Previously pleasant co-worker disappears for hours with the new boss, but no one wants to speak up.

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Q: Our new manager is apparently having an affair with a young woman in our department. The two of them often disappear for hours at a time. This co-worker used to be pleasant and helpful, but lately she has become condescending and distant.
Everyone is upset about how our office atmosphere has changed, but no one will speak up. I seem to be the only person willing to address the issue, but I don’t know how to do it diplomatically. Who should I talk to and what should I say?

A: Manager-employee romances always create problems. Talking directly with the participants is pointless, since people in the throes of lust are seldom rational. And when one of them is your boss, the risk of retribution is high.

A better option is to find someone in upper management or human resources who can sit this new manager down for a frank talk about inappropriate workplace relationships. When you meet with that person, be sure to keep the tone calm and businesslike.

For example: “We are concerned about some recent developments in our group. There’s a rumor that Mark and Beth are having a relationship outside of work. We don’t know if that’s true, but the two of them are often gone for hours, and Beth seems to have a different attitude. We’re afraid to discuss this with Mark, so we hope you can help.”

Even though your cautious colleagues would prefer to make you the sole spokesperson, they should also attend this meeting. When several people deliver the same message, management is much more likely to pay attention.