romantically rejected coworker causing problems at work

A reader writes:

My workplace is extremely dysfunctional. In some ways, we are very much like a family (which can be nice), but the downside of this security (it’s just about impossible to get fired…just like your family) is that there’s no real consequences for bad behavior. Here’s my dilemma:

I used to be friends with a coworker. He has a series of issues: depression, disordered eating, diabetes, and sleep issues, among others. He is a deeply unhappy person, but we share a lot of the same interests, and became friends when I began working here two years ago. Although I am married (he has met my husband many times), he recently expressed an interest in a closer relationship with me. Obviously, I made it clear that this was not an option. Since then, things have been…strained.

This week, he has ceased speaking to me. When there is a call for me, he no longer even pages my name, but my department (I am a department of one. Everyone else uses my name). Earlier today, I was on the phone. This man paged me another phone call, then another employee paged me as well. This coworker walked in my office, saw I was on the phone, and then left…to page me again. Most people would pick up the line and offer to take a message or put the call through to voicemail, but instead, he kept paging me every couple minutes. There have been a couple other incidents of him making my job more difficult and this isn’t always limited to behind-the-scenes type stuff.

I don’t care what this guy’s issue with me is. I’m past it, at this point, and consider the friendship beyond salvage. What’s really irking me is the fact that he’s letting it interfere with my job and his. My issue is that I don’t know if I should address this with him, with him and management, or if I should ignore it. I really want to at least let our boss (the owner of the company) know what’s going on because it will end up affecting my work in a noticeable way if it’s not addressed. On the other hand, I don’t want to be told to “work it out amongst ourselves,” because this person does have an issue with anger.

I started writing an answer to this and it got really convoluted, because the bad management at this place is making a normal answer impossible. Which is really frustrating, because it might mean that your best bet is trying to ignore this guy and just wait it out, which you shouldn’t have to do.

If he didn’t have anger issues, I’d say that you should start by talking to him, saying something like: “John, I noticed that you haven’t been speaking with me. You don’t need to socialize with me if you don’t want to, but you do need to have normal interactions with me about work things, because we both need to be able to do our jobs.”  And then if that didn’t work, you’d go and talk to your manager.

However, he has anger issues, and he’s shown a willingness to be petty and punitive. So normally, because of that, I’d say to skip that step and instead go straight to your manager. You’d explain that this guy made romantic overtures toward you, you rejected them, and since then he’s been refusing to interact with you in normal, professional ways and it’s interfering with your ability to do your job. And if he’s been openly or subtly hostile, you’d mention that specifically.

When you report something like this to an employer, the employer should take immediate action — both because you can’t have something like this going on in a workplace and also because what you’re reporting is essentially sexual harassment, and they have a legal obligation to put a stop to it.

But here’s where things get tricky because your workplace wants to run itself “like a family” (a terrible idea, and also an unworkable one). Your description of how they operate makes me worry that they’ll just wring their hands and not do anything, or fumble it badly. And this is a situation where you really don’t want them to fumble it, because we’re dealing with a rejected suitor with anger issues.

And that’s why I’m in a pickle with this response. Legally, they’re required to handle this, and you can point that out to them. But realistically, if their “handling” makes the situation worse, that’s not a good outcome.

I suppose you could talk to them and be very assertive about your expectations: Ask specifically how this will be handled. Ask how they’ll ensure that you don’t face further consequences from this guy for reporting the behavior. Ask how they plan to account for his anger issues — and if you don’t feel entirely safe, say that too. And be very clear that you do expect them to act and that the law specifically requires employers to deal with sexual harassment when it’s reported. (And obviously, if you’re told, as you fear you might be, to “work it out amongst yourselves,” don’t entertain that for a second. Say this: “This is not a routine interpersonal conflict. This is sexual harassment, and the law is very clear that employers can’t put the burden on the harassed employee to stop it.”)

But again, while you can push them to handle it the way they’re supposed to, that doesn’t mean that they’ll handle it well. And if they’re as inept as they sound, they could make the situation worse.

Reason #3,745 not to work for bad managers.

What do others think?

You can read an update to this post here.

{ 110 comments… read them below }

  1. Jesse

    You need to document everything. Keep a log of all the interactions you have with him. It’ll show a repeating pattern of his behavior.

    It also might help to frame your issues about customer service. For example “The other day, Bob, insisting on paging me when he knew (and saw) that I was on the phone. During this time, our client was kept waiting on hold. I don’t want it to appear that we’re providing bad service.”

    1. Long Time Admin

      And keep it in a notebook in your own handwriting, and keep it with you at all times. Be very specific (date, time, who said what, what happened and name of any witnesses). You probably will never need such detailed records, but if you do, you’ll be happy to have them.

      Good luck! I work in a family run company, and I agree that they can be the most dysfunctional businesses ever.

  2. AD

    I’d like to know what is meant by “anger issues”, because that can mean anything from “quick to start yelling, but calms down after a few minutes” to “seethes about things and quietly plots revenge”. While nobody should have to deal with any of that, it’s hard to tell from “anger issues” alone whether we are talking about momentary unpleasantness or a real feeling of danger.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I agree — I’d love more details! But his behavior since the rejection is so outside of normal (I mean, he thinks that something childish like the paging incident will make a triumphant point?!) that it’s sufficient to worry me that he’s unstable.

      1. Mike C.

        If I might make light of a terrible situation for a moment, one person’s annoying page is another person’s mating call.

    2. Erika - OP

      What I meant by “anger issues” is a combination of both the behaviors you listed – he seethes about things, then blows up, and has been known to kick things and slam doors. The last time we had an actual disagreement he told me to “f off” (in front of customers) and then slammed a door.

      As I said above, this is really not a healthy or functional environment.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Oooh. I know it’s not as simple as “your managers suck and your coworker is scary, so get out,” but …. well, your managers suck and your coworker is scary. Can you get out?

      2. AD

        That’s what I was afraid of; it sounds like approaching him directly is not a good way to go.

        One thing I suggest being prepared for if/when you go to management: because you were friends with the guy, management may try to spin this as some sort of lovers’ quarrel, and you need to be prepared to make it abundantly clear that you were never romantically involved with this person in any way, shape, or form. If you have any confidantes in the office who can back you up here, enlist their help as needed.

        1. Nichole

          This is a frustratingly good point. In the kind of environment you described, the idea that you should “work it out” rather than seeing this as a seriously inappropriate behavior could prevail, and since “he asked me out and I said no” sounds high school (even though it is completely relevant), that may fuel the idea that maybe you led him on. Blech. Definitely invoke the phrases “sexual harrassment,” “bullying,” and “pattern of unstable behavior.” Anyone who hits on a married woman and has the nerve to get mad when she says no was unstable right out of the gate. Because that’s a completely insane way to act and they don’t know he’s insane, they may assume that you’re not telling the whole truth about your relationship. They need to see that whether they believe you or not about the “relationship” (and I wouldn’t put it past this guy to insinuate there is one) this situation is serious and can get them in big trouble if they don’t handle it.

