No Action About My Complaint of Threats

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about threatening coworker: He bad-mouth me behind  and jumped in my face.

I have been working with this guy for about two years and recently he was wrote up for having a PDD in the workplace. He accused me of telling on him, but I didn’t. He followed that by talking bad about me behind my back and told a fellow employee that we were about to fight about it. The employee told me and I confronted him about it but he denied saying anything. Months went by and every day a new story came to my attention by fellow employees telling me that he was badmouthing me and also saying he had been following me to jump me outside of work.

As soon as I found out about this I went to my supervisor, but nothing was done. The coworker continued to bad-mouth me behind my back and everyone continued to tell me about it, so I went to him and told him if he has that big of a problem with me he needs to go talk to the supervisor. He immediately jumped in my face and said I needed to drop it then walked off. I then went to my supervisor about it and he then told me to file a complaint with Employee Services and I took them a statement from me and 3 other people that had heard him say he was going to jump me. Now Employee Services is saying that this needs to be dropped or we will both be terminated. Does this sound right at all?

Signed, Threatened From Both Directions

Dear Threatened From Both Directions:

If no investigation of your complaint has ever been done, it certainly doesn’t sound right to tell you that you may be fired for complaining about a threat. I’m wondering if you have asked for an explanation of that decision. Ask what you SHOULD do if you feel justifiably threatened that you might be harmed.

Ask ES if they have ideas for a better way this could have been handled. You seem to feel comfortable going to Employee Services, so perhaps you can get some answers and at the same time will get more support from them.

It seems your coworkers could respond a bit more helpfully too. Rather than coming to YOU every time the employee makes a statement they consider to be a threat, why don’t they do something that could help? One thing they could do is say something to the threatening employee. They don’t seem to be so afraid they won’t put their names on a complaint, so maybe this is something they can feel comfortable doing. They could say, “Don, no good comes from that kind of talk. It just makes work tougher. So, stop that and let’s move on.” Or, if they don’t want to talk to him, they could go to the supervisor or Employee Services directly.

As it is, they come to you, which upsets you and also gives the appearance that you and them are bad-mouthing him as much as you say he is bad-mouthing you. It ends up just stirring things up instead of really helping.If you still genuinely feel threatened, perhaps you could go higher than Employee Services. No company wants the liability of not taking action in high-risk situations. So, maybe going above your supervisor is needed. Or, talk to your supervisor and ask him what you should do next.In the meantime, ensure that you are not alone with the other employee in situations where there could be problems.

When you interact with him, be civil, so he can’t say you make it worse, but limit your interactions. It could be there are a lot of exaggerations of what he has said or done and he is ready to put it behind it, just as you are. Or, he’s gotten the message and he won’t bother you again.

The decision about what to do next can only be made by looking at your specific company and situation. If you are genuinely fearful to come to work, you need to be very adamant to those above you in the chain about why that is true. If you are mostly just angry with the employee and the remarks you have heard from him are more of that nature than genuinely threatening to harm you, perhaps you can give it another try.Or, you may feel you can’t safely work there and you have to either talk to an attorney about your civil and legal actions next, or you find another job to avoid the problems with this one.

This is a tough call for you I realize. But, your knowledge of the specific situation will hopefully help you decide. Stop talking about the employee to others, so it doesn’t appear you are part of the problem. Ask them to report directly to a supervisor or ES, then to you, if they hear a threat. Focus on work and see if this can calm down a bit.Best wishes to you as you deal with this unnerving situation.

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.