Working With Your Ex - Relationship Advice
I was googling office romance and somehow I wound up on your hub about the office Christmas parties. I see you give relationship advice and from that first article I read it sounds like you know your way around the office so I figured you're the best person to ask about my situation.
I am in a situation where I am working with my ex, and a guy I really liked who rejected me. We work in a mid-sized office. My ex and I met when he was on the road as a salesman. We were together 2 1/2 years but it didn't work out. I think there were some hard feelings on both sides. I have evidence that he cheated on me but he still denies it. I borrowed money from him when we were together that I never paid back and he has since said just forget it. Let's just say there were alot of issues and we did not part on the best of terms, which was fine for a year because we didn't have to see each other more than maybe once every couple of months.
That is until this February when the outside salesforce was let go and he took a job in marketing here in the office. We've had to see each other every day and it's been strained but it's OK. We managed to be civil to each other.
But now it's horrible, because the guy I was seeing in the office ended things with me. We had just gotten together at the Christmas party last year. I've liked him for a very long time. We were dating when my ex took the position here in the office so it made things not as embarrassing because I thought he could see how I had moved on and how I had this great guy. Last month (June) the guy I was dating ended things between us. He said some harsh things like that it was just sex and he wasn't interested in it being more. He said he could tell how into him I was and didn't want me to wind up getting hurt so he broke up with me. So not only was it painful, it was also insulting that he made that lame excuse that he had to save me from being hurt. I felt like such an idiot.
Now being at work has been hell. My ex knows what happened with this guy I really liked here in the office, and knows I got dumped with that stupid excuse of not wanting me to get hurt, and making me look like a jerk. I feel like there's snickering going on behind my back and I'm sure this is making me look bad and like some slut in front of my bosses. Not to mention, that I am really hurt. And of course now my ex feels like he is vindicated and makes comments like, "See?" like see what he had to deal with.
I'm really stuck right now. I look for a new job but there is nothing out there. I feel trapped. I need this job and I even like this job. I am a shared admin to 3 of the execs here and they are all nice bosses plus the benefits are good. The pay is just OK but still. And it's close to my home which saves on commuting. Leaving is just not an option no matter how embarrassed and horrible I feel every day.
I know the best advice is not to date anyone you work with. Obviously it's too late for me on that one. So other than "I told you so" do you have any advice for me Veronica?
OK hon. Deep breath. It's gonna be alright.
First, I want you to think about Woody Allen. He had an affair on his wife with his adopted underaged stepdaughter and married her. And nobody talks about that anymore. And everybody goes to see his films. If we can all get over him, we are sure to get over you.
My point is this too shall pass. It feels right now like the biggest most pressing issue of every day. But it's a month already since the guy you liked ended things. Believe me, someone else in the office will step in shit much deeper very soon and they will be the focus of the gossip.
I do have some suggestions for you. And a few other things to add.
Be proactive. There are two smart ways to handle gossip: one is to completely ignore it and just give it it's chance to go away. The other is to be proactive and cut it off at the knees. I think ignoring it is bothering you too much.
Here's what I think you should do. Start with the ex. Ambush him someplace. Wait for him in the parking lot and grab him before he walks into the building, or as he's leaving the building. Tell him you need to talk to him and don't give him a chance to respond, just launch. Go right into it. In your nicest voice, and with your most sincere eyes, tell him you're really having a hard time. Tell him you're hurt and embarrassed by what happened with guy #2, and that the office has become really painful for you. Tell him you think everyone is whispering, and this could affect your job, and that you're asking him to please, anything he can do to just neutralize it, you'd appreciate.
You don't have to accuse him of adding to the pressure. He knows he's been adding to it. Instead of accusing him, you're appealing to his chivalry. Most guys like the idea of being a super hero. If you give him that opportunity he may step up and take it. If he asks you what you want him to do, just make calm easy statements like, "You know. Just be professional. Please keep our personal life personal. And just be nice. Ok? Please?"
And then leave him to think about it. I know you're thinking he wants to lash out at you and is enjoying this tense time for you. You really may be surprised at how just asking a guy to be superman for you works. Guys don't figure these things out on their own. We have to tell them. But once we do, in honesty and in sincerity, the odds are good he will come through.
Don't follow up, don't stalk him, don't say anything if you hear gossip. Just let him diffuse things on his own. Or at least not add to things. Even if he can't stop the rumors, by just walking away from a gossip clutch, he speaks volumes.
Next, do the same with guy #2. Be fast - get in and get out once you have him cornered in the parking lot or the coffee break room. And say basically the same thing. You're asking for help. You're not blaming or anything, you're just asking for some help. The office has been uncomfortable and you don't want it to affect your job. You can't afford to lose this job, and anything he could do to please just be professional, and walk away from any gossip would really be great. Keeping personal lives personal would be a big help, and you'd appreciate it. That's it.
Guys are guys, even if they are boyfriends and ex's. They are also buds, big brothers, jokesters. They enjoy laughing at teasing and whatever. But most of them can be pretty decent. If you just call them out on it and let them know the teasing isn't funny, they sometimes respond. Someone once told me guys don't mean to be dicks, they just can't help it. There's probably some truth in that. If you just let him know it would be a whole lot cooler if he was a hero instead of a dick, he'll most likely listen.
Even if in their eyes you were a bitch, you erase that when you say please and let them know you're actually a damsel in distress. You're not asking for the moon, you're just asking for them to be professional. And nice. That's not alot to ask.
The next step is the authorities. This is your call. A human resources person, one of those three execs, whomever you think would be easiest to talk to, ask for an appointment to discuss a personal matter. Once there, you don't have to offer any information. You don't have to name names or state facts. You could just very genuinely and humbly say you made a personally error in judgment and now you are under the impression that there may be some office gossip. Just do two things here: 1 - apologize. Just say you're sorry that this unprofessional situation seems to have cropped up and it will never happen again. And 2 - offer to answer any questions. Don't offer information, just ask "Is there anything else I can do." Most likely you'll be told that's all, and not to worry about it.
If anything ever did come from this, having gone to a superior at work beforehand covers you almost completely. You've already apologized, and said it won't happen again, and asked if there was anything more you could do.
The boss is concerned with two things. The first is that you don't know the difference between what's OK and what's not OK. The second is that in your silence you're actually saying the boss doesn't know and can be slighted. You eliminate both of these concerns with this proactive meeting that shows your superiors the respect they deserve.
Most HR reps and bosses don't actually want the details. They don't want to know more than they need to. they just want to know they have nothing to worry about it, and that this won't happen again.
If you rethink the office gossip part and want to chalk it up to paranoia, you may decide to leave off talking to an authority at work. And that's fine. But definitely give the two gents the chance to be better by asking nicely.
Then just let it go and keep your head low for a while. Don't come in late, don't break a dress code, don't be a loud mouth or a joke teller for a while. Let this blow over. If the two guys that are the center of it don't perpetuate it, it has no where to go but away.
Going forward, be sure to take the higher road with your office mates. If you happen to hear some gossip or name calling, be that person that walks away.
Good luck to you, Cheryl. I'm sure you'll be OK.