‘Days of our Lives’, Cayman-style

| 10/08/2018

With everything going on about women being sexual assaulted by various civil servants, can you advise if there is a policy for office romances? My boss is married but having an office affair with a subordinate. They have been together for years and caught kissing, and rumour has it that last year two colleagues caught them in the “act” in his office as they would stay late after everyone would leave for the day. These two decided to stay secretly to investigate why they were always staying late.

office romanceEveryone knows of the affair but it’s not addressed. She gets paid various Acting Allowances, is given special privileges, and even allowed to complete her personal degree studies/write her thesis on government time. Other members of staff cannot do any of these things and have been given a million reasons why they cannot get Acting Allowances, despite the fact that they are when managers are out on leave. Even one of the persons that saw the sexual act is given special privileges and gets Acting Allowance for [a particular position].

There has also been another hot affair between a female boss and one of her subordinates. Their relationship ended but shortly after another woman was employed and started having an affair with the man. The word quickly spread to the first woman and it became a cat fight of insults between the two women.

Everyone knows about these relationships and instead of addressing the matter, they sit and watch ‘Days of our Lives’ playing out live and in living colour. Is this practice allowed as civil servants, as in other companies, these type of acts encourage nepotism, lack of productivity, encourage office strive even stress.

If our managers cannot be exemplary role models in the vision of a “world class civil service”, then there really is no hope that that milestone can/will be achieved.

Auntie’s answer: Wow! A lot to discuss here, starting with the opening. I am not aware of any women being assaulted by any civil servants, but whether that’s true or made-up gossip, there is a disconnect tying that to office romance, which will go on until all our jobs are taken over by androids.

Let’s be clear here, whatever your personal morals are on the matter, adultery is not illegal in the Cayman Islands, no employers (even the civil service) can act as the morality police, and many would say that if two consenting adults are in a romantic or sexual relationship, it’s none of your business — so long as it does not affect their job performance. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the crux of the matter here.

So, the problem here is not the romance but the professionalism of those involved. If they carry on love affairs outside the office or catch a few secret moments out of the excited gaze of the water cooler crowd, it’s really none of your business. But if they’re having loud sex in the broom cupboard during work hours, that probably is, and if it affects any decision-making that is part of their jobs, that is definitely an issue.

As an aside, I’m not that impressed with the people who stayed behind after work just to see if the first pair were participating in after-hours extra-curricular activities. I don’t know any of the facts other than those stated here, and I could be wildly misjudging them, but my knee jerk reaction is, get a life! To my mind, a couple carrying on an affair (under any circumstance) should make every effort to keep it out of the office, and to everyone else in the office: if you have to go out of your way to find out about it, just don’t.

But let’s go back to the favouritism. I have no doubt that cave men kept the best bits of roasted mammoth for the cave women they were making cave babies with. And if you think about it, there would have been sound evolutionary reasons for it. However, that is not an excuse. If you’re in a responsible position and you can’t keep your primaeval impulses in check in your professional life, you have been promoted beyond your capabilities — the Peter Principle at work.

And let’s not forget cronyism and nepotism, which, along with heaping favours on the latest object of lust or love, undermines the whole goal to have a civil service (or any workplace) operate in a system based on merit. As you point out, this can have a seriously negative impact on productivity and the smooth running of the office, and can generally affect office morale. It’s very demoralising to be passed over for promotion for all the wrong reasons when you deserve it for all the right reasons.

There is a system in place to deal with grievances within the civil service, including the behaviour of another staff member in the workplace. It’s embedded in the Personnel Regulations, 2013 Revision, which accompany the Public Service Management Law. Section 51 of the regulations outlines the procedure for airing complaints and the chain of command for doing so, starting with your immediate supervisor and moving up to the chief officer. If the grievance concerns your supervisor, you would start one step higher on that chain. If the problem relates to the chief officer, you would then speak directly to the head of the civil service, which would be the deputy governor or his delegate.

