update: my coworker has punched and kicked me under the table at meetings

Remember the letter writer a couple of weeks ago whose coworker was punching and kicking her under the table at meetings — hard? Here’s the update.

I ended up getting the nerve to talk to my boss about it. Honestly, I’ve never seen someone’s eyes bug out of their head so much. He was definitely shocked that this was happening, and he was able to convince me to not only go to HR, but to confront “Jane” head-on.

I filed an incident report with HR and it’s gone on her file. Apparently due to her not-so-great performance reviews, plus this, she’s in some hot water.

After I took it to HR, Jane kept persisting and asking if I was okay and showing up in my office with chocolate and coffee to (I assume) try and distract me from her wrongdoings. I refused her peace making attempts and confronted her. She said she “didn’t realize she had kicked me that hard,” made other excuses, and essentially refused to apologize. I have since distanced myself from her and am only working directly with her when absolutely neccesary.

Thankfully have a good bit of work travel coming up, so I won’t be having to deal with her and that is a huge relief!

Work has been abuse free since filing the complaint! Here’s hoping it stays that way!

{ 211 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Stop That Goat

    I hope that this remains positive! It’s unfortunate that she still won’t admit/apologize for what could be construed as assault but at least the behavior seems to have stopped.

    Reply
      1. Office Plant

        Yeah, she had a bruise. I think that’s assault and battery, though exact laws would vary by location. In the original letter she said “mate”, so I’m guessing this came from one of the many predominantly English speaking countries outside of North America.

        Reply
  2. LKW

    Glad your boss came through for you. Sounds like Jane finally recognized that she crossed a line – and good for you for not diminishing it or playing it down with her.

    May this never happen to you again.

    Reply
    1. Caro in the UK

      It seems like she not so much recognises that she behaved badly, more that she recognises that people in a position of authority over her think she behaved badly. But that’s not entirely surprising :(

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        Yeah — she didn’t kick ‘THAT hard’ — as in kicking is no big deal and the OP is just ‘sensitive.’ Hope she gets dismissed sooner rather than later so noone has to deal with this.

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        1. Not So NewReader

          Here is an admission to kicking and she is just debating the firmness of the kick.
          Hopefully, management will see this for what it is. There is no reason to kick anyone under the table.

          Reply
        2. Anon today...and tomorrow

          That is something my kids say to me when they’re being punished for hitting their sibling. However, they’re children and it’s being clearly explained to them that hitting is never okay, regardless of the strength of the blow. Seems like Jane never got that instruction as a child.

          LW, I’m happy that your update went your way. Good for you for ignoring the peace making attempts and saying something! It’s awful that you even had to go through this in the first place. What a crazy situation.

          Reply
    1. azvlr

      I’m glad the boss has her back, but asking her to confront her bully is not quite the right thing to do. In conflict resolution between two rational people, confronting/present one’s grievances is the right thing to do. However, with a bully, this is simply feeding their power and the bullied risks further bullying. In training for this type of thing, we are taught that this is a time for someone in authority to intervene.

      I don’t think the boss was utterly wrong in their response, but I’m just putting this out there for future.

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      1. Anna

        I don’t agree. By having the OP say something to Jane, there’s no way for her to pretend she doesn’t know what’s up or sweep aside HR’s concerns. OP was in no immediate danger, so it makes sense for HR to say “and please do speak directly to Jane about this.”

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        1. azvlr

          For the most part that makes sense in this case. I just wanted to heighten awareness that this approach is not always the best. Cheers!

          Reply
  3. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

    Congratulations! So happy that you’ve got a supportive boss and that things are working out for you. Good on you for standing up for yourself and remaining firm. Jane is a mess and a half, you deserve better than to deal with that nonsense. Enjoy your work travel!

    Reply
  4. Tuesday

    So glad to see an update on this one, and that it’s mostly positive! Having support from the boss and HR has to be a relief. It’s annoying that Jane won’t apologize, but maybe not surprising. If you reach a point in your adult life where you have to tell a coworker that you didn’t think you kicked her that hard, that might be a sign that you need to take a minute to evaluate the kind of person you’ve become.

    Reply
    1. Newby

      This makes me think of How I Met Your Mother: “I’m sorry, is this a discussion of the degree to which you stabbed me?”

      Reply
    2. paul

      amen. Stories like this make me glad I don’t touch HR. I can handle dealing with clients that have uber poor life skills, but coworkers? UGAEDFJDKLFJ

      Reply
  5. AnotherLibrarian

    I am so glad your boss reacted like a rational person would in this situation and you are dealing with it head on. I thought about you a lot after your letter, so thank you for the update.

    I think when something so absurd is happening at work, it is easy to downplay it in your head. To say, “Well, it is not that bid of a deal..”

    And forget that yes, sometimes things are that big of a deal.

    Having someone else in a position of higher authority recognize the situation as a serious problem can be so reassuring.

    Good luck!

    Reply
    1. Purest Green

      Having someone else in a position of higher authority recognize the situation as a serious problem can be so reassuring.

      Absolutely. Sometimes this makes all the difference.

      Reply
  6. GarlicMicrowaver

    Sorry, but I believe there’s laws against this. Wouldn’t she be fired or possibly arrested for hitting you in the workplace, or in general? Everyone seems a bit too laid-back here from the beginning.

    Reply
    1. ThatGirl

      It could technically be considered assault, but for many people, calling in law enforcement is a bridge too far. The OP just wanted it to stop.

      Reply
    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

      Arrested is a bit much; it’s one of those things that while yes, technically, it’s illegal, it’s not a good use of law enforcement resources to pull them in on this when it can be handled on a smaller, calmer level.

      Reply
    3. Justme

      There were multiple calls for getting law enforcement and a lawyer involved in the original letter. Instead of focusing on what the OP didn’t do, let’s focus on the success so far of what has been done.

      Reply
      1. GarlicMicrowaver

        I get that OP was put in a bad position. I was not trying to berate her. However, sorry, but I don’t think the COMPANY is doing enough. This person should be fired.

        Reply
        1. Naruto

          I think that’s right. If I were the employer, these circumstances wouldn’t have the kicker in hot water; the kicker would be fired.

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          1. Hey Nonnie

            I agree. I’m dismayed that the company didn’t flat out fire the problem child, or file a police report. Assault is a crime, in a professional environment I’d expect zero-tolerance for that. (I’m willing to bet they wouldn’t react so mildly to the crime of embezzlement, but hey, it’s just employee safety so a scolding is enough, right?)

            And I wouldn’t expect it to matter that the assault happened last week instead of an hour ago. Problem child admitted to the kick when she said she didn’t think she kicked “that hard.” When an adult confesses to violence in the workplace, you don’t just briefly wag a finger.

