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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Risky Business: Having a Sexual Affair with Your Boss

Having a sexual affair with your boss is engaging in risky business with your career and your emotions. What might start out as seductive and exciting could end up a disaster for you and  your boss.  

Risky Business:  Having a Sexual Affair with Your Boss

Office Affairs
Before I went to college, I spent a few years working as a secretary in the corporate world.  Having graduated high school at 17, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, so I became a secretary while I did some soul searching about my life.  At the time, secretarial jobs were plentiful and it was the way that many women entered the workforce.  Being young and naive, I had a lot to learn about the world of work and the complicated relationships that people had with each other, and I certainly knew nothing about sexual affairs between bosses and their subordinates.

On Day One, I was escorted to my desk by the vice president's executive secretary, a tall, beautiful Argentinian woman, Alicia (not her real name) who dressed impeccably and left a faint seductive trail of her perfume as she walked by.  She carried herself like a queen, and I soon learned that she wielded a lot of power in the office over everyone who reported to her boss.  Although she was very charming, her manner was also intimidating.  I sensed immediately that people were afraid of her.  They also hinted salaciously that Alicia was having a longstanding sexual affair with her boss, the vice president, who was a married man with children.

Having a Sexual Affair with Your Boss Can Jeopardize Your Emotional Health and Your Career

Soon after I arrived, I was warned by the other secretaries that I shouldn't do anything to cross Alicia because one word from her to her boss and people were fired.  By the second week, I observed Alicia berating my boss in front of other managers.  She eviscerated him in her imperial manner and then she walked away.  When she left, he stood by his desk speechless and looking ashamed and powerless.  I turned away and pretended not to see what had just happened to help him save face.

On the surface, the secretaries and the managers went out of their way to ingratiate themselves with Alicia.  But, behind her back, they engaged in revenge fantasies about her downfall.  Being so young and inexperienced about the work world, I tried to steer clear of the vicious gossip.  But I couldn't help observing how Alicia and her boss barely concealed their sexual affair.  They were openly flirtatious with each other in front of everyone, and they took long lunches together, coming back all smiles.

If this sounds like something out of the TV program, "Mad Men," it's because, at the time, this wasn't unusual behavior at the office.  This was before companies instituted sexual harassment policies and bosses were warned about the dire consequences to the company and themselves if a sexual affair went south and a subordinate filed a complaint against the boss.

One day, I came in and I was surprised to see Alicia sitting at her desk with puffy red eyes, looking nervous and ill at ease.  It was obvious that she had been crying.  When her boss came out to give her work, rather than lingering around her seductively as he usually did, he was stone faced.  He handed her the work, barely looking at her, and went back in his office closing the door.  Soon, the office rumor mill was gleefully buzzing:  The vice president broke it off with Alicia, telling her that he had no intention of leaving his wife and children.  This was the day people were waiting for and they couldn't be more elated than if they had won the lottery.

Sitting alone at my desk, I pretended to be engrossed in my work.  I didn't dare make eye contact with Alicia.  Although, like everyone else, by then, I had experienced her tongue lashings on more than one occasion, I couldn't help feeling sorry for her.  I could feel the waves of sadness coming from her direction.  She sat silently typing at her desk, wiping away tears, and looking shrunken and humiliated in her grief.  Somehow, she even looked older.  She was an intelligent woman with excellent administrative skills.  If this had been 20 years later, she could have run the place as a vice president herself, but there were fewer opportunities for women at that time.

A few weeks later, I was offered another job and I left.  Many years went by and I didn't know what had become of Alicia or her boss--until I ran into her on the street near Saks Fifth Avenue.  She called out to me and, at first, I didn't recognize her.  When she told me who she was, of course, I remembered her.  At that point, she was easily in her mid-60s.  She was statuesque and beautiful, but I sensed that something was missing.   Her face told the whole story--she looked lost and sad.

Over coffee, she told me that she had never married and lived with her older sister.  She was retired now and spent most of her time at home.  She alluded to being pushed out of her job by the vice president and how the staff was openly hostile to her before she left.  Since Alicia and I had never talked about her affair with her boss before, I was surprised at how candid she was with me now.  I didn't know quite what to say, so I just listened.  I sensed that she didn't have many friends that she could talk to and her older sister was very straight laced.

Apparently, the breakup had been disastrous for her.  She really loved her boss and hoped that he would leave his wife.  She felt she wasted many precious years having an affair with him, taking work home, and helping him to rise in the company.  And in the end, when he got tired of her, she was, unceremoniously, shown the door and she never got over it.

Putting Your Emotional Health and Career at Risk
Not every office affair ends so dramatically or with such long lasting consequences.  This isn't the late 1960s with anything-goes sex at the office. Women and men have a lot more opportunities than they did before.  We also have Federal laws and corporate policies that help to protect people like Alicia who get fired after their bosses get tired of the affair.

But allowing yourself to become involved in an office affair can be disastrous for you emotionally and financially.  Even during the time when the sexual affair is going on, if you're the "other woman" or the "other man" in  your boss's life and you're hoping to transform the affair into a relationship, chances are that you'll be hurt and disappointed, especially if your boss is married.  Although there are exceptions, most people don't leave their spouses to be with the "other woman" or "other man."

As alluring as a sexual affair at the office might seem at first, it's best to steer clear of these situations.  The emotional pain and potential damage to a career isn't worth it.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, see my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Also see my blog article:  Leading a Double Life as the "Other Woman" or "Other Man" in an Affair

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