View Full Version : I need help re work situation.

04-11-2012, 09:59 PM
I am hoping for feedback here because I need honest, anonymous advice.

Over the past three months, I have learned basically all the staff I work with (I am a lawyer) thinks I am having an affair with my boss or, if I am not, that I am flirting with him and he is in love with me. My motive, apparently, is "sleeping my way to the top." Even my boss's wife believes this; not sure if she heard it from someone I work with or independently reached that conclusion. To be honest, my boss has told me several times (when drunk) that he wishes he was married to me, is incredibly attracted to me, etc. I just ignore him, he has never touched me inappropriately nor has he ever indicated any quid pro quo or in any way penalized me for rejecting his advances so it's not sexual harassment. I can't avoid drinking with him - we have to entertain clients and network - but I do bring my husband with me whenever possible.

I have *never* lead him to believe I am interested in him sexually. I do not flirt with him. I am good at my job, have received perfect reviews from every boss I've ever had, and am well regarded by the other partners I work for. I am FURIOUS the staff has been saying these things when I have done nothing inappropriate and have no need to sleep my way to the top. I want to go to HR but the person who told me about these rumors (my secretary) made me promise I wouldn't repeat it. I seriously want to sue these people for slander or have them fired. The two women who I know are spreading the rumors would get fired if I reported it and requested their termination.

To the extent the other attorneys have heard rumblings about this, they've shut the staff up immediately and I don't think any of them believe it's true. In theory, the staff has no control over my career so I shouldn't care. My husband would certainly not believe the rumors if he learned about them; he knows me too well. So what do I do?

04-11-2012, 10:27 PM
If he is repeatedly making advances toward you, it is sexual harassment and if it is making you uncomfortable, then you should tell him it's inappropriate and he needs to stop. If he doesn't, you need to take further action.

For the women, you don't have to keep that promise you made to your secretary. You can tell her you are sorry, but you have the right to stop this if you want. She should not have asked you to not repeat this since it is about you.

First, is this affecting your job or workplace environment? If not, tell the women to knock it off.
If it is affecting you, then go to HR.

I also wonder how much your boss had to do with this. If he is openly flirting with you and saying he wishes he were married to you, then that probably didn't help matters at all. People probably see the way he acts around you and drew their own conclusions.

Bottom line, he needs to stop, the women need to stop and if you haven't already, you need to tell your boss how inappropriately he is acting.

04-11-2012, 10:37 PM
The way I see it, there are two issues here--your boss and the staff. They're separate, but related and I think you should go to HR regarding both.

My understanding of sexual harrassment is that a quid pro quo or penalty is not always necessary, but that unwanted sexual attention that creates a hostile work environment can also be defined as sexual harrassment. That might just be my state, though, but I thought that was pretty universal. I would include repeated advances as unwanted sexual attention. Even if it doesn't meet your state's legal definition of harrassment, it's still inappropriate work place behavior and it's a situation that does affect you and is not of your own making. In that way, I think HR should know.

I can understand your secretary not wanting this traced back to her, and I think it's great if you want to look out for her. BUT...a) if this rumor is all over the office, you would have heard about it eventually. If she's concerned about retaliation, no one should assume she was the only way you could find out about it. and b) you need to look out for yourself more than anyone else. I find it odd she would tell you about this and then expect you to do nothing about it. To me, it doesn't seem fair for her to tie your hands like that.

So, personally, I would go to HR. It's their job to deal with this sort of situation.

04-12-2012, 12:15 AM
The thing about my boss is that, in the workplace, he is always perfectly appropriate. It's when we are out that he says stuff like this and I know it slips out against his better judgment. I have never addressed it with him and don't intend to tell HR - all it will do is slow down my career because it will mean I can't travel with him, can't network with him, and may not be able to continue working with him (which I want to do; he is brilliant, a great mentor, and easy to work for). It has not created a hostile work environment because it really doesn't bother me; he is so harmless about it it is no different than a friend confessing to a crush.

I guess I do have to tell HR about the secretaries. I don't want my secretary to become a pariah, and she will be. There is no way to avoid naming her as the source; HR will insist I identify her. People will get fired and she will be blamed. But I am incredibly pissed off about it. I feel like my intellect and hard work have been completely discounted. I know it doesn't really matter - the attorneys know me, know my husband, and know there is nothing to this, and they are the ones with control over my career - but I am still mad.

04-12-2012, 01:55 AM
I agree that even if this doesn't fall under the legal definition of "sexual harrassment", it's inappropriate behavior. You may want to defend your boss, but he is obviously crossing a line and it's hurting you. If you feel you have to put up with it or else your career is compromised, you are selling yourself short. HR would be interested to know this is your perception of your work environment.

Even if it's just a "crush", as your boss he should know he has compromised himself, you and his firm by telling you this.

