I had a one-night fling with my new boss’s husband, coworkers say I’m too loud, and more

I’m on vacation. Here are some past letters that I’m making new again, rather than leaving them to wilt in the archives.

1. I had a one-night fling with my new boss’s then-husband

The company I work for is going through a merger with two others. Some people have taken retirement, but other than that no one has been let go. Locations and departments are changing, and people are moving around and being promoted.

I am about to have a new boss. We have a history. I used to work with my new boss’s husband. We had a one-night fling and somehow she found out. She divorced him and it was not amicable. I have a child with her ex-husband. The two of us share custody, but we’re not together and have never been beyond that one time. I was dragged into the divorce proceedings and she went out of her way to humiliate me. She is still angry about it and she took her ex-husband to the cleaners.

I asked HR if there is any other job I could take but they said there isn’t. They also say my concerns are not valid because my new boss is a professional. I can’t afford to be without a job but I also can’t have her as a boss. HR has said their decision is final. They won’t give me another job or let me go and if I quit I can’t get unemployment. What should I do, do you have any advice as to how I can convince HR to change their minds?

It’s utterly unacceptable for someone to manage the person their spouse had an affair and child with. It should be an absolute no-go/hard-stop for your company.

The fact that your company isn’t treating it that way makes me suspect they’re hoping you’ll just leave over it, because they don’t value you enough to feel like dealing with it. They’ve got to know that this will be untenable for you (and I’d think it would be untenable for your new boss too).

Maybe I’m wrong and they’re really just that clueless, but it’s hard to imagine an HR person looking at this situation and thinking it’ll all work out fine. I’d put money on them assuming/hoping you’ll leave over it.

That said, if you’ve only talked to someone relatively junior in HR, you should try escalating to someone more senior. But you might be better off trying to negotiate severance in exchange for leaving quietly, and that might be a better outcome than working at a company with someone who you have this history with, even if you’re not working directly for her.

Read updates to this letter here and here.


2. My coworkers say I’m too loud when I talk on the phone

I got feedback yesterday that I am bothering some of my colleagues (open floor plan, nobody has offices) because I talk loudly on the phone (which is like half of my job). And, it’s true! I do! I am excited and passionate and that manifests in volume and gesticulation that I don’t really notice I’m doing.

I feel embarrassed and deflated, but also like screw you, man. Sorry I care about my work. Put on headphones! But, mostly, I feel embarrassed and not sure what to do. Do I book a conference room for all calls I have to take, annoying and time consuming as that would be? Do I try a new headset that’s only on one ear so maybe being able to hear myself will help me be more quiet? Keep doing my thing and let people figure out their own solution if it bothers them? Ugh.

Not the latter. If your volume is bothering people, then you do have an obligation to try to control it. You’re in an open office, and having to modulate your voice is part of the deal. It’s not reasonable to expect people to wear headphones all day long instead of you trying to modulate your voice, difficult as it might be. (And I do know that it might be difficult, if you’re just naturally a louder person.) This is reason #591 why open offices suck.

Try your headset-in-one-ear-only idea and see if it helps. Try taking some calls in conferences rooms — not all of them necessarily, but doing that with even a portion of your calls will probably help things, especially calls that you know are likely to be long. And try just being more aware that there are people around you whose concentration is broken when you’re loud, and it sucks for all of you. Maybe some of this will help, maybe it won’t — but if people see you making an effort, that itself will likely be appreciated.

(And why oh why do offices put people whose jobs are 50% phone work in open floor plans around people whose jobs aren’t? It’s ridiculous.)


3. How to tell my boss “I already did that”

Thanks to your excellent advice, I recently started a new job that I love, and while it’s still early days, my excellent performance reviews reflect my bosses’ confidence in me.

Here’s my problem: I manage my company’s social media. Several times a week, my bosses will approach me hours or even days after I’ve shared a news item on social media with the suggestion that I share that news item on social media. I usually just respond with “Thanks!” and move on, but I’m concerned about three things: A) my bosses think they are giving me important direction/input that I find valuable and am acting on when I am doing no such thing, B) my bosses think I would not be doing my job the way I do it, or as well as I do it, without this input and, less importantly perhaps, C) my bosses, who are otherwise active on social media, aren’t following this aspect of our company’s work at all. To me, this is a performance issue — I’m actually better at my job than they think I am, and I’d like to be recognized for it. I’m also sensitive about this because many people (this isn’t unique to my company) don’t realize how hard it is to be good at what I do; there’s a sense that just anyone can “do Facebook.”

Is there a way to say “Thanks, but I actually posted this last Monday!” that doesn’t come across as “Don’t tell me how to do my job, person who is absolutely supposed to tell me how to do my job,” or “Wow, you’re way behind on the news!” or, worse, “Stop bothering me!” I want everyone I work with to feel empowered to send me suggestions for social media sharing, because of course I may miss things, but it feels different with my bosses than it does with my coworkers or my reports, because these are more like directives than suggestions.

Yeah, when you respond with “thanks,” you’re giving them the impression that you might not have posted it if they hadn’t said anything. Instead, it’s better to respond with something like, “Yes! I posted it this morning!” or “Yeah, I loved that — I posted it earlier this week so we’re all set” or so forth. As long as you say it cheerfully and don’t sound annoyed, that’s not going to come across as “don’t tell me how to do my job” or any of the other things you’re worried about; it’s just a conversation about business logistics, and you’re saying it’s already done.

I would actually be concerned if I discovered that my employee wasn’t being straightforward about this kind of thing; it would make me think they felt they had to carefully manage my feelings, and I’d worry about what else they weren’t being straightforward about due to misplaced delicacy. Give your bosses the respect of just being matter-of-fact about this!


4. My former employer is asking me to fill out paperwork 6+ months after I left

My former employer keeps asking me to fill out additional paperwork after I’ve stopped working there over six months ago. This started about 2 months ago, and at first I didn’t have a problem and filled out a page or so of documentation they required. Their requests have become progressively more time consuming and I would like to tell them that I don’t want to complete it.

