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posted: 5/25/2014 6:38 AM

Work Advice: Minding your own business; getting others to mind theirs

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Q: A co-worker recently asked me what was going on between a new male manager (divorced) and our female boss (married). She said they appeared to be quite smitten, an observation also made by others around the water cooler. They make puppy-dog eyes at each other, spend considerable time in each other's offices, take smoking breaks together, etc.

Now, another co-worker has told me that yet another co-worker suspects the new manager is having an affair with our HR manager (female, recently separated).

I have known my boss for 20 years, and she's supervised me for the last nine. We get along OK. She's always been concerned with how others perceive her. She wants people to know she's important, and she also doesn't ever forget being "wronged." I don't know the new guy or our HR manager well; they've been here less than 18 months.

After the first rumors surfaced, I was considering letting my boss know how it appears, with the HR manager there as a witness. Now that I've heard the rumors involving the HR manager, I'm seriously considering just keeping my mouth shut and letting the chips fall where they may.

A: Chips, popcorn -- anything to keep your mouth occupied while you watch this disaster unfold from a safe distance.

Sounds like no one knows for sure what's going on with Georgie Porgie & Co. It may be exactly what it sounds like, or it may just be a case of managers with a surfeit of schmooze time.

A close friend or trusted supporter could probably tell the boss her interactions with Georgie are creating a perception of impropriety or favoritism -- without blindsiding her in front of HR or referring to third-hand murmurs about third parties. But the boss might not take it as well from someone she just "gets along OK" with.

If in doubt, ask yourself why you want to tell her. If "taking her down a peg" is any part of the answer, back away before the chips hit the fan.

Q: After five years of unemployment, I've finally landed a job! It's in a different field, with a considerably lower salary but outstanding benefits.

Family members have asked what my salary will be. I've deflected, but they will keep pressing. How can I put this question to rest without answering? I know they have my best interests at heart, but I think this is terribly rude, and it feels judgmental.

A: Because they are family, it's best to act as if concern for you is their only motive (you don't owe them money, right?): "Enough to cover my expenses and start re-feathering my nest."

If they press: "You're so sweet to worry. I'll be fine. Let me tell you all about what I'll be doing ..."

Oh -- and congratulations!

• Miller has written for and edited tax publications for 16 years, most recently for the accounting firm KPMG's Washington National Tax office. You can find her on Twitter, @KarlaAtWork.

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