work related abuse
December 13, 2006 12:31 PM   Subscribe

work related question. A co-worker I work with very closely threatened my verbally and physically, claiming I was doing a poor job. I reported to my supervisor, and said co-worker denies it. What should I do (other than quitting, but I like the job) I have been there 3 years and this came out of the blue. I feel now I have to resign. Suggestions?
posted by cvoixjames to Work & Money (39 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Get a lawyer. Right now.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:35 PM on December 13, 2006

Complain to HR. If your supervisor won't take you seriously and you feel threatened in the work place, that's not OK. You have a right to a safe workplace, and you shouldn't have to quit over it.

Go to HR. Now. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Go to HR. And investigate a lawyer, and start writing everything down.
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:39 PM on December 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

The person threatened you? And what is it that he or she denies - that they threatened you, or that they said you were doing a bad job?

What did your supervisor say or do, other than asking the co-worker for their side?

I guess the ultimate thing I'm wondering is, why do you feel like you should resign? Do you think you're doing a crappy job?
posted by JustDerek at 12:40 PM on December 13, 2006

Is your supervisor just dropping this? If you have a fair to good relationship with him or her, this shouldn't just evaporate--why would you make something like this up?

If your supervisor is a head-in-the-sand type, maybe you should take it up with HR. Being abused on the job is unacceptable...and in some cases illegal. Many companies have anti-bullying guidelines...maybe you could find out what the procedure is to initiate a complaint.

I had a problem like this a couple of years ago with someone at work, and things worked out in my favor--mostly, I suspect, because I documented everything. Start writing down each event and dating it. You may need to bolster your claims for legal reasons...

Anyway, good luck, this is an awful and unfair thing.
posted by frosty_hut at 12:41 PM on December 13, 2006

What did the person say to you? Did they actually get physical?
posted by bshort at 12:45 PM on December 13, 2006

Start writing down every encounter you have with this person, so you have some documentation. Other than that, try to find a way to stand up for yourself (which I know can be very hard when you feel that your job is on the line); if this person is making you consider quitting, then you might as well say something and feel good about yourself. The next time that they say or do something, stand up, look them in the eye, and tell them to stop it, loudly. Most bullies will back down, especially if they see that you are willing to make it obvious that something is going on. If you get called into the boss's office, have your documentation ready.

I've been in this situation and have tried this strategy. It is not a sure bet, but I felt better about myself for having employed it (besides, if you get fired, you get severance, right? Better than letting someone make you quit and lose all your benes).
posted by melangell at 12:47 PM on December 13, 2006

Right to HR. That's insane.
posted by fixedgear at 12:52 PM on December 13, 2006

Do not resign. You don't sound like you're in the wrong.
posted by kdar at 12:53 PM on December 13, 2006

If any emails result in this, either print them, save them to CD or forward them home. Keep a ledger of your interactions (times, names, discussed topics) with everyone.
posted by jerseygirl at 1:04 PM on December 13, 2006

If you decide to go to HR, make sure you have a watertight case (and maybe a lawyer). They are there to protect management and protect the company, not protect you.
posted by rajbot at 1:16 PM on December 13, 2006

Echo Kdar - do not resign - from the information provided you did nothing wrong. Prepare a memo or email to your supervisor memorializing the whole matter, in detail, but just the facts, leave out conclusions, motives, and opinions. Include your recollection of your reporting the matter and ask it be placed in your supervisory file. Ask HR to also put a copy in you personnel file. Documentation is the key.
posted by KneeDeep at 1:18 PM on December 13, 2006

depending upon the legality in your state, you might consider getting a small audio-recording device (most cellphones will do this, but are somewhat tricky to activate quickly), and surreptitiously activate it anytime you have dealings with this person.

as cellphone cams have shown with various recent police-brutality cases, your word against someone else's isn't worth much...but a recording of the event says it all.

if you're able to get an audio recording you'll have plenty of options: HR, lawsuit, etc. of course if you get the person fired (and/or sue) and they are prone to violence, you ought to consider your personal safety outside of work as well.
posted by jjsonp at 1:18 PM on December 13, 2006

Best answer: Document everything.

Every conversation you have had with anybody about the incident. Every conversation you have had with said coworker.

If you have trouble sleeping or eating or are otherwise affected by the threats, document that too.

Document everything, including all of your future dealings with HR.

After you have any conversations with anybody on these matters, follow-up with written communication (e-mail) re-iterating/confirming what was discussed.


