I disagree with my partner on how to run our business, another manager dislikes my employee, and more

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

1. My partner and I disagree on how to run our adult business

I am a partner in a social club for “like minded adults.” When my partner and I first started this club, we agreed on “no sex with our members while we were open.” This did not last long with my partner. His girlfriend is our bartender and didn’t know this. Now our club has grown, and now he wants to “interact” with our members while we are open (probably with his girlfriend as well).

I think this is a terrible idea and neither one will back down. Of course, he can use the club on the days/hours we are not open. It has gotten so toxic, that I am seriously thinking of selling my half and leaving. I gave him examples of how management does not eat their meal during the dinner hour; they eat their meals before or after.

Am I wrong in my thinking? This is our job. I explained in other jobs, you don’t “interact” with your members-customers during opening hours. Any advice you can give me I would appreciate.

If he’s having sex with members while you’re open for business, he’s not available to do his job during that time — meaning that you’re left carrying the full burden of keeping things running while he’s otherwise engaged. Then there’s the fact that having sex with an employee raises the potential for abuse of power and legal liability. And then there are the potential conflicts of interest involved; for example, if there’s an issue with a club member that the two of you need to resolve, he’s far less likely to seem impartial  (people will need to wonder if he’ll favor those he’s interacted with sexually, or be biased against a member who has declined his advances, and so forth). So it’s a really bad idea, on multiple fronts.

But it also seems like the two of you have fundamentally incompatible ideas about how to run your business. You’ve tried to convince him to change his behavior, and he’s not willing to. At this point it sounds like you need to assume he’s not going to change his thinking, and decide if you want to continue to be part of the business as he’s currently operating it.

2. Another manager doesn’t like my employee

I joined my current company a little less than a year ago. At that time, I had a boss Peter, who managed Mike. Peter and Mike had been at the company for a few years prior. When I joined, I did find them to be a bit disorganized and definitely outspoken, but didn’t think it was a big deal.

Peter has since left, and now I manage Mike. Another manager, Nina, who worked with Peter and Mike has complained about Mike’s past behavior — more than 1.5 years before I joined — to me repeatedly. The complaints aren’t exactly about work quality, more that she thought he was arrogant, dismissive, etc. While Mike could definitely improve his soft skills, I’ve realized that whatever happened 2-3 years ago left a bad impression on Nina. Her comments verge on personal/vindictive and unprofessional vs. just a work complaint about a colleague. I also think that there is more internal politics involved here and the “arrogant attitude” probably came from Peter or even higher up, and blaming Mike is scapegoating him.

I looked up Mike’s old performance reviews, to get some color on what was happening before I joined, and the 360 reviews say nothing like what Nina said.

How do I handle this? Should I speak to Mike about performance issues that I don’t see? When Nina responds to new project ideas with “Mike did this wrong two years ago” how should I respond? I’ve been trying to just be matter of fact and forward looking, while acknowledging that there was some issue in the past. Nina is senior to me but not my boss.

The next time Nina complains to you, say this: “I can’t speak to what happened a couple of years ago, but I can tell you that I haven’t seen those issues with Mike since I’ve been managing him. I can’t manage a situation from before my time, but if there are any current issues, I can make sure those get resolved now. Can I ask you to give him another chance and see if you find the same issues popping up? If you do, I’d work with him on that right away, but I’m hopeful that you’ll have a different experience now.” (And then work with Mike closely during any work he does with Nina so that you can spot it early if there is going to be another clash.)

Meanwhile, you shouldn’t speak to Mike about performance issues you don’t see any evidence of, but since you noted his soft skills could use some work, it’s worth figuring out if there’s coaching you need to do there — totally aside from the Nina situation.

3. Etiquette on getting work done after layoffs

My company recently went through a round of layoffs, and my department was particularly affected, with some teams being completely decimated. The communication has been left up to individual managers with no centralized source of information and we’re relying on word of mouth to know who is the worst affected.

Some people were asking regular workday questions as the layoffs were ongoing— in many cases tagging people in Slack who had just been told that they were let go. Obviously they had no way of knowing, but I opted to focus on individual work on the day of for obvious reasons. But now it’s been a few days, and I’m not sure to what extent I should be going back to “normal.” I do a lot of collaboration with other teams, and I’ve accumulated a lot of questions for them which I would normally ask immediately … but they’re not strictly speaking urgent, and I’ve heard through the rumor mill that some of these teams have lost 60-80% of their staff. We’ll need answers eventually— and I’m expecting in some cases the answer is going to be “We can’t take this on anymore, you’ll need to start managing it,” in which case we should start figuring out those transitions ASAP to hit our deadlines.

But I really don’t want to be insensitive to the turmoil and emotion. My own team lost a lot of people, and I’m sad and angry about it, and I know that there are still a lot of open questions about how certain holes will be filled. It seems rude to go to someone who’s lost most of their teammates and start asking about the TPS reports when they probably have much more immediate concerns! What’s the etiquette here? How long do you wait for the dust to settle and for people to process before you start trying to get back to “business as usual”?

It would be insensitive to do that on the day layoffs were happening, yes, but it’s been a few days and you do need to be able to move work forward. It would be insensitive if you appeared to be oblivious to the fact that their teams had been decimated, but you can acknowledge the situation and how it might impact their response. For example, send over your questions and include a note like, “I know you have a lot of your plate and may not be able to get to this any time soon. Just let me know what’s realistic.”

Depending on your role, it might also make sense to reach out to the manager of any teams you work with regularly and ask if they need you to change anything about the usual workflow between you and their team. (If you’re pretty junior, though, this is generally something for your manager to do instead.)

4. My husband is in detox and I need to talk to his boss

As a long-time reader, I know that normally talking to my husband’s boss about work issues is forbidden. However, he was admitted into detox last night (I highly doubt his employer is aware of any issue). I called his boss last night to say my husband will be out of work for at least this week because he is sick and has a medical issue he needs to have treated, but I am not sure how to handle follow-up. I am sure he will be out for more than this week and I will likely be applying for FMLA for him, and I am not sure how/when to update his boss. He is extremely concerned about his job and while I want to convey to his boss how much he cares, I also feel like I should keep it concise and to the point. Side note, he has a great relationship with his boss and when I called him he seemed very understanding and just said to let him know if my husband needs anything.

Your instinct to keep it concise and to the point is good. Stick to the logistics that his manager needs to know about right now — he’s expected to be out for X amount of time, how to get them the FMLA paperwork, etc. You can certainly throw in something like, “He asked me to make sure you know how eager he is to get back to work as soon as he’s cleared to” but that’s all you really need to (or should) say. When someone is out for emergency medical treatment, good managers aren’t generally thinking, “Hmmm, do they really care about this job?” They’re thinking, “Oh no, I hope he’s okay.”

As for timing on when to update his boss: once you have a better idea of how long your husband might be out. If you don’t get a better idea this week, check back in on Thusday-ish to explain that (“it’s not clear yet exactly how long he’ll need, but I think it will go past this week and I’ll let you know once I know something more certain”). You can also continue to keep it vague — “medical issue he’s having treated” is accurate.

5. Was I really “temporarily furloughed”?

In May, I was temporarily furloughed after the restaurant I was working at hit a slow patch. I was told it was because my boss couldn’t afford to pay me, and because I was bored. (I was the dishwasher and was told by her to wait for dishes come, and not to send the dish rack in partly full.) So I would do as asked. Even on a day that was not slow, I would do as told. So I don’t know why she said I was “bored.” Anyway, after a while she never called me back although I saw on social media that business was picking up. She then said I was “laid off.” Then when I saw they were hiring, she said they were looking for cooks, and that they were back to doing the dishes themselves. I worked my butt off for that restaurant, even one of the bartenders vouched for me. What do I do? I sense that she fired me, but didn’t have the heart to tell me.

I’m not sure why it unfolded the way it did: did she intend to let you go from the start but didn’t want to be up-front about that, or did she really not have enough work for you and then decided not to bring you back later? Or are they really not hiring dishwashers yet? But regardless, it does sound like you’ve been laid off rather than temporarily furloughed, and you should assume the job isn’t coming back, no matter what does or doesn’t change there. I’m sorry!

{ 323 comments… read them below }

  1. Passionfruit Tea*

    LW1 this has the huge potential to end up being coercive (with both customers and employees) and will end with him getting arrested and/or sued. Get out before you get dragged down with his mess.

    1. Tinkerbell*

      Also sounds, depending on where you live, like it may stray over into legal territory usually reserved for prostitution (if there’s money being exchanged, whether for membership or specific services, and someone on the clock is sexually active with patrons). Get out now while you can!

      1. Aurelia*

        Agreed, especially if you catch the eye of a particularly vindictive/puritanical person who pushes a legal case out of spite.

      2. aubrey*

        Agreed, especially if the girlfriend is being paid by him (for bartending) but is having sex with him on the clock (therefore, is being paid for sex). LW1 should get out to avoid legal issues as well as the obvious ethical issues for both employees and members. I say this as someone who has no issue with this kind of business or sex work in general – but you simply cannot mix your personal life and your professional life in this industry like this.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          That is my issue here – the partner keeps mixing business and personal, and that way frequently lies failure. Sell out and leave, you can start another business with those that are willing to keep business, business.

          1. somanyquestions*

            Yes. In some businesses it’s just unprofessional for an owner (or employees) to use the services, and this is one. They shouldn’t be having sex there, at all, whether they’re working or not.

          2. Hannah Lee*

            Even leaving out the potential legal grey (or not so grey) areas here, as soon as one of the owners is mixing business and personal, you might as well just start planning for what comes next because that business is not long for the world in most cases.

            It makes me think of that tv show Bar Rescue* where an expert parachutes in to turn around failing bars. It seems like the majority of the failing bars are failing primarily because one of the owners is treating it like his* personal watering hole for him and his buddies. Like, if you’re partaking of the goods and services while you’re at work a) you’re not actually working (so you’re skimming from the business by getting paid but not doing your job) and b) you’re taking stuff/services for free which is also going to drag down revenues and profits.

            LW, if the person you co-own a business with has such horrible judgement, to not just do this stuff but double down on it, there is no upside for you. It’s either going to continue like it is or get much much worse. Make an exit plan, whatever it may be, and get out. Sooner rather than later.

            * yes, I know, reality tv – things might not be how they seem
            ** it’s almost always a guy doing it

            1. Elizabeth West*

              This was a problem with a lot of the restaurants on Kitchen Nightmares. Some owners extended free services to friends, family, etc. far beyond what was sustainable for the business. It was really common.

              Restaurants, bars, clubs, etc. have very tight margins on profit vs. expenditures. I mean, there’s a reason they fail at higher rates than other businesses. When you add personal drama into the mix, it’s a cocktail (sorry) recipe for disaster.

              1. quill*

                Yeah. The other thing is that people who start bars/clubs/restaurants often don’t know enough about the technical aspects of the business (laws, food safety, balancing the books) to know when they need to hire an expert. OP’s partner not knowing / caring about the potential conflict of interest here suggests that he’s in over his head and that OP should detangle their finances from this business.

          3. JustaTech*

            My in-laws are in the adult industry and my husband has observed that, because of the nature of the industry, people tend to self-select out, so it’s easier to be successful even if you aren’t actually that good of a businessperson, just because the pool of people is so much smaller.
            Which isn’t to say that everyone in the adult industry is unprofessional or a bad businessperson, just that it’s easier to succeed even if you’re mediocre.
            Because of this, if you *are* a good businessperson, it’s possible to do very well. So, yes, OP, get out and find some folks who understand work boundaries.

            1. The OTHER Other*

              You are reminding me of a famous telegram screenwriter Ben Hecht received trying to get him to come to Hollywood: “Millions are to be grabbed out here and your only competition is idiots”.

          4. quill*

            Failure, also community drama.

            OP, your instincts are right in that the people running a business actually need to be running it, rather than having sex on the clock. (Also I think we’ve all seen enough tangentially related AAM stories that if your partner wants his whole business to become Duck Club, it’s going to crash pretty spectacularly.)

      3. Julia*

        Given they’ve been in business for a while I think it’s safe to say it is legal (or legal enough) in their area. They asked about the interpersonal/business aspects not legality.

        1. Spero*

          It may be legal to run a social club for people who have sex, but that doesn’t mean it’s legal to have sex at the club OR to have sexual interactions with people who are being paid by the club. In my state the first would be legal, the second would be HIGHLY questionable and likely to eventually result in a fire marshal raid even if no charges were ultimately pressed, the third would be definitely illegal. Consider that strip clubs are legal in most of the US but that they are absolutely shut down if workers are found to have sex with customers.

          1. Warrior Princess Xena*

            Having sex with one’s employee on the clock, no matter what business you are in, raises major conflict of interest issues. Everything about this sounds like a terrible idea. Run!

      4. LinuxSystemsGuy*

        Okay. So these people run a swingers club. The OP was clearly trying to be delicate, but it’s pretty obvious if you know what to look for. The legal exposure is definitely not as bad as you think. It’s not unusual for the owners of these places to want to participate in the parties they throw. It’s not a great business practice, but it’s not unusual either.

        The people that own these places are almost always in the lifestyle themselves (it’s pretty much the only way you’d think to open such a place). They either open with the intent that the owners want a place of their own to party, and hopefully it makes a few bucks, or as seems to be the case here, they open to make money, but get caught up in the party.

        Like a lot of “passion” businesses (meant in the sense of something the owner is passionate about, like comic shops or game shops, not a reference to physical passion) lifestyle club owners tend to open their place so they can play on the clock just by being in their place, only to later realize that they need to take the business part seriously if they don’t want to work in a money pit.

        Think of this more like the owner of a game shop who would rather play demo games all day in his shop than handle inventory or keep up with cleaning. You can probably mostly ignore the more salacious aspects, and just focus on the problems with perceived favoritism and not getting stuff done, and that kind of problem.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          It reminds me a little of the letter a few days ago about the game shop manager who was very popular with a group of customers but wasn’t getting the work done effectively. I mean, there are additional issues here but the blurred line between patron and person running the place applies in both cases.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            The blurred lines is where I see the problem. It really seems like you have one owner who wants to run a reputable and profitable business – and another owner who wants to have a place to party, so he decided to open a club. Ultimately you have a really mismatched set of expectations on the part of the owners, and the pair of them splitting up and one selling out is probably for the best; because those mismatched ideas of how to run the place are stressing the both of them out and causing fights.

            1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

              Exactly. A lot of people are focusing on the OMG, he’s having sex! With the patrons! Liability! Consent! Prostitution! And… none of that is actually the problem in this case. The problem is that because he’s more interested in the product he’s selling (in this case sex parties), then actually running his business he’s creating problems with his business partner.

              It’s a tale as old as time when it comes to leisure businesses, going all the way back to the tavern owner who is a little too fond of his own ale or wine. There’s no evidence from the letter that there’s legal exposure, consent problems or anything like that. Just a partner who is a more interested in being his own customer than running his business. And another partner who should find a way to dissolve the partnership because of it.

    2. Tinkerbell*

      Also sounds, depending on where you live, like it may stray over into legal territory usually reserved for prostitution (if there’s money being exchanged, whether for membership or specific services, and someone on the clock is sexually active with patrons). Get out now while you can!

      1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

        There may be states where this kind of club is illegal, but I haven’t found one yet. I’ve been to clubs like this in seven or eight states, including very conservative ones like Texas and Florida. As long as money exchanged is limited to membership fees, door charges, or explicit things like condoms or drinks it’s usually fine.

        1. Some Masshole*

          Interesting, there were some cases in my not-so-conservative state (Massachusetts) where parties/clubs much like this were busted by the police, had membership lists confiscated, and organizers were threatened with substantial fines, sex offender registries, and tied up in the courts for years.

          This was in the 90’s and it was same-sex clubs, so YMMV. I hope things have changed.

          1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

            I live in MA and can 100% assure you that this sort of thing is legal now, if it wasn’t then. There are at least three “social clubs” that run in Eastern MA. That said things are easier/friendlier in CT, so the bigger ones are there.

            1. Anon for this*

              Alas, this is not accurate. It’s still illegal in MA for sex to happen onsite at a club like this. You can gather together and make off site plans but if you want sex onsite, it either needs to be a private house party or you have to go out of state (RI and CT being the best options).

              1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

                Huh. Okay. I’ve only ever actually been to the RI and CT clubs. I know Electric and a few others exist in MA, but didn’t realize these rules existed for them. Good to know. I’ll stick to Choice in RI.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed…..this just sounds like something that is going to go down in flames because your business partner doesn’t want to treat it like a business. I would sell out and leave now, and go start another business on your own.

    1. Avi?*

      It sounds EXACTLY like he just started this business to get laid.

      LW1, he’s given you more than enough reason to cut and run. Just be prepared for your ex-partner to try to lay blame on you when the club inevitably implodes after you leave.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      The thing is, no one’s stopping him from getting laid, he just wants things to happen in the most coercive context possible. OP hasn’t even asked him to avoid clients as long as it’s after hours, when they’ve been specifically invited. I still think that’s a bit dodge but it’s far superior to him lunging in when people are there to interact with fellow members with his girlfriend in tow. Which begs the question: how much consent does she get over who she’s having sex with *at work*? I mean, his girlfriend is his employee and now he wants his sex partners to be very much on his turf. This is someone controlling everything except consent and owning everything except responsibility.

      1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

        This is someone controlling everything except consent and owning everything except responsibility.

        YES!! This guy is trying to blur the lines of consent and personal responsibility for the sole purpose of getting whatever he wants, whenever he wants it. People like that are extremely dangerous, and that includes in business relationships as well as social. There is no way a situation like this is going to end well for OP. RUN!!

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Ding ding ding. This guy is scary, and OP1 should get out and not associate with him ever again.

          1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

            Okay, so we’re clear here, there’s *no evidence*’of consent problems here. Swingers in general take consent *very* seriously, and whatever the arrangement is within their relationship is almost certainly being respected while they party at their own place. I don’t know than for sure of course, but accusing someone of borderline rape with no evidence other than “he’s a swinger who owns a swinger club and wants to swing at it with his swinger girlfriend” seems pretty unfair.

            The bigger issues is that he’s not doing his job, and is now potentially wanting to take his girlfriend away from doing her job so they can swing at parties where they’re supposed to be working.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              “ The bigger issues is that he’s not doing his job, and is now potentially wanting to take his girlfriend away from doing her job so they can swing at parties where they’re supposed to be working.”

              This ultimately is what needs addressed. OP and their partner have two very different ideas of how to run their business. I would split up, and just from the standpoint of making sure I got paid in full would involve a lawyer, so party owner doesn’t stop paying because he crashed the business through too much partying.

              1. Splendid Colors*

                Yeah, who’s going to be selling drinks while the bartender is busy having sex with one of the owners? The other owner? I’m guessing that this is like most places that sells alcohol and those drink sales are what’s going to make most of the money.

            2. Ellis Bell*

              Swingers are usually great at consent, with more explicit conversations than elsewhere, and I’m sure that’s what’s played into both girlfriends’ and OP’s trust of this guy. However this situation that OP’s partner wants is not a great one for consent. Not only is he trying to put himself in a position of power at all times, spring “I’m the owner” on unsuspecting sex club members, he’s also not respecting the OP’s no! Why ask then?! Just because someone belongs to a consent-heavy culture doesn’t mean they can’t be shitty at it.

            3. Lily*

              Your mileage obviously varies, as I’ve found the swinger scene quite pushy and not that good on consent – yes, they’ll generally back down once you get loud and yell “no” at them but apart from that, not so much.
              Maybe it’s because I’m read as female. Maybe your experience isn’t the only representative one.

              1. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

                Yeah, I feel like with kinksters too, that’s the party line: “oh they’re so good with consent!” They know how to talk the talk, sure, but they’re still also people, and people like getting what they want.

              2. No name for this*

                Yeah, that has been my experience as well with swingers, not as much with kinksters. Lots of time you really need to work to get your “No” heard, which can be especially difficult when your partner is all in. To me the big thing is when he approaches other for sex with him and his employee (she’s his GF, but on the clock she is his employee), how free does the employee feel to say no. After all, this is her boss telling her to do something since they are both working and he is in charge. Employer-employee makes this dynamic trickier

            4. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

              Okay, so we’re clear here, there’s *no evidence*’of consent problems here.

              Uhhhhhhhhh the bad business partner wants to have sex with club members on the clock, where they may jeopardize their social standing (membership/relationships with people there) there if they say no…and may well want to have sex with employees on the clock, where their livelihoods may be at risk if they say no…and your take is that there’s NOT an issue with consent? What the actual f***, my dude.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, I would be hesitant to even let this person become a member after being bought out. Having sex with an employee *during work hours* (and without telling the employee he isn’t allowed to) shows some seriously bad judgement. If he is allowed to come back as a member, LW really has to pay close attention to make sure he isn’t leveraging his former position in any coercive ways.

      3. The OTHER Other*

        “ This is someone controlling everything except consent and owning everything except responsibility.”

        I am totally stealing this sentence.

    3. LawBee*

      Exactly what I was thinking. One dude wants to run a business, the other dude wants sex on tap. LW1 should seriously consider getting out.

    4. Zweisatz*

      It sounds like it would be most beneficial if partner left ownership, so he can attend the club socially. If he doesn’t see that, yes, get out.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Was going to say the exact same thing, Zweisatz. It sounds like the business partner doesn’t actually want to do the work of running a business. (I am assuming here that he is only a business partner and that he and OP do not have any kind of romantic or sexual relationship). He is refusing to acknowledge the super obvious problems with what he’s doing. I doubt you’ll be able to convince him when he is apparently so invested in not being convinced.

        So there are 3 options:
        1. Continue as you are and be super annoyed – bad option.
        2. Leave the business (which will probably fail).
        3. Buy him out so you can run it properly and he can just be a patron.

        1. ferrina*

          Agree. It sounds like the partner wants the benefits of being a member of the club + benefits of being able set the rules – the responsibility of being a business owner. Best solution seems to be that the partner sell their share to LW to run as a business owner, then (ex)partner can be a member. Maybe LW can offer him some sort of perks to sweeten the deal (free or reduced membership fee, discount on drinks, discount on private events?)
          If partner refuses, then yes, absolutely get out. This has so many implications for badness- legally, as well as socially if partner does something shady (mixing business power with social benefits? bad combo). Word can spread quickly in these circles- think about how you want to be seen and who you want to be affiliated with.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Honestly, he’s shown such poor judgement (having sex with an employee during business hours after he agreed not to), I’m not sure it’s a good idea to have him as a member. If he is allowed to be a member, it must be made absolutely clear that he no longer has any authority or ability to set/alter rules or he will run roughshod all over the place.

            1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

              Fair. How much time and energy does LW want to spend making sure this dude is behaving himself as a member?
              At the very least, perhaps a 3 month break where he can’t come, to reset everyone’s impression of who’s in charge. But yeah, it probably is way more trouble than it’s worth to have this dude around at all.

              1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                Honestly the amount and drain of emotional work that party owner is going to drain from serious owner is why I think it may be best for serious to let party buy him out (with a lawyer drawn up contract protecting OP from anything that happens after the buy out, and also making sure they get their full payout from the sale). I really don’t know if party owner could abide by the rules as just a patron when he used to own the place.

            2. quill*

              Yeah, I can easily see a scenario where he would claim to have some sort of continuing decision-making authority as a member. I don’t think he should be a member, at the very least for an extended amount of time after leaving the business ownership. Give the place time to establish a social order that does not have him as a de-facto leader within it.

            3. ferrina*

              I think it might be a necessary way to get him to agree to sell. If you each have 50-50 stakes and you tell him he’s not allowed to ever come back, he’s not going to agree to sell. If you offer to take on the responsibility so he can enjoy the fruits (so long as he follows the rules, and you will need to watch him closely), then the deal is much more appealing to him.

              After all, he doesn’t see anything wrong with what he’s doing and hasn’t felt a negative impact, so he’s not going to agree to walk away quietly unless there’s something that he can gain.

        2. Petty Betty*

          He definitely wants the power that comes with the title of being co-owner. It’s all part of the dynamic, fantasy and his persona.

          I’m not seeing a whole lot of responsibility coming off of him, but I am definitely seeing “uses position of authority to play and do whatever I want whenever I want with whoever I want” vibes. The problem is that OP is unable to get the business partner to think outside of his pants and with more than just a “how will this benefit my crotch” mentality.

          The only way to salvage this is to cut your losses. Sell your portion of the club and wash your hands of it.

    5. EPLawyer*

      Pretty much. This is a business, not a happy hunting ground for the partner.

      In the comments on the agri-tourist business, a lot of people talked about how having a restaurant meant work not hanging out chatting to customers. Same thing here. Leaving out the sex aspect, he seems to see the business as an easy way to meet people (they are coming to him, he doesn’t have to go out), rather than a money making venture.

      OP this isn’t going to change. Sell up – for FAIR MARKET VALUE. If he won’t buy you out at FMV, buy him out. Or force a sale of the business to 3rd parties. But do not stay in business with someone who doesn’t want to run a business.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        And make sure there is a lawyer representing you in the sale…protecting yourself from “party guys” bad judgement in the long run probably would be invaluable.

    6. Lily Rowan*

      Yeah, it would be bad enough if the business were a bowling alley and the partner were spending significant amounts of time bowling and hanging out at the bar, but a sex club? Hell no. The LW should sell and get out.

      Actually, I had friends in college who co-owned a bar (after working there as bartenders), and it went pretty much like this and the bar closed down after a couple of years. Hanging out is actually not the same thing as running a business!

      1. The Original K.*

        Ever watch Bar Rescue? This is why the bars on that show are failing a majority of the time.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        The former bartenders is an interesting point. They presumably learned that part of the business, but did not learn the stuff behind the scenes, and possibly did not even realize that there was anything to learn. This is like solo practitioners in the various professions. You need to not only be good at your profession, but also as a small business person. Many do not internalize this, with predictable results.

        1. quill*

          See also previous letters on agritourism, game & hobby shops… being your own boss is not a panacea!

  2. Aimsley*

    It sounds like LW 5 could be due some UE payments retroactively if their employment status changed, right? And that means the furlough could’ve been a shady way work around on the employer’s part to avoid paying it. It could be tough luck for LW regardless but the restaurant should be held accountable. And LW should be aware of financial help that should’ve been made available immediately upon furlough. It takes time to claim UE and their employer wasted that valuable time.

    1. Beth*

      In my state at least, UE payments are available for furloughs in the same way they are for layoffs. Even if they’re hoping to bring the employee back eventually, the employer is still technically ending their employment when they furlough someone. I hope OP5 has already filed for unemployment, but if they haven’t, they definitely should now.

    2. PollyQ*

      In many states, any significant employer cutback in the number of hours worked per week, regardless of “official” employment status, qualifies someone for UE benefits. I hope LW5 has been getting that money all along.

    3. Ashley*

      I am the one who was “laid off/temp furloughed”. I did not see it coming, although, yes, I should have, I started to worry when we started getting slow, and I mean slow, to the point that it wasn’t even worth coming in, my last day their was only one or 2 tables that had customers. But something weird happened. I was told it was because people wanted to dine outside, because it was starting to get warm/nice. We have an outdoor dining option!!! Both in and out. Also, I was the one let go because “I’m new”. I was only working there from March to May.

      1. MK*

        OP, I think you are getting bogged down with anything that strikes you as odd about your boss letting you go, when these things don’t actually matter. You were let go because there wasn’t enough work for you, and you were not asked back because they decided to do the job themselves instead of hiring (in a small, privately owned business that is struggling, owners keeping the costs down by doing any work they can themselves is pretty reasonable).

        That said, I really believe you are overthinking the “weird” things. “You are bored” sounds better than “we don’t have work for you because we don’t get many customers”, “we are hiring for cooks and doing the dishes ourselves” may mean “the chef quit because the restaurant looks to be failing and we need new one, but we aren’t hiring for a job that we can do ourselves”, “people want to eat outside” is probably easier to say than “diners are choosing other restaurants, we don’t have work”. And I wouldn’t trust social media to mean that business is picking up.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          And even IF business IS picking up, that doesn’t necessarily mean they can replace all the staff they laid off immediately. It could be that they are going through a good period now but aren’t sure if it will last and want to spend as little as possible so they have savings in case business goes down again or they may have taken out loans to cover expenses when business was so poor and may now need to pay those back so they can’t afford to take extra staff on. Or they may simply have realised, “hey, we don’t really need a dishwashing person, do we? We’ve managed fine with x number of staff, so let’s keep it that way.”

          And by “new,” they probably mean LW the last in so first to be let go if they need to cut costs. A lot of companies consider that the fairest way to do things. Nothing at all odd about that.

          I agree with MK that LW might be overthinking the odd things. A lot of them just sound like a company in trouble and trying to play that down,

          1. EPLawyer*

            LW is overthinking things, definitely. And none of the reasons matter. The truth is — LW you were let go back when they first “furloughed” you. This job is GONE. Start looking for another one.

            The fact you “worked your butt of for that restaurant” doesn’t matter. It’s not your business, so it doesn’t matter how hard you worked. The owners don’t want you working there anymore, for whatever reason. Let it go. Go get yourself another job.

        2. kiki*

          I agree. I understand where OP is coming from— I’ve been in that same headspace where it feels productive to re-analyze everything and figure out the “full truth.” You want to make sure you understand what happened so you can prevent it from ever happening again. Or figure out how you can prove that you actually should not have been let go.

          From everything OP has said, it’s pretty clear the business was not doing well enough to justify a dishwasher. When the boss said OP were bored, they weren’t trying to indicate OP needed to show more interest in the dishes, they meant that there wasn’t enough work to keep OP busy. They said they were slow because everyone’s outside in the nice weather because it’s easier to say that than “yeah, our business is floundering. They may be hiring another chef because they want to see if a new menu will kick up business. None of this really matters, though— the job is gone, it’s not OP’s fault, and it’s best to move forward with the understanding the job isn’t coming back.

      2. ecnaseener*

        To add to what MK said, none of this affects whether you’re eligible for unemployment. Please apply for that if you haven’t already!

      3. JSPA*

        The “why” is almost certainty irrelevant from an employment (and unemployment) standpoint.

        If the real question is, “is this so wrong as to be illegal”–nope.

        If the real question is, “do I need to know the One Absolute truth to move forward, or need to have the same view of reality as my ex-boss to move forward” the answer is, “well, that’d be an unfortunate and counterproductive mental space to be stuck in; maybe seek out counseling at some point if you often feel that need?

        If the real question is, “am I allowed to find this needlessly rude or evasive, and complain to friends”– that’s not an employment question; it depends on how patent your friends are, on how much time you want to let old job continue to take up space in your brain, and whether the risk of the complaints poisoning your employment search is worth it.

        Even in a personal relationship, “requiring concensus to break up” isn’t a thing. Whether or not they were intending, at some point, to bring you back, before deciding not to, is something taking place inside their head, not something on record.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        Ugh. OP, I can really relate to what you are saying.

        I’d take heart that business was actually slow- you saw that first hand. He probably added the outdoor option because he is looking for ways to draw in more people. I have friends who will only eat outdoors even now. So maybe this is a good idea for him. Try to frame this outdoor idea as he is trying to salvage his business.

        These types of problems come up with retail/food jobs. Here today, gone the next. People are disposable in these arenas. Job security in these places is hard.

        I found that I had a hard time believing employers because of this on and off behavior from past employers.

        You sound like a very sincere person who wants to do a good job. That’s an asset. Good employers want people who do the job and do as they are instructed. I believe that this wasn’t anything you did, but rather just circumstances.

        My suggestion is to try another arena- something that is not retail/food. And something that is less vulnerable to the whim of the public. My last retail job was supposed to be part time. Some weeks I did 10 hours and some weeks I did over 40 hours. I couldn’t hack the yo-yoing as I had other commitments to keep. But this is the norm I have seen in these arenas. It was my very last retail job because of this and other reasons.

        It’s okay to change directions and look for other things.

      5. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Just get a new job. It’s a restaurant job. Those tend to be easy come, easy go in normal times. Right now, with so many places desperate for staff (at least in the US), somebody will be delighted to snap you up and probably pay better too.

        As for your old job, sounds like they were having trouble getting customers, so they couldn’t afford staff. Probably they won’t be open too much longer, but that won’t be your problem, because you’ll have a new job.

    4. Lilo*

      Having been a dishwasher, LW really should have gotten another job immediately. Restaurants are a bit nuts and once they let you go they do it forever.

      The pacing on dishwashing was a red flag here. That’s not how it works and then there’s always something to do in a kitchen. I don’t know if this was LW’s first restaurant job, but the fact that they were sitting around waiting shows the place wasn’t run correctly or they weren’t trained correctly.

      1. Lydia*

        If you have a total of 4 customers in an entire day, even in a restaurant, you will eventually run out of things to do.

