Thursday, May 5, 2016 12:16 am
All in a day’s jerk
I’m a happily married 30-year-old woman. A co-worker pointed out a senior trainer at work constantly sneaking lustful glances at me. I was later assigned to his section. We quickly became close friends, and he began mentoring me. He’s married, too, with two children, so though we were extremely flirtatious, nothing inappropriate ever happened, and I told my husband about him. Recently, there were rumors that this man and I were hooking up. He freaked, saying he could lose everything, and cut off our mentorship and our friendship. This was a real slap in the face, as was learning that he’d never told his wife about me. Should I confront him about how bad it feels to be cut off by him? – Betrayed
Workers’ comp covers many on-the-job accidents – but unfortunately not the kind where a married man slips and falls into his co-worker’s vagina.
Granted, that isn’t what happened here. But you don’t have to have the fun to have the fallout, which is why some execs now avoid having closed-door meetings with opposite-sex co-workers. Also consider that when somebody has a lot to lose, they have a lot to fear. We all hope for life-changing experiences, but it’s best if they aren’t getting fired, going through a bitter divorce and having the ex-wife drop off the kids on alternating weekends: “Okay, boys, time to put down the Xbox and go visit your dad at the homeless shelter!”
And no, he never announced to his wife, “Hey, honey, I’m mentoring this total hotbody. There’s a rumor that we’re hooking up. Believe me, I wish we were …” Of course, he wouldn’t say that, but he probably senses what psychologist Paul Ekman has found – that we tend to “leak” what we’re really feeling through facial expressions and body language (especially if these include Gollum-like panting and slobbering: “Must. Have. The. Precious”).
You probably understand this intellectually. But the sting from being socially amputated comes out of what psychologist Donna Hicks, an international conflict resolution specialist, deems a “dignity violation.” Hicks describes dignity as “an internal state of peace” we feel from being treated as if we have value and our feelings matter. Because we evolved as a cooperative species and reputation was essential to our remaining in our ancestral band, we react to threats to our dignity as we would threats to our survival.
You patch up your dignity not by marching around all butthurt while waiting for him to repair it but by calmly taking the initiative. Tell him that you miss having him as a friend and mentor – but that you understand. Counterintuitively, you should find that being the bigger one makes you feel better. Acting like the antithesis of the scorned work wife should help him ease up, too. Though it’s unlikely that things will go back to how they were, he should at least stop treating you like poison ivy in career separates.
© 2016, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (advicegoddess.com). Weekly radio show: blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon