What ways could relationship have been improved before it progressed to this point of conflict?
I am so angry with my boss I cannot even speak to him. We had always got on well. He is only a few years older than me and we became friends at university. We lived at the same hall of residence and were part of the same friendship group. He graduated a couple of years before me, but we remained close. He said I would fit right in at the central Sydney investment bank where he worked and that he would help me get a job there when I graduated. I was delighted when the bank employed me. For the first few years he was always there for me. I was placed in another department, but he stayed in touch, informally providing me with information and tips. People knew that we were close, and I have to admit I did not mind being seen to be affiliated with him. Don’t get me wrong. I worked hard and earned my promotions on merit. But it did not hurt to be associated with him and to get useful advice from him. At least not until now.
Last year he was placed in charge of the graduate recruitment program for the bank. He was the senior person in charge, and people in all departments who recruited for the bank, like me, had a dotted line reporting relationship to him for our recruiting results. That is where things began to go wrong.
As soon as he was put in charge, he made me his assistant. I worked closely with him to ensure his strategic recruiting objectives would be implemented. I began to travel extensively with him and with the other recruitment officers – line people like myself who had been seconded to the function for just one season. It was an honour to be selected. The opportunity to recruit at prestigious universities is only offered to people who are ‘up and comers’ at the bank. I was proud of his belief that I could contribute to the effort and do a good job. Plus, the added visibility could not hurt when it came time for my next bonus and promotion. Or could it?
One night after our presentation at one of the top universities, he and I ended up the only recruitment officers left at the bar from our team of eight. Everyone else had retired for the evening. We were the diehards, left with a group of students who did not seem to want to leave. I noticed Bob, my boss, over in a corner of the bar with of the students. A female student. Uh-oh. I was worried how this might look and thought I had better saunter over and join in. I got there just in time to hear the student, who sounded like she had already had enough to drink, order a drink the name of which I had not heard since back in my undergraduate days. Bob told the waiter to charge it to his room. He also politely told me to scram. I left, slightly worried about what might be happening but figuring he knew how to handle himself.
To make a very long story short, a few weeks later I found out that Bob had propositioned this student and that she had filed a sexual harassment and discrimination complaint against him and, by association, against me and our entire recruitment team. Apparently, the young student claimed that we had sent the wrong signal to the students by staying out so late with them. She says she stayed because she thought we were interested in her as a potential hire and that one of the reasons she did not get invited back (for an interview the next day) was that she refused to sleep with Bob.
Now both Bob’s job and mine are at risk. Since he is the senior person in charge of recruitment and the one who made the pass, he is almost certain to lose his job. Since I am his assistant, I am vulnerable too. The rest of the team will probably be reassigned.
I am so angry I cannot even talk to anyone about this. Not him. Not his boss. Not my fiancé. Not Human Resources. It is humiliating, childish and should not be involving me. All my hard work at the bank is about to go down the tube. I am so angry. I thought we were friends. I thought he would look out for me, not get me into trouble. I do not know what to do. I just want this all to go away.
While the bar scenario might not have been predicted or avoided, in what ways could the boss-subordinate relationship have been improved before it progressed to this point of conflict?
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