    5. KatEnigma*

      The opposite, actually. Instead of firing her, when she likely wouldn’t be eligible for unemployment, she was furloughed. I have never lived in a State (5 now) where temporary layoffs weren’t eligible. In Ohio, I was laid off temporarily for a week or two at a time for factory work, and we would file immediately because the State had a “2 waiting weeks” stipulation, but that counted per year, not per layoff. So after you accumulated 2 weeks off, you wouldn’t have to wait for benefits on subsequent layoffs. (And before you wonder why anyone put up with it, the Union got a guarantee written into our hiring contracts that they would supplement our unemployment so we received 90% pay for perpetuity. When they moved the jobs to Mexico, they all got huge payouts)

      1. Carol the happy elf*

        I was told by a mentor that if I were ever laid off and not recalled, the feelings would be the same as being in a dating relationship for that length of time- and then ignored. (Ghosted now.) He said that the laid-off employee would waste about an equal amount if time, trying to put the puzzle together. But some of the pieces are from your life, some are from the employer (boyfriend) and the edge pieces were eaten by the dog.
        His advice was to do self-care, i.e. unemployment, (new hairdo, binge-watching sappy movies and getting the crying out) working for a temp agency to validate and broaden my skills, (Date those great guys, “Ben and Jerry”, but don’t move them in!)
        and sign up for an employment agency (dating site) while networking (meet friends of friends).
        This too shall pass- but don’t hang your validation on your old job (your ex) wanting you back, because that way is retrograde motion back into the stress of the past.
        Good luck!

    6. TG*

      If you were laid off after being furloughed look into your rights.
      I had a side hustle at the start of the pandemic and they furloughed everyone. However when saying people could return they changed the working hours I’d have to be there and since I work full time I couldn’t do it.
      To be honest I kind of think they did it on purpose as I’m older and I did have a pretty awesome schedule the old manager and I had worked out.
      It was upsetting but I get it – business is business….
      So take care of you and make sure you get any unemployment benefits you were entitled to and then find yourself a much better job :)

  3. afterdark*

    #1: I think your instinct to get out is a good one and agree with you completely. I used to visit the bath house in my city back when we had one and the biggest thing that made me comfortable was the fact that all the staff were in uniform and never gave even a hint of flirting with the clientele.

    I’m not sure if there are any legal issues with what he’s doing but I’d bet theres some risk if things go sideways with your partner and any of your clients. I think your instinct to get out is sound just because your partner doesn’t seem to stick well to the rules you’ve set. I doubt there is the a phrase or analogy you can say that will get him to change his behavior.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      This is a really good point. There are legitimate safety issues in a scenario such as this one, and a clear distinction between staff and patron is crucial for patrons to be able to address an issue. Similar to bartending, really.

  4. Anon for this*

    LW1, speaking as someone who’s spent many years hanging out in spaces like these, I agree with all of Alison’s concerns. I also worry about this from a consent perspective–are the people your partner wants to ‘interact’ with really going to feel free to decline his attention, or are they going to feel like they have to put up with the boss’s attention if they want to keep coming to the club? That behavior could cause some serious ethical problems, and could also blow back on you; if your club becomes known as his hunting ground for sexual partners, that could very easily affect your reputation as a co-owner.

    I’m with Alison. You see the problems here, you’ve tried to talk him out of this, and he’s set on doing it anyways; time to cut your losses. Either buy him out and run the club yourself, or sell your half and get out.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      “I have a problem with the behavior of one of the club patrons.”
      “Have you talked to the management?”
      “He is literally the management.”

      Yeah, this is not a good dynamic.

    2. kiki*

      Yeah, I think getting out or getting the partner out are the only viable ways forward at this point. Even if LW were to get the partner to commit to not “interacting” with guests while the club is open, it seems likely he’s going to look for loopholes that will present similar ethical issues. LW says he can use the club while it’s not open— okay, if he starts inviting members to his own after-hours events, will members feel pressured to attend to keep in partner’s good graces? If something does go wrong at partner’s after hours event, that will still affect the reputation of the actual club.

      Partner is demonstrating very bad judgment and that’s exactly the opposite of what is needed for a business partner.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        It seems likely he’s going to look for loopholes.

        Better to ask forgiveness than permission: hilarious in a fictional space opera, really not fun in your romantic or business partners.

        1. Sorrischian*

          If that’s the Miles Vorkosigan reference I think it is, I’d like to note that all of the other characters in those books pretty explicitly agree with you that he’s a nightmare to work with.

          1. quill*

            Literally everyone in those books is like “we (mostly) survived but I can’t tell if it’s because of his plan or despite his plan.”

            He has to become a solo investigator in later books because that way he can vex the correct people instead of dragging half the Barryaran empire and their unwittingly nationalized space mercenaries behind him because he decided to seize an opportunity.

            And even THEN his district greatly prefers to deal with his wife, who is in possession of the ability to actually inform people ahead of time what’s going on.

            1. Sorrischian*

              And, to vaguely drag it back to the original topic, his personal relationships get a lot better when he stops sleeping with subordinates / trying to find loopholes to get what he wants and actually starts respecting people’s boundaries. Just a thought!

              1. quill*

                Yeah, very hard to run a mercenary fleet AND be sleeping with anyone else in command! Miles before 30 was not a good boyfriend for literally anyone, it took an episode of “if you want to ever speak to me again stop scheming about it” to sort him out.

                (And this is why the Koudelka girls all went for people who were already working on their issues…)

    3. Critical Rolls*

      If I were the LW, I don’t think I’d want to buy out the partner and still have him hanging around. At a minimum I’d ask for a hiatus of him being there, maybe three months? Six months? To make the transition from owner to customer clearer. Also (with the caveat that I’m not familiar with the typical operations of a space like this) I would say no sexual activity by employees on the clock, ever, and I would encourage them to go elsewhere for that off the clock as well. Having sex while getting paid is legally troublesome in most of the U.S., in addition to the troublesome power dynamics.

      Basically you’re right that you have to run your business like a business or you end up in a bad place. It’s going to be a lot easier for you to walk away than try and salvage this with Mr On the Hunt (*hurk*) in the picture.

      1. ferrina*

        I agree that “No Sex On The Clock” is a really, really reasonable rule. You’re paying them to do a job, so they should be focused on the job.
        I wouldn’t say that they aren’t allowed to be members of the club off the clock. There might be limited places where they can go, and you don’t want to say “only people who don’t want to be members can work here”. You can hold them to a high standard of conduct though- anything they do at the club off the clock will still reflect back on the business.

    4. Jackalope*

      Could someone give a brief explanation of what “spaces like these” actually means? I don’t mean giving lots of detail, but it’s a kind of business I’m not familiar with and I REALLY doubt that a Google search would be helpful for this. Is it a club where people meet up for dates? Is it a place with a bunch of rooms and also a restaurant so you can get food and then go to a room and fool around? Obviously the partner is acting out of line here, but I don’t even understand the business concept enough to know what him acting appropriately would mean in this case since I’m not sure what an owner would actually do.

      1. Pool Lounger*

        It sounds like a sex club that likely has a bar and a few play rooms, maybe with fetish gear in them.

      2. Iroqdemic*

        My guess is it is a BDSM club. If you are into BSDM etc. the equipment can be kind of expensive and bulky- not everyone has room for a big St. Andrew’s cross in their rec room. Also, if you have kids, it’s kind of hard to have a dungeon in your house. The first thing I’d do if I was a kid and my parents had a LOCKED ROOM they never let me in, I’d figure out how to break in.
        As a person who actually goes to “spaces like these”, the staff playing while working is a big HELL NO. They are supposed to be monitoring safety of the patrons. If there is a bar, then the bartenders need to be making sure no one is overserved. Really, you shouldn’t be drinking, because consent is so dang important.
        The partner sounds like a consent violation waiting to happen.

        1. Anon for this*

          I also read it as a BDSM club. I’m part of the BDSM scene in my area, and there absolutely have been times where I’ve disassociated with clubs or associations because the leader of the group seemed to be only in it for a never-ending supply of fresh (usually young and inexperienced) partners. It’s really gross and it gives the entire scene a bad name. And no matter how much money those leaders had to subsidize their groups parties and scenes, bring in performers etc – the group would fade away as their reputation spread. LW1, your business will not survive this reputation for long. Lose the partner or lose the business.

          1. Calamity Janine*

            yeah, chiming in with more agreement – this dude is bad news.

            this is the sort of club that gets absolutely murdered in the word-of-mouth campaigns because the competent people figure out that it’s not being done properly due to massive safety issues, and the customers are an ever-rotating cast of newbies they can sucker in (before said newbies promptly decide that they’re done with the entire scene). there’s only so far you can go if your business model is screwing people over. …and, well, with the legitimate safety issues, there’s a lot of ways that can go wrong, and it’s in ways that have lifelong impacts. this isn’t the difference between a mediocre sandwich instead of a good one, or even giving someone a weekend of food poisoning because the chicken’s underdone. when things go bad in this situation, they go lifechangingly bad. “then i lost a limb because nobody could find the manager with the safety scissors and help to get me out of this, so my ropebunny days were done” bad. “and i’m still in therapy for the trauma 20 years later” bad.

            it’s a bit like a lifeguard at a pool. if there’s no lifeguard on duty and a bunch of kids in the water, that’s a legitimate safety hazard. if you’re lucky, it will just be somebody slips and falls because they were running by the pool and that’s why they now have a broken arm. if you’re not lucky, it will be a news story of Local Child Drowns At Pool Park quoting the parents sobbing in rage and grief that there was no lifeguard and it took 30 minutes before the lifeguard finally wandered back around and halfheartedly offered to try CPR.

            don’t keep this guy as head of Action Park, America’s Most Deadly Water Park, LW1. in fact, endeavor to not own nor work at America’s Most Deadly Water Park, either.

            1. PotsPansTeapots*


              I would never be a member or guest at this club the way it’s currently being run

            2. quill*

              This is a good point, I had totally missed that there could be even more safety considerations than the usual issues with people drinking and its relation to informed consent.

              If this involves BDSM, it’s even more urgent to get this partner out of there yesterday if he’s slacking off on safety measures instead of just leaving the bar unattended.

      3. EmKay*

        In my experience, it’s usually a bar with some private-ish “back rooms” with play equipment.

      4. Julia*

        The details kind of depends on local laws. It might be a membership only space (daily/monthly/yearly membership dues). It might be more like a bar where you pay a cover charge. You are buying access to a space *not* whatever fun things are happening inside. Some spaces allow BDSM but not sex. Some places allow sex but not BDSM.

        There are going to be two or three types of spaces.
        1) General social space. A bar (alcoholic or non alcoholic drinks) and maybe some snacks. You hang out with friends, meet new people etc.
        2) Adult activity space: semi-clothed. You can get down to your undies if you want. There is furniture you can use for various adult activities you want. There is probably BDSM furniture. You usually can’t have p3nis in v*gina activities.
        3) Adult activity space: full nudity. You can be fully naked and maybe engage in penetrative sex. There might be individual rooms.

      5. Not using my usual name*

        Each club is a little different, but generally clubs are membership based. You pay a membership fee and you come to events. The physical spaces are usually divided between a bar/ night club type space where everyone keeps their clothes on and one or more rooms where people can do sexual activities.

        At the club I frequent, the only thing you pay for is membership and a ticket to the event. There is a bar and a dance floor. The bar has mixers. You bring your own alcohol and the bartenders mix drinks for you with your alcohol. Usually there is some assortment of snacks, but that’s it as far as food. Bartenders, front desk staff, and cleaners are paid employees. They wear uniforms and are clearly not there to work. There are also volunteers who’s job it is to introduce new members to the rules. (Every quality club I have been to has some sort of “here’s what consent is and why it is important” orientation for new people.) Volunteers get paid in memberships and don’t wear uniforms. The owners of the club I frequent generally attend events, but are also in uniform and do not play with anyone.

        The one I go to is on the fancier end of things. There are about a dozen very nice bedrooms with doors that lock in the play area. Many other clubs just have one large room. So it is very possible that all of the members can see that the owner is spending most of his time not working.

      6. Minerva*

        My guess is that it is a fetish or swinger’s club.

        It is not good form for the mgmt to get too cozy with the clients for all the reasons stated. His job as management would be to ensure that only consensual activity is happening, and that only *legal* activity was happening on premise between consenting adults.

        That consensual, but legal, activity is a very important part. There are a number of arcane laws of what can be allowed and not allowed in these sorts of spaces, but “no prostitution” tends to be the biggest one.

      7. Jackalope*

        Okay, thank you everyone! That gives me a much better understanding of what’s going on and what some of the issues are that could cause the LW’s partner’s behavior to be an even worse idea than usual.

    5. Mid*

      Yup. It’s an issue I see far too much in the “adult social club” scene, and it’s never ended well. One of the two partners needs to go–ideally OP’s partner would be bought out and OP could continue to run the business like a business, or OP could cut their losses and leave before things implode. But the partner’s behavior is unsafe and unethical, and this will end poorly.

  5. Lilo*

    Look, I’m not in that scene but the scenario in LW1 raised immediate safety questions for me. The potential for coercion, particularly complicated by the fact that your employee is his girlfriend and apparently he wants her to participate (raising questions of her safety and consent at work as well). I’m also going to question if, if he’s having sex with customers while at work, if he’s doing his job, which also is an aspect of customer safety. And with boundaries blurred with the girlfriend/employee, how clear are the boundaries with all employees?

    This isn’t my area of expertise, but just seems to me this is the type of thing for which clear boundaries and safety of both employees and customers has to be absolutely paramount.

    Basically, yes, get out. It seems like stuff could go very badly and you want to be distanced before things go wrong.

    1. Anon for this*

      Having clear boundaries is definitely paramount for doing this kind of thing successfully. It’s not uncommon for lines to get blurred a little–I’ve seen it happen plenty of times (though what LW1 is describing is more than ‘a little’ blurring), and sometimes it turns out ok–but sometimes people get hurt. And way too often, even if nothing truly traumatic happens to anyone and everyone is trying their genuine best to make it work, it turns into too much drama and the organization ends up falling apart.

      1. Lilo*

        Yeah, I’m not interested in kink shaming, but the second you introduce a power imbalance, particularly with employees, particularly employees who are in jobs like bartender and haven’t necessarily signed up for sex work, the dynamic is just bad here.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Not kink shaming. This really has nothing to do with the fact it is a business that just happens to be a sex club. What if it were a sports bar and one of the owners was sleeping with the bartender? Same power dynamic there. Same problem with not paying attention to safety because he (I’m making assumptions on gender here) is too busy hanging with his GF to notice the drunk guy about to start a fight near the pool tables.

          OP, you feel you have less room to make a BUSINESS case because well, its a sex club, what do you expect to have happen on the premises. But it is still a BUSINESS first and foremost. Anyone not willing to act in a professional manner does not need to be in the business. (And if you do stick around, I would lose the rule that you can use the place during non-business hours. Keep a strong line between the business and personal, it will help).

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I think this is the key – the more “personal” the services the business is providing, the more firm and professional the employee conduct needs to be. OP gets that, the partner doesn’t. And I think that means that the partner is going to take the business down in flames. I would sell out (get the full amount I am due, with ironclad lawyer written agreements) and leave. You’ve tried to get your business partner to understand this is a business, they are refusing to, so I would walk away with my money and my professional reputation intact.

    2. Ellie*

      I’m not in that scene either, but I was uncomfortable enough when hanging out at regular nightclubs, if the security guards or the owner tried picking me up. I think at a minimum you’re going to lose business, and you could end up sued. And your partner is risking a lot worse.

      If you do take over the business, you have to keep him right away from it. Can you trust him to stay away? If not… I’d sell your half and just get some distance from the whole thing.

      1. JSPA*

        Can confirm it’s creepy even at the gym. Sympathy and encouragement? Sure. Leveraging that into “nice guy” date suggestion? No.

        The fact that they’re there for something-or-other-sexual and are open to sex with some of the other patrons doesn’t change the dynamic of, “I paid to be here, not to be hit on by the owner.”

    3. Not So NewReader*

      If he wants sex while on the clock then that is what the business is, OP. It’s sex.

      Look, no judging here. I see that he wants XYZ and you do not. Both of you are pretty set in your ideas here and the ideas are mutually exclusive. It’s not possible to have XYZ and not have XYZ at the same time. (Notice, this isn’t just about sex, it applies to any 2 plans that are in opposition to each other.)

      From a business perspective, it sounds like he has not done his homework, looked at applicable laws nor has he even set up rules/guidelines. If you go back through Alison’s columns here, I think you will find at least one interview with a sex worker. I learned a lot. Like any other business there are rules, safety practices, and so on. Your partner has NONE of this going on. He’s about as safe as a loose cannon. I would not sell candy bars with this person. I’d worry about what else is going on.

      In the beginning the two of you agreed no sex while the business was open. This seems like a core agreement and it could be this is one of the reasons why you went ahead with the business. It’s okay to say, “I said no at the beginning and I have not changed my mind. So we will need to figure out [who is going to by out whom; if we can find another person to replace me as a partner; whatever.]”