          1. Erika - OP

            They know he’s insane, and actually, plenty of people have noticed the fact that he’s being petulant towards me and I am not speaking with him unless it’s necessary. Several coworkers, though, have simply told me he’ll “get over it,” or that I should “extend the olive branch.” I just feel like I’m done apologizing when I’ve done nothing wrong and his way of dealing with things is the passive aggressiveness that results in poor customer service.

            If I weren’t a concerned about the likely blow-up that would occur, I would have addressed this crap with him directly, but I am definitely worried that he’ll lose it and freak out. I’m not exactly afraid for my safety, but I don’t feel safe bringing it up with him privately.

            1. fposte

              You definitely shouldn’t have to be in charge of repairing this, but you might want to do it anyway if it’s going to be key to making a workplace you can’t leave bearable. Go to management, see what they say and do, and if it’s basically nothing, figure out whether you can live with the situation until you can leave in August or if there are steps you can take to make it less of a problem. Sometimes it’s easier just to quiet the monster down however you can–but that’s definitely the call of the person on the spot.

            2. Liz

              He’s holding you hostage by pretending his jerk reactions are about the way you approached him, when he’s the kind of person who will slam doors and use the f-word at work!

              I wouldn’t talk to him or management because I think AAM has, as usual, broken it down really well. You should leave and until that can happen, maybe try to just treat him like an explosive toddler. If you can pleasantly state your expectations and your mild surprise when he doesn’t meet those expectations, the immediate environment actually probably won’t be that bad.

              This type needs a cycle of misbehavior/followed by an attempt to prevent that misbehavior. They thrive on any effort to control their behavior. Anything you say that is intended to put yourself on even footing with the bully will just become more reasons to bully you. BUT they will completely fall apart if you can control ANY urge to react. It is counter-intuitive to just shrug and act as if nothing is wrong, but it does make things about as bearable as possible.

              If every single time he does something intended to be rude, you look at him quietly and then perhaps take him at face value. “Ok, if you want to page me for every call that is fine if that is how you want to handle it….” then I swear he will pull back rather than escalate. This type always seems to know how to spin even the smallest reaction (lover’s quarrel? gag!) but they can’t ever seem to do anything if their antics are met with pleasant surprise and bemusement. It has been really effective for me, so good luck!

              1. Liz

                PS – The way Jim handles Dwight on The Office is what I’m picturing. “You’re setting a bear trap in the office? Sounds like a great idea to me. You should explain that trap to the new manager so we can all be on the same page…”

        2. Karyn

          What kills me is that it doesn’t really matter (or shouldn’t, more correctly) if she HAD dated him. Two coworkers date, one breaks it off, the other continues to attempt to get him/her back, it’s still sexual harassment. Even if a relationship existed in the past, it shouldn’t matter. If she has now made abundantly clear that she wants no further romantic contact, the past should not factor in.

          Unfortunately, it does. And that’s the stupid part. :(

  3. Anonymous

    This is sexual harassment, but it is also bullying. While it would be great if management knew how to properly deal with these situations, a lot of times (and likely in your situation) they just don’t. In my opinion, the best way to deal with a bully is to approach him head on and show him that you will not let him treat you however he chooses to. Speak with him at work in a place where you won’t be overheard, but where you feel safe doing so. I say at work because you want to show that your relationship has become purely professional, and he needs to start acting like a professional. Be blunt with him. Tell him that you understand how he started to develop feelings for you since you had such a close friendship. Tell him that you valued your friendship with him, but that you are completely loyal to your husband. Tell him how disappointed you are that he chose to throw away your friendship by acting like a complete @$$, and that he needs to stop messing around and interfering with your ability to do your work. Tell him he’s 35 (or however old) and needs to start acting that way. Tell him that if he doesn’t shape up, then you WILL go to management and report him for sexual harassment. Be firm. Don’t let him make excuses. Don’t let him say anything rude to you. If he does, just cut him off. Say something like, “I don’t care why you did x, but don’t ever do it again” or “you have no right to talk to me that way.” If he says management won’t do anything if you go to them, then say the above regarding their legal obligation to do something. By standing up for yourself, you’ll show him he needs to behave and hopefully he does. If he doesn’t shape up, then stick with what you said and speak with management.

    1. Anon

      Honestly, in this situation I’m not sure she should give him the head’s up. Not only because he may blow up at her and react physically, but if he’s sneaky and clever he may attempt to go to management with his own story first to discredit her. Generally I would advise people to speak frankly and give someone a chance to change, but this guy doesn’t sound that reasonable and it may only hurt her to give him access to her game plan.

      1. Anonymous

        I don’t know if I would give this guy that much credit, but I also feel like the management at OP’s office will ask her if she has discussed this with him. I feel like her case will come off stronger if she says she has tried to handle this situation. If it turns into a his word against hers type of thing, I feel like that could happen regardless of who tells management first and that they would be more likely to believe OP given the guys violent and immature behavior (which I assume they are at least somewhat familiar with). Overall though, I feel that this man is rather spineless and if OP takes a stand and shows him there is real repercussions and she won’t let him do whatever, then he will back down.

  4. Erika - OP

    At the risk of sounding like the Misery Chick, I can’t just dip out, as much as I’d like to. While I am planning my exit, the earliest I can be out of here in August, and it may end up being the end of the year…and my husband is currently disabled, so my income is basically all we have right now.

    I will say that seeing your response, Alison, and everyone else’s feedback (so far) has really made this situation feel more real, and I appreciate any feedback anyone has for me.

  5. Josh S

    As another commenter said, document everything. Either in a journal/notebook that you take home with you every day, in your personal email account, or some other way that is not controlled/owm=ned by the company.

    When you speak to your direct manager, try to be as specific as possible. You can say something like, “This guy made romantic overtures toward you, you rejected them, and since then he’s been refusing to interact with you in normal, professional ways. This includes EXAMPLE A, EXAMPLE B, and EXAMPLE C. Those aren’t the only instances–it’s something that is pervading all your interactions–and it’s interfering with your ability to do your job.”

    There are several things you want to be sure to communicate, and this phrasing does it all:
    A) You’re not blowing an interpersonal issue into something bigger or imagining things (this is why you have specific examples).
    B) You’re not only complaining about a single incident or a couple small things, but a broader pattern of behavior (this is why you say it’s pervading all your interactions).
    C) It’s sexual harassment, not just an interpersonal issue (which is why you say he made a romantic advance to you)
    D) It’s impacting your work, and therefore the company (which gives them a good reason to take action beyond the legal requirement).

