Having an Affair
A reader has asked us our advice about a senior technical guy who works for him who is having an affair.
Mission Critical Project
I am currently managing a team of 4 people on a mission critical project with tight timescales. Three months ago my senior technical guy (married with a toddler) started having an affair with my lead business analyst.
I was aware of this but as it didn’t affect their work I passed no comment. Two weeks ago they split up and can’t bear to be in the same room together. He has left his wife and they have both hit the bottle.
Needless to say productivity has dropped significantly. There isn’t time to replace them as the project is due to go live in 6 weeks. What should I do?
IT Contractor Answer
The first thing that I would say is not to say something like, “You two and the split up of your affair is going to cost us getting the project in on time. You’ll need to buck up”.
I would presume, that as most people like to keep office affairs secret, that they don’t know that you know about it. I would also presume that everybody else in the office knows about it. This is the normal course of events.
As this is likely to be the case, you cannot even bring it up with them at all, unless they bring it up with you (which is unlikely).
However, you still have to regain their previous productivity. Use some sensitivity here. I think that you have to speak to them both separately, pointing out their lack of productivity, but in a very gentle way. You can ask what is the cause of it.
They’re unlikely to tell you, but they’ll know themselves. You have to get them to throw themselves into their work to take their minds off it.
Then, you need to get them to re-focus on the project. You should tell them that if you can do anything to assist, then they just need to ask. You will need to keep your eye on the situation on a day to day basis.
Having an Affair – Keep Them Apart
It might be an idea to keep them apart as much as possible, so that they can concentrate on the task in hand. I wouldn’t do anything as obvious as to move one of their desks to keep them apart. You could of course reorganise the office, making up some excuse for it.
You could also get one of them to spend some time at another site, e.g. to work more closely with the Users, testers, operations or some other excuse depending on the phase of the project.
If one of them is due for a promotion, then it might be the time to mention that it is on the cards, providing they deliver the project (or their part of it) on time.
The last thing you want to do, though, is suddenly promote the two of them. People that work for you are always looking for any indication of what gets you promoted, and if they work out that an office affair will do the trick, you may find you have the same problem but on a massive scale.
This isn’t a definitive answer, but I hope that it helps. Project Management is a bit like golf. You can teach someone how to do it, but if they don’t have ‘feel’, then they are not going to be a champion.
Be sensitive and supportive to the two ‘lovers’ and use your instincts. You’ll usually find that they’ll get you through it, if you have true Project Manager ‘feel’.
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