Coworker Gets Away With Everything

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about coworker conflict:

Today was a really bad day. I was working and doing my job. I work at a plant that processes frozen meat. I love my job and want to keep it. A coworker threw a piece of frozen meat at my face and hands. I told him not to do it again, and pointed my finger at him so that he would know that I was talking to him. He started waving and throwing his hands up in the air and screamed ” I “f-word” did not throw that “f-word” meat, you “f-word b***h.” Our supervisor was there and heard this and just held his arm, smiling and giggling. I told her and she did nothing. I do not want to lose my job for telling. Please help. I did not cuss him back.

Signed, Worried

Dear Worried:

Apparently this coworker and you have had some conflicts before. Unless it was much worse than you describe, you would not be fired for reporting this incident, since clearly there was wrongdoing by the person who screamed obscenities at you. If such an attempt was made, you should consult an attorney since you would certainly have valid information to present about it.

The big issue is how to make things better in the future. Your first step is to talk to your supervisor if you think that is possible. Tell her how much you enjoy your job and want to stay there, and ask her if she has suggestions for a better relationship with the coworker. If you are a good employee the supervisor will want to ensure that you stay and that you continue to do a good job, so that conversation may get a helpful response from her. At least you might hear her thoughts about the conflict you and the coworker have.

Next is the issue of the coworker. It sounds as though this is someone to avoid! You should be civil and courteous, but I doubt you will be able to develop a friendship or even a semi-friendship. If something similar happens again–something that seems significant to your safety, your mental and emotional well-being or your ability to do your job well, do not confront him.

Wait and make a formal complaint to your supervisor, with a copy to that person’s supervisor or manager. List every witness to the situation. Mention any history of conflict. Ask for help in resolving the conflict and stopping the inappropriate behavior.That suggestion may not work for the culture of your work group, but it is one way to ensure that someone higher than your supervisor takes notice. If you have friends there, ask them if they have ideas for their viewpoints of the situation and if they have ideas for handling it in a way that is positive and not in violation of any policies or rules. The one thing to keep in mind is that no one has to endure being called names such as you describe. There are laws about that! If you think it would be helpful, you may want to see an attorney immediately, for a free consultation, to find out your options.Best wishes as you develop a way to keep working without being made unhappy and frustrated by a coworker–and the supervisor who seems to not help. Give her another chance and see what you can accomplish.

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.