Fixer: Office affair ruined my work life

How can I get past an affair with my manager? 

New to my role in HR, having been recruited from the finance department, my operations manager took me under his wing. He filled me with confidence, supported me and praised my ideas. 

We became very close – to the point where inappropriate messages were being sent out of hours and improper conversations were happening during the working day. I began to relish the attention and no doubt lead him on. Months later, my husband – who works for the same business – found the messages. I persuaded him to forgive me and to not take any action at work. He spoke with my manager to express his disgust but let the matter drop. 

Since then, I feel I am being treated differently. My manager has banned my husband from visiting me in the office and belittles him at every opportunity. He has never apologised for his actions. I don’t want to move on, as I feel that will mostly empower my manager. How do I get past this?

Office affairs are of course a fact of life – and it’s rare for them to end well. They create winners and losers, and in your case far more of the latter, even if the relationship didn’t get beyond the heavily flirtatious stage. 

It’s almost inevitable that one party ends up moving department or leaving the company entirely and, when you add your husband into the equation, it’s hard to see how you can stay – especially when you consider most affairs are talked about long after they end, making it doubly hard to return to normal working life.

While I don’t absolve you of responsibility for events – HR has a duty to set an example in its conduct or risk damaging its standing in the organisation – your boss is behaving extremely immaturely. Arguably, what he is doing constitutes bullying, but pursuing a grievance along those lines will only be another painful option for all involved.

I understand why you don’t want to let him off the hook for his actions by moving on, but your natural inclination will be to protect your husband against your manager’s attacks, and over time what must already be a difficult work environment will turn toxic. You may need to chalk this one up to experience – and if you can’t get a move within the company, start looking externally.