What To Do About A Threat?

Question:

A co-worker said he was going to kick my ass so I went back to the office and reported it and was told we had to keep working together. What should I do?

Signed,

Worried


Answer:

Dear Worried:

It’s difficult to know how to advise you with such limited information. A statement like, “I’m going to kick your ass” is usually more of a wish than an intention. Someone is very angry and they’re saying, “Don’t do or say that again or else!”

You know best about what led up to that kind of statement. I doubt it was said out of the clear blue sky, so to speak. Probably there was an argument about work or related to something personal. The nature of that argument would also have an effect on how you should respond.

However, even if there has been back and forth conflict that kind of remark isn’t appropriate in any workplace, so I can understand your concern.

I don’t know if you work for a business that has an HR section or not. If there is someone higher than your supervisor who would normally get involved in these things, you should take your concerns to him, especially if you feel this won’t work out on its own, in spite of your best efforts.

We are not attorneys so we can’t provide any legal advice, but in many cities(not necessarily yours) a threat involves someone threatening to do serious bodily harm and they have acted in some way that shows their serious intent.

If things have progressed to the point that you are fearful to be around the person, perhaps you should talk to a city or county attorney or the police, about whether this reaches the level of a criminal threat. I don’t think it sounds as though it has, but I don’t have legal experience and don’t know enough to say anything more than that basic definition.

If you feel your life is in danger by working there, you should leave. But if you don’t think your life or well-being are at risk, you will need to find a way to co-exist. That may be all you can hope for.

Perhaps you can consider the work environment and see if there is something about your work that is adding to the stress and conflict level. If so, you have a good way to confront the situation without blaming your coworker. You can say,”Bill, I think both of us get angry just because of the hassle of work. What do you think?” He may be willing to put the blame on work and it might lead him to making a greater effort to not lose his temper.

If you don’t know what caused the angry outburst, it would help to find it out. If you do know it and can prevent it, perhaps you will need to do that. You may find the only way to get along is to talk to him as little as possible. That’s a sad way to work, but it might be your only alternative for right now. If you’re going to talk to him, keep the focus on work and doing a good job. Don’t talk about personal preferences or any topics that stir up emotions–you know what those topics are.

Unless he is mentally deranged, that should be enough to help him see you are making an effort. If he is mentally deranged, your life isn’t worth the job, so you should leave and explain to your boss why you are so fearful.

I would imagine it’s not to that point and that time will help calm this down. He’ll probably never be a friend but you may be able to deal with him for the time you are at work.

There is no magic answer to this kind of situation, unfortunately. I think your boss is wrong to not confront it and deal with it. But, he may feel he has tried or that nothing he does will help. This would be a good time to let your boss see that you are doing all you can do have a good workplace Maybe then he will be willing to get involved and to help you and your coworker work together without threats or anger.

Best wishes to you. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens with this.

Tina Lewis Rowe