I’m Afraid of a Coworker Who Wrote Angry Remarks On Facebook

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors: What should I do about
an obsessive coworker who vented his anger about me on Facebook? 

Question:

I have been working at a grocery store for about 3 months now. All was going well till this guy I work with posted a “song” on Facebook that he wrote talking about me and how I was smart and I was beautiful, I have only ever said “Hi. How are you?” to him. The next day he messaged me telling me these things and more like he’s been “thinking of me for weeks.” I replied to this “That’s cool. Thanks”.

A few days later he doesn’t leave me alone so I let him off easily, saying “I need to focus on school and am not looking for a relationship type thing.” He tells me it’s OK. Another few days later I see he’s posted something on Facebook about me again, but this time it’s another “song” he made up saying how someone told him that I went out with a 16 year old (I’m 18 and the creepy guys is 21, I think) and that I’m a liar.

I confronted him sending him a message telling him to stop making posts with me in it, it makes me uncomfortable. He Unfriended me and I blocked him. The next day or so my friend showed me another post about me, calling me and my 16 year old friend I work with f*gg*ts and saying I’m a liar and calling my friend all sorts of different things that were not appropriate and lastly calling me a b***h in two other posts, saying that I better not lie to him again.

I never went out with my 16 year old friend so I don’t know where he got that from. I’m really scared going to work and leaving at nine o’clock at night by myself, when this creep works. I don’t know what to do about it. When I see him I pretty much have a panic attack because I don’t know him and I don’t know what he will do. I’m afraid of working now, what should I do?

Afraid

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Dear Afraid,

Hello and thank you for sharing your concerns with us. You should go to your manager about this matter immediately. You never know when someone who uses Facebook or other sites to vent their anger will get worked up to the point they decide to do more than write or talk. It sounds as though you handled your coworker’s first actions toward you correctly. You were courteous and clear about not wanting a closer friendship. Thus, his angry rants are doubly inappropriate. You are right to feel worried about being around the coworker. Even if he had not become angry, his “songs” and excessiveness would be inappropriate and worrisome.

Show your manager and HR any screenshots you have that document what the coworker wrote. Ask them if there is a way to adjust your hours so you don’t have to be working when he is working. If that’s not possible, say you would like to have someone walk you to your car when you leave work. Surely you are not the only person in the store at that time, so someone should be able to assist.

Many, many workplaces deal with these situations—and I’m sure the company you work for has had similar experiences in other locations. (I tell you that so you won’t feel that you are asking too much. A store manager wants employees to be able to focus on work, so it is to their benefit to help make that happen. They don’t have any control over what happens away from work, but at least while you’re there, they are responsible for your well-being.)

If you don’t have documentation, provide the names of people who can verify what was written on Facebook. Apparently the sixteen year old friend you speak about is also an employee there, so the store manager has two employees with a reason to feel worried about being around a coworker. His messages do not seem to rise to the level of being criminal or directly threatening, but they certainly indicate an immature person who might do something harmful—and they may violate store policies to a degree that would get him fired or disciplined in some way.

If he uses words that sound physically threatening—for example, “If she lies to me I’m going to slap her face”, or worse threats—call the police or call your county’s District Attorney or County Attorney and ask for advice about whether that is a law violation. You don’t need an attorney for that—they are your attorneys. You can have your parents make those calls as well. Many people your age get assistance from their parents for something that serious.

Although you don’t know if your angry coworker is following you around away from work, it wouldn’t be surprising. If you live at home, let your parents and family know about this and provide them with information about the coworker’s car and his personal characteristics, so they can spot him if they see him near your home. Let your friends know to be on the lookout too, since often people who stalk someone will stalk their friends, to see if they are with them. Tell your manager and HR what you’re doing and let the 16 year old know he should tell his family as well.

Neither of you should confront the coworker and your friends should leave him alone. You want to avoid being seen as an aggressor and you want to avoid stirring up more anger. Leave it up to your managers to decide if other employees should be alerted.

All of the above is the best advice I can give you without being there and knowing the exact circumstances. The main thing is to tell your manager right away. Then, follow the precautions you should always take, about locking your car, looking around when you park, and using safety precautions at home and away.

I never downplay these situations, because I do not want to make someone think they have overreacted and also because there is no way to know what could happen. On the other hand, it is true that often these situations resolve themselves over time. Your angry coworker may get over being angry and realize he has stepped way over the line. Hopefully he will decide he should keep quiet, leave you alone and behave himself, to avoid getting in trouble. The best result will be that he realizes you never were rude to him and have treated him fairly, so he will just move on and you can too.

Best wishes to you with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know the outcome.

Tina Rowe
Ask the Workplace Doctors