should I tell a colleague people think she’s having an affair with a coworker?

A reader writes:

I’m currently working out my notice period at a small company I joined six years ago. Throughout that time, I’ve had a very close, albeit at times complicated, relationship with a woman who went on to move into a C-suite leadership role. Over recent years, she has become increasingly close with another senior manager – think constantly talking, any information you tell to one immediately gets back to the other, being seen near the office after hours getting dinner together. They’re also prone to intense, emotionally-charged blowouts in meetings, often involving some personal barbs (“Why do you always have to be so f-cking defensive?!”) and sometimes ending in one of them storming out or hanging up; more than once, they’ve had to apologize to the team for a public conflict in a meeting.

Many people around our small (50-person) team have speculated/gossiped that these two managers are having an affair. I’ve been of the view that this speculation is really inappropriate: they’re both married with children and aside from anything else, it’s none of our business what two consenting adults do in their private lives. But as the relationship has continued to grow more charged, the gossip has ramped up, to the point where other senior managers have asked me whether I think they’re having an affair since I’m known to have a strong relationship with them both.

My question, then, is this: now that I’m leaving, should I give this woman a hint that people think this about her? She and I already have a coffee scheduled for after I’ve left which would be a logical time to bring it up. On the one hand, it’s completely none of my business, and would be an incredibly awkward conversation; on the other, especially as a woman in a leadership position, I would honestly want to know if people were saying stuff like this about me behind my back. Should I give her a heads-up?

I’d leave it alone.

I’d be more inclined to suggest saying something to her if their behavior didn’t show such bad judgment! If she were conducting herself perfectly professionally but people were gossiping anyway — as sometimes happens when two unmarried people have a close relationship — I’d lean toward letting her know so she could decide how she wanted to deal with it.

But they’re having intense, emotionally-charged blow-ups in meetings? With personal barbs? And storming out? Then having to apologize to the team more than once for the drama?

If it hasn’t occurred to them that people are going to be talking about that behavior, that’s on them.

{ 123 comments… read them below }

  1. Bagpuss*

    yes, literally the only situation where I’d feel comfortable having that conversation would be if I was just about to retire and leave the area for good.
    if senior management is concerned they can have that conversation.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I would have the conversation if my friend asked me about it – otherwise, nope. Not my bananapants circus, not my dysfunctional monkeys.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is also where I am. Regardless of whether they are having an affair or not, their behavior in the office in front of their teams is appalling. And not a one-time display of bad judgment.

  2. soontoberetired*

    I bet they are aware that people think they are having an affair and don’t care. Rumors of affairs seem to be a big thing in offices and mostly wrong.

    Also, has no one on their level talked to them about their behavior? I know managers who have been talked to about inappropriate things by their peers and senior management. Someone like that needs to step in.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      In an office of 50 people, they would have to be pretty damn oblivious to not realize that people think this or could think this. They’re either having an affair and don’t care what people think, or they’re not having an affair but still don’t care what people think.

      Either way, LW has nothing to gain by bringing this up. And who knows? Maybe this colleague will bring it up herself during that coffee.

      Leave this one alone.

      1. Sloanicota*

        It sounds to me like they’re in an overly-dramatic intimate relationship that’s out of the norms for professional office relationships, whether or not they’re intimate physically, so I would assume they’re aware of this and I’m not going to bring it up.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          Yeah – whether they’re actually having sex isn’t particularly relevant.

          The fact that they’ve got an intensely emotional, rather chaotic relationship that’s spilling over into the workplace is the main problem. That would be a problem whether it was an affair (sexual or emotional), a platonic friendship, or if they were in a non-affair romantic relationship.

          And, honestly, if they’re behaving this badly, people are going to talk about it! It’s a logical and natural consequence of their actions. I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for what it’s doing to their reputations, or any desire to put myself in the middle if I don’t have the authority to tell them to knock it off or be fired.

        2. Observer*

          This is on the mark.

          Their relationship is over the top, and they are letting leak into the office. That’s inappropriate. Someone in leadership should talk to them about this – not about whether they are having an affair, but just the amount of drama and personal conflict they are bringing to the office.

