an affair is causing drama on my team

A reader writes:

I manage “Michael,” who is married to “Amy.” Amy is having an affair with “Jake.” Jake is single. All three of them work here. When Michael found out about the affair, he left Amy and filed for divorce and did not hide the reason why he left. He refuses to see or speak to Amy now. He didn’t know Jake before the affair but is keeping away from him also. The divorce is not an amicable one.

News of the affair has spread everywhere. Everyone feels sorry for Michael, and Amy and Jake are being ignored and treated coldly by everyone who works here over the affair. Michael isn’t feeding the gossip but will thank people if they tell him he is right or they feel badly for him.

All everyone here can talk about is the affair, how horrible Amy and Jake are, and how sad it is for Michael. I feel badly for Michael too but I don’t know how to get people to stop talking about the affair and gossiping instead of working. I thought things would die down but it has been months and people are still talking like it is new. How do I get it to stop when it is so rampant?

I answer this question — and two others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • My employee is annoyed by a chatty colleague, but doesn’t want me to intervene
  • Can I ask a why a resume is so bad?

{ 146 comments… read them below }

    1. Generic Name*

      I nearly did a spit take at that line. I mean, yeah it’s not amicable. As my teenager would say, “no dip!”

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Well as someone who started their career as a teacher (before transitioning into a different career), I have seen amicable divorces. But the people in those amicable divorces had decided that the marriage was over, let’s not drag this out longer than we have to. Basically – they both acted like mature adults.

        But when one party decides to turn everything into a fight……

        1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

          Yeah, but this was a cheating situation. While those can still be somewhat amicable once the initial sting wears off, they are less commonly so. Especially in the first few months.

      2. Deejay*

        Or as the joke goes where Benedict Cumberbatch’s character asks Martin Freeman’s how well his blog about their adventures is doing.

        “No hits, Sherlock”

  1. KHB*

    Q2: Is it possible that Jane is trying to ask for permission to work in a more private space (e.g., from home, or in your private office, if you have one) on days when you’re not there?

    If that’s not it, then I’d flat-out ask Jane what she wants you to do, if telling Bob to knock it off is off the table. It’s not like you have magic telekinetic powers to make Bob do what you want without talking to him.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      Yep. And if Jane doesn’t have a solution, then OP is perfectly in the right to tell Jane that in that case, she needs to stop bringing the complaint to you, but if in the future she does want your help in addressing it, she’s welcome to broach the topic again.

    2. Melly*

      When I read that she didn’t want OP to speak to Bob, my first concern was whether she had spoken up in the past and Bob reacted badly: giving her silent treatment, being passive-aggressive, etc. I think OP has to find out *why* Jane is reluctant to speak with Bob. More may go on in that office when OP is away than OP knows, and Jane may have been forced to decide Bob being a motormouth is the lesser of two evils.

  2. Rage*

    Re: the “rough resume” – while I was between jobs, of course, I had unemployment and I had to go through some absolutely ridiculous hoops through our local Workforce Development Center. I had already my resume redone through a professional job coach, but one of the requirements of the WDC was that I had to let THEM re-do my resume.

    They showed me a sample. I went ballistic. It was HORRIBLE. No way were they touching my beautiful resume. I told them that I had mine professionally done and they were NOT touching it, I don’t care what your requirements are. My case manager looked at it and agreed it looked fine and that I did not need to have it redone. Which is good because I got compliments from many an HR person on my resume format/layout. (But they still made me sit through the most God-awful class on how to write a resume. 20 year professional here and they were like “think about your last summer job, what skills did you learn that you can bring to a new job?” and also “you are required to have this certification to apply for jobs at [big industry in town].” OK, what’s the certification? I have to prove I can COUNT? WTF unemployment.)

    Anyway, it’s possible the “rough resume” was actually a requirement of the unemployment whatever-department and she wasn’t able to get around their BS.

    1. Butters*

      I managed to get out of the unemployment job seeking classes by mentioning I was a skilled professional and a basic resume writing class wouldn’t be of help. They wanted me to spend hours in a classroom learning super basic stuff about job hunting and to help me apply for jobs. Thankfully they were really reasonable and agreed I didn’t need any assistance.

      1. AnotherOne*

        When I was on unemployment- it was an either-or set up. You had to do so many job hunting activities a week- so they could be “went to resume writing class” or it could be “applied to job at ABC Farm & Market Stall.”

        I liked that it acknowledged that depending on where you were in your career, you needed different support.

        The only thing EVERYONE had to do was go to some ‘so you’re unemployed’ class. I remember nothing about it.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      The one time I dealt with a similar outfit was about thirteen years ago. I was an experienced paralegal looking for paralegal work. My observation of the agency was that they were set up for a certain sort of client, and anything else was pretty much outside their worldview. Fortunately, this was not a requirement to draw unemployment, so I just didn’t go back.

      1. Rage*

        Yes, ours is/was definitely set up for people early on in their career, but it didn’t matter, if we did not attend the classes, complete their (pointless) certifications courses, AND send our list of applications/interviews each week, we would forfeit our unemployment. Somewhere I think I still have the certificate that shows I passed their “math calculation” course (AKA “remedial geometry”).

        Of course, COVID meant that a lot of people forfeited their unemployment for simply being…unemployed during a pandemic in a state with a REALLLLLY out of date system. Yup, yup.

