Grandpa attacked me at work!
March 19, 2007 9:52 AM   Subscribe

My office manager/grandfather verbally and physically attacked me recently. Can my boss/father expect me to work in the same office with gramps? We have a sales meeting next week we both are to attend but I am refusing to go if gramps attends as well. Do I have the right to refuse to go to this important meeting or be around my grandfather in the office?

This is a very long story. Family biz and politics, very sticky. I believe his attack to be dementia related. He is 81 years old. He was initially fired and has since threatened to call our clients, vendors to do nothing more than wreak havoc. He claims he is not going down without a fight.

He and my father had a sit down and have agreed to let him "retire" gracefully. Now he is back in the office as if nothing has ever happened.

I have been on the road and working rather successfully from home and now my father is telling me I have to start working at the office again. I do not feel I should have to if grandpa is there. Any suggestions?

I do not want to quit my job. He will be out of the business soon, but what am I supposed to do in the meantime?
posted by 4Lnqvv to Human Relations (32 answers total)
You have the right not to be physically attacked in your workplace.

Why does your dad want you to come back to the office? Is he just testing your loyalty/how much he can push you around? Does he not recognize how serious granddad's attack was? Is he in denial about granddad's general condition?

It sounds to me like you should stand your ground -- tell dad that you'll continue to do good work for the company, but that you're an adult and won't be pushed into working in conditions that are unsafe.

Last question: suppose after all negotiation, your dad said "come back to the office and work with granddad here, or you're out of the company." What would you choose in that scenario?
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:16 AM on March 19, 2007

How soon is soon? Can you just wait him out?
posted by DU at 10:23 AM on March 19, 2007

Isn't this an episode of Arrested Development?

Seriously, IANAL, but... "rights" are a slippery concept here. Slippery in the context of work, slippery in the context of family, double slippery when both are involved.

Of course you have the right to refuse to attend a meeting -- it doesn't sound like your father is going to fire you -- the question is what consequences his presence or your absence would have on the business.

For the good of all concerned and the business, I'd concentrate on working with your father to end your grandfather's involvement in the business as soon as possible - with his not attending this meeting as the first step.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 10:24 AM on March 19, 2007

look, this is a ridiculous question on two levels.

first level is obvious, i can't imagine how polling askme is going to get you an answer that will suit your needs. who really knows why your grandfather acted that way.

which leads me to my second point, which is that i have extended family that work in a "family business" and boy, what a shit storm that's turned out to be. for your own sake, you're better off swallowing whatever pride you have, cater to him, but make sure you set limits in a way that doesn't allow you to have negative feelings about him, because after all, why should he dictate the relationship, why should he be allowed to make things difficult, and why should you develop any resentment towards him due to certain actions on his part which you attribute to dementia.

if he is threatening to take some kind of legal recourse, or if he owns a significant stake in the business and threatens to pull away, or "fuck everyone else over", well i feel for you. thats pretty fucked up coming from gramps.

anyway, the trick is to not perpetuate the problem. better you use this opportunity to consolidate your relationship with your father, and i think if you want, its time to kick your grandfather out.
posted by phaedon at 10:26 AM on March 19, 2007

do you have the right to refuse to go to this important meeting or be around your grandfather in the office? yes, for the last 140 years since slavery was banned in this country - if you're posting from saudi arabia, ymmv.

document the assault and battery with a police report.

get a restraining order against your assailant, so that he can be arrested if he approaches you again.

buy a canister of pepper spray. if someone physically attacks you at an important meeting, aim it at their eyes, gramps or no gramps. you should be loved, but if this is not possible, at least be feared.
posted by bruce at 10:28 AM on March 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

One of the unfortunate questions that comes out of this situation is what kind of boss your dad is. Any other boss doing this would be grounds for a very nice 100K+ settlement. I understand the situation is complicated because it is grandpa but do you really want to be working for someone who isn't looking out for you?

What if a client accuses you of something inappropriate or you have an issue with another co-worker?
posted by meta x zen at 10:28 AM on March 19, 2007

You may want to point out to your father that if this were not a family business, gramps would have been fired immediately for this incident regardless of the threats he made, and may have even had legal action taken against him. You have every right to work in a non-hostile environment and protect yourself from possible future incidents, and no reasonable person should expect you to work with someone who physically attacked you.

However, since family complicates a compromise possible here? Perhaps you could arrange with your father to go to the meeting, and work in the office occasionally, but only if your father is around, too. Even with familial obligation in the picture, I wouldn't consider it at all unreasonable to refuse to be in the office alone with him--you've got to protect yourself, first and foremost. Also, maybe if your father can see firsthand what a hostile environment it is for you, he'll change his mind about wanting you two to work together.
posted by tomatofruit at 10:30 AM on March 19, 2007

This is real simple: if you're asking if you have the ethical, legal, and common sense right not to be physically attacked on the job (verbally, well, it's a question of degrees obviously but the physical attack trumps everything anyway) the answer is yes, of course you do.

