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Krieber gaffe

Managing your spouse 101 Add to ...

As Janine Krieber took to Facebook this weekend to announce that the Liberal party was heading for the "trashcan of history," many a spouse may have cringed.

In her online outburst, the wife of Liberal MP and former party leader Stéphane Dion blasted the party for not giving her husband a chance to rebuild after the last election, and finished off by accusing the Liberals of being elitist. As soon as news of the posting began circulating on Saturday, it was removed - reportedly at the behest of Mr. Dion's camp. But the damage had long been done.

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Stéphane Dion.



Bouncing back after an outspoken spouse has endangered your standing at the office with a few choice words or actions can be tricky, experts say. But, they add, now is the time to work-proof your relationship: The season of booze-soaked office parties is upon us.

Even if you don't share his or her opinion, "you are an extension of your spouse," says Joanne Blake, owner of Style For Success, which provides business etiquette and image trainers from Edmonton.

And, unfortunately, she adds, "It's really hard to do damage control after it happens."

"Guilty by association" is how Sharon Irwin Foulon puts it.

"If your spouse or someone you're dating is speaking with your work colleagues, there is some subtext that their view is your view," says Ms. Foulon, director of career management at the Richard Ivey School of Business.

Her advice for spouses entering the holiday office-party season together is to be mindful that although the invite says it's a party, it's a work function.

Ms. Foulon suggests prepping beforehand with a discussion about your "public persona."

"It's not a bad idea to check it in the car and say, 'You know what, hon? What happens at home stays at home, and we're going to go in and be like Angelina and Brad Pitt or Katie and Tom.'"

Spouses should identify hot-button topics beforehand and steer clear, says Franke James, editor-in-chief of Office-Politics.

"It's better to be a little like a poker player who keeps their cards close to their chest," she says.

But if a spouse is particularly vocal and a game plan isn't possible, the course of action may have to be more severe, said Louise Fox, owner of the Etiquette Ladies in Toronto. "If you have a spouse who's a bit of a loose cannon, best to leave them at home."

Spouse gaffes, according to Ms. Fox, "go into the hall of shame."

So how to bounce back once the damage is done?

Ms. Foulon encourages employees to find out exactly what a spouse has said and then consider how damaging the slip was. If it's bad, Ms. Foulon suggests knocking on the boss's door on Monday morning -"start the conversation" and "neutralize" the spouse's message.

Ms. Blake advises apologizing for a partner's "bluntness" while stressing that you're "not a cookie cutter, but distinctively different from your spouse." She also warned against apologizing too much, which could simply highlight the gaffe.

"Then you talk to your spouse or partner and ensure that it doesn't happen again," Ms. Blake said.

She pointed out that a spouse's disclosure is often well-meaning and protective.

"Sometimes, people will hear us complain about mundane work situations such as being passed over for a promotion. … Our spouses want to take care of us. They think that they're fixing things by talking about them, but there's a time and a place."

Farheen Rashid, founder of Executive Etiquette, who also teaches business etiquette at Humber College, said that in the rarest of cases a spouse's flare-up can jump-start dialogue about workplace issues.

Although her opinions may have been warranted, Ms. Krieber's case illustrates the risk spouses take when they resist being muzzled, instead of respectfully backing off on their own.

"If it is more important to express your negative opinions, then you must also be comfortable with the possible repercussions - however negative - they may have on your spouse's career."

 

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