My socially disordered coworker scares me more than he annoys me.
September 6, 2011 9:50 PM   Subscribe

Coworker definitely has a social disorder (undiagnosed) and the suggestions given by my boss to handle the situation have not worked and I've become very anxious and have difficulty keeping myself from acting out towards this person when they continue with the unsettling behavior.

Where do I start?

OK, I've been working in the same office as "John" for five years but I've known him for 16! My company has field offices in almost every major city and we first met when I was training at our corporate office 16 years ago. Five years ago I transferred into the office where he has worked for 8 years and the problems began immediately.

At that time (when I first started at this office), every coworker I had was telecommuting on average four days a week, and it was just me and John in the office. Every day I got more and more creeped out by him as he insisted on talking AT me for hours at a time. When I would eventually give him a MAJOR brush off (often by angrily responding to something he said which ran the gamut of something racist like finding the opportunity to say "Tarbaby" in a sentence, or to joke about whether a mormon coworker was into polygamy) and he would stomp off into his office and give me the silent treatment, sometimes for days. He would go back to his freakish bombardment of verbal vomit at the very first glimmer of a bit of niceness from me. I began to beg my coworkers to spend more time in the office and take the pressure off of me.

Depending on whether he was in the "friend" mode or not, his advances towards me began to include: Leaving bags of Trader Joes food at the DOOR of my condo, WHEN I WAS HOME, and not knocking on the door. My dog would bark, I would freak out, and after a few minutes I'd open my door and there is a bag of gourmet shit left at my doorstep. I have to leave out a lot of details to just give you the rest of the major things. John is obsessed with guns, the volunteer sheriff's posse (he's a member) and illegal immigration. He would leave copies on the printer of receipts for some choice things like a "Romanian FPK Sniper Rifle" or any number of collectible craziness, which he knew I would pick up. He printed them from home when he knew I was the only one in the office. The last straw on this one was when I was alone in the office when a CRATE of ammunition was delivered. Finally I went to my boss and he didn't want to go to H.R., he just told John that he could not have firearms or ammo delivered to the office. I got the silent treatment for at least a week after that.

Since then the rules have changed and all of us must be in the office at least three days a week. He goes from office to office talking the head off anyone who doesn't get up and walk away, and even THAT doesn't work sometimes. When I try to keep things civil, he mistakes this for some sort of opening for friendship and bothers the hell out of me, continuing his inappropriate topics, elaborating on crazy right wing conspiracies that he actually believes, and basically bother the shit out of all of us. One day my ONE female coworker and I found he had left brochures on our desk for a device that allows for women to "pee standing up." He also put a post-it on the brochure saying that he suggested we "practice in the shower before we give this a try." Christ....

These are only a few of the THOUSANDS of things he's done, unwanted texts he's sent, condescending voicemails he's left such as "I'm holding down the fort for you while you're in the field." I am the SENIOR in the office. At this point his duties have been relegated to something a 5th grader could handle because he wastes most of his time bullshitting and pretending we are his friends. Speaking of that, he has NO friends, none of us have EVER heard that he's even had a date in the 17 years he's been with the company. He's 53, about 200 pounds overweight and doesn't even need to work. His father is a retired surgeon and former mayor of his large hometown. They have a branch of that state school named after them after giving a large six digit endowment. He has two siblings that are amazingly successful in their careers and their personal lives. The parents bought him a house in my current city and he spends all the money he earns on his gun habit.

In the current economy, my boss is unwilling to bring the situation to H.R. because he doesn't want to rock the boat. He doesn't have to endure the pain that is John because he still works from home all but two days a week and doesn't have to give him instruction or work on projects with him. If any readers have made it this far, can you tell me what you would do in my situation? I've actually had dreams that he comes to my house to kill me. I'm serious. Oh, and all my coworkers feel the same way as I do (minus the killing dreams). It's hard for us to get any work done because we feel like we have to vent constantly about his INSANITY. Thanks very much.
posted by RoadMapper to Work & Money (45 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
you're probably not going to want to hear this but the first thing i thought was that this guy's harmless and lonely. just asking - have you ever tried just being friendly with him and letting the weird shit slide?
posted by facetious at 9:58 PM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Do you need your boss's permission to go to HR or to your boss's boss and tell them that your coworker is harassing you? Showing up at your house and sending you thousands of unsolicited non-business messages, to the point where you feel threatened, is a serious issue, and if your boss is unwilling to take it seriously, you have every right to go over his head.

