Afraid of Manager’s Threats

Question:

Last year a manager (who has a drinking problem) was listening to me speak to a woman about a self defense class we would like to start for children at the hospital we work at and how I would like her opinion.

We were at a round dining table at a fundraising event and I was working this event. After asking my question, I looked over at him out of politeness not to leave someone out of a conversation. He looked at me with a blank stare and said with no hesitation, “Don’t try to pull any karate s— on me because I would pull out a gun and shoot you in the head”. I waited for a smile, nudge, something as a joke, but his face was straight, and his eyes were lifeless. I was amazed, startled and embarrassed at the same time.

I later approached him at the end of the evening and told him never to speak to me in that manner again. He didn’t recall what had happened and could not relate to my upset.

Later that evening, I told my friend who also worked at the hospital what he said to me and she said that he had just said that same day that due to his new promotion, because of his fear of failure, if it didn’t work out, he would pull out plan B and “pull a Bonnie and Clyde”. She asked what that was to him, and he replied he would just put a silencer on the gun and start out with the CEO, his secretary and work his way down the offices shooting those he didn’t like, keeping those he did, safe in their offices. He said when he got to the end of everyone he needed to kill, he figured the police would be there by then and he would either get away or kill himself. He described this to her in great detail, how he would shoot each one, who would be turned to the wall, who would have others watch, etc. She said he spoke of this once later after this same evening.

He has blackouts due to the drinking and the administration is well aware of this. My friend who was dating him at the time (which I never approved of- something was just not right with him) told me that in conversation with her, he said he didn’t recall saying anything like this to me at all!

I was not drinking, I was at a work function and he was sitting next to me. This friend of mine was “employee of the year”, but after I encouraged her to speak up about her experience and mine, she was fired, and I am now left with him. The union got involved and I am not even in the union but due to union employees fears, they went to the Board of Directors and administration about the issue.

Administration denied the entire altercation. This manager and I still work across the hall from each other. We do not talk. The hospital did not report it to anyone such as MHA and not even our internal Security Manager. The outcome was for him (the manager) to have an evaluation. He passed with flying colors, because as he told my friend who he was dating (at the time) that he has been through so many evaluations, he would have no problem getting through their people. We were told to try to get along and act as if everything was fine between us to settle any concerns other staff may have. After one year, I am still scared of him, as are many people that know of the situation. I take medicine to go to work and just want out! The Board of Directors turned away from the issue disregarding it to “not cause a stir with him if he was unstable and because we are in a small town.”

I want out of my job due to these circumstances, the stress is killing me. I am not a manager, but have worked there 7 years to his 3 years. I am looking for other jobs constantly. I just want to leave quietly not to get him riled up. Do I have rights to leave or quit due to this and possibly get compensated or is it too late? My doctor knows about it, he says I need to leave because of the stress and physical damage. I am also scared for my children.

In the last week, his employee (who does believe that this incident happened) said that he said “he was sure that all the managers were out to get him and see him fail”. His fears of how his co-workers see him is coming back again. This concerns me. By the way, I did not report it to the police because I was sitting across from the local police Chief and his wife. His wife heard the comment, but immediately turned her head not to be involved. I am sure she is quite aware of what was said. I tried to contact her later and she would not return my emails. They are huge supporters of the hospital.

I spoke to my manager right away that night and she did nothing, chalking it up as he was “buzzed” and didn’t know what he was saying. Which doesn’t surprise me because they are all friends that hang out together outside of the workplace. Do you have any advice for me? Can I quit my job in the state of Michigan due to these circumstances and get any financial assistance for me and my family while looking for a job? I don’t want to leave under a way that could possibly effect future jobs. Everything was documented on my end and with the union. Our HR department was of no help and if was basically us against them.

The CEO stayed out of it, but the CFO told me that he handled the entire situation wrong in the end and apologized, hoping to make it all go away. As of now, it still has not. Is there any help or direction you could give me?

Signed,

Frightened


Answer:

Dear Frightened:

You should talk to an attorney who specializes in employment issues or at least is knowledgeable about your rights in the state. I doubt you can quit and be compensated, but someone who reviews all the circumstances, may see it differently and might be able to negotiate something for you. Also, an attorney may be able to intervene for you with your employers on the overall issue in some way.

However, whether or not you are compensated, if you really believe the manager is likely to do something violent at any time, you should get out of that work environment immediately. What good does a steady paycheck do you if you aren’t around to collect it?

I find it difficult to understand, in this day and age, with ample evidence about workplace violence, why any employer would tolerate having an alcoholic manager who needs to have a psychiatric evaluation! On the other hand, I don’t have access to all of the information and it may be there is something more to the story or to their responses.

Unfortunately, now that so much time has gone by, they probably feel that the matter is over and he has straightened up his act. You don’t say that he is coming to work drunk, so apparently he is getting is work done to a level they find satisfactory and is not obviously intoxicated. The problem is, if his work drops to the point he is dismissed, no one knows how he might react. That’s another reason to make sure you are not there when something happens. It isn’t inevitable that anything WILL happen–and many people talk big when they are drinking or posturing to impress people, without ever actually meaning it. But there is a risk–and that is a big risk.

So, I think you should see an attorney, at least for a consultation visit. And, I think, for your mental health at least, you should strongly consider quitting soon, no matter what the chance of compensation. If you believe what your friend told you about the manager’s comments and if you believe he was serious about what he said to you a year ago, there is plenty of reason to be concerned enough to remove yourself from there before he acts on his talk.

I also think you should give a description of the manager and his vehicle to your family and perhaps a neighbor you trust. They should know to be cautious if they see him and not to open the door to him.

You are probably already being cautious and I don’t want to make you more fearful. However, it will be wise to consider where you might retreat to at work if he were to become angry or violent. That advice is good in any work place, even when there is no current problem.

Best wishes with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what actions you take and the result of all of it.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.