Alison Green is the Dear Abby of the work world. And questions like “My coworkers are having an affair, should I say something?” file into her inbox daily.
The former workplace manager turned advice-giver, started askamanager.org in 2007, and it spread though word of mouth. She now receives 50 questions a day, and answers 35 questions a week.
Here is the one on the coworkers and their steamy relationship:
“Our office is rife with gossip regarding a married man in our office and young single co-worker. The man has a brand new baby at home and knowing that he is having an affair behind his wife’s back is rather upsetting to some of us on moral and character grounds, but also it is making us uncomfortable (wife drops in sometimes) and is a distraction. They are not in a boss/reporting relationship but are peers. In addition they seem to take long lunches, are constantly using email and Microsoft communicator company software for endless chat sessions even though it’s not permitted for private activity.”
Alison’s answers are well thought out and lengthy, and picked this one like so many others, because it piqued her interest. Here is what she wrote to the person seeking her advice:
“I suppose if you’re determined to address this in some way…the best way to do it might be to tell the man (since he’s the married one) something like: “Hey Bill, I wanted to give you a heads-up that there’s a lot of gossip going around about you and Beth. I’m sure there’s nothing to it, but that kind of thing can really affect someone’s career, to say nothing of rumors getting back to your wife, so I wanted to make sure you knew.”
She wisely adds: “But overall, I think you want to be clear in your head about what is and isn’t your business. Sometimes things are irritating and offensive, but still not necessarily ours to get involved in.”
Alison tells Personal Space that she was driven to give advice after she saw people making the same mistakes over and over again, and that there was a role she could play in helping people do the right thing at work.
“There’s a real hunger out there for a place people can go to ask these questions,” she says. “What does my boss mean when they say this, and how do I deal with an annoying coworker are popular ones.”
She says her answers come from her experience as a manager and being a huge over thinker.
“I’ve always loved interactions between people. Awkwardness is also really interesting,” she says. “I just love breaking this stuff down.”
A “really weird question” will get her every time, she says, noting one recently where one employee was having continual chemotherapy treatments and her boss was showing up there to ask her work related questions. Another was from an employee whose coworker was writing a nasty blog about them. There's the office hugger. The employee who punched their coworker at the Christmas party.
A big question she gets is how to stop a coworker from doing an annoying habit—without talking to them about it.
“Well, you have to have the difficult conversation,” Alison laughs. “If you don’t want to have the awkward talk, you have to deal with the thing forever. People are hoping there’s a magic bullet so they don’t have to have the talk.”
Another issue is money related.
“Either there’s a workplace charity drive, or everyone goes out to lunch…stuff about digging into your wallet comes up a lot,” she says. “People think others think they are weird for speaking up."
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