep an intern who’s causing any drama whatsoever. Glad for OP, baffled for company.

    1. Lilo*

      Exactly. This has nothing to do with the relationship. Why would you ever keep a known drama Llama and liar?

  17. BayCay*

    I’m really impressed you made it through all of *waves* that. And even though I’m sure it was an all around sucky situation, it sounds like your ex is getting a dose of insta-karma with that intern. Woof.

    1. Myrin*

      After you’ve had the job for five years, the employer decides whether you’ll be able to stay on or not. If they decide that yes, you will, then you are free to stay with them for the rest of your life if you so please.

        1. Myrin*

          I’m assuming this is a university context. If so, that kind of system is really, really normal. (Not saying that it’s great or anything but it’s not unusual in any way.)

        2. Lunar Caustic*

          Tenured professorships are a longstanding measure to protect academic freedom so that scholars can study controversial topics freely without some higher-up deciding to fire them just because they don’t like the professor’s conclusions. It is not a perfect system, but it exists for perfectly understandable reasons.

          1. anonprof*

            Also, the five years of probation comes after approximately ten years of higher education. That’s a good number of earning years lost to get the expertise and credentials to do the job. Tenure is a tiny repayment of that as well as some protection for academic freedom as Lunar explains. Additionally, tenured professors can and are fired for cause. It’s not a free pass for life as it is represented in the media.

        3. Letter Writer*

          I don’t really want to get into it for privacy reasons but it’s not actually an academic tenure thing, it’s a pretty rare and honestly weird setup but basically my job is extremely demanding, especially in the first 5-7 years, and since they can’t offer financial incentives to stick around they use tenure instead. Since the job mostly attracts the kind of people who aren’t going to take their foot off the gas just because they can’t be fired easily it doesn’t cause as many problems as you would think, but it is pretty outdated at this point and I assume it will be phased out eventually. But it was very encouraging for the organization to sign off on me in such a meaningful way, it definitely felt nice after the misery of the past half a year.

    2. GRA*

      I recommend watching “The Chair” on Netflix for a good education on tenure at universities & colleges in the US.

  18. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    They should have dropped the intern and disciplined the ex.
    Spreading lies about other employees should not be acceptable in a workplace. Depending on severity one can argue the ex should have been fired as well.

    All that said i’m glad you got tenure and if the ex or the intern cause more problems keep your head out of it, your hands clean and document, document, document.

    1. Lacey*

      Yeah. I’m a bit baffled by that. Why would they want someone who goes around causing trouble and lying about people?

      1. Observer*

        I suspect that they gave her a position because they didn’t fire the ex. Given his behavior, that could turn into a real problem for them.

        1. Artemesia*

          Letting the internship naturally expire was a perfectly normal way to proceed. This happens all the time and is no necessary judgment or ‘punishment’.

  19. Business Librarian*

    I don’t remember this letter so I went back to it and skimmed it before I read the update. Honestly, I first thought that the manager was making sure that the ex wasn’t forcing the intern into something. THAT was a safety issue as far as I’m concerned. Was the intern free to say no to this twerp? That still means calling the roommate was a bizarre choice, but now that I know the manager was trying to suss out what terrible thing the LW was doing, it’s even more weird. Next time I have a work conflict I’ll be sure to call the person’s first cousin’s sister-in-law. I’m sure she’ll be able to help.

  20. CupcakeCounter*

    You still handled things incredibly professionally – you got hit with a double whammy of being cheated on and dumped PLUS a smear campaign at work. One breakdown, which reading between the lines I assume was in private, and no badmouthing of either party. That is the highest of the high roads. Ex and Intern were absolutely counting on you engaging and “proving their point”.
    Good on your boss and grandboss for dealing with it and keeping their word to you but WTAF is with your employer keeping the intern??? They didn’t have to fire her or anything…her role is literally a temporary position. There is no issue with simply letting the internship end at the already predetermined time!!!!! Also not overly happy about Ex being up for tenure soon – he seems like he could be a liability.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed – given everything that happened just the one breakdown at work is completely understandable. They were harassing you at work – it’s “OKAY” to have feelings at work, and to react to things at work*. Sounds like you came through all of this swimmingly, and your true colors got shown to all.