          1. She of Many Hats*

            This isn’t leaking into the office. Leaking is raised voices behind closed doors or holding hands in the hallway. This pair is dumping hurricane style on the office and everyone else is caught in the eye of the storm.

    2. ferrina*

      Nah, people who have affairs often live in a world of wishful thinking.

      That still doesn’t make it OP’s job to step in- these people are adults who know that they are acting inappropriately (see: apologizing to the team for the drama) and it’s on them to act like a professional/adult and change their behavior.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Wishful thinking can also extend to senior management, who suspect that the right person to talk with these two about the impression they are creating is Definitely Not Me.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          That’s a really safe bet. All the gossip has not sparked any actual, productive conversation about this amongst management, at least that the LW knows about. I would guess this atmosphere of NOT IT denial is what foments a lot of the pair’s seemingly endless ignorance/denial of how they’re coming across. After all, if no one’s said anything official they must either not have notice or don’t care, right?

      2. KayDeeAye*

        I agree with both your points. Yes, people in the midst of an affair are often incredibly oblivious. They say “Love is blind,” and that may be true, but it’s also true that “Love/lust can blind you to how the rest of the world sees you.”

        And yes, the answer to whether the OP needs to step in is: Noooooooooo. Hell noooooooo.

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      I agree. If they both really have no idea that their public behavior hasn’t sparked discussions of some kind, they’re pretty damn dense. And if the rest of management hasn’t brought it up, well…why take on that kind of drama when you’re about to leave?

  3. Hiphopanonymous*

    If this was sent in about 5 years ago, I would have been sure you were one of my coworkers! In my instance, most people basically assumed they were having an affair, and there was an HR investigation (in my case it was our team’s boss and the highest-level individual contributor on the team) that led nowhere. I was interviewed by an HR person who straight up asked me if I thought or knew they were having an affair, and I said “I don’t think they are, but I would not be surprised if they were.”

    Eventually both resigned for other positions, with one moving out of state to take a big promotion. So either the affair ran its course… or they were just having a weird, not-quite-appropriate-for-work-but-not-an-affair thing going on. I never commented to either of them about the possibility of an affair, and remained friendly with both and have used them both for references. Overall, I agree with Allison – leave it alone, you have very little to gain by bringing it up, but it could harm you professionally if it got around that you were “gossiping” or if it made it so one of them wouldn’t give you a solid reference.

    1. Sloanicota*

      HR asked you if you thought they were having an affair?? That seems so weird to me!

      1. Hiphopanonymous*

        They were boss-and-direct-report, which was definitely forbidden per our policies, so I assumed they were rightly worried about the policy violation/special treatment/fallout if it went south.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Yeah, I totally get why HR would care and want to put a stop to it, I’m just surprised they went around asking the people’s direct reports. Maybe it was a quicker conversation than I’m imagining. Or maybe I just haven’t been in a lot of HR investigations.

        2. But what to call me?*

          It seems like not a great way to investigate it. If you *hadn’t* thought they were having an affair, you might change your mind after HR came around asking you questions about it.

      2. Thank God (or something) I no longer work there*

        I did employee investigations. I was not in HR so…for what it’s worth…I might view it differently than they would. I never asked random employees about anything. I talked to the principal(s) of the investigation, witnesses, victims, occasionally an SME if appropriate. If I were investigating this I would have only interviewed this poster if they fell into into one of these categories.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        Especially the “thought” part. I would have expected an investigation to be focused on facts/evidence, not opinions.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      I mean, there are people in the world who just generate their own personal soap opera wherever they go, and when two of them happen to find one another–bam! Twenty two episodes with option for renewal, all over the workplace.

      1. MrsThePlague*

        This comment made me laugh…I’m imagining people blowing into rooms with their own wind machines, diabolical laughter/shrieking following them everywhere, dramatic lighting popping up randomly…I definitely don’t want to be in the path of these people, but (I’m horrible!) I would mind sitting on the sidelines with some popcorn :’D

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          Maybe one of the parties is their own evil twin brother impersonating the good twin! And the other party is actually their own evil twin sister out to seduce him after throwing the good sister down a well!

  4. learnedthehardway*

    I think it is up to their manager to raise the issue, if they are behaving unprofessionally in the office. Which they are – blow ups, storming out of meetings, etc. etc. – that’s unprofessional.

