Magazine article Management Today

What's Your Problem?

Magazine article Management Today

What's Your Problem?

Article excerpt


Five years ago I had an office affair with a junior member of staff. It ended badly and she left the company, claiming I'd hindered her chances for promotion. She never lodged a formal complaint, but mutual friends tell me she remains bitter. I have since changed jobs, but have found out that she is now joining my company. She doesn't know I work here, and I'm worried she could make my life very difficult. Should I warn my managers of our previous relationship?

Wow, what a nightmare. I've done a fairly thorough trawl through your shortlist of options and I can't pretend that any of them beckons very temptingly, but we can probably eliminate a couple.

Warning your managers has a superficial attraction in that it gets things out in the open right away. But I wonder if it appeals to you for a less respectable reason: the opportunity to get your version of the story in first? And what exactly would you tell them? And what would you expect them to do with the information?

You can hardly expect them to cancel her job offer. I suppose they might just try to find a role for her in a different part of the company, but even that would compromise them a little. No, that option's out, at least for the moment. You'll only embarrass your managers, and they won't thank you for that

Next in line is to do nothing; always an attractive option and surprisingly often right. But the risk here is considerable. Even if she's changed and settled down and perhaps formed a new attachment, it could be that all your apprehensions turn out to be unfounded. But that's not what your mutual friends are telling you, so you'd be unwise to bank on it. No, I'm afraid you've got to do something -- and I'd start with those mutual friends of yours.

I find it odd that they've told you about her imminent job move but apparently haven't told her that you're already at the company. If they really are friends, they won't want her turning up for work on her first morning, all shiny-eyed and bushy-tailed, only to be brought up short by the sight of your baleful countenance at the next workstation.

So first, ask the mutual friends to come clean and tell her the score. And second, ask them, on your behalf, to suggest a meeting just between the two of you. It's almost certainly the last suggestion in the world you want to hear, but you'd better do it. How she responds will tell you all you need to know - and what, if anything, you need to do next.

Why, I wonder, am I left with the unworthy suspicion that you really did behave badly towards her, all those years ago? …

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