Coworker Threatened Me And Now Is Retaliating

Question:

A co-worked threatened to break my arm if I reached into his departments again – he’s very territorial – so I went to my CEO and my co-worker of course denied saying it. The CEO was going to have him attend EAP – I said I would drop it if he would just admit that he said it. He then brought emails to the CEO that I had forwarded with religious and sexual jokes that I sent to everyone from 6 months to a year ago. No one ever complained about the emails until now. It’s simply retaliation I think. What should I do now?

Signed,

Feeling Threatened


Answer:

DearĀ Feeling Threatened:

Clearly there is more going on here than this one incident and I hope you will work to resolve those apparently long-standing issues. However this brings up the classic situation about glass houses and so forth. I’m afraid you have likely painted yourself into a corner on this one.

You were very wrong to forward the emails and you may get in trouble for doing it. The fact that no one complained does not make it right. And, apparently the only one with proof of wrongdoing is your coworker about YOU, not the other way around! So, while the matter may have been brought up as a form of retaliation, it still doesn’t mitigate the wrongness of the emails and your role in them.

I think now you may want to ask to talk to the CEO, or whoever is reviewing this, and explain the long-term conflict you and this employee have had. (I’m certain that is likely the case!) Acknowledge that you were wrong to send the emails and you apologize and will take whatever punishment seems appropriate. (You have no choice about that anyway.) Then, press forward with the fact that your situation is still separate from the threat.

If you are wise you will ask for some assistance to resolve this issue once and for all. If you can show that a reasonable person would have been required to go into the coworker’s workspace, you should do so and ask that the matter of the coworker’s excessive territorial nature be dealt with. Even if you could have avoided it, the coworker should have handled it in another way. (Unless he has tried to do that in the past and you continued to go into his workspace without reason.)

It sounds as though you have an unhappy working relationship and until that improves there will continue to be this back and forth squabbling. Both of you have been wrong, so perhaps this bring both of you back to a focus on work.

Best wishes as you find a lasting solution for this.

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.