    I would leave the rest of it alone – especially if you rely on either of these people for a reference. Shooting the messenger is a trope for a reason.

  5. El l*

    Suppose you tell her. What reaction are you hoping for? And what is most likely to happen?

    Because based on the behavior you describe, I’m thinking it’s pretty unlikely there’s going to be hugging or learning. More likely it’s going to be some combination of, “shoot the messenger” or “find the mole in the office who’s coming up with these rumors.”

    Which will end well for no one.

    1. Silver Robin*


      “what reaction are you hoping for” is such a key question to ask oneself for potentially charged conversations. There are always multiple ways to go about a thing and working backwards from the desired response has a better chance of getting through to the person. Or, the exercise shows that such a response is too unlikely to be worth the effort.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Right. Charitably, I could imagine OP hoping the reaction would be that the co-worker has a wake-up call about how this relationship is being perceived, dials way back on the drama, and repairs their relationship. Unfortunately, I doubt that’s a very realistic outcome of the conversation (because, as Alison said, if this person had that kind of good judgement, they wouldn’t have let it get this far).

    2. MsM*

      Or at best, “yeah, sorry, I know everyone’s sick of the drama.” Followed by absolutely nothing whatsoever changing, just like after all the public apologies.

    3. s.b.c.*

      Totally agree. This is such a great question to think about, in many situations. Because for the OP, the woman could absolutely shoot the messenger, ruining the professional relationship or even just making it awkward and uncomfortable. And for what? Nothing is likely to change, especially if these two have been cursing at each other in dramatic blow-ups and just getting a slap on the wrist.

    4. goddessoftransitory*

      Yes. Even though LW is leaving, this duo sounds like the type to “ferret out” the “cause” of their problems (which is them) in the guise of scapegoating another employee who isn’t leaving.

      All this really reminds me of Colin meeting Evie on What We Do In The Shadows.

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Wasn’t “CEO is a secret sibling” a recent letter and it was bananapants?

    2. Random Dice*


      As an aside, I can’t watch the Property Brothers now without snickering. I have no idea how that Dear Prudence letters became associated with them in my weird brain, but there ya have it. (You’re welcome)

  6. HonorBox*

    Seeing the headline, I was going to lean toward saying something. But then I read the letter and the advice and I’ve gone to the complete opposite conclusion. They’re being unprofessional in so many ways that suggesting that there are rumors of an affair is like suggesting that someone bring an umbrella to a hurricane. It ain’t going to cut it.

    OP this isn’t your fight to fight. As Alison said, if they were otherwise normally-acting coworkers and people were speculating about something, it might be worth it to bring up…especially if you were very close with them. But this all out nightmare situation isn’t yours to address. And honestly it sounds like you’re getting out of a poor environment, both because of these two but also because there’s been no one intervening before.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      This! If it were ugly unfounded rumors, a heads up would be nice.

      Given the way they’re acting (unprofessional and oddly intimate and passionate) and that they have had to apologize more than once, they don’t need a heads up. They either know people suspect something or are are willfully ignorant. She won’t welcome this information.

      1. HonorBox*

        Especially (probably…I’m assuming, I know) because it is coming from someone at the “wrong” level and the “wrong” point in their involvement with the two. If it was someone senior to both and someone whose ongoing presence was going to make things challenging for them to keep up their weird … whatever it is … then it probably lands better.

  7. Sparkles McFadden*

    The “affair gossip” is kind of besides the point. The real point is that these two people are not behaving professionally and it’s affecting everyone around them. Everyone is caught up in *why* they’re behaving in such an emotionally charged, unprofessional way because people like a nice, dramatic backstory to everything.

    I think it’s best if you just stay away from the whole thing because there’s nothing that you could say that would fix anything. Even if you weren’t leaving, it wouldn’t be your problem to solve. I’m wondering where upper management is in all of this.

    1. metadata minion*

      Agree. In terms of professionalism it doesn’t actually matter whether they’re having an affair, are friends having an especially messy falling-out, or are secretly cousins fighting over great-grandma’s estate. The relationship should not be playing out at work.

