“A touch creates heat, heat creates a spark, and a spark turns into a fire.”
-Rev. Paul Goulet, Senior Leader ~ International Church of Las Vegas
It doesn’t take a Rocket Scientist to tell you that you’re having an emotional affair at work. Those who are having one should know better yet they continue in their risky behavior, thinking they can get by undetected and unscathed. According to Gail Saltz:
“Emotional cheating (with an “office husband or wife”) steers clear of physical intimacy, but it does involve secrecy, deception, and therefore betrayal. People enmeshed in nonsexual affairs preserve their “deniability,” convincing themselves they don’t have to change anything. That’s where they’re wrong.”[i]
It’s this “deniability” that blinds them, and sooner or later, their clandestine affair is exposed. Emotional affairs are more prevalent in the workplace than you may think. In a study looking at infidelity statistics in the United States, the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy revealed 15 percent of wives and 25 percent of husbands engage in sexual relationships outside of marriage. That’s quite alarming by itself, but when emotional affairs are thrown into the equation, the numbers jump by more than 20 percent. In this day and age, it seems no relationship is safe from an affair. Emotional affairs at work tend to make up a large percentage of these numbers, and some research shows over 50 percent of opposite sex, work friendships end up turning into something more. [ii]
I remember sitting in a meeting with a high profile public leader, discussing his embarrassing exposure. The affair started subtly until they were alone and the rest is history. Once exposed it was a BIG disappointment to all involved. An emotional affair starts with a simple wink, then a compliment, an accidental bump in the hallway, and an innuendo here and there. Then all the sudden strong “feelings” take over and an uncontrollable urge and curiosity sets in to experiment further. Boundaries are then tested until it’s too late, you’ve gone over a boundary line. So what actually is an “emotional affair”? An emotional affair is an affair of the heart and mind, where a person sends subtle messages to another conveying a playful purpose yet keeping the relationship secretive in nature. If you want to know you are having an emotional affair at work, take the following assessment:
An Emotional Affair Assessment:
Is it your custom to…
ask a particular person of the opposite sex out to lunch or coffee?
purposefully go “out of your way” to talk to someone of the opposite sex each day?
have closed door meetings with a person of the opposite sex?
share marital problems or details about your marriage to the opposite sex that your spouse would not want others to know?
look forward to seeing a particular person of the opposite sex at work each day?
playfully text or email a particular person of the opposite sex on a regular basis?
use innuendo language with a person of the opposite sex?
be consumed in thought about a particular person of the opposite sex during or after work hours?
inappropriately touch someone of the opposite sex at work by rubbing up against them or hip bumping in the hallway?
write a private message to someone of the opposite sex, whom you happen to work with, on Facebook, Twitter, etc., without your spouse’s knowledge
– If you answered 2 in the affirmative, you maybe a little misguided or just a big flirt, be careful!
– If you answered between 3 to 4 questions in the affirmative you’re in serious danger or on the boderline of having an emotional affair, and need to reconsider your boundaries before something more serious happens.
– If you answered 5 or more questions in the affirmative, then you are having an emotional affair at work, and need to reassess your behavior; seek counseling or speak with a mentor.
What boundaries can you design (personally or in policy form) to curtail an emotional affair in your workplace? Does your workplace have a code of ethicis in place addressing this type of behavior?
I am sure your supervisor, one way or another, has surprised you with an “unreasonable request” during the last minutes of the day or perhaps a monumental task just before a three-day weekend. At first you were probably overwhelmed by the request, and incapable of performing and producing effective results. An unreasonable request is something out of the ordinary, which requires more than you can handle, within the specified period allowed. On the flip side you simply cannot say “No!” – perhaps it would mean occupational suicide or at the very least you’ll be stigmatized as slouch or an incompetent. So what do you do when you receive an “unreasonable” request from your supervisor at work? I have a three point system to help you through this process. The first step is to take in the information and attempt to accommodate the request.