    I’m sorry this is happening. But the best way to deal with such things is often to assert your rights while trying not to be overly aggressive. (You don’t want them to fire this guy, necessarily, just have them take action that changes his behavior toward you.) So make sure they know there’s an issue AND the resolution you’d have them take action toward.

    Good luck.

  6. Anonymous

    In the meantime, I would also suggest you not go anywhere along – such as to your car at the end of the day. Do you have other coworkers you can trust to leave with at the same time?

  7. KellyK

    You might want to find out whether blatantly ignoring sexual harassment and bullying behavior constitutes constructive dismissal and whether (and under what circumstances) you would be eligible for unemployment if you did have to quit.

    Also, as you’re documenting, make sure you keep it at home, rather than at work or on your work computer.

  8. Anonymous

    should also keep people’s awareness on this. there are always some sensible people around to see whats going on.

    i too am for the log and documenting it all. ignoring and waiting it out would be the worst.

  9. khilde

    My comments here are more thinking aloud than quibbling: Does the fact that he made romantic overtures necessarily need to enter into the picture here? Would it be enough for OP to document the difficult/petulant things he’s doing and build a case around that (the fact that he’s impeding with her ability to do her job properly, etc)? I guess what I’m wondering is: does it really matter the circumstances that started his inappopriate behavior to OP? Or does is just matter that he’s now being an ass, regardless of the catalyst event?

    I’m just wondering if management is truly that dysfunctional if the fact that there was mutual friendship, he wanted more, she made it clear that it wasn’t going to happen, etc. — if that back story would just muddy the waters further for management and they would get caught up in those details rather than the important ones. Maybe just sticking to the “here’s what he’s doing right now that’s preventing me from doing my job.” Don’t even get into the speculation of why he might be doing it?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      The reason it could be helpful to mention the romantic overtures aspect of it is that it means it qualifies as sexual harassment, which means the management has certain legal obligations that they wouldn’t have without that factor.

      1. Long Time Admin

        And you can bet this dysfunctional management would ask her what she did to bring this on herself, as though it’s her fault (it’s called “blame the victim”).

    2. Emily, admin extraordinaire

      The romantic angle makes the management intervening a legal mandate. If he’s just a jerk, there’s no legal repercussions. The latter should be enough to make management act, but from what the OP said, she really needs the extra oomph of “it’s sexual harassment and you dealing with it is the law” behind her when she goes to them about it. Otherwise they’ll just blow her off.

    3. khilde

      Yup, that all makes sense. Of course.

      So my next question then: what happens in a situation like this where there’s a legal obligation for the employer to act, but doesn’t? Does OP go to EEOC or DOL? Generally how do things proceed from there?

      Do most dysfunctional employers perk up when they hear “sexual harassment” leveled against them or are some so dense that they try to sweep it under the rug?

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        If you wanted to pursue legal action (a generally lengthy, expensive, and draining process) you’d get an attorney. Then you file a claim with the EEOC. They investigate. At the end of that process, they either decide to bring suit (very rare) or issue you a “right to sue” letter that allows you to bring suit in civil court.

        In this case, I wouldn’t recommend it because it’s not a slam-dunk that the behavior in question rises to the level of “severe and pervasive” required under the law, and it would be a long process for probably little pay-off. But that doesn’t mean that the employer shouldn’t be acting regardless.

        1. Amina

          You can file with your state and federal agencies without an attorney. But first go through the steps at work to show you tried. Anyway, the point is, make the formal complaint at work so that anything negative done to you afterwards from management risks the retaliation label.

          People like this guy will complain about you first, by the way. I found that out the hard and nasty way. You’ll wait because you’re a decent person and not a complainer at heart, but the creep will be getting in his complaints about you, your work and your behavior, true or not, and that will affect management’s view of you. Because creeps get believed. It’s just the way of the world.

          1. Grace

            Also, depending the state OP lives in, she can file a complaint with the state Fair Employment & Housing.
            My state – California’s – Fair Employment & Housing (and the Fair Employment & Housing Act) is considered preferable by most employment law attorneys because it is much tougher to prevail. Additionally, California’s FEHA has a mediation program, with a bona fide judge (with a degree as an attorney) to mediate the case and to arrive at a settlement agreement.

            1. Grace

              edit: “much tougher for an employer to prevail” and California’s employee friendly laws make it easier for employees to prevail

  10. david

    It seems to me that his attitude will eventually pass. Even though he could help more, he will not.

    It might take a long time for him to get over his emotional issues. But as long as he is not being outright agressive towards you, it should pass in time.

    Sounds like your management won’t do a whole lot anyway. Better to just let it pass. it might take time, but it can and will pass.

    If you ever feel in physical danger though, that is a different story.

    1. Student

      She feels in physical danger.

      She said she won’t talk to him directly and alone because he has “an issue with anger.” I know that this requires a little bit of reading-between-the-lines, but it ain’t exactly a difficult metaphor.

      In a woman vs man conflict, the woman is “in physical danger” before the fight begins – he can probably hurt her very badly, very quickly. A guy might not feel he’s in physical danger until the other guy has already broken his nose.

      I explain this mainly because I’ve had some serious difficulty with the concept at my own place of work. I had to explain to multiple people that I feel threatened when a guy, who weighs twice as much as I do and is a foot taller than I am, grabs me and yells at me (completely lost his temper). They didn’t get it, because they haven’t met someone who weighs twice as much as they do in decades, and likely haven’t met someone a foot taller than they are since middle school. I am painfully aware that, with one wrong move, the co-worker could badly injure me even if he doesn’t mean to, whereas he might just bruise or annoy one of my more burly male counterparts. I don’t know if the physical differences for the poster come anywhere near the physical differences between me and my co-workers, but the point is she probably faces a physical disparity and the associated higher risks. Imagine that you’re a normal guy facing off against a college football player or a boxer instead of your normal co-worker and you’ll have a better idea of what an average woman vs. man fight is like for the woman.

      1. fposte

        I’ll leave it to the OP to assess her specific situation, but I would disagree that not wanting to deal with somebody who has anger issues has to always mean there’s a fear of physical threat. I don’t have to be afraid I’ll be physically hurt to find outbursts disorienting, upsetting, and frightening and well worth avoiding. I can totally see why you were afraid for your safety in the situation you describe, but I don’t think that translates into a fear for one’s physical safety any time somebody large is angry. Not that it has to, of course–it doesn’t only become a problem just because you’re afraid of being hurt.

