By DIANNE GLASSCOE WATTERSON, RDH, BS, MBA
About a month ago, my boyfriend and I were having dinner in a restaurant in a town about 50 miles from our hometown. We had visited my grandmother and then stopped for dinner. As I headed for the restroom, I spotted my boss and a woman who was not his wife in a booth near the corner of the restaurant. They were laughing and holding hands across the table, clearly indicating they were dating. I was floored! I ducked into the restroom; I don't think he saw me coming or going.
I have worked for this dentist for six years, and I like my job. But now I do not feel the same about my boss. It makes me sick to think of him cheating on his wife! She's a beautiful person, and they have three wonderful children. I wish I had not seen this, as it is causing me a good amount of anxiety at work. In the past, I respected my boss, but now he repulses me.
I don't know what to do. I have considered writing his wife an anonymous letter, but this doesn't seem right either. I think of how heartbroken she will be if/when she finds out.
What are your thoughts on this? Should I leave the practice? Should I let him know that I know? What would you do?
Some years ago, I was temping in a neighboring city. When I went to lunch, I spotted my neighbor in the restaurant with a voluptuous woman who was not his wife. This man's wife was my friend. Obviously, he did not expect to see anyone who would know him in this little hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop 25 miles away. Like you, I was floored! I don't think he ever saw me.
I thought about walking right up to the table and saying, "Well, hello, Phil, it's odd to see you here. Where's Vickie [his wife]?" Then, on second thought, I decided it would be best to avoid the situation. Also, like you, it caused me a good amount of anxiety. I kept thinking that if it was my husband cheating on me, I'd want to know . . . or would I?
The reality is, this happened more than 20 years ago, and Phil and Vickie are still married. Their children are grown, they have several grandchildren, and as far as I know, they live a peaceful life. Maybe it was a one-time indiscretion and he came to his senses. Who knows?
Looking back, I know I made the right choice in not confronting Phil or telling his wife. I was blessed to be raised by a smart, wonderful mom who taught me that it's best to mind my own business. She had a saying about people who willingly do wrong: "If you give a dog enough rope, he'll hang himself."
People who think they are getting away with wrongdoing eventually find out they were just deluding themselves. Your boss, just like my neighbor, probably believed that being out of town would give him some protection from being seen by acquaintances and caught in his indiscretion. He was wrong.
It's a fact that some marriages survive infidelity and emerge strong and healthy. Some people cheat on their spouse, discover what a mistake they made, and never do it again. Some cheat, get caught, shipwreck their lives and the lives of their loved ones, and become wounded and scarred for life.
In my situation, I don't have to socialize with my neighbor who cheated. But every time I see the him, I think of what a jerk he was for cheating on his wife.
In your situation, you have to work closely with this unfaithful dentist who is your boss. That's hard. Only you can decide if you can separate yourself from his personal situation and focus on doing your job. I don't know what the job situation is in your area, but in many areas, full-time hygiene jobs are very hard to find. If that's the case in your area, you would be better off putting this whole unfortunate situation behind you and focusing on being the best hygienist you can be. The chances are high that if he doesn't come to his senses, his wife will find out anyway. She may already know. You could find yourself in the middle of a nasty divorce, and if your boss finds out you know his dirty little secret, he could make your life difficult and even fire you. All states are "at-will" states, meaning that employers can terminate employees for cause or no cause.
The other thing you can do is start looking for alternate employment. It could take you some weeks or even months, but it might be the prudent thing to do. You have to do what is best for you.
I do have a word of caution for you, and that is do not discuss this with other people, especially your coworkers. You could get charged with defamation and land in plenty of hot water if your boss finds out that you told anyone.
It is important to respect your coworkers, and that includes your boss. However, dentists sometimes commit acts that make it difficult for employees to respect them. Over the years, I've dealt with many such instances, such as employers abusing drugs or alcohol, laundering money, committing insurance fraud, siphoning off cash receipts, taking money under the table, engaging in illicit office romances or prostitution, and even one instance where the boss committed suicide when he found out about his wife's marital infidelity. I've also seen the results of wrongdoing, including state board actions, fines, damaged practices, jail time, and ruined lives. We reap what we sow.
The truth is that we all are guilty of some wrongdoing at some time. It might not be marital infidelity, but there are plenty of other reasons. I think it's part of the human condition. Nobody lives a perfect life. The consequence of our wrongdoing might be mild, or it could be life altering and far-reaching. People become blinded by their own pride in thinking they can get away with whatever willful sin in which they choose to engage.
I heard a very wise speaker (speaking to dentists) say that in order to achieve financial success, the first rule is this: Be the spouse of one person! He went on to describe the "life pie" and how the slices become small when such things as alimony and child support come into the picture and have to be paid.
I hope my insights will help you sort out the situation you're going through. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers here. We can only hope that your boss will get a glimpse of the potential damage his infidelity can wreak on him, his family, his staff members, and his practice. Only then will he take steps to turn his ship around before it hits the rocks!
DIANNE GLASSCOE WATTERSON, RDH, BS, MBA, is an awards winning speaker, author, and consultant. She has published hundreds of articles, numerous textbook chapters, an instructional video on instrument sharpening, and two books. For information about upcoming speaking engagements or products, visit her website at wattersonspeaks.com. Dianne may be contacted at (336) 472-3515 or by email [email protected].