      2. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

        Yes, this. I’m an animal care specialist, as I like to call it: I do vet assisting (which can range from pure reception, to kennel tech (a career by itself!) to an unholy Mashup between cna, x-ray tech, and pharmacy tech… a long lost of skills that don’t ordinarily go together AT ALL). There aren’t many who can explain my weirdass skill set who isn’t also one. I promise you, most can’t even figure out what to look for! They’ll point me at vet tech roles, which NOPE, that’s not it, though I have some of those skills too. I’m just like leave it alone, yall.

    3. Petty Betty*

      I am so glad I was unemployed during the pandemic. All of the classes that I would have been required to take were cancelled/closed. Thank goodness. Everyone on unemployment around here is required to take basic typing courses (I type 100wpm), 10-key, computer basics, etc. Like you, I’m a 20+ year professional. I haven’t been unemployed in 18 years. My state hasn’t caught up to the idea of paying mid-level professionals their worth, so it did take me a little bit to find a new job once I started earnestly looking (I took much-needed time off for medical), but 6 weeks wasn’t bad by any means.

    4. A Simple Narwhal*

      Oof I remember those awful classes you’re required to take for unemployment. They’re so unhelpful to most people, they essentially boil down to “hey, you should have a resume!” and “did you know you can apply for jobs online?” that the few times I had to take them I just turned my brain off and waited for them to end.

      I’m sure the classes are helpful to some people, but there should be some opt-out option. (Caveat: I have been very fortunate to not be on unemployment in quite some time, so things may definitely have changed, especially with COVID.)

    5. Fluffy Fish*

      Government programs designed to help people are often really really infantilizing. As a govie, it’s something I try to advocate against.

      Reaction can often be summed up as – They’re not stupid, they’re just (poor, unemployed, ESL, etc).

      1. pancakes*

        The last time I had to go to one of those classes for unemployment (maybe two, 2.5 years ago? pandemic time is a blur), in NYC, I was pleasantly surprised. It was more than decent, and not slow-paced or too basic to bother paying attention to. Maybe they put some effort into assigning people to different classes, idk. We had a couple good discussions in q&a, though I don’t remember the details.

    6. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      OMG the unemployment classes!!! 3 years ago I was on unemployment. There was one class we had to take. It was so basic I had learned all of this in school years ago. We also had to work on our resume and then come back and have a one on one session with one of the trainers to go over the resume. I had my resume and the trainer in the class complimented me on it. Found a few nitpicky things. But she said that I didnt need to have a summary or have my address as that is outdated. So I “updated” my resume and made the appointment for the 1 0n 1. It was a different person and she told me that I HAD to have a summary and HAD to have my address. Everything that the 1st person told me had to go.

      I just sat there in disbelief. There were so many times where some of the people treat you like you are an idot. It’s like they think people who lose their job and have to go on unemployment have no education and don’t know what we are doing. That they are some how at fault. I remember someone telling me HOW TO USE THE COMPUTER to do a job search. I’m an older millennial. I grew up using computers. I also did basic IT stuff in my last 2 jobs. I know how to turn on a computer and open Chrome.

      1. All Het Up About It*

        I know I had to go to some unemployment trainings.
        The only one I remember was the one where we sat in a room staring at a blank wall for approximately 45 minutes while the “trainer” sat in her office stamping our forms that we attended. She came back, passed them out and we left. The most ridiculous waste of time ever.

        They also once made me drive out to the office (which by the way was not in anyway convenient because our rather large city only has two locations) to “show me how to job search” and sent me away with recommended jobs tangentially related office admin type roles, instead of something related to my specialized master’s degree at the time. Think you have a Master’s in social work and they recommend you apply for receptionist position at a mental health clinic.

        The inefficient bureaucracy drove me MAD.

        1. Evil Employment Trainers*

          When I had a Master’s in communications, I was temporarily in a receptionist position at a public relations firm. Someone from the government employment office came to visit the company owner. We were chatting and I mentioned having a Master’s and wanting to move on from being a receptionist. I had previously worked in a senior PR position in a major city (this was a smaller city with fewer career options). She made an evil smile and said “I think you make a fine receptionist.”

        2. MAC*

          I was unemployed due to a layoff a few years ago. My local workforce solutions or whatever it was called not only sent me job listings for THE COMPANY THAT LET ME GO, but also for things I was not even in the ballpark qualified for simply because they postings had the word communications in them. An example would be if I was a television reporter and they sent me a listing for a Ph.D research job in biomedical science because one bullet said “must be able to communicate research theories at scientific conferences “ or something equally unrelated to my skills/knowledge.

      2. Ariaflame*

        Mind you, making assumptions about that can be tricky. I know of a situation where people were entering a degree in IT who did not know how to turn a computer on.

      3. AnonToday*

        That is exactly what happened to me at the Voc Rehab program for Disabled people looking for work. I met with a different person every week who disagreed with the previous person’s resume style and all their job hunting advice was for stuff like grocery clerk when I had just graduated with a master’s degree in biology.

    7. Raboot*

      From OP: “There’s Random capitalization Like This throughOut. She misspelled the name of the city we live in.”

      This doesn’t sound like a requirement from an unemployment department.

      1. PollyQ*

        Yup. A poor layout or odd choices of focus could be due to bad advice, but this sounds like problems with basic English language skills.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          One Of My Friends Writes Like This And It Is Quite Distracting. Literally, Every Word is Capitalized No Matter What Medium He Uses. Facebook, Email, Text, You Name It. He’s A College Grad And Writes Like He Paid Attention In High School Composition Class.

          No One Knows Why He Does This. Maybe We Should Ask Him.

