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Dealing with your boss' irrational wife

Rochelle, just rochelle

Dear Evil HR Lady,

My boss and I seem to have run into a huge problem. I have worked for him as a consultant for 3 years. We were in the middle of starting a new real estate firm, of which I have become a full-time employee as opposed to the self-employed consultant, but this has just begun in the past few weeks. Well, his wife has suddenly taken on a huge jealousy of me. I'm not sure why other than I'm a fairly likable person and she...well, isn't. I have been in the middle of working on getting the office together, internet up, decorated etc., and once the decorating part hit, she found out we were at a floral shop together and everything went down from there.

We had a difference of opinion on a counter top my husband built, and when I found out that she tore that one out and hired a new contractor to install a new one, I lost it. Yes, unprofessional, but I apologized and after posting something on Facebook without using anyone's name (and blocking her from seeing my stuff), she logged into her husband's account and found the post, again, no names. Well today, she insisted that my boss make a decision; either fire me today or she is divorcing him and taking the kids. After many long phone conversations with me, he told me that he has to fire me in order to get her to calm down (I believe there might be a bipolar tendency coming out at this point, but could be wrong). So he is going to continue to pay me, I'm going to work from home and we will figure it all out later.

My question is, is this legal? My boss does not want to fire me. In fact, he told me that he doesn't want to open this business without me. So he's open to any loopholes we can find so that I'm not fired. I just cannot believe that all of this happened over a stupid counter top. I found it in very poor taste to trash someone's work, and I said so. Whether he was paid wasn't the issue to me. I see it as someone commissioning a painting being done, and then throwing it out on the lawn to be put in the trash. Anyhow, I know I'm repeating myself, but I'm trying to be as thorough as I can about this. Oh, I'm also a named VP/Secretary of the new corporation as well as a signer on the business and escrow account (she doesn't know any of this). What exactly should I do at this point?

First, remove your boss as a Facebook friend. Second, it's a freaking counter top and why was your husband installing it in the first place? Third, are you an interior decorator? Is that part of your normal job description? And why exactly were you at a floral shop? Most offices don't have fresh flowers and even if they do, it's not exactly a two-person job.

The wife may well be irrational but that behavior goes two ways. You aren't behaving as a normal employee and so she has reason to doubt that the relationship is on the up and up. A flower shop? Really? That's not normal behavior for a boss and employee.

The reality is, the wife is his problem. Your problem is you aren't able to do your job effectively if you have to sneak around to do it. I can't answer your legal questions as I am not a lawyer and don't know the implications of being named VP/Secretary or having signing privileges. As far as I know there's no prosecutable law against a man lying to his wife about who works for him, but nevertheless, this is not sustainable.

You state that all of this happened because of a stupid counter top. None of this happened because of a stupid counter top. This happened because there are serious boundary issues between you, your boss, and his wife. If she doesn't work for the company she shouldn't care about the counter top, nor should she have the authority to rip it out. You shouldn't be friending your boss on Facebook, and none of you should be sneaking around. She's jealous because you're acting very much like people who are having an affair.

You can't make your boss set boundaries with his wife, but you need to set them for yourself. If there is a legal obligation to employee you or you have some contractual arrangement with the business you need to consult an attorney who specializes in this type of law.

You will need to look for a new job. The wife will find out and the fact that you're now sneaking behind her back will increase the probability that when she finds out she will blow her stack. Your boss has already declared that he'll choose her over you, so you better get yourself prepared. For your next job here are some pointers:

1. Do not friend your boss on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media other than strictly business ones, such as LinkedIn.

2. Do not friend your boss's spouse, child, or cousin.

3. Set your privacy settings such that you will not have private information made public. But keep in mind that EVERYTHING you post on the internet is public. Friends can share it. Anonymous monikers can be made public. If you don't want someone to find something out, don't post it on the internet.

4. Keep business relationships strictly business. If it's your job to buy flowers, go buy flowers. Trips to the flower shop along with a married boss just looks wrong, regardless of whether it is wrong. Perception matters a great deal in the real world.

5. Hire professionals to do professional jobs. Your husband should not be installing counter tops as favors for you. That's awfully nice of him, but it complicates business relationships, as you've seen.

6. Treat everyone's spouses politely and professionally. Spouses sometimes pop into offices. This is fine. You are polite and proper, whether it's the boss' wife or your employee's husband. (The same goes for significant others, mothers, and children.)

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