            Reply
    4. Undine

      We’ve had this discussion. You can check out the comments on legality, etc. — including a discussion of perception around calling law enforcement first and a comment from actual law enforcement on how it might be handled — on the original thread. The great thing is she started small and didn’t have to escalate. Which is what should happen, if you work with grownups.

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      1. Over Development

        “Which is what should happen, if you work with grownups.”

        I was so glad to see this handled quickly but her boss and HR.

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        1. Artemesia

          I think firing is appropriate but probably needed to happen with immediate reaction to the kick i.e. the OP would need to have made an issue of it right then rather than reporting a past event. That makes it more awkward. Let’s hope there will be no more kicking.

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    5. Parenthetically

      I think this kind of comment shows a noble desire for justice, and the attitude behind it is commendable. But I agree with ThatGirl and the Countess — calling in law enforcement is the nuclear option many people wouldn’t choose, whether because they don’t care how the thing stops, just that it stops, or because they cannot face police interviews and the attendant emotional toll, or because they would prefer the police spend their time and resources dealing with more serious crimes. Or a combination of those things.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        To me it’s also about contextual impact–going to the police may feel like an escalation to the person doing it, but being kicked under the table is going to be a very, very small thing in the eyes of the police but a very, very large thing in the eyes of a reasonable employer. If you want it to be taken as a large thing, choose your audience.

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        1. j-nonymous

          I don’t want to re-litigate the whole go-to-the-police vs. don’t-go argument, but taking into account your contextual impact, I think it’s also fair to say that kicking and punching someone is *so far outside* the acceptable norms of office behavior, that it points to some deeply, deeply troubling tendencies on the part of the assaulter. Tendencies which could indicate violent behavior outside the office – violence which could be (and has as of the original letter) escalated by the assaulter.

          Reply
          1. Student

            It’s far outside your norms. It’s not far outside everyone’s norms. There are some very significant class, race, and gender issues at play regarding perception of and tolerance of violence at varying levels.

            For example, the police on average have a tendency to take violence committed by women much less seriously than violence committed by men, due to a stereotype that women aren’t strong enough to “really” hurt anyone. The police also treat upper or middle class complaints much more seriously than lower class complaints.

            I’ve worked in places where violence of any kind is a no-go. I’ve also worked in places where I was told by my boss that a guy grabbing my crotch was acceptable, or I was expected to suck it up for injuries, electrical shocks, raining fire in my work area, theft, damaged safety equipment, and other general unnecessary or hazardous stupidity.

            Reply
            1. j-nonymous

              That seems more to undermine fposte’s argument really – that in some workplaces, this would not be a large thing (and fposte even qualified the original argument with ‘reasonable’ workplace); I just started with that supposition. But I get where you’re coming from.

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              1. Not So NewReader

                I get it, too. One thing I love about this site is how it reminds me that sane work places exist. I have been that lone voice in the wilderness saying, “Noooo, we should not be doing X.” It’s nice to be around like minded people.

                Reply
        2. Office Plant

          I don’t think the police would see it as a small thing. I think the police know that when people are physically violent, it’s often part of a larger pattern of behavior with multiple victims. In other words, this person might do something worse, or might have done something worse, to someone else. If this is their clear-headed work place behavior, it’s scary to think about what they’d be like under other circumstances.

          Reply
          1. Parenthetically

            I called the cops on my downstairs neighbors a few times in my first place when I heard him beating the hell out of her. The cops came, had a conversation with them, told him to cool off, and left, EVERY TIME. I don’t have a lot of automatic confidence that the cop who answers the call is going to take “she kicked me under the table” and “she punched me during a meeting” seriously when some of them don’t take “sobbing, bruised 19-year-old dabbing at a bloody nose” and “100 pounds heavier 25-year-old with busted knuckles” seriously.

            Reply
            1. Candi

              Honestly? That can be one or more of crappy training, crappier upper echelons in the police force (often involving sexist viewpoints), and really crappy local laws that don’t permit police “interference” if it happens ‘in the couple’s own home’.

              I know way too much about this stuff, and am glad I got off lightly on the victim scale. And that my state has decent laws and the local cops are awesome.

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        3. Mira

          If you want it to be taken as a large thing, choose your audience.

          Thank you for this. I’m going to adopt this line as my mantra for how I deal with things from now on.

          Reply
    6. Clever Name

      While I’m not sure I would call the police in this situation, I agree with you that this is really egregious. It’s so egregious that I think Jane should have been fired on the spot for hitting and kicking a coworker.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Yeah, I’m disappointed she wasn’t fired, but I’m glad that she received some kind of disciplinary action (and the action noted seems severe, even if it doesn’t really satisfy our desire for more comprehensive “justice”).

        Reply
        1. paul

          Yep.

          And hell, maybe HR/management is working on a case against her so they don’t have to pay unemployment.

          Reply
          1. j-nonymous

            If you fire someone because they kicked and punched another employee, there’s no way they’re getting unemployment unless the company never challenges the claim.

            Reply
            1. Candi

              That really, really depends. There was a while back in the late 1990s where blood would have to be shed and someone hospitalized before the UI board in this state would turn down someone for unemployment. The rules were there; they just flat ignored them.

              They’ve gotten sort of better since, but they still often grant unemployment in cases where the applicant clearly should not, under the objective guidelines.

              Reply
    7. Bea

      I understand the feeling behind pressing charges but in reality it would not have turned into any real case. It’s where the cops would most likely not even respond, depending on the area.

      I have had multiple instances a cop just won’t be bothered with the extra paperwork over a kick under the table.

      I assume also that Jane is getting fired soon but HR wants to tie it up perfectly so their unemployment rate isn’t increased.

      Reply
  7. Undine

    This is a great step forward for you, not in just in terms of addressing the immediate problem, but in seeing the work world is not like school. I think you will continue to grow and thrive, while Jane is sadly going to be stuck in the past. Go you!

    Reply
  8. L.

    She “didn’t realize she had kicked me that hard.” LOL, like that makes a difference! This person sounds unfit for society, and from a distance I can only pity such an immature weirdo. I still think HR and management failed OP here — they convinced him/her to confront her directly? Seems very irresponsible, especially once OP established she has a history of (albeit low-grade) violence against OP. And they put something in her file as opposed to canning her immediately? OP, even if this is somewhat resolved, I’d still say consider other employment offers.

    Reply
    1. Anna

      I know. That response made me roll my eyes. “Yes, I meant to cause you pain, but I didn’t realize I was causing you THAT much pain.” As if the issue weren’t with Jane kicking her coworker AT ALL. Jane is an abuser.

      I don’t think HR failed in this. This was pretty egregious, but the OP wasn’t in any immediate danger. I think in a lot of cases if this were happening to someone they would have spoken directly to Jane first anyway. In this case, Jane is hearing it from the OP and HR, which means she can’t blow off either one of them as misunderstanding or as Jane not realizing it was that big a deal.