This means all your phone calls or e-mails with HR or your superior. Dates, times, names, places. Everything.

And if the situation doesn't improve, sue the living hell out of them.

I say this as an employer. A reaction of "well they denied it, so move on." is wholly inadaquate. Your manager sucks. Document the suck, and if it doesn't evaporate sue them.

Not because you are greedy, but because they are wrong.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 1:23 PM on December 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice. I have just filed a grievance with the department head, and she was very understanding and I told the dept. head that the supervisor simply sent me home for the week, and I told her the story. I will be keeping track of all correspondence. I will not play victim. The dept head also outlined the protocol for such grievances. Human Resources is next if a resolution is not provided within 5 days. I do a good job, my co-worker has issuues and wants to put me down. Real Bad Idea.

Thanks again Nothing like this has ever happened to me ever before! No, I will NOT resign
posted by cvoixjames at 1:25 PM on December 13, 2006

That's exactly it. You did nothing wrong. But do document your discussions with the department head, etc.
posted by jerseygirl at 1:41 PM on December 13, 2006

Your employer is obligated to provide a safe working environment. Talk to a lawyer. Talk to HR.
posted by winston at 1:52 PM on December 13, 2006

Well done, cvoixjames.

Can you provide more details on what actually happened? It would help us give you better advice. If the person actually threatened violence then that is assault, and should be reported to the police as well.
posted by grouse at 3:00 PM on December 13, 2006

Keep a detailed daily diary of everything you do, record and keep anything you can, and do not quit.
posted by fire&wings at 3:19 PM on December 13, 2006

If there was a physical threat involved, you should also contact the local police.
posted by HuronBob at 3:20 PM on December 13, 2006

Response by poster: OK, here goes, objectively as possible what happened. I work in a computer departmen and my job, alongside with this other person, is to print stuff. We are job equals. I was a few minutes late back from lunch, and he started in on me like a rabid dog: "I expect you back here at 1:00. Your work has become so poor here. He started blaming mistakes on me. said the were all my fault. Now, it's a small room, and he was approaching me, backing me into the corner. I warned him to back off. Now you know there is an are of personal space around you that if someone enters that space antogonistically (like, not your girl), you are being threatened. he commenced yelling at me that I was worthless to this job, a mere foot away from me, and held a fist up to my face! I said, "are you telling me you want to take it outside and duke it out? he spat out: "Jim, I would WIPE THE FLOOR WITH YOU!!" I am still cornered. I yelled back: :I am not a fighter! he backed off, I left the room, immediately reported to my supervisor, who I know for a fact will back the other guy. I have been there 3 yrs, the other guy 16. they are friends.

the advice of filing a grievance with the Department Head is now where I am at. It is obvious I will not be able to continue to work in this environment, But I will not leave without making this incident well known.

Oh, it a small high class liberal arts college.
posted by cvoixjames at 3:39 PM on December 13, 2006

So, yeah... sounds like HuronBob was right. Call the police. Just tell them exactly what you wrote there.
posted by koeselitz at 3:50 PM on December 13, 2006

Best answer: You need to get a lawyer lined up.

Write down a detailed account of what happened. Do it today, while it's still fresh. Make sure it's very detailed. Such as, exactly how late were you coming back from lunch? 5 minutes? 15 minutes? Write down a description of what you were wearing. Everything you can think of. Make sure you're not toning down your description of your feelings. If you felt threatened, then you need to say that.

Keep a diary from here on out. Write down each time you speak with your boss or your department head about this. Write down what you said, write down what they said.

Talk to your Department Head about this tomorrow. Ask them what they're planning to do about this, such as, are they going to open an investigation? Are they going to ask you both for your side of the story? Also, if you don't already have one, ask for an employee manual. Find the relevant passages about a safe workplace. Make sure you know what the college's policies are.

If they don't get back to you in the timeframe they've committed to, then you need to follow up. Make sure you're firm about this. You don't have to be a jerk about it, but make sure that they know that you're not going to drop it, either.

Don't quit or resign just because this jerk threatened you. What he did is unprofessional and illegal, and not acceptable in any workplace. If he's done this to you, then he's probably done this to other people.

You definitely don't have to worry about him doing it again. If he threatens you a second time, or if he tries to retaliate against you because you've reported this to management, then you have a serious lawsuit on your hands.

You should also think about what you want out of the situation. Do you want to keep working there? If they offered you a very very large severance package (6-12 months pay) would you take it? Do you want the guy fired? Are you willing to sue over what's happened so far?