These documents relate to topics most managers cover during orientation (i.e. where fire extinguishers are, safety training, immunization records, general policies, etc.). The only explanation I ever received was when they first asked me and they phrased it along the lines of “we’re trying to get all of our paperwork in order for an inspection by the joint commission.” After that, all other emails were phrased along the lines of “Oh, by the way, fill this out ASAP.” The paperwork includes going online to watch videos on hospital specific training and then take a quiz covering the material, and emailing affidavits that I completed the work. (I work in the healthcare industry, and I presume the reason they are asking me is that they are in the process of being re-accredited by a national accreditation board for hospitals and they want to make sure all of their paperwork is in order.

On the one hand, I don’t want to burn bridges with anyone even though I’ve moved on to another position in which I’m so much happier. But I also feel that all of this documentation should have been given to me to fill out when I first started working for them (some of which I have already filled out before) and I do feel justified in saying no. Am I wrong in feeling this way? Is there a way to communicate this to them while still sounding professional?

This is ridiculous. It’s not your fault that they didn’t get this done while you were there, you shouldn’t be asked to make it look like you filled it out earlier when you didn’t, and you certainly shouldn’t be spending your time watching videos and taking quizzes for them (!). The next time they send you one of these requests, say, “I don’t feel right filling this out when I’m no longer working there. Thanks for understanding.” Then stop responding.


{ 155 comments… read them below }

  1. Daria Grace*

    #2: If continuing to take somewhat loud phone calls in an open plan space isn’t avoidable, another thing to consider is anything extra they can do while not on the phone to be a considerate team member and maintain goodwill. I had a job where I was doing high attention to detail low margin for error work in the same open plan space as call centre staff. I tried to be gracious about their loud phone calls that were impacting my work but their choice to have needlessly loud personal conversations at their desks between calls wore down my goodwill and patience for them

    1. Artemesia*

      And ‘that’s just the way I am’ is never a good excuse when you are annoying the fire out of people and making it hard for them to do their jobs. Change the way you are if your way is loud and boorish.

      1. Lainey L. L-C*

        Part of the reason (one of many) that I’m at my new job is because we had an EXTREMELY loud talker who wouldn’t do anything to modify his loud voice in our open plan office. I sat in front of him and even with headphones cranked to the loudest music I could take I could still hear him. I couldn’t hear the people I was talking to on the phone over him.

        TLDR: If you don’t do something about loud talkers, your other employees may finally have had enough.

      2. Mongrel*

        There are a variety of sound meter apps available for phones, and while I have doubts on their accuracy they would at least provide a baseline “Over X is too loud” for OP #2 to help train themselves

    2. A person*

      I agree with that. It’s one thing to be loud on the phone but if you’re always loud then people will have a hard time.

      I also would suggest finding out if there are phone rooms (or suggesting that to your employer). If not, then you’ve just gotta suck it up and book conference rooms on calls where you don’t think you can keep it down.

      This is an older letter. I guess we can hope that LW can work from home these days!

  2. Artemesia*

    If I had a boss who was repeatedly telling me to post on social media, I would be sending him a link each time I posted — heads up, sharing this in case you get any feedback, thought you’d be interested at what we are doing with social media, yadda yadda. One of the important jobs in managing up is making sure your boss knows what you are doing that is important to him and the organization or that showcases your wonderfulness. For example, if you are invited to speak at a local organization or given an award, you would want to make sure he knew about it. He thinks social media is important, so make sure he sees it when you post.

    1. SAS*

      Yeah, why not do a daily “social media roundup” email? We have a couple of people from different teams in our office who constantly share updates around their projects, it has definitely boosted the profile of their work more broadly.

      1. Mockingjay*

        Our company sends out an email on Fridays: “In case you missed it,” with news synopses and links to social media, company intranet, and other sites.

        1. sofar*

          I send out a “weekly digest” to everyone, and I still get folks on the digest asking, “Did you post about XYZ?” or, “Hey we should do a post on XYZ!” when X, Y and Z are in the digest, on our public social media feeds, in the app, on the homepage, etc. You can’t win sometimes.

          I always respond, “Yes! Outlined in the most recent digest [copy paste] and here are the live links. Here’s a link to the performance data (top-level highlights in the digest as well). LMK if you need a deeper dive!” They never want the deeper dive. They just want to feel helpful. (Plus, given the sheer volume of communications, I bet some of them just don’t have time to sift through the digest).

  3. Bilateralrope*

    #4 is in healthcare and their former employer is trying to make it look like they are more compliant with paperwork than they really are. That makes me worry about how else they are failing to follow procedures and how much that endangers their patients.

    Which is another reason to refuse to fill in anything.

    1. SopranoH*

      I’m also pretty sure this is wage theft too. I have to do this accreditation training every year too. We’re always warned to do it on the clock or amend our timesheets if we do it at home.

    2. MassMatt*

      Right—if this is needed for licensing or en they should have been on top of it while LW was employed. If they are still playing catch up with a former employee months after the fact it sounds as though they deserve to fail, and that’s on them.

      I would tell them no, and if they continue their hassling, report them to whatever supervisory board.

  4. A person*

    It sounds like that last one is trying to not get dinged in their re-accreditation process for not having/retaining training records. Screw em. The people that refuse to follow those processes properly when they “don’t matter cuz no one is watching” will never learn any other way. And you’re being asked to falsify documents… which you shouldn’t do… and in my experience with auditors will get you in way more trouble than just saying ooops we messed up here’s how we will fix going forward. Stop helping them. And if you’re taking trainings for them… they should probably be paying you for that time.

    1. Tank*

      I agree! Sounds like the hospital is trying to cover a big mistake it made. I would file an anonymous complaint bc it means probably that many other hospital staff have not received required training and that’s just dangerous!

    2. Snow Globe*

      Makes me wonder if they asked the OP to back date the paperwork. I hope OP put the current date next to all their signatures.

      1. Catamaranda*

        Even if OP is not backdating the paperwork themself, I’d bet my next paycheck that someone at their former job IS doing just that.

        It sounds to me as if TPTB at that last position suddenly woke up to the realization that there’s a lot of paperwork and training that they never had their employees do, that there’s going to be legal fallout for them if they don’t have it in their records and they’re desperately trying to play catch-up now. And they’re trying to get the OP to do that work for them. Ah….no. Just no!

        1. MassMatt*

          This sounds like a safe bet. If the employer is being this sleazy, what other corner-cutting unethical practices are they up to? Backdating prescriptions? Falsifying records? Double billing? Recycling unused prescription medication as new?

