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Q: Here's the situation: Husband becomes romantically involved with his unmarried secretary. Wife reports the affair to management and sends secretary an article about respecting boundaries. Management tells both parties to end the affair and tells wife to stop harassing secretary or husband will lose his job.

Husband ends the affair, but secretary continues to pursue him, and they become involved again. When wife finds out, husband tells secretary that it's over. Now husband feels he must resign from the company in order to save the marriage. Any advice?

A: The advice depends upon who is asking the question. Since you are obviously attempting to disguise your identity, here are a few suggestions for everyone concerned.

If you are the husband, you need to determine why you were motivated to cheat. The problem may be a marital issue or a character defect, but either way, you clearly have some work to do. If you believe you were lured into this affair by an irresistible office temptress, then you are simply deluding yourself.

If you are the secretary, stop pursuing married men. You are only hurting people and creating a bleak future for yourself. The vast majority of illicit relationships go nowhere, so concentrate on single guys and do not even flirt with anyone wearing a wedding ring. Remember, a man who will cheat on his wife is also likely to cheat on you.

If you are the wife, you should read your own article on boundaries. Involving management in this domestic drama was unnecessary and inappropriate. If your objective was to get revenge, that was a childish move. Instead of focusing on the secretary's behavior, you need to figure out how this marriage got so off track.

In short, everyone involved in this little triangle needs to engage in some serious self-examination. Otherwise, this unhealthy pattern is quite likely to repeat.

Q: One of my coworkers is giving me the silent treatment. "Tracy" misunderstood something I said, and now she won't talk to me or even walk by my desk. Whenever I try to explain, she says, "I'm not going to discuss it." Although I'm tired of the drama, I don't know how to fix this. Should I just let Tracy make a fool of herself even though it bothers me?

A: The short answer to your question is yes, because Tracy is acting like a sulky child. Since her goal is to upset you, any negative response will just be reinforcing. Her pouty reaction provides an excellent example of passive-aggressive behavior, which is the most destructive way to handle any disagreement.

Passive-aggressive types fear conflict, so they avoid unpleasant conversations. But since they have trouble letting go of angry feelings, they continue to express their unhappiness indirectly. This petulant behavior escalates the conflict, while their refusal to talk makes a resolution impossible.

Having made several attempts to discuss this issue with your moody colleague, you must now behave as though nothing is wrong. If you ignore her brooding and continue to speak and act normally, the odds are good that Tracy will eventually come around.

http://www.yourofficecoach.com

Twitter @officecoach

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