Co-worker accuses me of hating her

Question:

I’m been working with this particular coworker for six years. We were friends until after she became pregnant and started accusing me of hating her. The more I tried to tell her that what she was thinking wasn’t true, the more determined she became that I did hate her.

Eventually I couldn’t take any more so I ended the friendship. A few months after I ended the friendship she took me to HR saying I had threatened her and that I didn’t want to work on any projects with her. She had no proof of any of this, but to solve the problem we were given ground rules to follow. I have followed these rules but my coworker is still not satisfied. It seems like every other month I receive an email from her being accused of “disrespecting” her in some form or fashion. Just yesterday she send me an email asking me to stop giving her “nasty looks.” This was after she passed me in the hallway with her head down. I’m not sure what to do about this. I’ve shown a couple of the emails to my manager but he suggests I ignore them.

This is becoming very frustrating. I don’t know what to do anymore. Should I do as my manager suggests and ignore it or should I go back to HR with the emails? If I go to HR there is a possiblity one of us will lose our job and I don’t want that; I just want her to leave me alone. Confused and Frustrated

Signed,

Confused and frustrated


Answer:

Dear Confused and frustrated:

I can certainly understand why you’re concerned. This has the potential for being very serious. At the least, it will probably continue to be frustrating if something isn’t done about it. If you haven’t sent any messages to the co-worker, but she has to you, it would seem that you don’t run the risk of being fired, she does.If she gets fired, that’s not your fault. Remember also that someone acting as strangely as you say the co-worker is acting, is capable of doing other things–and some of them could be harmful to you and others.

Your best approach would be to write an overview of what has occurred, starting from the beginning (briefly) then concluding with what has happened since the first meeting with HR. State specific dates and times if possible. Be sure to list witnesses who can verify they have never seen you doing anything to bother the co-worker.

Take the document to your manager and tell him you feel it is very important that HR know about the actions of the co-worker and that she either receive help or be made to stop.

If he disagrees, ask him if he thinks you are doing something to contribute to the situation. If he doesn’t think that, insist that you want to go to HR about it. Make this a matter of you being concerned about the co-worker’s mental stability and what she might do if she continues down this path. Deliver your report to HR and ask them to help you find a way to feel safe and unworried at work.

It may very well be that your former friend is suffering from some kind of chemical imbalance that is making her act this way. She may need help about that as well as needing to be required to stop her unnerving behavior.

Starting now, note the name of any witnesses to situations in which the two of you are involved. Do not speak to your co-worker unnecessarily, but continue to be civil when you meet. Avoid her when possible, since you really don’t know what she might do if she feels threatened by you in some way. Keep a low-profile until your managers and HR can find a way to deal with the co-worker.

Forward every message you get from this co-worker to your manager and a contact person in HR. Do not answer the messages unless it is necessary. If no action is taken by HR, try again. If necessary find someone higher in the organization who will champion your cause. Be sure to make a record of who you talk to and what is said and done about the problem. All of this assumes you are not doing anything to justify the actions of this employee. If you are not, do you best to stay focused on work and be the kind of employee others want to support.

Best wishes with this challenging situation. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe