update: I walked in on a coworker making out with our married colleague — do I say something?

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager! All this week and next, I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer who walked in on a coworker making out with a married colleague and was wondering whether to something? Here’s the update.

Firstly thank you and the commenters for all the helpful advice, mainly being to stay out of it and try to act normally with Alice and Bob. I was very confused as to the best way to handle this as I just don’t have any experience in a formal office work environment and I wasn’t sure what to do at all. Things didn’t quite go according to plan but it helped to have that in my mind. One thing I clarified in the comments was that whilst Bob was not Alice’s direct manager, he was a manager of our team and shared responsibility for our team with mine and Alice’s manager.

I went back to work after the holiday time off and tried to be as normal as possible, especially with Alice. We did seem to be in a reasonably good place, and we only had one awkward conversation where we both acknowledged that the day of the incident had been a strange and uncomfortable day. Alice apologized for that, even though we didn’t talk about what happened at all, and said she still very much wanted to work with me and train me. I think I managed to be “aggressively normal” after that as you described and we had a really positive week.

Unfortunately, things took a bit of a turn for the worse when Bob came back to the office after his week of holiday. I never had any conversation with Bob about what happened at all but he seemed to have taken a dislike to me. I could only assume it was linked as we had barely been in the same room since that day due to the bank holidays and his holiday. It became very clear to me, and pretty soon everyone else, that Bob was determined to find fault in my work. I know I am still fairly new and my work would not be perfect but he was not my manager and didn’t seem to have any interest in helping me develop. He just seemed to want to have the opportunity to humiliate me and he called me out on several (small) errors in public settings. Other people picked up on it really quickly and were asking me what was going on and I felt really awful. I went home several days in tears but I wasn’t sure what the best thing to do was. I decided to just try to cope as best I could and hoped the whole thing went away.

Another colleague, we will call her Poppy, came to speak to me after a particularly awful day (where Bob announced in a team meeting that he would be taking on managing Alice, Poppy, and me, much to my horror). She told me to hang on in there and that I could always speak to her about anything. She suggested I took a day off and I went and spoke to my manager and took a long weekend straight away. Whilst I was off, I had a text message from Poppy checking in with me, which made me feel better about going back to the office.

I went back to work the next week and it was like the whole world had turned on its head. My manager asked to speak to me first thing, and I assumed I was going to be in trouble over something Bob had done/said/found. Instead, I was told she had decided to move me to join Alice and Poppy’s project as a good development opportunity, and she promised we would have a proper supervision meeting soon to talk about what had been happening recently. Before I could process that news, we were called into our morning briefing and Bob announced he was moving to another team at the end of the week to “help them with some challenges they were facing.” I had to work hard to hide the relief that I felt at that point.

Anyway, I went to work with Alice and Poppy. They are both fantastic at their jobs and I have learned so much from them, and my manager has been really supportive of me. I genuinely love my job and I recognize how lucky that makes me.

I wasn’t necessarily going to write in with an update, but then something else happened that made me realize things had been even more weird than I thought!

The role Bob was moved to is now facing redundancy, which was announced to us all last week. According to what I now know, Bob agreed to transfer to this role knowing he would be made redundant and he is leaving the organization at the end of July. After we heard this news, I had to travel to our headquarters with Poppy last week for a training course and we had a long chat. It turns out that she had known about Alice and Bob before I walked in on them, and had been advising Alice to be careful. After the incident, Alice had called her in a panic and later told Poppy she was grateful for how well I handled it. Based on the information I now have, it would appear that when Bob started to make life difficult for me, Alice tried to get him to back off but failed and she made the decision to tell our shared manager, and the senior responsible for our whole building, everything about her relationship with Bob and how she was concerned he was harassing me to keep me quiet. The fact that he had finally managed to convince the other managers that he should take on managing me and Alice apparently made it even worse for him, and the whole thing came out to all of the managers on the days I had been advised to take off work by Poppy.

Alice and I still haven’t talked about the whole mess, but she knows that Poppy has filled me in. Alice and Bob are no longer together, I know that much, but I won’t pry any further. She seems to be ok and the office seems a lot lighter since Bob has gone. I realize Alice did do the wrong thing with Bob at work, and I believe she feels bad for that, but she has never been anything other than decent to me and she stepped in to make sure Bob wasn’t able to cause me any more problems. I think I have learned a lot from this experience and intend to keep reading everything on Ask A Manager. It is fast becoming my best distraction to read on the train to and from work each day – I have years of letters to read, after all!

{ 132 comments… read them below }

  1. Lacey*

    Whoa. I’m glad things ended up working out for you. It’s crazy that Bob thought he should be horrible to you to keep you quiet. I think the first thing I would have done at that point is gone to HR with it!

    1. squirreltooth*

      It’s not an uncommon tactic, unfortunately. The second most recent winner of Top Chef actually had a huge public scandal for using this exact tactic to try to bully his affair partner out of the restaurant he worked at (he’s married with quite a few kids and was depicted as a family man during his season, so the fallout was especially bad).

      1. MK*

        I just finished that season yesterday! I knew there is not much real about reality tv, but heavens!

    2. Budgie Buddy*

      I think it’s less to keep her quiet and more to proactively undermine her credibility at the company and make her look like a disgruntled employee with a grudge if she does speak up.

      Best part of this was hearing that Alice and Bob are no longer together. Glad all three of these ladies are rid of him.

      1. quill*

        Yes, all of this. If a less privileged person is first accused of being difficult / not credible / not professional, it tends to stick, which is why bullying someone by inches until they snap is such a common tactic, and under-recognized. Alice dodged a major bullet by seeing Bob’s reaction to OP knowing about the affair: six months later that could have been his reaction to her deciding to stop sneaking around, or contradicting him during a meeting.

        1. Salymander*

          I was really relieved to read that Alice decided to speak up about Bob and his bullying of the OP. I think you are right, Quill, and this was a preview of the way Bob would have behaved toward Alice eventually. I bet Alice recognized that, too. I’m really glad that Bob is on the way out, and that Alice and OP are not expected to pay the price for Bob’s bullying.

          1. Momma Bear*

            I’m also glad that she did, and perhaps his treatment of the OP opened her eyes to his misbehavior and what kind of person she was involved with. Either way, it sounds like it was resolved, and I’m glad that OP had coworkers who had their back.

      2. pope suburban*

        This is it exactly. I’m dealing with this right now in my sports community, and it’s pretty irritating, simply because it’s unnecessary and disrespectful of both the training facility and the other participants. Like OP, I’m choosing not to engage and be “aggressively normal,” because, well, I’m not doing anything wrong! I trust these people enough to judge based on my behavior (and the fact that I do not spread rumors or speak negatively of other athletes) and that’ll have to be enough. We can’t control the entitlement or bad reactions of the Bobs of the world, we can just show up, do our best, and behave well. I’m glad for everyone that they are free of Bob, who sounds like a real piece of works.

    3. Artemesia*

      Wow. Me too. A very difficult situation handled reasonably well by the OP and everyone but Bob. I would have gone to HR when the harassment started but good on Alice and Poppy for stepping up. You would think he would have bent over backwards to be supportive of the OP rather than harassing her. Wow.

    4. Spero*

      I’m not shocked at all, if you look at the original comment thread there were several warnings against being used as their cover and/or complaints to HR against them to ‘cover’ the affair! Perhaps the same bad judgement of the affair also correlates to this vindictive streak?

    5. Rolly*

      I was worried partway through this but liked the ending.

      You should turn this into a movie or something. Glad the bad guy got his at the end!

  2. Duke Flapjack*

    Stupid arse. If he had done absolutely *nothing* there would be no problem for him.

    1. jane's nemesis*

      Right?? I was just coming here to say this – he just needed to keep his jerky mouth shut!

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yup – far better to keep one’s mouth closed and be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubts that you are a fool.

    3. Clobberin' Time*

      Based on everything Bob has gotten up to, it is evident that he is not the sharpest bulb on the tree.

      1. Anonny*

        Well, he probably is, considering that the sharpest bult is the broken one…

        But yeah. First rule of wrongdoing: be on your best behaviour the rest of the time. You would not believe how many horrifying crimes got solved because the suspects got pulled over for speeding or similar minor stuff.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Or get ratted out by somebody else in the conspiracy because the act like a jerk……

  3. Kay Zee*

    Meanwhile, what was Bob thinking? The LW could easily have spread the word about Bob and Alice in retaliation for the way Bob was treating her. Bob is not so smart.

    1. Duke Flapjack*

      Bob sounds like one of those alpha-male thinkers that believe he MUST control everything concerning him. Silly fool, he made too many waves and annoyed management. That’s the quickest way to get yourself fired.

