Dear Leather and Lace: I had sex with the boss and now I’m sorry HOW CAN i FIX IT?
I went to a business function with my boss and we both drank too much and it ended up that I had sex with the boss. I don’t sleep around, but, somehow, I found myself in my boss’s hotel room. We are both single and got carried away and had sex. It wasn’t very good as I remember it. I didn’t speak of it and I would not want to do it again. The problem is, my boss doesn’t know how to keep his mouth shut, and he strutted around telling everyone how hot I was and made it clear we were together that night. I don’t know if he actually told anyone we had sex, but plenty of people saw us being physical. I’m completely humiliated. I am not a slut and I’ve never done this before and I will never let it happen again…NEVER! I am not even attracted to him. But now the damage is done. I’m so ashamed. Alison and Tony, I really like my job and I’m really good at it. I don’t want to leave or get fired. What can I do to erase this mortifying episode?
Alison’s Take: I had sex with the boss and now I’m sorry- I would be rich if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard from a reader who has written me with regrets about this very issue! If it’s any consolation, you certainly are not the first (or only) person who has been in this situation. As long as there have been office parties/meeting and convention, people have gotten their drunk on and then regretted it in various ways the next day and for a long time afterwards.
More than two decades ago, one of the first questions I answered for a reader on the first Q&A column I ever wrote online (Ask Alison: Managing Your Life & Career ) was similar to yours. As I advised that reader, you can’t erase this experience, but you can mitigate the damage and learn from it.
It’s a common mistake to think that work functions are parties, but they’re not. You can enjoy them, but beware the alcohol. It’s not there for you to have as much as you’d like, even if you are away from the office, and even if you are being “rewarded” for hard work and the day has been long and tiring. You can’t drink to “unwind as you might with friends at a private party. Despite what you see on tv shows like Mad Men, remind yourself that this isn’t the time to relax. You are there “at work” representing yourself and your company. It doesn’t matter what your boss does or how much you are urged to let loose and enjoy yourself, you are going to stay in control, even if you are urged to “drink up.” Resist the pressure and reduce future regrets!
For the future, especially if you’re the type of person who can’t stop after “just one drink,” don’t try to control yourself with pure willpower. Join in by ordering drinks you really don’t enjoy and that need to be sipped, not gulped (no fruity cocktails that mask the taste of the booze). Carry your cocktail around and sip it slowly. Use the excuse that you’re dieting or on medication and stick to club soda. If that doesn’t fly, tip the bartender and ask him to make all your drinks that night without alcohol. If someone else insists on bringing you a new drink, take it, sip it, and “lose it” on a table. I have been to so many corporate functions where I have watched the people around me slide into stupidity as they become drunk. It might not seem like so much fun to stay sober, but it’s actually very amusing to watch your colleagues, clients and friends act like a bunch of baboons while you make mental notes….
Which brings me back to your issue. You say you don’t have a reputation for having sex with the boss or getting wild, and so the chances are that while you believe tongues are wagging all over the place, most people don’t know what you were up to. They see you as the professional you are, and can’t imagine you between the sheets with your boss. They won’t believe your boss’s bragging about you. In life we are bound to make mistakes and do things we regret, but the key is to acknowledge your mistakes and rectify them when you can. As long as you don’t protest or even acknowledge this issue, it will die a quick death. Go back to focusing on your job and chalk this up to a learning experience that will never happen again…and make sure it doesn’t.
Tony’s Take: So you slept with your boss and now you’re sorry and you want to fix it? Well, in the words of any politician deny deny deny deny.
The only two people who know what happened in that hotel room are you and the boss. If he is nicely stupid, since his actions do define him as stupid, you get him alone and simply tell him that he is never to speak of it to anyone from now on. If he is obstinately stupid, you’ll have to tell him that he needs to deny that anything happened or you’ll have to file a sexual harassment suit on which his own words have already convicted him.
You aren’t the first person on earth who stupidly had sex with a boss and then regretted it. The big thing about wearing a scarlet “A “is to ignore it. It has no power over you except what you in your own mind give it. You need to relegate this to an “an amusing anecdote” in your own mind that has nothing to do with, and does not affect, your real life.
By acting as if nothing as happened, you are going to gain more allure more mystique and more credibility than you can imagine. Being the sphinx allows the world to assign the mysteries of the ages to you.