    3. Antilles*

      It sounds like that last one is trying to not get dinged in their re-accreditation process for not having/retaining training records.
      That’s definitely what’s happening. Especially since it’s about general safety topics and orientation topics, that 100% means they didn’t do some required training and are trying to rush to fix their records before/after an audit.

    1. A person*

      It is a bummer of a situation. But it’s also most unprofessional and inappropriate to accept managing someone in that situation and HR should never allow it. Who was right or wrong in the divorce and affair situation matters zero here.

      1. Fulana del Tal*

        Why should the exwife derail her career for the OP? According to the updates the exwife is thriving in her new role, she’s a rockstar and probably why HR decided she was the one they wanted to keep.

        I know I’m in the minority here but I was never comfortable with the way the exwife was characterized in the letters or comments. She was vilified for “getting his car and having his wages garnished”. She was judged for things she hadn’t done yet just what the OP thought would happen.

      2. Kella*

        Based on the updates and comments on the first publishing of this letter, the boss didn’t just accept management, she *sought it out* in order to have punitive power over the OP. She lied in order to sour OP’s work relationships with her previous company too, so OP had no references. OP messed up and my heart goes out to the pain that caused the boss. But the boss went WAY past unprofessional.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          Yikes, I must read the original and updates. Reading this, I assumed HR had been as dismissive of her as of the LW and that she felt she would be considered unprofessional or not management material if she tried to refuse or even that she was just ignored and told “this person will report to you and that’s that.”

          This sounds problematic in a different way to what I was assuming.

        2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          OP made a mistake, but she wasn’t the married one. Almost Boss needs to act like the professional everyone thinks she is and stop trying to ruin OP’s life. She got divorced, she took her ex to the cleaners, time to move on. Continuing to try to ruin other people’s lives is non-productive and soul sucking. Also it shows her ex and OP still occupies real estate in her mind. Why waste time and energy on someone not worth it?

          the best revenge is living well — by showing you don’t care what the other person does anymore.

        3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Yeah – OP made a one time mistake, and did their best to own up to it and accept responsibility for the outcomes. The “Almost Boss” went on a revenge tour and destroyed lives and careers.

          I’ve wondered for a while if things continued on that upwards trajectory for this OP.

        4. Caroline*

          Yeah, sure. It was unprofessional if indeed it went exactly the way the OP described it, but here’s the thing: people who have flings with married people and then have a baby with those people are quite often not totally reliable narrators. Also. They seem to have a history of drama – not just in this situation – that clings to them wherever they go.

          Of course HR should not have entertained such a situation, no doubt, but possibly they were keen to see the back of the OP for various reasons and so…

          It’s hard to really work up too much sympathy for this situation really. The two people who caused it have suffered long consequences, but then, they did decide to roll the dice and have a baby, so that’s pretty long term too.

      3. SAS*

        It’s definitely a HR issue but it seems incredibly unfair for her to be forced to opt out of a promotion opportunity.

        1. Jackalope*

          Given that there were three companies merging into one, I’m certain that they could have found some way to move *one person* to a different team, or the boss to a different team, or something like that so she could get her promotion and OP could still work. It’s highly unlikely that they choices were between managing OP and not being a manager at all. And given that in the first update the OP said she briefly ended up alone with the new boss-to-be, who said that she was glad she got the chance to have power over one of the people who had shattered her life, it’s pretty clear that she was planning to use her upcoming power to be as cruel as possible to the OP. Which is extremely unacceptable (to put it mildly) for HR to just hand wave (and I know that they didn’t hear that comment, but this should never have been something that was allowed, to the point where I almost wonder if someone in HR was on the ex’s side).

          1. Snow Globe*

            With three companies merging into one, there were likely a lot of layoffs and finding an open spot for any employee might be tough. If this was the situation, though, the company should probably have just offered severance to the OP.

            1. Jackalope*

              You may well be right, but it still seems implausible to me that there was only going to be one team in the entire company and therefore the options were only the ex-wife being her new boss, one of them leaving, or the ex-wife not taking this job.

      1. AMH*

        She focused in on herself because she is the one writing in for advice. Consequences are part of making errors, especially major ones. That doesn’t mean all consequences are fair or defensible. This is not a relationship column, it’s work advice, and that’s what she was looking for. She isn’t here to perform apologies to satisfy everyone’s need for moral justice. And TBH, I think she has shown herself level headed and honest about what she did and the path she is following.

      2. Seashell*

        It seems like she suffered plenty of consequences for her mistake. If everyone who slept with the wrong person one time had to lose their job over it, the unemployment rate would be sky high.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Not just one job but two jobs lost over a one night stand. And it also sounds like she wasn’t able to get another job in her chosen field either. That’s a really steep price to pay for what sounds like a one time mistake with someone who didn’t tell her he was married.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I said this on the first update: If one mistake causes a massive conflagration that burns all bridges, with all your managers and all your co-workers, who all believe really outrageous yet baseless things about you–at two out of the two jobs you’ve had in your life–then maybe that one mistake isn’t the only thing going on, and it’s worth digging deeper for where all the matches are.

            Like when you think the problem at work is the person tap-dancing on your desk singing “I’m a problem!” with jazz hands, but then they quit and it turns out there were many other problems.

      3. Former Red and Khaki*

        WOOF they that is without sin among you, let them first cast a stone at her, etc etc.

        There’s a child in this situation, by the way. She kind of has to focus on herself, in order to provide for the child. And why are you placing more pressure on her to act ethically than you are on the boss? Is hitting someone back twice as hard as you were struck ethical? Is it perfectly ethical to systematically ruin a person’s career and financial situation just because they had sex with someone else? Is it ethical to relish the thought of lording over an employee and ruining their career and most likely their mental health because they hurt you once? The idea of getting revenge when someone’s done you wrong is a fun one, but it is NOT an ethical one. Please.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          THIS. No one is perfect. OP is trying to move on and create a stable life for the child. Ex wife seems hellbent on revenge even years later. I cannot imagine cornering someone to say I can’t wait to make your life miserable. Its just so unprofessional, immoral and unethical.

          The ex wife had every right to be hurt and angry her husband cheated on her. but you get a reasonable divorce so you are away from the jerk then cry to your friends about how life sucks. You don’t look forward to ruining other people’s lives, if you are a decent human being.