          1. kupo!*

            oh i lovve wwhen people wwill type like homestuck characters for absolutely no discernable reason

          2. pancakes*

            Presumably it’s a setting on his phone or in whatever app he’s using that he doesn’t know how to adjust. If the guy’s a friend it seems fairly low-stakes to privately ask him one day if he knows his messages come through with each word capitalized?

    8. ScruffyInternHerder*

      My stint with our state’s version was ridiculous.

      They left my resume alone, but did note that I have a bachelor of science from an accredited college of architecture. (Legally at this point in my career, I may NOT call myself an architect, as I have not completed the licensing requirements to do so. Put a pin in this.)

      So I have a government bee “helping/supervising” my first computer job search. I am ignoring several jobs that have the title of Architect in them. She tuts and tells me to go back, I missed a bunch. There is one position for a Senior Architect, must be licensed and registered, AND requested experience is greater in years than I am old at this point. I explain all of this, but she still wants me to apply or she will not sign off. Then there are nine varying positions of “network/IT architect”. I am uniquely UNqualified for these positions, yet she still won’t sign off on my benefits for the first week unless I apply for these as well.

      So to those companies, huge apologies. I honestly considered cover letters with the caveat of “You know what? I’m applying only because my unemployment benefits are being held virtual hostage, I don’t have any of the qualifications and did attempt to explain this to no avail, please just toss this resume and letter, thank you for opening this.”

  3. kiwidg1*

    LOL – I read the headline as “MY affair is causing drama on my team…”

    And my first thought was “well, duh!”.


    1. Fluffy Fish*

      “The fact that you have refused to do that for months means you really need to step down as manager. ”

      That’s harsh and unfair. This isn’t a typical situation and lots of managers would not know how to handle it. Managers don’t magically know everything. Its a role you grown and develop in just like any other.

      OP took the tactic of assuming the gossip would die down on its own – that’s not unreasonable. It hasn’t and they’re asking for advise on how to best proceed.

      Your first example is completely out of bounds. Lecturing an employee for being married to another employee is absolutely NOT a managers place. Nor is it helpful.

      Rarely is being heavy handed and “sacking” people if they don’t immediately fix something a good management technique.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        Not to mention coming down heavy handed specifically to protect the couple having an affair in the office. They’re literally the only ones he doesn’t threaten with “sanctions”

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          Factual. No mention of lecturing them on being old enough to know not to have an relationship when you work with someone.

    2. Zap R.*

      This seems very judgmental and you’re making a lot of assumptions about both Michael’s personal life and OP’s competence as a manager.

    3. Kevin Sours*

      So we need to call the husband on the carpet for “getting into a relationship” at work with his wife, but apologize to the two people who got into a relationship at work when one of them is married to somebody else?

      Your position here doesn’t make the least bit of sense.

    4. JB*

      I generally agree with you, however the OP said that Michael isn’t feeding the gossip in this situation. At most, if someone mentions it to him he thanks them (which I interpreted to be one of those innocuous “I appreciate that” type statements if someone says they’re sorry about what’s happening). What you suggest sounds really punitive toward Michael for no reason other than his wife cheated on him.

      The way I read it sounds more like other people are perpetuating the gossip. I’d probably recommend the OP start with people who work closely with everyone involved and use language like what Alison suggested in the Inc article.

    5. cmcinnyc*

      For someone who thinks they know all about management, you’ve missed the fact that Amy and Jake don’t report to this manager, so how she’s to “call them in” and apply “sanctions” is… yeah, no. This whole comment is silly. Beatings will continue until morale improves!

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        Oh no no – its fine because Amy and Jake get apologies not sanctions/s

        “Beatings will continue until morale improves!”

        Indeed, internet friend, indeed.

    6. LinuxSystemsGuy*

      You’re seriously gonna call the man into your office and say “It really sucks that your wife cheated on you, but if you don’t stop saying “thank you” when people commiserate we’re going to have to fire you”. OP specifically says he’s not instigating, he’s just responding like any normal human would when offered sympathy.

      What’s he supposed to do exactly? Stare like a surprised lizard? Tell them to take their sympathy and shove it? Quickly and awkwardly change the subject to sports? You say OP is a bad manager when you want to discipline someone for the crime of being betrayed and then gracious about support?

      Or is this because he’s not speaking to Amy or Jake? It sounds like he didn’t even know Jake, so he probably never spoke to him anyway. If he needs to interact with Amy professionally, I’d agree that’s a problem. It’s fine to politely tell him that he can be as coldly professional as needed, but he has to get the TPS reports to Amy by COB on Friday.

      Overall this situation just sucks. It sounds like there’s plenty of blame to go around (including some for the OP for not addressing it earlier), but it sounds like Michael deserves the least amount of, and certainly doesn’t need to have his job threatened on top of everything else.

      1. Slightly Above Average Bear*

        Co- worker, “Michael, so sorry to hear about you and Amy”
        Michael, “How about those sports ball guys?!” (Licks eyeball like a chameleon)

    7. merida*

      As a few others have said, this just seems… harsh and sideways, Etti. Michael hasn’t actually done wrong anything in this situation other than not actively shut down the gossip, but OP said he’s not actively feeding into it either. I’m curious why you think Amy and Jake deserve an apology when they, just like Michael, knew what they were getting into when they started in inter-office romance, and an inter-office affair at that. Certainly people need to start getting work done rather than chat for months about the affair, but I’m sure Amy and Jake didn’t truly expect a warm reception when word of their affair came out at the office.

