What's Your Problem?

A new client is my husband's ex-wife...

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Q: I work for a business whose new client is headed by my husband's ex-wife. We've yet to have our first meeting and I don't think my colleagues know that we have a connection. She has a frosty relationship with my husband but I don't see why that should interfere with my professionalism. But part of me thinks I should tell my boss so that he can decide what to do - although I'd find that patronising. What do you recommend?

A: There's every chance that your husband's ex-wife, however frosty her relationship with him, will feel much the same as you do. You should certainly start with this assumption; you'll probably both go to extravagant lengths to make sure that the personal doesn't in any way intrude on the professional.

Nonetheless, I think you should tell your boss - but simply out of courtesy, not because you're looking to him for any kind of decision. There is always a possibility that her manner towards you might be odd in some way: not necessarily hostile, just a little strained, maybe. Or she might take it upon herself, as she gets to know your boss better, to refer almost casually to the fact that she used to be married to your husband.

If that happened, he'd understandably feel a bit unbriefed - and would have every right to wonder why you hadn't told him.

So before your first meeting, you should certainly tell your boss about the personal back-ground - but keep it short and factual and for information only. If the meeting goes well, and your new client shows no sign of being affected by your unusual relationship, I'd also be inclined to tell her at some later meeting that your boss is in the know.

And in the unlikely event that your new client is clearly out to make your life difficult, it's obviously much better that your boss should have been forewarned. Whichever way the relationship goes, it seems to me, the sooner things are out in the open, the less chance there'll be of future complications.

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