      2. Anon

        Even if you were of a similar size and strength, a coworker grabbing you and yelling at you because they lost their temper is not okay. Not. Okay. You should not have to explain to your corworkers how a person who is so much larger than you could seriously hurt you without trying too hard, even if it is true, to justify why this was inappropriate behaviour. I am appalled at the implication that your coworkers would find this acceptable behaviour if there wasn’t a size/strength disparity.

      3. khilde

        I think I can understand what you’re saying here. My husband is not a large man, a few inches taller than me, weighs less than me (dammit), but is much stronger than me. We’ll play around and playfully punch each other’s arm or he’ll grab my hand to tickle me or something and I have to tell him sometimes that it hurts – he has no clue how strong he is. And he’s in a good mood being playful. I’m sure his strength would intensify with anger behind it.

    2. Long Time Admin

      David, you’re working on the assumption that this guy is normal. He’s not. These situations almost always escalate and can turn very bad, very unexpectedly (to the normal people around him).

  11. Joey

    I’m not sure i would label this sexual harassment because it doesn’t sound severe or pervasive enough although I do think it’s rude, inappropriate, and unprofessional.
    And I’d recommend against telling your boss they’re legally obligated to do anything. Thinly veiled threats tend to cause employers to dig in their heels or become defensive.

    I’d recommend talking to the guy unless the anger issues you’re referring to make you concerned for your safety. It sounds like the guy is just sulking. To me id treat the talk as a favor to him to take care of it before you raise it to your boss. Of course if you fear his anger may put you in danger skip him and go straight to your boss.

    1. Anonymous

      if it’s rude, inappropriate, & unprofessional behavior in response to a rejected advance with implied sexual overtones, then yes, it’s sexual harassment.

      it’s certainly not as egregious as other examples you could think up, sure. but that doesn’t change things.

      1. fposte

        Legally, it does, though, as AAM mentions upthread as well. That doesn’t mean you can’t bring the issue up with management, but it generally isn’t going to be actionable without something more severe and long-term. (Smart management understands the gift of hearing about a problem *before* it hits that standard, of course.)

        1. Anonymous

          @fposte–oh, I absolutely agree. I just think it’s important to reinforce the idea that sexual harassment goes beyond obvious “hey sweetheart, nice rack! date me or your fired” examples.

          the sad truth is that even the more pervasive & severe forms of harassment often go unpunished, which can lead to a culture where employees don’t feel empowered to stand up for themselves.

  12. jmkenrick

    He’s negatively affecting her work and possibly making her look bad in front of clients and coworkers. That’s not something she should have to quitely tolerate – so if she can figure out a reasonable action for her to take, she should do it.

    Additionally, this guy really should learn that he can’t “punish” people for not wanting to be with him. Although I don’t necessarily think it’s the OP’s responsibility to do that – ideally the management would intervene and make it clear that behavior is unacceptable. Sounds like that’s not going to happen.

  13. Rob

    The boss could completely surprise the OP by doing all of the steps Alison outlined, and handle the problem. However, based on what the OP said, other things in the past have likely made her feel this way and gives her a lot of doubt that things will improve.

    I’d go with what Alison outlined and hope for the best. If nothing changes, she may want to get her resume together (if she hasn’t done so already) and begin looking for some place new to work. Hopefully the OP can provide us with an update as to what happens!

  14. Anonymous

    if this workplace is so invested in being like a “family,” then surely they’d be appalled to hear that one of its members is being treated this way. even if they have some (misguided) sympathy for the harasser, consistently undermining someone’s job performance is always unacceptable.

    OP, I really feel for you, & I hope this gets resolved soon. that type of boundary-crossing is incredibly hard to deal with, & I admire you for keeping such a clear head amid such a crappy situation.

  15. Ms Enthusiasm

    Just wondering… If your workplace is more like a “family” would you be confortable just having a frank talk with your boss or are you not that close? The reason I ask is one possible idea is to have a private conversation with your boss where you tell him everything that has been going on. If you have that close relationship with your boss I would imagine it might be more of a “friend-to-friend” talk rather than a “boss-to-employee” talk. I know that type of relationship at work isn’t ideal but maybe in this situation it might be beneficial.

    If you are able to have this talk with your boss you need to make sure you can trust your boss to keep it confidential. After you have told your boss everything maybe together you can brainstorm ideas on how to handle the situation (mainly if you are not comfortable telling him he needs to take action because of the sexual harassment aspect). I think it would be better to tell your boss something rather than trying to handle it on your own.

  16. ThomasT

    I worry about the overuse of loaded terms like “bullying” and “sexual harassment” to refer to the problem employee’s jackassery. It needs to be stopped, by his termination if necessary, but I don’t think either of these words fits.

    For “sexual harassment” to take place, there has to be “unwelcome verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is severe or pervasive and affects working conditions or creates a hostile work environment.” While there is clearly continuing and pervasive conduct that is affecting working conditions, per the OPs report, it is not of a sexual nature, if he’s not mentioned the OP rejecting his advances or reiterated them. I write this not to minimize his behavior, but because approaching the ineffective management with what is at best an edge case of sexual harassment seems like it might not get the desired results – they may dismiss it. I wonder if the better angle might be to point out how this is affecting the OP, but also customers. If customers are getting crappy service because calls aren’t being taken, and the OP is having tantrums in front of them, that impact on the company’s bottom line might be the better card to play. The expenses of litigation and negative judgment is what’s implicit in a claim of sexual harassment (in a case like this where human decency hasn’t prevailed), so this is another angle on the same theme.

    I also think that “bullying” is not the right word for his passive-aggressive BS. Though this is a subjective rather than a legally defined term, so opinions can differ. But he’s not her superior, and his acting out isn’t really about controlling the OP, I don’t think.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Creating a difficult work environment after someone turns down your romantic/sexual overtures is sexual harassment. This is a fairly mild version as far as harassment goes (so far, at least), but he’s basically punishing her for refusing to be sexually involved with him.

      1. Joey

        I think ThomasT is thinking just because he ceases to be courteous doesn’t mean it deserves the label of sexual harassment.

          1. Joey

            I’m right with you but lots of people only use the sexual harassment when it appears to rise to the level of being illegal. And I think we can all agree that this does not.

            1. KellyK

              Depends on whether you’re talking about his actions or the company’s knowingly letting them continue. The first are probably legal; I doubt the second is.

              1. Joey

                That’s a misconception. They’re only legally obligated to remedy known sexual harassment. and the EEOC only considers it sexual harassment when it creates a hostile or abusive work environment. And only when it’s suffieciently severe or pervasive will it create a hostile work environment. so if it doesn’t constitute sexual harassment under the EEoc’s definition the employer isn’t obligated to do squat. But it’s really dumb not to. So the op shouldn’t think there’s some legal obligation for the employer to do anything unless it meets that criteria.

