Dear Wayne and Wanda,
“Anne” is my closest friend. She recently started a new job and works closely with “Kyle.” Anne and Kyle really hit it off. At first I thought this was a good thing, because Kyle is really established in our industry (Human Resources), and I knew he would show her the ropes.
Anne — who is very pretty, and single — has recently started hanging out with Kyle out of work too. Multiple times a week, they grab lunch or go out after work for drinks. A few times now when Anne and I were supposed to meet up, Kyle tagged along. He is very charming and apologized for “crashing our party.” I was admittedly a little miffed about not having my much-needed time with my friend. But I was also a little put off by his general demeanor. Honestly, Kyle seemed pretty happy to be in Anne’s presence, so I asked around. Apparently he is known for cheating on his wife - with coworkers. One rumor is Anne’s predecessor left because her relationship with Kyle tanked.
I’m afraid Anne is about to make a huge professional and personal mistake by getting too involved with Kyle. So I finally got her alone and tried to explain that I’m worried Kyle may have ulterior motives. She got angry, accused me of being jealous, said I was insulting her integrity by suggesting something would happen and hasn’t talked to me since. That was a week ago and I miss my friend. I know I could apologize but I don’t think I’m wrong here. Why do you think I should I do?
You should apologize. Starting a new job marks an enormous transition, and finding an ally who will show you the ropes is absolutely priceless. Would you be having this reaction if Kyle was a woman? Or a woman known for being unfaithful? My guess is no. Your judgment and subsequent actions are unique to Kyle’s maleness — and charm — and you need to give your dear friend some support and the benefit of the doubt.
I understand you felt flagging Kyle's shady rep seemed justified — and what’s done is done. You presented Anne with information you felt would be helpful. The problem is that she received that defensively, as though by simply associating with Kyle, she was an accomplice in all dastardly deeds.
Time for a clarifying conversation — and a real talk befitting your friendship with Anne, not some meandering text where tone and words can be misinterpreted. Apologize for overstepping, clarify that you had only good intentions. But acknowledge that you trust her judgment.
Kyle sure puts the “relations” in Human Relations, huh? Isn’t it his job to keep the creepers and lurkers out of your workplace? And prevent those in leadership positions from leaning on subordinates and new employees? Well, that’s the advantage of knowing — and often writing — the rules of the workplace. He knows how far he can bend them. Oh, and he also has access to your personal information, so, yeah, advantage Kyle.
But maybe, just maybe, Kyle is actually really good at his job, an excellent professional contact and LinkedIn connection, and a fun guy to be around in the office and at Applebee’s happy hour. Upon examination of the HR manual, there’s no violation for that. In fact, it’s no surprise he’s so popular. He might have made a party foul for crashing girls night, but hey, it’s smart and charming Kyle — what are you going to do? As for his personal life, that’s, well, personal. And if rumors are true, he certainly wouldn’t be the first professional overachiever to struggle in his relationships.
As for Anne, she’s a big girl and she’s in HR, so if anyone recognizes red flags and knows what she’s potentially getting into, it’s her. If anyone is out of line professionally, it’s you — spreading rumors, making assumptions and causing chaos between coworkers.
Want to be a good friend and colleague? Apologize to Anne and get back to work. Want to discuss creepy things with coworkers around the water cooler? Talk about “Bird Box."