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Emotional affair and work issue

(125 Posts)
zeezeek Thu 16-Jul-15 19:25:10

I'm currently leading a team of about 10 people in getting an application together for a large programme grant to do a piece of research. All very important for the department etc and the team were handpicked for their expertise and nothing to do with departmental politics.

Anyway, one of the men has apparently developed feelings towards another (female) member of the team. It is a small, incestuous world we live in so their paths have crossed before and they have always been fairly friendly. However, now he seems to have more than friendship feelings towards her. Nothing will happen, however, because he's married and she's a lesbian. It has been a kind of open secret in the team, but we have all tried to ignore it. They don't work in the same institution (she's about 200 miles away from him) and, even if we get the money, they will only see each other a few times a year at most and they are both very professional. I don't know if they've discussed it between themselves.

Anyway, last week we were all at a departmental party piss up and this chap's wife was there and someone (not sure who) told her about his husband's crush. She took it very badly and ended up shouting at her DH, then shouting at the poor woman concerned (even though she was there and obviously with her GF) and accusing us all of being complicit in the affair.

Today I get a call from her demanding that I remove her DH from my grant application so that he won't work with this other woman again. Her DH was actually at a meeting in my dept today so I spoke to him and he had no idea what she had done and definitely didn't want to not be on the grant. He also admitted having marital problems which his crush on the other woman was exacerbating and that if she would give him a chance he would have a physical affair.

As he is a leading expert in his field there is no way I want to remove him. But don't want to be responsible for causing problems in his marriage and certainly don't want his wife calling and blaming me anyway!

AIBU to think that as adults they should sort it out themselves and not fuck up my very important piece of work!!!!

TheCraicDealer Thu 16-Jul-15 19:30:27

So long as their work isn't impacted as far as I'm concerned this isn't your lookout. Put him on the application, warn him (and her) to wind his neck in and keep it professional. If the wife calls up again say, "I'm afraid this is between you and your husband. Please do not contact me again".

I feel sorry for the wife but you can't be carrying on like that.

totallybewildered Thu 16-Jul-15 19:45:21

it has nothing to do with you. It isn't your problem in any way.

TiredButFine Thu 16-Jul-15 19:49:32

You need to be very firm with the wife of this man randomer
It is not a workplace issue and she must resolve her marriage issues without contacting the workplace which is a place of work...if she keeps doing this you will have to tell her that she is causing a nuisance and action will be taken against her.
Selection for the team is based on personal skill and ability. Although he sounds a bit whack

DoJo Thu 16-Jul-15 19:50:50

But don't want to be responsible for causing problems in his marriage and certainly don't want his wife calling and blaming me anyway!

You are not and would not be responsible for any such thing - if they have problems, then they need to sort them out and you are nothing to do with that process regardless of whether you include him on the application or not. If she calls, then you can say 'I'm not really prepared to discuss x's personal life and I cannot take recommendations from someone who isn't even involved in the project as to who should be named on the application - I'm sure you understand.'

zeezeek Thu 16-Jul-15 19:53:09

"I'm afraid this is between you and your husband. Please do not contact me again".

Now that is what I should have said instead of mumbling something totally incoherent and non-commital because she took me by surprise and I didn't know what to say, and didn't want her shouting at me!

I have met her a few times, but don't really know her. She's a SAHM and her DH and all our friends/colleagues are academics, so I get the impression she feels a bit out of her depth when around this group (most of us are married to/involved to varying degrees with other academics)

wtfisgoingonhere Thu 16-Jul-15 19:56:34

Exactly what craic said and agree with others too. . .Wtf is she thinking - sort her marriage issues out at home don't bring them to her husbands workplace

zeezeek Thu 16-Jul-15 19:57:20

And before I get flamed for saying she's a SAHM - I am aware that doesn't necessarily mean they are thick etc. She is a SAHM, but one that never wanted to work, didn't go to Uni and married him young, had kids young and devoted her life to him. Now he's got a crush on a younger, brighter woman. But still not my problem.

Have just seen an e-mail from him. She's kicking off at home, apparently. I'm sick of this distraction from the work.