      4. Happy meal with extra happy*

        I wish people reading comments like these would take a long, hard look at themselves for why they view the world in such a black and white, punitive matter, where one wrong action deserves a lifetime of torment and hardship.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Alison doesn’t offer absolution from sins. She offers advice for how to navigate problems at work, whether they are of your own devising or someone else’s.

          Thus do we have the standbys:
          • This is normal.
          • This is dumb, but it is legal.
          • Hey! This one actually is illegal!
          • Your workplace is full of bees, and you should flee.

      5. Anon for this*

        She is not focused on herself. She’s focused on her daughter. Who did not ask to be born into a situation where neither of her parents is able to find gainful employment to provide for her.

      6. Hobbling Up A Hill*

        What exactly should LW1 do? Wear a giant letter A, a hair shirt and go about the streets flogging herself?

        None of those things would help anyone.

      7. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        “anyone who loved her husband would indeed be shattered to learn that he’d cheated on her and fathered a child by another woman.”

        And anyone who had any emotional maturity would work through that (source: BTDT), not live their life like the embodiment of the expression “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Sleeping with a married man is not a good decision, due to the potential devastation. But methodically trying to destroy two people’s lives is (IMO) worse.

        1. Dr. Hyphem*

          “But methodically trying to destroy two people’s lives is (IMO) worse.”

          She shouldn’t have tried to destroy the letter writer’s life. If you are referring to her to destroy the ex-husband’s life because of the divorce proceedings, what was she supposed to do? “I absolve all claims to any shared property in the marriage so that my husband can have them, since he’s going to be a father now?”

      8. Turquoisecow*

        She’s focused on herself because she has to be, she has a kid to support. And a letter to an advice columnist is obviously about getting advice for ONESELF, not others. What an odd comment.

        The ex-wife wants nothing to do with OP except to make her life miserable. Pretty sure any attempt by OP to …what, exactly are you asking her to do? Apologize? Make friends? … would be rejected entirely by the ex wife. All the drama of divorce court is over, OP and the ex and the man all need to get on with their lives, which it sounds like OP and the father of her child are trying to do.

  5. MeredithGrey*

    I can’t help but wish OP 1 had stayed and let the boss harass her, so that she would have a legal case against the company. Not a legal expert, but it does seem like they were forcing her out and if she stayed—put in an untenable situation.

    I’m really sorry all of this happened to you, OP and I read the updates that you’ve moved onto a different industry. I hope you can get on a good track soon. And I respect that you’re focused on making things good for your child.

    1. Lady Lessa*

      Me, too about the child. I also like the fact that both parents are involved with him or her.

      I just wonder if part of the constant anger about the fling is due to the child and that the boss’s ex is a good parent.

      1. SAS*

        I he already had a child with the ex-wife, hence the favour given to her in divorce court (and the ongoing anger).

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          there is nothing in the letters that says she got favored in the divorce because they had a child together. More likely she had a better lawyer — sounds like she had the money if all he can get is part time temp work and then later retail, and of course, adultery tends to tip the scale.

          More sounds like wife got really angry and him cheating on her — which okay fine — then went scorched earth about it. Instead of going, well fine, I don’t want your cheating butt bye-bye, have a nice life, I am certainly going to.

        2. Dr. Hyphem*

          OP was quite active in the comments when this letter and its updates were originally published. The ex-wife did not have any children with her ex-husband. I don’t know that she was “given favor” as much as it was a fault divorce because of the cheating. In the original comments, it also comes out that the OP’s view of how the divorce went down was somewhat skewed–take the car for instance. She spends a portion of the comments insisting that the ex-wife was awarded her husband’s care and cruelly took it away from him while he just wanted it for a few more days to be able to work. It later was revealed after commenters pushed on this that it was the ex-wife’s car all along and he was trying to circumvent the courts to avoid giving it back.

    2. Cat Tree*

      I’m also not an expert but I don’t see how this would be illegal (in the US). It’s not based on any legally protected characteristic, and it isn’t retaliation in for whistle-blowing about something illegal that the company has done. Maybe it would fall under sexual harassment depending on the specifics.

      It sucks, for sure. But it’s not illegal for a company to make poor management decisions, or to choose one employee over another as long as it’s not for a specific illegal reason.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        God no. Even if she had managed to document enough harassment, employment law cases take YEARS. It is not worth for some hypothetical payout that may or may not be substantial. Almost boss would have been very careful to document all of Op’s failing to justify eventually firing her without anything documentable as harassment. The possible positive outcome is heavily outweighed by the negative and toll on one’s mental health.

        The better thing when she negotiated severance would have been to negotiate a clean reference. that almost boss was absolutely not allowed to comment on her work since she never managed her.

      2. Totally Minnie*

        I don’t. Lawsuits are crazy expensive and they take years to be resolved, and in the meantime LW would have to put up with being continually abused and tormented while trying to create a life for her child. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone and I’m glad she got out.

    3. Antilles*

      What legal case would there possibly be?

      It’s perfectly legal for companies to decide that they will not allow you to have an internal transfer for personal reasons so HR is in the clear. It’s also perfectly legal for your boss to hate you personally, refuse you promotions, make you ineligible for raises, stick you on dead-end projects, give you terrible reviews based on impossibly high standards, and various other methods of freezing you out. So the boss is in the clear too.

      The only potential case would be if any of those actions were based on a protected characteristic, which isn’t applicable here since it’s clearly due to the personal animosity.

  6. Gemstones*

    After reading all those updates to #1, I’m never ever even thinking about having a workplace fling. Or even a fling period. That’s a tough road to go down.

    1. Lucia Pacciola*

      No need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Flings can be generally okay, even in the workplace. Getting pregnant with a married man is almost universally Not Okay.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          There is a very frequent complaint that goes “I got into this fling with a married person for emotional reasons, not logical ones, and no, I wasn’t thinking about the impact on other people…. WHOA! Their spouse is divorcing them! And spouse is not limiting themselves to logic but is instead emotional, and going after all the affair partners and naming them in the divorce suit! How can they be emotional about this, and not thinking primarily of not inconveniencing various parties who hurt them?”

          1. Lainey L. L-C*

            “Why in the world are they making someone who helped their spouse do a despicable and life-altering thing to them share part of the blame?”