  8. Em from CT*

    Minor note, here, but the LW didn’t actually specify the gender of the potential affair partner, just said they were married.

  9. GreenDoor*

    “have asked me…since I’m known to have a strong relationship with them both” Be very careful here. My guess is they are asking you about it, not because you’re in a position to solve a problem, but simply because you might have some juicy gossip. If it’s not your problem to solve, management-wise, then it’s not your conversation to have.

    1. Observer*

      Yeah. People are looking for gossip here. Even if people really are asking you because they think you “should” do something, you cannot do anything. So, just put this behind you and be glad you’re leaving the drama behind.

  10. bamcheeks*

    more than once, they’ve had to apologize to the team for a public conflict in a meeting


    These people have 0 self-awareness or 0 shame, steer clear.

    1. Artemesia*

      yes, I’m with Alison — if this were a very discreet person who has done nothing overt besides working closely with the boss then a heads up might MIGHT be useful — but given the behavior — dragons lie here.

  11. Generic Name*

    I wouldn’t touch the topic with a ten-foot-pole. Honestly, I’d re-think the coffee you’ve got scheduled with your colleague. What is the purpose of the coffee? Do you want to have someone who has emotionally charged screaming matches with a coworker in meetings be a part of your professional network??

  12. Pink Candyfloss*

    It’s walking like a duck and quacking like a duck. I don’t think anyone can be blamed for thinking it’s a duck.

  13. not a hippo*

    If these people gave a damn about professionalism, they wouldn’t be getting into public blowouts. They clearly don’t care, so let them be messy and don’t bother trying to protect her.

  14. GeekGirl*

    I was in that situation with my boss (we were civilians) and one of our detectives. Looked like a duck, walked like a duck, quacked like a duck, the whole thing. I got asked all the time if they were having an affair, what’s up with your boss and detective dude, etc. I always answered that I had no direct knowledge of anything inappropriate. Our other analyst was seriously religious, and highly disapproved of the situation, tsking about the office whenever the boss was around. Boss finally asked me what the other analyst’s problem was, and I said I would tell her, outside the building, but that she couldn’t hold it against me. I told her that the tsking was because she disapproved of the relationship. “There’s no relationship, we’re just friends….” Told her that wasn’t my take on things, but that she asked me why the other analyst had her panties in a twist. And of course she held it against me. Fortunately I promoted out of that unit shortly thereafter, so I didn’t have to deal with HER tsking for very long.

    1. Silver Robin*

      Wait, boss found a coworker’s behavior strange, asked you what was up, you explained the coworker’s perspective, and boss got mad at YOU? Unreal. Glad you got out!

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Unfortunately, shoot the messenger is a time honored tradition. “I promise I won’t get mad” is one of the most untrustworthy sentences of all time.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      I think the lesson here is to reply to people asking these kinds of questions that you don’t know, and they should take it up with the person who seems to be disapproving of them / their actions / treating them oddly.

      That said, it really was unfair of your manager to hold it against you when she specifically asked you about it, you made it clear that it was a sensitive topic, and that you were uncomfortable with telling her in the office. But then, people are irrational, particularly when they have guilty consciences.

  15. Cat's Paw for Cats*

    I’ve had to deal with interoffice affairs, and this looks suspiciously like one.

    1. Observer*

      You’re probably right. But the reality is that it’s not really relevant. The OP’s manager is behaving very poorly and involving the office in her drama. But she’s also exhibiting very poor judgement, and zero awareness of all of the ways that people can see that *something* is up. (This is also true of the other person, but the OP didn’t ask what to do about them.)

      So, either there is no need (because manager knows what people must be thinking) or she’s sooo deeply in denial that she will just get mad at the OP, if the OP says anything.

      1. Cat's Paw for Cats*

        Totally agree. I would not say anything if I were OP. There is nothing for her but possible ill will in doing so. I do think the big boss or bosses need to deal with this behavior, whatever is causing it, yesterday.

  16. Alan*

    Many years ago a friend told me that there was speculation in the office that I was in a relationship with a close coworker. Here’s the thing. What was I supposed to do with that information? What *could* I do with that information? Enjoy the gossip but keep it to yourself. There’s nothing to be gained for anyone in your telling this woman what people think.