DoJo Thu 16-Jul-15 20:00:01

I think you need to make it clear to him that his relationship issues are not something that he should be bringing into the workplace. If he needs additional support or time off to deal with it, then perhaps that is worth telling you about, but you should not be used as a sounding board for his ongoing problems unless you are friends outside of work and he wants to buy you a few pints and bend your ear.

Fizrim Thu 16-Jul-15 20:06:03

Awkward! I do feel sorry for the wife caught up in this, but even if she thinks his work colleagues are complicit she shouldn't be interfering in his work life.

He does seem to making a total idiot out of himself though, and his poor handling of the situation can't be improving his reputation!

BathtimeFunkster Thu 16-Jul-15 20:06:53

Why is he involving you in what's happening at home? confused

The poor woman he has a crush on.

This doesn't sound like an emotional affair. It sounds like he has such an obvious crush on her that it's bordering on sexual harassment.

Her professional reputation is being damaged here too.

zeezeek Thu 16-Jul-15 20:19:40

It is definitely a crush, yes. He is definitely sexually attracted to her, so yes, I agree Bath, it's not really an EA. We are a group of people who are friends and colleagues and most of us have known each other for years, so to some extent we are all used to talking about our private lives to some extent.

Before the party it was fine. He acknowledged he fancied her. She said he never stood a chance and even if she fancied men, she would never fancy him. Now it's all got too serious and someone's marriage is on the line over it. He's blaming his DW, she's obviously blaming us. He's defending himself to me and other members of the team - including my DH who was his PhD supervisor many years ago. We've both told him not to contact us about it anymore and we don't want to get involved - hopefully he's got the message - especially as I could take him off the grant. I won't though as he is very good at his job when not being a twat.

The woman he fancies doesn't know anything about what's happened today as she's back in her home town....unless she's had call also.

BathtimeFunkster Thu 16-Jul-15 20:45:22

It doesn't matter that she doesn't know about it.

It matters that she's somehow implicated in it, when she is not interested in him romantically and happily married herself.

It matters that other people are talking about her in relation to this man. She's the subject of office gossip despite conducting herself well.

That's not right.

He is being really disrespectful of her professional reputation to be going around making his "feelings" for her a public matter.

How would you feel if a colleague started declaring his unrequited love for you to all and sundry?

And if his wife started causing trouble at public events and calling it an "affair"?

He is being a real shit here, to both of them.

If you are the person leading this application, you need to rein him in where this woman in concerned.

This could blow up in your face, because this is no longer just a private marital spat. Another colleague has been dragged into it against her will.

zeezeek Thu 16-Jul-15 20:54:21

BathtimeFunkster - I have a horrible feeling that you might be right. Thinking about it, he never really made his feelings a secret, but then we all kind of ignored it because it didn't seem important and, as I said, she's not interested in men! It was a sort of "in joke" amongst the team and I also contributed tot he jokes. But it seems we failed to realise that it was causing problems at home and the impact that this was having on his wife.

Despite the fact that I'm pissed off with her due to her behaviour at the party and then the phone call....I do see her point.

I will call the other woman (who of course isn't) tomorrow and talk to her. DH and I have been discussing it tonight and even he thinks it's all out of order....and he's a liberal Swede lol.


AvonleaAnne Thu 16-Jul-15 21:03:32

If someone I managed was behaving in such an unprofessional way they would be off the grant anyway. He sounds more like a lovesick school boy than a professional man. He must surely have lost the respect of everyone on the team.

grumpysquash Thu 16-Jul-15 21:05:56

You are going to have to manage your team as well as the project, otherwise there will be far too many distractions.

If the wife calls you again, take the excellent advice above.

Call a 1:1 meeting in your office with the guy. Tell him that you are not interested in his private life and do not expect him to be sharing the details with the team members. That you do not expect to witness any behaviour (including verbal) that might count as professional misconduct. And that you view suggestive comments or fancying behaviour as harassment. Tell him that if any of that happens, you will have no choice but to remove him from the project and exclude him from future collaborations. End by saying that it would be a shame because you value his contribution and respect him as a scientist.

I dont' think he would jeopardise his position; most likely he just hasn't looked around and though about what he's doing. I'll bet you a pound that he will be mortified that the conversation is even happening.