    8. Murphey*

      Hey, my husband works for the same agency I do. He originally worked for a different agency, but his merged with mine, and for a while we were seated down the hall from one another. My age and maturity level had nothing to do with us working for the same employer. Would you have me resign because I am old enough to know better?
      You need to seriously rethink your assumptions.

    9. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      As others have noted your response is really harsh and I would add off base.

      Michael didn’t “get into a relationship when you work with someone.” They were married. For all we know Michael and Amy were married before they started working here. And as long as it’s not against company policy or one person is not the boss of the other having a relationship with someone at the same company is not something the manager should get into.

      What are the “sanctions” you want the OP to take? Firing? For What exactly? For Michale having to have a divorce? For him to thank people who come up to him? I think it’s more likely that Michael doesn’t know what to say about this when everyone keeps bringing it up so he just thanks them. He hasn’t been spreading any gossip as far as the OP says.

      You say that the OP should bring Amy and Jake in to talk and to apologize. Why? Becasue people on the OP’s team are taking Michaels’s side? That is not the OP’s place. I don’t believe the OP is their manager. They say in the letter they manage Michael. That Amy and Jake also work there, and that Jake and Michael didn’t know each other before. This sounds like a big company and I could see some problems arising if a manager from another team asks to speak to my employees about the gossip that that team is doing.

      Are Amy and Jake in the wrong morally, yes. Have they done anything wrong work-wise, that’s sketchy. If Jake or Amy are each others superior or if they were having sex at the job then yes they are in the wrong. If they are spreading gossip or refusing to work with Michael or anyone who sided with him then yes they are in the wrong. But from everything we know they haven’t said anything.

      The only thing I agree with is that those people who are gossiping about this needs to be talked to. I would add that anyone who is freezing out Amy and Jake needs to be talked to and that they need to treat them professionally.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        And honestly the gossiping is also putting Michael in an awkward place as well. Because it keeps the story circulating, and forces him to continue to have to respond to comments about the affair and divorce – which I’m betting Michael isn’t wanting to keep doing at work.

        The first thing to do is to start aggressively shutting down the gossip.

  4. Person from the Resume*

    I am curious too … what’s the reason for random capitalization?

    I agree, though, the recruiter needs to explain why you should ignore the terrible resume before you interview the applicant. There are limited jobs that can accommodate zero attention to detail like claiming 8 years experience but only documenting 4 and not noticing random capital letters in a document. This on a one page document that should have zero errors.

    1. Antilles*

      If it was ONLY the random capitalization, I would wonder if it was a quirk of the resume uploading system. I’ve definitely encountered situations where my very nice resume gets mangled into a mess when the text parser ignores line breaks or helpfully decides to auto-correct typos that actually aren’t (think “CPA” getting changed to cap) or so forth. Of course, a candidate probably should re-check after the upload to make sure it came through okay, but I could see that being an innocent mistake.
      But when there’s also a misspelled city and the experience not lining up and etc, yeah, that’s definitely a warning sign that I’d probe into before bringing them in for an interview.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      Maybe it’s a secret message, like if you string all the capitals together it says LEADERSHIP or something lol

    3. Rain's Small Hands*

      We have a guy who contracts through us whose resume isn’t great – we clean it up to get rid of the random errors, but its still sort of odd. He is neurodivergent as all get out and one of the best developers I have worked with, and my partner (who does recruitment and placement) sells him in with “he is a strange bird…but very good at what he does” and gives references to past clients he has worked for who all say the same “yeah, I had my doubts, but I wish I had five Toms.” When he wants to work (he’s been in hiding since Covid broke) we can place him, but we do need to get over the resume/interview hump unless we just place him with people who know him – often its other developers that he has worked with in the past that sell him in.

      And he isn’t the only developer who is really great who has a bad resume and interviews poorly that we work with, just the one the comes to mind as the biggest of the “bad resume/poor interview” bunch. They write good code without the errors – those things aren’t IMPORTANT on a resume to them and people skills aren’t their strong point.

    4. merida*

      Same, so curious!

      I’m trying (very hard) to give the applicant the benefit of the doubt and the only thing I can think of so far is that maybe something like dyslexia is at play. I have a friend who has dyslexia and I have edited her resume for her in the past and also edited all of her papers in college. It was so surprising to me because I’d see how hard and long she’d spend on things (we were roommates for years) and see the finished product and… it looked so rough and sloppy! There was lots of random capitalization and simple misspellings, as well as really confusing wording. And this was after she self-edited, too. (I later learned the dyslexia was compounded with English teachers in grade school who had passed her with a D and handed her off to the next teacher rather than sit with her and explain things because her papers were considered too overwhelming for teachers to grade.)

      If I didn’t know her, I’d have thought hers was the resume of someone who didn’t care and didn’t try, but it wasn’t. The difference there was that she’d pass her papers and resume along to me for edits not realizing how rough it was… she wouldn’t recognize the typos/issues when she read through on her own (dyslexia does that). So it’s interesting that the candidate in OP’s case acknowledged that it was rough. Barring dyslexia or a computer tragedy (the applicant’s computer ate their only copy of their resume minutes before the application deadline and they had to start over from scratch) … yeah, this is a red flag. Resume formatting is not everyone’s strength, but with how many good examples exist online these days, learning how is easier than it ever has been.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        > So it’s interesting that the candidate in OP’s case acknowledged that it was rough.

        No, it was the recruiter who used that language, not the candidate. LW hasn’t met the candidate yet.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        One of my housemates has dysgraphia – he randomly capitalizes words in everything he writes, and misspells words at random. It’s a learning disability, not a sign of incompetence. He constantly gets flak for it. Because of it he doesn’t write much, which is too bad because he’s very creative and can tell a good story.