      Reply
      1. Kyrielle

        Yeah, HR opened (expanded? I’m unclear if the performance issues were already on file with them) a file on Jane and put her on notice, it sounds like. That’s reasonable at this stage. If Jane resumes kicking/hitting and they *continue* to just keep a file, that would be an issue, but at this point I think Jane is on very, very thin ice. (There’s a spring thaw joke in here somewhere, I think….)

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        1. Lance

          Yeah, from the sound of things, it seems like Jane’s now on her final warning; anything further against her, and she’s out.

          Reply
      2. Sassy AE

        I mean, I understand I suppose if they don’t fire her immediately. But, out of all the possible things you could be fired for under the sun, kicking a coworker (for no safety/protection reasons) should be hands down THE top reason to march someone out the door that day.

        Reply
        1. Engineer Girl

          It’s possible that HR is trying to make this air tight. This kind of person is the exact type that would try to collect unemployment and the exact type that would threaten lawsuits. HR is dotting every i and crossing every t.
          That’s another reason they told the OP to tell Jane to knock it off. They’ll then have evidence that OP was not consenting to the behavior if it happened again.
          In short, they are doing everything to set up Jane to be fired if she so much sneezes the wrong way.

          Reply
          1. KarenD

            It may be what they are trying to do but I don’t think it’s what they are achieving. Physically and intentionally battering a co-worker, even with extreme provocation (which was not present in the original post) should be an automatic one-way ticket out the door, whether it be a firing or a suspension pending investigation.

            That said, it is always a lot easier to sit here in front of a keyboard and second-guess what HR did here. People who manage social media journalists probably haven’t given a lot of though to the question: “What do we do if employees start kicking each other and not in a fun way?” (Though I will say that of the three workplace fistfights I’ve witnessed, two — and one very dramatic chair-throwing — were in newsrooms.)

            Reply
            1. Jessie the First (or second)

              I absolutely agree that they aren’t achieving what they think they are achieving by delaying. Because if you do not fire someone who kicks a coworker, then you are, essentially, condoning it as not a fireable offense. If that isn’t a fireable offense, how will it get easier to fire her later, when she does something less egregious?

              And the idea that they need “evidence that OP was not consenting to the behavior” isn’t reasonable; you don’t need to prove that you don’t want to be kicked. There is no controversy around consensual vs nonconsensual kicking in the workplace. The company does not need evidence that the assault victim didn’t want to be assaulted, or that somehow there is a rational basis for Jane to think that violence is acceptable.

              Reply
      3. k

        I can’t get over that Jane doesn’t think kicking in the workplace is every okay, even if it’s not hard. The only phrase even close to that that should ever be head in a workplace (or most of society) is “So sorry, I didn’t realize that I kicked you” Because it was an actual accident, because people should not be kicking each other willy-nilly unless they are competing in or training for a competitive kicking contest (I’m assuming that’s a thing).

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        1. Effie

          It is among dance teams and karate and even then we’re not trying to kick each other so in complete agreement that something like “Sorry, I didn’t mean to kick you” is the only thing that should be said.

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        2. Not So NewReader

          I fidget while I sit. I try to sit somewhere that is not too crowded. The few times I have bumped (I do mean bumped, not kicked) someone I have apologized IMMEDIATELY. It’s never been a problem. Most of us know the difference between accidental and deliberate. Except Jane. Jane has not learned this one yet.

          Reply
      4. Not My Monkeys, Not My Circus

        From the HR point of view, we get cases where perceived harassing is going on and the victim never spoke up to say stop in anyway. [Providing an example as I don’t want to derail the conversation based on whether a situation is/is not harassment. Think a guy/girl is interested in coworker and keeps flirting and dropping hints about going out. Coworker is uncomfortable but ignores or just makes non-committal response so guy/girl continues said flirting. Repeatedly. Coworker finally gets to the point they report it when they are terrified of being alone with guy/girl for fear of more uncomfortable interactions.] In many cases, the harasser would have been willing to stop, but they did not know it bothered the victim. Whether due to low social skills or just lack of observation skills, who knows. However, if the victim had spoken up the first time and said hey! that crossed a line, an adult would have immediately apologized, not done it again and everyone would move on. When the victim doesn’t try to speak up first, then they seethe on it until they snap like the poor secretary in the St. Patrick’s Day post and then everyone wonders why. Even if they don’t quit, by the time a manager or HR can address it, the relationship is permanently damaged and there is no good solution.

        I will clarify this is more for peer to peer cases like the OPs and I would have advised speaking up to OP as well if I were there manager or HR. But even when you have issues with people up the hierarchy, it is still a good idea to say stop first so that you make it known that you find the behavior offensive, but it is much more understandable why someone would pull in the HR or other reinforcements. Most companies (w HR) will have a no retaliation policy, but most people still don’t trust they’ll be safe bringing up an issue against a higher up.

        I’m surprised though that Jane wasn’t fired since she has admitted to the kicking. “I didn’t mean to kick that hard” is not really a defense that would save someone’s job in my book.

        Reply
        1. TL -

          An adult also wouldn’t keep flirting with someone who is a) a coworker and b) not responding. So the logic of, “a normal adult will just stop if I say no,” is already out the window here.

          Speaking up is best, true, but there are excellent reasons why someone would go to HR or their boss rather than say something directly, especially in instances where there is implied or executed physical violence. If you are afraid of someone hitting you, you’re not going to feel especially confident telling them to stop hitting you and that’s completely reasonable.

          (Also. I do not want a relationship of any sorts with a coworker who won’t stop flirting with me, despite my lack of response. That bridge can burn; all I need is to be professional.)

          Reply
        2. Geoffrey B

          Unfortunately not all adults are adults, and many women have learned *not* to give a direct “no” in that sort of situation for fear of a hostile response.

          When I’m flirting with somebody (which I don’t do in the workplace) I look for positive confirmation that they’re comfortable with that interaction. If I don’t have that confirmation, I stop, without waiting for an explicit “no”.

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        3. Not So NewReader

          There’s a ton of people out there who do not totally believe their NO will be respected. While it’s probably more women than men, I have seen men MARVEL when they say no and it gets the proper response.

          In my small worldly view, I am not surprised that HR made OP confront Jane. I am not keen on this tactic but I do realize it’s pretty common. I think there are situations where HR would be totally inappropriate to advise someone to confront. Hopefully, OP’s HR does not use this approach with every situation.

          I do think that Jane’s poor reaction validates times ten what OP told HR. I mean, my goodness, if someone went to HR on something I did, I would be dying on the inside and it would show.

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        4. neverjaunty

          One good solution is training so that potential harassers don’t have to wait to be told what is and isn’t OK in the workplace. Does your state not require that?