    1. Lea*

      Yeah I have had people speculate about me and I wasn’t really with the people they speculated about but there wasn’t anything I could or would do about it and I found the people talking about it annoying more than anything

    2. Distracted Librarian*

      This. When I was in my mid-20s and had my first librarian job, I worked closely with a 40 y/o male co-worker. We became friends and spent entirely too much time in his office, some of it working, some of it talking (neither of us had enough to do). We were never remotely romantically involved.

      I found out after I left that my colleagues assumed we were having an affair. Since I didn’t work there any longer, I could laugh about it, but if someone had told me at the time, it would have been really hurtful and likely would have made me feel awkward and uncomfortable at work. (and yes, I should have realized what it looked like, but I was young and naive)

      All that to say: I don’t think any good can come of sharing this kind of gossip with the people being gossiped about.

      1. Interplanet Janet*

        I mean, I don’t know about how you “should have realized what it looked like” I get where you’re coming from but I wish people weren’t enabled to “look at it like that” by young women avoiding the situation otherwise, especially in fields where there are more experienced men who can genuinely help young women get a hand up.

        When I started my career as a mid-20 something woman I also clicked with a 40-something man in an academic setting and similarly spent many hours together in his office. He was a real mentor while we worked together and I still consider him a friend. He taught me a lot about our field and office norms in general. He eventually served as a reference for me to move on in my career.

        It was never even remotely non-platonic, and he met up with my partner and I for drinks after I got a new job and came over to our house to meet our new dog once, etc. He helped me become the professional I am today and I don’t like the idea that I should have been deprived that support and workplace friendship because other people have trouble imagining platonic opposite gender connections.

        1. Distracted Librarian*

          You know what? You’re absolutely right, and thank you for saying this. I guess I felt some guilt because we weren’t always working–lots of chatting happening–but there’s no rule that says you can’t have that kind of relationship with a co-worker of the opposite gender.

          I’m glad you had a friendship like that–and I’m glad I did too.

          1. Despachito*

            I don’t think you did anything wrong, apart from guilting yourself now for being “young and naive” and that you “should have realized”.

            Why on earth should you care one iota about some wild fantasies of other people? I get that it may be a practical CYA concern, and that these asshats can make your life miserable, but I do not think you should have your ass covered because of some busybodies with dirty minds.

    3. Hosta*

      At my old job, I found out some of the newer employees thought I was having an affair with the coworker who kept referring to me as his work wife. (Side note: don’t do this.) The only thing that brought it to an end was when the biggest gossip Facebook stalked me and found pictures of me and my ex girlfriends.

      I found out about it a few years after the fact and decided I didn’t want to poke the potential snake nest of speculation that mentioning bisexuality would be.

      1. A Poster Has No Name*

        This may be a controversial take, but this sounds to me like the kind of thing gossip is good for. There’s no way you could deny the affair and have people believe it, but when the office gossip is like “no way” (even though the methods & reasoning are, uh, questionable) people believe it.

        Humans are weird.

    4. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      If you were acting normally and there was just speculation, then there’s a difference between your situation and the LW’s. The difference is that they are definitely acting in a way that would absolutely invite scrutiny, whereas you weren’t.

      LW’s person can definitely change their behavior, whereas if you’re acting normally there’s nothing reasonable for you to change about yours.

      Yours was just rumors, and therefore asking you about it was unhelpful, precisely for the reasons you described. This situation is where the issue is “stop behaving like jackasses at work” and not “stop sleeping with each other on your personal time” because it doesn’t matter if they’re siblings or affair partners, their behavior in the office can’t continue.

  17. GingerApple*

    Oh honey… if they are having lovers spat you know they are having some freaky fridays… thoughts to the families

    1. Lea*

      I’d be more inclined to try to get the dirt since I don’t have to work with them anymore!

  18. Jojo*

    I’d go with not telling her. I mean, what is she going to do about it if people are gossiping behind her back? Well, other than stop acting unprofessional. The problem is their behavior, and that’s not a problem for you to solve.
    I was once in a place where I was getting questions about two people possibly having an affair. The people were actually our customers. A lot of people asked me if the two were having an affair, and I just shrugged. There was nothing to be gained by that, and I didn’t mention it to either person, even though I was friends with the woman. (It always the woman that people gossip about, not the high ranking military dude who is cheating on his wife). There was nothing talking about it with anyone that it would have helped. (Spoiler alert. They are married now, and while I didn’t KNOW, I knew.)