        2. Chirpy*

          It’s not ok, but also, how many married men just don’t say they’re married until it’s too late? He’s also to blame here, whether OP knew or not.

          Still doesn’t excuse the ex-wife’s actions at work though. Or HR, what the heck.

      1. Gemstones*

        True. Things just got SO bleak for this LW. Just made me want to avoid anything that could even vaguely be considered a fling, although yeah, I know that what happened to her isn’t exactly typical…

      2. Marya Morevna*

        Have all the flings you like with SINGLE men! Otherwise, you’re no better than the adulterous spouse with whom you’re sneaking around.

        Had LW1 stuck to that very simple guideline, she’d still be in the field she’d originally wanted, she might very well have been thriving in her company and she’d never have to fear that an angry ex-wife would have it in for her. Oh, and she would not be working a minimum wage job because other companies wouldn’t hire her due to her lack of references. Best of all, she’d be an ethical person – and you can’t put a price on that.

    2. Oatmeal Mom*

      It really is harrowing, a sort of “imagine the worst case scenario”. I actually did meet my partner through work but we only asked each other after he had moved to a different company. But come to think of it, beyond his social media, I had no idea if he was single other than his word. And that’s the kind of thing cheaters lie about. Something to think about for sure.

    3. Llama Llama*

      I had a fling with a guy at work and eventually married him and had children. BUT I knew he was not married and I was not married. (It was technically against store policy but when it got back to the store manager she dismissed it as I was I was too ‘sweet’. A month later my husband found a better job and it was a non issue).

      But HR is insane to think that this is a non issue. I would not want to be in either side of that manager/employee relationship.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        HR’s response was all the red flag needed to know this newly merged company was going to be full of bees. If OP had stuck it out, would they believe her if she got an unfair review that affected her pay? No, they would just say her manager is a professional so OP must be at fault. Getting out was the right option despite everything that came after.

    4. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Probably a better lesson to avoid flings (or affairs, or any other romance) with married people. That was the part that caused OP so much trouble.

    1. Punk*

      So is “somehow the ex found out” (because a baby was born?) and “she’s still angry and she took her ex to the cleaners.” The ex has a right to be angry, and it’s 100% appropriate to bring up affairs in divorce proceedings, as well as to mount an aggressive divorce strategy when you’re the wronged party.

    2. Wait what is*

      My same thought! And it’s not a mystery how the ex wife found out about the fling if a baby resulted!

    3. Jackalope*

      The relevance is that it was not an ongoing affair or a significant relationship (Although now there’s more significance because they have an unexpected child together). The OP doesn’t say anything about how it happened, but those are two different scenarios and different levels of involvement.

  7. Aphrodite*

    The letter from OP #1 is by far the most haunting letter I have ever read here. I have repeatedly hoped that she might provide a final update now, several years later, but more importantly , I truly hope and wish she has found peace, serenity, self-forgiveness and a new career where she is thriving. OP, if you still read here please know that my very best wishes go out to you and your child.

      1. Daily reader, rare commenter*

        It’s refreshing to read such a compassionate take, especially after some of the judgmental remarks here.

    1. Different Letter*

      The most haunting letter and updates I ever read was the one that ended with LW having two active restraining orders against them.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Agreed, Aphrodite. I hope that OP and the father of her child and their child are all doing well. I can’t feel sorry for the ex-wife at all, given that she cornered the OP and told her she was looking forward to managing the person who’d “shattered” her life. And I’m pissed off that the company sided with the ex-wife in this too; what a terrible organization.

      OP, if you are reading this and feel you want to, we’d all love to hear how you’re doing now.

      1. Delphine*

        It’s kinda mind-boggling that a woman’s anger, however “irrationally” expressed, is more offensive and unforgivable to people than a married man cheating on his wife or a woman having an affair with a married man. Cheating is a betrayal and, yes, both knowledge parties involved in the affair are responsible. The ex-wife is not responsible for this mess. And yet, she’s held to a higher standard. The veiled threat was wrong. But to wish the best to the OP and her father’s child and then to say you have no empathy for the ex-wife? Wild.

  8. Adam*

    For LW1, something I’m confused about is that in an update they say that they don’t have any references from either of their last two jobs. Obviously they wouldn’t list the manager that hates them, but presumably someone managed them before the merger, or they had some coworkers they worked with closely, and they could include one of them as a reference. Did they burn all their bridges at both jobs (which seems like it would have been important to include in the letters)? Do they not know they don’t have to list their most recent manager? Just feels like something’s missing.

    1. Poly Anna*

      According to comments and updates, the ex-wife lied about the duration of the affair to the old job which caused reputation and economic damage to the business and got OP fired. In the new job, OP was only there briefly while the ex-wife had firm ties to HR and management, so there wasn’t really anyone who could give a firm reference or refute what the ex-wife was saying. She left at short notice because she couldn’t face working together but to coworkers that would just look like an inconsiderate move, leaving them in the lurch.

    2. Lainey L. L-C*

      I’m confused about that too. Stepping way out of the gross affair stuff, why is it there is literally no one in the company from the first job that will be a reference for OP? Why isn’t there someone in the second job pre-merger/new boss that will be a reference for OP? If the reason why no one will give a reference for the first job is because as someone said below the affair caused reputation and economic damage to the business (also ???) and got OP fired, then how did she get second job in first place? Someone had to have given her a reference then.

    3. Mel*

      They said their former manager at company 2, was now retired, would give her a reference but because she was fired from company 1 she couldn’t get a reference from there — not even from former coworkers rather than her former manager, due to the circumstances of her being fired. The problem was she needed two references and could only provide one. She explained in the comments in the original post and the updates.

      1. Lainey L. L-C*

        Again, though, how did she get a job at company 2 if she didn’t have a reference from company 1? That’s what I’m trying to figure out. Because whatever reference she used to get the job at company 2 she needs to use in the future.

    4. Olive*

      I’m similarly confused that the LW seems to be a low level employee without much work experience but also seems to have a lot of knowledge about the merger, the whereabouts of coworkers (no one laid off), and the motives of the ex-wife.

      Advice won’t be helpful to the LW since the letter is from a long time ago and she’s updated that she’s moved on, but I think the takeaway in general regarding the references is that it’s invaluable to try to make connections with people who can see that you’re doing good work. If you don’t have a good relationship with your own manager, that makes it harder, but I’ve successfully used references from other managers and same-level coworkers.