However, you should also be prepared for the possibility that HR and higher ups at your company don't want to deal with the problem. If he's been doing this for 16 years and isn't getting his work done, there may be a reason you're not aware of that he's been able to keep his job. I'd start looking for another job immediately so that if things don't improve, you can leave.
posted by decathecting at 10:03 PM on September 6, 2011 [7 favorites]

"either he goes, or I go" is what I'd be saying to my boss, and I'd leave such a fraught environment if it became necessary. This is untenable and creepy.
posted by honey-barbara at 10:04 PM on September 6, 2011 [14 favorites]

Weird, I had the opposite reaction--I think HR doesn't want to fire him at least in part because they're worried that he'll come shoot up the place.

I imagine that if you spoke with coworkers privately they would also have concerns about violence.

I'm not sure what else you can do, here, but remember that another job is always an option, albeit a stressful and unfair one.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:04 PM on September 6, 2011 [4 favorites]

Tell your boss that either he deals with this, you go to HR with a documented history of this behavior, or you're filing a restraining order. His choice, decide now.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:05 PM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

This goes way beyond harmless and lonely, well into what is comprehensively unacceptable. Have you told John to leave you alone? The silent treatment sounds a lot better than the non-silent treatment.

Rather than going straight to HR, maybe tell your boss that you and he need to do so?
posted by ambient2 at 10:08 PM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Document everything including when you asked your boss to go to HR. You go to HR. In the meantime, be blunt and tell the dude he's out of line the moment he goes out of line. "That was racist and inappropriate. Don't say that again." "It is completely inappropriate for you to give me a brochure about peeing. I only want to talk with you about relevent work issues. Don't do that again." "_______ makes me uncomfortable in the office. Stop."

Document, document, document...and you go to hr or your bosses boss. If you are worried about that, give your boss a heads up first: "boss, this really needs to stop. Here is my journal of inappropiateness. This last thing is also over the line. I know you haven't felt it necessary to go to hr but I'm at wit's end. Would you prefer I talk to (bossman's boss) or (hr person)?" This way he knows you are serious and he gets some say.
posted by adorap0621 at 10:09 PM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Documentation and if necessary going over your boss's head to HR yourself. Genuine safety and well-being concerns here. If I were you I would go to HR based on your boss failing to deal with the issue as well. Don't expect your coworkers to come with you or support you in any way; ensure you have your ducks in a row, present your case, and do not involve them. Nothing will undermine you faster than you saying "and Joe and Mary think so too!" and then Joe and Mary say everything is fine (whether out of fear, conflict avoidance, cowardice or otherwise). Document, document, document. Times. Dates. Emails. Texts. Everything. Straight to HR.

If you feel genuinely unsafe, take the same information to the police, explaining why you feel unsafe. Where I live, at least, if I showed up at the local police station and told them my coworker was receiving ammunition at work, printing off receipts for weird guns, and generally acting menacing, they would be on that like stink on shit. This option will probably cause trouble at work, at least in the short term. I would go with the HR route if at all possible, at first. Let them know that if they don't handle it adequately and you still feel unsafe, your next call is to the police. Your safety is paramount.

