my coworkers are passing around a list of reasons they hate working with me

A reader writes:

I just started a new job three months ago and there isn’t any type of process – I’m in the weeds and on my own here, which has contributed to a handful of issues.

A coworker has been taking inventory of all my failures since my second month here, and is passing a list of them around to other coworkers for them to add their input. It’s turned into a “Reasons Why It’s a Pain Working With (my name)” list. And despite my hard exterior, it’s damaging and hurtful to think that people are gleefully adding my faults to a list.

I feel like this is an issue that needs to be handled via HR. The coworker is not my boss, and no one asked him to create this list. But he uses it as ammunition whenever possible. Do I have a valid argument to complain to HR?

Whoa, what?

Hard exterior or not, anyone would find this hurtful. It’s unprofessional, openly nasty, and pretty damn outrageous. If I were your manager, I’d be seriously thinking about firing your coworker right now. At a minimum, she’d be getting a Very Serious, Absolutely Final warning conversation and an explanation that we don’t allow assholes on our team.

And that’s who you should talk to: your manager, not HR. Your manager is the one who should be managing these sorts of issues.

But before you do that, ideally I’d like to see you say something to the coworker who’s responsible for this list, for a couple of reasons. First, addressing it calmly and directly says that you’re not someone to be bullied and that you’re not going to just sink into the ground when someone does something so flagrantly obnoxious. Second, it’s possible that your boss will ask you if you’ve tried to address it with the coworker yourself, and — while you’re certainly not obligated to in a situation as egregious as this one — it’s usually better if you can say that you have.

If you’re willing to talk to the coworker, I’d start by saying something like, “I’d like to talk to you about the concerns you have about my performance” — and then hear her out. It’s possible that, despite this coworker’s totally unacceptable behavior, there are actually legitimate concerns in the mix here, and those are worth hearing about if so. But after that, I’d say, “What’s up with the list you’re creating about why it’s difficult to work with me?” … and “I’m not amused and I’d like you to stop” … .and “If you have concerns about my work, I think we should meet with (manager) and talk them through, but this isn’t an acceptable way to handle them.”

And then, to the manager, I’d say something like: “I spoke with Jane about this but felt it was enough of a concern that I want to talk with you about it to. Jane has created and is circulating a list about why she doesn’t like working with me. I’ve spoken with her directly about it, but I’m really taken aback by this, and it’s creating a difficult environment to work in.”

If your boss has any manager genes at all, she’ll be outraged and put a stop to the list-making/circulating, and will make it abundantly clear to your coworker that she needs to treat you professionally and pleasantly. She’ll also probably look into what’s causing such animosity among your coworkers (so if you have a sense of what’s led to this, it’ll be helpful to share that with her preemptively).

Beyond dealing with the immediate issue of the list, there’s also the question of how to work effectively in an environment where people are behaving like this. It’s hard to give concrete recommendations without knowing more, but it’ll probably be helpful to think about questions like:
* Is there something about the culture there that makes this kind of behavior acceptable, or if your horrid coworker an outlier? If the latter, this will be easier to move past. If the former, this might just be a crappy place to work.
* Aside from your horrid coworker’s bad behavior, how are you performing and relating to your coworkers? Could they have legitimate concerns on either of those fronts, and if so, what can you do to resolve those? (You don’t want to get so sidetracked by the list debacle that you don’t look at this question as well, even if it feels unfair.)
* What kind of feedback are you getting from your manager, and how does she handle this situation once it’s brought to her attention? That will give you some useful insight into what type of support you’re likely to get from her and how she views your work overall.

Good luck.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 279 comments… read them below }

  1. Sam*

    Is this third grade? What awful people.

    OP, I want to take you out for beer and tell you to ignore those jerks.

    1. Kelly L.*

      I was thinking about slam books. I never knew anyone who had ever actually seen one, but they were all over the YA fiction of my junior-high years. I always wondered if they were real or if they were something worried adults had cooked up, like rainbow parties. I guess it was the cyber-bullying of its time?

      At any rate, it’s middle-school behavior, and it’s bad enough in actual middle school. It sure doesn’t belong in the workplace where people are ostensibly adults.

      1. fposte*

        I was thinking about those too, but this seems to be even less stealthy than that–they’re treating the list as documentation for periodic scoldings.

      2. Muriel Heslop*

        I taught middle school for years – alas, they are real. A few times some girls started some “nice” slam books about people’s good qualities, but those were the exception.

        1. Pennalynn Lott*

          How weird. We had slam books in junior high, and I never could understand the name because they were just spirals with a different “get to know you” type question on each page (i.e., “What’s your favorite food?” “If you could marry any celebrity, who would it be?” “Tea or coffee?” “Mountains or beach?” Stuff like that). We never actually “slammed” anyone. The only meanness came out of a slight competition to come up with the coolest questions so you had more people fill out your book vs anyone else’s.

          1. manybellsdown*

            That’s my memory of slam books, and “SLAM” was what you wrote if you didn’t want to answer a question. Like you were “slamming” the book shut on that one. And you were only allowed two “slams” so you had to pick carefully.

      3. Rebecca*

        This is the first thing that came to mind – a slam book. What terrible behavior!! These were passed around in my junior and senior high school back in the 1970’s. I had hoped they had gone the way of Betamax, but apparently not.

      4. not my real nickname*

        I participated in a slam book in the fourth grade. It is something that I look back upon with deep shame, regret, and sorrow. It only took less than an hour to realize how awfully I had behaved. To see that an adult is doing this today to a co-worker is shocking to say the least. OP – please give us an update. I would love to know that this behavior is stopped.

        1. Angora*

          I am at a loss. What is a “Slam Book?” Assume it’s something terrible considering the context I’m seeing it in.

          1. RobertTables*

            In my school, it was a notebook passed around where people would write (usually) rude/crappy comments about classmates.

            1. A. Nonny Mouse*

              Yep. If you’ve seen the movie “Mean Girls,” it’s like the Burn Book from that movie. (And if you haven’t seen “Mean Girls,” add it to your queue! It’s great.)

          1. KonaHI*

            Was Cheryl Sutphi the character in the book who commits suicide? I read it years ago and the description still chills me.

      5. Julia*

        Is was in junior high in the early 1960’s and slam books were real. Usually a small spiral bound notebook with a person’s name on each page. They were passed around for people to make comments. I wasn’t in the ” in crowd” or in the “out crowd””, ( kind of under the radar) so my name was never in one. That I know of. But people made fawning comments about the prom queen types, and cruel comments about the misfits and unfortunates. I hadn’t thought about this in years! But it all came right back.

      6. The Strand*

        Yeah… the slam books I participated in in my late teens were definitely *not* bashing people, but more like the Buzzfeed link here: – friendship books you’d pass around between pen friends. I promise, they’re not all bad.

        But these people, OP, that you work with? Hopeless. Not that Alison’s advice isn’t great, it certainly is. But I can’t imagine that level of crazy at even some of the most dysfunctional places I’ve worked. I would hope for the best and update your resume.

    2. Mister Pickle*

      FWIW, I’d bet that these people are indeed very young, either fresh out of high school or fresh out of college.

      When I left college to start work at a Real Job, I found myself in a large group that was mostly composed of college new-hires. There was one person in particular who would regularly engage in offensive bullying behavior, spreading rumors, etc. I’m currently reading Robert Sutton’s book The No Asshole Rule and in retrospect this person was, in short, an asshole by Sutton’s definition (or anyone else’s).

      1. Chinook*

        “FWIW, I’d bet that these people are indeed very young, either fresh out of high school or fresh out of college.”

        I woudl agree but not because bullying behaviour dies out with age. It is more a case of the more obvious, junior higish stuff is easier to catch and be punished by management and, with time and experience, the bullies have learned to be more subtle and CYA about what they are doing. Basically, an experienced bully would look at a slam book and wonder why the F someone would be stupid enough to leave an obvious paper trail.

      2. Zillah*

        The biggest bullies I’ve met in the workforce were far removed from high school or college. IME, people just out of school don’t have the power to bully like this, and many are so desperate for a job they wouldn’t do something so obviously out of line in the first place.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I agree. Work in a sewing factory and watch the middle aged women for a bit. Nasty. I am sure there are other environments that would serve as good examples.

          1. Angora*

            Higher education is one. My boss is one, and the administration and other support departments cave just to get rid of her. I think it should have been reigned in by our prior dean, he didn’t address it. She had a horrible reputation so I cannot figure out why he put her in the position in the first place.

            1. Clerica*

              K-12 education, too. There’s kind of the soccer mom clique where they all eat together and gather in a classroom to gossip after dismissal. There’s a distinct difference from other groups that tend to hang out together–mainly that the others include both sexes and talk about work or light chatter instead of their kids and mean gossip about the rest of the staff. I’ve never seen anyone younger than maybe late thirties in the soccer mom cliques.

              One of my “favorite” examples of the pettiness out of that crowd: the admin always sends out birthday announcements to the whole staff. One woman will Reply All with “Oh, Happy Birthday!”…unless it’s someone she doesn’t like. There’s no need for Reply All here; everyone else does it privately if they want to send good wishes. She wants everyone to know she did this. Except, obviously we can also see when she didn’t. It’s not even the pettiness that kills me, it’s the stupidity.

  2. Concerned*

    Not to challenge Allison, but why not go to HR? I would think that the employee handbook would definitely list rules/policies involving this kind of behavior.

    1. Judy*

      I would think unless this person is your manager, you would want to go to the manager first. HR is there to serve the company, not to settle disputes between two employees.

    2. YourCdnFriend*

      My experience (from mostly reading Alison’s site) is that you should always start with your manager (unless the issue is with your manager). If you play it out, you go to HR, HR says “whoa! That’s crazy pants.” Then HR is going to have to work with the manager to sort out next steps. By going to your manager, you’re going to the person who should be dealing with it directly.

      HR shouldn’t be managing discipline and basic management. They are there to support recruitment, payroll, benefits, etc. almost anything else that isn’t straight employee logistics should start with your manager.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Exactly. Managers are supposed to be managing their staff members, including interpersonal stuff like this.

        If the manager doesn’t handle it, then you could go to HR, but that would be a last resort. It’s the manager’s job.

      2. Cheesecake*

        HR doesn’t deal with basic mgmt, you are right. But serious disciplinary cases are very much HR’s thing. Employee can file official grievance… to HR. Where i live described above is a typical case of bullying – serious matter for prosecution. So no, HR doesn’t only manage recruitment/payroll/benefits. (source: i am currently supporting HR for a strategic project)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          In the U.S., there are no laws against workplace bullying. Some workplaces have procedures where you can file a grievance with HR over this kind of thing, but not the majority. In most U.S. workplaces, this would be something to take to your manager.

          1. Cheesecake*

            Understood. I am just curious here: lets say OP has done everything you’ve advised. Nothing was done/nothing has worked. What can OP do? In a country where silly joke can be treated as sexual harassment case, isn’t employee protected from this quite real bullying at all and needs to just leave?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Unless it’s based on a legally protected class (race, gender, religion, etc.) this isn’t illegal. It would be up to the employer to decide how to handle. If they didn’t handle it, yes, the employee would need to decide to deal with it or leave.

              1. OP*

                Thanks for the replies.

                I actually have done everything listed per Alison’s comments.

                And, I didn’t mention, because I hate playing this card – but I’m the only minority in this 50 person department. And part of me feels this list was generated out of a some type of racial issue…

                1. fposte*

                  So your manager has done nothing? That’s really horrible. I think at that point it would be worth going to HR, then, especially with this new information.

                2. Robin*

                  OP: You’re the only minority in the 50 person department? That changes things. All the things Alison and others are saying about this not being a hostile work environment are no longer true. This is increasingly sounding like a textbook hostile work environment. I am not a lawyer, but I think you should talk to one, soon.

                3. Joey*

                  if you’re saying that I’m assuming you live in an area that has some diversity which would make it odd.

                  I would absolutely put the person in the hot seat and ask why she’s singling you out?

                4. Nichole*

                  If you comfortably can, OP, would you please tell us what part of the country you’re in? Being the only minority in your department of 50 is pretty odd-but odder in some areas than others. Either way, that put up a HUGE red flag for me. I assume you didn’t replace another person of the same minority group? That means you may be the only minority they’ve worked with for a while, and that paired with this behavior is a bad sign. Lots of assumptions there, though, so my inner sociologist is dying to know more about your context.

                5. Sharon*

                  I really want to know what your manager said or did. It’s just too hard to believe he did nothing. Its not that I don’t believe you, just that this is THAT outrageous. Sounds like your manager is ineffective or perhaps part of the mean girls clique. OP, can you elaborate on what your manager’s response was?

                6. neverjaunty*

                  OP: talk to a lawyer ASAP. The situation is very serious, and whether you have an EEOC complaint, what options you have, what you should do to protect yourself from retaliation at work – those are questions that should be answered by a competent attorney doing employment law in your state, NOT by an Internet site (even one as fantastic as AAM).

                7. Vin packer*

                  You’re not “playing a card”–many commenters have noted that it’s super weird to be this hostile to a person you barely know, and were wondering what could possibly be prompting it. Here, you have disclosed a potential reason that unfortunately makes sense and has a long history in the American social landscape.

                  No advice here about what to do–hell if I know–but just wanted to chime in to say that your suspicions sound more than reasonable, and that if your coworkers are being racist shitheads, YOU aren’t the one who needs to apologize.

                8. Turanga Leela*

                  The race/ethnicity issue is definitely relevant, and with any luck it will make your manager take your coworkers’ behavior seriously (which your manager should do anyway). I wouldn’t worry about playing a “card” here—you are entitled to a workplace where you do not face illegal discrimination.

                9. KMD*

                  if you addressed it with your manager and he/she did nothing to resolve it, they are basically a crappy manager. Unfortunately, in the workplace, there are a lot of those, and there really isn’t much that can be done unless you wan’t to make it a race issue, which could also backfire if the list does not have any hint of your race. HR will circle the wagons. Best to confront the person diplomatically but firmly. bullies tend to back down.

              2. Op*

                I’m on the West Coast.

                And once I found out the letter was generated, my manager forwarded the letter to HR. We haven’t talked about it since. So I filed a formal complaint with HR.

                Before the letter, we (including the Burn List Person) had a mediation meeting. It wasn’t helpful, it fueled to the fire.

                Someone asked re: if I was a replacement. Nope, my position is new – which also adds to the hostility.

                1. fposte*

                  I’m so sorry that you’re being forced to take these steps, but they do sound like the reasonable thing to do. Have you heard back from HR? I would notify the EEOC–check to see if it should be the state’s EEO office–if you don’t hear back from them within a reasonable amount of time.

                2. fposte*

                  Okay, I just checked because I knew it was ridiculously short–Federal EEO gives only a 45 day window after the problematic behavior to contact them. I think you could count the last time they dragged the list out as the start date, but don’t let the 45 days slip by while you wait for HR.

                3. GOG11*

                  I am not familiar with your case and I can’t speak for whatever program was in place that you mediated through, but I am a trained/certified mediator and I could see how mediation would be a poor problem-solving/conflict management tool under these circumstances :(

                  I am so very sorry that you’re going through this.

                4. AVP*

                  Unfortunately OP I think your bigger problem is that your manager is either bad or inexperienced for not managing this situation directly. Prediction: this place is going to be a den of crazy overall.

                5. Windchime*

                  OP, I am so sorry you are dealing with this. What an awful situation. This kind of thing wouldn’t be tolerated for a second at my workplace; people have been fired for bullying and harassing. I hope your co-worker meets a similar fate.

                6. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                  Please do what fposte suggests.

                  This IS bullying ( I hate when that word is overused but this actually is bullying) and if this is happening to the only minority out of 50 people in the office, this is the situation the laws got written for. This is why the EEOC exists.

        2. fposte*

          I think you’re writing with a different country’s perspective here. There are no laws against bullying in the US, and HR isn’t necessarily involved in discipline–it’s very much workplace by workplace. They have nothing to do with it at mine.

      3. HR Manager*

        Well, I would beg to differ slightly, but I agree that HR is not my natural inclination as a first step. The manager must ultimately set the tone for the culture and accepted behavior on the team. With something this seriously disrespectful, I would likely see a manager ask for ‘advice’ on how to deal with this (if the manger hasn’t dealt with this before).

        HR may not be the person who delivers the message, but I would hope they have some influence to encourage the manager to act appropriately, address the issue and to make any corrections needed. HR doesn’t only get involved when it’s a formal performance plan or a disciplinary action. One of the best parts of my job is being able to work with and coach managers on things like this — they aren’t violations of policy, but certainly detractors from a culture of respect and team success.

    3. fposte*

      And do employee handbooks regularly cover this kind of thing? Ours doesn’t seem to. It’s more interested in sick leave pools and time reporting.

      1. The IT Manager*

        This is so outrageous that I would not expect the handbook (if it exists) to mention anything like this.

      2. KJR*

        Ours has a section on Workplace Harassment, which is then divided into sexual and discriminatory harassment. Under discriminatory harassment, it covers “…circulating written material that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual…”

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        HR doesn’t need to be involved at all if the manager handles it though. Good HR people want managers handling stuff like this themselves; it’s far more the manager’s job than it is HR’s.

