Dear Rabbi and Susan,
I have an ancillary employee that got caught by his wife having an affair. I do know through one of your Podcasts that you said that, “you cannot trust a person that his own wife does not trust” (due to an affair).
It would really hurt our business without him (maybe with him as well?) I suspect that he may have even been with “her” on the clock. I do not know what to do. It is difficult to impossible to find ANYONE that wants to work, let alone a good/qualified person. To let him go, not let him go, forgive and move on? He has cut off the affair and is working on mending his marriage.
I just want to do what is right and best…even if it’s painful. I love to hear your wisdom.
The exciting thing about heading a business is that you can’t enjoy the comfortable life of being a specialist. A specialist need not ever stress over matters outside his specialty. For instance, a public health specialist need not worry about anything except the spread of a contagion. He can and usually does remain oblivious to financial, psychological, or social impacts of his health policies. A company’s chief accountant worries only about cash flow, profits, taxes, and so on but ignores matters of public relations, board politics, and plant maintenance. On the other hand, the CEO or head of the company must hear the advice from legal, financial, production, and many other departments of his company before occupying the lonely and perilous position of being the ultimate decision-maker. There are many angles to your dilemma, and you have doubtless contemplated them all. We are only expressing one piece of the equation you need to take into consideration.
It is increasingly difficult to find competent and willing employees. Your concern at finding out that you might need to lose this man’s talents must be immense.
We recommend that you do not discharge him now. You mention that he has cut off the affair and is working on mending his marriage. This suggests that, unless you moonlight as a detective, he has shared his situation with you. A complicating factor is that you suspect, but seem to not have confirmed, that he may have used work time for his dalliance.
We do believe in second chances and in repentance. If his marriage is salvageable and he is truly changing, then you do not want to sabotage or humiliate him at this point (which is what losing a job would do). At the same time, you need to be a realist. As much as you hope he has seen the light, this is the time for stark, clinical observation, not optimism.
Sit down with him and tell him you know he’s going through a terrible time. Say that you want to support him as much as possible so you’re not making any changes to his employment. Ask him to let you know if any circumstances arise that will make it hard for him to discharge his work duties. (By the way, don’t let him get away with telling you that he “made a mistake”. It was many bad mistakes or perhaps many lapses in judgment. There was a journey—it didn’t go from nothing to everything in one instant.) Tell him you count upon him for good judgment on the job and that you hope he can return to normal.
Watch him closely or make sure his direct supervisor watches him. If he is cheating on you by using paid hours for his personal needs without telling you, then no matter how good he is, he will increasingly become a demoralizing and negative force on your team. If his marriage goes south because he keeps lying to his wife, a divorce will almost certainly affect his work.
We hope for the sake of this man’s family and your business that everything goes in the right direction.
Stay in touch,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin
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