    2. fposte

      I would agree that it might not (yet) rise to the level of being *actionable* sexual harassment, but this is still somebody who’s suffering an adverse employment environment as a result of somebody’s sexual interest, and that’s definitely in the EEOC wheelhouse. Your definition describes a common kind of harassment, but that’s not the only incarnation that the commission identifies: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/fs-sex.cfm

    3. Anonymouse

      It’s sad to think that an employer would find significantly more merit in customer satisfaction, than providing a workplace free from sexual harassment. It’s true; it’s just sad.

      Sexual rejecting someone who retaliates is sexual harassment. No one is going to come out and say “Have sex with me on my floor now or you’re fired!” Unless they are Clarence Thomas.

  17. AMG

    As someone who has been on the receiving end of workplace bullying (and I do think that this qualifies), I think that it’s easy to lose some perspective when you are still in the situation. It’s also easy to feel like you are at a disadvantage since you are in the defensive role.

    Regardless of how you decide to handle this, I would start carrying some pepper spray. Put it on your key ring and carry it with you out to your car.

  18. Anonymous

    I don’t know the OP’s workplace, but at one place I worked, there was a manager who was acting *very* inappropriately to the young women on staff. He would call himself “Daddy” as in “Daddy likes what you wrote on this report”, and he would constantly bring up sexual topics out of the blue, like talking about penises in front of a job applicant. (surprise, surprise, she turned down the job, lol). There was a general feeling among the women that they couldn’t complain bc no one would bother to do anything about his actions. Yet, when the management finally heard about it, they immediately acted and he was soon gone. So sometimes it’s possible to underestimate what your managers are willing to do.

    1. Esra

      I had a manager who brought up not just penises, but genital piercings in an interview. Shockingly, that applicant didn’t accept the role either.

    2. Liz

      This is my favorite bad workplace story ever! If this had happened to me I know my friends would still be hearing “Daddy LIKES what you did here…” about some random event, every single day. Thank you so much for sharing!

            1. Anonymous

              LOL, I left out the other charming part of his personality. He was a pathological liar and constantly tried to one-up everyone around him. Once we figured this out, we used to constantly bait him to discuss different topics, to see what lies he’d tell to demonstrate his superiority. To the coworker who was talking about his dad’s heart surgery, this boss explained how he basically could have been a cardiac surgeon if he wanted to, but he chose not to. The coworker who was dealing with a migraine had to also hear how the boss had worse migraines, and how the Mayo clinic took on his case because it was so bad. The absolute winner though was the time one of my female coworkers (purposely, to see if she could trip him up) started talking about her PMS and cramps, and our boss seriously told all of us how his wife had worse cramps than the doctors had EVER seen, and how she still managed to truck through the debilitating pain because she was such a trooper.

  19. Student

    Look for a new job. This one won’t improve, it will only get worse.

    Your best recourse to slow this job’s decent into misery and harassment is to call your co-worker publicly on his bad behavior, as often as possible. If he’s acting weird on the public address system while you are busy, here’s what you do: put the current phone call on hold, make a page of your own, and say “I’m busy, please stop paging me repeatedly and take a message.” This brings everyone’s attention to his weirdness and makes him look bad. It might make you look odd, but it won’t make you look nearly as odd as he does.

    If he gives you the silent treatment and any other employees are around, say something about it. Either tell him to act like a grown up, ask him what his problem is, or turn him into the butt of a joke. The idea is to draw other people’s attention to him being weird, and make him feel uncomfortable to act out against you when other people are present. Or, to draw him into acting up dramatically and disproportionally when there are others present to act as witnesses for the police report. Basically, the goal is to try to use the “family” to protect you and reject him. It’s a bully tactic, and it’s mean. However, the alternative is to play victim and risk being the one rejected from the “family” – which puts you in extremely hostile territory while you look for a sane job. If that happens, you’re best off quitting and searching for a new job while unemployed rather than from a position of physical danger and enormous stress.

    You might also try gossip. Normally I’d be against it, but in this case it’s a defensive measure against him while you try to move on. Confide to someone at work about him asking you to cheat on your husband with him. You don’t have to mention the harassment, and the gossip is stronger without it – at most, say that he’s been acting like a jilted teenager ever since. Act shocked and angry that he would suggest such a thing, mention that you’ve been walking on eggshells with him ever since, and ask the confidant for advice on how to deal with the guy. If reasonable, follow through with the confidante’s advice, even if it’s unlikely to work, so that you make the confidante into an automatic ally. I have to imagine that an office that acts like “family” probably gossips like one too, and sex-drama gossip travels faster than light. He’s the cad who wanted you to cheat on your husband with him, so the odds are decent that he’s the one who will come out the worst when the gossip spreads around the office. It’s likely to make you look at least a little bad too, but that isn’t a huge cost if you are promptly changing jobs.

    Also, consider your self-defense options carefully.

    1. Liz

      I hate to say it, but sexual gossip at work usually turns out worse for the woman than for the man, no matter what the original story. If you are a woman, then you just don’t want your coworkers to see you as a sexual being, period. It causes all kinds of problems.

      I’ve seen women try this technique and usually it goes like this: Woman approaches friend with story about mistreatment. Friend is shocked and supportive. Story spreads. Guy defends himself. Friend agrees “there are two sides” and asks that woman make allowances for guy being “awkward.” (I have heard this used to describe behavior that ranges from asking a coworker about her bra color, to sending a note telling a coworker not to post so many “sexy” pictures of herself on Facebook, to breaking into a coworker’s apartment building and pounding on the door making threats) Woman now has choice between defending her original story or making everyone happy by agreeing the guy didn’t mean to be a jerk. If she defends her story she has lost support. If she backs down, the guy is now free to escalate his misbehavior. The woman now has a reputation as a complainer, which makes her more isolated and a better target.

      I knew a college counselor who said he could predict to the day when a harassment complaint would be withdrawn because “Her friends always support her at first but after two weeks everyone wants her to drop it and forgive the guy.”

      1. Student

        Yes. That is why it is critical that she also look for a new job. No matter what she does, this is going to get worse. There are some things that might make it more bearable until she escapes, but they aren’t solutions. Solving the problem requires, one way or the other, that she admit she is a female and that a male found her attractive, so she’s already lost that battle, and thus lost the war. The only way to win is not to play, but I don’t know whether quitting immediately is a viable financial option for her.

        The gossip can turn it to her advantage if she adopts the correct pose – not vindictive, not flattered, but shocked and confused. It won’t be to her advantage for long, but it’ll make him look like a cad for a little bit.