      It’s okay to let go and move on to something else. I am sure you learned a lot by having a business and all that learning can be leveraged into something new for you.

  6. Allegra*

    Sending good thoughts to you and your husband, LW 4. It’s scary to worry workplaces will find out and treat this particular health condition differently than any other. I hope your husband’s recovery and the FMLA process go smoothly (and that you have some support for yourself as well)!

    1. BethDH*

      Yes, I was thinking the same. I’m sure there’s significant personal emotional stress and worry right now, and my experience is that that makes you question your normal judgment. Add to that often feeling like you can’t trust other people to react to this as they would to other medical issues (been there!) so you may not be seeking out your normal levels of support.
      All that to say: LW 4, it sounds like you’re handling the work side really well and I hope Alison’s response gives you some confidence.

    2. Mm*

      I just wanted to chime in that I had a colleague who ended up going to rehab twice about 6 years ago. We work in IT and this doesn’t come up very often. His addiction – alcohol – was very apparent because he started showing up to work drunk.

      The company stood by him and his boss was incredibly supportive of his needs. I’ll be honest, I felt skeptical after his second time in rehab – it threw a lot of things into disarray when his work started slipping due to addiction and then his prolonged absences. But now it has been 4 years sober (or at least not letting it impact work in a noticable way) and he is back to being a star performer. It really changed my view of addiction – I realized I had a lot of internal biases and that treating it like any other medical condition was obviously the right thing to do (probably legally, but also ethically).

      All that to say – there is a lot of bias out there and I’d avoid mentioning the detox if at all possible. BUT if it does come out know that if you husband feels dedicated to his job hopefully it can help other people understanding addiction better.

    3. Daisy-dog*

      Same. There is likely a case manager at the treatment facility who can help with the FMLA paperwork to keep it discreet.

    4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      If it helps OP4 –

      At my job (big integrated health system that spans multiple states), EAP can and does offer assistance for those struggling with addiction issues, and they offer assistance as well getting FMLA approved to be away for treatment (or for ongoing therapy and aftercare). But the caveat is that you need to apply before the addiction issues have affected your job. It sounds as if OP’s husband hasn’t had work impacts yet – so if he worked for my employer it would be treated just the same as any other chronic health condition – with us wishing him a full recovery.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Just because I saw something elsewhere about privacy concerns – EAP at this org is bound to confidentiality, if they tell boss you have FMLA they use “chronic health issue.” We all get lots of PII/PHI training, and it applies to coworkers as well as clients of the health system.

      2. Allegra*

        Oh, EAP is a great idea, I totally forgot that. My company’s EAP is open to “household members” as well, so it might be worth checking out if that’s the case OP (for his company *or* yours). They could give guidance on FMLA or even assist with accessing support or treatment.

    5. LW #4*

      Thank you everyone for the encouragement and kindness. I did call his EAP yesterday looking for info on what resources they provide but they were…..not the best. I am wondering if I got someone who was new or if I just didn’t know what to ask for. Regardless, I know how to set up the FMLA so I will start there and call the EAP back if I can think of anything more specific they might be able to assist with. Thanks again!

  7. prof*

    LW2: I wouldn’t dismiss Nina’s concerns at all- I notice the genders and immediately think there could be a sexism issue at play here.

    1. Beth*

      Even if there was a sexism issue at play 2-3 years ago, LW2 can’t really address that at this point. It’s years too late to discipline Mike for whatever happened then, and LW2 wasn’t even there to get a perspective on what was going on. Asking Nina to set aside old perceptions and give the present a chance, but also to bring any new incidents or problems to LW2’s attention so they can handle them as they arise, is the viable path forward regardless of what about Mike’s behavior caused the problem originally.

    2. Xavier Desmond*

      It really undermines the real issues of sexism and misogyny when commentors here assume sexism when there is literally zero evidence of it in the letter other than one person is male and the other is female.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I thought the same as Prof, Nina being the only woman here apart from possibly OP. We’ve seen time and again that women complaining about sexist remarks are brushed off by their male boss (who may well think the sexist joke is very funny and can’t understand why she “can’t take a joke”). I personally have not even bothered to complain to my male boss about harassment from male colleagues, knowing that. (The male boss in question also tried hitting on me at one point btw). If OP is a woman, Nina may be hoping that at last someone else will take her complaints seriously.

    3. Myrin*

      In addition to what others have already said, the OP might have changed some or all genders involved (which is something that some letter writers do) and the sexism angle can then send commenters down a completely irrelevant rabbit hole (which has happened several times in the past).

    4. Ellie*

      But if there were any recent examples, why isn’t she raising those? Why bring things up from 2 years ago?

      1. LW2*

        They haven’t worked together recently so I guess she hasn’t had a chance to re-think her assumptions – but why be so stuck on them then?

        1. Run mad; don't faint*

          My guess is that she’s angry and frustrated that these complaints weren’t addressed properly at the time from her point of view. She probably also feels incredibly unheard and hurt about it. It’s very human and, I think understandable, at least to some extent. But that doesn’t make it acceptable for her to dump all this on you, a completely uninvolved party, two years after the fact.

          1. irene adler*

            Agree. Also, the complaints may have been addressed at the time- but perhaps not to Nina’s satisfaction.

            Alison makes a great point: OP can only address the behavior that occurs going forward. I would urge the OP to use Alison’s words (cannot address behaviors from before OP was hired) as Nina may be the type that repeatedly brings up complaints from the past. Hopefully Nina will respond to reason and will cease dredging up these past complaints.

            I’ve got someone who brings up complaints about co-workers for things that happened 25 years ago. At the drop of a hat, she will rehash a litany of things from long ago that **still** offends her. It is exhausting. She will not let anything go.

            1. KGD*

              I agree as well, and I think one useful strategy with people like this is to ask what it is that they are looking for. Captain Awkward recommends that a lot, like, “in an ideal world, what are you hoping I will do?” It doesn’t bind you to do what the person wants, but it can force them to articulate a specific need or acknowledge that they are just venting and know you can’t do anything. If she says, “fire Mike” or something, you could then reiterate Alison’s script (“As I said, I can’t address behaviour from before I was here, but I certainly hope you will bring any new concerns to me right away”)

              1. irene adler*

                Good strategy! What action do you want here? What do you want to happen here?
                Sometimes people just want to complain for the sake of complaining (as in my co-worker above). She seems to revel in reliving all past slights. Not seeing the value here, myself.

            2. Hannah Lee*

              Irene, I’ve got one of those people too. I mentally think of it as “oh, she’s dropping a needle on that record again” and has to play the whole dang thing – start to finish, the entire “litany” as you describe it. It IS exhausting … like sometimes I just want to spend 3 minutes getting some clarification on a line in this week’s TPS report, I don’t want to spend 30 minutes while she, once again, recounts the tales of woe of Ghosts of TPS Reports Past.

            3. EvilQueenRegina*

              Ha, I think I had that coworker’s sister. I got pretty good about tuning out rants about things this person’s first husband had done in 1982 – it could be set off by things along the lines of the guy contacting her about an IT job happening to have the same first name as this ex, or someone mentioning an actor who the ex apparently resembled.

          2. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

            My guess is that she’s angry and frustrated that these complaints weren’t addressed properly at the time from her point of view. She probably also feels incredibly unheard and hurt about it.

            I think you’ve hit the mark with this one. If someone didn’t get catharsis in the past or just didn’t get the outcome they wanted, they’re much less likely to be able to look objectively at the people they hold responsible in the present and future.

            Friend-social example: I have an ex-best friend who screwed over our entire friend group including me. In the twenty years since, he’s gone on to portray himself online and IRL as someone who’s learned from his mistakes and become suuuuuch a better person, and his more recent friends adore him. But he’s never once apologized to any of us he betrayed, or even admitted any wrongdoing.

            He approached me to try being friends again a few years ago, and when I brought up what happened, he refused to acknowledge it–flat-out said, “I can’t talk to you unless we leave the past in the past.” I told him, “I can’t talk to you if you’re not going to own up to what you did.” We are…not friends.

            None of us he hurt got our catharsis, so it doesn’t matter how many charities he aligns with or awards he wins for his work. It doesn’t matter how much everyone else praises him as a shining example of humanity. We’re all BEC with him because our concerns didn’t get addressed or resolved.

            1. Indigo Five Alpha*

              Have to say, I wouldn’t say you’re at BEC stage here. The point of BEC is that you’re being unreasonable, and I think your reaction is one million percent reasonable.

              1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

                He’s a total tool, so I would agree our negative feelings are legit reasonable. And *also* BEC at this point because we rag on everything he does if it shows up on our social feeds. :D (Sometimes, you have to settle on extreme pettiness as your catharsis.)

            2. Butterfly Counter*

              In university soccer, a teammate broke my ankle with 2 weeks left in my senior year of playing. It was an accident, but she never apologized. This was over half my life ago now and I still can’t stand it when I see her pop up every once and a while as a friend of a friend on Facebook.

              1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

                I would 100% feel the *exact* same way. And that’s a pretty serious thing for her to have never even freaking apologized for. It’s not like she just cut in line at lunch and got the last cake slice because she didn’t see you!* She did something that will affect you physically and emotionally for the rest of your life.

                *TBH, I’d probably hold a grudge if someone denied me my cake

          3. PlainJane*

            My guess is that she’s angry and frustrated that these complaints weren’t addressed properly at the time from her point of view.

            Exactly. I think I’d want to know what happened and what she thought went wrong in the response. If you’re new, it might tell you something about the corporate culture, and she may well have a legitimate beef (though she can’t keep gnawing on it like this). Maybe something like saying, “If that has been a problem in the past, let’s see if we can make sure it isn’t in the future, but let’s try a fresh start now.” If there are cultural issues that led to this (maybe Mike’s arrogance, if it’s there, has been rewarded instead of warned against?), then maybe fixing them would help assuage Nina’s anger without trying to handle a years-out-of-date complaint about Mike. No more treating arrogance as “confidence” or condescension as expertise. If that’s the problem. I just don’t feel like I have enough information to know if that is the problem, so I can couch this as if-then.

        2. Important Moi*

          I would add in addition to being angry, she may be hoping a that a new person would address her issues. It is not uncommon for people to be punished “now” for things that happened “then.”

          This may not be possible for legal and ethical reasons, but feelings are not always rational.

          1. Greg*

            Combine that with people sometimes have real difficulty in letting things go, regardless of how much time has passed, and we can find ourselves in situations like this.

          2. Run mad; don't faint*

            She may also hope for reassurance from OP that they won’t let Mike get away with whatever he presumably got away with two years ago. If so, Alison’s script should be very helpful at settling this concern.

          3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I am almost wondering if it’s hoping that the new manager will side with her instead of Matt and now also punish him for stuff that happened in the past. Makes me wonder if there is possibly a neutral party that was around from a few years ago that can shed light on what happened (I know you said you read performance reviews, but they may not tell all the story).

            I think that OP may try having a meeting with Nina where she is honest that you aren’t going to relitigate the past, but that you are going to keep a very close eye on the present.

        3. Smithy*

          In addition to not seeing changes – I’d also keep a more critical eye on those soft skills. Most of us who work cross team can easily encounter areas of frustration that are kind of “no one’s fault” – but more so weirdness in bureaucracy, competing demands, or receiving mixed messages from different supervisors.

          However, those frustrations risk wildly escalating when soft skills are poor. Expressing frustration by getting angry, using crass or overly casual language, appearing distracted/disinterested, not taking the time to build rapport… Sure, in one meeting this shouldn’t create a massive issue, but over the course of a project that may be struggling, this can really build up.

          Very often those poor soft skills are seen in isolation around one moment. And so it does get diminished, seen as an area of improvement, or a one time lapse. I’m not saying the OP needs to address these at all regarding the past issues – but if one the problems that contributed to past wrongs was talking over people (or anything else). And this is something that is still done, it would be worth addressing now on its own as a relevant area in need of improvement.

          1. LW2*

            He is definitely not getting angry, using crass language, or appearing disinterested. I’m not ignoring any ongoing problems now, I would be the last person to do that, I just can’t magically change the past.

            1. Smithy*

              That’s good to know! And I was just listing some poor soft skills that I have seen diminished in the past.

              But moreso I think it can be like a house that everyone knows need massive internal repairs and has a bad paint job. For people who live on that block, they may be aware that massive improvements have been done on the inside of the house but until the paint is changed….it will likely still recall the full scope of improvements the house needed.

              1. My Useless 2 Cents*

                A little story:

                Basically Dept. A treats us (Dept. B) like we are incompetents that don’t know how to do our jobs, then turn around and expect us to do 80% of *their* job for them. We complain, are ignored, keep complaining, told we need to be more flexible… helpful… bend over backward then do somersaults, complain some more until Big Boss looks into and figures out Dept. A is the problem.

                Big Bosses’ solution is always to bring in a new manager for Dept. A who immediately dismisses all problems and concerns Dept. B has brought up under the banner of “interpersonal/soft skill” problems and doesn’t make any significantly changes to Dept A because it seems to be running just fine. No new manager has every tried to understand what Dept. B is complaining about; we are treated like we are at BEC stage and everything will get better soon. Big surprise, nothing changes. I’ve been on this merry-go-round 6 times now and I’m sick of it.

                Moral of my story, don’t just assume it is Mike’s soft skills that Nina is objecting to but talk to Nina and really *listen* to what her complaints are. It could be Mike’s soft skills, or it could be there is a significant problem or deficiency in the department procedures that work great for Mike but cause problems for whomever he is working with. I get that a new manager doesn’t have the entire history of what is going on but that is why they need to dig a little deeper than the surface issue.

          2. ferrina*

            LW2, this may not be what’s going on (it sounds like it’s not?) but this is a great point by Smithy.

            I also work in an environment where there’s a lot of cross-team interaction and outside factors can be The Worst. Often Team A is limited by Rule and Team B is advocating for Client, where Rule and Client are in opposition. Even if the conversation is polite, it can get really frustrating for both sides. Having really strong soft skills (building relationships, active listening, validating viewpoints) can help turn a frustrating situation into a factual one. Sometimes we’ve been able to go to bat for each other- maybe Team A lobbies their boss to change Rule, or Team B starts proactively offering alternatives to clients.

            Again, sounds like this might not be what’s going on here, but I appreciate Smithy bringing this up.

            1. Smithy*

              I feel like perhaps you’ve been spying on some of my meetings! Ha!

              But yes, those soft skills when strong can really help smooth over those external constraints that individual team representatives on any given project are not in a position to change. And given that an added wrinkle is often that Team B is 75% invested in a solution and Team A is 25% invested. So Team B may be sending in more senior staff and have very high expectations around results. For Team A, this may be more of a midlevel issue and they’re not sending in staff with the same decision making capabilities.

              All to say, this may not be the exact case – but I do think that this can lead to longer simmering issues.

        4. Grits McGee*

          Thanks for submitting your question LW2- I see a lot of myself/my own experiences in Nina, and it’s been a good reminder that I need to be more circumspect and professional when I talk about my Mike.

          My Mike’s incident was so breathtakingly rude and out of line (in response to a complete nonissue at a social event) that it’s all I can think of when someone mentions his name to me. I still bring it up 4 years later because 1) his outburst was so inappropriate it became a funny story to share and 2) as a warning to colleagues that were assigned to work with him. I haven’t heard any more Mike-being-outrageous stories, so I guess he must have calmed down in the years since we worked together, but getting screamed at over clip art in a department newsletter made such a lasting impression that I don’t know if I could ever think of him as a competent professional

          1. LW2*

            Whatever happened was definitely more subtle and not as egregious as that. But I do hope you give your Mike a chance! Yes the clip art story sounds horrendous, but if its been long enough who knows, at least find out if the situation is still the same.

            1. Grits McGee*

              Yes, I hope for his sake he has been able to get a better handle on his emotions, because it was clear a lot of his inappropriate behavior was anxiety-driven rather than knowingly malicious. He completely destroyed a close friendship with another colleague after a similar outburst, so I hope he was able to learn and grow. I never worked closely enough with him that I could vouch for his work, but I will stop bringing up his clip art outburst proactively (even though it is a very funny story).

            2. sometimeswhy*

              Or the whole situation was so egregious that no one will talk about it. A former colleague of mine was romantically pursued by a much younger colleague. They were both in long term relationships. The older colleague did not think that they would be believed if they shared that the younger colleague was harassing them and tried to deal with it on their own. When older colleague once and for all (and loudly and publicly) rejected younger colleague’s advances, younger colleague confessed their feelings for older colleague to their spouse who was family friends with the big boss’s spouse and it got uuuuugly. Everyone in a position to do something about it blamed older colleague for… I don’t know what. Defending older colleague with what I observed only got me put on notice to mind myself.