          (Though I don’t think there is much you can do about a grown adult who is unclear on the concept of “Don’t kick people when you are angry at them.”)

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        5. margarets

          I really hate this line of thinking, that it’s up to the target to draw the line, otherwise the perpetrator’s free pass is continually renewed. I’ve dealt with a lot of harassment in my jobs (not sexual) and I really DON’T think it’s up to me to ask my co-workers to please not insult me or criticize me about personal matters. That is basic workplace etiquette and it is on THEM to know that and behave accordingly.

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    2. Turanga Leela

      “I didn’t realize I kicked you so hard” is my new favorite excuse. It’s a great way to miss the point entirely.

      Reply
      1. EddieSherbert

        +1 right? I’m glad that stood out to other people too. Ridiculous.

        Glad things worked out for the OP, though!

        Reply
      2. JessaB

        The immediate response to that should be “you just admitted you kicked me, I don’t care how soft or hard you did it, you are NOT to kick or touch me in any way again.” But that’s what you say to semi-rational people, and I don’t think anyone believes her to be a rational person.

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    3. SystemsLady

      You can basically take that to me “I don’t regret even thinking of doing it, and if I did it again I wouldn’t kick as hard”.

      Reply
    4. Tuckerman

      She sounds like someone who has watched so many rom com movies that her behavior seems normal. Because I think I’ve only seen someone actually kick someone under the table in movies.

      Reply
        1. JessaB

          Yeh but kicking to stop your friend from saying something worse than they already said, or stop them from blurting out a secret isn’t really a sharp, hard kick. It’s a deliberate nudge to get their attention. It should not hurt, and it shouldn’t happen again if your friend says “don’t do that.”

          Reply
      1. Artemesia

        The only time kicking under the table is ‘acceptable’ is the warning kick trying to let for example your husband know the story he is about to tell is about your companions sister or something similar socially disastrous.

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    5. Tomato Frog

      When my sister was very little, before she had learned how to lie properly, she dropped my grandma’s cat in a full bathtub. The whole house heard it yowl. When confronted about it, my sister said, “I didn’t know it would make such a loud noise.”

      When I hear excuses like this — like “I didn’t know you would take it so hard” or “I didn’t know I had hit you so hard” — I mentally translate it to, “I didn’t know you would make a noise about it.”

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      1. OhNo

        When it comes from an adult, I usually translate it to “I thought you would quietly accept being abused, like a good victim.”

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      1. Cally

        Even more classic was bringing her peace gifts… nothing like a box of chocolates to make a woman forget being assaulted!

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    6. Minister of Snark

      It also reassigns the blame to op for being “too weak” to be able to withstand the kick. It makes op the problem instead of the coworkers behavior.

      Reply
      1. Nervous Accountant

        Tell me about it!!!!! Reminds me of when I was a kid and I’d get smacked or kicked or pinched or whatever. I should have taken it or been OK with it bc I was tall for my age (I stopped growing at 11) and fat too. The person doing it was always smaller in size so if I ever fought back, it looked like teh big fat kid (me) picking on the little guy. :(

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    7. Jaguar

      I think people might be taking the “didn’t realize she had kicked me that hard”-excuse making a little too literally. People don’t always act the way they should under ideal circumstances, and I think we can agree the the abuser is less capable. Throw in the stress and embarrassment of having this blow up in her face and expecting everything she says to be reasonable and literal is a bad way of understanding things.

      In my experience, the way these things play out where someone does something they shouldn’t, gets in hot water, and then has to make it right and winds up offering excuses and sideways reasons for their behaviour is that they’re hoping to have the person they’ve wronged accept one of these olive branches and both parties can put the whole thing behind them. It’s a path-of-least-resistance strategy.

      OP is under no obligation, morally or otherwise, to let her off that easy, but I think it’s more likely that this is what she’s after with stuff like “I didn’t think I kicked you that hard” than she literally thinks there’s an acceptable level of force to hit people. It’s possible she’s that deranged, but I think it’s the less likely scenario in cases like this.

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        Yeah, I can see that. But it’s using little kid rationale in an adult world. That may fly sometimes for a kid, but adults not so much.

        Reply
  9. BadPlanning

    Stay strong, OP! And excellent job on standing up for yourself.

    On the plus side, Jane didn’t try to pretend it never happened. “Kick you? I’ve never kicked you.” or “I was swinging my leg, I can’t help that your shin was in the way.”

    On the minus side, “I didn’t kick you that hard” isn’t really the right response for adults. “That was stupid of me to do, I am very sorry” would go a long way.

    Reply
    1. AdAgencyChick

      I think it’s too much to ask that someone who is enough of a twit to have punched and kicked a coworker would actually understand that she is in the wrong. Just the fact that she knows she can never do this again and still have a job is an excellent update.

      Although, since the original post is less than a month old, I hope that the improvement OP has seen lasts. Something tells me not to trust this coworker any farther than one can kick her (see what I did there?).

      Reply
      1. fposte

        Yeah, I was thinking this. If you haven’t mastered the social skill of not hitting, the art of properly apologizing is likely to be way beyond you.

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        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

          Yeah, we’re still in, like, preschool levels of social development, and I don’t expect an unprompted apology out of someone till at least kindergarten or so.

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        2. jamlady

          That’s what I was thinking. I was trying to imagine the right way to apologize to someone for this, but the original behavior is so beyond comprehension to me that I couldn’t come up with what to say.

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          1. Not So NewReader

            A person who was genuinely remorseful in this situation would find a way to get that across. It’s not so much the word choice as it is the depth of thinking/insight reflected in the apology.

            Reply
  10. Rachael

    I’m so happy for you. These type of people root out the people they think they can abuse and then don’t understand when you fight back. The peace offerings were manipulations. It is really creepy that she felt that she was entitled to that behavior at work and I worry for any spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend/child/elderly parents who may be in the picture. The good thing is that you didn’t add your name to her list of victims. There is never a reason why anyone should put their hands (or feet) on anyone!

    Reply
    1. Lance

      Yeah, the peace offerings are definitely attempted manipulative behavior. Good on you, OP, for having nothing to do with them; continue doing that, and show her that you’re not going to take what she did lightly.

      Reply
      1. Rachael

        I just can’t help thinking that if the OP’s significant other did this they could get arrested and charged easily. However, since it is a female coworker I don’t think that it is getting the attention that it deserves. I’m not necessarily thinking that the police should be called, but I was hoping for some more muscle from the employer. Abuse is abuse!

        Reply
    1. Another A

      Oh my goodness yes! A colleague who believes the OP got her in trouble for kicking “too hard” (instead of acknowledging kicking at all is wrong) might try to retailiate while the OP is away.

      Locking up valuables and sensitive info in the workplace is an all around good practice even if you don’t have horrible coworkers.