        1. Cheesecake*

          Agree with “if”. But what if…manager doesn’t handle this well? Or at all?
          Where i live the above is a case for official grievance and is handled by HR (where i am). Veeeeeery rarely, but still.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            If the manager doesn’t handle it, then going to HR would be the last resort. But honestly, if that happens, the OP really is in a bad situation — she’s working for a terrible manager in an actively hostile situation. HR isn’t going to be able to fix the fundamental issues there in the way that a manager could.

            1. Cheesecake*

              …and (another if) if a manager decides to fire employee as a result? This is also ok from legal standpoint?
              What happens here: employee files for unfair dismissal as a result/based on bullying. Chances employee wins are very high, thus HR is usually involved from early stages

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yes, in the U.S. that would not be illegal.

                Generally, in the workplace you’re protected against bad treatment that’s based on your race, gender, religion, disability, national origin, or other protected class. You’re protected from sexual harassment. You’re protected from retaliation from making a good faith report of problems stemming from any of the above or from exercising other legally protected rights (like filing a complaint over, say, unpaid wages). But aside from that, the law doesn’t really get involved in who might be a jerk to who.

              2. Katie the Fed*

                Files what though? A lawsuit? An unemployment appeal? There aren’t legal protections against bullying in the workplace (unless it’s due to being part of a protected class)

            2. Windchime*

              Where I work, people usually only escalate to HR if the manager is the problem, or if the manager is refusing to deal with the problem. (We have several layers of management to go through before heading to HR). But it seems like if something like this got all the way up to HR and it was apparent that the manager wasn’t dealing with a flagrant bully, then the manager’s head would also be on the block. And that is as it should be.

        2. BRR*

          I would think HR would need to be looped in only for documentation because this situation will most likely result in formal discipline. Where I work whenever it’s a serious warning or PIP HR is brought in just to make sure things are in compliance.

          1. J-nonymous*

            I don’t want to speak for Alison, but I don’t think she’s saying HR shouldn’t be looped in through whatever processes exist for managers to give warnings/PIP, etc to employees. I think she’s saying HR shouldn’t be the first option for the OP to take because HR’s job isn’t to manage a manager’s direct reports.

        3. Joey*

          Not totally. HR is there to help the manager handle it appropriately. For example, HR can give some insight into what type of documentation is most effective and what type of corrective action is appropriate. I know you’ll probably say the manager should decide the corrective action, but that would be operating in a vacuum. HR is there to give you some perspective into how the company views the severity of the eff up. And that part is hugely important because you’ll reak havoc if you’re one to drop the hammer while say every other manager just gives a slap on the wrist for similar issues. So as the manager unless you are certain everyone will be on board with how you handle it you should run your plan by HR.

    4. BRR*

      HR’s role is to serve the company. While that can include making sure employees aren’t bullying others, that aspect is mostly about protecting the company from a lawsuit (such as sexual harassment or illegal discrimination). It’s an issue for how employees are acting and it’s a manager’s job to deal with their employees actions. If the manager does nothing then definitely go to HR though.

      1. Matthew Soffen*

        I would think this w0uld fall under the definition of “A Hostile Workplace” and I’m pretty sure MOST companies have provisions about that in their handbooks/policies.

        1. some1*

          That’s not what a hostile workplace is. It’s when you are being discriminated against for being a part of a protected class, not when your coworkers are being hostile to you.

            1. Matthew Soffen*

              Isn’t this part of the legal definition ?

              A hostile work environment exists when an employee experiences workplace harassment and fears going to work because of the offensive, intimidating, or oppressive atmosphere generated by the harasser.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  That Wikipedia article is woefully incomplete. This seems to be a case where Wikipedia isn’t a reliable source. Instead, look at more authoritative government sources, like the EEOC:
                  “Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”

                  Your second link there actually does confirm this: “Unless you are part of a protected class, there’s no legal action you can take. Courts do not want to require that everyone be nice and polite to each other at work. The Supreme Court even said in a case called Oncale v. Sundowner that federal employment law is not “a general civility code for the American workplace.” Getting people to treat one another with respect is something an employer can choose to require, but the law does not outlaw rude people.”

                1. Windchime*

                  This OP is a member of a minority, and is the only member of that minority on her team of 50. That seems like there could certainly be a case that perhaps his/her membership of this minority is a reason for the nasty treatment. Wouldn’t this qualify as hostile? If not, I’m really confused about what would be.

                2. Zahra*

                  Windchime, the OP said this was a new position. Is it possible that some of the coworkers with more tenure at this company wanted this position and didn’t get it? If so, they may be trying to build a case of “See, I would do that job much better than her, here’s the list of things she’s screwed up that I never would have.” (Which is a total dick move and should sooooo backfire on the listmaker (and her friends)). In this particular case, it’s the manager’s responsibility to say “Cut it out. If you’re not happy, I can tell you what to do to be better placed for a new position in the future. Otherwise, don’t let the door hit you on your way out.”

              1. SCW*

                No, the hostility has to be based on being part of a protected class. An employer’s defense against accusations of discrimination is almost always–they were a bad employee, so a lawsuit that they were mean to me because they thought I wasn’t doing my job well would prove the other side’s case against you.

                My sister is an employment lawyer and she’s told me that most suits against employers come down to one side saying they discriminated against me because of my belonging to a protected class, and the other side saying, no you were a bad employee.

    5. Marcy*

      As a manager myself, I would not appreciate getting a call from HR about this when I should have heard about it from you. I would absolutely take care of the problem but would feel like you didn’t trust me to do that and would then not trust you to come to me with issues in the future.

  3. soitgoes*

    This is beyond ridiculous. Was there a dating situation that went sour? Has the OP known this coworker for a long time outside of this job (had some college classes together perhaps)? Because to firmly hate the OP after just three months of working together doesn’t track with me. And even so, we’ve all disliked (even hated) coworkers in the past, but it takes a very special kind of unaware jerk to try to get other people to get their hate on too. Most people simply don’t get this invested in their coworkers. I think she’s trying to get the OP to quit for some reason.

    1. Judy*

      Is this something to do with a protected class? Race, religion, etc?

      It does seem quite soon to be that invested in disliking someone.

      1. soitgoes*

        Seriously! I have an annoying coworker, but I just think, “Eh, annoying personality. Just makes me look better.” There’s something going on here that goes well beyond a basic personality conflict.

        1. Frances*

          Yeah…I once had a coworker who I could not STAND. My blood pressure would rise when he walked by my desk. And I’d say I had decent reason for disliking him – he was routinely condescending to me and dismissive of my skills. Still, every day I’d tell myself “Self, part of your job is figuring out how to work with this d-bag. Figure it out.”

          1. Nerd Girl*

            I have a co-worker who I can’t stand as well. Just the sound of her voice makes me feel angry. To be honest, she hasn’t done anything to me directly but from day one I’ve hated her. I don’t argue with the logic of my intuition. I just go with it as it has never steered me wrong. I am polite to her but go no further than that. I do not seek out reasons to talk to her. We work similar job functions but on different teams so my day to day dealings with her are minimal. We have to work together. We do not need to be friends.

            1. Zillah*

              I had a coworker who annoyed the hell out of me. She was nice enough, but really careless and tech illiterate – I’d find myself having to redo some of her work bc she made silly mistakes, and she asked me how to do simple computer things like resaving files. Once is fine, I’m a team player. But she wouldn’t take notes, and a few days later she’d ask me the same question. Repeatedly.

              She left, and life got better, but it was really frustrating. I occasionally went home and ranted to my partner, which was cathartic.

              But a burn book? Passing a letter around coworkers? Talking to coworkers about it at all? NO. And my complaints were literally all based on concrete performance issues.

              I’m sorry, OP. :( They’re terrible.

    2. OP*

      Nope, I just met this coworker when I started a few months ago. We weren’t dating, nor have we had any type of relationship outside of work.

    3. aebhel*

      Honestly, I’ve worked at places with this kind of toxic environment. Hating on one another becomes a sport, and even normally sane people get drawn into it.

      Of course, this is way beyond the pale even for those places. Jesus, OP, that sucks.

  4. Dutch Thunder*

    OP, this is so outrageous and I’m sorry you have to deal with this. Please don’t allow this to affect how you feel about yourself and your performance – I’d struggle to take seriously the concerns of someone putting together a Mean Girls style list. I hope your manager sorts this out a.s.a.p. Good luck!

  5. BRR*

    I’m so sorry your coworkers are so awful. It’s kind of ironic that by doing this, it actually makes them a pain to work with. Please please please follow up on this. I hope your coworker(s) get/s what’s coming to them.

    Also there’s a typo in the response in the third paragraph. It says, “I’d like to see you you something.” Pretty sure that is supposed to be see you say something. Also by addressing it, it shows you’re not going to back down to their bullying.

  6. Bend & Snap*

    Whaaaaat? What is the matter with people?