      Although I’d say yes to endorsing someone who didn’t socialize and did good work, I’m much more likely to freely offer a reference to someone I’ve made a personal connection with. I’m always a little worried when people advise LWs, especially younger ones, to keep their head down and not make friends and just do their work. You want the people who see your best work to also feel positively about you as a person! To be fair and bring it back to this letter, I’d hesitate to recommend someone who had just been fired for an affair that they’d actually had, but I have had coworkers who I connected with enough that if they asked for a reference with the caveat that they knew they’d made a terrible decision and regretted it, I’d still say yes.

      1. Dog momma*

        I’ve been through two mergers, one a hospital, one not. The suits always made sure the employees were in the loop and answered any and all questions. including if there were going to be layoffs and what departments were involved.

  9. duinath*

    i can’t be the only one whose instant reaction to #4 was “lol no”. that former employer has coasted on lw’s good will for *too* long, i’d say.

    1. Wait what is*

      My former employer had a junior co-worker contact me with a technical question about a database, not directly connected to any of my past wirk. I had to gently nudge him toward the company’s internal expert.

  10. Dhaskoi*

    Am I the only person who wondered if LW1 was actually the ex wife writing out her fantasy of how the other woman’s life was ruined?

    1. bamcheeks*

      The first letter reads a bit strangely, I think, because of the way it escalated from “one-night-stand” to “wife found out” to “have a child together”— like by the time you’ve got a child together, it feels like whether it was a full-blown affair or a one-night-stand would seem less important than the fact you’re co-parenting! But if you read the updates, LW comes across as SO solid and decent, focussed on making a secure home for her kid however hard it is and parenting well with the guy she had a one night stand with. If it was a revenge fantasy, it was written by someone with a really crappy idea of how to make herself the heroine!

      1. Caroline*

        Usually solid, decent people don’t have affairs with married people, much less have a baby with them.

  11. Apple Pharmer*

    LW1 does not seem to have shown an ounce of contrition for her actions and I’m struggling to find any sympathy for her until she does…. The original post, as well both of the updates, focus only on how this situation is impacting her and the difficulties she is facing. Not once has she acknowledged a ruined marriage and the huge distress she has caused to the new boss. The posts are self-centred and the main focus seems to be portraying herself as the victim.

    Anything she is facing at work can only be considered consequences of her own actions and unfortunately it seems like the company does not see enough value in her work to make accommodations. I think the best course of action here for OP is reflection and personal growth, not professional…

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      Did she know he was married? It’s not at all clear from this letter and I haven’t read the original or the updates, so perhaps there is more there. If she didn’t know, there is nothing for her to reflect on. He lied to her like he did to his wife.

      If she did know, then yeah, she made a bad choice, but…that still does not justify having her career targetted. The guy who “ghosted” his ex and found she was his new boss and was told not to talk about her with his colleagues or spend time with her outside work received the consequences of his actions. It sounds like she tried to be professional but there would have been restrictions on him had he kept the job. If she did know the guy was married, then if the boss tried to be fair to her, but kept her distance and the LW felt that she was unlikely to get the same growth opportunities, etc, then yeah, that would be the consequences of her actions, but once somebody deliberately retaliates, I think those are the results of their actions. I don’t think being hurt means that anything the person who was betrayed chooses to do afterwards becomes justified.

    2. Too many snooze buttons*

      She’s writing in for professional advice after her career was tanked by this fling, why does she have to perform contrition for you too? And reflection and personal growth don’t put food on the table or a roof over her head for her kid. She had a moment of bad judgement and has already faced (wildly disproportionate imo) consequences, what else is to be done but pick yourself up and move on?

      1. Jackalope*

        Yes, this. The child she has is at least 6 now given when the letter was written, and quite possibly older. The ex-wife has had time to move on, the other people have had time to move on, and what the OP needs is practical. She doesn’t need to apologize and tear herself down to please random internet readers.

        And yes, what the ex-wife went through was terrible, but the right thing for her to do was not to accept being put in charge of the OP. She should have told the company that she couldn’t manage someone that she had this kind of history with and let the OP be moved to a different team (or since she was just coming in from the merger, let her be put in charge of a different team).

        1. BigLawEx*

          Both women had to put food on the table. The biggest issue is with HR not allowing LW1 to move, I think.

          The rest of the situation is MESSY and blame probably mostly lies with the man who went outside of his marriage…damned the consequences. And these were a whole LOT of consequences.

          1. Happy meal with extra happy*

            Except the ex-wife specifically chose a position where she would have the opportunity to manage OP (and continue to make her life miserable). That’s an unhealthy level of revenge.

      2. Happy meal with extra happy*

        The punitive nature of some people is so upsetting. Someone does one bad act, no matter the scale or scenario, and they deserve negative consequences for the rest of their lives.

      3. bamcheeks*

        I have half a comment written saying exactly the same thing, so I’ll just say +1 instead! This is an advice column, not a confessional.

      4. Turquoisecow*

        Yes, thank you. I’m not sure why some people are expecting LW to fall all over herself apologizing to strangers on the internet when writing in for career advice. She doesn’t need to apologize to us, get over it.

      5. Ace in the Hole*

        You said this far better than I could.

        Also, reading the updates… new boss seemed to be relishing an opportunity for vengeance. That’s completely wrong regardless of what someone did to you. Managers should NEVER abuse their power over their employees. It would be bad enough if New Boss thought she could be fair but unconsciously treated LW poorly. It’s an order of magnitude worse if New Boss consciously intends to do harm.

    3. Anon for this*

      Yeah, I don’t approve of people in committed relationships having affairs, but at the same time, OP wasn’t the married person having an affair. OP got pregnant from a one night stand, chose to keep the baby for reasons which surely made sense to her at the time, didn’t understand that she’d be dragged through the mud during the divorce proceedings, and now OP appears to be prioritizing her child’s wellbeing above all else.

      At least OP seems to understand that the ex wife has valid reasons for being out to get her.

    4. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      OP didn’t ruin the marraige, the ex husband did. OP is trying to coparent with the ex to the best of her ability. Running around in sack cloth and ashes while wearing a scarlet A is not going to give the kid a stable life. Which the kid is definitely innocent here and doesn’t deserve a screwed up childhood just because of they were conceived.