      1. Lab Boss*

        Yup. there’s a driving personality type that can be very useful in management- good at high level thinking, makes decisions quickly and decisively, great at hearing people talk and putting that talk into action. Unfortunately that same personality type can respond to the stress of being out of control by doubling down and trying to forcefully assert dominance to reestablish “the plan.”

        1. Antilles*

          I just assumed he’s a combination of charismatic and wildly overconfident, which often gets mistaken for competence. So he doesn’t think about the consequences of OP pushing back or getting caught, because *of course* they’re going to believe me over you.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yup – Bob is the jerk, but kudos to Alice for stepping up and protecting OP.

      Oh – and also betting that being a jerk also caused Alice to end things with Bob – so he double lost.

      1. Hills to Die on*

        Right? I am impressed that Alice stood up and did the right thing even though it could have cost her a job and a relationship. Yay Alice!

        1. Green great dragon*

          Indeed. I mean, probably not great behaviour in the first place, but she did the right thing when it would have been so much easier to do nothing.

        2. JSPA*

          I’m wondering if the whole affair had some elements of coercion / control from day 1, and Bob’s attempted power move boosted Alice from, “conflicted but nominally consenting” to, “hell, no.”

        3. Spero*

          IIRC correctly Alice had just gone through a bad breakup and was filling a temporary manager slot where she’d gone from Bob’s report to peer for a short time then back to a report – sounds like she had some stressors that may have led to poor decisions but is course correcting back to the person OP thought she originally was.

      2. allathian*

        Yes, this. Alice messed up by making out with Bob at the office in the first place, but at least she drew a firm line about not making things difficult for anyone else. My guess is that Alice understands that she dodged a bullet by not going any further with Bob, although I still feel sorry for Bob’s wife.

    3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      That’s like playing a game of chicken, but with blackmail material. Not a good look there, Bob.

    4. marvin*

      It looks like entitlement to me. Bob is probably used to bullying people until he gets what he wants. In a lot of environments, this could have gone well for him.

    5. Mami21*

      I think maybe Bob couldn’t stand the thought of OP having ‘one up’ on him. The power play was to put her in her place.

    6. MCMonkeybean*

      I am so glad that this worked out well, mostly because it sounds like Poppy and Alice handled things to help OP which is great! But I think it’s important to note that while the advice on the first letter was to leave it alone it would 100% have been okay and probably even the right thing to do to talk to your manager about what happened and that it seemed like Bob was targeting you as a result–and it wouldn’t be “retaliation” in my book! It would simply be addressing a serious problem and making sure your manager has all the relevant information.

      Previously, the relationship was largely not OP’s monkeys to deal with, but Bob made it something OP needed to deal with by being such an ass. OP is really lucky to work with colleagues who took the situation seriously and took steps to fix it. I’m sure plenty of people in Alice’s shoes would be to nervous to come forward!

  4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    Sounds like the perfect cautionary example for why you should never manage someone you are in a personal relationship with. Great job to Alice for stepping up and coming clean when she realized that Bob was set to permanent jerk mode towards the OP.

  5. STG*

    I know Alice was part of the cause of the issue but props to Alice for not taking the easy way out. I think a lot of people would have let Bob effectively manage the OP out of the job if they were in Alice’s position.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed – I just posted something similar about how Alice looks the best in this update because she took the risk of doing the right thing by OP.

      1. quill*

        When it comes to doing the right thing it also was probably very good for Alice, long term, as well. Given how instantly vindictive Bob was over OP knowing about his relationship, I can’t believe he would have treated Alice well in the long term. Especially with the move to potentially being her supervisor!

        1. Software Engineer*

          That’s what I was thinking… it’s dubious having someone you’re in a personal relationship with in your chain of command but when you know they tend to be petty and vindictive… you run screaming for the hills

          The fact that Bob was TRYING to get promoted to manage someone he’s having an affair with Should be a huge red flag to the organization that he is not fit to manage

          1. Observer*

            he fact that Bob was TRYING to get promoted to manage someone he’s having an affair with Should be a huge red flag to the organization that he is not fit to manage

            That’s why they moved him into a job that was facing redundancy.

    2. Christmas Carol*

      Everyone seems to be piling on to poor Alice. Is she really all that at fault. If Bob is enough of a “Richard” to treat OP the way he did, how much do you want to bet that he had possibly misused his power to originally harass Alice into a relationship to begin with.

