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To think this supposed affair isn't one and needs no attention from HR

(100 Posts)
TakenForSlanted Tue 19-Mar-19 22:59:01

Bone of contention between a colleague (A) and myself, concerning two other colleagues (B and C):

B is a married male senior executive. C is a single female junior executive and A's subordinate. For context: we're talking about senior professionals in their 30s and 40s here, not about helpless graduates.

This much is uncontroversial: It's evident that B and C like each other on a personal level. It's the kind of going on breaks, laughing and joking together that people just do when they get along.

Colleague A, however, thinks that there's more to it than that and that B and C are involved in a fully blown affair. Her evidence, supposedly:

- B often touching C's arm as they speak
- B and C standing very close to one another in a nearly empty lift and brushing up against one another despite there being no need to
- B supposedly leaning in over C's shoulder as they discuss an item on her desk and their faces, according to A, being "literally about 5 inches away from each other"
- B and C teasing each other constantly (this much is actually true - they definitely do this. But then it's something I do with some of my friends, too).
- C calling B "adorable" in A's presence and B calling C "hot as shit" [in a context that, IMO, is more likely to be about her as a professional than about her looks].

Colleague A thinks this is clearly inappropriate and that it's obvious B and C are having an affair. A also believes the right thing to do would be to say as much to HR. With B being C's boss, an affair would clearly not be in line with policy.

I think A's being utterly ridiculous and that they may just be colleagues who get along on a personal level. I also happen to think that - even if A were spot on (and I don't think she is) it'd be none of her business.

Personal declaration of bias: C is someone I used to line manage and in whose integrity I trust. A is someone I currently line manage and who's "reported" the B and C situation to me semi-formally and has since followed up with me about me ignoring it. I frankly like C more than A both in a personal and in a professional capacity, but I also happen to think that not taking this further co-incides with my best professional judgment of what I ought to do.

So who IBU here? Me for not reporting or A for insisting to make these people her business?

LascellesMoustache Tue 19-Mar-19 23:01:51

If A wants to report them then nothing's stopping her going to HR herself is there?

MitziK Tue 19-Mar-19 23:02:29

Your office gossip is the one being unreasonable.

If they do their jobs, it has precisely fuck all to do with anybody else whether they're mates or banging each other's brains out after work.

TakenForSlanted Tue 19-Mar-19 23:07:29

it has precisely fuck all to do with anybody else whether they're mates or banging each other's brains out after work.

That's pretty much my own take on it, yes.

Sadly, phrasing it like this in my response to A would in itself be a tad unprofessional. Oh, do I want to, though ...

sackrifice Tue 19-Mar-19 23:10:56

Can you tell C they are the subject of office gossip so wind it in a bit before someone reports them to HR or worse, tells the wife?

CardsforKittens Tue 19-Mar-19 23:17:02

I was good friends with a married man at work, about 20 years ago. Colleagues speculated about an affair but there wasn’t one. We really were just friends. I found it really annoying that people seemed to find it hard to believe. We were close because we were interested in some of the same things. And office gossip is usually both malicious and sexist in my experience. Tell A to STFU.

wafflyversatile Tue 19-Mar-19 23:25:12

Why do they want you to take it to HR rather than just do it themselves? Maybe warn C or B that A is gossiping.

Can you say that as you disagree with her take on it you would have to present it to HR as an allegation that is possible malicious gossip and she will also ve under scrutiny.

This is possibly very bad advice. grin

Graphista Tue 19-Mar-19 23:33:55

Yabu.

A has reported to you inappropriate, unprofessional behaviour that is making them uncomfortable at work. They won't have made that decision lightly.

Was the report made in writing? If so or if they're likely to do so due to your inaction further down the road it could well look like you failed to act when you should have.

You've also said that a relationship between B & C would be against company policy, you have a duty to ensure that's followed. Especially as such policies are usually put in place to protect companies from sexual harassment claims when such relationships go pear shaped! (Highly likely when one party is married, older and the boss of the other party!)