      3. tamarack and fireweed*

        A good illustration why we should be careful with words like sloppy and lazy and careless when judging from the final product, unless we understand the entire process and the attitudes involved.

        I’d stick to factual description (about capitalization, layout), and focus on what the requirements are. If authoring external communication is part of the job in question I think it’s totally ok to ask the recruiter for an explanation, and tell the applicant “the resume we received was in a rough shape – I’d like to give you [ X time] to revise it and submit a version that’s up to standards”. If not, and they come highly recommended from a trustworthy source, I might *still* ask what’s what, but totally would them a chance. Oddball candidates are a valuable resource to me.

    5. MrsPitts*

      My first guess is a disability that the candidate wouldn’t disclose at this stage of the game. I teach high school and I will occasionally see something like this from a high achieving, AP level student. Like they excel in almost every aspect from critical thinking and interpersonal skills, but have poor spelling and can’t even “see” misspellings. It makes grading a fun game of “what did Student mean here?”

    6. tamarack and fireweed*

      Other than the reasons already given, sometimes when you convert a PDF to something like Word, or copy/paste the text, font choices and subtle graphical elements (ligatures, certain space sizes, dashes vs hyphens vs minus sign etc) can get very badly mangled. For example if the PDF has the word “effect” with an FF ligature, sometimes I’ve seen it omitted “e ect” or translated into something with spaces “e f f ect” or even into uppercase “eFFect”.

      In any event, it’s not much good judging and speculating, but to inquire further while keeping an open mind, especially if the function doesn’t require external written communications.

  5. Michelle Smith*

    I’m so surprised neither Jake nor Amy has left the office after months of being iced out by their colleagues. No excuses for affairs from me, but I think if I were in either of their shoes, the hostility of the work environment would have had me running for the hills.

    1. anonymous73*

      I too believe there is never an excuse for having an affair, but there is also no excuse for treating Jake and Amy poorly at work. You will always have people at work that you don’t like, or can’t respect based on their actions outside of the office, but you still need to treat them respectful within the office. You don’t have to be overly friendly, but you do have to be civil and respectful. Ignoring them and treating them coldly is what children do before they have the emotional maturity to find their words. My husband’s first wife cheated on him. I have zero respect for her and while we are “friendly” for the sake of my stepson, we will never be friends. But that’s what it means to be an adult.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yeah I have one coworker I absolutely can’t stand because of how she manages her staff but I have raised my concerns over her head and at this point all I can do is smile politely and get through conversations with her as quickly as possible. I hate it. But we do what we have to do.

    2. After 33 years ...*

      Economic necessity for two salaries for two people?
      Determination to stick things out, regardless of obstacles?
      Defensiveness, we two against the world?

    3. Fluffy Fish*

      I don’t find it surprising.

      It’s difficult for most people to just up and quit. Most of us don’t have a trust or savings of months of expenses we’re happy to dip into while job searching. One of them is going through a very expensive divorce. Not a great time to change jobs.

      I would be very surprised if they weren’t looking for new jobs but that can be a long road.

      Or alternately they rightly don’t think they should have to get a new job because their colleagues shouldn’t be acting like middle schoolers.

      1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

        Yeah, but there’s jobs out there right now. It’s been months. It seems like one or both of them could have found something new by now. Quite possibly with a raise and/or bonus attached. No one’s saying they should quit on the spot because people are mean, but it feels like neither of them is even looking given the timeframe and relatively hot market.

        “Or alternately they rightly don’t think they should have to get a new job because their colleagues shouldn’t be acting like middle schoolers.”

        Sure, but their colleagues *are* acting like middle schoolers. And it doesn’t seem to be getting better.

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          Lots of jobs is relative. Depends on your field, and your area. Again this idea that people seem to have that you can just *poof* get a new job isn’t reality for a lot of people.

          For example, I live in the DMV. TONS of jobs. But not for me. I could get into contract work, but I don’t want to leave government. Some government jobs in my field – but all in the past year would have been demotions. I don’t want to relocate. So that leaves me with no current opportunities.

          Yes while their colleagues are acting childish my point was more that feeling in the right is a strong enough reason for some people to stay put.

          I have no idea what Amy and Jake are doing, what their motivations are and I don’t really care. Just offering some reasons why someone would stay put in a situation someone else wouldn’t.

        2. Xantar*

          This is a reprint of an old letter. There are jobs now, but we don’t know what the economy was like at the time of the original letter.

          1. Seeking second childhood*

            Obviously I should have read a little farther along the chain before answering!

        3. Seeking second childhood*

          It’s an old letter. If this was written during an economic downturn, job hunts could take a year or more.

      2. Temperance*

        I’m not sure if they “rightly” get to make that call considering they’re the ones who decided to carry on an affair at the office where the actual spouse also worked. You can’t make a series of choices that are super drama-riffic and unethical and be shocked when people dislike you for those bad choices.

  6. kiki*

    Rough Resume: How much stake you put in the resume really depends on the field. I am a person who is good at resumes and that sort of thing. I work in tech and have helped a lot of friends with their resumes over the years and that made me realize how much I took for granted that resume-writing is a skill that does not necessarily correlate with work performance, especially in a technical job like software development.