On preview: He is not harmless and lonely. That is ridiculous. His behaviour, as described here, is utterly beyond the pale. Ammunition deliveries to the office? Printing receipts from home on the company printer for guns? Stalkerish deliveries to RoadMapper's home? Pamphlets about peeing standing up for women? This is not a lonely misunderstood person. This is a piece of shit making other people's lives a living hell.

you're probably not going to want to hear this but the first thing i thought was that this guy's harmless and lonely. just asking - have you ever tried just being friendly with him and letting the weird shit slide?
posted by facetious at 9:58 PM on September 6

Eponysterical, and not in a good way.
posted by Sternmeyer at 10:09 PM on September 6, 2011 [24 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks so much for all of your answers. I have considered going to H.R. without my boss' permission but it is very out of the ordinary for our company lately. We've recently been acquired by a GIANT company, and our H.R. is gradually moving to their H.R system. I have most of the emails and texts saved. My coworkers would go to bat for me, especially the only other female in the office. When she was pregnant she had to go in the field with him and he consistently asked her about personal details of her plans for delivery in case something happened (she was 7 months pregnant and it was only a three-day trip). When she and her husband were having some marital problems, he brought them christian self-help books on saving a marriage. Like I said, there are thousands more things I could bring up. Mostly I was looking to see if your opinions based on the items I listed made you lean more towards going to H.R. directly, or confronting him BIG TIME on what I will not tolerate anymore. Although I am located in this field office (and feel stuck because I bought a house in 2006...we know how that goes), but I am a the technical project lead for our region (several offices). Nobody would have a question as to who would be more valuable to the company if it came to me vs. him. Thanks again.
posted by RoadMapper at 10:14 PM on September 6, 2011

Response by poster: Sternmeyer, you are my hero. Really great response. LOVE the word "eponysterical"!
posted by RoadMapper at 10:18 PM on September 6, 2011

If you are genuinely concerned for your physical safety, then consider that you will be working to get this person fired--something that would infuriate even a normal, well-balanced person. He knows where you work and where you live.

I am not trying to frighten you unduly, but before you take drastic actions, please take time to think it through completely. Being right will not keep you safe.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:24 PM on September 6, 2011 [10 favorites]

Do not confront him directly. He sounds unsafe.
posted by bq at 10:29 PM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you young rope-rider. I will keep my safety foremost in my mind. Yes, my coworkers (there are only six of us in this office including my boss) also nervously mention that he is exactly the type one would expect to "go postal". He saves the worst of it for the two females, and my coworker's husband is a majorly intimidating war veteran who is also well armed. She doesn't get it nearly as bad as I do. BUT, the rest of them don't bristle as harshly as I do at the racist minute-man crap. Sigh.
posted by RoadMapper at 10:31 PM on September 6, 2011

Hm. There are a few things that worry me about this.

One, your post seems to be phrased in the context of "This guy is crazy amirite?" That's not a good start -- it sounds like you've been working with this guy (and only with this guy) for many years now, and he's obviously getting under your skin. Although there are disturbing bits of this (particularly the groceries, oh god, why did you tell him your address), a lot of this doesn't strike me as being particularly harmful. I'm also worried that you're getting hung up about things like his weight, or phrases like "I'm holding down the fort for you while you're in the field," which doesn't strike me as being offensive in the slightest, even if he is your subordinate (In fact, it seems like quite a normal thing for a subordinate to say if he's been left some responsibility in his boss's absence).

The gun thing is also not the slightest bit uncommon in the US. It might seem odd to people of a certain upbringing (including my own), but quite a few of my coworkers are gun nuts, quite proud of it, and completely harmless. Also consider that we came within a hair's width of electing a president who was a crazy gun-nut right-wing conspiracy-theorist. I don't think that any of this is remotely okay, but it's something that you need to accept as a fact of life, given that about half of the country support this guy's views on firearms (sigh).

From there, combined with his weight, unsuccessful dating life, and the fact that this guy is seriously socially awkward, you're making the jump to guessing that he might "Go postal." That's seriously not cool, and you have very little basis for that incredibly severe accusation. Be careful about who you repeat what you said in this post to, because publicly hypothesizing about a coworker "going postal" because of his weight would get you fired at most respectable corporations. Yes, there's more to it, but you're needlessly incriminating yourself by adding these details.

tl;dr; The only "safe" option here is to find a new job. Regardless of the reasons, this guy gets under your skin, and your bosses are dismissive of your concerns. If you're seriously worried about the guy retaliating against any disciplinary action (unlikely, but maybe he is as crazy as you say he is), completely walking away from the situation would certainly be the easiest and safest way to diffuse things. Also, it sounds like you really need a change of scenery. You've been around the same (small) set of coworkers for way too long.