      *I think the difference here is your action was a breakdown in private with the boss, not to stoop to the level of the other two who were spewing venom at work. Honestly impressed by your strength and having only the one breakdown LW.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        I have a feeling we might be in the same field, and if it is the one I’m thinking of…yeah, good boundaries are the exception rather than the rule! (As is a competent HR, sadly)

  21. Soup of the Day*

    I’m team Fire Them Both! Ex should have absolutely been fired for starting a relationship with an intern (who was presumably there to learn!! he did not teach her anything good about professional norms!!)

    But internships are hard to come by, and that position could be better occupied by someone who won’t start a smear campaign against a current (and well-appreciated, by the sound of it) employee. Even if you’re totally clueless about professional norms, surely the intern knows you can’t be a drama-starting jerk at work. That speaks to her character, and I think it would serve her better professionally in the long run to let her go and tell her exactly why than to let her think this is okay behavior. As it is, she’s learned nothing except that she can get away with mistreating her coworkers.

    So sorry you had to go through that, OP! I’m glad it worked out for you in the end!

  22. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    You call this an anti-climactic update, OP? An update with twists to the tale and drama that end with the intern and ex both being sent to work where they won’t hurt you, the rumours quashed and you getting tenure?
    You broke down at a point where things were just untenable, I think you can hold your head high.

  23. idwtpaun*

    Thanks for the update, OP. I’m so glad you’ve weathered the storm and I hope you never have to hear from or deal with the toxic ex again.

    And like commenters above, I think management should seriously consider the ex’s further employment. Not because he cheated (I don’t want to get into territory of HR/management making moral judgments), but like other said, an affair with a much younger intern is showing such poor judgment already, much less that he made it even worse by bringing personal drama into the office instead of trying to at least maintain a modicum of professionalism.

  24. Librarian Liz*

    I hate that OP had to worry so much about her own reputation. Her ex and the intern were in the wrong, not her! Hope OP has nothing but success from here on out.

  25. American Job Venter*

    LW, I’m very glad to see this update, that you came through this crapstorm entirely not of your own making and kept your integrity the whole time. I’m cheering you on!

  26. Working Hypothesis*

    I am at least glad to hear that much, but I have known way too many late-teens women involved with older men, and even though most of them were enthusiastic participants in the relationship, they were very much putty in the hands of their boyfriends when the latter wanted them to do something that would probably have rung alarm bells in the brains of more experienced adults. For this reason, and this reason only, I would’ve fired your ex in a heartbeat — for getting involved with an intern at all; for spreading lies about a colleague; for bringing his relationship drama into the office; take your pick — but I would probably not have fired the intern. At least not immediately. Sat her down and had a Very Serious Conversation about what is and is not acceptable behavior in the office, oh yeah. Fired her if she tried to dig in her heels or otherwise failed to take the message, thoroughly and on the first go? Probably. But she gets one more chance than he does, because of her age and because part of what we’re committing to when we hire interns is to teach them what they may not know about acceptable office behavior.

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      Whoops — this was supposed to be in reply to a comment further up the thread from the LW, assuring us that the 19-year-old intern was an active and enthusiastic participant in the relationship with LW’s ex, and was not pressured or coerced into it. Somehow it posted in the wrong spot — sorry about that.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      It’s still a very valid point here as it’s own comment though. I’m totally judging the 30-something man and wondering what is off about him that limits him to the just barely legal end of the dating pool.

      1. Letter Writer*

        Sorry but this is a weird take – plenty of 30-something men date younger women by choice, not because women their own age aren’t interested in them. Movie stars, for instance. Why he would rather date a sheltered, naive teenager than an adult with equal status and life experience to him is a more salient question and it’s apparently something I missed while we were dating but that’s no longer my problem.

  27. Anon for this*

    I audibly gasped when I read that you were going through all this while being evaluated for tenure! Congrats OP, and good on you for handling this horrible situation so well!

  28. Analytical Tree Hugger*

    LW, thank you for sharing your story. It sucks that your ex is a terrible person and did this to you. I’m glad that management (kindof) had your back.

    And I agree with other commenters, you handled this with admirable professionalism. Brava!

  29. Letter Writer*

    I can’t respond to everyone individually so I just want to take this opportunity to say thanks again for all the encouragement, sympathy, and advice – I really appreciate it and you’re all so lovely and helpful!

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