      1. Important Moi*

        There’ s nothing in the letter that says Alice was harassed into a relationship with Bob.
        It’s actually not relevant.

      2. allathian*

        Huh? Everyone seems to be complimenting Alice here, so it’s a positive pile-on.

        There’s no evidence that Bob harassed Alice into a relationship, although if you read the original letter, Alice’d recently had a “nasty breakup of a long-term relationship” and I wouldn’t put it past Bob to take advantage of Alice when she was vulnerable.

      3. FYI*

        Poor Alice!?!? Really? She had an affair with a married man. She has agency in her choices, and lots of vulnerable people don’t cheat to solve their hurt. (Many people would say that only the married person is the cheater, because they’re the one who took vows. I don’t see it that way at all; knowingly sleeping with a married person is cheating.)

        1. Bébé Chat*

          This is such a strange take. She litterally cannot be cheating, she is not engaged to anyone. You think the wife would say that Alice cheated on her? Why blame Alice for Bob’s fault? I don’t think he needed any help to decide to cheat on his wife.

          1. FYI*

            People should not have sex if the other party is married — you think that’s a strange take? It’s none of my business if the person I’m sleeping with is married? Are you serious!?

            1. Via vara*

              It’s a very odd take to blame the person who has made no vows for it, instead of the person who promised monogamy, certainly! And a crappy misogynistic one at that. But it doesn’t surprise me that you would – there are some people who are more comfortable with that than recognising the reality of their cheating spouse being the only one to blame here, sadly. Easier to deflect the fault onto the person you aren’t meant to know intimately and be able to trust absolutely, than accept that your relationship isn’t what you thought it was. It says a lot about a person when they choose that approach!

            2. InsufficientlySubordinate*

              The societal duty to not engage with a married person is much less than the duty of Bob to his wife. There is a long history of blaming the affair partner much more than the spouse. Bob also has a greater duty to the company as a manager to not have affairs with lower level people than they have, especially because the weight of being a manager can put pressure on someone without a direct statement or threat.

              1. Migraine Month*

                Exactly. Alice had an instance of bad judgement when she became involved with a married person and was even kissing them at work. When caught out, she apologized and tried to minimize the fallout. When Bob decided to harass OP, she was brave enough to report him when that could have gotten her in trouble as well.

                Bob (presumably) violated his wedding vows and also had an instance of bad judgement when he kissed someone at work. When caught out, he launched a vindictive campaign of harassment and tried to become the manager of the person he was having an affair with as well as the person he was trying to get fired.

                Between a contrite person who is trying to remedy her mistake and a petty asshole who keeps compounding his mistakes, it’s not hard to see why the commentariat is on Alice’s side.

            3. pancakes*

              Are you under the impression that married people who cheat are always honest about being married with people they see as potential partners, and always honest about the state of their marriage?

            4. mairona*

              OP says in the original letter that Alice had been in a long-term relationship that ended badly before getting involved with Bob so she was likely in an emotionally vulnerable position and not making the best choices. It doesn’t *excuse* her choice to get involved with him, but it does give context as to her mindset. And considering that Bob’s first instinct after getting caught was to bully and impugn the reputation of the OP, and the fact that he apparently manipulated his way into almost managing both Alice and OP, he may have targeted Alice *because* she was emotionally vulnerable.

              As others have pointed out, even if she went into the relationship with eyes wide open, *she* didn’t make the commitment to Bob’s wife, *Bob* did. *Bob* is the one who broke his marriage vows, harassed OP, and manipulated/lied to his bosses. Alice may not be a saint and participating in his affair was not an ethical choice on her part, but Bob is still the real villain of this story.

              I’m not saying we should excuse her entirely, but you’re being extremely and unfairly harsh toward Alice. She seems to regret her decision (which will likely deter her from making a similar choice in the future) and did everything she could to make things right when Bob’s true nature came out. I think that says something positive for Alice’s true nature and indicates that her participation in Bob’s affair was a temporary lapse in judgement.

        2. Batgirl*

          I’m a former betrayed spouse and while I actually agree with you that single people have a (lesser) responsibility to not knowingly hurt others to benefit themselves, no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. After Alice made what was admittedly a very bad one, she behaved as well as possible, and what she did was brave and selfless.