Consider reporting this to the police, but I would talk to a lawyer about it first.
posted by bshort at 3:58 PM on December 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

Wow - one thing - do not try to hide the fact that you were late, because even so - he has no excuse for that type of behavior.

Wow, in 18 years of working I am so lucky I've never had something like that happen to me.
posted by jkaczor at 4:11 PM on December 13, 2006

Response by poster: thanks guys. That is where I am at, full documentation of everything, full pursuit of "compensation" under university policy, and just toughing it out and doing what is within my rights and not letting it just slip under the cracks. I may resign anyway, but it will not be before the guy who did this, our supervisor, the department head are all made aware of what happened, and If I leave it will be with my head held high knowing that I did the right thing, and if heads roll, well, so be it. He messed with me, and he is going to regret it.

I wont have anything new until Monday, when I return to work to file my grievance, but I think the cat is out of the bag now anyway.

thanks again for alll advice given, this has never happened before, and I did not realize what my rights were.
posted by cvoixjames at 4:40 PM on December 13, 2006

Best answer: I had this problem awhile back, except that I was the guy who threatened the co-worker verbally. First off I never meant a word of it. I was blowing off steam. It was wrong. Oh, yes, it was wrong. But the other guy could not complete simple tasks, had twenty kinds of behavioral issues, and was completely oblivious to his incompetence. Hell, the boss was oblivious too, because I always mopped up the mess.

If your co-worker has never shown signs of bullying behavior towards you or anyone else, maybe you are a poor person to work with. Ask yourself. Are you doing the best job you are capable of? Are you often late? Do you miss deadlines? Do you screw up details? Do you put extra strain on your co-drones? Seriously think about it.

That being said there is no excuse for bullying or threats. But there is such a thing as a breaking point, and sometimes things get heated. Holding up a fist, and asking you to step outside for a proper beating are two different things. Tone down the drama and take a midol. My encounter ended with an apology from me, and my co-worker eventually was fired from his position when he did not accept the apology, and his horrible work habits and personal behaviors came to light. Not my proudest achievement, but an educational experience for all involved.
posted by SMELLSLIKEFUN at 5:17 PM on December 13, 2006

Response by poster: points well taken. Yes, I am late, and, yes I have made mistakes. But know my job performane is adequate. He is jealous of me for some reason. (I only make 8.50/hour) I do not consider myself a poor person to work with, have many friends in the department. my co-worker does not. I never complain (well till now) and have always felt I did a decent job. No raise in three years. Maybe I have developed a "well, this is what they pay me for, so if I am late, too bad. the work will get done. In the end, nobody wins. just how the dice roll. And I told him: If I suck why not just fire me! He said: so you're gonna be a pussy and quit when we need you the most!

you are right, tone down the drama. Life does not come with any guarentees. I'm just gonna resign. period. its best that way. I am not fighter, and I do tend to slack off, so why not just do it right and take a trip to Ft Lauderdale and live life on my terms.
posted by cvoixjames at 5:47 PM on December 13, 2006

you are right, tone down the drama. Life does not come with any guarentees. I'm just gonna resign. period. its best that way. I am not fighter, and I do tend to slack off, so why not just do it right and take a trip to Ft Lauderdale and live life on my terms.

Well, I was on your side until you said this. For you to offer to resign so very easily in a situation which seems so totally egregious makes me think that there are some key details that you are leaving out.
posted by modernnomad at 6:55 PM on December 13, 2006

cvoixjames: I detect one of two distinct possibilities here.

1. You are a very meek person, and your bully tormented you because he knew he could, and even when in the right, you can't bring yourself to stand up for yourself. Advice: grow a backbone, be a man, respect yourself, win this struggle. For others to respect you, you have to respect yourself first.

2. There are significant portions you are leaving out, such as passive-aggressive actions on your part driving this guy to his limit, or you are a total slag and jerk-off, and you'll not be missed. Advice: do everyone a favor, and leave. Everyone is right, physical threats are not acceptable, but context is everything.

I'm with modernnomad, you've said you were going to resign/not resign/resign several times within 6 hours. There's more to this story.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:15 PM on December 13, 2006

you are right, tone down the drama. Life does not come with any guarentees. I'm just gonna resign. period. its best that way. I am not fighter, and I do tend to slack off, so why not just do it right and take a trip to Ft Lauderdale and live life on my terms.

I'm really sorry to hear this. You should stand up for yourself and not let a bully get the best of you.

Why are you giving in to his demands? Why not stand your ground and let the system work for you?