Would you advise a friend or client to keep her mouth shut in order to keep her career and that of her boss safe, despite how it affects her?

04-12-2012, 09:42 AM
Have you told your boss that the comments are making uncomfortable and you would like him to stop? I wouldn't go to hr about him without talking to him if you believe its harmless and you have a good relationship. I work with physicians who flirt but they only take it as far as I let them.

04-12-2012, 10:04 AM
My boss does not make me uncomfortable. He never has. And honestly, knowing how much of my job is discretionary - the travel and business development opportunities - there is no way to raise it without compromising my career. That's just reality and it is the same advice I would give anyone in my field. It would be different if he were pushy or punished me for refusing, but he isn't and hasn't. Reporting it in this case would be pointless, I would alienate a supporter and friend, make other partners afraid to be alone with me, and gain nothing. I am not doing it.

I am way more concerned about things that are actually being said in the workplace by staff. Those comments do bother me and I think they are damaging. I very much do not want to get my secretary dragged in but I don't see any way around it.

04-12-2012, 10:18 AM
You said your boss is always appropriate in the workplace, but you also said he gets drunk and tells you he wants you and wants to be married to you when you're out with him for what I think you meant are work related outings. Do you mean they are personal in nature or are they for work?

If his wife thinks you're having an affair and the rest of the staff does, it brings into question where they are getting these ideas. It's possible he has said or done things that would give people reason to suspect something. It's also possible others have witnessed his comments to you. I do see you being made uncomfortable and it stems from your boss' actions. The rumors are a problem, too, but I think there's a good chance the two are connected.

Have you told your husband what is going on? Would/does he agree that you should put up with this man getting drunk and telling you what he does becuz he's a "friend"?

04-12-2012, 11:10 AM
I've had people say things Like that to me, my response is offputting to strangers and polite but firm with friends or coworkers. But the fact is, I don't encourage it. Allowing it to continue means you are encouraging it. If you didn't care, you wouldn't have thought to mention it.

04-12-2012, 11:49 AM
I agree with Kensington and sflathinker.

This is one of those situations where I confess that I'm not sure why you're asking for advice if your mind is already made up. If you don't want to report the guy, then don't. I just think reporting the staff for the rumors but ignoring the harassment is kind of like pouring water on some sparks while the rest of the room catches fire behind you. The fact that you are asking about this, though, makes me wonder if you're really as ok with it as you want to be.

If your boss is giving you unwanted sexual attention, then your career is already compromised. If he's sexually harassing you, then he is neither a supporter nor a friend. He is breaking the law, which I consider more egregious than passing along a rumor, especially since he's the reason for the rumors in the first place. If you get the underlings fired, and they hire a new round of underlings and the advances continue, do you really think the rumors will just disappear?

04-12-2012, 12:51 PM
In this country, co-workiers spreading rumours about you is classified as harrassment. It is unacceptable and undeserved. Perhaps your co-workers need reminding of that?

I hope you can find a way to sort this out amicably, but at the end of the day, they are in the wrong.


04-12-2012, 08:06 PM
I just think reporting the staff for the rumors but ignoring the harassment is kind of like pouring water on some sparks while the rest of the room catches fire behind you.

I'm not sure if it is always as black-and-white as this... speaking from past experience I have unfortunately been in circumstances where co-workers have exaggerated situations and generate all kinds of nasty rumors to explain why I seem to get slightly better treatment from the boss. But that is because I work my tail off and get results compared to those that just sit on their tushies. In cases like mine, the harassment is virtually non-existent (maybe mild flirtation), but what the co-workers are doing makes the environment absolutely hostile.

Seems to me CaliBeachGirl that the staff are quite vindictive and mean - and possibly jealous of you? What they are doing (whether intentional or not) is destroying your credibility. I think it is completely within the realm of possibilities to report them and not the boss, if the boss has for the most part been supportive of you.

04-12-2012, 09:52 PM
I'm just curious how the staff know what they think is going on, when they're not at these meetings/drinks?

I'm a legal secretary and while I think it's commendable that you don't want to put it back on your secretary, I don't think it was at all fair that she told you about this and expected you not to say anything. You have a right to defend yourself/your name and your actions (or lack of).

Also, if the other secretaries were to lose their jobs because of this, what's to say that the new secretaries wouldn't pick up on it?

04-13-2012, 05:47 PM
At the risk of disagreeing the majority, I am not sure I would go to HR at this point if I were in your position. I think you would be justified in doing so if you wanted to, but it might not be the only option.

Since the rumors are being spread by the support staff and you are an attorney, it would seem as though you are in the more powerful position within the organization. Thus, it doesn't seem as though you would have to fear retaliation if you confronted the members of the support staff directly. If it were me, I would call the offending parties into my office and demand an explanation. Then I would make it clear that I intended to hold them responsible for stopping the rumors they started and HR would have to become involved if they failed to do so.