    I actually helped an ex boyfriend with his resume once. He’s a ridiculously talented front-end developer and creates gorgeous websites, but the resume he had created for himself… WTF? The formatting, the word choice, the descriptions of what he did… all just bananas. But when he talked more about his background, it all started to make sense. He never really had to use Word beyond its most basic capabilities for paper-writing in high school. He codes all day and occasionally writes emails and Slack messages. He’s never needed to format a document or create a power point. He jots down his thoughts and then product managers take them and reformat them and make them comprehensible. His life is entirely arranged to maximize his coding time. This skill that I take for granted because it had been such a big part of my professional life historically, just never comes up for him. He’s ridiculously good at his job, so it’d be a mistake for anyone not to hire him, but yeah, his resume was remarkably bad.

  7. Velawciraptor*

    I’m sorry that Michael is going through this, but he needs to be spoken to about his professionalism. If doing his job requires interacting with Amy or Jake, he can’t just refuse to see or speak to them. Perhaps his manager can arrange things to keep those interactions as minimal as possible, but colleagues aren’t allowed just to freeze one another out. Being cheated on isn’t a justification for creating a hostile work environment.

    OP obviously made a mistake for not tamping down on the gossip and poor behavior right away, but it needs to happen now. No matter who is engaging in bad behavior, professional expectations need to be laid out and enforced. This nonsense has been allowed to fester for too long.

    1. Mid*

      It doesn’t sound like Michael is really causing any work issues. Since he didn’t know Jake, he clearly doesn’t work with him, and LW didn’t mention that his refusal to talk to Amy was causing issues. It sounds like the rest of the office is behaving unprofessionally and making things weird, unless Michael is doing more behind the scenes than LW knows.

      1. kiki*

        Yeah, given the circumstance, I think Michael sounds like he’s handling this as well as one could realistically expect. I’d want to know more about how closely Michael historically worked with Amy, but for the near future it’s likely for the best to not have them interact. Sure, it’d be ideal if Michael were able to interact very normally with Amy and if he were telling all his coworkers “Oh, no hard feelings! Amy’s still great!” but that’s not realistic.

        It sounds like the rest of of the office is really causing the bulk of the disruption. I think Alison’s advice is spot-on.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Honestly it feels like Michael may want nothing more than to concentrate on work at work – and the rest of the team he’s on has decided to think they need to protect Michael from evil Amy and Jake. If there is still drama after OP stomps on the gossip and puts it to an end, then you can investigate what that cause is.

    2. anonymous73*

      100% The other employees need to be spoken to as well. OP has let this go on for far too long expecting it to go away on it’s own. They are all being unprofessional.

      1. soontoberetired*


        I work where this has been a not uncommon thing, and those who have tried to take sides y getting one of the affair partners in trouble have been quietly told to mind their own business. People’s personal lives are just that.

    3. JB*

      Where are people reading that Michael is the one causing issues, because I’m starting to feel like I read a completely different submission. The OP says that Michael is not the one perpetuating the gossip, other people are. It also sounds like Michael and Jake don’t work together closely (OP says that they didn’t know one another before the affair. If they worked closely together, I assume they would have known one another). In that situation, I think Michael avoiding interaction altogether is actually the professional thing to do. I think the bottom line is that the OP needs to address this with whoever the offenders are who are perpetuating the situation.

      1. The Original K.*

        Yeah, I agree. Michael is the wronged party, and even setting that aside, it doesn’t sound like Michael is starting drama. He doesn’t speak to either of them (understandable) and he doesn’t talk about it unless someone says something to him and even then, it sounds like he keeps his comments to a minimum. What else is he supposed to do? He’s in a terrible situation that is not of his own making. His coworkers are all up in his very personal business; they’re the ones misbehaving.

      2. Velawciraptor*

        In the first paragraph, it says that “He refuses to see or speak to Amy now.”

        If they need to see or speak for work, that’s a problem that needs to be addressed. Same to the extent, if any, that this is happening with Jake.

        The rest of the office is obviously a problem that needs to be addressed, but that response does need to include Michael to the extent that he’s freezing those two co-workers out. I’m not saying they need to hang out or get coffee together. But to the extent they are in a workplace together and occasionally have to interact, those interactions need to be professional and not characterized by the silent treatment.

    4. Joielle*

      Obligatory reminder – that’s not what “hostile work environment” means. Having had an affair is not a protected class.

      And yeah, I agree with everyone responding here that it doesn’t sound like Michael is the one causing a problem (unless he really does need to interact with Amy for work purposes, in which case, the OP should just address that). Everyone who won’t let it go months later is the problem.

      1. PollyQ*

        If you squint and turn your head sideways, it might be considered sexual harassment. Take the marriage & cheating out of the equation, and it looks like an employee treating another badly because she broke up with him. I’m pretty sympathetic to Michael, though, and agree that unless he and Amy need to work together, then he shouldn’t be expected to interact with her.

        1. Temperance*

          She didn’t “break up with him”, though. He ended their relationship because she chose to step out on him. It’s not a hostile work environment under the legal term of art.

  8. calvin blick*

    As a former English major, the Random Capitalization phemonenon drives me crazy. As far as I can tell, the idea that things that are Significant should be capitalized, as well as stuff that kind of relates to proper nouns (his Work). It also seems to make otherwise mundane documents more Formal and Important.

    Drives me Crazy!

    1. Miss Fisher*

      I used to know a full grown adult who would do that. It wasn’t just social media either. aNd TO mE, iT WoULd seEM to TaKE MoRe TiME tO TyPE LiKE ThiS THan To type it our normally. I don’t get it.

      1. Mid*

        TyPiNg LiKe ThIs is usually done to denote sarcasm or mocking, while Capitalizing Certain Things is to denote importance or emphasis, but neither are meant for professional settings. Those are more internet speak, akin to lol or ~(-_-)~.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I absolutely love the linguistic idiosyncracies that develop on the internet. But yes, it’s important to know what’s appropriate in different settings.