  19. Not So Super-visor*

    We used to have 2 directors that we’d refer to as Mom and Dad when they were having a blow-out session. As in “Mom and Dad are fighting again.” They definitely weren’t having an affair but were incredibly friendly when not bickering.

  20. DJ Hymnotic*

    “…it’s none of our business what two consenting adults do in their private lives.”

    Not to defend the workplace gossip mill on principle, but as you go on to note, their in-office behavior has been…I’ll be kind and say unprofessional, and unprofessional behavior in the workplace is very much their coworkers’ business! If their actions have been so out of line that they’ve had to issue public apologies, then it sounds like HR has already made them at least semi-aware of the negative impact their behavior is having on everyone else, and they’d have to be in pretty deep denial to not realize that they are being talked about.

    Unless there’s some tortious outcome that you’re hoping to prevent (like your colleague experiencing defamation that impacts her career), I’d say that they’ve made this particular bed, regardless of whether or not they are actually lying in it together.

  21. Alex*

    I don’t see how this conversation could go well, if you did have it.

    “Lucinda, did you know that people think you are having an affair with Bartholomew?”

    Possible responses:

    “WHAT? Who said that?” (do you want respond to this question? Probably not.)

    “WHAT? Why would anyone say that?” (do you want to respond to this question? Also probably not, because that would include things like “you behave poorly at the office!” which isn’t wise to say from someone you might want to use as a reference)

    “Oh, yeah I totally am!” (Ok…..)

    Impossible response:

    “Golly, thanks for telling me! I will reflect on my behavior and how I contributed to this outcome and make some changes!” (Wouldn’t it be nice if anyone ever responded to stuff like this?)

  22. UrbanGardener*

    This is reminding me that many years ago, I had a colleague, and I had no idea people thought we were dating. We would eat lunch at the cafeteria together maybe once a week instead of our desks, and walk out to the subway together a few times a week from my memory. That was it! We weren’t holding hands, or speaking in a flirty way – I’m not a naturally flirty person (resting bitch face describes me to a T). We were the two youngest colleagues in our department.

    My colleague went to a work conference and met a lady, started dating her, got engaged pretty fast because she got pregnant. People found out he was getting married when he gave wedding invites to the staff he was closest with, and that’s when all hell broke loose. They were so offended on my behalf thinking he cheated on me he was about to get beaten up by a few of the men on the staff…until I figured out why and cleared the air.

    1. Silver Robin*

      Oh wow, that is not how those stories usually go! I guess it is sweet they were protective of you, but goodness, those assumptions got really out of hand!

      1. UrbanGardener*

        They really did! It was a wacky but wonderful crew. When we got a new boss who started bringing in his own team and I got laid off, I had a few people offer to hire me because they were worried about me being unemployed, not making rent, etc. But the job was a temp job and I was finishing grad school, still living with my parents (rent free!) – but I sincerely appreciated their kindness.

  23. She of Many Hats*

    The only thing I would do is *if* another senior C-Suite person asked you again about a possible affair would say “I don’t know what’s happening outside of the office but the fighting and arguments during work hours is concerning and disruptive to all those who must witness that and needs to be addressed by their directors and HR.”

    1. Observer*

      Yes. This is really the only thing the OP has standing to address, and as practical matter, these are the only circumstances under which they can address it.

  24. Whyamihere*

    I worked in a dealership where the GM and one of the sales managers were having an affair (sales manager was married but the GM was not). For the most part it wasn’t noticeable but they would bicker and fight, in an empty office, in her office, even on the sales floor with customers buying cars. That was embarrassing for the sales team. I felt really bad for his wife as she had back surgery and tons of kids while he was at work flirting. I got fired in part because I suck at sales but I am reasonably sure in part because I called out cheaters in a conversation she was a part of. We were talking about different types of relationships and I said open marriages are fine for those who consent but cheaters are the worst. From what other sales people said it was most definitely not an open marriage.
    It was the only time I ever absolutely knew a work relationship was happening because I am usually blind to that.