But if your father refuses to deal with this to your satisfaction, your only real recourse is to turn to legal remedies. Now if this is what you're asking about state that specifically. I don't know what those remedies are but someone here probably will. But I imagine these are all, in the context of a family business, fairly "nuclear" options. None of the options are easy if you really don't want to walk away from this ridiculous, dysfunctional job situation.

If you're asking how to more successfully negotiate with your father, I don't really know what you can expect people to say. These are your bargaining options: you can agree to return on some sort of conditional option: if Grandpa acts up again you are out of the office with Father's blessings no questions asked. Or you can refuse to return until Grandpa is out. If Dad refuses to meet our conditions you have to have some sort of decision about how you will respond worked out. You can threaten to quit or you can threaten legal action. You are well in the position to execute either. Or you can capitulate and try to avoid Grandpa as much as possible. The potential consequences of any of these are fairly obvious.
posted by nanojath at 10:37 AM on March 19, 2007

In most cases, as you're probably aware, this kind of behavior would be grounds for a lawsuit. However, as this is your family and your family business, "winning" a lawsuit against it would probably be a net harm to you.

I don't think you should stay away from the office. From what you've described your grandfather should probably be under 24 hour skilled care, not in an office. Show up to the meeting and call Grandpa out. When he speaks up, ask him detailed questions requiring use of short-term memory, such as recent accounts or contacts he handled. Don't let him evade these questions - if he's as impaired as you suggest, he won't be able to answer them. He may be using inappropriate behavior as a cover for his deficits. Make everyone there see just exactly how impaired he is and how inappropriate his presence is there.

Don't ever allow yourself to be alone in the office with him. Make sure everyone there understands that you will never be alone with him. If there's a witness around, his behaving badly can only harm him and only help your cause.

This plan of action serves two purposes. It gets him the help he needs, and it gets you the outcome you need.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:47 AM on March 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

You're angry, sure, but remember that your grandfather is from another time when it was OK to slap grandchildren. Respect the man, he's an old man.

And don't do anything silly like starting a lawsuit within the family. It's your family who you fall back on, don't attack them back.

Make your dad tell grandpa to apologise, and move on from this. It's not a big deal in the bigger picture of your life, don't ruin major relationships for this.
posted by markesh at 10:54 AM on March 19, 2007

Crappy, yes, but gramps will be pushing up daisies soon enough or at the very least, demented enough for commitment into a home. Problem works itself out.

Besides, how much damage could an 80+ year old do?
posted by dr_dank at 10:57 AM on March 19, 2007

If someone attacked me like that I would refuse to be around them, period.

I'd find another job.
posted by konolia at 10:58 AM on March 19, 2007

I do not want to quit my job. He will be out of the business soon, but what am I supposed to do in the meantime?

Your answer depends on how far you're willing to go with this situation. You've already stated you don't want to quit your job, despite the fact you've been attacked and your boss is demanding that you spend more time around this person.

Frankly, they dont' seem to have your best interests at heart. You should at least entertain the idea of looking for a new job.

If you're not willing to do that, then avoid contact with the office manager. Really, you've been attacked, your boss doesn't have leg to stand on here. Ask him to get notes to you about the meeting and you'll continue working from home until Grandpa is gone.

Or is now the time for a long vacation?

Either way, ya'll should look into getting Granddad committed.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:01 AM on March 19, 2007

Can we get more details on the nature of these attacks, both physical and otherwise? Like, did he swing a shovel at you, or did he give your ear a good twist or what? Might help us figure out whether the drama is worth perpetuating.

My advice is to take whatever option allows you to still treat your 81 year old grandpa with respect. That's right, whether he seems to deserve it or not, he is an old man at the end of his life and clearly struggling with that, and you are his family. Someday it will be your turn to act crazy and offensive, but until then you're going to have to learn to keep your professional indignation and your personal hurt completely separated so that you don't make any decisions that cause you to lose contact with a family member who you won't have for too much longer.

And if the old bastard hangs on for another 20 years, then you'll hopefully be laughing about this then.
posted by hermitosis at 11:03 AM on March 19, 2007 [2 favorites]

Your father is approaching this as a son, not a business owner. That's understandable, and it's one of the perils of owning a family business, but it's not going to work right now. I'm sure that your absence is hurting the business, and your dad's passivity is also putting the business at risk for a lawsuit. If your grandfather attacked someone else, your father couldn't exactly claim that he didn't realize his father had violent tendencies. Your father is also putting your grandfather at risk by allowing him to remain in this situation. You could very easily hurt him just trying to restrain him or protect yourself.