        The sexual harassment complaint (to a manager or to a lawyer) will likely just get her on everyone’s bad side. It’s a threat to everyone’s livelihood, no matter how slight, and it makes her a victim, thus weak. It requires confrontation from conflict-adverse people, so it’s not going to work out long-term. Then she can either lawyer up and hope she has a solid case, or slink off to try to get a job where nobody knows anyone she used to work for.

        Bullying him back seems like the best option for long term relief, because it makes him the victim for a bit. It won’t work forever before it makes her look bitter, but it’ll probably hold longer than the gossip if she’s good at it. Since he’s a former friend, she might not be emotionally able to turn on him like that. Biggest downside is that he will become unpredictable if the bullying is too severe and might pose a physical threat.

        Ignoring it entirely is the last option. This depends heavily on the work environment, and she made it sound like it’s not really an option at her workplace. Long term, it’s likely to lead to more direct and extensive sexual harassment, once he gets over the first rejection, since there were no real consequences to his bad behavior. This also puts the timeline out of her hands, which I don’t favor either.

    2. EngineerGirl

      This is some of the worst advice I’ve seen in a long time.

      No one really wants to deal with sexual harassment. If you take the high road and act professionally, people **may** do so. The minute you engage in juvenile activities as described above, you lose. No want wants to be drawn into the drama, and you lose your supporters. On top of that, if you escalate things it is no longer him harassing you – but instead the two of you getting into a fight at work. And gossip? If you were on my team and I caught you goissiping, you’d BOTH get fired.

      There is only one way to deal with this. Take the high road and act professionally. It makes it easier to defend the OP. You are the professional, he is the drama queen. I would also advise NOT reacting in any way to his antics. He’s seeking to get attention from you any way he can. If you pretend he isn’t doing it then you won’t be giving him the engagement he so desperately wants.

      I think it is important that you go to management and let them know. That puts the burden on them, not you. Also mention the potential for lost customers. Make sure that you mention that there is a pattern of behavior (not one or two incidents). Insist that the pattern is disturbing, and that it isn’t just one or two incidents that can be blown off.

      1. Nichole

        I agree. The part about calling him out on his behavior might be helpful, but the method has too much blow-up-in-your-face potential. Keeping your nose clean provides a contrast to his crazy, and that’s the best way to earn support, not trying to out-crazy him. In a high emotion situation, you never do anything you wouldn’t want repeated back to you in court…in front of your grandma…with a transcript e-mailed to your judgiest college professor.

  20. CatB (Europe)

    If this were a case study at my Deviant Behavior Psychology class, I’d strongly infer that the subject (OP’s colleague) probably had his emotional development stopped at puberty: throwing tantrums, low level of toleration to frustration, childish behavior etc. In many such cases, the cognitive level remains also behind cronological age, so I do take into consideration the fact that a grown-up approach might not work, as the subject may very well not understand the full extent of the consequences of his behavior.

    In such a case, maybe if at the workplace there is a father figure that the subject looks up to, that figure can step into the situation and firmly curb the unwanted behavior.

    In the pessimistic scenario that no one can talk this guy into normality and he isn’t fired, the only chance is – as it goes with kids – to find someone with a scary enough physical appearance that, without actually resorting to violence, can force the subject into submission to the rules that govern a decent workplace.

    Just my 2c…

    1. Anonymous

      Let’s avoid diagnosing strangers with mental illnesses if we’re not their physician.

      1. khilde

        Meh. I don’t think CatB was diagnosing anyone. A person has to speculate on others’ behaviors sometimes as a way to figure out some strategies that would work or to try and understand the situation. “Diagnosing” is a pretty serious term and I don’t see how CatB was doing that. Plus, I liked his point that rational approach might not even work for this guy.

  21. Anonymous

    There’s been a lot of “find another job”, but it sounds like the OP hasn’t even spoken to management yet. I would at least give the manager the chance to handle the situation properly before making an assumption and leaving. Even managers who handle the more “mundane” office issues poorly might step up and surprise you when a more severe situation is at hand. I work in a similar “family-like” environment, where everyone is a little dysfunctional and it’s pretty difficult to get fired. While I’m relieved to say that I haven’t experienced any this severe, there have been some stressful situations that I was concerned about bringing to my boss. He absolutely stepped up when productivity and/or issues with employee safety/happiness were involved. I don’t know what situations may have been brought to this boss in the past, but if they haven’t been this big, then you could be very pleasantly surprised. If not, then it would seem (in my opinion) to be a more reasonable time to start looking elsewhere.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I agree — give them a shot, at least, and see what kind of response you get. I would also be explicit about saying something like, “I would try dealing with him directly about this, but because of his displays of anger in the past, I don’t feel safe doing so.”

    2. Erika - OP

      There are a few reasons I haven’t brought this issue to management:

      1. I don’t know how to frame the issue with management. That was part of what I was hoping to explore here (and you guys have definitely taken that ball and run with it!). Although this poor behavior began after the “romantic rejection,” none of it is out of character for him, and I don’t know how much of that actually played into it. My biggest concern is that I don’t feel I can address it with him directly and it’s interfering with my work.

      2. Our management has, in the past, had a really poor track record of dealing with…everything. I’m in a position where I am responsible for twenty-five people, but have no authority over them. We do have a couple employees who definitely bully other coworkers, and there are never any repercussions for their behavior. I tell my friends that it’s a bit like working in a Mad-Max type environment (only no guns).

      It’s been about a week since I submitted this question, and in the meantime I’ve pretty much ignored this man. He hasn’t spoken to me either, which has resulted in several people telling me to just get over whatever he’s done already, which I am certainly not ready to do. So, I may get up the nerve to speak to my manager and hope that something comes out of it, but I’m inclined to wait a little and see if he escalates at all.

      1. Anon

        There’s also the possibility that you are not the first person to have a similar complaint about this guy and they might have him on a disciplinary tract. Perhaps your complaint is the last straw and the last piece of documented complaints that push them to fire him? I only mention it because a family member works in a similarly “family” type workplace that is fantastic if you need time off to tend to sick parents/kids but terrible about disciplining aberrant behaviour. After tolerating a particular coworker for 4 years they finally started documenting the issues and fired the person. So, it could be that this has been coming a long time, though you would not necessarily be aware of this behind-the-scenes action.

      2. Charles

        Erika;

        Let me add my two-cents worth.