    OP I’m sorry you’re dealing with that. Have you SEEN the list? Malicious intent aside, I wonder if it could help guide you on areas of improvement. That does not make it okay–but it may either tell you what it would help to focus on, or tell you that your coworkers are petty and you’re doing fine.

    “Chews gum loudly all day” is very different than “misses deadlines and forces team to scramble to complete assignment,” KWIM?

  7. fposte*

    In addition to the sheer horribleness of the co-workers’ behavior, I’d be seriously angry as a manager that they’re doing this instead of whatever their actual jobs are.

    1. Katie the Fed*


      He’d started getting piled with some of the most tedious assignments I could find. And we have plenty.

      1. Liane*

        Katie, you remind me of my late mother-in-law, a retired GS-14. She told me that when she had a Troublesome Report, especially a slacker, she would task the person with sorting & filing until they either shaped up or she could get through the process to terminate them. And IIRC the fileroom was located where my MIL could easily keep an eye on them. Good to know there’s still people like her.

        1. Carpe Librarium*

          For me, I find sorting and filing cathartic.
          Start with chaos, end with everything neatly squared away – I know where I stand with alphabetising.
          I would be asking your MIL to send me there as a reward for good behaviour. :)

    2. Mister Pickle*

      This is horrible. I find myself disagreeing with AAM on one point, though: I would go direct to management with this, without talking to The Listmaker. I know in general that it’s best to try to talk one-on-one with the problem person, but I think this is so egregiously outrageous … words fail me. Frankly, I think talking to The Listmaker might just give them additional ammo or means to weasel out, ala Listmaker tells mgr “Yes, she and I discussed it, and we’re working it out”.

      And also to back up a point that was made: OP, don’t let anyone try to divert the discussion to any of your purported behavior. The matter at hand is that someone made this list and is passing it around. If anyone tries to change the topic, or say “well, I think OP is at least partially responsible because she ____” – shut that s**t down immediately.

    3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      If there was a written slam book, I’d terminate the same day and I wouldn’t care how many people I had to fire. I’ve done it before when I had irrefutable (written) evidence that someone was picking on someone else. I hobbled myself short term, but kept my self respect.

  8. AMG*

    What fresh Hell IS this? OP, how did you come to find out about this list? Hang in there and Please send an update!

  9. Jen*

    This is insane. I would absolutely love for you to go to her and sit down and be like “Hey, I couldn’t help but hear about this list of reasons why people hate working with me and I understand that you are the person who wrote it, would you like to talk about this?”

    And then just stare at her with a slight smile. It is so much fun to watch people squirm when you confront them with things like this.

    1. Jber*

      If that person is as mean-spirited as some people I know (and work with), the stare down will have no effect at all. Probably just a bunch of laughter as the OP leaves the room.

        1. Nerd Girl*

          I wonder, in light of laws changing to handle bullies in schools, if the law will change in how to handle the work place bully.
          Honestly, I have found that the quickest way to stop a bully is when others call him/her on the behavior. If you notice a co-worker who is the target of an unrelenting bully say something. “Wow! You’re kind of being an asshole to Jane!” is usually enough.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I don’t think they will. There’s more political will to protect kids from bullies than to protect adults or dictate how workplaces handle those situations.

            1. Chinook*

              Would the exception to this be if the workplace has a “safe workplace policy” or somethign to that affect where they clearly announce (with posters) that staff and visitors are not to be harrassed? I see this quite often in Canada in places like transit and hospitals. I guess, then that the manager can point to an explicit policy that is being broken?

              1. Zillah*

                I mean, the thing is that in the US, the manager doesn’t need an explicit policy to point at. You don’t need an explicit policy to discipline or fire someone. Explicit policies can be useful in setting expectations, but ultimately they’re not legally binding.

                1. WorkerBee*

                  Which becomes a problem if the person picking on you happens to be the manager’s pet. Shudder.

          2. Mike C.*

            I doubt it – it takes enough effort to get the kind of bullying that leads to kids taking their own lives to be recognized as more than just “kidz stuff”. Getting that sort of thing to be taken seriously by many adults? I have a difficult time believing that will happen any time soon.

          3. Liz*

            Australia has made workplace bullying a criminal offence, following the suicide of a teenage girl. (I understand that if you bring a complaint against this law, you can’t then demand compensation as well? I am not a lawyer, I just work with them.) But so far it hasn’t spread.

        2. ExceptionToTheRule*

          You’re thinking of the pervasiveness test. It still has to be of a protected class to be unlawful. I’m just going to quote from the EEOC website AAM linked to above:

          “Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.”

        3. neverjaunty*

          There is. But it still has to be based on a prohibited reason. That is, one racist joke one time probably does not create a hostile work environment, but a handful of physical threats does.

        4. Zillah*

          There sort of is, I guess – in that they still have to follow the law. So if the harassment extends to any physical injury, theft, etc, then that’s a problem, because it’s breaking the law anywhere, workplace or not.

  10. justine*

    Dear Letter writer,

    I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I too am bullied by adults at work and a few weeks ago i just wanted to die because it hurt so bad (yes, i told management about it and they told me to go to HR, still waiting to hear anything so while the bully confines to be an unprofessional worker I’m applying for jobs). Anyway, no one should treat you that way. Please know that i am thinking about you and hope you have a great day!

    1. HarperC*

      Sorry to hear it’s happening to you, too. My first job between high school and college had a situation like that. The “adults” were bully the high school age workers and it really opened my eyes to the fact that just because people all age, it doesn’t mean they all grow up. I am still baffled by what went on there.

      Hope you either get out of there or HR comes down HARD on the bullies.

    2. Nerd Girl*

      Your comment about wanting to die is so sad. This is what kids in schools feel like while being bullied. It seems like you can’t turn on the news without hearing about a student who hasn’t tried to end their life because of this. Now it’s seeping into the workplace? This is wrong!!!

    3. Clever Name*

      I am so, so sorry to hear you are being bullied too. I was bullied in school, and it was incredibly painful. If you haven’t already, please consider talking to someone (EAP counselor, therapist, your mom) about this. You shouldn’t have to suffer in silence. *hugs*

      1. jess*


        Just in case you’re struggling to find a resource, I wanted to offer that suicidepreventionlifeline dot org always has people to talk to online or by phone, and can make referrals to local groups, I believe. Even if you just really need someone to talk to, they can be an extra set of ears. I hope things get better soon.

      1. A. Nonny Mouse*


        These bullies aren’t worth your life. Hang in there, Justine and bullied folks everywhere. We love ya.

        1. justine*

          Thank you every one! It means a lot to me.
          My bully is a 41 year old mother, . I’m new to the office and got the job she felt she deserved (i know this because she and her friend told me.) The things she says to me and about me are awful – i believe in karma so either I’m going to get an awesome new job or she’s going to get hit by the one bus is our town. (I haven’t applied to the bus company…yet.)

  11. brightstar*

    This is absolutely outrageous and straight out of Mean Girls. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this, OP.

    That said, my impression of your letter is that things aren’t going smoothly and that you haven’t received the training you need in addition to working with immature persons. I definitely agree you need to meet with your manager about the list as well as going ahead and discussing the problems you’ve had and to find solutions to why you’re in the weeds.

  12. Katie the Fed*

    Pardon me while I have a horrific flashback to junior high. ((shudder))

    OP – I’m really, really sorry you’re dealing with this. Years ago I worked with someone who hated my guts. To this day I have no idea why. And my own childhood issues are such that I used to think being unlikeable was the greatest sin, so you can imagine how fun that was. I mean, this guy would start whispering about me when I walked in the room, pass notes and/or write emails about me and I think purposely leave them out so I could see. HORRIFYING.

    Please know that this is not about you. You may have made mistakes and you may not always be a ray of sunshine to work with, but mature, well-adjusted adults learn to deal with their coworkers professionally, not like this. This is FAR more about him and his issues than you, so as hard as it is please try not to take it personally.

    And definitely bring it to your boss, who I hope deals with it well. I can tell you this would not fly on my team for one single second and if I heard someone was doing it they’d be in a world of hurt.

    1. Artemesia*

      I had a boss like that who called me in meetings all the time and belittled my contributions — which as often as not were then later adopted in the meeting. It was clearly personal and weird because so often my point of view was ‘right’ i.e. the one the group including him adopted.

      I had a co-worker tell me that I obviously must remind him of his ex-wife or something because it was so ridiculously out of place.

  13. J-nonymous*

    As everyone has noted, this is outrageous. Even if every single item in the list is true about you, OP, this group of people (and the person responsible for starting and circulating the list most of all) has ceded any legitimacy in their concerns due to their behavior.

    I seriously worry about the environment you’re working in. Barring certain circumstances, I think it speaks very poorly of a group that they are allowed to behave in such a manner. Their actions could be construed as mobbing, and if they’re doing this so soon into your tenure there, without intervention their behavior will likely only get worse.