  12. Brambles are not the only fruit*

    Grow up Apple Pharmer and step away from the pile of stones. LW1 had no obligation to the wife, legal, moral or otherwise. The wife and the husband are the only ones responsible for the marriage. Focus on that fact and maybe drop the judgemental attitude.

    1. Gritter*

      Really, so people have no obligation to behave decently towards others without a formal arrangement? That’s a rather cold transactional way of seeing things.

      Getting involved with someone you know to be a in a relationship is a crappy thing to do. No, you may not shoulder as much blame as the married person, but you still shoulder some and you sure as hell are not an innocent victim.

      1. SopranoH*

        Something I realized during my years working in mental health is that being a victim doesn’t automatically make one moral, kind, or frankly, pleasant to be around. The OP doesn’t sound terribly sympathetic to me either, but it doesn’t mean that she wasn’t treated badly.

        I honestly wouldn’t have thought it much of an issue if ex had told HR that she refused to work with her, the reason, and HR laid her off. HR Keeping her on in an untenable position so they don’t have to do the work of terminating someone and paying unemployment, is pretty icky.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I realized that quite late about manipulative people: Sometimes they really are desperate. Sometimes the circumstances that are causing them to be desperate, and to try like heck to manipulate you, were in no way their fault.

      2. CommanderBanana*

        Also, generally, when one has an affair with a married person and a child results from it, yes, you do get ‘dragged into the divorce proceedings.’

        1. WellRed*

          Also, generally, when one has a kid out of an affair, yes, “somehow,” the spouse will find out. I hope Op is in a better place but I also hope she’s become a more active person in her life choices.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            A Captain Awkward that really resonated with me was suggesting that the OP rewrite the entire letter in the active voice.

            1. CommanderBanana*

              I’ve always loved that piece of advice. I notice passive voice in narratives like this so much now, and when people are telling me something they did but that they don’t really want to take responsibility for, they’ll use that and distancing language. Once you notice it you can’t un-notice it.

    2. Queer Earthling*

      I think it doesn’t matter about the morality of the situation here; LW#1 was looking for advice with navigating this at WORK, and updates are about finding jobs to support herself and her kid. Because even people who you find morally repugnant need to pay the bills, and her kid should still be allowed to, y’know, eat. Is she only permitted to ask advice after three paragraphs of groveling and apologizing to show that she’s sufficiently repented?

      1. Anon for this*

        Yeah, but what she’s asking for is how to navigate making enough money to provide for her child. Who didn’t choose to be born under these circumstances.

          1. Anon for this*

            Working retail. Which means probably extremely unstable hours. Definitely not good for providing for a child.

            1. Lainey L. L-C*

              I have plenty of friends that work retail, restaurants, etc. and have kids! WTF. So they aren’t “providing” for their child because they don’t work office jobs? Some of them made a whole lot more money than me at my low-paying office job.

              1. AMH*

                I understand you feel strongly about this. There are certainly people who can make retail work to provide for their family, but that depends on the area you are in, cost of living, etc. Retail can also be soul draining, often doesn’t provide benefits like health insurance, and can be unstable. If she wants to move on, should she not be able to do because she had a one night stand? Should the consequences for her error follow her forever? Should she never be able to improve her position as some sort of hair shirt atonement for having messed up? She messed up, badly. It sure seems to me she has paid the price, and overpaid it.

                1. Lainey L. L-C*

                  I actually stated above that I’m still confused as to why she couldn’t get a second needed reference, and yet somehow got job 2 without job 1 reference. However, now that she’s in retail, that means she has at least 2 references, so now she can use that reference in her job search in the future. Silver lining.

      2. Happy meal with extra happy*

        I think it’s telling that you’re using literal crimes (including murder!) as the analogy here. I understand you’re not making a one-to-one, apples to apples comparison, but it’s still pretty incredible that you’re linking an extramarital one-night stand to murder.

        1. Lainey L. L-C*

          You say you understand I’m not making a one-to-one comparison, and yet…

          For the record, I am saying there are a whole lot of instances in life where one person does a “bad” thing and another person aids them in some fashion in doing the “bad” thing, and they must share some portion of the blame. Not the same amount of blame, but a smaller portion. They are not completely without blame.

          Here’s an office one. If I find out my boss is stealing from the company, and I cover for him, I will likely be in trouble as well.

          1. Happy meal with extra happy*

            Honestly, the fact that all of your “comparisons” are still crimes, they really don’t work that well as analogies, unless you think adultery or alienation of affection should be crimes.

            1. Lainey L. L-C*

              If Person A tells a mean joke at Person B’s expense, and Person C laughs, Person B will likely feel hurt by Person A and Person C, but probably not as much at Person C who didn’t come up with the joke in the first place or tell it. There. Is that better? LOL.

      3. Ginger Baker*

        And, like this situation, many if those sentences are completely disproportionate to the amount of “involvement” of the “accomplice” (sometimes close to just being a bystander yet locked away for 20, 30 years, or worse). A more accurate comparison than you intended!

      4. Engineer*

        Murder. The word you’re looking for is murder. That is the name of the crime. This ain’t TikTok. If you can’t bring yourself to the proper name when making wild comparisons, then you shouldn’t be making that comparison at all.

        1. Lainey L. L-C*

          Some words get your comment instantly sent to moderation on some sites, that’s all. Hope you liked my workplace comparison below better.

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            Since “murder” is not an obscene word, any such filter is obviously meant to limit certain topics that Allison (blog owner) decided need moderation on this site.

            If this site did use comment filters to restrict certain topics, it would be inappropriate and disrespectful to use a cutesy euphemism to bypass the filter. This is not some massive social media corporation – it’s an individually owned and moderated platform.

    3. Delphine*

      Just generally: I know it’s a trendy point to make, that the “other person” in the affair is somehow innocent and only the married affair partner is guilty of breaking up a marriage, but of course OP is also culpable. Her actions contributed to the end of the marriage, unless she was completely duped by her child’s father. Those actions have consequences. We don’t need to absolve the “other person,” in an effort to get people to hold the married person (especially married men) more responsible.