        2. Dark Macadamia*

          SaRcASm is a more recent meaning, back when I was a teen it just made you ~*QuiRkY*~

        3. Elenna*

          The only time I’ve encountered the “capitalizing the start of certain words” thing (as opposed to TypINg LiKE tHiS, which I agree is generally denoting sarcasm) was in a Lord of the Rings fanfiction which was meant to be a book by an older hobbit matron about good manners in hobbit society. The fanfic capitalized certain Important Words for Emphasis, in order to Demonstrate that the Fictional Writer was Old-Fashioned and wanted to be Proper.
          I thought it worked pretty well in the fanfic to give the impression of a Certain Writing Style, but definitely not for use on a resume!

        4. Esmeralda*

          Or 17th century and before.

          Check out the grammarphobia blog for a quick historical overview (search grammarphobia capital letters)

        5. NA*

          I had a partner who was bi-polar and when he was going through a manic episode He Would Capitalize Every Word Of Every Message. It was the number 1 giveaway we were headed towards some chaos.

          1. Snarktini*

            That’s so interesting! I know someone who does this and I’ve been mystified by it.

    2. fullaboti*

      I’m guilty of doing random capitalization in my mid to late 20s. I’m not sure where I picked it up, but I thought it was a good way to emphasize certain words. Then I took a class in graduate school where the professor would do the same thing. Looking at his emails and online postings I realized how annoying the random capitalization was and stopped. I now do it very rarely and only in text messages to my husband or best friend, never in a work context.

      1. Seeking second childhood*

        My phone is doing random capitalization in speech to text these days. But the letter is older than that.

    3. Essess*

      Just to point out, in German all nouns are capitalized. Since the English language loves to steal linguistics from the rest of the world, I can see that slowly bleeding into English communications.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        It was common practice in English to capitalize all nouns a few hundred years ago, and that evolved into just capitalizing proper nouns. I don’t know much about linguistics, but this might be related to English’s Germanic roots as a language.

        The US Constitution is a good example of a document in English with capitalized nouns.

      2. tamarack and fireweed*

        What I see much more commonly in business communications is capitalization of words that have a special meaning in that particular business context – almost as if they were proper nouns, but they aren’t really. Like “The Customer signs off on a Statement of Work (SOW) by submitting the Change Request Contest form via the URL provided in the SOW. Customers need to sign into the Support Portal using their username and password. Password change requests can be made with a Customer Support Agent via the Support Portal.”

        That is, there are standardized special nouns that are capitalized, and common nouns that are just used via their normal English sense, which are not. The capitalized ones refer to, say, the specific support portal the company is running, and there are employees that have Customer Support Agent as either their job title or functional description.

        I hated it at first, but at my former employer we were using pretty unassuming nouns (client, site, visitor, …) in a specific sense – not just any client or site, but the entity called Client or Site inside our software. In the end, it helped clarity a lot to write in that manner.

      3. Nikki*

        When I was first reading the post I actually wondered if the applicant might not be a native English speaker because of this. If they speak German or another language that has different capitalization rules, that could explain some of the grammatical… stuff. Either way, it might be a good idea for the recruiter to gently suggest a professional review/rewrite.

    4. BubbleTea*

      I’m currently house hunting and one local estate agent CAPITALISES WORDS in the middle of the description, presumably to EMPHASISE CERTAIN FEATURES but I personally find it DEEPLY ANNOYING. Unfortunately they seem to be the most popular agent locally so I can’t just ignore their listings.

      1. Robin Ellacott*

        We had a team member who did this in notes in our system. BLOCK CAPITALS for about every fourth word, which came out sounding very overwrought. It was hard not to snigger when you encountered one of her dramatic sounding comments.

    5. NotARacoonKeeper*

      Can we also talk about using “quote marks” to add “emphasis”!? It drives me ~BaNaNaS~!

      (I don’t mean scare quotes, but just when people are like: If you pee on the seat please “wipe it” THAT’S NOT WHAT THOSE ARE FOR!)

      1. Robin Ellacott*

        “Fresh” fish!

        Those quote marks aren’t doing what you want them to.

  9. WorkerBee12*

    As a Brooklyn Nine Nine fan seeing Jake and Amy as the villain names here is a bit jarring.

    1. hopeful ex librarian*

      i read michael and thought of the office, and then was picturing a universe where these three characters would be interacting and what that would be like….

  10. straws*

    For Jane & Bob, observation can also make sure that it’s actually a one-sided problem. Many years back, I was spoken to on multiple occasions for chatting too much with a coworker. The coworker complained about it to our boss, who then spoke to me about it. However, my coworker was the one who would start all the conversations and keep them going. I was constantly struggling with being polite, but also getting him to shut up so I could do my job. He was a really nice guy, and I suspect he didn’t realize what he was doing. But… I wasn’t believed (pretty sure that was a separate, gender-related issue), and it could easily have been solved by stopping in like Alison suggests.

  11. Zap R.*

    The misspelled city name is killing me. Was it an understandable one like Mississauga or Albuquerque? Or are we talking, like, Denver?

  12. SherSher*

    We once received a resume and cover letter that had some very interesting words and phrases. IIRC, one skill was that she “overlooked the team’s work.”