    3. Well...*

      Yes it was nice to see all the women in this story sticking together, righting the ship, and navigating out of this with professionalism (after the initial pretty unprofessional mistake from Alice)

    4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I get the impression Bob might have moved in on Alice precisely because she’d just been through a break-up and was vulnerable at that moment. I mean, if you’re feeling like shit because your guy just upped and left, but then the hunky manager starts showing an interest, it has to help that battered ego.
      But then she saw that he was bullying OP (and maybe Poppy and anyone else who knew about the affair) and that was a terrible turn-off for her.
      Poppy sounds like a great person to work with, doing all she can to protect OP, even suggesting she took some time off when the shit was due to hit the fan.

  6. OP*

    OP here, just wanted to join in and say I’m so grateful to Alice. I really love my job and for a little while there I couldn’t imagine staying. Alice put herself in the line of the fire for me, which given I’ve not worked there for that long says a lot about her I think. Im glad to work with her and Poppy, and our manager who handled things well as soon as she was clued in.

    1. quill*

      I’m glad for you and Alice that this worked out. Alice dodged a bullet by realizing how vindictive Bob was when it came to you knowing about their relationship.

    2. MEH Squared*

      This is a great update, OP. Alice standing up for you speaks well of her, and as for Bob, well, the less said about him the better. Except I’m glad Alice is free of him as well. Your manager did the right thing, too, so props all around (except, again, for Bob. he’s a jerk. Glad he’s out of your hair).

    3. Jora Malli*

      Alice recognized the way her actions and choices were affecting you, so she changed those actions and stepped up to protect you. That’s a good friend right there. I’m glad you have her and Poppy in your corner!

    4. Elle*

      I came to the comments specifically to say it’s nice to see someone screw up but then do what they could to make things right. I’m so sorry you had to deal with any of this at all but glad it worked out OK.
      (And I hope Bob thinks long and hard about the person he wants to be.)

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Absolutely, Alice did the most mature thing possible – accepted and acknowledged that she made the mistake, and then even more importantly she did what she could to then make things right as well.

    5. Pants*

      This was a heck of a way to be baptised into a formal work environment! I’m really glad it worked out how it should and not how it often does. You deserve that and so do Alice and Poppy!

    6. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Sounds like she might have learned a lesson about her romantic choices as well. I hope her next partner is unmarried and doesn’t work with her!

    7. ecnaseener*

      Yes, that was so great of her! Glad it all worked out in the end, but sorry you had to endure Bob’s treatment as long as you did.

    8. Smithy*

      I think your story is also worth flagging how solid your initial instincts and understanding were around Alice even if the situation was confusing. In the original letter the OP stressed how well they had worked with Alice and their take on her as a colleague and interim manager was largely positive.

      While sometimes this can burn us, I do think that very often we have colleagues who aren’t perfect but also aren’t completely vindictive trainwrecks. Figuring out how to balance that specific knowledge with tricky information can be really hard – so just want to applaud the OP for trusting their initial take on what they knew about one of the people in the situation.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yes, excellent points, Smithy. OP, you have acted so mature in this situation, unlike Bob who is acting like a 14-year-old. Alice and Polly, too; kudos to them as well for figuring out the best course of action for their situations. This is one of the best updates I’ve read on AAM, aside from Bob’s idiocy and bullying (sorry you had to go through that, OP). I think we all love a good story that has the bad guy getting what he deserves without the good guys compromising their integrity.

    9. Ally McBeal*

      I bet Alice saw how Bob was treating you and had a real moment of clarity about the man she was having an extramarital (on his end) affair with. Like, she probably knew the affair was a bad idea because it was an affair, but it’s so easy to make excuses for the person you’re infatuated with – and then her eyes were opened to the fact that the affair was a bad idea because Bob was a bad person.

      I am very impressed that she risked her job & reputation to do right by you, and I hope the growth she experienced along the way will help her fix her broken (or at least askew) picker.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I’m convinced that the affair was mostly a matter of Bob making a move because he saw that Alice had just broken up with someone and was vulnerable. Otherwise, it’s probably uncharacteristic of her. She reverted to type by showing loyalty to OP. It seems like she and Bob had discussed the fact that OP caught them snogging, and she’d decided to use honey and he preferred vinegar.
        All in all, a great update, with OP’s job intact and being moved to work with people she appreciates, a villain being unceremoniously ousted and a semi-villain growing into a better person.

