Was A Long-Ago Event An Assault?

Question:
I have been in my present job thirty-two years. I started my job when I was 18 or 19. There was a coworker who bullied me for over ten years! One time he grabbed me by neck and by my trousers and threw me nearly head first into a van ,where we were loading food. I felt very upset at the time but didn’t show it. The co-worker retired many years ago. Is that classed as an assault?

Answer:
Whatever the reason for your coworker’s actions, it sounds as though he was older than you, which would have made his actions seem even more threatening, since you probably had been on the job less time. 

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How Can I Show My Coworker Didn’t Have My Best Interest at Heart?

Question:
One day I did not turn up to work at the expected time. My co-worker, who I do not get on with, was stomping around the office asking other co-workers why I had not turned up, intermittently going into a shared office and asking “has she not turned up?”

Later he asked where I live and my phone number to contact me. He distracted quite a few people who were tying to get on with work. Basically he made a show of it.

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Co-Worker Is Obsessed With Her Dislike of Me!

Question:
I’ve worked for my company for about 1 year now. I was promoted 2 months after I started. My old boss is now my colleague as we share the same boss. I was promoted to a trainer position on her shift. Any new employees that comes in, I am responsible for their training and development.

The first day of my new position she came up with the idea that I was trying to take her job. She is known for being extremely rude and unbearable. Plenty of people quit because they couldn’t deal with her behavior. She has loud outbursts on the production floor, she yells at people and cries at the drop of a dime. I’ve always been cordial to her and tried to help her as much as possible.

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Boss’s Daughter Seems To Think She Is The Boss

I was wondering what to do about my boss’s daughter. I have been here two years and was hired 2 months prior to her but she gets all the recognition for everything. My boss (her father) talks to customers and friends about how she handles his biggest account in the business and she is only 20 years old. However, she needs everyone’s help since she doesn’t know how to do it herself without messing up.

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Should  I Get A New Job Or Hope For Improvement?

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about one’s career direction:

I have worked at a recreational center for almost four years now. I work different attractions and ensure everyone is enjoying their time there. We are always interacting with customers as many kids come for birthday parties and are very excited to be there. Many of my coworkers are in high school or college like me, most of which don’t do their jobs as they should.

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How Can I Avoid Being a Lame Duck Employee?

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about how to
respond to being pushed out of a job. 

Question:
I work in a very small office, one attorney and two legal assistants, including myself. I worked under an attorney who recently retired, and am finishing up working on his cases with the other attorney. However, the case load is very light, leading me to have little to do at times. The remaining attorney is still taking on cases, and has many on his plate at the moment.

My issue is with the other legal assistant, who was working directly under the remaining attorney. When I was first hired, I was promised to learn several skills, including bookkeeping. However, throughout my time here, the other legal assistant has constantly shut me out of learning how to do many of the office manager-type duties, things that I was told I would be doing when I accepted the job.

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How to Prove a Coworker is Lying About Overtime?

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about overtime abuse:

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How to prove your colleague is wrongly getting overtime? I’m inquiring because my coworker has been putting unnecessary O/T for a while now. He is conducting normal business hours duties on overtime after not working for majority of the business days. There is a lot more to the story, but I would like to start with proving his overtime abuse. PS My manager told me my coworker works after hours but does not get paid for it and I really feel strongly that is false.

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What To Do About A Problem Group of Coworkers?

A question to Ask the  Workplace Doctors about workplace conflict. 

Note to the author of this question: We sent our response to the email address you provided, but it was returned as invalid. We’re hoping you will come back to the site to see our advice about your workplace concern!

Question: 
I recently became president among the workers in our unit. The rest of our colleagues (whom we dubbed the Red Sparrows) are always sucking up to whoever new administrator comes to our unit. They badmouth our admin to us and if we agree with them, they report it to her. They expose our flaws which are already personal and has nothing to do with them. We tried to settle it personally face to face and they agreed but they still work underground and I still hear whispering of rumors. Worse, our new admin is a manipulative one and uses our faults to control us. What do we do? Please help.

Response:
You are the president of your employee group, which means you have a leadership role. You obviously care about the well-being of your group, as shown by the fact that you took the time to write to us to ask for some assistance. I hope you will use your leadership role to encourage and enable everyone to feel as positive as possible about being at work. Any work is tiresome enough without having upsetting situations on our minds.

I’m not clear about whether or not the colleagues to which you refer are part of another group or part of the group of which you are the employee president. If they are part of another group and have their own president, perhaps you can work with that person to build a better workplace. If they are part of your group, you should be careful to not take sides, so you can represent everyone in your president role.

