Q My employe, who is also a friend and a most productive salesman, is having an affair, unbeknownst to his wife and four children (with another on the way).
My secretary is aware of his philandering, since she must take messages and proffer excuses to clients and family. Needless to say, she is very distraught and is allowing her angry feelings to show. This is a frustrating situation for me also.
Without firing either, how should I deal with this delicate subject?
A. Whose problem are you planning to deal with? Your secretary's or the salesman's wife's?
Miss Manners suggests choosing the former. In your capacity as boss, you may, and in fact should, rule that no employe be required to perform any personal service for any other, especially one so morally distasteful as lying.
Your secretary should confine herself to saying that the salesman is out of the office and, if queried, that she doesn't know where he is (as she should certainly make it her business not to know where he is off philandering). The salesman must be told firmly to keep his personal affairs, as it were, out of the office.
But since he is also a friend, you are obviously tempted also to deal with the personal problem. Miss Manners advises you not to do so overtly, either by confronting the man himself or by informing his wife.
The reason that this man is philandering is not that no one has troubled to point out to him that there is anything wrong with it. Nor is it helpful to a woman pregnant with her fifth child to be informed that others find her in a position that they expect her to consider intolerable.
If you wish to show your disapproval, withdraw your friendship, while maintaining the formal business relationship. It is more cutting to show that you consider a cad not worth your friendship than it is to express disapproval in terms that might be interpreted as envious.