I don't know what your relationship with your father is like or what your position in the business is, but I would approach this not as an aggrieved employee but as a member of a family and a stake-holder in a business who wants to address a painful and difficult family/employment situation. Acknowledge your father's difficult position. Explain why you don't think the current situation is working. Ask if you can come up with a plan and a timetable for getting your grandfather out of the office, which involves coming up with a plan for what to do if your grandfather does freak out and contact clients. And then, I think, you probably do have to suck it up and go to the meeting, unless you genuinely think your safety is threatened. You're part of the family and the business, and this is your problem, too.
posted by craichead at 11:13 AM on March 19, 2007

if you're being treated like a child, and not as a business acquaintance, just behave like a child. if grandpa gets away with it, i don't see why you shouldn't. it's all in the family, after all.

just be sure to tell your dad what you're going to do beforehand, and inform him that the unprofessional behavior will end as soon as your grandfather is out the door.
posted by ArchEnemy at 11:26 AM on March 19, 2007

You absolutely have a right to a safe workplace, of course. Stay the heck away. If grandpa strikes out again, there are two outcomes which are both bad. He might hurt you or you might hurt him. In either case, you lose.
posted by chairface at 11:27 AM on March 19, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all your input. I called my company employee assistance program and spoke with a counselor. Alot of what she told is similar to what I read here. STAY AWAY FROM GRANDPA!

My father is a great guy and great boss. I believe he is afraid to really pull the trigger and fire his father. This is a really tough deal for him. I think ultimately he feels he is taking his fathers life away almost literally.

I don't know that he really knows how to handle this from a human resource position.

I have decided to stand up and remove myself from the immediate situation by working from home and avoiding the meeting in Chicago if gramps goes. My dad will most likely be angry at first but he will get over it and we can move on.

It is my father's business and he can run it how he chooses. All I can do explain how uncomfortable I am right now and that I am having serious thoughts about looking elsewhere for work. If he cannot understand that, well then I really will have to move on and go somewhere else.

Anybody want to start a jet ski rental company in Puerto Rico?
posted by 4Lnqvv at 11:31 AM on March 19, 2007

Why would an office manager need to go to a sales meeting anyway?
posted by k8t at 11:41 AM on March 19, 2007

he's an 81 year old, unless you're a real wimp i would just try to stay out of his way and not worry about physical harm

and as far as insults, if it is just dimentia then ignore him
posted by Salvatorparadise at 11:52 AM on March 19, 2007

Your father is running this business in an incredibly irresponsible way. If he's going to put you at physical risk so that Gramps can save face, then the least he can do for you is pay you in full to stay home. There is nothing for you to do here. This is a gross dereliction of duty on your father's part and his mess to clean up. He's abusing his relationship with you by assuming you won't sue. Anyone else in a similar situation probably would.
posted by ahilal at 11:59 AM on March 19, 2007

Response by poster: He's a bull for an 80 year old man. When he came at me a larger than average man got between us and gramps was able to move him around pretty good.

I'm also afraid of the altercation leading to his broken hip or something similer.

It's not just insults. It is a very stressful and uncomfortable feeling when he verbally attacks. He is extremely stubborn and defending yourself only makes him angrier. This whole thing is about his ego and how he can put me down.

I have to swollow my pride and keep my defense to myself just to keep him under control. He is irrational and nasty. I've never seen anyone like him. It angers me to keep my feelings bottled up.
posted by 4Lnqvv at 12:01 PM on March 19, 2007

Maybe it's time to take a little break & either fully or partly remove yourself from the family business so that you can remain on good terms with your family. If your father had to hire an outsider to do your job, he would not be able to expect of them what he is expecting of you. And if you were working at a non-family business, human resources would probably be trying to talk you out of suing them right now. Maybe that needs to be clearer to everyone & you need to step back from the situation for your own well-being & perspective.

Jobs will come and go. So will income. But you will only have one father and one grandfather. In the end it doesn't benefit anyone to allow a family business to tear apart both the family and the business. Nobody wins.

Obviously, YMMV.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:10 PM on March 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Ask your dad what he will do if the next person your grandfather attacks is a non-relative employee, client, contractor, or delivery person.

