Co-Workers Trying To Intimidate me!

Question:

The LONG story, made short: 1) A woman wrote a phrase on my cubicle whiteboard that was against the ” code of conduct.” My boss said it was “a public attempt at humiliation.” 2) A SECOND person wrote a word in Spanish. The word itself not offensive, but the connotation in which it was used, was. 3) I made a complaint. When investigated, the woman made some very dangerous/false accusations of how I harassed her and invaded her personal space. I am new at this job. I now will be known as “that guy”. Due to the small office building (maybe 40 people) I will have to walk on eggshells from now on. This woman LIED and purposely is making a hostile work enviroment. Combine that with the fact I don’t think HR is going to fully investigate the writing of the Spanish word. ( The initial offender said she didnt write the Spanish part.) What would cause someone to do this and how do I deal with it? Because of her lies, my work will never be the same.

Signed,

Victim of Hostile Behavior


Answer:

Dear Victim of Hostile Behavior:

Thank you for sharing your concerns and also for following up with clarifying information about what was written. Apparently your co-worker wrote a statement that reflected her anger with you over something she felt you had done wrong. But, you say you had done nothing wrong and are afraid her lies will hurt your future in the company.

It appears the organization took the appropriate action by investigating the actual written material as much as was merited. What was written does not seem to rise to a level of ethnic intimidation or harassment. It was a foolish, immature sounding thing to write–cubicle was even misspelled!–but does not present the co-worker as a threat. Certainly some organizational action should be taken about this. Perhaps a reprimand or something else. If the employee has done this kind of thing before, much more serious action should be taken. But it does appear the matter was investigated.

Talk to your supervisor and to HR and explain your concerns about your reputation. They may be able to reassure you about this or to make sure key people are aware that you have not been found to have done anything wrong.

If someone other than your co-worker wrote the single Spanish word “de” in the middle of the sentence (which I doubt)it apparently cannot be determined who did it. Perhaps that will come to light over time. It does not, on its own, create a hostile work environment under the law. It appears there are bad feelings between you and someone else or some others. This is very unfortunate, but may be able to be overcome over time.

Make an effort to keep this event in a balanced perspective as far as your entire work experience goes. You have not been charged with any wrongdoing, so apparently your bosses do not believe the accusations made by your co-worker. But, even if a few people believe her, I doubt they will think of you always as “that guy” or that you need to walk on eggshells. If you have done nothing wrong, you can demonstrate that through your appropriate behavior from now on and very soon people will come to the conclusion you were wrongly accused. And they certainly can see that your co-worker’s actions were foolish. They may have even gone through the same thing with her. The old adage may apply here: “Never chase a lie. If you leave it alone it will run itself to death.” As upsetting as this is, it need not ruin your entire work experience. Focus on your professionalism and good work. Avoid the co-worker and ensure that you let your supervisor know if she attempts to intimidate you again. Build good working relationships with others. Be the kind of employee about which no one would believe mean-spirited lies. If you are a new employee you will have plenty of opportunities to show your value.

Best wishes as you move past this unfortunate and upsetting experience.

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.