              We’ve had a lot of turnover since then and I’m one of the few remaining from that time. I still work with the younger colleague. I hope they’ve grown and changed and I give straight professionalism in work situations. We’ll work together to the extent we need to but I will never trust them and I will never so much as tell him my dog’s name or where my kid goes to college.

              I don’t bad mouth them but if they’re in line for a position of authority or if I see a similar pattern starting to work itself out with someone else, I may quietly go fill in the parts that I observed first hand when the previous situation was blooming. It was such a frog boil last time, I can totally see someone writing off the behavior if they think it’s a one-time thing.

              I’m not saying this is what happened here. Everyone’s right that there is nothing you can do with what you know and what you’ve observed. But if Mike does something not okay but also not NOT okay and you’re inclined to dismiss it because it doesn’t seem like a big deal, maybe poke at that a little more?

        5. one l lana*

          LW, I almost wonder if you work at my office… I’ve been in situations like this, and they’re hard to fully solve because they can quickly become about generalized interpersonal dislike more than a discrete solvable problem.

          It’s also fully possible that Nina can dislike Mike for good reasons AND that Mike didn’t do anything wrong. To give an example, my team used to have ideas meetings where it was standard for individual contributors to ask skeptical questions of one another, suggest alternate ways of approaching the problem, and contribute suggestions based on their own subject matter expertise. Then some new hires came in who really disliked this approach, and perceived the other contributors’ input as condescending and intimidating. Ultimately, what mattered was that the meetings were becoming a source of stress and conflict rather than creating stronger work, and we changed our approach. Nobody did anything wrong, nobody was written up, but some of the interpersonal dynamics lingered, and new managers have come in who don’t know where all the bodies are buried.

          (Side note: if this all went down 2-3 years ago, it might have been either during the initial phase of the pandemic or right before it and not been resolved. A lot of interpersonal stuff got really amped up and lingered far longer than it otherwise would have.)

          What I have found helpful is for new managers to say things like “I don’t know what kind of guidance/feedback Mike was getting in the past, but I’m going to expect him to do X.” Keep the focus on what’s happening now and what you can control.

        6. yala*

          I’ve seen folks get pretty stuck on earlier impressions, to the point that it colors their perception of everything else the person does, even years later, so that they always perceive their words or actions in the worst possible light, to the point of ridiculousness. (Heck, sometimes it’s that their earlier impressions were also influenced by other folks who didn’t like the person in question)

          It’s a bit of a BEC thing, really.

          If Nina’s made up her mind that he’s arrogant, then absolutely everything he says or does will be seen under that light.

          Which isn’t to say there may not be problems. But just because she’s still on them, it doesn’t mean that they’re actually an issue, especially if they haven’t been for you. And there’s a fine line between discussing employee issues and gossiping.

      2. Ness*

        In my personal experience, I’d estimate that about 10% of men have a tendency to be condescending and dismissive to female coworkers. That’s obviously not scientific, but there have been plenty of scientific studies that show that sexism (both conscious and unconscious) in the workplace is extremely common.

        Is Mike sexist? I have no idea. But I do think it’s sufficiently likely that LW should keep an eye on his future interactions, rather than dismissing it as “well he isn’t condescending to ME, therefore the problem must be with Nina” (especially if LW is a man).

    5. Emmy Noether*

      Mmmmh. While I do think that sexism is deeply interwoven into the very fabric of our society and also think “dismissive” from a man to a woman can be an indicator, I don’t think there’s enough info here to jump to this. For one, we don’t know the LW’s gender, and we don’t have a pattern (yet). Peter could be just a general asshole, or it could be just towards Nina, or just that one time… can’t know.

      Even if it is/was sexism, what Nina is doing isn’t productive. Wanting a manager to adress issues with an employee now that happened two years ago, when the manager wasn’t there yet… it’s not going to work. Flagging past issues once is fine to give context (and LW should keep that context in mind), but she now needs to see if they are still ongoing before they can be adressed.

      1. Sean*

        This is so true. And given that Nina is clearly not backwards at coming forwards, it does seem strange that none of Nina’s grumbles appeared on Mike’s performance reviews from a couple of years ago. One would have thought Nina would have pushed to have something added to Mike’s write-up at the time, when his troublesome behaviour was supposed to be at its height. Especially since whatever it was, was so bad that she’s still stewing about it two years later.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          My guess would be that it might be related to Peter being Mike’s boss in the past. The LW says she found THEM a bit disorganised and outspoken, so it’s quite possible that whatever Mike was doing that annoyed Nina, Peter was involved too. I don’t even think it’s necessarily a sexism issue, though it COULD be. It could also simply be that Mike knew he was protected by Peter, for whatever reason and therefore behaved in an arrogant and dismissive way, since he had the boss’s ear.

          It’s possible Nina was frustrated by his behaviour but couldn’t get Peter to listen to her, so she was delighted when Peter left and possibly wanted to “see Mike get his comeuppance now he has a boss that won’t pander to him.” But Mike may have had enough sense to tone things down when he didn’t have a boss backing him, so Nina is annoyed he never got consequences for whatever it is he supposedly did and wants the LW to implement them.

          Of course, it’s also possible Nina is being unreasonable and she complained to Peter about Mike and Peter investigated and found her complaints unfounded, so she is now going to the LW like a kid going to Dad when Mom said no.

          But given that the LW seems to imply a similar attitude from both Peter and Mike, I wonder if there was a friendship there and Nina feels, rightly or wrongly, that Mike was favoured and protected and now that there is a boss she considers “fairer” managing Mike, thinks it’s time he got some consequences.

          I do agree with everybody that whatever the reason, the LW cannot intervene on issues that are over and that she never saw. Even if Peter WERE a poor manager for some reason, all she can do is improve things for the future.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            That’s a really astute analysis. It may very well be that Nina wants to relitigate now because she got nowhere in the past, for whatever reason. I’m afraid Nina will just have to live with that frustration.

          2. Snow Globe*

            “Of course, it’s also possible Nina is being unreasonable and she complained to Peter about Mike and Peter investigated and found her complaints unfounded…”

            Also possible that Peter coached Mike on whatever the issue was, and that is why he is no longer displaying the behavior.

          3. LW2*

            Yes Peter was definitely involved! I think its more that Peter and Mike sort of escalated each other, and I am the opposite, a calming presence. It wasn’t a friendship though – frankly I don’t think Peter liked Mike. They were just in agreement on certain things but didn’t express it well.

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

              I wonder if it wasn’t something like Peter and Mike brought out the worst in each other, but separately they are fine to work with. Or that Peter was really the one with the issues and and it just boiled over onto Mike and Nina thinks that Mike was the problem when it was really Peter.

          4. Smithy*

            I really like this analysis.

            I also think that with cross team disagreements it’s very common for team managers to “protect their own” and unless the issue severely escalates there’s rarely an incentive to aggressively penalize this behavior. Hence why the OP would see nothing in a past PMEs. Now I’m not saying that Peter did or did not manage Mike to change his behavior….just that Peter likely saw little incentive to formally document it.

            I could see that being very frustrating for someone who feels they were on the raw end of the situation and hoping for a relitigation with a new supervisor. Not helpful or likely, but I do think as time goes on it may be worth exploring if there is any kind of restitution the OP, Mike or their team could make that might soften the relationship. Maybe it’s an apology, but it could also be like helping her team out with a task when they often need extra hands. Something in the spirit of building goodwill and showing a desire to give a fresh start.

          5. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I am also wondering how much of the issue was Peter – and could Nina be lashing out at like as the only one left (as per OP Peter now has a different job elsewhere). Somebody else also speculated that Peter may have been the root of the problem, but Nina is lashing out at Mike because of power dynamic issues.

            It may be worth a quick convo if there are others there from two-three years back who aren’t Mike and Nina who may have more information about what happened. Who knows what wasn’t written down?

      2. Aurelia*

        The only way I could see Nina‘s complaints being useful is if she was making allegations of such gross misbehaviour on Mike’s part that OP should be looking for evidence to outright fire him. But even then it would be very difficult for OP to investigate something that happened before she joined the company, so the advice would largely remain the same: be on the lookout for new incidents of this behaviour rather than trying to track down proof of previous actions.

      3. Sara without an H*

        You make a good point. One thing that I really liked about Alison’s script is that it lets OP put Nina on notice that her concerns have been heard, but it’s time to move forward. Further carping is, indeed, not productive. I once worked at a place where people were flogged for years about minor transgressions that happened during the first Truman administration. That, too, was not productive.

        OP should, of course, continue to observe Mike closely and give him prompt feedback on any problematic behavior.

    6. JSPA*

      Short of there having been (say) an undisclosed violent incident or threat that she is now ready to disclose, “someone did something off the record years ago, but I have zero current complaints” isn’t particularly managerially actionable.

      Long script:

      “If he did something so serious that you feel at risk working with him, or if you have current complaints of actual harassment, I need the specifics.

      If there are no such specifics, I need you to shift your gaze.

      I understand that he gets on your nerves and I hear that you don’t trust his professionalism.

      However, as his new manager, I have not only the right but the responsibility to form my own judgements, on the basis of each employee’s current behavior. I would prefer that you also give him the grace and the space to improve. Can you do that?

      I strongly encourage you to let me know if he does anything egregious. But at the same time, I need your focus to be on your own work, not on waiting for him to mess up. Similarly, I need our check-ins to focus on current business and projects.”

    7. Aurelia*

      I think Allison’s advice about keeping an eye on Mike makes sense. But Opie really can’t act on allegations from years before they even worked at the company. She should definitely keep an eye out to ensure that Mike’s “lack of soft skills” is not a shield for some kind of bigotry — and yes, there are people who are “equal opportunity a-holes” and also deliberate misogynists. It’s the difference between “I think everyone sucks” and “I think everyone sucks, women because of insert_sexist_stereotype_here. If someone is rude to everyone but they’re rude to certain people on the basis of protected characteristics they’re still a bigot. But right now I don’t think there’s much OP can do about Nina’s complaints about Mike’s past behaviour, and I do think she needs to have conversation with Nina.

    8. Lilo*

      I once worked with a new hire who was a bit arrogant but he did truly improve. Mike seems to be doing okay now, I don’t see any behavior bad enough that Mike has to be fired for it down the line, and so Nina just has to let it go.

    9. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Nina is a grown adult responsible enough to have a management job. If she was having an issue with sexism, she is plenty capable of actually saying it with words instead of hinting. If the issue was severe enough that Mike ought to be disciplined this far out, she probably has a duty to do so.

      On the other hand, if Mike hasn’t done anything reportably problematic in the last year and a half, the problem (sexism or not) is probably fixed.

  8. Anonynonymouse*

    LW4, you absolutely don’t need to tell your husband’s boss anything more than he’s “being treated for a medical condition” and how long you expect he’ll be out. Do confirm how the company handles FMLA: do you need to talk to HR, do they outsource it and if so how do you contact the vendor, etc.

    You can also ask about talking to someone in HR or about the company’s EAP – a lot of EAPs now have a TON of services available, and they may also be available to the employee’s immediate family; I’m constantly giving my employees and their family our EAP info when the employee goes out on a leave of absence. (If you work, don’t forget to check into your own company’s EAP and FMLA for yourself if you’ll need to take off any time to help with your husband’s care, including going to any therapy sessions – you may be eligible for Intermittent FMLA in this case.)

    I’m wishing your husband and you the best!

  9. ItIsWhatItIs*

    LW 1, as someone in that kind of scene your partner is out of line and wants to be pretty unethical. Places where the owner is “doing business” while things are happening get a reputation that isn’t flattering. (Not to mention the power dynamics in play between your partner and the clientele)

    Bail and start a new place if you loved everything else about the business.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Yup, this nonsense seems likely to have a negative effect on the business. With someone reasonable, that argument would likely get more traction than other arguments. But you’re also dealing with someone who appears to be unwilling to recognize the very obvious problem of not screwing around (pun aggressively intended) when he should be working. As other commenters have pointed out, you’re unlikely to convince him. He’s just going to get better at hiding his behaviour.

  10. Catherine*

    OP #1, in addition to the possible coercion problems other commenters have raised, if your business partner is having sex on the clock with customers, is there any possible way you might run afoul of local regulations on prostitution? Get away from this minefield as fast as possible.

    1. Lilo*

      Even in places where sex work is legal, there are rules. If the bartender is on the books as a bartender but is arguably engaging in sex work on the clock, you have a problem.

      1. Sasha*

        I mean honestly, if your bar worker isn’t working behind the bar because they are off shagging their boyfriend, that is a problem for your business too? Who is serving drinks/taking money all evening if she is off with her boyfriend having sex?

        Or is the plan that they close the bar, take no money, and the co-owner just uses the business as his own private play space and screw making a profit? Urgh. This does sound exactly like something off Bar Rescue.

  11. Bilateralrope*

    LW1. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of sex at work going well for the business unless the business is sex work. The best case is that it’s caught early and stopped, though that doesn’t sound like an option here.

    Document the details somewhere so you aren’t relying on your memory if the police want to ask questions. Then get out before anything happens.

    1. Bagpuss*

      And even if the vusiness is sex work then surely normally that would mean sex between a a client and a sex worker, not two workers having sex with each other, or a worker having sex with their employer (even if the employer is also their partner)

      If nothing else, if the business partner is having sex with his girfriend when they are both at work,neither of them is doing the job they are getting paid for so there are issues even without getting into the issues around the power imbalalance, concerns from patrons or other staff etc.

  12. Bex (with computers)*

    LW4 – please continue to refer to your husband’s detox as only “a medical condition he’s receiving treatment for” or something similarly bland, no matter how good a relationship with the boss.

    More than 15 years ago, I had a severe mental health episode which required hospitalization. At the time, I’d been working at the company for 2 1/2 years, received three internal recognitions, became one of the lead trainers, got along well with almost the entire staff, and was trusted by my boss. Frequently assigned lead on sensitive/important clients, often asked to help present at small industry gatherings. I was good and they knew I was good.

    My partner at the time, in the call to my boss to advise I’d be out of work for a while, let slip that it was a mental health episode.

    I returned to work a week later. My KPIs were all being met or exceeded, my client reviews and feedback were as good as they had been before the hospitalization. I was objectively performing at the same level I was prior to my hospitalization.

    In then next six months, I was moved off the presentation teams for three shows, my major/sensitive clients were reassigned, and I was no longer asked to help train. Every time I approached my boss after an interesting project was announced as needing volunteers, I was vaguely turned aside.

    Until the day my uncle died. And I got the news at work. And I cried at my desk and my boss said (paraphrasing here) “I knew your mental issues would make it hard for you to do the job.”

    I left three months later. I could never seem to live down the image of a broken and less capable person that my boss developed.

    So please. Stay vague.

    1. Certaintroublemaker*

      That is horrible. I’m so sorry that happened; it’s completely unfair. Your performance should speak to your capabilities, not your boss’s prejudices. I hope you ended up someplace your successes are recognized.

    2. LG*

      That is unbelievably sad. I hope you ended up in a better place. And I agree with staying vague, as I have seen this happen before in various scenarios. There are too many people who will hold it against you in the future.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      That boss did not have one single cell of compassion in his whole body.

      I am so sorry this happened to you.

      1. irene adler*

        I bet the boss would believe his actions were very compassionate. Stereotypically so. And that’s the problem. Ask if someone feels the need to have their work assignments redistributed.

    4. Khatul Madame*

      This is terrible but oh so typical in a work environment. All too often people latch on to your one… vulnerability/shortcoming and it becomes your defining characteristic from there on out, no matter how accomplished you are 99% of the time. If these people are above you in the hierarchy, they view you as a liability. The consequences may not be as egregious as in Bex’s story, but make no mistake, your career may be impacted.
      This applies to Nina/Mike situation in the second letter, as well, except Nina does not have the power to derail Mike’s career over that prior conflict. She sure is trying, though.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Which is why pseudoscience about exposing your weaknesses is such a bad idea in the workplace. It just leaves you open to everyone judging you based on that one thing — even if its out of a place of caring. Oh I know you have mental health issues, so i didn’t want to stress you out by giving you this big project. Then the person who did get the project gets noticed and promoted.

      2. irene adler*

        I think about this every time I answer the interviewer question: “what is your greatest weakness?”. They are gonna bring it up whatever I tell them forever after.

        1. Khatul Madame*

          Nah, if they don’t like your weakness, they just won’t select you for the job. You’ll learn from the experience and next time will trot out something bland.
          Like a weakness for cheese.

        2. Irish Teacher*

          I think that is unlikely, at least in a healthy workplace. They are likely interviewing multiple people and it strikes me as unlikely they’d remember the weaknesses of every single person they have ever employed.

