Harrassing E-mails from Co-worker

Question:

My co-worker and friend is receiving unwanted, demeaning, mean-spirited e-mails. We strongly believe the unwanted e-mail is coming from a fellow employee who is mentally unstable. He is sending the e-mail from a yahoo box using the name of a former employee that moved out of state. We hired a company to trace the origin of the email. They were able to narrow it down to the city it was sent from and the isp used. The e-mails were not coming from the former employee that moved out of state. They are being sent from a local nearby town. Our mentally unstable worker has a weekend job in the city that e-mails are being sent from. We don’t have enough proof to nail it 100% to the mentally unstable co-worker. Our boss is passive, non- confrontational, and wants my friend to just ignore the e-mails. What should my co-worker do next?

Signed,

Worried about Emails


Answer:

Dear Worried about Emails:

Getting unpleasant emails can be unnerving and very distracting at work! Save all the emails in a separate email folder, if you still have them. Then, contact Yahoo, using your Yahoo help pages, and report the abuse of Yahoo email. They may need the emails, which is why you want to have them. Also, you may need them as evidence in the future.

If the sender has represented himself or herself to be the former employee, that employee can also make a complaint. See the Yahoo help pages about both of those issues.

Then, if you can do so, block that address from even being downloaded into your mailbox. Most email programs have “rules” that will allow you to block it and have it deleted before arrival.

If your work email doesn’t allow messages to be blocked your friend should forward each of them to her supervisor, with a note saying she would like to have these retained for future reference. If you have an HR department, contact them about the matter.

If any of the emails are physically threatening, you should contact the police about those. You may want to consider contacting your district attorney’s office or city attorney’s office, to find out if the nature and number of unwanted emails your friend has received would be considered harassment. Perhaps there are investigative techniques they would suggest or they might take a criminal report, according to the contents of the messages.

You say the alleged problem co-worker is mentally unstable. Apparently that statement is based on behavior, rather than having an official diagnosis. So, it seems there has been something going on that would have led up to this, or you wouldn’t suspect the co-worker. That is what needs to be taken care of. If there are behaviors at work that are clearly inappropriate or in violation of the rules, those should be documented. If some aspects of those behaviors are frightening, that should be noted as well. Then, the supervisors should be told again, only this time with an insistent tone that indicates something must be attempted to change things. If not action is taken, it is perfectly appropriate to go up the chain of organization to get help. However, you want to make sure that you and your friend aren’t doing something, even inadvertently, to create hostility and conflict. You need to make every effort to not respond or react in a way that could be viewed as problematic.

Other than those things, there are sadly not many things that can be done if there is no clear proof of the sender of the email. It is scant consolation, but most of the time the sender gets tired of doing it without getting a reaction, and eventually stops. Hopefully that will happen in this case as well. However, do try to work with Yahoo to get some help.

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.