Harassment at Work By Ex-Friend of Co-Worker

Question:

There is a co-worker of mine who’s ex-boyfriend found out where she works and now has our work phone number. He calls and harrasses myself and other employees because we answer the phone and he even calls and harrasses her. We just recently filed a police report but there isn’t much the police can do about it at this point.

This co-worker also shares a child with this guy and she has a restraining order against him which he defies. Is there ANYTHING we can do? I don’t know how much more I can take because I answer the phones the majority of the time and he usually has some not so nice words for whoever answers the phone. He also knows where our office is located and I fear that he will take it to another level and actually walk into the building to possibly do harm or see just how far he can go with it. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Signed,

Worried


Answer:

Dear Worried:

I don’t know where you work, but certainly it seems there is plenty for the police to do at this point, to incarcerate this man.

Your manager, or you and other employess should contact the command staff (chief or sheriff or the commanders of the investigative section) of your police department, as well as the district or county attorney who will prosecute these crimes, and ask for assistance and escalation of action to the highest level possible.

Harassment is a crime and violating restraining orders is a crime. If the police know where he is…and they can find that out if the suspect is using a phone…the man should be in custody.

The suspect needs to feel that any negative action on his part will be acted on immediately. That may or may not stop him, but at least something will be done.

If your employer has the money to do so, he or she may wish to consult an attorney about civil action related to the disruption of work. However, I can understand if that would be avoided just to keep from making an already angry person, angrier.

We are not there and do not know the whole story or anything about the security aspect of it. So, as much as I might like to suggest some things, I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to do so.

Instead, ask the district attorney or police if they have advice for what your demeanor should be when the man phones. Ask for advice about protective measures in and around your workplace. And use caution in any conversations or dealings with him. Someone like that could easily refocus his anger.

In the meantime, the people who own the building, if your business does not, should be made aware of the potential for problems. Other offices in the building, as well as all of your office staff should have the license plate and personal and vehicle description for the person (preferably photos, so there is no question about it). And, there should be a protocol in place for everyone who answers the phone when he calls.

If there are custodians or maintenance staff, they should be alerted as well. The truth is that until this matter is resolved through arrest or the issues cleared up in some other way, there are many potentials for violence or harmful acts against people or property.

I hope this matter is resolved quickly. Encourage your manager and anyone else who has made a report, to not let up until full action is taken.

I hope also you are able to get your work done without this completely obssessing everyone. That is one of the really bad aspects to situations like this. You can’t help but think about it, even though likely everything will work out fine once the personal issues between the man and your coworker are settled.

She likely feels very badly about it too. Support her at work without making it the sole source of conversation. Do not become involved to such an extent that you get caught up in the quarrel or any part of it. You may need to temporarily help her keep her attention on work. I often tell people that when things like this are going on, they should remember that the one solid thing they have is a steady job, so they sure don’t want to jeopardize that.

Best wishes throughout all of it. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

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.