        1. pancakes*

          That makes sense, and yes, agreed. It’s also possible Alice just had a longer period to observe his qualities as a person, or lack of, and to come to her senses. Or that he revealed aspects of himself he previously hadn’t. It doesn’t particularly matter, I’m glad it’s sorted out.

  7. CatCat*

    Wow, Bob is a piece of work. Glad he is on his way out of the company. Alice definitely stepped up when Bob started sabotaging OP when Alice could have easily tried to keep it all quiet. It was the right thing for her to do. So happy OP is doing well after this whole debacle!

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      My husband and I were leaning toward flower names when we discovered I was pregnant, but Poppy was already taken (by my cousins Papillon dog who fits the name so perfectly it isn’t funny).
      Alas…I have a son named after a mineral instead and there will be no more offspring from us.

      1. daffodil*

        my brain briefly could not think of a single mineral that would be nice as a human name. Magnesium? Calcite? Then I googled and saw several fantastic options for the real name. Just needed to share that.

        1. Bongofury*

          I was thinking “Selenium? No…is Selenium a mineral?”
          It’s probably something like Micah or Clay which are totally normal boy names but I forgot they existed.

  8. mcfizzle*

    I really hate Bob. Not only cheating on his wife, but harassing and intimidating a completely innocent coworker (a woman, so I’m seeing sexist / misogynistic overtones big time from Bob) over his affair.

    Quite a twist how Alice went to bat for OP. While I don’t admire Alice’s actions with Bob, I have to respect that she gave up the ruse to try to help OP.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yup – Alice made a mistake. But unlike Bob, she recognized and then tried to fix the mistake.

      Bob, well – maybe he will learn something from all of this. At the moment though I’m not very optimistic about that outcome.

      1. Kes*

        Yeah, Alice made some not great choices in having an affair with Bob, but she seems like overall a good person who took some responsibility and owned up to things in order to protect OP and make things right for them.
        Bob… just seems like generally not a great person. Not just having an affair but treating OP terribly because they found out about it, and then trying to take over managing Alice and OP, presumably to continue the affair and force OP out.
        I think Alice, OP and the organization are well rid of Bob.

    2. Robin Ellacott*

      And he wanted to manage Alice, too, which is so clearly a disastrous idea. I wonder if she was pleased about that or not? I sure wouldn’t have been, in her shoes.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Considering that she told her management what was going on after the announcement that Bob would be her manager, I’m betting she wasn’t thrilled. I wonder if seeing how Bob treated the OP put a chill on the relationship and then this was the nail in it’s coffin.

    3. MEH Squared*

      Bob is the absolute worst and chose to make increasingly terrible decisions at every turn.

  9. The Tin Man*

    Alice is a great example of how good people can make bad decisions. Being with Bob was a bad decision but she showed she is a decent person by sticking her neck out to protect OP.

    I’m glad that OP’s judgement of her proved to be correct, and that she is free from Bob.

  10. Nanani*

    This is like getting a soap opera episode from the PoV of a character who isn’t part of the main drama at all.

    Good job staying above water and yay for Poppy!
    I hope you and Alice can recover without too much awkwardness, too.

  11. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    Genuinely impressed with Alice. I’m so glad she stepped up to help you, OP. I’m glad Poppy was there for you, too. And I’m extremely glad that Bob is gone and all three of you are free of him.

  12. Tyler Rowe Price*

    I mean wouldn’t you want to be nice to reward someone for keeping a secret and not push them to feel toxic towards you? I guess the dude is a manager so the twisted logic and knee jerk reaction is par for the course.

  13. Generic Name*

    I’m not an expert by any means, so I have no idea if seeing one instance of making out constitutes sexual harassment, but what Bob was doing sure seems like it is retaliation. Or maybe pre-retaliation, since it doesn’t sound like OP reported what she saw in the beginning. I’m so glad your company did right by you, even if it was bumpy at the beginning.

  14. LifeBeforeCorona*

    After being treated so shabbily by Bob, I would be very tempted to say in front of everyone, “Really Bob, you want to make me mad, knowing what I know?”

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      With that kind of confidence, you’re possibly not on your first ever proper job like OP?

  15. tamarack and fireweed*

    Goodness. I’m usually the voice for speaking up for people who are (responsibly!!) in relationships at work, but srsly. This was handled in a very bumpy and messy way by the organization, but they ended up bumbling in the right direction. Good thing one of the couple involved did the right thing, and Poppy has some leadership skilzz.