    1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

      That sounds like an Asian Indian turn of phrase. I tend not to hold that against people, especially if the name sounds Indian or Pakistani. It’s more of an accent/dialect thing than actually wrong. There’s a few turns of phrase over there that sound very odd to American ears, but are totally valid.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Compare it with “oversight.” You commit an oversight if you inadvertently look right over something without noticing it. But an oversight committee is charged with watching over something. It is a natural contranym. “Overlook” is not a similar contranym in my ideolect, but the contradictory senses also come easily and I find it entirely plausible that this would occur in some versions of English.

        1. Becky*

          “Overlook” and “look over” are also commonly confused especially by those for whom English is a second language but have opposite meanings.

        2. LinuxSystemsGuy*

          Exactly. As a former soldier I’m also used to the definition of “overlook” that means literally “looking over” also. As in “the crest of the hill overlooked the enemy position”. I can totally see “I overlooked the team” as shorthand for “I provided oversight to the team” in some dialects.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            So, in that case, an inanimate object is providing an overlook, not inspecting the enemy position. But if a soldier overlooked the enemy position, that could be a problem.

      2. Beebis*

        It took one of my old workplaces forever to figure out “please do the needful” was something that sounded really odd to us but was a perfectly normal and commonly used phrase in Indian English

        1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

          Oh yeah. “Please do the needful” “I have done the needful” etc. it’s actually a useful turn of phrase when you get used to it, but it takes a minute to get used to.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            LOL. It’s almost ubiquitous in Silicon Valley because of the large number of East Indian and Pakistani expats here.

        2. Gyne*

          What does it mean? My first impression is “use the restroom” but you wouldn’t ask someone do that (“please…”) – would you?

          1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

            It effectively means “do what is needful for the required task”.

            “Can you reconfigure the virtual machine with twice as much memory?”

            “Yes, I will do the needful and it will be ready tomorrow. “

            It can be either a request, acknowledgment, or a current situation report. “Can you do the needful?”- “I have done the needful”- “I am doing the needful”

            It’s ubiquitous in Indian English, and I’ve heard it from Pakistanis as well but not as commonly. There’s also other phrases (I’d be very surprised if the “overlooking the team” thing didn’t come from a similar place), but in IT there’s always something needful so you hear it a lot.

        3. tamarack and fireweed*

          … and you find it in British English of 100-200 years ago. Colonial holdovers in language. Completely normal.

    2. parsley*

      I see ‘overlook’ in place of ‘oversaw’ a lot in resumes, it’s a pretty common mistake.

  13. KaffeeundTee*

    My first thought with the resume one was that maybe this persons first language isn’t English so they have trouble writing it (I can understand German just fine but ask me to type a sentence and we’re gonna have a problem).

    1. Irish Teacher*

      Yeah, I’m like this with Irish. Can speak it, watch a TV show in it, read it, VERY slowly and even taught a few classes through it, but writing…yeah, I have to check the spelling of every second word.

      The random capitalisation could fit with German too, if it’s nouns that are capitalised. Maybe other languages too, but your mention of German made me think of that.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        But it would have to be all nouns & no pronouns (except formal second person), verbs, or adjectives that are capitalized.

        I’ve seen this enough to assume that it’s the Important Words only that are capitalized.

  14. ABCYaBye*

    RE: Letter1, it is definitely worth saying something to Michael. While he doesn’t have to be friends or overly friendly with Amy (since it seems Jake and he don’t interact), he does need to maintain a professional relationship. Refusing to speak to someone or be around them may be causing some of the gossip to continue.

    And definitely say something to the team. Alison’s wording is great. And you may even want/need to go a little farther with it and just let people know that what happened is not talk for work. And stick to that. If you hear it, you need to remind people that it isn’t at all appropriate. Set some consequences.

  15. Usagi*

    From #1:
    I agree with what Alison said, but maybe I wouldn’t say “personal affairs” in this case… the wording is a little too on the nose, maybe?

    1. league**

      Came here to say this. Also, Alison, in the second letter, you say “chatting her up,” which is British slang for flirting with somebody.

  16. A Pound of Obscure*

    I don’t see why Alison would advise against asking the applicant to clarify important elements of her resume, such which experience was gained at which role, how long they actually worked there, and why dates don’t match up. Those are real red flags. An honest but clueless applicant should want to know about them, too, so they can improve their resume-writing skills. The poor spelling and odd capitalization are ancillary problems.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      I would ask the recruiter about the resume and why it was so lousy looking. The recruiter seems to know the candidate, and should have some idea of why the resume is terrible, if the person is as good as they think they are.

      I’m guessing there is some kind of language barrier or disability, but maybe the person simply is a terrible writer but amazing coder or accountant or whatever.

  17. Luna*

    Wasn’t the first story with the affair already discussed before? I recall the names and circumstances when prowling the archives.
    Either way, there’s little else to do than as Alison says: tell people to knock off the gossiping, and to be professional and work alongside coworkers. You can dislike your coworkers on a personal level as much as you want, but at work, you are professional, and you work alongside them professionally and politely.

    As for the odd resume, there could be all sorts of reasons for some of the writing. The random capitalization could be just a case of not knowing grammar rules well, perhaps a form of dyslexia, or even an odd case of them speaking another language that uses more capitalization than English is wont to do. I know with my German, I sometimes have to remind myself to not capitalize certain words because I want to emphasize them, when that’s not correct when typing in English.
    Go ahead and ask about the work skills and experience. I think that’s something that should be the main thing to look at when hiring someone… unless the main task of the job *is* to write professional correspondence with clients or articles for publishing.

    1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      From the end of Alison’s post: “I answer this question — and two others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them).” This is not infrequent, and might be weekly.

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