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Note: Although this is written in the first person, I am relaying it from a person who wants to remain anonymous. I can ask for clarification if needed but no identifying details will be provided.


Background

I'm leaving a non-management position with a nonprofit at the end of the month. The nonprofit operates at several sites within the region and my position reports directly to the manager of the site. Typically, he and his team leaders would interview and score candidates for this position and he would make the final selection as the direct supervisor.

One of the candidates to replace me is a co-worker (and friend) who we all generally expected to take this position at some point. She has the skills and temperament for it and honestly would hardly need to be trained in anything besides the paperwork. The problem is that recently it's become clear both to myself and to the team leaders—and probably most of the office, honestly—that she and the site manager are having an extramarital affair.

Given the circumstances, the team leaders and I all agree that it would be completely unethical for him to directly supervise her (or to be involved in hiring her—basically giving her a promotion, in that it has more responsibility and pay).

The reaction so far

The team leaders have approached him directly and emphatically about this being a problem. He confirmed their suspicions but didn't seem to take their concerns seriously, saying he would take the fall if word got out. We are all surprised and upset because we have always known him as a very competent and ethical manager. This is far from the reaction we would expect, based on having worked with him for years.

As some sort of compromise, he asked me to replace him on the interview committee. He didn't come right out and say why but he was hinting, and I told him that I know what's going on and she should look for another job, but didn't elaborate.

We interviewed three candidates earlier this week. I tried to be totally objective in scoring their responses to the interview questions. While my co-worker did very well, an internal candidate from another site actually gave better responses and scored higher in my final accounting.

Unfortunately, the team leaders are so upset by what's going on that they decided to rate all of the candidates equally, to force our manager to take responsibility for making an ethical decision. Then when we discussed the candidates and I let them know my ratings, the team leaders rigged their scores so that my co-worker and the other internal candidate would be tied anyway.

The other candidate has a glowing reference from her manager at one of our other sites and very good performance metrics. Yesterday my manager said he was leaning toward the other candidate, but today he said he's decided to offer the job to my co-worker. He said there are "other reasons" for her to have it.

My problem

Everything about this is frustrating but I'm most unhappy with my manager's behavior. Even though I'm leaving at the end of the month, I don't want the site to suffer the consequences of his bad decisions down the road. He's even said that if he's found out, he'll claim that he coerced our coworker to keep her from getting in trouble, which is insane and maybe even criminal.

How can I decide whether to confront him about his unethical behavior, or just stay silent? What potential consequences are important for me to consider, if I'm not going to be working there much longer?

I've talked with the co-worker and I don't think she's really been considering the potential consequences either. They're both going through divorces so it's understandable they aren't thinking that clearly. Nobody has talked to upper management or the company lawyer about this so far although a confidante of mine has suggested going to the lawyer. I don't want to rat him out to the lawyers without confronting him, either. I don't think I'm at risk because I've behaved ethically, I have absolutely no authority in this position and I'm not going to be here for long. He already gave me a glowing reference for the job I'm leaving to take and I don't think he'd retaliate in the future.

If I have a goal here, it's to try to defuse the situation and prevent him from making some really bad choices that could drive away a lot of employees and seriously impact the entire program. At least half of the people in the office know about their relationship and the position and nobody is happy about it. The team leaders are really upset and have let him know but they don't seem to be able to solve it. Can I do anything? Should I do anything? I have never been in this type of situation before.

  • 2
    Please provide the Country? – samarasa Aug 14 '15 at 22:55
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    If your goal is to defuse the situation, stop fanning the flames. Either the candidate is competent or not. Either the manager can manage them fairly or not. Those are legitimate business issues and time will tell. What they're doing outside the office, and how much the company will punish them if it is forced to notice the situation, is thankfully not your problem. – keshlam Aug 15 '15 at 1:07
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    While the advice to the manager and the intended employee would be a very strong "don't do it, it will end up a mess", especially since it is a bit of a mess already, it's not something that I would try hard to solve during my last month of work. The problem is the manager's bosses job to solve, not yours. – gnasher729 Aug 15 '15 at 12:38
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    The problem doesn't seem to be only your managers but also the team leaders. Forcing someone who has a conflict of interest to make a decision is bad and an ethical lapse at their part. – Christian Aug 15 '15 at 13:43
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    @Myles I can ask for details, but is that really useful and appropriate content for a problem statement? I know that the tl;dr is that the site turned into a train wreck and most of the management staff quit or was reassigned. – Air May 1 '17 at 18:56
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Note: Although this is written in the first person, I am relaying it from a person who wants to remain anonymous.

How can I decide whether to confront him about his unethical behavior, or just stay silent?

Here are some things to consider as your anonymous friend decides what to do:

  • This is no longer your friend's problem. He/she is leaving.
  • If the Team Leads are upset, it's up to them to do something about it, rather than expecting a short-timer to try and do something
  • I can tell you from personal experience that folks don't want to hear an exiting employee try to tattle on remaining employees. Someone taking potshots on the way out is seldom treated seriously. If it's important enough, someone who will still be around needs to be the hero.

What potential consequences are important for me to consider, if I'm not going to be working there much longer?

  • Your friend's reputation might take a hit. While it may seem heroic, many (most?) folks don't like tattle-tales.
  • Your friend could lose future employment references. Certainly the manager being ratted on would no longer be a reference, nor would the accused employee. In addition, other remaining employees could decide that your friend can't be trusted.
  • The manager could retaliate against the Team Leads or make other employees suffer
  • The manager could retaliate against your friend in some nasty way.
  • While unlikely, your friend could get accused of defamation.

If your friend decides to go ahead and talk to upper management, the lawyer, or otherwise rat out the manager, he/she must make absolutely sure that she/he has all the facts right, and has some corroborating proof.

If your friend is leaving, and you are one of the people remaining at the company, then perhaps it should be you who steps up and does something. If not, perhaps that's one more reason why your friend should just remain silent.

  • Author's response, paraphrased: "I don't think most of that was even relevant, he was talking about tattling but I'm not going to go to HR." Apparently there is an expectation that at least one other employee eventually will if the coworker is hired. Also mentioned that one of the team leaders wants the manager to "get caught" so it sounds unlikely this will just blow over. – Air Aug 15 '15 at 15:33

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