      Reply
  11. BBBizAnalyst

    Sounds like she is trying to gaslight you when telling you that she “didn’t kick that hard”. I am glad that you are not falling for her tactics. Abusers always try to downplay their actions to make what they’re doing seem reasonable. It’s not. Hope she gets fired soon.

    Reply
    1. Jaguar

      It could just as easily be that she has really awful impulse control which leads to hitting and is panicking now that it’s blown up in her face and threatening her job so she’s spitting out weak excuses/lies to try and salvage the situation. “Gaslighting” implies a level of sinister malice and conspiracy which – while possible – I think is the less likely scenario here.

      Reply
      1. OhNo

        I disagree. Gaslighting is actually a pretty common defensive reaction, and doesn’t have to involve malice/conspiracy. How many times have you heard adults (or children) use “it was just a joke!” or “I didn’t mean it like that!” or “quite being a baby!” or “you’re just sensitive!”?

        Reply
          1. Expat

            Yeah, that’s minimizing, not gaslighting. Gaslighting is not a blanket term to be applied to every nasty interaction.

            Reply
            1. Clinical Social Worker

              It’s not just anything. It’s anything that could get you to question “wait, did that really happen?” Any tactic that can get you to question your perception of reality is gaslighting to me.

              Reply
        1. Jaguar

          I think that really depends on what you want “gaslighting” to describe. To me, it describes when people are deliberately lying to manipulate someone’s sense of reality (and I think just calling it “lying” usually cuts to the heart of the matter better anyway). It’s very conceivable to me that the abuser in this letter’s case has convinced herself that she wasn’t hitting that hard, in which case lying would be inaccurate. I don’t see that as gaslighting, as there’s no attempt to manipulate there.

          Reply
        2. Leatherwings

          nah, gaslighting is a specifically abusive behavior designed to make sure the victim doubts their perception of things.

          Reply
        3. Newby

          I have a friend that uses “I was joking!” to excuse offensive statements. I pointed out that he wouldn’t find it funny unless he believed it at least a little on some level. He actually conceded that that was true and seemed upset at that revelation.

          Reply
          1. LN

            I like just saying “sorry, I don’t get the joke?” until they’re forced to explain how/why bigotry is funny to them. Usually the light bulb goes on at some point.

            Reply
            1. SheLooksFamiliar

              Miss Manners recommends this, too. When someone tells you a racist/misogynistic/bigoted/insulting joke, you should look blank and say, ‘I don’t understand the joke, please explain it to me.’ If the jokester still thinks it’s funny, again ask them to explain. They may not reach enlightenment, but they’ll probably never tell you a joke again.

              Reply
      2. Florida

        Does it really matter if it is gaslighting or not? I don’t think the point of this website is to offer a psychological analysis for OP’s coworker. The point is to offer actionable advice for OP (or in this case, congratulations for solving the problem).
        If you want to call it gaslighting and others want to call it not-gaslighting, then call it what you want.

        Reply
        1. BF50

          yes. The definition of “gaslighting” is off topic and Allison has specifically asked us to try and avoid tangents.

          Reply
        2. Jaguar

          Well, my point is that BBBizAnalyst is implying manipulation that I don’t think there’s enough evidence to claim exists, which speaks directly to the letter. Unpacking the term was a method towards that aim.

          Reply
      3. Bea

        She’s probably not a sinister monster but she is still a bully who physically harms others. Why nitpick the words used to describe her, it feels like you have sympathy for the abuser here and that’s unsettling.

        Reply
        1. Jaguar

          I would say my sympathies are with the letter writer! What I’m trying to do is argue against what I think is a hasty conclusion and offer a more grounded explanation for what might be at work with the abuser based on the idea that having a clear understanding of the situation is more useful to the OP than the most diabolical scenario someone can think up. For instance, see where people in this thread have suggested the OP should go to the police because a coworker kicked her.

          If you want to talk about unsettling, I’m pretty unsettled by some of the runaway villainizing that’s happening here. I would argue clarity is far more valuable than the unquestioned worst thing we can think up to describe OP’s abuser. I’ve never once said that OP’s coworker is definitely not a destructive psychopath – she may well be! The advice to the OP in that case is plentiful in the comments here for that scenario. I’m suggesting it’s unlikely and there are other, more likely scenarios OP should consider.

          Reply
        2. Taylor Swift

          Understanding the roots of the kicker’s behavior so as best to stop it in the future is not at all the same as having sympathy for the kicker. The point here is not to achieve some moral victory, it’s to get the terrible behavior to stop.

          Reply
    2. designbot

      I think ‘gaslighting’ her would be trying to convince her it never happened. On the contrary, downplaying her actions is affirmation that she indeed acted in such a manner in the first place. The flipside of “I didn’t realize I kicked you that hard,” is, “yes I admit that I kicked you.”

      Reply
    3. Trillian

      Based on my experience with female bullying, sugar sweetness from a bully whose behaviour has been challenged is as much a performance for those around her as for the victim. Subtext: “See, we’re *friends*. You don’t believe I could have hurt my *friend*, do you? It was all a silly misunderstanding; she doesn’t really mind.”

      Reply
  12. Aurion

    “Didn’t realize she had hit me that hard.” The fact that she thought kicking under the table is something adults do speaks volumes. Entire libraries, even.

    On top of the physical stuff, I hope she is also in hot water for stealing your work, OP. And I hope that the “report to HR” bit is a bureaucracy requirement and not that your boss can’t/won’t handle his subordinates.

    Reply
    1. ThatGirl

      “It wasn’t //that// hard” sounds like the defense mechanism of someone who has a hard time admitting they’ve done something wrong and can’t be arsed to apologize.

      Reply
      1. Aurion

        This woman’s obstinacy is appalling. If she socked the OP hard enough to leave a bruise for two weeks but still doesn’t think it was “that hard”, what the hell is that hard? Breaking bones?

        Reply
        1. Purest Green

          Seriously, does she have an adamantium skeleton? Hitting someone hard enough to bruise them that badly should cause more than a slight sensation for the offender too.

          Reply
          1. SusanIvanova

            Martial artist here: Combine pointy women’s dress shoes with an easily bruised area like the shin, and I can imagine she didn’t feel all that much.

            Reply
            1. Aurion

              I thought about that, but the OP’s original post mentioned a kick to the thigh. That ought to take some force, and some weird contortions under the table.

              I’m not sure I would’ve kept my composure so well as the OP. In the moment, my response would probably have been something along the lines of “kick me again and you will regret it” and let her parse the possibilities of that regret.

              …I don’t keep my cool as well as I would like.

              Reply
        2. Daffodil

          I’ve met people who get bruises from bumps that I wouldn’t even notice, but that’s really not an excuse. Very mild kicking isn’t acceptable either.

          Reply
            1. LN

              lol, what a concept!