    Alison’s advice is spot-on, and I highly recommend her particular advice to speak calmly with the ring-leader of this group prior to talking to your manager. Regardless of how your manager handles this, if you can firmly (but professionally) establish your boundaries and show that you won’t be bullied, you’ll have a much better result for it.

  14. puddin*

    I have to add to the outrage on the incredulous behavior of the OP’s co-workers.
    1. Someone actually started a petty dis-like list after knowing someone for only 2 months. At work. And passed it around. I would never under any circumstances forget this behavior and it would color every interaction going forward.
    2. Others ADDED to that list instead of refusing to contribute based on professionalism, let alone personal maturity and basic human respect reasons. What a buncha sheep morons.
    3. The list maker is using this as a tool against the OP, not even keeping the destructive impulses to him/herself and the other jerk-faces. This makes me think they believe their behavior is totally normal. Run for the hills!

    As Alison said, there may be some legitimate concerns, but WOW way to completely give yourself a shipp reputation and be hurtful in the process (the list maker not the OP).

    Some of these letters really take my breath away.

    1. Chinook*

      I am also floored that others added to that list. If someone had handed it to me, I would have taken it straight to the boss. Then again, I suspect my personality is well known enough that no one would think I would be on board with this behaviour?

      I guess I am saying that the issue isn’t just with the person who started it (the ring leader) but also with those who added to it and possibly even those who knew of it and did nothing (though they may have been scared of becoming the next victim)

  15. Cheesecake*

    I remember AAM post “My coworker went through my trash to get me in trouble”. I was wondering “why on Earth would somebody go through others’ trash???”. Now i know why. If i ever hear about this list i would.

    1. Senior Staff Nurse Spaz*

      I still probably wouldn’t go through someone’s trash over that, mainly out of a sense of “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” But this list is way over the line. Depending on the region and how likely it is that OP is one minority in 50 workers (not at all likely here in south TX), there may be race issues involved in hiring and the way OP is being treated. Of course, this could be just a run of the mill toxic environment. Run for the hills, OP!!!

  16. Allison*

    I’m honestly curious how old these people are. It’s, unfrotunately, not uncommon for people in their early 20’s to keep acting like they’re still in school, and say nasty things behind their co-workers’ backs.

    If you have a problem with someone’s work performance, or their attitude, or wardrobe, time management, ability to learn important job skills, how they socialize in the office, whatever – either tell them directly or get management involved. No one’s perfect, but the way they’re handling it is downright nasty.

    But really, the OP’s been at that job for a few months, how does someone hate working with someone who’s still so new?

    1. AnotherAnon*

      Those are good points. I’ve unfortunately also dealt with coworkers similar to OP’s coworkers. We were all graduate students in our early- to mid-20s at the time. I think the root of this kind of behavior is insecurity on the part of the ‘bullies.’

      1. Allison*

        It could also be that these people were just as nasty in college, and never saw any real consequences from it. Or, just the opposite, they were socially rewarded for it – it was how they bonded with their equally terrible friends – so now they use the same tactics to bond with their co-workers.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Most of the bullies I’ve known aren’t insecure–they’re narcissistic sociopaths. I wouldn’t ever mention to them that what they did was hurting me. My point, if talking to them, would be more along the lines of “How old are you again? Knock it off, dipsh*t.” I was bullied so much and so often growing up (including by a teacher) that I can only roll my eyes at it now.

        1. Carrington Barr*

          “Most of the bullies I’ve known aren’t insecure–they’re narcissistic sociopaths.”

          SECONDED. Ugh.

        2. The Strand*

          I agree that some bullies certainly are narcissistic or sociopaths. I would, though, also agree that some people come to bullying from a very sad, scared, messed up place.

          For example, in high school, I bumped into a girl who used to bully me – at a rally against sexual assault. We were both wearing armbands indicating we were survivors. I have reason to believe she turned out OK, and that the bullying came out of issues she was having at home, where her parents were involved in a nasty divorce.

    2. Nerd Girl*

      I’ve encountered bullies of every age. Young people aren’t the only age group incapable of leaving High School behind.
      Years ago my husband worked as a pre-school teacher. He was the only male teacher, completely qualified for his position, but there was a female teacher who had a serious issue with him. She was in her late 50’s. She started rumors, she caused drama, she tried to turn parents against him. Eventually she accused him of abuse. Luckily for him the school was completely wired with cameras and her story didn’t wash with what the tape said. You would think that her reason for disliking him was because of his gender, right? Nope. She was made because he got the “better” room and she thought if he was gone she would get it.

      1. Chinook*

        Wait, one teacher falsely accused another teacher of abuse? Please tell me she was fired and lost her teaching license for ruining his reputation because that is one bell that can’t be unrung – wherever he goes, if someone heard about the issue, there will be those who will think that ther emust have been somethign there for her to report it.

        1. Zillah*

          And especially for a male teacher – IME they tend to be under a little more suspicion from the start.

    3. SevenSixOne*

      There’s been at least one person I don’t like working with at every job I’ve ever had, and sometimes it doesn’t take me long to decide I don’t like working with someone–one awful co-worker got under my skin literally SECONDS after we met. I’ve always handled it with some combination of talking to the co-worker directly, talking to management, learning to live with the irritating co-worker, or finding another job.

      You know, like a mature, professional adult.

  17. cv*

    This is so egregious that I kind of wonder what we’re missing, actually. I can picture the coworker writing in:

    “I have a new coworker who is having serious performance issues that are really affecting my ability to get my work done. I started documenting some of the problems so I can talk to our manager about it before her probationary period is up, and I also asked a couple of my coworkers about their experiences working with her. Unfortunately, one of my coworkers is an idiot and told the new coworker that we were making a list of reasons we don’t like working with her. Was I way out of line? What should I do?”

    Clearly the coworker should not have been talking to anyone except the manager if they had concerns, but other OPs with concerns about coworkers’ performance have routinely been told to document the problems so as to be able to raise specific concerns with a manager. The juvenile nastiness of this is what’s over the top, and it’s hard to know whether that’s reality or the OP’s (very understandable) perception.

    1. cv*

      On second reading, I missed the “uses it as ammunition whenever possible” part of the letter. That slants it more towards petty nastiness. OP, you have my sympathies for having to deal with this jerk.

    2. Cheesecake*

      Ehhh…co-worker making a written list of colleague’s mistakes? Already raises an eyebrow (i can only imagine if I am a manager and team member comes to me to complain…with a list!). Co-worker passing this list around to be filled in and “using it as an ammunition”? Even if OP is a real bad performer with horrible attitude, this is worse.

    3. J-nonymous*

      The thing is, we take the OP’s word since it’s the OP’s letter. I agree. We might have seen the other side of this come in other letters written to AAM, but I also think that those situations would have warranted a “What do you think you’re doing making a written list of grievances with another coworker and passing it along to your peers?” response. The issue isn’t having grievances with a coworker; the issue is passing that list around to others instead of addressing issues in a calm and professional manner.

    1. OP*

      Hi, It means, whenever there’s a disagreement, he will throw out the phrase “You’re not doing X right, and I have a list of people how agree with me.”

      1. Lillie Lane*

        WTF? Who says stuff like this? This guy is ridiculous.

        In the cases of a disagreement, is it related to his retort (“You’re not doing X right”), or is it completely unrelated?

        1. Bend & Snap*

          Not only that, “you’re not doing x right” isn’t feedback. “Hey, let me show you how to do x, there seems to be a misunderstanding” is the right way.

        1. Jamie*

          She already has it – she said in one of her responses in the comments that the manager forwarded the list to HR and hasn’t heard back.

          If the listmaker knows management and HR knows, yet nothing has been done, perhaps he feels it’s not a big deal and is more empowered?

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Ah so the company writes procedures by consensus? Skip the part about laws, regs, practical needs- just let the employees decide amongst themselves how to do things and decide if another employee is not doing it right?

        Wow. This bully is a couple cans short of a six pack.

        The thing that jumps out at me, is that the bully needs to build consensus. Why does he need a group of people standing behind him, if what he is saying is correct? I guess I would want to know why he can’t stand on his own two feet and feels the need to rally others.

  18. LOtheAdmin*

    Tis the season of nastiness, I see. Oy.

    This story isn’t in the same league as the OP’s, but I’m going to tell it anyway.
    A friend went back to work the morning following the Ferguson decision and subsequent social unrest. Her co-workers thought it would be funny to ask her how much she looted while she was away, and that they were surprised to see her there since she was trapped in “the struggle.” And so on and so on.

    Thankfully, I found some advice on this website that helped me guide her in the process of reporting these jerks.

    I’m so sorry, OP. I know it’s painful, but you’re not alone. Above all else, try to keep calm and do as Alison says.
    But do NOT let this go. What happened to you needs to be reported. Good luck to you.

