Coworker Threatening Me

Question:

I work with a private dentist and there is a staff of 8. There is one coworker that has made a threat towards me. Our office manager said nothing and she was right there. She did not report this to our doctor either. This coworker was screaming and making hand gestures and saying she was going to slap me. I reported this behavior to our doctor since our “manager” seemed incapable of handling this bully. He was not happy with her behavior and told me that he would take care of the situation and said she acted very unprofessional and immature. What are my rights?

Signed,

My Rights?


Answer:

Dear My Rights?:

You have a right to be respected and treated civilly in your workplace. There, however, are no laws that will assure you of that unless discrimination and/or there is sexually suggestive behavior that creates a hostile work environment. We don’t provide legal advice, but I doubt that yours is a legal matter. To be threatened with a slap is far short of being threatened with serious bodily harm, such as breaking your legs or bashing in your head. Serious threats are matters to be taken to the police.

Apparently you and this coworker don’t like each other. You’ve provoked to the point of saying she would slap you. Possibly she also has behaved in ways that made you feel like doing the same to her. Our site isn’t a quick fix to petty behavior; however, if you will scan some of the thousands of Q&As we post, I think you will find sound advice about dealing with coworker conflict. Were you wise to report this incident to your office manager and then to go over her head to your doctor? Probably. Now hopefully you doctor, office manager and this coworker who threatened and you will be brought together to work through her/your behavior that distracts for a smooth and patient-friendly dental practice. How might that happen? Ideally, such matters should not take from the important work of the dentist’s work and the office manager should handle it. Perhaps the dentist will delegate it to your Office Manager. You should be prepared to examine the “what and why” her and your interaction escalated to a slap threat. Rather than be defensive and accusing, commit yourself to collaboratively defining who should do what, when, where and how.

And more importantly, spell out how the dos and don’ts of how you should communicate. Such a meeting could make a big difference in the climate of your office if all eight of you there would do that. In short, working through this should be short and to the point. Yet grudging and lingering resentment probably will linger until you work group actually talks about talk and reviews weekly how well you are cooperating and communicating. So think this through and get past this feeling that you are right and she is wrong. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. This means that if you are to have an office that hums with good spirited support of one another, you all must think big; and that can happen. I dare you to show your Question and this Answer to your dentist and to send me his response.

William Gorden