          Plus…most weaknesses wouldn’t be that easy to raise in most situations. Like if you say “I haven’t had much experience with such an internet app that is regularly used in our profession. I do know the basics, but I’d probably need to spend a bit of time familiarising myself with the more complicated uses,” there are limited ways in which that could be used against you. Maybe if you made a mistake with that app.

          As a teacher, my go-to answer to that question is that I am a bit too willing to give students the benefit of the doubt sometimes and I have to guard against letting them take advantage of that. (And I never thought of this while I WAS interviewing, but it was actually a pretty good screening question from my point of view too as if a principal was the type of person who wanted to teachers to have no flexibility and to make no allowances for genuine mistakes, etc, that school probably wouldn’t be a good fit for me anyway because no, I am not comfortable punishing a child for wearing the wrong coloured shoes when it’s possible his parents couldn’t afford to buy him new shoes or that his school shoes got wet and he had to wear a different pair.) I really doubt most principals would use that against me and those that would…would probably be the ones that are in favour of no flexibility, disciplinarian approach and they…probably wouldn’t hire me in the first place.

  13. Notactuallyme*

    LW4, is there any reason your husband can’t contact his boss? When I was admitted to a MH unit, I had access to my phone and was able to contact anyone I wanted / needed to. I just told my boss that I was off sick, and scanned and emailed through the medical certificate stating how long I would be off for. No awkward conversations at all.

    1. BubbleTea*

      I’m not LW but I’ve had clients who were admitted to rehab facilities and there’s no access to phones or computers for the first part of their treatment.

      1. doreen*

        That’s my experience too – the client typically cannot make any phone calls for a certain period of time ( and in long-term programs, there may also be restrictions on letters and visits). Usually the program staff is willing notify others that the person is in treatment – but that’s often going to involve disclosing information that you might not want your employer to have. It’s one thing to have someone call your boss and say you are currently hospitalized at ABC hospital when that is a general hospital that also happens to have a detox program – it’s another to have someone say you are currently in a facility that is fairly well-known for providing only alcohol and or substance-abuse treatment. Even if the only mention of the facility is the person identifying where they are calling from or Caller ID coming up on the phone. .

      2. Gumby*

        Also, I feel like it might be useful to set the expectation at the start. Otherwise, depending on the boss, you could get “just a really quick question” calls or similar because obviously you have access to a phone and that means you should be at least minimally available if something important comes up. *eye roll* Having the spouse handle it in this case makes it very clear that OP’s husband is absolutely, 100% unavailable.

    2. Asenath*

      Not LW4, but depending on the unit and the seriousness of her husband’s condition, I don’t think it would be unusual for him to be unable to contact anyone in the outside world for at least a while.

      LW4 – besides continuing as you are doing, if/when you do know that he will need a much longer term in rehab, start setting that up with the employer. It can take a while to get short or long term disability leave organized, sometimes.

    3. Bagpuss*

      I wondered about this – and whether even if patrients are restricted from having free access to phones surely it would be possible for them to facilitate a call to his employre to let them know he is out ? It would seem to be counter productive to prevent someone in treatment from being able to tell their boss they were out.
      OP, can you speka to whoever is treating hom to ask about acecs to a phone to enable him to do whats necessary to apply for FMLA or let his boss knowhe will be out?

      1. Asenath*

        I think there’s two aspects to this – it might be possible to facilitate a call, but staff are very cautious about the possibility that the call might actually be to someone like a dealer connected with the reason he’s in rehab, and secondly, people in rehab (and in other kinds of psychiatric treatment) may go through periods when they’re not entirely rational and perhaps not ready to handle such arrangements, even by phone. In those cases, it’s best for a family member to do so, ideally in consultation with the staff and patient (when possible).

        1. Catherine*

          It’s also probably not great from a privacy standpoint to make that kind of call from the facility’s phone. Boss thinks of something they forgot to say, hits the redial, and a nurse picks up? Whoops, now they know exactly where you are.

          1. Jenn*

            I called my boss before I went to detox because of the privacy reasons. I did not want to share the medical reason for my absence. As people noted, calling is restricted and I could only have made a call from the facility phone, which would have identified where I was. I managed to negotiate being able to email from my work cell since I was in voluntarily, but a lot of places will not allow something like that at all for the first week. (If you are in that long or staying for rehab.)

        2. Daisy-dog*

          There might be a case manager on site to manage these things with discretion. However, if the patient has a spouse who is able to help with the process, then that may be all that is required for short-term.

    4. AnonyNurse*

      If he is detoxing, he is SICK. Physically ill. Non-medical detox (aka just going cold turkey) from alcohol kills people addicted to alcohol. Even when medically managed, it is a rough and terrifying process, and very brave to go through.

      ** assuming alcohol because that’s a term usually used for alcohol, though not exclusively

      1. Daisy-dog*

        Not necessarily. I worked in a treatment facility and our patients varied with the severity. In some cases, it’s just a term used for insurance purposes to determine their level of care (daily visits to the psychiatrist and NP, amount of times their vitals are checked per day, additional tests required, types of drugs that may be prescribed).

    5. pierrot*

      It really depends on the specific facility, but most detoxes and psych units will not allow you to hold onto your cell phone. The rules are particularly strict in detoxes because of people calling dealers, but I’ve heard of private detoxes that are specifically geared towards high level professionals where they were able to use their computers.

      As someone who’s been through MH and addiction treatment, even if LW’s husband is able to access his phone, I could see it being beneficial to opt out of that. Detox is stressful and hard enough as it is without getting caught up in outside work or social stress.

    6. JSPA*

      There are opened and closed facilities for both; but substance abuse inpatient is commonly closed, because no calls = no calls for substance delivery, no calls to fellow users to strategize etc. Single moment of weakness issues are a bigger deal when substances are involved.

    7. LW #4*

      Thank you everyone for the input. There is no personal phone access and at this point it is best for me to handle communications. I like Gumby’s point too about setting expectations. I am hoping at some point during the recovery process he will be able to take over communications with his employer but for now I will handle it. I just want to do it in the best way possible.

  14. Myrin*

    #2, do you have any insight into what Nina’s goal here is? Does she earnestly want you to reprimand your report for something that happened years ago and which apparently hasn’t reared its head since then? Is she at BIC state with Mike (it sure sounds like it) and doesn’t want him to have any positive relationships in your company? Does she just want to vent and for some reason decided that his new boss would be the perfect person for that?

    The answer to that question doesn’t change the fact that Alison’s script is excellent and should be used just like that, but I’m very curious.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I actually think the answer might be helpful! Or at least asking the question might help resolve the conversation. If she just wants to vent or ruin his reputation, asking point-blank what she wants LW to do might cue her to realize she should stop venting; if it’s that she wants him disciplined then LW can tell her point-blank that’s not going to happen and hopefully shut it down; if it’s something more reasonable like “just keep an eye out” then ok, problem solved.

      1. Aurelia*

        Yup, agreed! And I think OP would be well served by asking Nina that outright. Something like “you keep bringing this up with me. What exactly are you hoping I’ll do with this information?” Then she can transition to “I can’t discipline him for things that happened before I joined. I’m committed to managing him appropriately and will keep an eye out for problematic behaviour/coach him as necessary, but as part of that I need you to be willing to start over with a clean slate with him. Right now your comments all refer to past occurrences and are not in line with what I’ve seen from him, so I can’t make an appropriate judgement on how he’s doing now.”

          1. Astor*

            Yup! And one alternative is that instead of saying “what are you hoping I’ll do”, you can move some comments around and replace that with something like “you keep bringing this up with me. I want to reassure you that I’m committed to managing him appropriately and will keep an eye out for problematic behaviour, etc…. With that in mind, do you have any other immediate concerns?”

            Sometimes the person bringing a problem to you doesn’t actually know what they want you to do with that information (or doesn’t know what’s a feasible request). In those cases, asking them something like “what do you want me to do” sound like you’re putting the problem back on them to solve. Sometimes that’s a good goal, but sometimes it’s worthwhile to instead tell them exactly what you’re going to do first and leave space for them to make a specific request for how you handle it (even if you decline that request). Doing it that way can make it clear that you have listed to their concerns and have a plan for handling them – which may be specifically what she’s looking for but doesn’t know how to articulate!

            1. Wisteria*

              In those cases, asking them something like “what do you want me to do” sound like you’re putting the problem back on them to solve.

              Yes, exactly. It’s the verbal equivalent of shrugging your shoulders, putting your feet on your desk, and looking at them expectantly. Plus, you know, if you don’t know what to do with an employee with a history of poor behavior toward another person, maybe you are in over your head in the manager arena.

          2. Wisteria*

            “What exactly are you hoping I’ll do with this information?”

            That phrasing is not likely to bring you the constructive you results you need. How about, “What are the actions you would like to see from me?”

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I thought, okay, but what has he done lately?

      Definitely, it’s okay to refuse to correct the past, OP. I heard a lot of this type of thing. “Three years ago Employee did X!” Hmm. I wasn’t at the job then. I would just explain, ” I can’t fix the past. If I see something in current time then I definitely will say something.”

      Sometimes when people repeat themselves it is because they feel UNheard. Make sure she knows you hear her.
      Use current time as your redirect. ” While I cannot fix the past, I am willing to listen to any reasonable complaint about any one of my people that is happening NOW.”

      Start watching his soft skills. Make note of what you are seeing. Remember the rule of 3. If you see something 3 times you have a pattern and it’s okay to address it.

    3. LW2*

      I think she is at BIC state with Mike and doesn’t want him to have positive relationships in the company (but he does!). I said a lot of what Alison said “if you have any problems come to me immediately” but maybe as another commentator wrote I will specifically ask “what are you hoping to happen here”

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        I suggested something similar below. One of the tactics Captain Awkward has for dealing with people who constantly complain about what you’re doing is to ask them to explain how they would like you to handle the same situation in the future. Reasonable people will generally tell you, and you can decide whether what they want is reasonable/make your own suggestion/tell them no. And it may make them realize that they’re not being reasonable in this situation. Unreasonable people generally can’t tell you; they’re not operating based on logic, they’re operating just on feelings.

        1. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

          It’s usually BEC — Bitch Eating Crackers — and it’s a shorthand for expressing that you’re so frustrated and fed up with someone even the way they eat (“Did you see that bitch eating crackers??’) annoys you.

          Generally, it’s hard to come back from BEC with someone. It’s not impossible, but it means there’s no goodwill left in the well on which to draw.

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

          Yes thats what i want to know too. I first thought maybe B*ch eating crackers but that would be BEC, unless more than one person made the same typo?

        3. Myrin*

          Sorry, I meant “BEC” (“bitch eating crackers”, which others already explained) and somehow… wanted to spell “eat” as “iit”, apparently? I knew something looked wrong but only realised what it was when I saw the correct version.

            1. Irish Teacher*

              I was thinking “inhaling,” mainly because it amused me, but “ingesting” makes more sense.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I think I’ve proposed this elsewhere, but with that new info (that she’s going after Mike’s ability to form positive relationships with coworkers), I really think if this hasn’t been done it might be a good idea, just to get more of the background.

        What happened between Nina, Peter, and Mike? Other than written reports, do you have any coworkers other than them who could tell you what happened from a more neutral point of view?

    4. This is Artemesia*

      This is the second letter recently where someone reprimanded someone or is thinking of doing it for something they haven’t observed from the past. NEVER give credence to this kind of complaint beyond paying extra attention to the dynamic. Only if you see repeated issues with the other employee would you talk to them about it. People like Nina are dangerous to any business.

    5. Ann O'Nemity*

      It sounds like Nina had a terrible first impression of Mike and it has stuck with her.

      Something similar happened in our office when an entry-level employee, Dave, came in with a know-it-all attitude. With time and experience he really mellowed out and is now well-liked by newer team members. But a couple coworkers who were on the receiving end of Dave’s initial criticisms never really forgave or forgot how cocky he was in the beginning. These employees had a good reason to dislike Dave, as he was a real jerk to them and made their jobs unpleasant for months. But since Dave’s bad behavior stopped, the manager isn’t going to continue to penalize Dave for it.

      1. JustaTech*

        I saw exactly this. I had a coworker (Christa) who could be incredibly ridged. Then we got a new coworker Bob, who is not the most sociable person ever (which is totally fine). Not long after Bob started he was supposed to do a thing at a very specific time for Christa, and he missed it because he wasn’t into the office yet.
        It wasn’t a huge deal (I did the thing Bob should have done and it took me about 10 minutes), but Christa was furious and never, ever forgave Bob for it.

        A few years later Christa is complaining about how Bob “never works” – Bob works a later schedule, coming in after noon, where Christa works very early coming in around 6am. After about the 87th time hearing this complaint I said “Bob is here until after 7, did you know that?”
        *blink blink*. Christa had such a set impression of Bob as a slacker that it never occurred to her that he worked a different schedule (just like she did).

        She didn’t exactly warm up to Bob after that, but the constant sniping over nothing stopped.

  15. Luna*

    LW1 – Partner needs to stop thinking with his lower head. Also, what about the coworkers he’s not screwing? They will be just as inconvenienced when he’s off nailing his girlfriend, either by having to pick up both of their slack or for having to hear them doing it, which is just distracting, annoying, and also really unprofessional. And on a personal note, I would be physically sick if I had to hear them having sex while at work. Your sex life is your business, I should not have to hear it, see it, or even be aware of it beyond ‘Yes, they probably have a sex life’.

    By the way, does his girlfriend want to have sex during work? That is also a very big question!
    If she does, well… okay, it’s not what I would consider okay or professional, but she’s a consenting adult. If she isn’t, then this becomes a problem because then it could go into legal territory of ‘Will your business partner fire her for not agreeing to sleep with him while at work?’ and the potential repercussions that could bring.

    LW2 – Nina needs to watch Frozen and Let It Go.

    1. Books and Cooks*

      I mean, it is a sex club, I’d assume you’re gonna hear people having sex pretty much every time you’re there? The whole point of the business is to share your sex life with other people–maybe not for the owners, but if you don’t want to see or hear or think about people having sex, I don’t think it’s the job for you (as it would not be for me).

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Yes, for *patrons*. If you’re there to work, though, one might expect you to be bartending (or whatever your job is). I don’t think the issue is that people are having sex, it’s that they’re a) doing it in violation of agreements made within a personal relationship and b) doing it on the clock.

        Most of us who have hobbies and jobs that overlap don’t do the hobby part when we’re working, because that’s not our time.

        1. Books and Cooks*

          The comment to which I replied said she would “be physically sick” if she had to hear people having sex at her workplace, and that she should not have to be aware of other people’s sex lives while at work. I was merely pointing out that if you’re working at a sex club, I think it’s unrealistic to expect you will never hear sex happening, or, potentially, hear your coworkers talk about their sex lives. IMO the people who work there have indicated, by the mere fact that they work there, that they are willing to hear other people having sex at their workplace and are okay with a very sexualized atmosphere. I wasn’t saying it’s cool to have sex while on the clock, because “Having sex while on the clock” isn’t cool in any situation, but that it might be a little different in this case than it would be at a different, less genital-oriented workplace.

          In other words, I was saying what you said: the problem here is more the potential issue about the girlfriend’s consent and that her co-workers are having to take up the slack, than the fact that she is having sex in her workplace at all.

      2. Luna*

        I admit, my brain was so focused on the ‘boss wanting to screw a coworker’ aspect, I kinda blanked out the implied sex club thing, so… yeah, disregard that part.

  16. Irish Teacher*

    LW5, my guess is that the business was having financial difficulty and your boss was hoping it would pick up and she would be able to bring you back, but that this didn’t happen and they are still unsure if they can afford you. I really doubt you were fired. It doesn’t sound as if you were doing anything wrong. And given what you said about a slow patch, it sounds like the reason was exactly that. Even if business has picked up, it may take a while for them to build up to a point where they can afford the staff they used to. For all you know, they may have had to take out a loan during that period and may now be focussing on paying that back. Even if that isn’t the case, she may be wary of taking on extra staff yet, in case another slow period happens.

    My guess would be that the reference to you being “bored” was an attempt to try and make it seem like there was a silver lining to the whole thing. I can’t imagine why a boss would fire you for being “bored.” It seems more likely that she meant. “I’m sorry. We can’t afford to keep you on at the moment. You’ve seen how poor business is and sure, you must be bored anyway, there’s so little to do at the moment.” A bit tone deaf if that was the reasoning but letting somebody go, especially a valued member of staff, is not easy, plus she was probably worried the business would fold. I wouldn’t read much into it beyond awkward phraseology.

    It really sounds to me like she couldn’t afford to keep you on and was hoping that would change soon but it took longer to change than she expected and she has now realised she can’t expect you to wait forever when the business may never return to its previous situation.