              Yeah, I rarely bruise because I have collapsing veins (~born that way~) so my bruising-or-not-bruising wouldn’t be a reliable marker for the appropriateness of being hit in the workplace. Probably easier to just err on the side of “don’t hit people in the workplace,” which seems to be…beyond the OP’s co-worker, for some unsettling reason.

              Reply
    2. Not Karen

      I doubt she thinks kicking under the table is something adults do. I assume she knows it’s wrong but doesn’t care and wants to get away with it. The lie claiming she didn’t know any better is a defense against finally being called out on her behavior.

      Reply
      1. Newby

        I always found it an odd defense. Not knowing you did something wrong doesn’t actually make it ok. An apology followed by the explanation that you didn’t know better and a promise not to do it again would be fine, but the apology is kinda necessary.

        Reply
  13. Kyrielle

    I love this update! I love the fact that your boss and HR did what sane bosses and HR should and had your back. I love that you stood up for yourself, both by taking this to your boss, and by following up. I love that you did not let her redefine your reality (either that she didn’t kick “that hard”, nor with the bribes). I love that she’s in hot water, specifically because it gives you a good chance that the behavior will stay stopped, and if it doesn’t, the odds of stronger consequences in play.

    I grinned with vicious amusement when I read, “Honestly, I’ve never seen someone’s eyes bug out of their head so much.”

    You rock, the update is awesome, and the fact that Jane still isn’t just acknowledging and apologizing is annoying, but at least the entire framework around her makes continuing as she was Not A Viable Plan for her.

    Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Amen. This letter stayed with me for several days (in part because of the extended conversation in the comments re: law enforcement), and this update has made my day. OP did everything exactly right and it worked, which is a sign that her boss and HR are sane, and her employer is functional. OP had to step up and do something that she found uncomfortable, but when she did it, everything unfolded exactly the way it should have in a functional workplace staffed by adults.

      I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it stays this way—I have a feeling if Jane ever lapses, she’ll be gone for good.

      Reply
  14. INFJ

    Thanks for the update! I’m glad to hear your boss has your back.

    I hope we get a second update soon that Jane has been fired. It sounds like she’s been a less-than-stellar employee in other ways, too.

    Reply
    1. AdAgencyChick

      Agreed. This is someone to whom it would be perfectly acceptable to say, “Go ahead and let the door hit your ass on your way out.”

      Reply
  15. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

    I hope she gets fired. But until she does, I think she can totally continue to bring you coffee and chocolate.

    Reply
    1. strawberries and raspberries

      Maybe it’s just my bad experiences, but I would never eat or drink anything brought to me by someone who’s openly caused me or wished me harm.

      Reply
        1. Not So NewReader

          On a more immediate note, I would not accept the gifts because I am not for sale. I do not offer favorable concessions on the basis of how nice the gifts are that someone brings me.

          In order to communicate with a person like this, we have to consider what is important to them. In this case, my acceptance of her gifts would be very important to her. So, I would refuse the gifts by telling her that the problem has nothing to do with chocolates and coffee. From what I have seen with some people, this refusal causes them to really start thinking, but OP’s mileage may vary, as everybody is different.

          Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        This comment reminded me of that scene in The Help, which then made me spit out my coffee.

        Reply
      2. LadyPhoenix

        “Thanks… now drink it.”

        If she makes a face, then report it. If she doesn’t and drink it, then, “Thanks. now take your coffee and chocolates and get the hell out of my office.”

        Reply
    2. paul

      I don’t know, I’d just as soon never see someone like that again. Like, if the guy that tried to gut me started bringing me gifts I’d be getting an RO and/or reaching for a pistol. Of course that’s a bit more extreme but still…

      Reply
  16. Elizabeth West

    As soon as I saw “Honestly, I’ve never seen someone’s eyes bug out of their head so much,” I cackled like one of the Sanderson Sisters. I’m glad your boss backed you up on this, OP. Please let us know if Jane tries to pull any more crap. I would love to hear she’s been frog-marched out the door.

    Reply
  17. Annie Moose

    Ahhh Jane’s such a weirdo.

    Glad to have a positive update. It’s appalling that Jane somehow made it to where she is in life believing that was acceptable behavior, but maybe we can hope that bringing in your manager and HR has scared her straight? It’s probably too much to ask that it fixes the underlying problem (i.e. that Jane clearly has zero respect for her coworkers), but if it prevents her from physically assaulting you again, that’s still a definite step forward.

    Reply
  18. MuseumChick

    Thank you for the update OP! I so happy your boss and HR took this seriously.

    Jane doesn’t sound like she sorry for what she did, just sorry that she has to deal the consequences. Good for you for rejecting her peace offerings.

    Reply
  19. fposte

    This may have a little crossover with the “misconceptions about work” thread–a boss can be unresponsive to some complaints (which the OP indicated) but still take it seriously when you’re getting hit and kicked by a co-worker.

    Reply
    1. Anna

      This is true. Being blasé about what seems to be personality conflicts is not the same as being blasé about being actually kicked by a coworker.

      Reply
    2. paul

      Yep. And sometimes it may come down to a boss being able to actually fix a complaint vs not. Bosses aren’t omnipotent or omniscient after all. For example, my boss and I both dislike some of our software……but it’s under contract and we’re required to use it for a grant we get so there’s not much to be done.

      Reply
  20. Erin

    Wow I can’t believe she made excuses and didn’t apologize.

    If I were you, and the person said something along the lines of, “I’m really sorry, in retrospect I’m not sure what I was thinking and it won’t happen again,” I would drop it immediately and consider all forgiven. A few words could have gone a long way here.

    May I say that she may not be playing with a full deck of cards, or at least could be suffering from some kind of serious insecurity, or who knows. But something’s off.

    Glad this has been more or less resolved, though. Good for you for speaking up.

    Reply
    1. Time Bomb of Petulance

      Me, too. A weapon may not have been involved, but this still counts as workplace violence. One would think there would be a zero tolerance approach, but I guess not.

      Reply
      1. J.B.

        Well, there isn’t direct evidence, and he said she said is hard too act upon. I think they’re correct to be working on the paper trail.

        Reply
        1. Lissa

          especially because under-the-table kicking could easily be accidental/a misjudged nudge/whatever — not that it was, but Jane could certainly say it, so they’d be firing her based on OP’s perception that it was intentional vs Jane’s claimed-perception that it wasn’t . . . I can see why they wouldn’t do that. (And no, I’m not in any way saying *this* was accidental, just that the specific incident could be claimed to be so in a way that, say, punching in the nose couldn’t)

          Reply
  21. Daffodil

    HR and/or your boss is likely to circle back to you in the next couple of months to get an update on your coworker’s behavior since she’s been put on notice. Be ready for that, and please be honest with them when that happens. Most abusive people can keep their act together for a few weeks if they have to, but then their behavior starts to go back downhill again, and smart HR people know this. It’s tempting to say ‘well, she’s been a lot better’ and leave out the ways in which she hasn’t been better, but it doesn’t help things in the long run. It’s generally ethical to give someone some slack after they’ve apologized for something and tried to make amends, but that’s not what’s happening here – she’s not apologizing, she’s just sorry she got caught. If she actually truly changes her ways, great. If she only backs off on her nastiness, continue to hold her accountable.

