An Affair Is Causing Drama On My Team

Inc.com columnist Alison Green answers questions about workplace and management issues–everything from how to deal with a micromanaging boss to how to talk to someone on your team about body odor.

Here’s a roundup of answers to three questions from readers.

1. An affair is causing a drama on my team

I manage “Michael,” who is married to “Amy.” Amy is having an affair with “Jake.” Jake is single. All three of them work here. When Michael found out about the affair, he left Amy and filed for divorce and did not hide the reason why he left. He refuses to see or speak to Amy now. He didn’t know Jake before the affair but is keeping away from him also. The divorce is not an amicable one.

News of the affair has spread everywhere. Everyone feels sorry for Michael, and Amy and Jake are being ignored and treated coldly by everyone who works here over the affair. Michael isn’t feeding the gossip but will thank people if they tell him he is right or they feel badly for him.

All everyone here can talk about is the affair, how horrible Amy and Jake are, and how sad it is for Michael. I feel badly for Michael too but I don’t know how to get people to stop talking about the affair and gossiping instead of working. I thought things would die down but it has been months and people are still talking like it is new. How do I get it to stop when it is so rampant?

It’s entirely reasonable to say to people on your team, “This has started to impact our productivity as a team. You can of course discuss anything you’d like outside of work, but while you’re at work, I need all of us to be focused on work, not discussing other people’s personal affairs.” And then if it continues to be a problem after that, talk to offenders individually and remind them that you’ve asked them to stop gosiping and that you need them focused on work. You can also get at this by managing people more closely for a while, and intervening right away when someone isn’t as productive as they should be. Make sure people have deadlines for their work, and address it if they’re not having those deadlines.

It’s also reasonable to tell your employees that part of their job is to interact with other colleagues professionally and politely. They don’t have to like Jake or Amy, and they can privately think whatever thoughts they want about them, but they do need to treat them politely as long as they’re employed there — and freezing them out from work-related communications isn’t acceptable.

2. My employee is annoyed by a chatty colleague, but doesn’t want me to interfere

I’m a business owner and have two employees in one of my offices, Jane and Bob. Most of the time I work right beside them, but several days per month I am at our other office. I received a complaint from Jane that Bob talks all day long when I’m out. I tend to believe this is true through my own experience with Bob, but I thought the issued had worked itself out.

The problem I have now is, Jane does not want me to say anything to Bob that insinuates that she said anything. Do you have any suggestions? This issue needs to be fixed.

You could coach Jane to address it herself. You could help her come up with language like, “Bob, I have trouble working when you’re talking to me so frequently. I need a quieter work space in order to meet my deadlines and get my work done.”

If she’s not willing to do that, a good way to deal with secondhand complaints is to find a way to observe the problem yourself — so you could pop in unexpectedly a few times on days when you’re not expected to be there, spot Bob constantly chatting her up, and then address it on your own. For example: “Bob, whenever I’ve stopped by the office unexpectedly you’ve been socializing with Jane. I need you both more focused on work, and Jane’s job in particular requires a lot of quiet in order to focus. under control on days I’m working next to you, but it needs to be consistently that way when I’m out too.”

If none of that works, you might need to tell Jane that you know she doesn’t want to cause tension with Bob, but you can’t solve the problem without potentially making it clear she talked to you. But try the stuff above first.

3. Can I ask a why a resume is so bad?

I’m hiring and recently received a resume from our recruiter, who said the candidate is extremely recommended, experienced, and perfect for my role. She also said, “Don’t mind the rough resume.” I took a look and the resume is really terrible. There’s Random capitalization Like This throughOut. She misspells the name of the city we live in. She says she has eight years experience, but only has one job listed which is four years worth of work. She claims specific types of experience that doesn’t line up with her jobs. She lists one of her skills as “I love to be dedicated.” I could go on.

Despite this, I’m inclined to still offer a phone interview because I generally trust our recruiter, but I am wondering if there is any way to ask the candidate why her resume is so awful. Or would it be better to just mention that it looks like it needs an upgrade? I admit I am coming from a place of sheer curiosity about how anyone could think a resume like that is acceptable (and why our recruiter is letting the candidate get away with it!).

I’d actually start by asking the recruiter! She should be able to give you more context about what’s up with the resume and why she recommends the person so highly. Ask something like, “I know you highly recommended Jane Smith. I’m concerned by the level of sloppiness on the resume and am curious what else you know about her.” If that doesn’t elicit more information, then ask, “Is there something in particular about her qualifications that you’d think would outweigh the problems with the resume?” If she can’t answer that, her recommendation is pretty suspect and I wouldn’t bother with the phone interview at that point.

Caveat: If you’re hiring for a role that doesn’t require writing skills or attention to detail, put more weight on other skills she brings. For example, if it’s a reception role that only requires warmly greeting visitors and will never require doing anything in writing, and if she’s wonderful at making visitors feel welcome, maybe she is your person. So it’s worth thinking critically about what does and doesn’t matter for this particular job.

But either way, I wouldn’t ask the candidate herself why her resume is so awful. She either needs stronger writing and communication skills for the job (in which case you can’t hire her) or she doesn’t (in which case it would be a little unkind to indulge your curiosity at the expense of making her feel awkward) .

Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to alison@askamanager.org.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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