You said that you and others on one side of the conflict, refer to a group of your coworkers as “The Red Sparrows”—referring, I assume, to the movie starring Jennifer Lawrence, in which Sparrows are female Russian spies who use sex to get information. If some of your coworkers have lied and tried to get you and others in trouble, I can understand your dislike of their behaviors. However, as the leader of the group, you shouldn’t participate in that kind of labeling and you should stop it when others do it. If those other coworkers find out about the name and decide to go to managers about it, you and your group would rightfully get into trouble. The group you dislike would look like the victims and your group would look like the bad guys, which is not what you want!

The next thing you mention is that sometimes a coworker in the other group will say something negative about the administrator. If one of your group says she agrees with the critical remark, the person making it goes and tells the administrator. So, the person who agreed gets in trouble, but not the person who started the bad-mouthing. My first thought upon reading that was that a person would have to be very foolish to engage in a criticizing conversation with someone they don’t trust. Even people you trust will sometimes repeat things that get to the ears of the person you’re talking about. That is another reason why you should use your leadership role to help your team focus more on work and less on negative talk.

You were wise to try to help resolve the conflict by talking directly to the other group, even though it seems the good outcome didn’t last very long. However, positive efforts like that are never wasted. It could be that one or two or more of the group would like to get along better with the rest of you and will be more encouraged to try to make that happen. At least, if the administrator talks to you about the situation, you can say what you have tried to accomplish. Even the other group will have to admit that you and others tried to improve relationships.

Your group will be much, much better off if you make a commitment to each other, to set an example of courtesy, civility and cooperation. You’ll feel better, people will see you in a better light, and your administrator will notice it too.

That brings us to your comment that your administrator uses the faults of employees to control them. I don’t know exactly what that might involve, but perhaps you mean that once she identifies a problem with an employee’s performance or behavior, she focuses on that problem and uses it as a reason to watch and wait to criticize and make the employee feel badly. Or, perhaps she threatens them with sanctions or being fired and keeps them worried about it all the time.

You may be correct in your opinion that your administrator is devious and controlling. I’ve met a few managers—and employees—who fit that description and I know how frustrating and depressing that can be. However, if each of you fulfill your job descriptions, follow the rules and are pleasant to work with, your administrator will have nothing to manipulate anyone about. It might not make her more likable, but at least it will take away the ammunition she has used to make employees feel anxious.

Keep in mind that the role of an administrator is to see to it that work is done correctly and on time, in a work environment that doesn’t represent a problem for the business. Ideally, supervisors, managers and administrators are concerned about the feelings of employees and will try to create a positive workplace. But the reality of work is that, although we can’t require bosses to be nice, they can require us to do our jobs correctly. It’s what we were hired to do and unless we are being asked to do something illegal or humanly impossible, it is what we should do, every day. That kind of focus on good work and good behavior, is the only way to be sure we’re not the ones creating the problems.

I also want to remind you of this: Quite often people who are chosen as leaders of employee groups feel that their primary job is to stand up for the employees, no matter what. After a while, every issue becomes “us versus them” and the leader feels he or she has to lead the fight. But, it doesn’t have to be that way—and shouldn’t be. For one thing, the employees aren’t paying your salary, so your first responsibility is to do your job. For another thing, you will wear yourself out trying to keep everyone in your group happy and trying to resolve every conflict in favor of your group.

If you are working in a professional environment (and the fact that you have an administrator leads me to think you are), each adult is intelligent enough to work through their own problems. Your job is to represent them to management, if they can’t seem to solve problems themselves, then let management take action if they choose to do so.

You are in an ideal situation to suggest to your administrator that all employees could benefit from regular meetings, with her participating, to talk about organizational goals, new equipment, new procedures and solutions to common work problems. At the same time, there could be an opportunity to talk about the best examples of teamwork and cooperation since the last meeting and to discuss issues that may be caused by misunderstandings or miscommunication.

If your administrator doesn’t want to have those meetings, you could lead the way in talking about those things at break time or during casual conversations. You can help the whispering and rumors be replaced by smiles, good cheer and looking to the future. There will always be the occasional gripe or frustration, but there shouldn’t be active hostility and resentment of people or the work.

At the end of your description of work, you asked, “What do we do?” When there is a conflict, it is human nature to hope for a way to stop the behaviors of others. But, as you correctly expressed it, the only thing you and your group have control over are your own actions and reactions. Take control of your role as the president of the group and don’t let your desire to help, drag you and them down into an unhappy pit of anger and despair. The other employees don’t have the power to ruin your daily work or get anyone in serious trouble, unless you and your group give them that power, through your own behaviors.

Help your group think of ways they can respond to conversations that have led to problems in the past. For example, if someone else criticizes the administrator, a good way to respond is to disrupt the conversation and say something like, “Oh well, I don’t have any control over any of that, so I just focus on work and think about the weekend. Do you have anything fun planned?” (That may sound completely unrealistic, but you get the idea.) It is very helpful to have a few scripts you can use, when you may not normally be able to think of a quick and useful response.