    1. Andy*

      Your friend doesn’t need to go anywhere to see “the struggle”…she works with “the struggle” and yes I’ll bet it does feel like a trap.

      1. LOtheAdmin*

        I was so angry when she told me. I could only imagine how terrible she felt having to be there with these idiots.
        And just to let people know, they sent the people doing this to her home for a week without pay and
        scheduled mandatory sensitivity training for the entire department she worked for. I cheered when I heard this.

        1. Lisa*

          Finally some good stories of HR done well. Can we do a post about good managers and good HR departments handling things like this correctly?

    2. SCW*

      See, but what the coworkers said to your friends was actually based presumably on membership in a protected class, and thus was actually creating a hostile working environment. Whereas, comments about someone not doing a good job are petty and unprofessional, not discriminatory. Workplaces get to discriminate against people they don’t think perform the work the way they want–even if they are arbitrary about it, as long as it isn’t based on a protective class.

  19. Jillociraptor*

    Whaaaaat? This is so, so bananas, OP. Who would do this? I’m sorry that your colleagues are so bratty, thoughtless and juvenile. I hope your manager takes swift action AND/OR that you find a great new job quickly that supports you and appreciates your contributions.

  20. soitgoes*

    I’ll add:

    The only time I ever had a job that engendered this kind of backstabbing and “let’s gang up against the new girl” was at a business where there was a constant threat of being laid off. They would hire people full-time around the holiday season, not tell them that they were just seasonal, and then abruptly let them go in April. The owners would very heavily factor petty crap like gossip and side-taking into their decisions about who they would be getting rid of. The owners had a core of employees who had been lifelong friends with their (the owners’) children, and those employees would be the arbiters of who stayed and who went, with terrible, abusive behavior (yes, harassment in the legal sense) being directed toward the people they didn’t like.

    So, OP…is this coworker friends with someone higher up the chain? Is there something structurally iffy about the business that’s making the coworker act out?

  21. sally*

    Easy fix. Go to HR and report employees for hostile work environment. Get them the list if you have it.

    1. fposte*

      As noted, it’s not a hostile work environment just because people are being hostile–that means hostility for an illegal reason. However, it’s possible, since the OP has since disclosed that she is of a different race, that that may be an element here–but she’s understandably careful in bringing that aspect up, and you really don’t want to go into HR with legal guns blazing right from the get go.

      1. J.B.*

        Yeah, but I think given that a conversation with a lawyer is in order. I mean, since I read the OPs response as the manager hasn’t done anything best to move on, but what is the likelihood of adverse employment impact in the meantime?

        OP I am so so sorry you have to deal with this.

        1. fposte*

          It depends. The OP has revealed that there is a possibility of an illegal reason, and in that case I think she should go to HR and then contact the EEOC if there’s no resolution. But if there had been no illegal reason, there’s not much a lawyer can do for you. “Adverse employment impact” isn’t illegal in the US.

          1. J.B.*

            I mean adverse employment impact related to the harrassment if it is related to the OPs membership in a protected class. If, if, if…we have no way of knowing everything that is going on here, but if the manager isn’t taking any action it doesn’t sound good.

            1. fposte*

              Yes, now that there’s information that it’s possibly illegal, that changes things. It’s just that some people think that in the US this kind of behavior is illegal on its face, and it’s not, so I wasn’t sure if you were going on the original post or the updated info.

          2. Joey*

            I think this is where a lot of people get conflicted. Just because the op is the lone minority doesn’t make it a racial issue. Suggesting it might be, a lot of folks feel, is attempting to make it a race issue when it very well might not be.

            If it were me Id want to try to separate the two before I pursued the race issue. That is- I wouldn’t accuse anyone of race discrimination until I was pretty sure that’s the only rational conclusion left.

            1. Joey*

              Because you really can’t go to the EEOC and say it may or may not be because of race. You have to choose that you believe it is tied to race. And I’m not prepared to inflict that type of allegation on someone unless I’m reasonably confident that’s what it is.

              1. Vin packer*

                Disagree. Even if the coworker isn’t consciously thinking “I’m going to purposely act racist today, awesome,” a large team ganging up on the single racial minority can reasonably be considered a racist act, and that’s all that really matters to the EEOC.

                It’s not on the OP to suss out the coworker’s “reasons” for acting bananas, to determine if he truly meant to be racist deep down in his heart. If the bananas-acting has racist effects, his/her intent doesn’t matter, and OP is within her rights to invoke the legal protections available to her. (Whether that’s the best strategy for her in a practical sense, I can’t say. I’m just saying that she has a right to.)

                1. Jamie*

                  I agree that the numbers can make outsiders look more seriously at the issue to see if it’s racially motivated, but if people are being jerks due to reasons other than race that doesn’t create “racist effects.”

                  I’m a woman and I have the capacity to be a perfectly horrible human being. Those two statements are both true but unrelated. If I were the only woman amongst a team of 50 and this was happening to me it could absolutely be because I’m was a horrible human being, or incompetent, or so not funny when I think I’m hilarious – whatever – but a million reasons unrelated to my gender. So if they all did this to me it would be wrong and unprofessional, but it wouldn’t be sexism unless the reason they disliked me was because I am a woman.

                  Sure, people would look twice to make sure that wasn’t what it was, sure some could assume that there was underlying sexism – but that doesn’t mean it’s would be there.

                  And we don’t know if they have done thing horrible thing to people before. Would it change things if she’s the 9th person list maker has targeted and there is no particular demographic singled out.

                  Racism absolutely exists, but the demographics of the parties involved aren’t indicative of it existing in any individual case alone…any more than assuming everyone who doesn’t like me at work who happens to be a man is sexist – barring other things that would indicate a problem with women I wouldn’t assume it was sexism.

                  But the perception thing does bring up a good point. A company large enough that they have mediation practices (maybe I’m wrong, but this sounds like big corporate rather than SMB to me) should be taking it very seriously because of how it looks. I’m a little surprised the manager is being as cavalier about it as they are.

                2. Zillah*

                  I agree, Joey – but I also think that prejudice is still quite prevalent in this country, and if you have a situation where the lone POC/woman is being singled out for bad treatment by a large group, it’s important to strongly consider that as a motivating factor.

              2. fposte*

                @Joey–it’s not required that you know for sure it’s race before you contact the EEOC. In a case like this, where the demographics are so vastly disparate, I think it would be well worth raising the issue–presuming the OP is willing to do that.

                1. Joey*

                  It’s not Eeoc’s job to investigate merely because she’s the lone minority and is getting picked on. She would have to point out how shes been treated differently than other employees with performance problems to be taken seriously.

                2. Alma*

                  The EEOC will question the person who feels offended, and define for them what gives the EEOC cause to investigate or not investigate. They are thorough and compassionate. They will also advise the complainant of what legal (civil or otherwise) options are open to them.

                3. Joey*

                  That is different from my handful of experiences with EEOC. In my experience they make you indicate which protected category you believe is the reason for the discrimination AND they make you point to something other than mere speculation before they take you seriously. I’ve had a few people base their claim on pure speculation and all it took was a simple position statement saying I used job related criteria as the basis for different treatment. Boom, done. But, when someone can show EEOC the treatment is linked to a protected category that’s when EEOC does a more thorough investigation.

                  And I haven’t seen EEOC ever give legal options. Yes they tell you your legal rights, but that’s far different than legal options.

              3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                Picking on anyone is horrible.

                Picking on the only person of color in an office of 50 people is

                In. Sane.

                I agree that if it could be well documented that they were horrible to many people in an equal opportunity kind of way, if this kind of awful behavior was shown to multiple white people before it was done to the OP, I agree that then it’s not an EEOC issue.

                But it has to be investigated first, and the way it gets investigated is if a complaint gets filed.

                This is the reason these laws got written. It was not that long ago that co-workers could routinely drive away minorities and women with this kind of behavior, unchecked. Routinely!

                Let the EEOC investigate and find out they are just nasty rotten people generally but don’t sit back and take it or move on because you can’t.

          3. neverjaunty*

            No, OP should go to a lawyer first, before going to the EEOC. There may be different state remedies; there may be specific requirements that the EEOC has before OP can get relief. An employees’ attorney can help OP navigate that process, tell OP her options and what she can expect, etc.

            1. fposte*

              I disagree because of the tightness of the time frame. The lawyer can’t proceed without the EEOC anyway, so notify the EEOC and put in a call to possible lawyers the same day.

              1. neverjaunty*

                Why can’t the lawyer proceed without the EEOC? Has OP exhausted all her remedies first? If she messes up her EEOC application can a lawyer re-submit it or is she out of luck? Does anything toll that 45 day limit? If the co-worker is continuing to act up has the 45 days run?

                I don’t know the answers to those questions. A lawyer would.

