A reader writes:
I am asking for advice about how to handle my impending divorce at work. I work at a large nonprofit in a specialist capacity that is a recognized priority for the company, but organizationally belongs to one of five departments. I’ve worked here for 10 years. I was headhunted by the executive director, and have worked myself up to the specialist position I have now.
My husband of 28 years has been employed at the nonprofit for 20 years, and during the last five he has been the head of the department I am in — my boss.
The organization has many married couples on all levels. (The former executive director was married to the head of the largest and most important department.) My husband has previously given me worse conditions than others to avoid being accused of favoring me, to the point that the director had to step in.
It has not been easy, but I have done my utmost to behave professionally and keep my private life as separate from my work as humanly possible.
Now my husband/head of department has asked for a divorce suddenly and unexpectedly, as he is having an affair with a colleague. The divorce is a great shock, made worse by the fact that our daughter is critically ill and faces a long, hard recovery.
My soon-to-be ex-husband has the power to cut my funding, lay me off, give negative feedback to the director about me, badmouth me, and make my life even harder than it is.
I normally have a good rapport with the director, but should I tell him about the divorce and illness or not? I wish to remain professional and private, but without telling him about the divorce I have no way of protecting myself from the persecution that I fear from my ex-husband. On the other hand, the director might lay me off himself to avoid problems with my ex-husband. My priority is to keep my job, since finding a new one is next to impossible and I need the insurance for my daughter.
Oh no. I’m so sorry you’re going through this.
And whoa, this organization is a mess. Married people should never be allowed to manage each other, and it’s apparently common there. As you’ve seen, it’s a recipe for all kinds of problems — favoritism, the perception of favoritism, lack of objectivity, and plenty more. It generally means that the employee’s performance isn’t assessed appropriately and they’re not given adequate feedback, and it can even open up your company to charges of harassment down the road (“I wanted to end things with him, but he implied it would affect my standing at work”). Most employers rightly don’t permit this.
But that doesn’t help you now, of course. He does manage you, and your organization has apparently been fine with that (even after having to intervene over his treatment of you!).
You do need to tell the executive director about the divorce. It’s very unlikely not to affect things at work, and he’ll need to be aware of that context. You also need to tell him because you need to ask to report to a different manager. I don’t know how feasible that will be logistically, but it’s utterly untenable to work for someone who’s in the process of divorcing you (and having an affair with a colleague, no less).
I get that you’re concerned about being pushed out, but even if you don’t disclose the situation, your husband probably will! It’s unlikely that he plans to pretend you’re still together, especially once the divorce is final, and especially if he wants to go public with the new relationship at some point.
Please consider consulting a lawyer for help here, aside from the legal help with the divorce itself. Firing you at the end of your relationship with your boss would put the company on shaky legal ground, and ideally you or your lawyer should stand ready to explain to the company the legal considerations in play. (Also, please talk to your divorce lawyer about getting an agreement to keep your daughter on your husband’s insurance, which should help you feel less tied to this job.)
Last, I strongly urge you to reconsider your commitment to staying in this job, especially if they won’t move you (but even if they will). You might not be able to leave immediately, but please actively work toward it. This is not a workable situation for any of you.
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my husband is my boss — and we’re getting divorced was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.
Original Source: askamanager.org