  16. Alice isn't bad*

    Let’s not jump to conclusions about Alice. She may have been coerced into an affair. Also, the fact that he was married shouldn’t mean that Alice was the bad one or did something bad. He’s the one who cheated on his wife, not Alice.

    1. Dr. Vibrissae*

      I don’t think there is anything in this or the previous letter to suggest that. The original letter indicates bob and Alice were colleagues at the time the kissing was noted and he later moved to management. Bob strikes me as one of those people who is perfectly nice and even charming to people he judges to be at his level or higher, but whose mask drops for people he sees as ‘below’ him. I’ve found this type of personality can also start to target or pick at people if they perceive that person no longer buys into their ‘great guy’ persona.

      Once he realized OP had caught him in an act that most people would disapprove of (even if nothing was said), he may have begun the bullying as an ego saving tactic (like that recent letter writer who recognized they were unconsciously bullying their coworker).

      Bottom line: suck it, Bob.

      1. Spero*

        I think you have the management roles switched – IIRC Bob had been a manager for a long time, Alice was a temporary manager until a role was permanently filled and was his colleague only during that time, then moved back to Bob’s reporting line.

    2. Raboot*

      Obviously Bob is worse than Alice for a multitude of reasons. But being someone’s affair partner knowningly is not great. Not gonna outcast the Alices of the world, everyone does things that are not morally pure and work is work, but knowingly being an affair partner is definitely “something bad”.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        That’s something I think we can safely leave to the judgement to everyone’s individual ethical compass. In the instance we have no insight into the specifics, and it is exceedingly easy, and common, to present one’s conjugal relationship as virtually over, or claiming that both partners are seeking companionship outside or something to this effect. And if that were actually true I personally would disagree that it’s necessarily bad: humans are complicated. But I also think that this hypothetical would be a case in which good and reasonable people can end up with different judgements. The fidelity to their spouse is 100% on Bob, and 0% on Alice.

        1. Flash Packet*

          Agreed, tamarack.

          I’ve had to back away from friendships with women whose husbands have cheated (are cheating) on them and they blame the Other Woman. (“She *knew* he has a wife and children, and she still chose to sleep with him!!”)

          And, ah, he was certainly hyper-aware of that fact, too, so why are you blaming her and not him?

          He’s the one choosing to break marriage vows, not her.

          If the only thing that would keep him from cheating is a worldwide agreement among all women ever to not become romantically involved with any man who is in a self-proclaimed monogamous relationship. . . then, yeah, the issue is 100% him.

          1. Raboot*

            > why are you blaming her and not him?

            Not a single person in this thread is blaming Alice but not Bob.

            1. Stopgap*

              Flash Packet’s talking about their ex-friends there, not the commenters on this thread.

          2. allathian*

            Yeah, this. That said, I’m married and very monogamous, but even if I were single, if some man said that they have an open relationship and his wife’s fine with him pursuing other women, and I were only looking for a casual fling, I’d definitely want to talk to the wife first before anything except a recognition of mutual interest happened.

            When I was single, I made the mistake of getting involved with a man who was married but separated from his wife. We met online and it was an early internet relationship (late 90s!). We never met in person so it was phone sex and sexting, but I was definitely emotionally involved with him and believed myself to be in love. In the end he reconciled with his wife. After that I decided that I might consider dating divorced men, but not until the decree is final.

        2. Raboot*

          Every question of ethics is ultimately using one’s personal ethics. And I did say I think it’s wrong to *knowingly* participate in an affair. Plus hey, the potential excuses you give really are all potential excuses for Bob as well by that logic, if they were true and not lies. I don’t think Alice is a monster. And she definitely comes out good in the update. But that part was not ideal.

      2. Nanani*

        “Blame the woman” is 100% misogyny.
        Every time.
        Regardless of whether the person doing the blaming is also a woman – misogyny can be internalized.

        The married person is the one who is cheating. That’s not up to any individual moral compass, it’s a fact.