  25. Pyanfar*

    Ok…totally not the same thing, BUT…very early in my career I switched companies and went to work for a former colleague, with a hefty raise and title. One of my coworkers at the company I was leaving took me aside and let me know the rumor was that I got the job because I (F-25) slept with the former colleague (M-30,married). I reacted the only way that made sense…I explained that if I was going to sleep my way into a job, I jolly well was going to wind up with a VP title and a 7-figure salary! LOL …apparently my reaction went back around the rumor mill and that particular rumor was ne’r heard from again!

    1. Too Many Tabs Open*

      Reminds me of an amazing teacher I had in high school who told his classes that if anyone wanted to bribe him for a good grade, the cost would be [very precise number with very many digits], because since he’d be fired and barred from further employment, the bribe had to be enough to live on the rest of his life.

    2. kiki*

      This is always something that irks me about rumors about women sleeping their way into jobs. So often the jobs aren’t really anything special! Or when people accuse women of being gold-diggers but the women are dating average dudes with average incomes and assets. How rude to assume I’d be a mediocre gold-digger– if I put my mind to it, I think I’d be one of the best! haha

      1. Bruce*

        I had a coworker who really was having an affair with her boss, thing is she was smart and very talented, he was older and charming in a crude colorful way but always seemed to be more of BS artist than a really good manager as far as I could see. She moved on in jobs and also out of the affair, when we later worked at a different company I always felt she had her guard up since I was from the old place. I was NOT a gossip and made sure to never impose in any way. Really smart people can make dumb personal choices, at least she moved on. The most awkward thing about it was when I ran into the guy >with his wife and family< while on vacation with my fiancé =8-0

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        Thank you–If I’m going down that road it’s to the soundtrack of Madonna singing Material Girl and ending at a private estate on Majorca.

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      Yay! “If you’re going to imply/say I’m a sloot, you can at least not compound the insult by further saying I’m a cheap one!”

  26. redflagday701*

    OP, I agree it would be safest not to say anything, but from a purely selfish perspective, I think you should ask her and then send in an update, so we know whether they really are having an affair or not.

      1. Anonymous Post-It Note*

        Better yet, leave an anonymous post-it note on both their desks reporting the rumor and then report back here on all the drama you observe before your last day.

  27. Still Not Broken*

    When I was 12, our principal was having an affair with his secretary. We could choose taking and running messages to and from the office as an elective course. Apparently they were so obvious (closing the blinds, sending each other flowers, flirting) that my friends (and every parent who stopped in) knew what was happening. Eventually they both left before the end of the year. I think at least one of them was fired, but I don’t remember exactly… because I shouldn’t have even heard THAT MUCH DETAIL because as I said…. I was TWELVE!

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Two teachers in high school. One may or may not have still been married, not sure. It was an open secret that they were dating. Literally fooling nobody. Like it showed up in a talent show skit under assumed names.

      I was a year ahead in the subject that one taught, so I had them back to back hours. I think they thought because they taught completely different subjects typically taken in different years, they wouldn’t have overlap students? There was a HUGE look of shock on Ms A’s face when she saw me in Mr B’s class one day. Mr B was reasonable enough to NOT use me as a note-runner, as I had to go to Ms A’s class right after his.

  28. Jade*

    Work your notice and don’t get involved in their drama. They can handle their own lives.

  29. Anonymous Post-It Note*

    I honestly think one of my old bosses thought my coworker and I were having an affair. We were similar in age and had similar past experiences (he was in a band that toured and I was in the music industry and covered concerts and other events). We were friendly and would spend our lunches together, but that was mostly because we were coworkers and the other office worker was an absolute nightmare that drove other workers away. She was best avoided and the boss wouldn’t do anything about her. One time the friendly coworker and I were both going to the same conference, and boss went out of their way to book our hotel rooms across the hotel from each other and included a student assistant in his room to make sure he didn’t leave it at night. We figured it out eventually. We both had partners and weren’t remotely romantic or flirty with each other. And, the best part is, we’re still friends and have been for a decade now.