Once you have enough office gossip about one person to fill 7 paragraphs of an AskMe post, it's time to move on to someplace else, regardless of whether or not you are the one who's "right."
posted by schmod at 10:57 PM on September 6, 2011 [12 favorites]

Another vote for "this dude is CRAY-ZEE", and you absolutely don't have to put up with this - the behaviour you have described is so far beyond unacceptable that they would have to invent a new work for it. In short, Sternmeyer has it.

Something to remember is that HR's job is to make sure that employees don't cause trouble for the company. They're not there to protect you.

Sometimes this is a problem, but not in this case. This guy sucks at his job. Further, he's creating an OH&S risk, by stressing everyone out and scaring people with his crazy ("I've actually had dreams that he comes to my house to kill me"). Plus, he's sexually harassing the female employees (... a device that allows for women to "pee standing up.").

Any HR person would look at the evidence and have a screaming fit. The dude is a walking lawsuit.

Don't confront him directly - let HR do it. That's what they're paid to do. Ask them to keep your complaint confidential - this may or may not work.

If you're going to the HR of your parent company, they have no prior relationship with the nutbar. They won't care how long he's been there. All they will see (hopefully) is the risk. So they're a good chance they'll do something about it.

Document, document, document.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:00 PM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was raised around guns, was taught how to use them as a child and adolescent, know people who own them, parents in the NRA...this is not a cultural divide about guns. This is straight up strange and inappropriate behavior.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:06 PM on September 6, 2011 [14 favorites]

Although I disagree with schmod, he makes a good point.

Focus on the guy's actions - his unprofessional and outrageous behaviour - not his weight, awkwardness, odd hobbies, lack of dates...etc. That stuff is irrelevant, and petty.

You need to be the professional grown up here, because he is apparently incapable of being either.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:06 PM on September 6, 2011 [11 favorites]

I would inform my employer that I don't feel safe, and since he hasn't acted on my complaints, I am going to have to look for another job. (And I would be prepared to back that up.) I'd also tell the employer that based on the mutterings I'd heard from others in the office, I would not be the last person driven away by this man -- but probably the only one honest enough to give the real reason.
posted by hermitosis at 11:07 PM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing the "keep safety in mind" thing. Also, it sounds like John's "social disorder" can be pretty well summed up as "terrible personal boundaries" (and by "terrible" I mean "zero"). I don't care WHAT kind of neurological whatever-it-is someone has, there is NO excuse for letting what you've described continue unchallenged. I am diagnosed with Asperger's myself and there is no way in hell I would be okay with the stuff John is doing, nor would I dream of being so invasive with others. He is being an entitled asshole, which is way, WAY beyond mere "loneliness" or "social ineptitude".

But anyway, HR stuff notwithstanding, one thing you can do in the meantime is make sure and set YOUR boundaries with John as firmly and bluntly as possible. My guess is that he's gotten away with his nonsense for as long as he has partly because most people tend to assume that it's "rude" to do things like tell people blatantly "Go away" or "Never ever do that again" or "I have no interest in that topic". And maybe this is my own social ineptitude talking but I would much rather risk being seen as "rude" than fail to communicate that I think someone is being a douchecanoe-paddler of the worst kind. You are under no obligation to befriend jerks, even if they are lonely jerks (especially given it sounds like this guy is lonely BECAUSE he's a jerk).
posted by aecorwin at 11:08 PM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Ah was bound to happen...schmod...

