My co-workers think I slept my way to the top. I didn’t, but the rumors are taking their toll


Last week, our office manager, who handles human resources for our company, accused me of sleeping with my boss. I’m not. From her, I learned that several of the guys I work with have suggested that’s how I earn my salary. If I was sleeping with him, it would be none of the office manager’s or my peers’ business, and I told her so. I then confronted the guys, but gave up. Their leers, smug, knowing looks and “she doth protest too much” comments made me want to quit.

Gossip runs rampant in this organization and I’m the victim of extreme jealousy. I stay because it’s a great job and I’m loyal to my boss. He and I clicked after I was hired and as a result, he gave me increased responsibility, commensurate raises and a promotion to special assistant.

It’s clear to me that the office manager is angry that I’ve been promoted “over” her. She’s worked here longer and I was hired in a lower status position than hers. I know my peers resent the opportunities given to me and my salary.

I’ve considered quitting before, but my boss has talked me out of it each time, saying he needs someone like me, smart and loyal. It’s complicated because I feel something for my boss that I haven’t felt for any man in a long time. I would like to follow our chemistry wherever it leads. I’m not sure how long I can take being considered a slut. Should I quit for my own good?


If you were sleeping with your boss, you and your boss’s actions could expose your organization to allegations of unlawful sexual harassment. Relationships that start well often turn sour leading to courtroom brawls.

If the office manager handles human resources, investigating a potential sexual relationship between a manager and subordinate is thus within her purview. At the same time, if your office manager accused you instead of asking you neutrally worded questions and if she told you of others’ insulting comments, she needs to be drummed out of her HR role.

Since you don’t sleep with your boss, you may have a claim of sexual harassment given that your co-workers allege you earn your salary with your body and treat you disrespectfully. The ongoing sexually suggestive comments and conduct you face may be severe and pervasive enough to qualify as unlawful harassment based upon a hostile work environment. Further, given that you’re considering quitting your job, your coworkers are definitely impacting your work environment in an unwelcome way.

You need to let your boss or another senior manager know what’s happened to you. Your employer has a duty to address this problem, perhaps by hiring a neutral third party to investigate the situation.

The fact that you want to explore the chemistry present between you and your boss and the gossipy nature of your work environment also impact this situation. You may have nonverbally communicated the chemistry you felt and your peers, searching for reasons for your promotion, may have made negative assumptions. That doesn’t justify their smug looks or comments; it just reminds all of us few secrets last long in small companies. If your boss has similar feelings, one or both of you may want to find a new employer before either or both of your reputations become further compromised.

© 2020, Lynne Curry

Lynne Curry is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” (AMACOM, 2016, and “Solutions”, (both books are rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on Send your questions to her at or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.

4 thoughts on “My co-workers think I slept my way to the top. I didn’t, but the rumors are taking their toll

  1. The boss should have addressed the situation right away. The employee is giving more loyalty to the boss than the boss is giving to the employee. He is concerned about himself, not his employee. Not a good sign for any future personal relationship.

  2. This is a sticky situation that was made so chiefly by coworkers and their gossip. Lynne also focused on the unerlying tension of unvoiced questions and thoughts between the person raising this issue and the boss. The idea of taking up an objective investiagtion and raigin the issue with an executive outside HR is a good one, but there will be tolls exacted on everyone and the company in this–and perhaps already are.

    1. Suz, as always, you bring to the table a good perspective. When gossip rolls through an organization, it initially hurts the target and then hurts everyone.

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