      3. Ellie*

        Maybe she didn’t realise she was the affair partner? If she’d just gone through a messy break-up, she would likely have believed Bob if he’d claimed that he and his wife were in the middle of separating. I know many women who have fallen for that line – new boyfriend is divorced, well it turns out he’s separated, still waiting for the divorce to come through, and oh yeah he spends a lot of time at the house helping with the kids still, etc. Then they find out he’s still living there, but the marriage has really been over for years, they’re just waiting until the school year is finished to tell the kids, etc. Its possible to string people along for years, some people are very trusting.

        At any rate, how free do you think Alice was to end the relationship, once she saw him bullying OP out of her job, and setting himself up to manage her? Would have been a very nasty situation for Alice.

    3. Decidedly Me*

      Alice did do something bad by most people’s standards, but I also don’t see people jumping to conclusions about her. Saying she may have been coerced is hugely jumping to conclusions, though!

      While Alice made a mistake, she really showed a lot better judgement in the aftermath and her treatment of the LW.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        Frankly, her mistake, in the workplace context, has nothing to do with Bob being married, but with him being a tyrannical asshole (and with you know, intimacy in the workplace, and even worse, within the OP’s sights.)

    4. Stopgap*

      Did some anti-Alice comments get deleted? I’m not sure why anyone’s defending Alice when this comment section has been generally positive towards her.

    5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I think it all the more likely that Alice was kind of coerced because OP mentioned in the first letter that she’d just been through a nasty breakup. Making her a prime candidate for an abusive partner: she’s vulnerable, feeling like nobody loves her, will anyone ever want her again. The perfect candidate for being gaslit by an entitled jerk.

  17. PollyQ*

    IANAL, so I don’t know: in the US, would Bob’s treatment of OP be considered sexual harassment? I worry that it wouldn’t have been, since he might have done the same to anyone with the same knowledge, regardless of their gender, and because he wasn’t’ the having the illicit relationship with OP. Regardless, I’m very glad that various people stepped in to deal with his behavior, even if they might not have been legally obligated to.

  18. learnedthehardway*

    I think this may be a classic example of the phrase “hoist on his own petard”. Serves Bob right!!

  19. Mark*

    So a manager had an affair with an employee (seemingly not directly in his chain of command, but closely adjacent). Has a beef with an employee in that adjacent chain of command because of the affair. Then he decides to retaliate by taking on the person he had an affair with and the employee as direct reports? Incredible he wasn’t just fired outright for that.

  20. Talkstosocks*

    Bob should have been the nicest person ever to you to keep you quiet. What a stupid strategy he chose instead. Sometimes I do not understand people.

  21. Observer*

    I suspect that the fact that Poppy had been warning Alice before you walked in on them played a role in Alice’s reaction. Because it probably helped give her clarity that the OP really was not at fault and it could have been anyone who walked in on them. And that if the OP had chosen to gossip, it could have gone very badly for her.

    OP, kudos to you for handling things with a good deal of grace. I’m sorry that you had to endure Bob’s misbehavior. But I am really glad that you are out from under him. And I suspect that he could have a bit of a hard time with a reference from you company…

  22. TiredMama*

    Three cheers for Poppy and, I’m surprised to say this, three cheers for Alice. I could very easily see Alice join with Bob to make you miserable but instead tried to get him to back off and outed it all when he would not.

  23. Carpe Librarium*

    Alison, would you consider creating a category/ tag for updates where someone did the right thing even though it was difficult and things worked out for the best?
    I’m thinking of this update, the person who racked up massive debt on the corporate card, and so on.
    Not sure if there’s enough updates yet to justify it, but perhaps in the future.

  24. Squidlet*

    OP, I’ve worked in an office environment (mostly corporate) for 30 years, and I wouldn’t have been sure what to do either! I have no experience of walking in on a situation like this (phew) and I think you handled it well. Bob sounds like a creep and I’m glad he’s out of your hair.

  25. Trixie the Great and Pedantic*

    I’m really starting to wonder how willing a participant Alice was in her relationship with Bob, and I’m glad she’s out of it.

  26. Elizabeth West*

    Alice made a mistake (it happens), but Bob is an ass. Buh-bye!

    I’m glad this turned out for the best for both of you, OP.

  27. Brain the Brian*

    OP2: I have a colleague whose spouse works in a different sub-field of the same overarching area as my company. The two of them often coordinate work trips to locations where both our organizations work, and they have management buy-in from both of their companies to split travel and lodging costs for those trips 50/50 between the companies. Perhaps that’s an option — and one that could make it more attractive, since you’ll presumably be splitting only one hotel room between the two of you.

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