I've been working with my boss for 14 years, and sleeping with him for 7. Recently he stopped wanting sex, although he still wants to see me. I know he's involved with two younger women who don't work in the office. I like my job and he pays me well, but being exposed to his personal activities is disturbing. Should I quit my job and leave town?
That's like asking if you should tidy up your room on the Titanic before it sinks. A better question is this: Why did you get and stay involved with your boss in the first place? Don't assume you know the answer. It's a complex question—possibly with deep psychological underpinnings—that deserves thorough exploration. I'm concerned about your potential for self-sacrificing, even self-destructive, behavior and your apparent lack of self-awareness about it.
Granted, you were both willing participants, but as the boss, this guy clearly had the upper hand in the relationship. He sounds exploitative, and he doesn't seem to have much compunction about letting you in on his other affairs.
Severing your ties to him now is only the beginning. I'd recommend that you get yourself to a good psychotherapist who can talk you out of this mess, then guide you to an understanding of what led you into it in the first place. Leaving your job sounds inevitable, although skipping town may only prove a doomed attempt to meet an emotional problem with a geographic solution. Gaining some insight might help you move on without having to move away.
Dr. Kerry J. Sulkowicz, founder of the Boswell Group LLC, advises CEOs on managing complex organizations. Send him questions about the psychology of business (firstname.lastname@example.org).
A version of this article appeared in the May 2006 issue of Fast Company magazine.