The comment about his weight was to indicate his intimidation factor. When he is ranting in your doorway, it's a little different than a 140lb, 5'4" guy with glasses. Regarding having my address, we all work in the field doing surveying. At the time he had to have my address. After two trips with him, my boss agreed that we would NEVER be paired up again. I have made several attempts to improve the work environment over the years. We cut out the gun deliveries (although the catalogs still come), and it is against our company rules to have any explosives or firearms in the office anyway. I should have pushed it further at that point. No, John and I do not "work together" much at all as our duties are completely different. I travel one to two weeks out of the month, and as I said, not with him. I made an honest mistake transferring to this office. I have a house here now that I'm not ready to walk away from. When I started with this company, I was employee number 216. Before we were acquired by a very large company this year, we were up to over 4,000 employees. I work with a proprietary software and hardware technology and am very skilled. I would need a good deal of schooling to become proficient at the non-proprietary version of what we do and I don't think that I should risk my livelihood by quitting my job because this creep has forced me out. He will just continue to harass others similarly. For every text he sends, there is a phone message follow up to my work number. During a trip for training, he left my coworker (the female) a message saying that he knew that I had picked a seafood restaurant for us to have dinner because I knew he hated seafood and it was his birthday (I didn't know either of those things). Later he called her (I was hanging out in her hotel room) to tell her that she should turn off the lights and run her hands under the blanket because she would see SPARKS. Then he left a basket at her door with mini liquor bottles and chocolate.

Please don't threaten me about posting this question on the internet. I have done my best to conceal our identities. It sounds like you want the bad guy to win over the cruel shrew. I'm sorry but you are not getting the picture.
posted by RoadMapper at 11:16 PM on September 6, 2011 [14 favorites]

The gun thing is also not the slightest bit uncommon in the US.

I live in the gun loving American South. Leaving pamphlets for personal hobbies in the office is common, no matter what they are. Getting a crate of ammo delivered at the office is not common, though many own guns or at least advocate for gun rights.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:21 PM on September 6, 2011 [4 favorites]

Getting a crate of ammo delivered at the office is not common,

Lots of people in our office get all of their things delivered there if they live someplace where dropping stuff off isn't an option (i.e., most apartment buildings).

Until this thread, I would have considered ammo just one more package. It's possible he might not have thought about it any more than I would have.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:28 PM on September 6, 2011

Please don't threaten me about posting this question on the internet. I have done my best to conceal our identities. It sounds like you want the bad guy to win over the cruel shrew. I'm sorry but you are not getting the picture.

Roadmapper, I get that you're upset, but I think you may have misunderstood. No one, including schmod, is threatening you. It was an observation, is all.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:35 PM on September 6, 2011 [8 favorites]

Your new company might be able to afford hiring a firm like Gavin De Becker's to evaluate the risks this guy might pose and figure out how best to deal with him.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:15 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Does his influential family name impact the business performance of this office?
posted by infini at 2:16 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

One thing I would stress when talking to your boss and to HR about this guy is how much he is interefeing with you getting your work done - if he's talking at you for hours, that's 2 people that they are paying who are getting nothing done. Add up how much time of yours he wastes in a typical week, so they can see that this twit is costing them money right now, as well as baing a huge potential lawsuit magnet.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:23 AM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was going to suggest the exact same thing as IndigoRain. As soon as I read this question, my first thought is that they're afraid to fire him, and that's exactly the sort of situation Gavin De Becker's firm handles.
posted by Nattie at 3:45 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Later he called her (I was hanging out in her hotel room) to tell her that she should turn off the lights and run her hands under the blanket because she would see SPARKS. Then he left a basket at her door with mini liquor bottles and chocolate.

One day my ONE female coworker and I found he had left brochures on our desk for a device that allows for women to "pee standing up." He also put a post-it on the brochure saying that he suggested we "practice in the shower before we give this a try." Christ....

Your magic phrase with HR is HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT. Use it.
posted by asockpuppet at 4:19 AM on September 7, 2011

Your magic phrase with HR is HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT.

The advice comes from a good-hearted place, but this is not the correct approach. As your HR staff would hopefully tell you, a "hostile work environment" is a specific legal phrase that refers to discrimination based upon protected status, typically where it results in wrongful termination.

Here, I think the magic phrase is sexual harassment.
posted by ellF at 4:26 AM on September 7, 2011

I am one more person in the scary-as-hell camp. I agree you should go to HR, and the police if no satisfaction there. (And read deBecker's Gift of Fear, long AskMe tradition dictates that I add.)

