Texted Me “If you value your life.”

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a threat:

I work in a retail store as a ASM . I received threatening text messages from my supervisor. One of his text states If you value your life. He is sending me text messages every day threatening to suspend me or change my shift. Today he sends me a text that says, “You want to play lets play.” Do you think I should go to HR with this? I am sick to my stomach every time I have to go to work. Quitting is not an option. I need this job.–

Signed–If You Value Your Life

Dear –If You Value Your Life: Before we respond, in order to send sound advice, we need more information. I’ve shared your question with one of our guest respondents, Dr. Mark Mindell PhD with extensive HR experience. So read his request below and provide more context: How long you’ve worked there, what you do or don’t do that provokes the texts, and how you have responded to them. Mark wrote:

I think we need to get more context here.  What are the apparent reasons for the texts?  What has led up to this? Did they used to have some other type of relationship?  In other words, it’s really tough to determine: (1) what the texts mean and (2) why the texts?

If I assume the events you describe are literally accurate and not knowing whether or not you have been texting and/or saying anything to your supervisor then I would suggest you immediately go to HR.  Apparently, your supervisor has literally threatened your life (which should be a police matter) by stating “… if you value your life” but I’d like to know what the rest of that text says. I’d also like to know why he is threatening to suspend you or change your shift and what appears to be an implied threat (“You want to play let’s play”.)  If you believe that he is threatening you with any kind of physical harm then, regardless of circumstances, you must report this to HR immediately. If he is threatening you with your livelihood then he has also gone too far based on his texts and, again, HR needs to know immediately.

Please make sure, though, that the information you have given us is complete and that their is no context where his messages can be taken any other way than what I wrote above.  I can’t stress enough how important it is that you immediately get to HR, show them the texts and let them know you fear for your job and, more importantly, your physical safety.  Be prepared to provide the complete context to explain what and, possibly why, you are receiving these texts. The first thing I would want to see as HR would be all the texts from both you and your manager.  I think you should expect, and will receive an immediate investigation.

Follow Up Additional Information from –If You Value Your Life : I  have  work for this retail store about 10 years.. He has been my supervisor for the last 10 years.. It has always been a business  relationship. Nothing more. I have received nasty text messages before but this is the first time he threaten my life. I work the overnight shift.I never see my supervisor because he comes in at 10 a.m. and my shift ends at 8 a.m. He only communicates  with me over texts

My main responsibility is unloading trucks and making sure the freight is moving. We get around 3000 cases on a truck. 2 times a week. With a tight stock room I have to keep this freight moving. On Dec 3 we had a truck on the truck was 30 cases of a snack item.  In the front of the store there was a end cap that was half full with Xmas merchandise. I moved the Xmas off the end cap because it was half full and put the snack item on the end cap. At 9:46 a.m. I receive a text from my supervisor this is how he wrote it: “If you value your life… do not take any ends that I put Xmas on…I am serious. His next text was if  you take any ends I will send you home. ” I never respond to any of his text messages. On Dec 11 there was 3 Xmas end caps up front. All of them were half full. I did nothing. Did not touch it because he threaten me a week before. At 10:10 a.m. I get a text “You left empty ends up front. Ok you want to play…let’s play.” I did not respond to any of his texts.

Dear If You Value Your Life:  

I think it’s important that you formally request an investigation (I think both orally and in writing). Here is added advice from Dr. Mindell:

My advice stands but I can’t overstate the need to get to HR immediately.  In effect, he has been physically threatened by two texts: the first when the manager states “if you value your life …” and the second when the manager texts “OK, you want to play … let’s play”.  Any type of threat to harm another either directly (the first threat) or implicitly (the second) must be taken extremely seriously. It is also important that he does this before he is potentially terminated.   Since the employee never responded to the texts it would be very difficult for the manager to argue he/she was ever threatened. I can think of no example where the manager would not be terminated immediately assuming we have the complete picture.  The threats are egregious, imply eminent harm and, if nothing else, the manager is an extremely high liability to the company not to mention the employee.

Finally, the employee should let HR know that he/she is thinking of going to the police.

Hope this works out for him (assuming it is a ‘him’).  Hmmm, and now that I’m thinking about it, if the employee is a female and her manager is a male then the company should call the police themselves if they want to protect themselves as well as the employee. The piece of the puzzle we’re missing is how this happened after ten years?  If this individual would like, I’d be glad to have a completely anonymous conversation because I’m really interested in determining what, if anything, I’m missing here.

Please let us know what you do and what evolves. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. –William Gorden