    4. Resentful Oreos*

      If you take this position towards driving here would be the situation: Some other driver is driving badly, I’m not driving that car so I have no responsibility in the outcome if they are driving badly in my vicinity. I choose not to drive defensively and hit the brakes to avoid damage to my person and property. Am I responsible for the other drivers bad decisions? No. Am I responsible for not attempting to avoid a bad situation for myself? Absolutely.

      Knowingly participating in a physical/emotional relationship with a married person is definitely an immoral failing on part of both parties.

    5. Merry Christmas*

      I do not understand this attitude that “the non-married affair partner didn’t swear any vows, so they don’t owe them anything.”

      I didn’t swear any vows to the stranger on the subway, but I still owe them not kicking them in the stomach. (And, yes, that is exactly what it feels like.)

  13. Rachel*

    1: I am highly skeptical of the phrase “take him to the cleaners” when describing divorce finances.

    Sometimes people end up paying far more than they should and this is accurate. Most of the time, they are paying well within an objectively correct amount, but way more than the speaker wants them to pay.

    I would separate out how she treats you at work, which is wrong, with how you think the divorce went down. You are not an objective, impartial witness to this divorce and slamming that only diminishes your very legitimate concerns at work.

  14. Irish Teacher.*

    LW3, I’d always respond to stuff like that with something like, “it’s done.” I didn’t get the impression anybody has ever taken it as “don’t tell me how to do my job” or “stop bothering me.” Mostly, they’ve seemed pleased to know the task is completed.

    I do think tone is fairly key here. I don’t think most people would take it as an admonishment unless it was said in a tetchy tone or the person was otherwise giving the impression of being bothered. Saying “done” on it’s own without even looking up from one’s work would give a “stop bothering me” impression, but so long as it’s said in a reasonably cheerful and friendly tone, I can’t imagine anybody reasonable taking it as anything other than a statement of fact.

    LW4, this is one of those “lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part” things. You have no obligation at all to do any work for a company you have left. It might be different if these were forms you needed to fill in to get some benefit, but it sounds like they have missed out on some stuff they should have done when you were working there and are now trying to cover their behinds for the inspection. That is their responsibility, not yours. I doubt most people would fill it in at all. Maybe the first form, but after that…yeah, I can’t imagine most people bothering.

    It sounds like they are basically asking you to help them hide any mistakes they have made from the inspectors and you have no obligation whatsoever to do that.

  15. MythicalCreature*

    Oof, I’m Deaf in one ear and I still struggle a bit to modulate my volume as best I can when I’m using the phone in my open office. It can be frustrating and difficult to get in the habit of doing that, but once the habit is formed it’s worthwhile. Some tips I like are directing your face downward instead of the instinctual upward, raising the volume of the headset (for some reason many of us get louder when we struggle to hear someone else), and using a slightly lower register than is normal.

  16. Becky S*

    Re: OP1 – sometimes the consequences of actions aren’t in porportion to the action. I haven’t always made good decisions and fortunately for me, most of my life has turned out well anyway. I look back at some decisions and think ” well I got off easy there!”

    1. CommanderBanana*

      I saw a comment recently in an IG post about something totally not even close to this situation, but it resonated with me:

      “When we hit someone, we don’t get to control how hard they hit back.”

      I get that a lot of people who read the letter and its updates felt that the LW was being punished out of proportion to what she did. The thing is, the LW doesn’t get to control how scorched earth her affair partner’s ex chose to go. She can only control the decisions she makes.

      I agree that with Alison’s take that from an HR standpoint, her company made a bad decision, which was what Alison was asked to weigh in on, not whether the affair partner’s ex was a vindictive person or was in the wrong. And it kind of doesn’t matter, because whether the ex is in the wrong for going as far as she did, the LW can’t stop the fallout that her initial choice to have an inappropriate relationship with a married coworker started.

  17. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #1 Crazy overreaction by the manager.
    If I learned a manager was so viciously vindictive when she had power over someone I’d immediately look for a new employer in case she ever decided she had a grudge against me – since I’d expect the company would do nothing to stop her abuse of power.

    Shockingly unprofessional behaviour by manager and employer after 2 employees made a bad mistake in their private life.

    It is always the manager’s duty to say she cannot be in charge of someone against whom she has a huge personal grudge. And it is the employer’s duty of care to transfer the employee to someone else.

  18. Pizza Rat*

    re LW1–eww. That HR took valid concerns so lightly is horrid. Usually with mergers and buyouts there are options to leave with severance. I wish that could have happened here.

    Since HR was useless, getting out was the way to go. If the boss was as “professional” as HR said, she would have asked to have the LW transferred out.

  19. Pizza Rat*

    Open office plans are a terrible idea in the first place. Placing people who need to speak on the phone regularly in them is silly. They actually make a person long for a cubicle.

    When I worked in that type of plan, we had small rooms that didn’t have to be scheduled that you could jump into to be on a call. They had computers in them, so users could log in. I’m suprised that’s not an option at all.

    Still, if you’ve accepted work in an open plan, you also need to accept that consideration of other people is required. Expecting your colleagues to suck it up buttercup because “that’s just the way I am,” is narcissistic from where I’m sitting.

  20. Bruce*

    LW1… I read your updates, wow… you both are suffering from the ex-wife’s vengeance, and your kid too. I hope you both can rebuild your lives, happy for you that you both have supportive families.

  21. Bruce*

    LW2, I hope you found a solution. I realize this is years later, but I definitely find using only a single ear bud helps me modulate my voice.

  22. Workerbee*

    For #3’s advice: “I would actually be concerned if I discovered that my employee wasn’t being straightforward about this kind of thing; it would make me think they felt they had to carefully manage my feelings, and I’d worry about what else they weren’t being straightforward about due to misplaced delicacy. Give your bosses the respect of just being matter-of-fact about this!”

    Having a boss consistently say the equivalent of “You should do your job!” would make me think they did need to be managed carefully if they aren’t bothering to take a moment to realize that yes, I am indeed doing my job.

    If you have the time to come pounding down to my cubicle to tell me to do my job, then you have the time to check the output of my job and see for yourself. Else why are you even my boss?

    The good bosses I’ve had both see for themselves that I’m Doing the Thing, and trust that I will continue to Do the Thing. Bosses who react rather than think, assume negatives rather than give the benefit of the doubt, and “check in” where it isn’t warranted, are ones that typically need to be handled very specially.

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