I did want to say that the "sparks when you run your hand under the blanket" thing is true--you can see static electricity if there's enough of it, and the cheap blankets at motels are perfect for this. So, that in itself is not crazy. ALL the other stuff, and his calling the coworker to tell her this? CRAZY.
posted by thebrokedown at 4:54 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

As your HR staff would hopefully tell you, a "hostile work environment" is a specific legal phrase that refers to discrimination based upon protected status, typically where it results in wrongful termination.

Here, I think the magic phrase is sexual harassment.

Hostile work environment is a type of harassment. You're just wrong here.

And yes, if the open door policy with your boss isn't getting the job done, then go over his head to HR. That's what they're there for. Be sure to document any attempts to talk to your boss, too, and his refusal to help. The HR merger is a red herring. I'd imagine any medium to large company would be shocked by many of the things you've written and would take them very seriously because, well, that's their job.
posted by inturnaround at 6:01 AM on September 7, 2011

(Just a thought - if his family is rich and important, a deal may have been cut to allow him to work at this place, regardless of his behavior. I've learned through a surprising personal experience (that I can't detail here, due to scariness!) just how weird smaller towns/cities can be about their rich citizens and how much influence those people have on business, cops, law, etc. I hope you can get this resolved, but be aware that if his family is influential, there may be significant outside-work repercussions for you.)
posted by Frowner at 6:16 AM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

HR! So scary. Please let us know how this turns out.
posted by agregoli at 6:44 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe it's a good idea not to be blaming the victim here. She's nervous for good reason. This guy sounds like a loon. He'd scare me too.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 6:56 AM on September 7, 2011 [5 favorites]

Some people here don't seem to understand that John is frightening RoadMapper enough to cause nightmares about being murdered at his hands. Accusing RoadMapper of being unbalanced is victim-blaming.

His thoughts were red thoughts has good advice about focusing on the behaviour, not the individual. You don't want to sound like someone with a personal grudge trying to exert power against someone.
posted by Sternmeyer at 7:21 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't forget, OP made it 16 years without doing anything to this guy, and now all OP has done is ask a question about it. OP is at wit's end, where we all sound a little breathless.
posted by TheRedArmy at 7:35 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

If your boss is unwilling to rock the boat, despite all the evidence you have shown him, you need to sit down with him, bring your stack of documentation, and explain the following:

1a) You've documented everything and brought it to him because it is his job to help keep you safe in the workplace.
1b) You've documented everything and brought it to him because John's behavior poses a risk to your business operations.
2) You're asking him one more time to please take your concerns seriously and report them to Human Resources so they can handle this internally.
3a) In two weeks, if nothing is done, you will be going to the police to protect your own safety, which will surely result in a restraining order and John being unable to come to work anymore while you are there.
3b) If they decide to let you go in order to let John stay, the next employee will do the same thing, and so on, until there is no one left but John.
4) Wouldn't it be better to handle this internally than expand it to law enforcement? You wouldn't want a client googling John's name and finding out that he has a restraining order against him. If he's from a prominent family, that will get out to the media, too.
5) If John loses it, and you've documented everything and shown your boss and he has done nothing, who is going to be liable? Your boss, that's who.
posted by juniperesque at 7:42 AM on September 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

I would turn this into a play to work more from home. This guy is obviously detrimentally affecting your sanity and productivity. Ask for more time at home for you or for him.
posted by xammerboy at 8:03 AM on September 7, 2011

It was not my intent to threaten you, make you feel bad, or blame you as any sort of victim. My point was that you didn't provide a single anecdote that could actually be a fireable offense, or something that he could be put in jail for. Granted, the sum is likely much greater than the parts, although that's a much, much harder thing to prove in a legal setting.

I am also very sympathetic to the fact that this guy is creeping the heck out of you, which is why I recommended putting your sanity over your career, and getting as far as possible away from this other guy, especially if HR are willing to turn a blind eye. Nobody deserves to have nightmares about their coworkers. Although HR and the law *should* be around to help you out, it may be better to just cut your losses, and walk out today, if this guy is really ruining your life.