    I’m so glad you have a sane boss and HR! I hope your workplace is much, much more survivable from here on out.

    Reply
    1. AnonEMoose

      This. All of this! I honestly expect that Jane is going to backslide, and the OP should be prepared for that possibility. But at least now, OP, you know you can go to your boss with it if she does.

      I’m glad OP didn’t accept the “peace offerings,” because if she had, Jane would take that as “everything’s ok between us,” and the cycle would likely start right up again.

      Reply
    2. Channel Z

      Don’t be tempted to minimize the non physical abuse. Lying about you, stealing your work, withholding information, intimidating behaviour like staring, hovering, or making threats are all bullying behaviour and should be reported too.

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        This.
        The inappropriate gifting and the lack of apology also needs to be mentioned, OP. You can also say, that you are not sure she understands not to do this again, ever.

        Reply
  22. Old Admin

    I…
    I…
    I am gratified. :-) And happy the OP was able to push back, and get a good response ftom TPTB.
    Agreed, OP is now experiencing a bunch of classic abuser behaviors – no apology whatsoever, stupid peace bribes (ah, offerings), excuses, temporary good behavior.
    The only one I haven’t heard yet is that OP “has no sense of humor” or similar BS.

    OP, be on your guard. The abuse will pick up again/return in a changed form. Maybe as sabotaged work, badmouthing you, weed in your desk, or a flat tire.
    Be sure to inform boss/HR of anything suspicious!

    Reply
  23. Rick Tq

    OP, is Jane still stealing your work and claiming credit as you originally reported?

    Getting the physical abuse stopped is a great step. Best part is it sounds like Boss and HR are ready to act when you document more misbehavior, and I would include stealing credit for your work as abusive.

    I say ‘when’ not ‘if’ because the Janes of the world don’t change until there are real consequences.. A write-up and being on her last chance don’t count, her paycheck hasn’t stopped yet.

    Reply
    1. Not So NewReader

      With some people the stealing, etc were precursors or warnings, of further problems in the future. Bullies test the waters, “Can I get away with A…. okay got away with A. Now can I get away with B… okay got away with B. Can I get away with C…” and so on. Since A, B and C are small we tend to let it go because [reasons]. Then they pull D which is a bigger stunt. whoops.

      I am not saying be paranoid at all times. But some actions are so far away from norms that those actions have to be reported. Stealing work can be reported, for example. I had to learn to watch this stuff, because I could get blindsided by bigger things. Maybe I would be able to figure it out in retrospect but by then the damage had been done.

      While none of this is OP’s fault and, certainly, we should not have to operate with constant vigilance while at work, it’s wise to understand that once in a while we will encounter a person like this who will just keep pushing the envelope. I am glad you reported her now, OP, I do not think this situation would have gotten better on its own and I believe her next stunt would have been worse than this one. She is showing you how she operates.

      Reply
  24. K.

    “I didn’t realize I’d kicked you so hard” translates to “I didn’t think I’d get caught or face consequences for it.” In college, a friend of mine found out his girlfriend was cheating and when he broke up with her, she pleaded “But you were never meant to find out!” Jane’s response is basically that. (My friend held firm and broke up with the girl.)

    I’m glad your boss took this seriously and that you’re no longer being abused at work, OP!

    Reply
  25. Karenina

    That “I didn’t think I kicked you that hard” comment is so telling: Jane doesn’t think physically abusing coworkers (or anyone!) is wrong in and of itself. Absolutely ridiculous.

    Way to go OP for confronting her, so glad to hear your management is responding appropriately, and don’t let her get away with her attempts to toe the line from here on out. She needs to stay FAR AWAY from the line.

    Reply
    1. Anna

      Her “apology” would be “I didn’t mean to kick you that hard” as if the hardness of the hit makes up for the hitting at all.

      Reply
  26. Law Lub

    the behavior of giving you flowers (over the p gestures to compensate for her assault) is a typical red flag of an abusive person/relationship.

    Reply
  27. MoinMoin

    Thanks so much for taking the time to update, OP! In your original letter you didn’t seem to think your boss would care or intervene, so I’m really glad that wasn’t the case. I think it’s probably a good indicator for you of just how far over the line this was (I kind of got the impression in the original letter that you weren’t sure if you were overreacting). You didn’t explain why you didn’t think your boss would react to this, so maybe it’s just that she’s hands off and the reasons aren’t particularly nefarious, but it would take an extraordinarily bad boss to not react to something like this.

    Reply
  28. Bea

    So she’s not denying it and refuses to apologize? I hope HR is just working their case so she is denied unemployment after they let her go.

    I’m glad it turned out well in terms of the boss and HR actually responding well at this stage.

    Reply
  29. Marisol

    I’m surprised that HR and management did not insist that Jane apologize to the OP. I have no experience in such matters (full disclosure) but it seems to me that HR would want to have a meeting with both parties, and possibly the manager, where Jane was explicitly directed to apologize and to promise to all parties that there would be no further misconduct. I am thrilled that the OP made a formal complaint, and very pleased that her manager is appropriately shocked at the bad behavior. However, this issue doesn’t feel properly resolved to me. The OP will still need to work with Jane in some capacity, and will be at a disadvantage if lingering resentment prevents her from putting this issue behind her. While it’s understandable that she would want to give Jane the cold shoulder, professionalism demands that she not take that attitude too far. Even though she is the victim here, there is a danger she’ll wind up looking bad if she doesn’t let bygones be bygones. And yet, who could get past their resentment in a situation like this if they didn’t get a sincere apology? That’s the point of apologizing–to leave conflict in the past. By not insisting that Jane apologize, HR is leaving the issue open. It just feels unresolved to me.

    Nevertheless, this is a good update, and it sounds like the situation has greatly improved. Congrats OP on standing up for yourself–you should be proud.

    Reply
    1. AcademiaNut

      Actually, I think the better thing is to *not* do a forced apology/accept the apology/now we’re friends situation. Someone who says “I didn’t think I kicked you that hard” is not going to produce a sincere apology, and the OP is not going to believe a forced apology, any more than she believes the sincerity of the attempted coffee and chocolate bribes. You make small children give forced and not at all sincere apologies because you’re training them in appropriate behaviour. Jane is an adult, and if she hasn’t learned it by this point, her boss isn’t going to be able to teacher her.