        First, as others have said – start documenting everything, even the trivial things. You never know if you will ever need to show “proof.” It may even be just for unemployment. Also, make sure that you document it in a way that you can easily take it with you. By that I mean an old-fashioned pen and notepad – nothing on the computer! A small notepad that you can keep in your purse. Something on the computer (such as a Word doc or an Excel file may be hard to take with you if you need to leave in a hurry)

        Second, I totally get that you are hesistant to bring it to management’s attention, especially given their track record. But, look at it this way – even if it seems like they should be aware of crazy cousin Jimmy’s behaviour (does anyone else hear dueling banjos in the background?) they may not be fully aware of YOUR viewpoint. They are used to his “oddness” and may think that others think like they do. So, even if you know that nothing will come of it you should bring it to their attention. At least they cannot later claim “we didn’t know?!”

        Lastly, I think you current method of ignoring him may be your best bet in dealing with him directly. To me it does sound like he is unstable enough that any talk with him will be seen by him as a confrontation. That’s something best avoided.

        Good luck!

        1. Amina

          Telling management secures your job because after that, if they fire you a la Patt0n Boggs, http://abovethelaw.com/2012/05/former-d-c-biglaw-staffer-sues-alleging-nasty-combination-of-drinking-and-choking-at-work/#more-155083, you have a retaliatory action claim that’s an employment lawyer’s dream case. Only the very silly would try to act against you after that. See http://www.gruntledemployees.com/ and the blogger’s book Firing At Will for more info on retaliatory action.

      3. Long Time Admin

        I think, when you talk to management, you begin by telling them you don’t know how to deal with “Ivan” when does “this and that”, and ask for their help. This should open the door to discussion and you can then explain about his romantic overture, which left you “shocked” because you’re a married woman. Do not let them turn this around on you, though, and keep asking for their help.

        And look for a new job. It sounds like, even if they handle this problem, there are way too many other problems there. You don’t need that kind of stress.

  22. Theguvnah

    It’s telling – yet unfortunately not surprising – that everyone commenting who disagrees with this being labeled “sexual harassment” – has a male commenter name.

    Random male internet commenter? You are not the arbiter of what is or is not sexual harassment.

    1. Anon

      “Random male internet commenter? You are not the arbiter of what is or is not sexual harassment.”

      No need to be sexist. Sexual harassment is not the sole realm of women, nor do you have to be a woman to recognize it is or is not happening (legally speaking) to a woman.

      I think since most accusations of sexual harassment tend to against men and even hints of sexual harassment can be quite damaging to your reputation, that men (in general) may have a greater vested interest in holding to the legally defined criteria.

      1. Anonymous

        While what you write is true, Theguvnah is making a point I realized yesterday while reading the comments on this post. Most, if not all, of the comments disagreeing that this is a sexual harassment have male names. That’s just to this post and not to the whole country.

        1. Anon

          I don’t disagree with that part, that’s a fact. I disagree with the conclusion that “random male commenter(s)” don’t also have the right of their opinion about what crosses the threshold into sexual harassment.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Absolutely they do. But it’s notable and worth pointing out when there’s a gender divide on a topic, particularly in a case like this.

            1. Anon

              Absolutely. I noticed it as well, I just hate people to take such an observation and then draw a conclusion that does nothing but widen whatever gaps exist between men and women.

              1. fposte

                They may also simply be less familiar with how the term is used in law–kind of like the people who don’t realize “hostile work environment” doesn’t apply to just anybody being horrible in the workplace.

    2. Charles

      Random theguvnah internet commenter? You are not the arbiter of what is or is not sexual harassment either.

      For what it is worth. If ask, without any context given, to define “sexual harassment” I ( you guessed it, I’m male) probably would have stated something about harassment that is sexual in nature, such as off-color comments like “hey bodacious tatas, lady!”

      I don’t know that I would have included harassment because of gender bias, not that such harassment would be okay, it is not – I just wouldn’t have thought if it as “sexual” harassment. Although, gender bias against women can, and often does, become sexual harassment – and perhaps that is where the two get confused. Nor would I consider what this jerk is doing to be gender bias either; simply call it what it is – harassment – no adjective needed!

      And, further, I’m not sure that I would have (again without reading other’s comments) considered this jerk’s behaviour to be “sexual” harassment – is it because he hit on her and was turned down that makes it “sexual”? Or is it because he is male and she is female that makes it “sexual” harassment?

      Since he hasn’t made any (as far as we know) any sexual comments (other than wanting to be closer to the OP) I would not have consider this to be sexual harassment. Again, I’m not trying to downplay it by not considering it to be sexual harassment – it is still wrong and could be a dangerous situation. (actually, calling her tatas bodacious, in a good-natured-albeit-unwelcomed manner, might be a lesser evil given her current situation)

      So, “guvnah” does having a different viewpoint from your own make me a male sexist pig?

      1. Long Time Admin

        “So, “guvnah” does having a different viewpoint from your own make me a male sexist pig?”

        It does if you talk about my tatas at work.

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        It’s not just because he’s a man and she’s a woman, but because the hostile behavior started as a result of her turning down his overtures.

      3. fposte

        I think one of the challenges with the definition is that there’s the law, there’s how the law has been interpreted, there’s the spirit of the law (which means that things that are harassment under the law aren’t necessarily *actionable* harassment), and there’s people’s various own definitions that may or may not accord with the legal defintion. I do think many people are under the misconception that legal interpretation of sexual harassment is *limited* to the scenarios you and Thomas are describing, and it’s not–if saying no to somebody’s romantic/sexual interest leads to negative work consequences, that counts as sexual harassment even if nobody made the smallest dirty joke in the office. It’s more obvious and more easily actionable in a situation where there’s a financial hit as a consequence of the action, but basically, if refusing to go out with somebody leads to their interfering with your ability to get your work done, that’s the category it falls under.

        It may not always be the most intuitive of terms for that particular breach, but nonetheless that’s the term.

  23. EngineerGirl

    Men are scared of it, no doubt. But I also see them trying to define the letter of the law so they have an “out” clause. The problem, of course, is that harassment is often a+d+e+h. It isn’t just a single thing, but a culmination of incidents. That is why it is hard to define.

    But one of the reasons that the EEOC started using the “reasonable woman” definition is that men didn’t “get it”. They would say that no harassment was happening when a majority of the women were saying that it was. It has to do with perspective.

    I am amazed that there were posters that claimed no sexual harassment was happening, but the guy was being a jerk. Sorry, the guy was being a jerk BECAUSE of a sex based action. That makes itsexual harassment. And now he is interfering with her job, BECAUSE she turned him down. It is pretty clear to me.

    I’m also amazed that people are saying it isn’t harassment because of the degree. Sorry, harassment is harassment. but it isn’t lawsuit worthy beause of the degree. You don’t see the cops going after jaywalkers because they are busy with the drug pushers. But they could still ticket you if they chose to, and it would hold up in court.

