The weirdest work situation I have ever been in

… so in your opinion, what do I do about it?

A warning in advance… this is a long story.

A colleague of mine died very unexpectedly two months ago. The memorial service is next week. (The actual funeral was for family only).

He is the person that hired me about seven years ago, and he was my boss for the first two years I worked there. Then, a new division opened up, and he was key in seeing that I was promoted to being the division’s manager. So since then, we have worked as colleagues. He was always my mentor and gave me a lot of help and advice, especially when my division was new. We were pretty close professionally, and occasionally got together socially outside of the office.

This guy had gotten divorced before I knew him. From what I understand, the divorce was really ugly, but by the time I knew him, he and the ex-wife had a fairly good relationship, because they had three kids and were both very involved with the kids’ activities.

When I was still working for him, I took a message one day from a woman. It turns out that the woman is someone with whom he had an affair while he was still married. He hadn’t heard from her in years. She was in town for business, and wanted to get together for a drink. She came by the office, and I met her briefly. They had a nice time catching up, and since then, I think they have gotten together maybe once a year or so when she was in town.

So, I am sitting at my desk last week, and her business card pops out of my rolodex. I actually had to think about who she was before I remembered. I have no idea if anyone called her to tell her this man passed away, but I cannot imagine who would have thought to contact her. They don’t have the same circle of friends and she doesn’t live in the area. I am pretty sure than none of his friends knew that they were still in contact. I do not know if the affair led to his divorce, or if his wife (now ex-wife) ever knew about it.

Should I call her? If I call her, what should I say? Do I mention the service? What if she comes, and the ex-wife sees her and there is some sort of scene? (I have no idea if the ex would know who she is). There is also a current girlfriend in the picture.

I know that the man’s brother knows who the affair woman is (he joined them for drinks at least once, about four years ago) so I suppose I could pass the whole thing over to the brother to decide. But it seems a little cruel, when he’s trying to cope with his brother’s death, for me to dump the problem of affair woman on him.

So what would you do? I am trying to use the old stand-by “what would I want someone to do if I was in her position?” but I am not coming up with a clear answer.

Oh, if it makes a difference, his family specifically asked me to pass on the names of any people who I knew who should be notified. I offered to contact them myself to make it easier on the family. I can only imagine that they meant business colleagues (who else would I know that his family didn’t know?) and they probably aren’t expecting any old flames to show up on my list.

PS When I read this over, I feel like I made this man sound seedy. He didn’t go around having affairs right and left. He seemed to view this affair as a mistake from his past, but he was pleased that he and the woman had come to develop a more mature friendship later on.

Condolences on the loss of your friend.

If the brother knows the woman, do you think he might have given her the sad news?

It would be a kindness for her to be told.

Can you wait until after the memorial service, and write to her, include the newspaper clipping, say you knew they were friends and you thought she’d like to know?

I wouldn’t do anything that might result in her attending the memorial.

I agree with AuntiePam. Contact her after the service.

I think she definitely should be told. Consider this - she might come into town and try to contact him. When she doesn’t get him at his old phone number, she might call his brother. This would be depressing for the brother.

AuntiPam hit the nail right on the head. Don’t get yourself in a mess, but if you have her business card with address on it, include a newsclipping or a letter and just let her know. I would personally do it AFTER the service.