Are you going to give up this easily every time someone tries to make your life unpleasant?
posted by bshort at 7:19 PM on December 13, 2006

Response by poster: Again, perceptive points. Point is: he does not want me to quit. he wants me to stay. Now my question is, how, under these circumstances can I stay and still work with this guy? and, Ynoxas, yes, there is a lot more to this story. It seems like with any conflict, there are lines drawn: "he's right you're wrong," and the reverse notion.
one thing is I WILL BE MISSED. that is why I am revealing that card. I have the joker, and they think , well we got 4 aces. Wrong. If I play my trump, they will be blown away, and yes, I do have the joker. One thing is that I cannot stand is arrogance. I do not have to prove my manhood by fighting, or going to war.
posted by cvoixjames at 8:05 PM on December 13, 2006

Best answer: Now my question is, how, under these circumstances can I stay and still work with this guy?

You suck it up and go to work every day. You do your job. If he makes you the least bit uncomfortable, you go to your Department Head again and again and again.

And, seriously, you won't be missed. People who leave are never really missed. They might get a cake and a card and maybe a hug on their way out, but people don't sit around and say "Remember that cvoixjames guy? He was really great. Too bad he left because that Jerk bullied him around."

They just don't. You leave, you're forgotten. You leave, and you have no way of actually making a difference or getting things changed. So leave if you want, but don't think that that's somehow more effective than standing up to this guy.
posted by bshort at 9:23 PM on December 13, 2006

cvoixjames: To be clear, I'm not saying "be a man" to mean physically fight him.

I mean respect yourself, do the right thing, and take care of your problem. Do what is necessary to hold your head high. Be proud, be brave.

Regardless of what happens with this $8.50 job, you will think much better of yourself if you do the right thing here.

Good luck to you.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:09 PM on December 13, 2006

Best answer: i used to tell my clients (before i retired)
you build a record
you control the record
you protect the record
and the record will protect you.
posted by bruce at 11:36 PM on December 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

one thing is I WILL BE MISSED. that is why I am revealing that card. I have the joker, and they think , well we got 4 aces. Wrong. If I play my trump, they will be blown away, and yes, I do have the joker. One thing is that I cannot stand is arrogance. I do not have to prove my manhood by fighting, or going to war.

Yes, but you could prove your adulthood by not saying ridiculous things like this. If you think anyone will be "blown away" by you resigning an $8.50/hr job, I think you are mildly delusional. I still think there are plenty of details that you have left out of this story, ones that probably do not paint you in a flattering light. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if you fabricated or at least exagerated large parts of this story. It just doesn't pass the smell test.
posted by modernnomad at 5:20 AM on December 14, 2006

Response by poster: thanks for all the insights. That's why this forum is so great. I have taken a lot of advice from many, ignored many, and I thank everyone who responded thoughtfully to try to help and give opinions which even if I don't agree, were delivered honestly and to the point, and certainly gave me different angles to view the situation.
posted by cvoixjames at 10:44 AM on December 14, 2006

Response by poster: final update:

I quit today.

modernnomad, I realize it probably is "delusional" that they will be blown away. Thakn you for the reality check there.

But know, I have not exagerated the incident, by I will admit maybe I blew it out of proportion to fulfill some need to feel the sense of my importance, or something.

thanks for bringing me down to planet earth. I won't be missed! But, I won't miss them! Shoot, bottom line: I just wanted to leave. so I quit. maybe I was just looking for "the straw that broke the camels back" and milked it for sympathy, whatever.

Anyway, thanks guys!
posted by cvoixjames at 10:57 AM on December 14, 2006

Well, uh, that went well.
posted by fixedgear at 1:09 PM on December 14, 2006

Best answer: well I feel better. I get so sick of the alphe male personality that my strategy is: "you go guy!" does that make me a pussy or a wimp? maybe. Or does it just make me a sensitive guy who forgives those who trespass against me?

One thing for sure is I am gone from that job. Gone. "like a fifth of gin." My sanctity is number one. I know what is best for me, and again, thanks for the input from all. But if you all are just gonna do a "dogpile on the rabbit" scenario save it, this thread is dead IMO.
posted by cvoixjames at 5:37 PM on December 14, 2006

Thanks again Nothing like this has ever happened to me ever before! No, I will NOT resign

One thing for sure is I am gone from that job. Gone.


Do you have any vacation stored up? If so, I suggest using it and sorting out what you really want to do.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 12:00 AM on December 15, 2006

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