If you do not feel you are getting a fair hearing or the issue is not being dealt with, you could take it to the Cayman Islands Civil Service Association, which might be able to lobby for change on your behalf. However, if you feel that ‘something is rotten in the state of Denmark’, that the problem is systemic, you might consider talking to your MLA, since the situation affects good governance. And if that doesn’t work, consider voting that MLA out in 2021. I know that’s a long way off, but that’s how it goes.

My answer so far has assumed that all parties to the various assignations have been willing partners, which seemed to be the case in the affairs you described. However, there are inherent problems when a boss (male or female) habitually flirts or worse with subordinates, or makes someone uncomfortable with unwanted attention, or creates the impression in the office that you have to suffer his/her attention in order to get that promotion, etc.

Firstly, that person is a creep. If there is someone reading this who routinely flirts with people he/she is supposed to be supervising and is wondering what people think of him/her, here’s the harsh truth: they all think you’re a dirtbag and a disgusting narcissistic fool.

If you think that the behaviour of your boss constitutes sexual harassment, whether you are the victim or an observer, please read the CIG Workplace Sexual Harassment Police in the CNS Library.

If you see that someone is a victim, it’s really important that others in the office let them know that they see what’s happening and that they will support them in anything they decide to do about it. Bullies should never be allowed to prevail.

The laws mentioned in this column can be found on the CNS Library

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Category: Ask Auntie, Civil Service Questions

Comments (22)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Presumably part of the issue is that at least one of the people having the affair is married – or do people here just not see that as an issue?! Does it, or should it not, put you in a moral dilemma towards the partner being cheated on?

    It seems there is an open secret on this island to not tell the partner even if you know they are being cheated on…

  2. Anonymous says:

    He he he. …sounds like a good reason to spy is get a promotion or bonus. All this on the backs of hard working ppl to cover your dirt. Sounds scummy!

    • Anonymous says:

      I saw a comment below that tried to explain that this case has nothing to do with sexual harassment.

      Actually, I wouldn’t be so sure. Sexual harassment has to do with an imbalance of power and in the MeTwo movement in the US we heard from women that they felt compelled to “cooperate” because they felt it would negatively affect their advancement at the workplace.

      That could possibly be part of the dynamics in this case.

      Aside from that, office affairs can be quite unhealthy, as women (in our environment men still dominate) can see it as a way to rise at the workplace. A case of each using the other.

      For the naive young girls who are often genuine victims, stay away from these married men. They mean you no good. They do not intend to leave their wives. And by the way some of the impressions they give about unhappiness at home are pure lies to get your compliance. Stay away from the bastards.

      Having said that, my advice for those engaging in voyeurism is get a life. You don’t know people’s story. Your titilating gossip for the day may be far removed from the reality. Do your work, answer the phone, return the emails.

      And if you feel you have a real grievance, take the appropriate action rather than engaging in fruitless gossiping. Auntie did an awesome job in outline avenues of resolving grievances.

      • Anonymous says:

        your comment is naive and misguided, just like Auntie.
        unfortunately the movement you refer to is creating greater problems for women. The inability of people like yourself and the media to recognize that false allegations need to be treated with the same severity as the actions.

        as an employer, why would you hire a single mother, when you face real risks of legal suits if they create a false case. any women who is in difficult financial situations, is an potential threat.

        the court of public opinion shatters careers, businesses, lives, for harrassment, dv, etc. Proof is not needed, only allegations.

        these movements are creating greater friction and problems for women. employers and managers are grappling with the scope of the problems, and women are actually coming away the bigger losers. until social attitudes towards false allegations become prevalent, women as a whole will continue to suffer the consequences.

        • Anonymous says:

          11:08 anonymous: I guess I would have to read your post a few times to make sense of it. So far not getting it.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The original posters query on the topic just reveals the hypocrisy that exists here, while Auntie’s response is as-usual, sensible and spot-on. The same people that complain about an inter-office affair between consenting adults tend to be the same that choose to do it themselves, then go to church on Sunday. Not that there is anything wrong with that….just don’t preach your holier-than-thou persona on the rest of us. No-one knows the circumstances of what goes on between two people, but them.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Very well written response.