  24. Amina

    Just get out. There’s no other way to deal with this. Do make the complaint, even if the management is useless, because that will secure your job against management actions against *you*: in sitch’s like this, they blame the woman, no matter how ghastly the guy. So, secure job with complaint on record, document the guy’s behavior as others have suggested, and start looking for a new job. And that can take a while in this market, so be prepared to be stubborn!

    1. Joey

      Alright I’m going to go on a little rant here. Finding another job is a solution I see way too frequently. Sure there are times when that may be the only way to fix a problem, but it’s rarely a realistic solution, at least in the short term. Everybody’s going to have workplace problems and the solution can’t always be to just leave. And even when you have the unfortunate luck to work for a manager that sucks sometimes the positives of the jobs outweigh the negatives. So let’s save that solution for the really egregious scenarios because if people could leave they would. They usually come here for advice because they want to deal with the problem not run away from it.

      And I’m sorry but if you think this is an egregious scenario you have no idea what you’re talking about. The guy is pouting because he got shot down. Sure it’s an issue but it shouldn’t be a deal breaker. And no I’m not just saying that because my name says Joey. I’m saying that because for the 10+ years I’ve been dealing with these types of situations I’ve seen the gamut.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I tend to think she should consider leaving because her management sounds like they suck really badly, but I have very little tolerance for that.

        As for the guy, though — I actually think this is a situation where people’s personal experience as a man or a woman will color the way they see it. I’m not sure that most men understand how unsettling and even frightening it can be to have a man become hostile after being rejected, especially if it’s someone you’re forced to see everyday and can’t just avoid. As a woman, you’ve got to worry about the possibility that it could go from an annoying or unpleasant hassle to something scarier. That’s just the reality of it, and I think it’s a reality that most women live in all the time and most men don’t.

        1. Amina

          Agreed. Crazy people don’t like being told to back off, in any form, and women have to be concerned about their safety more than men. Basically, the steps are: file the claim to secure the job, but look for another one in the meantime. And if safety becomes even more of an issue after the complaint to management, then there’s the constructive dismissal action (which HR will try to bully her away from), i.e. told management, nothing effective done, safety threatened and forced to leave.

        2. Joey

          Here’s why it’s not sexual harassment. Being scared is not the only factor considered. His anger issues are not directed at her because of her sex. He’s an equal opportunity verbal abuser. Think about it. Are his anger issues directed only at her? Has he displayed any anger at her because of the rejection? Has he displayed any violent behaviors towards her since the rejection? I may be wrong but it doesn’t sound like it. At most you can conclude that he’s being rude to her because of the rejection.

          And just because it’s different treatment because of sex doesn’t mean it’s sexual harassment or discrimination, at least in the legal sense. If that sounds crazy to you would a guy who merely asked you out once then was too embarrassed to talk to you after he was rejected constitute sexual harassment. No, although it’s different treatment based on sex. I treat women different all the time and my job involves resolving EEOC stuff. I speak to guys more about guy type stuff and I’m probably a little less social with women at work. For instance I don’t go to lunch by myself with a female co worker. Does that make me guilty of sexual harassment or discrimination? It’s different treatment based on sex but I don’t think it deserves a label with such negative connotations.

            1. Joey

              That’s not the way I interpreted it. I read it as he has a pattern of aggressive behavior regardless of gender. And the only way he’s treating her different is refusing to talk to her.

              But absolutely if the aggressiveness is only directed at her I’d agree that it there’s more of a case of sexual harassment.

          1. fposte

            There’s no law forbidding general jackassery; if he was doing all that to everybody without having asked her out, you’d be right. But once he does that for relationship-related reasons, which was clearly causal here, it then falls under the EEOC purview. You may not feel it *should*, but that’s another discussion.

            Her work’s being impaired because she wouldn’t go out with somebody. She shouldn’t have to go out with anybody to get her work done effectively.

      2. Anon

        “The guy is pouting because he got shot down. Sure it’s an issue but it shouldn’t be a deal breaker.”

        You’re not wrong there, he is pouting. The difference between treating him as just another ridiculous pouter is his history of “anger issues”. The Op has said that he “seethes about things, then blows up, and has been known to kick things and slam doors. The last time we had an actual disagreement he told me to “f off” (in front of customers) and then slammed a door.” Not only is the behaviour itself unacceptably angry and violent in the workplace, but it’s a pattern of such behaviour.

        This is why it is not just a pouter but has stepped up to the next level, which is true cause to worry about violence against her. Worse, management at that company has allowed him to establish this pattern of acting out – it’s not appropriate anytime, not just in reaction to someone shooting him down romantically. All of this together suggests that leaving that company may be the best decision, because this IS egregious.

        1. Jenn

          I completely agree. His behavior is not a normal response to rejection. And the physical responses (kicking things, slamming doors) indicates – to me at least – a serious lack of impulse control. He sounds volatile and unpredictable. And the fact that management will do nothing about it is a really big, red arrow pointing towards the door.

        2. fposte

          Well, and honestly, he got shot down by somebody he knew was married. How did he even make it up to the point where he could be shot down?

          1. P

            If the OP did go the sex harassment route, a good attorney defending the company would bring this up, I know I would.

            However stories like this is a good reason for my three rules in dating:
            1. No coworkers
            2. No friends
            3. No family members of the first two.

            That has kept me out of some bad experiences I am sure.

  25. Feel your pain

    Just want to say I’m in the same situation myself but even a bit more nebulous because the guy never asked me out. But he definitely liked me and when I decided I needed to stop being friendly to a guy (2 levels senior to me I might add) who was constantly punishing me for not being his special go-to office buddy at the exact moment he demanded it, that’s when the real campaign of jackassery (love that word) began in earnest. For two years he has turned around when he sees me coming, left the copy room when I enter it, slammed his door each and every time he hears my voice, given me silent treatment, etc. After a year of rising above I sat him down and told him “you need to stop x,y, and z behavior,” purposely not probing his feelings because that’s what he wants. His response? “I’ll have to think about that.” And then right back to the fun and games. Am now in midst of HR complaint (after another year of taking it on the chin) but already worried it will backfire. Of course they asked me if we were in a relationship and have made a big point of letting me know the bar for sexual harassment is high (even though I didn’t label it that). They have a no bullying policy but are taking their time investigating. My conflict avoidant boss was worthless. The different perceptions in the comments here from men and women may also be about the relative power of men and women in the world. This thing may not go my way but no regrets for reporting it, at least not yet. It is humiliating to be treated like this and my guy is good and sneaky and the boss loves him. We also have a “we’re all friends” environment, which is horrible when there are real problems.

  26. Carl

    I suggest leaving this ‘Job’ and finding some other way to make a living. You don’t need all this drama, and it could quite possibly escalate into something much worse.

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