It IS A's business if it affects the work of any of the 3, even if it's "just" creating an awkward environment for them to work in. That can cause people a huge amount of stress for which the company could ultimately be liable.

Your bias is influencing you into not doing your job.

HR are there to advise as much as to act, but they can't do their jobs if they're unaware of the facts.

The behaviour of B& C in the workplace IS unacceptable and unprofessional and unfair to other colleagues being exposed to it.

Such situations can and do get very messy resulting in companies being in trouble for not protecting subordinate employees, for not protecting employees on the periphery of such behaviour, for not managing the work atmosphere in such a way as to keep it professional and as stress free as possible.

Speak to HR who I suspect will either speak to B & C themselves or advise you to speak to them something along the lines of

"Your behaviour around each other is edging into unprofessional on occasion, and suggestive of a burgeoning personal relationship that is not in line with company policy. How you conduct yourselves outside work is your business, but in work you need to behave professionally"

Taking a concern to a boss is not gossiping.

ChicCroissant Tue 19-Mar-19 23:38:58

You do come across as not liking A, OP!

I have a little more sympathy for A - her subordinate (your much-trusted C) appears to have the ear of someone senior, and their behaviour in the office doesn't sound too professional with the teasing, although without knowing the actual business it's difficult to say. More to the point, you say that there are company policies against such a relationship.

IME (I've worked in HR) people do complain a lot about office romances and they are quite obvious. Especially if they affect the business at all (some people spend more time at work on their relationship than the actual day-to-day work ...) and the people involved are not focused on their work.

If A thinks they are, she can report it to HR if it is against policy and it will be up to them to investigate it, I suppose. How would you feel if HR asked you what you had done when A reported her concerns to you? If you think she might take that step, I would advise that you consider your response.

Redskyandrainbows67 Tue 19-Mar-19 23:41:39

If it’s agsinst company policy you need to be a professional and report it.

Redskyandrainbows67 Tue 19-Mar-19 23:42:41

I agree - you’ll look bad when A eventually reports it herself and says she’d repeatedly asked you to report it but you turned a blind eye

AliceLiddel Wed 20-Mar-19 00:01:04

I would go to HR and "report" it but make it clear to them you do not believe its going on and have not seen anything untoward. However you felt the need to tell them as it has been complained to you. Therefore passing the buck to them but making it clear its not actually a thing.

expat101 Wed 20-Mar-19 00:15:57

If your role has nothing do with HR then A is only moaning/gossiping to you. Tell her you are not interested and if she feels something unprofessional and against regulations is going on, she should take the necessary steps with the right personnel, not you.

RedDogsBeg Wed 20-Mar-19 00:20:21

I agree with Graphista and ChicCroissant and I think you are behaving unprofessionally here OP, you have admitted a personal bias.

Either Report A's concerns to HR and let them carry out an unbiased investigation into it as you clearly can't or advise A to take her claims directly to HR.

Incywincybitofa Wed 20-Mar-19 00:26:33

I'm not sure what professional environment you work in but in my previous employment none of the behaviours you accept happened would be workplace appropriate affair or not.
I agree if HR investigated what would your response be when asked what you did about As concerns

ReanimatedSGB Wed 20-Mar-19 00:36:21

Warn A that if she doesn't keep her fucking beak out you will report her for spreading malicious gossip. It isn't any of her business whether they are having an affair or not, and people like her need smacking down good and hard or they will poison a whole workplace.

SleepingStandingUp Wed 20-Mar-19 00:40:40

You have zero evidence so what do you actually report? That A has a feeling??

Aquamarine1029 Wed 20-Mar-19 02:19:47

"A" is nothing but trouble and is going to drag you down with her. As for C and B, who fucking cares what they're up to? Keep your beak out and tell A to leave you out of it.