Another thing that may help is to think and talk about the value of your work to others, to your community, to your families, to each of you as individuals. Having a job is about more than the salary, although that is the most important part for many people. Having a job is about providing a service or a product or supporting someone who is providing a service or product—and we have a lot of years to do it in.

As the years go by, do you want to be involved in a workplace with unhappy drama like this all the time? Or, do you want to be able to come to work, have a good time, do something worthwhile and go home? The only way to have that good outcome is to see the squabbling, gossiping and picking at each other, for what it is—useless and time-wasting behavior that accomplishes nothing good.

I’m not implying that the hurt and anger you and others sometimes feel is completely unjustified. But, based on your description, I would guess that some of the colleagues you are upset with, feel that they have been wronged too. Now is a good time to stop all of that, by focusing more and more on the work of your unit, whatever that is. If there was a crisis right now, everyone would need to work together and they would find a way to do it. Find the way when there isn’t a crisis and all of you will enjoy work much more

Best wishes to you in your leadership role and in your work and life. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know how you work through this situation.

Tina Rowe
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What Can I Do About A Factory Coworker Who Plays Loud Rock Music All Day?

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about loud music in a factory. 

Question: 
I am working in a factory together with other people in same area and one of them plays rock music on his sound system at maximum volume nearly all day. I am the one that works with him and we are the closest ones to sound system all day (1-2 meters). Neither me or anyone else have a problem with music being played, as long as it is on a decent volume.

I have to mention that we work in a factory near an oven that makes noise, but as soon as he starts playing music, I cannot hear that oven (being in the middle between the radio and oven) Is there any law that I can find on a official website so I can print it and “hit my manager over the face” with it so he takes action about this ?

Response:
It may be that you are outside the United States, so perhaps there are workplace health and safety regulations (rather than law violations) that apply. Even when there are health and safety requirements about noise, workplace noise complaints are usually more easily handled by supervisors and managers. The matter is discussed in this article Business Management.   The article doesn’t provide helpful advice, but it reinforces the fact that managers are responsible for reducing conflict at work–and music is a prime source of conflict.

Since you say you want to “hit your manager over the face” with information about a law, I assume you have talked to him about it and he hasn’t done anything, so you are doubly frustrated. Consider some of the following thoughts:

*Do you have an employee union or council that could support you, if you presented a request to them?
*Have you put your complaint in writing to your supervisor or just talked about it to him?
*Have other employees complained also? Would they be willing to write their complaints?
*Have you told your coworker that the loud music is too loud for you to be able to concentrate on work and you would like for him to turn down the volume?
*Have you tried wearing noise reducing ear protection? For example, instead of only blocking out noise, could you play a “white noise” or “pink noise” sound, to add an element of calm to your day?

If you write a complaint to your supervisor or to anyone else, there are some things you will need to include. I’ll mention them here, so you can think about how you want to communicate your concerns.

*Put the focus on how the music has a negative effect on your work and on your emotional and physical well-being. Think about this and be able to put the negative effect in writing as well as verbally.

Do your ears ring after work?
Are you unable to hear announcements or needed work conversations?
Does the music combined with the oven sound create a double negative impact on your hearing?
Has your ability to work with that coworker decreased because of the hostile feelings this situation has caused?
If you have talked to the coworker about it, has his response been courteous or does he act as though he doesn’t care about the results of his actions?

*Consider this: If the music was lower, would the oven noise be just as much of an irritant? Someone may ask you about it, so have a response to that question. I would think the oven noise is more of a constant mechanical roar or whirring sound, while music, although sometimes softer, is much more distracting, especially when it is loud and if there are vocals with it. It’s impossible to shut out all the lyrics.

*Was there ever a time when the only noise was the oven? If so, when the coworker first started playing his music, was the volume at the current loud level right away or has it increased since then?

*Do other people have sound systems and do they play loud music too?

*Big question: How much do you think the employee would have to lower the volume, for it to be tolerable? Does it need to be half its current volume? Suggest an amount, as a way to say that you are not asking that the music be turned off, just turned down.

When you write to your supervisor, ask for action, rather than only bringing the matter to his attention again. For example, “I have complained about this before, but nothing has been done. Now the problem is so severe than I am putting it in writing to emphasize that I want action taken to make work more tolerable for me and others who have to work around loud music.”

You manager is not obligated to take action, but strongly asking for it might at least make him investigate the situation more closely and talk to several people about it. The action might be to have you wear noise reducing ear protection or just to have the employee lower the volume somewhat. Let your supervisor know if the remedy doesn’t stop the problem. You can do that while still being cooperative and courteous.

I wish there was a magic answer for you, so you would not have to deal with this irritating and potentially harmful situation. But perhaps you can get some relief by insisting on it and enlisting the aid of others.

Best wishes to you. If you have the time and wish to do so, please let us know what happens. It might be very useful for us to share with others.

Tina Rowe
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