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When your co-worker gets promoted after an affair

You have been with your company the same length of time or even longer than a co-worker who just received a promotion. That in itself is frustrating enough, but here is the rub. You are pretty sure that the co-worker was sleeping with your supervisor just to get the promotion.

It leaves you feeling anxious and stressed. You feel like the only way for a woman to get promoted is to sleep with management, and that move has many, many inherent risks. Meanwhile, you look at your newly promoted co-worker and may feel a mix of jealousy, envy and disgust. Is there anything you can do?

Make your case for a promotion

First things first: Even if you are absolutely sure an affair occurred, it may have nothing to do with your own lack of a promotion. In theory, it may also have nothing to do with your co-worker's promotion. It could also be that your co-worker felt pressured into sleeping with the boss.

Many women are understandably hesitant about asking for promotions or raises. For example, they are afraid others will view them as being too assertive, manipulative or greedy. Some workplaces try to tackle this issue head-on by having built-in raise or promotion systems, but these can have their weaknesses too.

Bottom line: Have you asked for a promotion? If not, you should. Make your case, explaining your qualifications and how the company has benefited from you working there. Focus on yourself and overall patterns when you put on your case. Do not mention the other woman, but it may be okay to say something such as, "[Company] has a tradition of promoting employees who have proved their worth after X years, and here is how I have proved my worth..."

You could get a promotion then, but of course, your supervisor may deny your request. Unfortunately, you work in an atmosphere now where it is easy to get the impression that women must sleep with their bosses to get ahead. Document everything you can, and note how management treats men and women differently. For instance, how many in-house promotions go to men versus women? Being denied a pay raise or promotion based on your gender is illegal, and there are legal avenues you can explore with robust documentation.

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