Lovingbenidorm Wed 20-Mar-19 02:35:26

I’m actually astonished that anyone could actually give a shit tbh

edgeofheaven Wed 20-Mar-19 02:42:58

It would bother me if I were in their team and felt C was getting special treatment from B, whether it is due to having an affair, flirtation, friendship, or whatever.

A needs to phrase her complaint in terms of
1) the behaviour making her feel uncomfortable
2) direct impact on herself (e.g. C getting better assignment even though A deserves it on merit)

The affair is not the issue but I think the dynamic described is bordering on unprofessional.

BoomBoomsCousin Wed 20-Mar-19 02:49:35

You say that " C is a single female junior executive and A's subordinate." in which case I think it is A's business if a relationship would be against policy and she is obliged to act if she believes it may be the case.

I would have thought a conversation with C in which she points out company policy and directly asks if there is anything she needs to know should cover. If there is no affair C can set the record straight and if there is she can give A plausible deniability and realize that she needs to be more discreet (or break it off).

BejamNostalgia Wed 20-Mar-19 03:16:07

If your role has nothing do with HR then A is only moaning/gossiping to you. Tell her you are not interested and if she feels something unprofessional and against regulations is going on, she should take the necessary steps with the right personnel, not you.

Eh? Have you ever actually had a job if you think that’s how it works?

HR are there to support and advise line managers in issues relating to their staff and make sure the company doesn’t break the law reporting a possibile breach of the company code of conduct is not just gossip and A did the right thing going to her line manager first.

I totally agree with Graphista and Chic and yes it is blatantly obvious even when they think they’re hiding it.

Warn A that if she doesn't keep her fucking beak out you will report her for spreading malicious gossip. It isn't any of her business whether they are having an affair or not, and people like her need smacking down good and hard or they will poison a whole workplace.

"A" is nothing but trouble and is going to drag you down with her. As for C and B, who fucking cares what they're up to? Keep your beak out and tell A to leave you out of it.

That’s some of the worst advice I’ve ever seen in here. If OP followed it she would would have a grievance made against her straight away and one which could cost her job.

All this “nothing to do with her” “nobody else’s business’schtick” is rubbish too.

A line manages C. Office relationships are banned. It is the company’s business because they ban these relationships for good reason. It they come up with a fiddle or if there is a nuclear breakdown it can negatively affect the company. And they do cause tension and resentment which is part of the reason why they’re banned in the first place!

It could end up with tribunals etc if it was true and was ignored.

It definitely sounds like heavy flirting to me.

- B and C teasing each other constantly (this much is actually true - they definitely do this. But then it's something I do with some of my friends, too).

They’re your friends, not your boses, bosses boss. Totally irrelevant.

sofato5miles Wed 20-Mar-19 03:37:32

Not all work places ban personal relationships..

Graphista Wed 20-Mar-19 03:40:03

They’re your friends, not your boses, bosses boss. Totally irrelevant.this!

Also if you're in a workplace you don't behave how you would in a social situation even if you work with friends.

I've worked with people who've become very good friends, a few I've been friends with almost 30 years now, but we'd never have behaved at work how we did on nights out or even when having a coffee and a chat.

With 2 of them I became their boss too, it's especially important to have that line there in case you need to discipline or even just chivvy them on.

At work I was the boss and outside work we were friends on equal footing. Never had a problem with either part of that relationship.

Partly as I leaned early on to enforce that line when I was made a boss to another friend and she took that as permission to slack off and I didn't deal with it as quickly as I should have (first time being a boss) and my boss had to point it out to me (luckily she understood was my first time being a boss but made it clear to me it needed sorting).

Aside from anything else it sounds like B & C may well not be spending as much time on their work as they used to.

Lifeover Wed 20-Mar-19 06:36:44

Tbh whether it’s an affair or just over familiarity it obviously could feel quite exclusionary to others. It’s not appropriate for senior staff to act in a way where there could be actual or perceived favoritism. You need to have a word with c and bs line manager a word with him.

A has every right to anticipate favouritism in the circumstances you describe

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