Q: A co-worker and I were recently promoted together to a small team. My new boss began dating the colleague who was promoted with me within six weeks of our arrival. That colleague now "reports" to my boss's boss; however, he is rarely in the office, so my colleague and my boss (her boyfriend) have weekly one-on-ones.
I find the situation infuriating. I don't think she is as qualified or performs as well as the rest of our team. She once was assigned a project but apparently didn't have time to finish it, so her boyfriend (my boss) completed it for her.
She also has "soft" advantages, such as having access to information before the rest of the team or information she ordinarily wouldn't. She references their relationship often and tried to get me to help find out what holiday present he would like. I know I can't complain to HR, so what to do?
A: Plenty of underqualified workers worm their way into the boss's confidence and win special treatment through non-romantic means, such as social savvy or plain old glute-smooching. But office romances tend to be particularly corrosive to office morale, to say nothing of the legal issues they may churn up.
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And Samson and Delilah are doing themselves no (professional) favours. Furthermore, the short, intense timeline and lack of distance and discretion suggest that this romance - and their reputations - could be smoking rubble by the time this answer sees print.
Even if your company has no official policy on canoodling co-workers, you may have to go to HR if this venereal vortex threatens to suck you in - say, if your boss starts asking you to cover for his girlfriend, or if their imbroglio becomes openly disruptive (slamming doors, flying staplers). Otherwise, for now, try to stay focused on your work, and maybe consider how long you can stand to keep working for a boss with such poor professional judgment.
Q: I'm on the board of directors of a small nonprofit. I suspect that one of our board members is having an affair with an independent contractor who works with us, and for whom he is responsible. A misplaced accusation could damage me, my organisation and my career. I'm not sure what to do.
A: False accusations are bad, but unethical dealings can be equally destructive. If a non-accusatory direct question is a non-starter - "You and Contractor seem close. Do you think there's any chance that could be perceived as a conflict?" - you could propose that the entire board undertake a self-assessment to review policies and to flush out any (ahem) potential conflicts of interest.
Miller has written for and edited tax publications for 16 years, most recently for the accounting firm KPMG's Washington National Tax office. You can find her on Twitter, @KarlaAtWork.