    I agree with Alison that it is unlikely your job will return anytime soon.

    1. Nutella and banana on toast*

      I agree with everything said above but also want to add that they had to start doing dishes themselves and realized that with the amount of customers this was something they could do.

      Friends that have small business’s/local restaurants have said since the pandemic they have had to redefine rolls and some things they considered necessary prior 2020 are now luxuries they cant afford between inflation and what they lost for those 2+ years they are not back operating with the same level of revenue and have a debt from those years.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        I was thinking the same thing. It sounds like the restaurant has rolled dishwashing duties into other roles because there is not enough work/money to hire a dishwasher. It would be more worrisome if the OP saw the restaurant was hiring dishwashers again.

    2. A Rusted Fence*

      “Bored” wasn’t meant as a criticism of the LW.

      The employer meant they didn’t have enough business to keep anyone from getting bored on this job.

    1. Ferret*

      If that is the kind of site you are looking for then AAM may not be for you – Alison has carried letters from sex workers and others who are outside of ‘mainstream’ definitions of appropriateness before and has made it clear that this is a non-judgemental space.

      I’d rather read about these people than nasty comments like yours – and that’s without having any interest in these activities, whatever they actually are

    2. Why be rude though?*

      That sounds like a you problem. The vast majority of other comments on the story have been constructive towards the work aspects of the issue. No one cares about to read your prejudices or offensive comments about someone you know next to nothing about.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      In this case, I think it’s a practical “I don’t use this directly, but my experience in parallel situations is…” disclaimer. Every once in a while there is a separate rule for specific narrow industries, like having to sing in the interview.

    4. Bagpuss*

      I have to point out that neither Alison nor the LW specificed what the ‘likeminded’ people’s interest was. . . the only specifc mentions are in the comments, including yours. And the work related question and answer are exactly the same as for any other private club.

      And the question is a legitimate work related question, even if you don’t personall approve of some types of work.

      Like a lot of commenters here, its’ not something I am into but provided that eveyone involved is a consenting adult it’s really none of my, or your business. If you don’t want to read the answer, or the qurestion, scroll on by.

  17. SJ (they/them)*

    LW1, just echoing here as along with all the other commenters – you are 1000% right and your business partner is 1000% wrong. You are right to want to get out of this situation ASAP. That sucks and I’m sorry this guy’s complete lack of professionalism / inability to compartmentalize his work role from his participant role / garbage understanding of consent etiquette as it relates to situational power dynamics / etc has ruined this business opportunity for you.

    Even if you somehow got him to “agree” to your point of view, 1) I have no confidence he’d actually change his behavior, rather get better at hiding it from you, and 2) the underlying problem here isn’t the behavior itself, it’s the underlying attitudes the behavior indicates. Even if his behavior changes, he’s still a dude who fundamentally Does Not F*cking Get It and that’s super problematic (I would argue, untenable) for you as a business partner.

    Good news is, this guy’s behavior is way out of line from the perspective of community norms, his professional credibility either is or will end up at zero, and you’ll be well positioned to siphon all the good members over to whichever safer club you end up affiliated with after this.

    Good luck to you!

    1. bamcheeks*

      Fully agree with this.

      This feels to me like one of those AITA questions where the question is, “AITA for thinking t hat my partner’s choice in music is a good enough reason to break up”, and it turns out that “the partner’s choice in music” is them playing industrial music on the loudest possibly setting in the OP’s bedroom every night when they’re trying to sleep, and it’s a symptom of an entire attitude which is just so fundamentally at odds with the OP’s wellbeing that everyone starts screaming.

      This isn’t a “minor” disagreement, LW1– it’s your partner fundamentally not understanding a) what a business is or b)what THIS particular kind of business is, and putting his own pleasure over the needs of the clients and the business itself, and you as a co-owner. Absolute disaster zone– even if you “win”, this is not someone you should be in business with and not someone you should be trusting your clients’ or employees’ safety to.

  18. LilyP*

    For #1, if the owner/operator of a sex club ever came on to me, not only would I be skeeved out by him personally, but the lack of understanding of power dynamics/consent/coercion on display there would make me assume that any other issues with coercion/harrassment/consent would not be handled well by management. I would lose trust in the whole establishment being safe. It also sends a signal to potential bad actors that abusing power dynamics is ok and welcome in your club.

    1. Bagpuss*

      That’s a really good point.

      Not my scene at all but presumablyon of the attractions of going to a club rather than simply scrolling through Tindr or the like would be the confidence that there are safety rules and mnagement able to enforce them , in a similar way that in a mainstream cocktail bar you would expect the staff to cut off / throw out someone who got drunk and agressive, or who was trying to roofie people’s drinks.

  19. Allonge*

    LW2 – ugh.

    Look, let’s take the worst case scenario, where Mike was indeed rude and dismissive to Nina two years back. People are rude all the time, so this is in theory possible. And this was not addressed at all at the time, even though Nina complained as she does now. This, too happens, and it s*cks.

    With that hypothetical in mind, there is close to zero you can do without:
    1. Mike doing something like this now or
    2. some time-travel appliance.

    I suppose you could ask Mike what, if anything, he remembers of this, but to be honest that too is overkill years after the fact. Nina will have to deal with how things are now.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Oh man, a practical pocket method of time travel would transform the advice column industry.

      1. HannahS*

        LW4, Keep it vague–in a way, it’s good that you’re his partner, because you have an iron-clad excuse to not share details if someone asks: “Thank you so much for your concern but John is really private and I want to respect that. I’ll let him know you’re thinking of him; I’m sure he’ll appreciate it.”

        Other handy scripts:
        “John has had a medical emergency is unable to come to work. Please let me know what information you need from me to manage his leave of absence.”

        “Thank you for your concern. John is stable but we’re not sure how long his recovery will take. I’ll be filing the FMLA paperwork on his behalf.”

        “John is looking forward to returning to work once he has the doctor’s clearance!”


      2. Humble Schoolmarm*

        Dear AAM,
        I used my time turner to go back to our office potluck and replace all the food with Cheap Ass Rolls. Through an unforeseen series of circumstances, insulting my co-worker’s hawaiian rolls caused them to embark on a path of villainous revenge that now threatens to destroy the world. What should I do and should I tell my manager?

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          See, I foresee exponential growth as past you doesn’t want to listen to future you’s advice. It’ll be like when you tell the young people in your family what to do and they ignore you.

  20. Redaktorin*

    LW1, I’m concerned that you’re even writing in to ask if your partner’s behavior is bad enough to leave, let alone looking for new metaphors to help him “understand” why he can’t regularly bail on his work duties to screw the clientele.

    How far has he already pushed your reasonable boundaries? Is he making you feel like the crazy one, or like this is all some sort of innocent misunderstanding on his part? This guy is bad news.

    My husband co-owns a (much less exciting) business with this kind of partner, and it’s a living hell. You need to get out while the getting is good.

    1. searching for a new name*

      I was looking for a comment on this wavelength. I also want to point out to LW1 that their partner just unilaterally decided to skirt around their previously agreed upon arrangement. Are you sure this is someone you want to be in a relationship with, let alone a business one? You decided up front to not engage in this way with clients and yet your partner has decided to do so anyways. Please rethink your boundaries as your original intent was good. I think you would be wise to get out, not just in a business sense but from this relationship.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, this is a non-workable relationship in pretty much every aspect, personal and professional.

      He’s goofing off on the job. With employees. He’s ignoring boundaries that you (two) set previously. He’s blowing off your wishes.

      This is no different than drinking at work because you own a bar, which is something a lot of people do but is also a really bad idea. He’s there as a business owner and manager, to work, not as a patron.

      Sell out your half and build a life with people who respect you.

  21. Venus*

    I worry that your partner is going to take advantage of you financially by valuing the business cheaply because you want to leave for reasons related to reputation. Hopefully you have something in writing about buying each other out, but if not then I would ask to have the option to buy out the business or sell, so if the valuation is low then you can buy the other half and fire him.

    This sounds like someone who got into the business to take advantage of people. What a mess!

    1. Bagpuss*

      Or maybejust someone who enjoyed that scene so thought that owning a business would be one long party, and hadn’t really thought that owning a bsuiness is, well, a business decision with responsibilities and a lot of dull and time consuming work.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes. I think this is part of the same problem that leads to people setting up yarn shops / b&bs / restaurants with no previous experience because they want to work in their hobby and don’t realise that running a small business of any sort is a lot of work.

        1. Lynn*

          The fastest way to make a small fortune is to invest a large one in a (insert pastime here) shop.

          I have heard that comment from owners of both brewpubs and motorcycle shops, but I think it holds true for pretty much any shop based on a hobby. Particularly true when the owner is more interested in the pastime than the actual work of running the business.

          I agree with pretty much everyone else here. Regardless of the nature of the business, this isn’t the behavior you want from a partner. One of you needs to get out of the business if your partner cannot be the kind of reliable professional you need him to be.

  22. A Rusted Fence*

    Hell hath no fury…

    ” I’ve realized that whatever happened 2-3 years ago left a bad impression on Nina. Her comments verge on personal/vindictive and unprofessional…”

    I’m not saying there must be a personal angle to Nina’s relationship with Mike (she could genuinely just dislike him professionally), but it’s not something you can dismiss out of hand either.

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Beyond gross.

      Yeah, I’ve professionally disliked a couple of coworkers of the cis het male persuasion (and I am a cis het female). My dislike had to do with their unprofessional behavior and lack of ethics. Never has it been because I’d been “scorned”.

      I’d argue that you dismiss this out of hand unless first hand knowledge tells you otherwise.

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      No…sometimes a coworker just bugs the crap out of you. Sometimes, they’ve done something to try to burn you professionally. I’m not saying Nina is right to complain in this way, because professionals try to avoid complaining in this way, but assuming some prior personal relationship is not helpful.

  23. bamcheeks*

    LW2, you’re quite focussed on, “Nina seems to want me to discipline my employee because $reasons??!, do I have to?”, what if you switched it around to “Nina seems to have a problem with my employee, what do I need to do to protect him”.

    That means, rather than deciding that the status quo is neutral and the decision is whether or not to discipline Mike or “address this with him” in some unspecified but presumed punitive way, what if you addressed it with him as, “Listen, you’re going to be working on Project New Stuff with Nina. She’s mentioned she has some concerns about working with you, which I think stem from when you were working with Pete. Are you aware of any difficulties in that your relationship with her?”

    Mike says no, he’s no idea what this is about: “OK, I just wanted to give you a heads-up then. Can you just try and be your usual sunny and reliable self, but moreso? And if you get any bad vibes from Nina, let me know straight away. I just want to keep a bit of a close eye on this and make sure it all goes smoothly and if there’s any problems, I want to straighten them out ASAP.”

    Mike says yes: explore his perception of those issues, and make a judgement about whether it’s a) Nina’s unreasonable b) Nina’s problem was with Pete, in which case, same response as if he says No: make sure Mike goes in prewarned, and knows that you’ve got his back if Nina is being arsey with him. But check in with Nina too, just in case Mike actually is doing something subtly egregious without being aware of it, or is a more cunning liar than you thought.

    if c) whatever Mike says makes you think that, actually, sounds like Nina WAS justified, or that there was simply an interpersonal problem with Mike and Nina in which neither was at fault but they just didn’t gel, proceed with, “OK, sounds like we’ve got a bit of relationship-rebuilding to do. So for this project, I need you to be extra on top of things, and really working on that relationship with Nina. You can come to me for support if you aren’t sure how to proceed or what it will take to convince her that that problem is history. But please consider re-building that relationship as much part of the project as actually [whatever the event is.]”

    If it is a Nina problem, this should give you the information you need to protect Mike. If it is a Mike problem, it gives you the information you need to understand more about it and address it with him. But it doesn’t require you to relitigate the past, just to keep an eye on what happens going forward.

    1. LW2*

      I said what’s in the 2nd para to Mike, figured he should at least have a heads up. I really like the relationship rebuilding part, which is what I think this is, will use that language, thank you.

  24. Nessa*

    No. 5:

    This happened to me. During the 2020 shut down, our boss/company owner told me I could file for unemployment. And then when everything reopened I never got a phone call from her. Ever. Until I reached out to the other owner’s daughter to send my condolences on her father passing, and she must have mentioned it in passing to my boss that I had mentioned I relocated with my fiancé and then she called me to ask about a recipe. And then made a vague promise that she might call me back if business picked up and hung up on me. I was with them for 13 years of my life and I still dream about them. It was a small business so we were “like a family.“

    I hope you find a better place soon.

  25. lilisonna*

    LW4: I have been the boss for nearly this exact same scenario. Here’s what I needed to know:
    – My employee is going to be out for at least some number of weeks because of a medical issue
    – My employee will be filing for a medical leave of absence
    – Currently employee can not act on their own behalf, so Spouse will be acting as their proxy
    – A reasonable set of updates during the course of the LOA – date of return, any new accommodations required by the employee, any changes in who was going to be their proxy

    Here’s what I did NOT need to know:
    – Why the employee was going on a LOA
    – A history of the employee’s struggle with addictive substances
    – A long rant on how this had impacted the employee’s spouse and how they were considering leaving
    – Why Spouse thought their recent cross-country move may have triggered a melt-down
    – Any actual medical history

    It’s reasonable of you to ask Boss what the company’s policies regarding medical leaves look like. Boss may or may not know. Depending on the size of the company, there are likely different people you’ll have to speak with to get the FMLA started.

    Just, please, keep it vague.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      And in my org, you say “medical leave of absence” and I say “Ok, hold up — here’s the contact information for the Absence Management team who will be the contacts for everything related to that, they will pass back to me the minimum of information that I need for my management purposes and I don’t need any details about the situation at all for your/the employee’s privacy. I wish you/them the best possible outcome in the situation.”

  26. Just Me*

    LW 4 – Just wanted to say that I hope your husband is okay and that you are taking care of yourself while this is going on! When I was a teenager my mother fell off a ladder and ended up needing to file for FMLA; she needed a few different surgeries and was taking opiates for part of the time (before we fully knew how addictive they were) and simply could not talk to her employer. I, as a dumb 16 year old, ended up having to talk to her boss on the phone to explain that no, my mom could not come into work, and no, the boss could not bring a work laptop to our house for my mom to work from her hospital bed. As Alison says, a good employer will not need the details. Someone who knows your spouse well may ASK for more details, and some employers will want to fish around to find out how long the employee will reallyyyyyy be out. Stick to your script and keep it short.

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Oh man, I’m sorry you were in that position but I’d honestly have wanted to hear a 16 year old’s take on things. My own at 16 may well have featured “are you f*cking with me right now? You want Mom, who’s in a freaking hospital bed right now, to come in? Or you want to bring her a laptop? I mean, she’s hysterically funny on pain meds, don’t get me wrong….” (I had zero filter at that age. I had not yet been carefully guided by the first several good managers as to what was and wasn’t to be blurted out.)

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Oh my coffee for an edit button. I would want a fly-on-the-wall hearing of this, not first person as a potential supervisor (because I’m not dumb enough to suppose any of those things, I hope).

      2. JustaTech*

        When I was in high school my physics teacher fell off a ladder cleaning his gutters. He wasn’t super seriously injured (I don’t think he needed surgery) but he dislocated a shoulder and was on some pretty strong pain meds.
        For some reason he came back to work while still on said pain meds (everyone took public transit so this wasn’t as bad as it sounds) and he mostly seemed OK until he got stuck speaking German. (Not his first or second or even third language, so no idea why that was what he ended up on.)

        We the students were *very* concerned that our dignified, respected teacher was so obviously high that a couple of people talked to the headmaster about maybe the physics teacher should go home and we’d just read the textbook? Teenagers may have no filter, but they can care deeply and loudly about a lot of things, including the teachers they like. (And they know perfectly well that people need time to recover from injuries and illnesses!)

        1. quill*

          I got stuck on / adjacent to a secondary language once – no injury, just some intensive studying for a midterm in one language class and then attending a class in my first language taught by the same professor who taught yet another language I was taking.

          I was not running on a *lot* of sleep at the time, and got dismissed from participating “until I could pick a language and stick to it.”

      3. Just Me*

        Unfortunately, it wasn’t that entertaining. My mom had already been approved for her medical leave (dad did that part) but my mom was really crucial to her nonprofit and the boss KEPT calling trying to bring my mom her work laptop and thought that she could sweet-talk me because I was a kid. She was going, “HI JUSTME, THIS IS YOUR AUNTIE JANE! PUT YOUR MOM ON SWEETIE!” and I had to go, “Umm, no. My mom cannot talk.” So the woman would go, “Wellll, I’m just going to drop by with her laptop!” and I went, “No. My mom cannot work,” and boss went, “Ohh, it’s not for WORK, it’s for ENTERTAINMENT!” and I went, “She has a laptop for entertainment at home” and hung up. This boss was fired for wildly unprofessional behavior about four years later; the writing was on the wall.

