A little kissing in the supply closet or a few lunch dates with drinks: These are the types of behaviors that can spell workplace disaster -- particularly when the two parties involved in the tryst occupy different positions in the workplace. Finding out that a manager is engaging in behavior that is unbecoming with an underling is an anything by enjoyable experience. If you are unlucky enough to be privy to such information, you are likely struggling with what, if anything, to do with your knowledge. Because your actions can have a major impact not just in your career, but also on the entire workplace, it is vital that you proceed with caution.
Say What You See
How do you know the boss snuck away for a mid-day coffee date with a hot-as-can-be mailroom boy? Did you see her? If not, strike this piece of information from your mental record. If you don’t see the inappropriate behavior, don’t concern yourself with it. While it may be true, it may just as easily be nothing but fodder for the office gossip mill. If you attempt to make a report and all you have are some heard-through-the-grapevine stories, your efforts may blow up in your face, leaving you burned.
Review the Policy
The line between appropriate and inappropriate can sometimes be hard to distinguish. Before you plan your report, make sure that what you have to report constitutes a violation of company policy. If it doesn’t, you may come off sounding petty and meddlesome. Dust off your employee handbook and review the wording of your fraternization policy -- if one exists -- to make sure that what you have witnessed directly violates the printed text.
Consider Your Reason
What is driving you to report this behavior? Ideally, your report should be in no way retaliatory but instead focused on the best interest of the company. If you have long had a beef with one or more of the parties involved in this inappropriate relationship, you might want to take time to weigh the benefits and weaknesses of making a report. If you make a report -- particularly if your evidence isn’t spectacular -- you could be driving a bigger wedge between yourself and others in the workplace. Take time to truly ponder what is motivating you to step forward to make sure your reason for doing so is altruistic.
Follow Proper Channels
Don’t try to take your report straight to the top if you don’t have to. Whenever you report anything -- particularly anything about a manager -- it is important to be keenly aware of the chain of command and follow it. While you, obviously, can’t make your report to the manager whose behavior you will be complaining about, you don’t have to take it to the executive VP either. Go one rung above the manager in question and make your report. This individual will be able to process your information and move it up the ladder if need be, or simply handle it if that is within his power.
Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.