Point out to your father that he risks losing the whole business to a lawsuit; that can't be what he wants. This isn't about him choosing between his son and his father; he has to choose between his father and his business. What is more important to him?
posted by rtha at 12:16 PM on March 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

This sounds terribly familiar to me. I have an abusive father and brother. Countless times I've been expected to 'act like nothing happened' the day after an episode of abuse. The last time my brother attacked me, he punched me in the face in front of about forty members of the extended family. Then I was expected to sit down across the table from him. And I did. However, things went south pretty quickly. He kept threatening me and I kept promising to call the police if he layed another hand on me. Fortunately, he left.

My advice: tell your father that if your grandfather physically attacks you again, you're going to call the police. Sure, it's most likely dementia and not genuine ill will on the part of your grandfather, but I still think that threatening to dial 911 is best. Your father will want to avoid that at all costs, so he'll do whatever he has to to prevent the situation from arising. Which is as it should be. Also, he'll get the message that you're not going to be anyone's punching bag and that you're not going to cover up someone else's transgressions.

If worse comes to worse, the police are called, and they actually do take your grandfather into custody (which seems to me terribly unlikely), the court will probably end up requiring that his condition be treated. And that wouldn't be a bad thing, would it?
posted by Clay201 at 12:18 PM on March 19, 2007

Christ, sorry 4Lnqvv... it sounds like a pretty sticky situation. All i can recommend is that you take a 'leave of absence' for a while, it must be having a serious effect on you, and keeping that anger bottled up is not a good thing.

Go and get another job somewhere else for a while, bar tending, whatever. If your grandad is cracking it shouldn't be for too much longer and you can always come back after... if you want to!
posted by derbs at 4:29 PM on March 19, 2007

I work in a family business as well. I hate to sound morbid, but until someone dies and leaves you the business, you have no rights. At least that's how it is at my house.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 5:23 PM on March 19, 2007

Another question to consider - what if gramps did carry out his threat of calling clients? Do the clients know him well from previous phone contacts, or is he a bit of a stranger? If they don't know him already then perhaps his ramblings wont be taken seriously. If they do know him well from phone contacts - what are the chances he has already been exhibiting aggressive or inappropriate behaviour on the phone?
posted by Joh at 6:50 PM on March 19, 2007

I do not want to quit my job.

And yet you must. Or resign yourself to getting slapped around until his arms get tired. Your choice.
posted by LarryC at 7:51 PM on March 19, 2007

I second what LobsterMitten said.
Sorry markesh, I don't agree with you. Who gives a shit what generation gramps is from when bullying and intimidation and abuse of children was ok. It never is nor was ok. Period. Respect is earned, not given just because. Fuck. That.

Family or no family has nothing to do with the fact he assaulted you. Period. And this is your office manager/supervisor. Do not make any excuses for his behaviour either. The fact he threatened the business by calling clients is reason enough to shit can gramps. And get him on meds like they do at the retirement home. Why should you wait it out┬┐ I'd walk. Security and a safe workplace should be of primary concern, instead of taking abuse. Why should you be arming yourself with pepper spray for chrissakes┬┐

I'd charge him with assault. It will be much easier to get rid of gramps. In fact, he will get a cease and desist order from the courts or you could recommend a psychiatric/geriatric evaluation and maybe then he can return 'to work' after getting proper treatment.

Do not be like your father, who never stood up to his own father. It's time for you to stand up on your own feet. Your dad won't like it because it'll mean he has to look at his own inability to stand up to his own dad.
Some families are fucking toxic. If I sound angry, it's because I've seen too many ruined people who thought their folks were ok, when clearly they weren't.

All the best, chin up, stand up, back straight.
posted by alicesshoe at 1:31 PM on March 20, 2007

Response by poster: Update: My dad is really a great guy but I am seeing some strange behavior patterens in regards to interactions with his father.

Anyhow, I met my dad before work this morning and told him I would not be going on the sales meeting/trip with gramps. He initally accussed me of being selfish and I agreed he was right. In this case I have to look out for me first. This is an unhealthy work/personal problem and I will be removing myself from all grandpa encounters as much as possible while still completing my duties. We discussed it civilly and he excused me from the trip and all is cool with us.

I think the worst is over and gramps will be out within the next two weeks, during which time the company lawyer can sort out the mess and he can be legally and "gracefully" be retired.

Thanks all.
posted by 4Lnqvv at 9:47 PM on March 20, 2007

My sympathy to your situation, 4Lngvv. My mother just died of alzheimer's. Her and your grampa sound like they are the same sort. Ugh. I hadn't spoken to my mother since 2001, the last time she got vicious.

Be sympathetic towards your father in this. It is probably tearing him apart inside. You have to stand your own ground about the business, but I'm talking about the family side of things. This is real stress for both you and your father.
posted by Goofyy at 8:19 AM on March 22, 2007

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