                1. fposte*

                  You need a right to sue letter from the EEOC to take legal action anyway. However, I am blessedly wrong about the 45-day window–I’m guessing that was for federal employees. You have 180 (or possibly 300, if you’re in a state that has its own limits) days to file. I am not seeing anything that automatically stops the clock–the EEOC explicitly says “Time limits for filing a charge with EEOC generally will not be extended while you attempt to resolve a dispute through another forum…” and suggests you should be working simultaneously rather than exhausting all other remedies before turning to the EEOC.

                  Given that we’re not talking the absurdly small 45-day window, I think it’s okay for the OP to talk to a lawyer first and give HR a week or so to respond, but she really needs to stay abreast of that timeline. (Given that the OP has identified herself as being on the West Coast, there’s a good chance she’s in a state with a state EEO office, too.)

              2. Alma*

                +1. From personal experience, go to the EEOC first. Get an appointment, and block off an entire day for it. You may have to travel to a larger city Federal Building to keep the appt.

  22. Bee*

    LW, this is ridiculous and I’m sorry you’re working with these people. I’m impressed that you’re acting professionally here. I don’t know if I would.

  23. sab*

    I cannot even fathom the ragestroke that would occur if I found out one of my employees was pulling this awful, petty shit. I am hoping for your sake, OP, that your manager feels the same.

  24. Celeste*

    Have you talked to your boss about the difficulties you are having in learning the job? When you say there is no process and you are in the weeds, I take it to mean there are no procedures and you aren’t assigned to work with a trainer. Addressing training is what managers are supposed to do. Then you can bring up how your coworker has this thing he does that is really, truly not helping the work flow, and you need it to stop.

    I’m sorry you are dealing with this. I’m wondering if it’s the first time the coworker has treated new staff this way. He sounds so bold about it–and yet the others seem to have gone along with it. They might be afraid he will go after them. Is there anyone at your level you can talk to there?

    I know it will be hard to admit that you don’t understand how to do parts of the job, but getting this problem solved is at least as important as getting the coworker to knock it off.

    1. Celeste*

      Rescinding this now that I see the whole picture, which is that the OP has found herself in a Lord of the Flies scenario. Just get out of there as fast as you can and find something else. Cut your losses.

  25. Cee*

    OP, I am so sorry you have to deal with this bullying jackass, and I’m sorry that confronting him and going to your manager have not worked (if I’m interpreting your comments correctly). You deserve to work somewhere that you are valued and treated with respect.

  26. long time reader first time poster*

    OP, could you elaborate on what kind of issues are on this list? I’m curious if there are any points that are not 100% performance related, because that is where I’d start with the pushback.

    For example:
    1. OP comes in 20 minutes later than the rest of the staff every day and others have to cover for her.
    2. OP trims her toenails at her desk and leaves the clippings for others to clean.
    3. OP wears Justin Beiber t-shirts every Friday

    So, if all the list items were along the lines of #1, that’s a real work-related issue. If it was more like #2, where the issue is gross/annoying it’s more of a culture/consideration issue. And if everything is more like #3, that’s just none of anybody else’s business (unless it’s a violation of a previously provided dress code, I suppose).

    Anyway, just wondering if the list is all ones, twos or threes… and if there are ANY threes at all I’d say you have a much stronger case than if the list is full of ones. (Not that the list is appropriate in any way for a colleague to be distributing, of course.)

  27. A Teacher*

    We’re talking about mobbing and work place bullying in two classes. I talked to them about the letter you wrote in a bit ago. My high school age students were horrified and most said “who does that?” They all said she’s being “regina georged” (from Mean Girls). We had to talk about how its not illegal to be an a-hole, which sucks but is not illegal.

    I’m sorry you’re dealing with this OP.

  28. Observer*

    I think that you are right to hesitate to bring up the race issue. But, to be honest, it sounds like you don’t have much choice. I would not be surprised if there were some genuine performance issues on that list. BUT – and this is a biggie – this is not in any way a productive or reasonable way to handle it. Your co-worker must know this, and I can’t imagine any supervisor who doesn’t know this. So, this is being done to harass you, rather than to actually deal with the situation. Given your short tenure, it doesn’t sound like you could have had a chance to do anything to alienate people THAT badly, which means that there is something that stacked the deck against you.

    If you have already talked to the list-maker and your manager, you need to go to HR and point out that although you don’t really like to jump to “the race card”, there doesn’t seem to be any other reason for this behavior – it simply doesn’t make sense even if there really are performance issues. And, if that doesn’t work, then go to the EEOC.

    And, in the meantime, please look for another job. This sounds like an absolutely horrible place to work.

    1. sunny-dee*

      I said something similar below, but this both may and may not be a race issue. It’s a lot harder to fire minorities in most places because of the risk of discrimination lawsuits. The OP admits that there are some performance issues and that s/he is “lost” and “in the weeds.” If the OP did something that seriously screwed up something the listmaker was working on, that listmaker may be trying to build a case to persuade management to fire the OP. If there is a pattern of poor performance, that covers the corporate tail.

      I am not saying any of that justifies the listmaker’s actions, at all. But it may put the OP in a different position. It could be that Coworker is just a racist and a bully — but if the OP takes that tack and then it turns out there is a really long list of justifiable complaints, it could backfire on the OP.

      I think Allison’s proposal of going to the manager to put the kibosh on this works great (because this is just messed up), and the follow-up may be to work with the manager on any legitimate performance issues or complaints — and that cuts the listmaker off.

      1. fposte*

        I doubt she’s going to last there long anyway–might as well help them clean house a little before you go. And singling out the only minority employee in a 50-person unit in such a bizarre and irrational way is an absolutely disastrous thing for an organization to permit whether the law finds for them or not–the publicity on this would be appalling.

        1. sunny-dee*

          Well, it’s not singling her out “irrationally” if she actually did something that affected the guy negatively (even if his response is extreme).

          So, a guy (long time in the department, new to a particular project) completely fouled up a release last week. It had been handed off to him over 95% done, two resources (me and another writer) were both available for assistance for the last two months if he had questions. And the guy completely blew off that last 5% of work — leaving me and this other guy to lose a day of our work mopping up his mistakes so that an entire software release could actually go out (a day late, because of him). And, when I tried to reach him during a standing meeting time (he’s remote from me) to go over what we had done and what we could pull him in to do, he LEFT to go get something to eat because he wasn’t in the right “headspace” to think about work.

          The fact that I want karmic revenge on MyCoworker has nothing to do with his race (white, for the record) and everything to do with the fact that he screwed up and then did nothing to fix it or acknowledge it.

          If the OP did something similar — and there is apparently a list of errors — it could have nothing to do with the OP’s race and not be at all irrational.

          I think one thing (that the OP can work out with her manager) is whether this comes down to a single or small number of incidents that the listmaker is blowing wildly out of proportion or if it is a pattern of bad performance on the OP’s part that the listmaker is simply handling inappropriately. (Or, for that matter, a pattern of bad management — maybe the OP is the latest in a string of poorly-trained newbies.)

          1. Observer*

            Here is the thing. Even if the OP did mess up in the way you describe, the response is utterly irrational. It’s not just the list, it’s the inclusion of others and the fact that it’s being thrown out at any “opportune” moment.

            And, while I could easily believe there are genuine performance issues, the OP’s description does not sound like it’s coming from someone who would be likely to blow off an important project and the rescue attempts. Nor does it sound at all realistic to think that someone this new was being given work of such impact as soon as two months into a job.

            So, while it’s quite possible that the list maker is ALSO trying to make a case for the termination of the OP, it’s quite obvious that this is not the whole story, and that there is some sort of personal animus that’s really hard to fit into a legitimate work related context.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        This part galls me, too: Don’t train her and then bash the crap out of her when she messes up.

        Karma. May karma do it’s thing here.

        OP, I know you cannot say the name of your company but if I ever find out- I will boycott their products/services and encourage all my friends to avoid them, too.

        1. aebhel*

          Same. I mean, the OP may be genuinely making mistakes, but if she hasn’t been trained on the proper way to do things, that’s at least as much the fault of whoever the hell is supposed to be training her.

          I mean, yes, some jobs just toss you in the deep end and you have to figure it out on your own, but if that’s their approach to management, they have to expect a lot of mistakes from new employees (and 3 months is pretty damn new). Common sense notwithstanding, the only way you know if you’re doing something wrong is if someone tells you.

          I mean, if she’s coming in late and blowing off her work, that’s one thing, but making mistakes because no one has shown her how to do things correctly is a totally different situation, and that’s a lot more what this sounds like.

  29. AvonLady Barksdale*

    OP, I, like most of us, am eager to hear how this plays out. I get the impression that this isn’t your first office environment, but even so, I want you to know that reasonable people do not act like this. You may already know that, but I’m going to say it anyway. This behavior is not professional, nor is it even socially acceptable. They are assholes. Even if you were the worst employee in the history of the world, they’d still be assholes.