  27. MCMonkeyBean*

    LW3, I think you’re overthinking this a bit! It’s a terrible situation, but their coworkers haven’t died and the people left on the team are there to work. And it sounds like you’re all pretty much in a similar situation. I think the only thing you need to do is acknowledge that you know they are swamped and you aren’t expecting a quick turnaround.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Yes, this. And acknowledging that roles/responsibilities and processes are likely changing. In your letter, you note clearly that a team that has lost around 80% of their staff cannot do all the things that the team used to do.

      Ideally, management will make it clear how the scope of the teams’ work has changed and what tasks are getting dropped in light of the big reductions in staffing. I hope you are closer to that ideal world than to a world that is just nonsense and chaos.

      Side note, it sounds like even though your team has also lost staff, you may be expected to take on tasks that were previously done by other teams that got hit even harder. That sounds like a recipe for stress and unpleasantness. If your boss is a reasonable person, I’d suggest going to her and asking about how your team’s role in the organization is going to change, what are the core tasks, and what’s getting dropped. If the answer is you’re all getting more work and nothing is getting dropped, I’d start brushing up that resume.

    2. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Agreed. I think the way you handle this is by asking if there has been a change to timelines —
      “I know things have been rough lately; I hope you’re hanging in there. The original plan was for the TPS report to be finalized by (date) — do you know if there has been a change to that timeline?”

  28. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    LW2, one option is to try to shift the conversation to what Nina wants you to do about any of this. Do you think that she’s mostly wanting to complain about Mike or that she wants you to take some kind of action, but won’t say what it is?

    If the former, asking her what she wants you to do breaks her out of the complaining and makes it less rewarding for her. If the latter, you’ll get some useful information, maybe, and can tell her that you’ll think about what she’s said and decide on the best way to manage Mike (which might mean mostly just leaving him be and only addressing things that you see). Either way, you’re asking Nina to make a statement about how she would like things to be. If she can’t do that, you’ll definitely learn about how she operates.

    This is a somewhat more assertive approach than Alison suggests, which is more to tell her what you’re doing around managing Mike. Probably better suited to situations with a peer, rather than someone senior to you. But can be an approach worth considering, either now or in other scenarios like this one.

  29. Daisy Fresh*

    LW4 – Just want to throw this out as it happened to a family member two years ago. She chose voluntary hospitalization for mental health. Her husband told his boss he needed a week off for his wife’s urgent medical condition with no further detail. Boss was great, no problem at all.

    Husband got a call the next day from boss’s admin. Wanted the hospital’s name to send flowers. It was called
    “[Name} Mental Health Center”… He had to come up with an excuse why she couldn’t have flowers on the spur of the moment.

    1. Minimal Pear*

      You know I feel like I saw something about how some hospitals don’t allow flowers anymore because of allergies…

      1. Dust Bunny*

        This. I would just say, “Thank you for the thought but the room is pretty small and there are some allergen restrictions”. Even if neither of those things are true.

      2. Properlike*

        I thought it was because of Covid precautions (deliveries and the now-discredited “fomite theory of transmission”)?

      3. searching for a new name*

        you could also ask that the flowers be sent to your home so that you can deliver them in person. All good options!

  30. Helen B*

    One interesting thing with Letter 3 — it seems that while the various departments have been decimated, the expected work has not been decimated as well. At least in my state, my understanding is that with a layoff, the company is saying that they don’t have enough work for X number of people, and therefore are removing X positions and spreading the remaining work out to the other people who are underused.

    Insert bitter laugh here…

  31. KatEnigma*

    LW2: Do you think Nina believes Mike’s treatment of her was gendered? Do you think maybe she doesn’t feel heard because she believes it was “old boys’ network” protecting Mike (true or not?) I think you definitely need to stress to her that you are taking her input seriously, and that moving forward, you won’t allow anything like what she is complaining about to happen on your watch, but that she otherwise needs to move forward and stop bringing up past interactions with Mike as seemingly Mike has learned better work practices since that time.

  32. Anon former alcoholic*

    LW#4- I’ve been where your husband is (though personally not full-on inpatient locked ward detox, it was a close thing) and it’s great that he has a supportive wife and job! I wanted to emphasize Alison’s advice to keep it vague. I got very good at saying “medical condition” “health issue” “in the hospital” “inpatient treatment” etc. because all of those things are completely true! Details lead people to a less accurate understanding of the situation, honestly, so I would continue to avoid them even with his sympathetic boss. All he needs to know is your husband is hospitalized/in inpatient care for something serious but not immediately life threatening (we hope).

    You sound like you’re handling it amazingly so I apologize if you know everything I said already. I’m just here as a former alcoholic on the internet cheering you both on and sending your husband good vibes for a smooth recovery. It took me two rounds of outpatient to get it to stick but I got there with the help of my family. Best of luck to you both!

  33. Zap R.*

    LW #1: In any niche space (and especially the sexy ones), there’s always That Guy. It sounds like your business partner is 100% That Guy. It sucks that he put you in this situation but if you’re able to get out, get out. Tell him exactly why you’re leaving. And if people ask why you know longer work with him, say “He was having sex with our customers while on the clock.” That’s something people in your niche community need to know.

  34. Up and Away*

    OP #4 – no words of wisdom, just wishing your husband the best of luck…I hope the treatment is successful. This can’t be easy on you, either, so sending you positive vibes!!

  35. Mehitabel*

    I’m not sure I agree with Alison re: LW#2. I would not be inclined to invite Nina to continue to assess Mike’s performance; she’s not his manager. And this statement is pretty concerning: “Her comments verge on personal/vindictive and unprofessional vs. just a work complaint about a colleague.” This sounds like a hostile work environment in the making, and IMO that is what needs to be addressed, not Mike’s performance from years past.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Two points: in many workplaces it is normal to seek feedback from the employee’s colleagues in addition to their manager. If Nina hasn’t worked with him lately then her feedback wouldn’t generally be relevant but not because she’s not his manager.

      And “hostile work environment” has a specific meaning. It doesn’t just mean any unpleasant workplace, even really bad ones. It has to be related to a legally protected characteristic, related to sexual harassment, or in retaliation for reporting those things.

  36. Spicy Tuna*

    LW 1 – who is bartending when the partner is having sex with her? Are they only having sex on her breaks? This whole situation seems like a hornet’s nest!

  37. River Otter*

    LW2–no, do not ask Nina “to give Mike another chance.” Excise that phrase. It’s really dismissive. Just because you haven’t seen problems doesn’t mean there aren’t any, so don’t use any wording to that effect either. Do tell Nina that you take her concerns seriously and ask her to bring you any examples going forward.
    And engage Mike. Ask him, without judgement, what he thinks about his interactions with Nina. Take what he says under advisement (just as you take what Nina says under advisement). Keep engaging with him regarding Nina’s feedback.
    If it turns out that Nina is holding on to things after Mike has improved those behaviors, escalate to your management in a “Hey, this is going on,” sort of way. If it has to be escalated to Nina’s boss, you want your boss to be aware.

  38. Zap R.*

    LW#2: Allison’s advice and script are spot-on. I do want to add the caveat that whenever a woman complains that a male coworker has a pattern of being “arrogant and dismissive,” towards her, there’s a non-zero chance that she might be on to something.

    It seems like Nina is holding a grudge and that grudge is resulting in unprofessional behaviour that may very well be unfair to Mike. However, are you sure that Mike (who has admittedly wonky soft skills) didn’t treat Nina in a way that came across as sexist or demeaning? This may be a pattern of behaviour that Peter and other male colleagues didn’t pick up on.

    I’m not taking sides or defending anyone’s behaviour, but it’s not completely unbelievable that Nina might have a point. It’s worth considering before writing her off in your head as a petty complainer.

    1. Doctors Whom*

      This is a great point – I do have a male friend/former colleague who prided himself on being a good judge of character. I had to break it to him that he was only a good judge of how people spoke to/treated *him*. I have encountered plenty of situations in the workplace where I was treated in an arrogant/dismissive manner by someone who did NOT treat my male colleagues the same way. They didn’t *see* the behavior so they dismissed my protestations that it existed until it happened to me in front of them.

      I have no way of knowing what is happening in LW2’s workplace but it is absolutely believable that Nina has experienced, or is still experiencing, behavior that the LW has not. It is also not in any way infeasible that Nina’s comments are all true AND they are not reflected in the 360 because of who gets to give feedback, how it’s recorded, and who records it. I have inherited plenty of troublemakers whose prior performance reviews were written by people in in-groups who didn’t see (or care) how the troublemaker in question treated people they perceived as out-groups.

      That doesn’t excuse anyone behaving unprofessionally…. but if Nina has been treated poorly for years and had her feedback fall on deaf ears, that would certainly be a reason to be salty. I would definitely follow a script like Alison’s but also try to be a little more forward about insight on current behaviors.

      (That said I have managed someone in the past whose hanging on to the prior wrongs done to him by people who were no longer in positions of influence/collaboration with him still “caused” him to behave poorly in certain circumstances. I did take a very firm line on not being able to manage the past, but managing where we are moving forward. Love Alison’s script on that!)

      1. LW2*

        People are reading all types of things into this. This is not a company with an old boys club, and this department actually has slightly more women. The people who gave the 360 were fairly picked and representative. It was not written by an in group. Nina was not “treated poorly for years”, if anything this time period she is talking about is maybe 3-6 months max.

        What makes me think Nina is a complainer is not what she said, but how she said it. She is a position of power compared to Mike. She didn’t offer solutions or suggestions. When I told her that I couldn’t manage the past, she replied that she was there and basically thought I should 100% agree with her. In other situations, her first response to everything is “no” or to be resistant to change.

  39. ThursdaysGeek*

    LW #5 Being laid off and being fired are not the same thing. It hurts, I know, but there is no shame in being laid off. It’s not something you did or didn’t do, and it’s not something you could have changed. The business needs changed, there wasn’t enough business – you were let go because they decided they didn’t need you, not because you did something wrong. That’s important to remember.

  40. Calamity Janine*

    i would love to see LW1’s letter also get punted over to Captain Awkward, because there are definitely big problems on each side of the professional/personal divide here. and by big problems i mean the same big problem. LW1, your partner agrees to boundaries and then doesn’t follow through.

    his behavior is probably meaning the entire reputation of the place is tanking, too. the manager in such situations is important because there are legitimate and very good reasons for situations turning on a dime so you need someone with authority to jump in *right then*, not whenever it’s convenient. anyone entering into your club looking to similarly thwart the rules will take this as an opportunity. when the cat’s away, the mice will play. there are genuine bad actors, and they look for these sorts of vulnerabilities.

    good ol’ SSC starts out with “safe”. someone who has the job of looking out for these sorts of issues, and has the authority to do something about it, is not making a safe place. they’re constructing a lovely little palace for all missing stairs to flock to, and setting up traps so innocent people can perfectly come along and break their necks after falling down 3 stories in the stairwell. this is not just him sneaking off – this is a fundamental dereliction of duty.

    do you really think having a rep as “the place that isn’t safe” is going to help your business? …do you really want to be associated with a business where there’s a major safety issue?

    and honestly, if he treats business like this, he’s treating relationships like this too. sell your shares and settle up to leave this guy to his own messes in both respects. and make sure the niche community knows what’s up, too. don’t let him sucker newbies into this unsafe place based on the reputation that *you* built up despite his efforts in the opposite direction.

    it sounds cold, sure, but get out before it’s *your* name that ends up being mud, not just his. in both business and romantic partnerships.

    1. KoiFeeder*

      Yeah, as someone abovethread pointed out, this is how he treats LW1 who he presumably has minimal power over. How’s he treating patrons and his employees?

    2. SW*

      Yes, OP definitely has some Missing Stairs that they are not paying attention to in addition to allowing this kind of behavior in their business.

  41. The OG Sleepless*

    Business partners, man. I’ve spent most of my life around business partnerships. My grandfather started a business post World War II which my dad and the partner’s son took over 20 years later. My husband started a business with his buddy a few months after we got married. More recently, I worked for a pair of partners for a couple of years.

    The adult-oriented aspect of your business doesn’t change my casual observations about business partnerships: They are an easy way to start a business when you don’t quite have either the capital or the nerve to strike out completely on your own, but they are fraught. Over time, eventually the partners will have a fundamental disagreement on how to run the business. One partner wants to keep the fun bro-culture they started out with, while the other wants to grow up and make everything more professional. One wants to innovate more than the other. The best partnership I’ve seen, the original one my grandfather had, worked because the two partners had a similar enough vision, and because they were both detached enough to be willing to walk away if it wasn’t working. (They were still influential in the business for another 20 years after they handed things over to the sons, by the way, and when a huge change was coming in their industry, they convinced the sons to downsize and liquidate a bunch of their capital immediately. They were right, and both of our families escaped a near catastrophe in much better shape than a lot of people.)

    At this point, all you can do is: either you come to a meeting of the minds, or you buy your half out and go. Hopefully you guys signed a detailed partnership agreement that spells out what happens when somebody wants out. Attorney fees and a lot of heartache await otherwise.

  42. Calamity Janine*

    i know others have touched on it with far better knowledge, but i feel like i see LW5’s groove and totally sympathize with it. when you overthink things like this, you just want to know what you could have done to prevent it next time, and sometimes your brain won’t shut up about it until you find that reason (…and can beat yourself up about it).

    from what i gather in the restaurant business, a lot of professional norms can be a little mushy and slide into casual. there are also a lot of people who are, shall we say, maybe not the best at the business set of skills? maybe launch into having a restaurant thinking that cooking good is the skill they most need to pay attention to? it doesn’t need to be a full episode of kitchen nightmares to get you there.

    but the brain wants that reason of a thing we can beat ourselves up about, because that means there’s something to fix next time. it’s a way to have agency. if the thing is your fault, then it was also yours to win.

    …turns out that actually this is a veritable kaleidoscope of reasons totally outside your hands. maybe the business is failing. maybe they over-hired. maybe they meant to bring you back at some point but rethought things. maybe the boss is just kinda bad at being a boss. maybe the boss has negative three object permanence and got distracted by a squirrel outside the window that farted so hard it fell off the birdfeeder, and that fit of laughing scrambled your boss’s brainmeats so that knowledge of you dropped right outta there. who knows!

    none of these answers are very satisfying to anxiety brain that desperately wants the illusion of control, however.

    so instead anxiety brain is stuck there, chewing off its own leg like a fox in a trap, and that’s why you’re still ruminating on this and feel so awful about it. you have lost a job that you really liked for reasons beyond your control. it sucks. there’s just no other way out than to keep going through the suckage.

    and hey, if you find that you really, really, really still have your thoughts dominated by this after writing in? (bc honestly, if an answer from alison is enough to shut up the bad brain spaghetti – i also get that. sometimes the appeal to authority gets it to stfu! sometimes the vibe check is just what it needed!) maybe go check in with somebody vaguely looking at anxiety and depression stuff. there ain’t no shame in it. and quite frankly, when looking at, you know – ( gestures at literally everything in the world ) – for the past few years, i think we all have pretty legit reasons as to why our brain chemistry might have gotten off-kilter. if the bad brain spaghetti is there, it will desperately wish to tell you that this is another thing to beat yourself up for. it’s lying. the bad brain spaghetti tends to do that. so it’s highly recommended to treat yourself compassionately about it instead.

    …yeah this is more personal advice than business advice, but eh, sometimes there are useful intersections?

  43. yala*

    LW2, please do speak up for him, and if you can, try to put a kibosh on the gossip from her in general. It doesn’t have to be any more than just saying that you haven’t noticed any of those issues, but sentiments like Nina’s can really fester. To me it almost looks like she’s trying to poison the well where he’s concerned (something not uncommon in some places I’ve worked. I’ve seen beef get inherited down “generations” of workers for no good reason, and it always makes inter-department communication harder than it needs to be)

    Which is to say, if she’s talking like that about him to other workers, it could result in those workers seeing his words/actions in a much harsher light than they would otherwise.

    This stuff builds.

  44. iiii*

    #1 – get out and get an audit. People who have trouble respecting professional boundaries routinely – though not universally – take liberties with the accounts as well.

  45. SW*

    Situations like the scenario in LW1 are astonishingly common in the kink scene and I absolutely hate it. I can hardly believe that “don’t hook up with people at an event you’re running” is a divisive thing to say but here we are.
    So yes, LW1, get out of this. But also if you plan to run something else like this maybe look into some of the other ways you might be allowing unethical behavior or unethical people in your dungeon.

Comments are closed.