      And I don’t think that this is something that *should* be left in the past. The OP and Jane need to work together, but everyone, including the OP, needs to be watching Jane like a hawk for other misbehaviour. It’s going to be chilly and uncomfortable for a while, and should be, because that’s a consequence Jane will possibly recognize. The only way that Jane is going to clear her reputation and have a workplace where she is trusted is an extended period of genuine good behaviour. Although I strongly suspect she’ll be fired before she gets to that point.

      Reply
      1. Marisol

        That’s a good point–nevermind about it being a sincere apology. It would be forced, therefore not sincere. But still, a forced apology would still feel better to me than nothing at all. I guess it is about the offender acknowledging the damage done and taking responsibility for it, regardless of whether or not they actually feel contrite. And even if they don’t really feel responsible! Something about the gesture, especially if performed in front of witnesses, would help me move on. It’s a kind of restitution. But maybe that’s more of a personal idiosyncracy on my part.

        Reply
      2. Marisol

        Actually, on second thought, maybe my thinking is just confused. I am having a hard time deciding how much of a “reset” is warranted in this situation. Obviously, the OP will need to remain on her guard, and would be “performing” a forgive-and-forget attitude rather than actually feeling it. Given that, a sense of closure might be unnecessary. I dunno.

        Reply
    2. Not So NewReader

      It does feel unresolved in that we are waiting for that other shoe to drop, the one where Jane gets fired. There has not been an apology, Jane has a long history of doing crap to people and HR is “working on it”.

      However, I do think that OP has done a great job of standing up for herself. I think that OP has a good, strong handle on how to navigate her workday with this person. This is a major improvement over the last time OP wrote in. Bullies LOVE it when everything is kept a secret. OP blew the secret, so now that dynamic has changed and probably will continue to change.
      If any further shenanigans should happen, OP has built a path for handling it.

      Reply
  30. Joe

    You gotta love an update that leaves you looking for a Facebook-style Like button. Glad things are moving forward, you definitely don’t need to put up with that nonsense.

    Reply
  31. LadyPhoenix

    I highly recommend checking out DrNerdlove’s and Captain Awkward’s articles about abuse.

    Abusers tend to go through a “honeymoon” period where they act sweet before they abuse their victims again. The flowers, coffee, and chocolates are all signs she is in the “honeymoon”, and is only a matter of time before she strikes again. It might also be useful to ask around and see if others experienced her tyranny as well, or is on your side. The more people on “Team You”, the better.

    And honestly, if she gives you coffee, ask her to drink it (or eat it if it is chocolate), if she makes a face or adamantly refuses–write it down and show it to the boss. If she eat/drink it, then tell her, “Good. Now take your coffee/chocolate and leave my office. I will only discuss business from you from now on and I will ,take anything you give me.”

    Reply
    1. Troutwaxer

      I’m going to call out this typo because I think it changes the meaning of what you wrote.* I think you meant to write, I will only discuss business from now on and I will not take anything you give me.”

      *Otherwise I would not be a typo-nazi.

      Reply
    2. Marisol

      I think it would be better for the OP to politely refuse any offer of coffee or chocolate from Jane, rather than go through a medieval-poison-tasting ritual in the workplace. A tactic like that feels a bit dramatic for the office to my mind.

      The OP is clearly a victim who done no wrong in this situation, and given that, it would be understandable if she wanted to underscore that point by taking the kind of action you describe. However, Jane was not fired, and remains the OP’s colleague. So the OP has to get along with her. She should certainly keep an eye out for any more bad behavior, and keep HR and management in the loop. But unfortunately, SHE risks looking bad herself if she takes an overly antagonistic stance, however justified she might be from a moral perspective.

      I’d prefer that the OP simply smile and say, “no thanks!” to an offer of coffee or chocolates, and if Jane persists, then she can reiterate more pointedly, something like, “Jane, I’d prefer to keep things purely professional between us from now on, and that means I don’t really want you to bring me anything to eat or drink. Thanks for your understanding.” But accusations of poisoning go a little too far I think. More satisfying as a thought experiment than something you should go through with.

      Reply
      1. seejay

        Yeah, there’s no reason to go playing games of “you taste it first!” with this woman. Just refuse the gifts, tell her to knock it off, and keep it at a business level of relationship and that’s it, instead of dancing through hoops of trying to catch her in some sort of elaborate ploy of poisoning or not. Just don’t go down that path, it’s too convoluted and would make the OP look paranoid and deranged IMO. You want everything to go back to normal, as normal can be when working with this person anyway.

        Reply
        1. Newby

          Asking her to taste it is uneccesary escalation that would make the OP look bad. A simple “no thank you” would suffice.

          Reply
  32. FishcakesHurrah

    I love this update! This was one of the those letters that made me worry about the OP.

    (I am still worried about the OP who had cancer and whose boss was sneaking into her treatment room. Did we ever get an update from her?)

    Reply
  33. Troutwaxer

    This is excellent news. With regard to the work travel, you might make sure that Jane can’t get into your computer while you’re gone. (Apologies if you have a laptop.)

    Reply
  34. emma2

    OK, I just caught up on the original letter for this and my reaction is just: WTH, Jane is a total psycho.

    I’m glad that it did get appropriate attention from higher ups and repercussions for Jane, effectively halting her behavior for the time being.

    Reply
  35. Red In SC

    Good for you LW! I’m glad you went to your supervisor, and I’m glad you went to HR. It’s good to stand up for yourself and I appreciate you sharing your story. Hopefully it will empower others to step forward when there’s so really bad behavior.

    Reply
    1. Not So NewReader

      Yeah, for every person who writes in there are probably dozens who are reading and thinking “this fits my situation”. I hope that people reading and not commenting feel empowered to go and stand up for themselves. If they can’t because the place is too toxic, I hope they can get out of their toxic job.

      Reply
  36. Chaordic One

    I’m so happy this worked out fairly well for you and that you received support from your boss and HR. (They’re not always so supportive.)

    I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if, when you get back from one of your business trips, Jane isn’t there any more. It really sounds like she is on her way out of a job.

    Reply
  37. Office Plant

    So, what can you do when someone steals your work? It’s happened to me a lot and it always seemed like there was nothing I could do about it.

    Reply
  38. lamuella

    “I didn’t realise I’d kicked you that hard!”

    “But… you DID realise you’d kicked me, right?”

    Reply
  39. Lynne879

    Shouldn’t your coworker be FIRED for physically assaulting?? Once is enough to worth being fired but TWICE???

    Why isn’t this psycho fired????

    Reply
  40. Spacecadet51

    Is your boss her boss as well? If yes, did they (boss and HR) pull the co-worker into the office for discussion? Their suggesting you confront her, but just wondering if they did as well. I didn’t see it anywhere.

    Reply

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