    1. Random Dice*

      There’s this really common and gross assumption, especially in technical fields, that women are either sleeping with bosses or subordinates – it’s this way of denigrating a woman’s accomplishments (she’s not smart, she just slept her way to that position) or a way to bring an uppity woman down a peg (ha she’s a [bleep]).

      It’s 2023, and we’re still dealing with this.

  30. LobsterPhone*

    I’ve been in this situation, I working at a govt agency as part of my degree requirements and after a few months reporting to a contractor and an agency employee another member of staff told me that there was a lot of speculation that my two colleagues were having an affair. I had a good relationship with one of them in particular so I told him. They were both married and I thought they’d want to know. I didn’t care whether it was true or not, I thought they always behaved professionally and had a friendly rapport and that was it. I also thought it was gross that people were speculating and I didn’t repeat it to anyone else. Well, he thought it was hilarious and she was really annoyed with me. So was the other staff member who had told me what everyone was gossiping about. So the end result was that basically everyone was pretty mad and it achieved nothing except to negatively impact at least two of my working relationships there. Lesson learned.

    1. Schrodinger's Cat*

      Oh wow, sorry that happened LobsterPhone.

      Take it from someone who has been there, done that, OP, don’t say anything!

  31. Bruce*

    Whoo wee, flashing back to my first job in the early 80s when half the senior staff seemed to be having affairs… Nope nope nope, would not say anything unless the person asked me point blank if there were rumors…

  32. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    I would leave it alone too – these things have a habit of getting out naturally in time. You know what’s the best way to not have people talking behind your back? Don’t do the behaviour! (The affair itself maybe, or the snipping at each other in meetings etc). For what it’s worth I am very confident from what you described that you’re right about the affair and I think it has probably been going on long term.

  33. Megan*

    I really take issue with the advice that if they were, it wouldn’t be anyone else’s business. That would be true in some cases, but not this one. They are making it their colleagues’ business by having it spill into meetings and affect other aspects of the culture at work. I am not sure what I would do, but it isn’t fair to say it is no one’s business and isn’t affecting people at work.

    1. HonorBox*

      I think there’s a bit of grey area, though. The weird interactions and dynamics that have spilled into meetings are weird and problematic no matter what the reason is behind them. Those actions absolutely need to be addressed regardless of the “why” behind them. And it still isn’t the LW’s responsibility to address them.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      I think that’s missing the point. Whether they are or not having an affair remains nobody else’s business. What is everyone’s business is that they’re fighting in meetings and affecting the culture at work. WHY they’re doing that is irrelevant. The focus should be on the thing that they are doing that is affecting the people at work, regardless of what’s causing it.

  34. HonorBox*

    LW, I got to thinking about this later in the day yesterday and wanted to come back to make a suggestion. I still don’t think it is worth a conversation with either of the people who are involved in this suspected affair, but if you have an exit interview with someone else, pointing out the odd dynamics that you and others have witnessed would be worthwhile. I’m not sure if anyone above these two have addressed their outbursts in meetings, but if they haven’t, they sure should. So perhaps pointing out in an exit interview that these interactions have made you (and others) uncomfortable might push the issue forward if it hasn’t been addressed. You might even suggest that there are rumors that are flying around the office (without specifying what those rumors are) and you’re concerned about harm to the reputation of those two people and the organization.

  35. AA Baby Boomer*

    I suspect the affair or one night stand has taken place and this is the fall out afterwards.

    I wouldn’t say a word about it. By asking, the OP will come across as intrusive, nosy and gossip hunting. The OP needs to really think about why they thought bringing this up would be appropriate. It come across as getting a dig at the individual having the suspected affair.

    1. Orange Crushed*

      That or one person is either moving onto other people and/or their spouse is catching on so they’re trying to be more careful. Or the affair fog has lifted and it’s back to reality.

  36. Sis Boom Blah*

    Yeah, put me on team Leave It Alone. This situation is a hornet’s nest, not a pinata. No reason to take a swing at it.

  37. Azure Jane Lunatic*

    The maximum that I would bring up at coffee is to mention a specific time or two that there was a public blow-up in a meeting, and afterwards someone asked you if you knew what was going on. Which you clearly didn’t.

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