1. CRISIS MANAGEMENT

WORKPLACE AFFAIR

The pain of an affair is already enough to deal with but it may feel unbearable if the affair took place at work where the unfaithful partner has ongoing contact with the affair partner. 

 

Also, the fear of your partner losing his/her job due to the affair can compound the trauma. That is why it is so important to clearly address the potential fallout of a workplace affair and what to do about it.  

LEGAL RISKS

Many workplaces have policies against office relationships (no fraternization policy) in the workplace. Even if no such policies exist, the potential for harassment claims looms large. Any relationship involving employees at different levels of the organization risky. Such behavior is subject to claims of higher ranked person using his/her power at work to advance a sexual agenda, thus, potentially result in:

  • the higher rank person being terminated, and

  • in litigation against the company and/or the employee.

 

A lawsuit may become even more likely if the relationship ends poorly and one partner does not take it well. Harassment claims may arise if conduct that was previously welcomed is now considered unwelcome by the spurned affair partner. 

 

SOLUTIONS THAT BACKFIRE

Potential solutions for dealing with the fallout of an affair can create more problems. For example, often an employer may resolve the potential for conflicts of interest by transferring one of the employees in the relationship to a different group so that the couple is not in the same location or reporting hierarchy; however, depending on which partner is transferred, their role before the transfer, and their sex, additional claims of sex discrimination could be made.

FACING THE ISSUES TOGETHER

It is helpful to discuss these potential negative considerations as a couple. Many times, the working spouse will keep these issues close to the vest, leaving the betrayed spouse feeling left out. This only builds tension and fear in the betrayed partner's mind.

 

Breaking down walls to facilitate better communication can make the couple feel like they are attacking the problems together. This will also force the unfaithful partner to take responsibility for his/her actions and help the betrayed partner prepare for what may happen (a possible job loss) in the future. 

ALL OPTIONS ON THE TABLE

It is extremely helpful if the couple can honestly explore all options to address a workplace affair including:
 

  • leaving the company or position and finding other work,

  • exploring whether the affair partner could be offered a position elsewhere in the company or leave the company, or

  • requesting to be physically separated on the work campus (even though both parties are in the same role / job title).

 

CHANGING JOBS

Some couples who are healing their marriage after an affair initially consider leaving the job an impossibility. The unfaithful partner may perform highly specialized work, and he/she may have seniority and benefits (golden handcuffs) that are hard to give up. Yet, do not rule this out before exhausting your possibilities. If you can see yourself as a person with options, it greatly helps.

The way you have this conversation also matters. For the betrayed, to know their spouse would quit their job, goes a long way towards healing. If you are financially able to quit working with the affair partner, this can greatly expedite their healing. Often, a new job is located in due time and the resulting "restart" puts them in a better emotional and financial position than before. 

NOT CHANGING JOBS - BOUNDARIES

​There are other things that can be done to manage the situation when your spouse will continue to work with their affair partner.

 

Here are some options:

  1. Have the unfaithful put a picture of their husband/wife up in their workplace, also a family picture.
     

  2. The unfaithful spouse can call their husband/wife often throughout the day to reassure the betrayed of their love for them, and to create reassurance about their whereabouts.
     

  3. Have the betrayed partner come up to the workplace for lunches and other appropriate visits, so they have a presence there.
     

  4. Ensure there are not situations where the unfaithful partner and the former affair partner are alone together, especially not behind a closed door.
     

  5. Written communications between the unfaithful and the former affair partner are shared with the betrayed partner.
     

  6. At company events, like the holiday party, make a point of not only having your spouse present, but looking at him/her in such a way that the whole room knows you are completely devoted to your spouse and there is no room for doubt. 
     

  7. Discuss appropriate boundaries with the opposite sex (in addition to the affair partner) that you both can agree on. Examples: no after hours or off-campus meetings.
     

  8. Be sure any contact with the former affair partner is reported to your spouse within a defined timeframe (usually 12 hours) and deal with it together.
     

  9. Being careful to pick a discrete person (due to the risks of gossip or a potential lawsuit), the unfaithful can seek out a same-gender accountability partner at work.

 

GOAL

The primary goal in the workplace is for the unfaithful partner to take complete ownership of making sure that he/she will not relapse with the co-worker / affair partner. It is not fair to place this burden on the betrayed partner. But if this is wholeheartedly embraced by the affair partner and the plan is full communicated to the betrayed partner, then the couple can begin to create safety and trust in the relationship.