Threats By Co-Worker Ignored By Manager


My husband is a nighttime school custodian. He has been verbally threatened by the daytime custodian.”I am going to get you, that’s a promise” He has brought this to the attention of the principal and she called a meeting between my husband, herself, the day custodian and the custodial manager.

In the meeting, the day custodian denied making the threats, and proceeded to bring my husbands work into question instead. The prinicpal and the custodial manager sided with the day custodian, saying that my husband was taking things too seriously. They refused to address the threat issue and by the end of the meeting nothing was resolved.

My husband is angry that the day custodian was able to lie and worm his way around the issue, that the threat was not addressed and he no longer feels like going to work.

My husband has been working there for 6 years and In this day and age where jobs are hard to come by he cannot just quit. This day custodian has been a bully, a manipulator and a liar from day one. Please help us with some advice as to how to handle this person. Thank you for your help.


Frustrated and Worried


Dear Frustrated and Worried:

Situations such as these are very difficult-epsecially for the wife or husband who hears about it and feels frustrated too!

There are obviously a lot of issues going on at the school and among the janitorial staff, and a mix of opinions about who is contributing most to the conflict. I think the best approach for your husband now is to move forward and not feel that he “lost” this battle. He actually may have done a lot of make things better.

There has been a meeting–which is more than many bosses would do about workplace conflict. Both the custodial manager and the principal were present, which is also more than might happen otherwise. So, your husband had a chance to state his concerns and they trusted him enough to give him that opportunity.

That is a positive thing, because at least now his concerns are a matter of record. The other custodian might not have been disciplined, but the fact that he had to justify his actions and even lie about them, puts him on notice that people are aware there is a conflict.

You also don’t know what the other custodian was told by his boss, when the meeting was over. I have often talked to an employee and said, “The fact that we aren’t taking disciplinary action doesn’t mean we think you absolutely pure of heart on this deal. So, I want you to show more courtesy and never again talk rudely to Jim, or you WILL be in hot water.”

I would bet the supervisor of the custodial staff warned the other custodian to watch his actions and not create more problems. That alone would be helpful.

That brings us to the essential issue of all of this–there are obviously ongoing arguments about who is doing what work and what should be done instead. If it were me, I would meet with my supervisor and tell him I just want to do my job well and not have problems. Then, I would ask him to please tell me if there is some part of the work I am not doing correctly, so I can improve.

After that, I would focus just on work. I’d be the best and the most efficient employee there. And if I had complaints I would direct them to the supervisor and never to the coworker. If the coworker complained to me about something, I would say, civilly, “Go talk to the boss if you have a complaint. He thinks I’m doing fine and so do I.” Then, I’d move away from the guy and only talk to him if the conversation was about real work.

Conversation between coworkers should be about how to solve problems, how to help each other, and on clarifying concerns in a reasoned way. When two people are angry at each other, that isn’t going to happen! At that point, they are more likely to make naggy remarks, take verbal shots and mutter behind each other’s backs. That’s not good! So, suggest to your husband that this gives him a new start, here at the first of the year. I doubt that his safety is at risk, so really, there is no point in making an issue of the threat unless it occurs again. I’m not saying it was right. But without witnesses and immediate outcry about it, it just sounds like bluff talk in anger.

If your husband really felt afraid for his life, that would be different. But, if he really feels afraid of a threat, his best option is to call the police right then and file a criminal complaint–not just deal with it at work. If he thinks the threat is only job related–that the cowork is going to do something to get him fired, he did the right thing by complaining to his boss, if he did it immediately. And, now the matter has been investigated and the matter is out in the open.

I hope your husband will consider that this is a job he wants to keep and that there is nothing happening that sounds so severe he can’t keep going. He and the other person work different shifts, so they don’t have to interact a lot. The other person may be a lying jerk, but that’s up to the supervisor to deal with at this point–and apparently the supervisor isn’t having a problem.

If the coworker says or does something really wrong again–either threatening or confronting in a rude or obnoxious way–your husband should write a report immediately or call the supervisor immediately. He should get witness names if there are any, make another report and ask for another meeting about it. That’s all he can do.

In the meantime, I think he ought to just focus on being so effective that nothing anyone can say or do against him can shake the confidence the principal and supervisor have in him. He can do a lot to build his reputation after this, by handling it in a positive way and being friendly, helpful and efficient with teachers, adminstrators and other custodial staff.

Best wishes with this. 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.