Friday, February 23, 2024

The Work Diaries: “I Became Friends With My Boss’ Girlfriend and Lost My Job Because of It”

Rebecca made a new friend – who happened to be the girlfriend of her new boss – and in the process things went veeeeery badly, because, she says being friends with this woman (and having a boss with one heck of a big secret) “ended up meaning I lost my job”.

Welcome to our series, The Work Diaries – a space for you to share your experiences, advice, stories about bad bosses, crazy colleagues and wild workplaces. We’ll be hearing from industry experts giving practical advice about how to navigate tricky waters in the workplace, alongside Capsule readers (You!) sharing your firsthand experiences of failures, successes and difficult situations you’ll still trying to get your head around.

If you have a topic you’d like to discuss, share your thoughts, experience or advice about, drop a line to [email protected].

Rebecca loved her job. It was fulfilling, challenging, paid well – and was even fun a lot of the time.

One thing she didn’t love quite so much about it though, was her boss. So, it came as quite a thrill when her boss announced she was leaving, and her replacement started just the next week. Right away, Rebecca felt like she got on well with her new line manager, Ian.

Ian was direct, a good listener and liked to have fun. He was 2IC to Kim, the main manager, who was also fairly new to the role, so, just a couple of weeks later she invited the team out for dinner and drinks and encouraged everyone to bring a partner.

Rebecca brought along her husband, who already knew most of the team quite well (a few of them often went out for a drink after work, or saw each other socially), so was off happily talking to people he knew. But Rebecca found herself getting along like a house on fire with Ian’s girlfriend, Claire. The couple had only recently moved to NZ after meeting in the UK five years earlier. Ian was a Kiwi, with a big family here, while Claire was British – her parents both lived in different countries, and she felt quite happy to move to NZ with Ian to try something different.

Claire seemed to like a lot of the things Rebecca did, like yoga, movies and eating out, so they made plans to go out for dinner together the next week.

“I really liked Claire, but at that point too, I was thinking of when I was younger,” tells Rebecca. “I mean, we are the same age, but when I was in my early 20s I moved to France for my boyfriend and was so lonely. I met a woman who went out of her way to be nice to me, and I always wanted to pay it forward and make someone else feel welcome in a new country.”

Rebecca introduced Claire to her friends, and before long, Claire had become one of her closest friends – and good friends with her social circle.

“Sometimes it felt a bit weird her partner being my boss, but it didn’t come up often,” she tells. “Ian always made it feel like there wasn’t a real hierarchy at work, anyway.”

At Christmas, Ian proposed and he and Claire started planning their wedding. Claire even asked Rebecca to be her bridesmaid alongside her two best friends from back home. Around that time Claire also got an incredible – but much deserved – promotion at work. Things were also going well at work for Rebecca – she smashed all her targets and got a big Christmas bonus.

It felt like the best of times. But the thing about the best of times, is, unfortunately they often don’t last.

“As they say, hindsight is 20/20 and looking back, I can see a lot more that I didn’t pick up on at the time,” says Rebecca. “But I do remember the first time I had a hunch that something wasn’t quite right.”

Rebecca went to an early morning yoga class, that she and Claire quite often both went to. But when Rebecca pulled out her mat next to Claire, she seemed really surprised.

“She said she thought I wouldn’t have been up that early, because of the night before,” says Rebecca. “Apparently Ian hadn’t got home until the early hours, from a client thing we were both at. But I left at 9.30pm when everything was winding down.”

Rebecca figured the client, or maybe a few of them from work kicked on and didn’t think too much of it. But it seemed to happen quite often – Ian would often be working really late, or out at functions or at conferences, which would come as a surprise to Rebecca.

“But then, I mean, he was my boss,” she tells. “I figured he just had other big projects on or something, that I wouldn’t have known about. But, it did feel strange sometimes.”

Then, one morning as she was getting ready for a big group meeting, she got a call from Claire.

“She said something like, ‘Have you always known?’ and I was so confused, I had no idea what she was talking about,” says Rebecca.