The first principle of compliance is to accommodate your supervisor’s request the best you can. You do this by first gaining all the information you need to succeed; take notes, ask the proper questions, see what the “end piece” looks like, and if time permits use the “what if” scenario approach. You must remember you are an employee, employed to serve and fulfill the organization’s agenda, which usually comes through your supervisor. You want to be known as a “team” player, and not one who complains each time you are given a task. Accommodating is simply having the right attitude each time you are asked to do something, and doing the best you can to comply with the request. Now, what happens if you cannot meet the obligation? I would recommend, “modifying” your strategy.
Once you have engaged in your task and begin to encounter some resistance or obstacles, you must go back to your boss to modify the original request. Modifying the request doesn’t mean you change your supervisor’s vision but the process to get to the outcome changes. Just how does one go back to the supervisor to tell him or her that their own request is “unreasonable” in itself? Well, your timing, approach, and words play a big role in modifying the original request. Go back to your supervisor and explain to him or her what you have already done, the obstacles you have encountered, and your solutions to make it happen using a different approach, and don’t’ forget to ask for their input. By doing this you’re sending the right message that “I’m on the job!”, and bringing solutions to the table not just complaints. A modification of the original request brings both supervisor and employee into a solution based approach based on communication, feedback and teamwork. Now, what happens when a “modification plan” goes bad? You have one final stage – I call it an “explanation with a deviation plan” approach.
3. Explanation with a Deviation Plan
Let’s be reasonable. If you have earnestly attempted the first two stages and cannot seem to get anywhere, perhaps the task was outside of your talent pool or simply it was an unreasonable request. So what do you do now? The last resort is to go back to your supervisor and give an explanation of why things are not working. At this stage you must be honest and come with a plan, which deviates from its original design. A deviation plan has many options:
You can deviate from the original plan as long as your supervisor approves of your tactics to get the job done.
You can ask for more resources such as “tools” or man power, or…
You can simply be honest and say, “I think I am in this project too deep, and you need someone more competent to do the job.”
The latter is the last resort but remember the agenda of the organization is more important than your ego. If you can’t handle the project, then swallow the “pride” pill and move on. You must learn and grow through this process.
As a leader do you have difficulty confronting your team members and bringing accountability to them? Many of us do. Just how can a leader get his point across without bruising the relationship he or she has spent so much time building? Allow me to recommend a three-point strategy:
1. Approach: First and foremost take the time to think about your approach, timing and outcome. Your timing is crucial so wait for the right moment to confront your team members by ensuring your temper is in check, then you will be better able to discern an appropriate time to confront. Timing is everything when confronting someone. Second, take your personal style into consideration. I recommend that you use tact and apply wisdom. For example, when you confront someone apply grace, which means that you are “for” them rather than “against” them. By doing so you put people at ease, knowing that you have their best interests in mind. You do this by hearing their side of the story first rather than “assuming” they did something wrong. Your can start by asking, “What happened…?” or “Help me understand why you made this decision”. Your communication style also comes into play, so take note of your non-verbal communication. Remember to lean forward like you are interested in the discussion, smile, listen attentively and show concern. The key to accountability is to get the right answers for an honorable “win-win” solution.
2. Answers: One of the purposes of holding your team members accountable is to gather information by seeking answers, which eliminate ambiguity. The right answers lead to clarity; accountability is incomplete without this component. You do this by asking probing questions and by cross examining all parties involved. Don’t assume anything nor take sides. Instead, gather the real facts before making a judgment call. Remember that your leadership image is at stake. Too many of the same mistakes over time will reduce your trust and ability to lead others.
3. Alignment: The purpose of accountability is to align people with the vision, mission, values and expectations of the organization. One-way to accomplish this is to ask, “Do you understand where we are going?”, “Are you with us?” Accountability is about aligning a person to the original design and purpose of the organization, it’s philosophy and standards. Once an employee is aligned then you can move into a spirit of unity and cooperation to accomplish tasks as a cohesive team. The ultimate goal of accountability is to help your team members complete their assigned responsibilities as to produce the best results possible, which will enhance personal, group and organizational effectiveness. Organizations that produce better results are usually organizations that have leaders who understand the importance of confronting poor performance. If accountability is administered correctly it builds a culture of excellence. As a leader you cannot avoid accountability; it’s a part of life but you can make it more palatable for both you and your team members.
Do these points make sense to you? If so, which ones have you applied when holding others accountable?