    My advice to those who have to escalate the grievance. Be brave. It is not easy but if these steps are taken again and again, have faith that the system will work. It may not work for you in this instance but if enough colleagues continue to escalate wrongs that need to be righted, eventually the system will get fixed.

    Ask the women who fought for the right to vote. Or those who fought to end slavery.

    Keep at it

  5. Anonymous says:

    The private sector generally frowns on such behaviour, and if discovered one of the parties is asked to leave. Generally that party is the woman, which seems pretty unfair to me, but probably because mostly the male will be married. Ladies, understand one thing…in general the man is never going to leave his wife for you, you are just a play thing. Even if he has real feelings for you, when push comes to shove, he will not wish to lose his kids, house and ultimately his wife. It’s a mugs game.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Best advice CNS they need to get a life, serve the people at the counter and answer the darn phone. Instead you are staying late to watch if Bob kisses Becky smh.

    A huge percentage of happy couples met their significant other at work, that is where we spend most of our waking hours and it is also where we spend the most time with other individuals.

    When you get to the bottom of it, most of the people who are watching and gossiping are probably doing so out of jealousy due to the fact that they are not the subject.

    Get a life!!!

  7. Brenda's Bush says:

    Good reply, Auntie. Nosey Caymanian’s, especially the women. Looking to get people in trouble. The Cayman Islands CS is already, for the most part, poorly run. So let’s keep our focus on improving that aspect so the public, which you are paid to service, can like you for that, not some hearsay or real office romancing, especially when it’s consenting at that.

    Sheesh, jealousy is very unflattering. Get over yourself and focus on your job, thank you very much.

  8. Anonymous says:

    There is rules and regulations for code of conduct. Including in Government but if the higher ups don’t respect the code of conduct why should any one else.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sounds like your comment goes to the very top of the civil service!

      • Anonymous says:

        To the tipitee tipitee top!

        • Anonymous says:

          Oh bwoy!

          A bad likkle fella he is.

          Enjoy ???? it man BUT just don’t implement favouritism within your office to cover it up!

        • Anonymous says:

          Stop being jealous and get a life!!

          • Anonymous says:

            Hell, yes I’m jealous.

            I have to “work” for a living!

            Wish I only had to “wuk-up” for it.

  9. Anonymous says:

    He is married the article states.

  10. Anonymous says:

    The question is simply whether or not there is a sexual harassment policy in place. The rest of this person’s story is salacious and unnecessary.

    CNS: The link to the sexual harassment policy is at the end of Auntie’s answer. However, the question wasn’t about sexual harassment. It largely concerned professional conduct in the office and the negative impact of favouritism. To many people who work under stressful conditions because of this, it is a very important topic. I think you need to read it again.

    • Anonymous says:

      I used to work in one of the Big 4, in Cayman. Office romances weren’t kept a secret, unless one party was married. And yes, if your romantic partner was a manager, director or even a partner, you got ptomoted really fast. This is the way things always were and still are and nothing would ever change it. No need to start a war against office romances.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Sound advice CNS but the problem is, especially with us Caymanians. We do NOT like our dirty laundry aired especially us in the CS. The first person who complains about the things that were described in this story will be the first person out of a job. Unfair? Yes. Unrealistic? NO! No one speaks up because they know the same favoritism that promotes one will turn to revenge and destroy another in a heart beat and even that will go unpunished.

    Welcome to CS life. Say what you want but it truly is what it is.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yup so true. Despite the Government implenting the Whistle-blower policy/law, there never will be a civil servant that is willing to put their head in the guillotine. No matter the situation as there truly is no protection. Who wants to move departments, only to explain to new colleagues that you were transferred because you were a whistle-blower. Sure way to be excluded from office socialising or just have all eyes watching you.