Then, Claire told her – through shaky tears – that Ian had told her early that morning that he was leaving her. He was in love with someone else. Worst still, Rebecca knew this person well. It was Ian’s boss, Kim – her boss too.

“I felt so sick for Claire,” she tells. “But also annoyed at myself, because there were so many clues there. They were always hungover at the same time – or at weird conferences that no one else seemed to know anything about, but I figured it was all just work related, particularly because she was married and Ian was engaged.”

Claire was, quite rightly, beside herself, so Rebecca said she’d meet up with her after work.

As she sat in the big group meeting, she couldn’t bring herself to make eye contact with Ian or Kim. She noticed Ian definitely wasn’t looking her way either. Partway through she got a message from Claire. Right at that moment, as Rebecca was in the same room as Ian, Claire was back at their house, sitting in her car driving back and forth over Ian’s golf clubs and all of his expensive suits.

“I couldn’t blame her,” she says. “I felt proud of her for doing something like that, but also worried.”

She must have gone pale, because one of her other colleagues asked her if she was feeling okay because she didn’t look well.

Rebecca took the opportunity to get the heck out of there.

“I said I wasn’t and that I suddenly felt really unwell and should probably leave,” she says. “I mean, it was true!”

She got to her car and called Claire who said she’d come over and stay with Rebecca that night.

“It was so surreal,” she tells. “Claire suspected nothing and I felt terrible when I admitted that some of the things didn’t seem to add up, but I didn’t know enough to say anything. I regret not mentioning anything now.”

The next morning, Ian called her into his office to address things and to say he knew it may make things awkward and he was sorry about that and sorry to have hurt Claire.

“It was awful – on one hand he was my boss, and on the other hand he had just ripped out of the heart of one of my best friends,” tells Rebecca.

She’d then go home to Claire, who would try not to ask in great detail about every interaction she’d had with Ian that day, but she could tell she wanted to know.

Somehow the next two weeks passed quite quickly. And it was only then that the CEO finally found out about the relationship, despite everyone else knowing every detail and discussing it anytime Ian or Kim were out of earshot.

“I don’t 100% know the details, whether Kim quit or was fired, but next thing, she was gone and Ian was the boss,” tells Rebecca. “I hope to heck she quit, because otherwise, him gaining from that situation feels very icky – and sexist!”

A month later, Ian announced there was going to be a restructure, and their may be some job losses involved. Rebecca was nervous, but at the same time felt quite confident in her position as she was one of the top performers. Things were definitely strained between her and Ian, since the affair was outed, but she hoped it wouldn’t impact work.

“Although, I no longer loved my job,” she admits. “I felt disgusted having to work with Ian – although thankfully we didn’t have as much interaction now that he was the main boss.”

But, a couple of weeks later, the restructure was announced – a few people had promotions and there were two job losses. Yes, one was the guy who was the lowest performer and the other, was Rebecca.

“I was livid that I lost my job,” she says. “I knew exactly why I’d been pushed out.”

Now, her biggest regret is that she didn’t take up her case of wrongful dismissal with the company. Instead, she stormed out – and straight into a new job at the rival company.

“I shouldn’t have let him get away with it,” she says. “In some ways, it would have also been my opportunity to feel some sort of consequence for what he’d done to Claire too – to be formally called out for his behaviour. I just didn’t have any fight left in me though at the time. It’s a major regret.”

She’s not sure what happened in the end, but she does know that Ian didn’t last long in the job anyway. Although he and Kim did go the distance with their relationship and now have kids together.

Now, she also has children – plus two god-children. Claire ended up staying in NZ – she even lived with Rebecca and her husband for three months until she found a new place of her own. They stayed close and when Rebecca hosted her husband’s whole family for Christmas Dinner, she insisted Claire join them. That’s where Claire met Rebecca’s husband’s cousin, whom she is now married to and has two children with.

“Yip, things ended up pretty well,” says Rebecca. “But, if anyone ever asks if I have any regrets in life – that still pops up and annoys me. The nerve of that guy. I hope he’s had his karma.”

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