On the other hand, if you've got concrete evidence about what this guy's done, the company continues to turn a blind eye to it, and you're adamant about remaining in the same job, I'd gather all the evidence, and go have a chat with a lawyer. They'll be able to explain your options better.

And, finally, it really sounds like you could use a confidant. It may be very beneficial to go sit down with a therapist, and begin sorting out what exactly it is that creeps you out about this guy. Right now, every single one of his behaviors creeps you out, including things that sound to me like perfectly normal behavior. If you begin rattling some of these things off to HR, they may not take you seriously.
posted by schmod at 8:05 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm a great believer is giving socially awkward people a break but this guy is beyond the pale. Run do not walk to HR, if he is annoying other co workers see if you can get a few other people to come with you so then it doesn't just become your word against his. Your boss is not there and your boss cannot stop you going to HR.

Get a notepad and document everything with date and time of each incidence, how long it lasts and rough notes/points on what was said. See if you can get your co workers to do the same. Also keep track of every time you have bought it up with your boss or HR. Write down everything you can remember from before now as well. Keep copies of all texts and emails sent to you not on your work computer on say a personal thumb drive, so no one can go in and delete them.

Heck if you can show how much time he wastes alone that might be enough to get some of the bosses attention. You and your co workers have the right to feel safe at work.
posted by wwax at 9:21 AM on September 7, 2011

More than a few of those items would be fireable offenses in my workplace.
posted by agregoli at 10:01 AM on September 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

Document. Make a list of specific events and behaviors that were inappropriate, frightening, offensive, etc. Get it all down, and organize by date. Be as unemotional and factual as possible :
Spring 2008; X came to my office and said"" (paraphrased)
May 2008: text msg: XXXX

A scary-weird co-worker who knows where I live would distress me a great deal. Your boss should have been dealing with this all along by managing X's behavior and productivity-killing ways. Take the document to the boss, and tell the boss that X is scaring you, affecting your productivity, and that you feel that it must go to HR, and possibly the police. If co-workers want to join you in this, fine, but it's not a witchhunt.

Wikipedia: Sexual harassment, is intimidation, bullying or coercion of a sexual nature, or the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors.[1] In some contexts or circumstances, sexual harassment is illegal. It includes a range of behavior from seemingly mild transgressions and annoyances to actual sexual abuse or sexual assault.[2] Sexual harassment is a form of illegal employment discrimination in many countries, and is a form of abuse (sexual and psychological) and bullying.

A hostile work environment exists when an employee experiences workplace harassment and fears going to work because of the offensive, intimidating, or oppressive atmosphere generated by the harasser.

Your employer is currently liable to be sued by staff for one of the above. X's obsession with guns and weapons is not a good sign. The liability to the company posed by X is pretty significant, and if X gets any worse, any damage to the company would be the boss' responsibility. If the boss won't deal with this, then you should. You do not need your boss' permission to do this, though consulting boss 1st is a good idea.

Maybe the guy is just odd and harmless. Who knows, but even a slight chance that he's odd and harmful should get some fast, serious attention. Perhaps he has not had appropriate medical/mental health care, and getting that care would improve his life. It doesn't seem to be good for X to have no consequences of his inappropriate and harassing behaviors.

Good luck
posted by theora55 at 4:08 PM on September 7, 2011

I would hire a home security service as well.
posted by brujita at 6:11 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wikipedia isn't a good source for employment law, or really any legal matter. Before telling the OP how to talk to HR using legal terminology that does not apply, she should consult with an actual attorney.

Here's a better source: In essence, there's very little to suggest she's being targeted based on membership in a protected class, which is what a "hostile work environment" requires in most jurisdictions.

Enough with the derail, though. OP, get an attorney, get safe, and then talk to HR.
posted by ellF at 9:27 PM on September 8, 2011

I really, really want to know what happened, RoadMapper. Any updates available?
posted by pineappleheart at 12:51 PM on October 25, 2011

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