[I realise that you don't actually want to get rid of him, and I also understand the academic 'thing' - I was part of it myself for a couple of decades.]

When that has all settled, I would phone (not email) the woman he fancies and just give her a bit of a heads up, but also assure her that you have dealt with it, and invite her to contact you should anything unwanted happen.

MsVestibule Thu 16-Jul-15 21:09:18

I feel sorry for his wife, but he is being an absolute arse. It is incredibly unprofessional of him to make known his romantic/sexual feelings towards another member of staff, especially when they have no interest in him. He may be great at his job, but don't you also have to think of team cohesion?

On a side note, your comment about her being a SAHM is completely unnecessary. Saying 'I am aware that doesn't necessarily mean they are thick etc.' doesn't really make it any better. Her employment status is completely irrelevant - it would not make one iota of difference to this issue whether she has a Phd or not a single GCSE. A jealous wife is a jealous wife.

bigbumtheory Thu 16-Jul-15 21:09:59

I feel more sorry for the unwilling woman, I've been in that situation myself and almost left my job because of it. And it too was common knowledge and just gave him more excuse to keep persisting and being puppy dog eyes. I very nearly left, while others found it a joke or cute I found it really harassing.

You definitely need to speak to her. And in regards to this man and his wife, keep him on the grant but say to him as much as her 'it's between you two.' Tell him to keep it out of the office, it's unprofessional and he shouldn't be moaning about it when he's just as responsible as his wife for this situation.

grumpysquash Thu 16-Jul-15 21:10:00

Also, I meant to say, that it does sound like he is interested in a younger brighter partner than his wife, so if you nip this behaviour in the bud, you won't be dragged into it the next time he takes a fancy to someone.

[Beware if he starts hanging out with PhD students/new postdocs though]

zeezeek Thu 16-Jul-15 21:28:26

Am going to have to manage this, you're all right. It just feels strange to be in that position because we all are, to intents and purposes, a team of equal partners - even though I'm the Chief Investigator so nominally in charge (ha ha ha).

I'm sorry for the SAHM comment - I thought I'd been insulting and was trying to make it better, but made it worse.

I'm calling her tomorrow - had planned to anyway. Apart from this stuff he's actually really good company and I've worked with him in the past (he was about 5 years ahead of me at Uni so we kind of came up together). I've never known him act like this before. In fact the running joke used to be that he was staid and boringly happy married.

zeezeek Thu 16-Jul-15 21:30:55

grumpysquash - I don't think so....he's great and everything, but I have always had the impression that he prefers his women (or woman because I thought it was just his wife he was interested in!) not to be in competition with him. Alpha male and all that. Not sure his ego would ever cope with another ego in the house.

grumpysquash Thu 16-Jul-15 21:31:35

Yes, 'peer group' management is the hardest kind in a way, but you have to do it simply because it needs doing.

The best scenario is that he'll respond and it'll all be basically ok from then on.

I bet he'll look back on this and really cringe blush

grumpysquash Thu 16-Jul-15 21:33:04

Alpha male and all that. Not sure his ego would ever cope with another ego in the house that case, maybe he just wants what he can't have.

bigbumtheory Thu 16-Jul-15 21:34:01

Zeezeek Sounds like newbie phD students would be right up his ego boosting, young woman loving street?

Sometimesjustonesecond Thu 16-Jul-15 21:34:37

I feel really sorry for the wife. You've all known about this and treated it as a bit of a joke, but imagine how she feels. She finds out at a work do that her husband is openly leching after another woman. He is being a complete prick - openly disrespecting his wife and putting his colleagues in the awful position of being gossiped about/having to deal with his mess. Totally unprofessional!

Agree that if the wife contacts you again, you have to tell her that her marital issues are not your concern, but do it kindly. Her whole life is being ripped apart by her husband's callousness. Also agree that you need to give him a kick up the arse about unprofessional behaviour.

I think you are unfair to assume her sah status or lack of uni education makes her less bright than the rest of you or unable to keep up. Going to university is often about opportunity and specific career ambitions as much as intellect.
The most interesting and intelligent man I know, didn't go to university!

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