4 Lessons Learned After Being Called a Whore

People often ask me what it is like working with my husband. “Usually, it is great!” We laugh, support, and encourage each other. Once in a while it kind of sucks. Like that time an employee of ours called me a money grubbing whore–in the office–the very full office.
Other than changing her name…the story is accurate.

The Back Story
Together, Chris and I have a very successful business together. A large part of our success is due to our ability to keep overhead low by sharing space, supplies, and employees. While we see each other as absolute equals at home and work, not all of our employees see it that way.

‘Mik,’ the employee above, worked with my husband for five years before we opened our joint practice. She LOVED him. Chris had hand selected her to run our front desk. She was experienced, competent and loyal to him. She was one of those sort of unhappy people all along but managed to eek out a smile for him. I know. I know. Where was my wifely instinct??

I should have gotten my radar up the very day we announced to all of our staff the intention to open a practice together. ‘Mik’s’ response eyeing me: “Wait, She is coming?” From that day, our relationship was strained at best. She would go out of her way to do things for Chris but acted like it was an act of God to accomplish one of my tasks.

One day, Mik left early without permission and I called her on it. In the middle of our very open and very busy office she went ballistic. The long, painful tirade ended with her analysis that I was nothing more than a “money grubbing whore.”

My blood boiled so fast that much of my memory from that moment on is blurred. Somehow I managed to get home to  regurgitate the story to my husband. He sat calmly amid my raining expletives and shaking sobs. When I was done, he did the unthinkable: nothing.

I expected my devoted husband to grab his phone, dial her number, and fire her instantly. Instead he sat down and tried to reason with his hysterical wife.

While nothing less than her unconditional firing would appease me, Chris was trying to be rational and thoughtful. “What exactly led to the outburst? Why did she leave in the first place? Maybe it was a family emergency?”

After a long day of “discussions” it was agreed that letting Mik’s behavior stand would set a terrible precedent for other employees and that she would have to be let go.

The turmoil in our office was one thing, but it was nothing compared to the turmoil in our home. We had not till then nor have we since, experienced anything like it….thankfully.

When most people hear this story they assume I was jealous or worried that Mik “had a thing” for my husband. And, she probably did/does. But, honestly so do dozens of sleep deprived hormonal Moms, the lady at the bank and the cashier at Barnes and Noble. I don’t blame them. He is an adorable, funny and NICE guy. Women dig nice. I get it. I married him. And not for one second do I doubt his devotion to me. So, I was not mad at her little crush–just thought it was sweet and a bit funny. Funny that is until the whole whore thing came out. Then I was not laughing so much.

Lessons Learned

1. Yes, we are business partners but more importantly you are life partners. If the ‘Mik’ incident is the worst thing our marriage withstands we would consider ourselves fortunate. Now we are careful to keep our priorities straight. Work stress is one thing, but in all things, our marriage is our first priority.

2. Being a good manager does not make you a bad spouse. One of the things that makes our marriage and business work is our ability to complement (and COMPLIMENT–different post though) each other. Even though my husband’s approach was very different from mine, I know he was upset because I was upset. It turns out, from a business standpoint, calm and thoughtful beats emotional and reactionary every time.

3. Love and loathing really have no place in employee-employer relationships. While no employee will feel exactly the same about both bosses all the time, extremes can be dangerous.

4. Together stand.   We are clear with our staff and our kids that our front is united.  We negotiate, compromise, argue, compromise some more all behind closed doors. once that door is open, OUR decision is unfailing. Basically, Mom said no but don’t even think about asking Dad.

And lastly, in no business, married or otherwise, is the word “whore” appropriate for the workplace.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Great! I haven’t read all your postings, but can I look forward to you addressing being a curly-haired woman in a flat-iron world? Maybe that topic is a little too superficial….

  2. I really enjoyed this post..so insightful on many levels.

  3. Complicated situation. The reality is most people spend more time with people you work with than your family. 5 years is a long time to see someone everyday and doctor’s offices seem so intimate just a few employees so I imagine you get to know people well. As you have commented, you have a “work” husband and she had a “work” husband. You were the other woman so to speak. Also whenever you are changing someone’s reporting relationships you never do that in a group announcement. It is insulting. It says I am just a cog in your wheel and I have not earned the courtesy to be told one on one after 5 years together, you have to admit that kinda sucks. Of course bad language is never acceptable but not sure this was an example of “how to be a good manager”.

    • Oh Jen I have no misconceptions that I handled that situation well. In fact, and in the interest of story telling, I left a bit out but it is so pithy here I will share it. Chris did in fact take this employee to lunch when he recruited her and told her that “things were changing.” The big error was that I was not there. I did not establish myself as his equal from the very first day. Also, I am a hot-head hands down. She pushed so I pushed so she pushed. I am thankful she “snapped” first. But, I shudder thinking what would have happened to my hard earned reputation had I been the “snapper.”

      I have learned critical lessons about leadership from that disastrous interaction. Not the least of which is that for them to respect me, I must, in all things, respect them. Thankfully that lesson was learned early on…

      Thanks so much for making me think this morning!

  4. Marilyn Clarke says:

    I am glad “mik” is long gone:)

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