    I also want to point out that you mentioned in the comments that you’re the only minority in a department of 50 people. While I respect that you gave them the benefit of the doubt and didn’t attribute this to racism/ethnic stereotyping– people can be jerks without being racists– if I were you, I would put those antennae up.

    Out of curiosity, have you seen the list?

  30. R2D2*

    I’m afraid that a “don’t allow assholes on our team” clause would mean the OP would need to be fired as well. :-) If that was a labor law, the economy would grind to a halt, as 9/10ths of the world’s population (including myself, naturally) found themselves out of a job. We live in a post-modern world, where how things are interpreted are more important than the things themselves. Everyone loves to believe that they are witty, charming, and wonderful, and that any criticisms against them are unjust and sophomoric. I’m sure the list writer feels the exact same as the OP here, stuck “in the weeds”, “on their own” in seeing their issues with the OP. They probably saw the list as a perfectly reasonable, perfectly rational thing to do, in the same way that people do all sorts of foolish things by convincing themselves that they aren’t foolish.

    The manager’s manager might be someone who should be in on this, as it sounds like the manager’s department is in a lot of trouble. Squashing the list won’t squash the problems that created it or the OP’s response to them.

    1. Helka*

      I’m afraid that a “don’t allow assholes on our team” clause would mean the OP would need to be fired as well. :-)

      What the heck does this mean, and why would you put a smiley on the end of calling the OP an asshole?

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        I read it as not directed specifically at the OP, but just people in general. We all have our asshole moments. So if people could get fired for being assholes, then everyone would be on that list.

    2. jae*

      …why would the OP need to be fired? This whole comment makes no sense. Making mistakes might make trouble for other people but it’s not asshole behavior. Circulating a list of faults like you’re still in middle school rather than confronting the person directly and working with them is asshole behavior

    3. Clever Name*

      At first I thought you were making a joke, like in the movie Spaceballs (“How many assholes we got on this ship?” [everyone raises their hand] “Keep firing, assholes!”), but after reading your whole comment, it sounds more like you’re engaging in moral relativism. I’m sure the listmaker thinks they are being reasonable and rational, but that doesn’t mean that they actually are being reasonable and rational. Acting like an asshole really isn’t just a matter of perspective.

      1. fposte*

        And most people who do horrible things feel justified, so it doesn’t really illuminate the situation any–people get deservedly fired for stuff they felt justified in doing all the time.

    4. Hermione*

      Honestly, while everybody has their moments, I completely disagree that 9/10ths of my team should be fired for being a*holes.

      Putting aside that this comment was really odd overall, the problem with this argument is that you ignore that there is a spectrum to the type of people you describe as being “a*holes.” There is a large difference, for example, between an a*hole who clips his nails at his desk regularly (and if this is you, please note that I dub thee an a*hole) and an a*hole who decides that writing down, passing around, adding to and referencing aloud a list of a person’s faults in a professional workplace is a good idea. The first a*hole, while annoying, isn’t a person with whom I could never work. The second a*hole can kindly pull his own bottom lip over his head and swallow.

      OP, I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. Regardless of how the manager, HR, etc. handle this, I hope you’ll find a new workplace that respects you.

      1. Helka*


        If 9/10ths of your team is rising to this level of jerkitude, your team is not normal, your team is a capital-P Problem. There’s being less than completely warm and cordial, which most of us are probably guilty of, and then there’s egregiously terrible, toxic behavior.

    5. The Strand*

      Yeah, I think you need to read the book in question, “The No Asshole Rule”. My husband’s MBA class had it as required reading, and we put it on our shared Kindle, where I thoroughly enjoyed it.

      This book does not make the kind of assertions you’ve made here, suggesting that in theory 9/10ths of us would qualify as assholes.

      Here’s “Bob Sutton’s List of The Dirty Dozen Common Everyday Actions That A**holes Use:

      1. Personal insults

      2. Invading one’s personal territory

      3. Uninvited personal contact

      4. Threats and intimidation, both verbal and non-verbal

      5. Sarcastic jokes and teasing used as insult delivery systems

      6. Withering email flames

      7. Status slaps intended to humiliate their victims

      8. Public shaming or status degradation rituals

      9. Rude interruptions

      10. Two-faced attacks

      11. Dirty looks

      12. Treating people as if they are invisible”

      In short, being an asshole, as Sutton describes it, is about legitimate bullying and personal attacks. Most people have occasional moments of insensitivity, impatience, brusqueness, and so on, but do not persist, in their personal lives or professional positions, in repeated, nasty behavior towards other people. Certainly I’ve had disagreements with people, and I’ve had to work with several people I didn’t like, but I didn’t engage in this kind of behavior – and in fact, most of the people that I didn’t like didn’t engage in it, either.

      There really is a difference between being unpleasant and being an asshole. I really recommend reading the book.

      1. R2D2*

        Thanks for the recommendation — I’ll keep an eye out for it.

        I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective, especially since there is no ANSI Standard definition of asshole (although Mr. Sutton sounds like he’s made a good contribution).

        People are remarkable in their ability to re-imagine their own behaviors when there is a risk that those behaviors will contradict their own positive self-image. Psychologists even have a formal term for it — “fundamental attribution error”.

        A person only has to have one child to be a parent, only has to break into one house to be a burglar, and the list-maker apparently only has to make one list to be an asshole, so why would everyone else get multiple “moments”, other than to avoid having the asshole label also apply to themselves?

        1. aebhel*

          So, basically, your argument is that because everyone occasionally does asshole things, we shouldn’t ever judge anyone for anything at all and that making mistakes is basically the same thing, on the asshole scale, as being actively malicious?

          This is specious reasoning. I can make multiple mistakes in my job, and that may mean that I’m bad at my job but it doesn’t mean that I’m an asshole. If I’m venting my spleen at someone in a way that any reasonable person would understand as hurtful and unproductive, on the other hand, then I am an asshole.

          Of course I’ve done asshole things. Everyone has. Part of being an adult is learning to recognize when you’re the one being an asshole, and taking steps to (a) stop that behavior and (b) make amends. Fundamental attribution error aside, most people who are not actually narcissists are capable of doing this, at least to some degree.

          1. R2D2*

            Of course I’ve done asshole things. Everyone has. Part of being an adult is learning to recognize when you’re the one being an asshole, and taking steps to (a) stop that behavior and (b) make amends. Fundamental attribution error aside, most people who are not actually narcissists are capable of doing this, at least to some degree.

            That’s basically what I’m getting at. Almost everyone has done asshole things before. Not just once, but multiple times, so many times, in fact, that if someone had been doing any other thing besides “doing an asshole thing one time”, everyone would unanimously agree that just calling them assholes would be accurate, the same way they would agree that someone who has broken into multiple houses is a burglar and someone who has had multiple children is a parent. Making this into “that asshole list-maker vs. the poor OP” is missing the point that this is really just one asshole encouraging other assholes to be assholes to someone who is very likely to be another asshole. :-) If everyone involved is an asshole, then you can remove that variable from the table entirely. What’s left is a departmental problem, a management problem, not a problem with “that one asshole”.

            1. Kelly L.*

              So…let’s say this does turn out to be a case of racial prejudice. Should we then ignore all racism, because all the people who are being discriminated against must also be assholes, based on your definition in which all people are assholes?

              That sounds more like religion (original sin) than good workplace policy, to be honest.

              1. R2D2*

                Well, maybe asshole should be divided the way they divide theft, into “petty assholes” and “grand assholes”. :-) I’m not sure that would really help, though.

                Your hypothetical doesn’t seem quite equivalent, but if this was a problem where the OP’s co-workers believed that they were being treated poorly because of their race, and they believed it was due to characteristics of the OP’s race (that they wrote down on a list circulated amongst them), and the OP decided that only people of their co-workers’ race would ever make such a list, well then yes, deciding “who’s the racist” would not be the right way to solve this problem. (Frankly the best solution for that one might just be for the manager to resign — I know I wouldn’t want to deal with that powder keg).

                Fortunately, that’s not the scenario the OP has given us.

            2. Melissa*

              Your comment doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. First of all, we would call a person who broke into one house to be a burglar and a person who had one child a parent. So those analogies don’t work.

              But second of all, I think you are conflating doing bad things with being a bad person. Sure, everyone does annoying things sometimes, but I disagree that everyone does ‘asshole’ things. There are annoying interpersonal things (like flossing your teeth at the desk) and then there are terrible things, like passing around a burn book at work. They’re in two completely different realms of interpersonal horror, and I think it’s okay that we call the latter person an a-hole and not the former. Words do mean things.

              Besides, I think your assessment of the situation is wrong. Yes, it might be a managerial problem (and in the OP’s case it seems to be, since her manager is unwilling to manage) – but it ALSO sounds like it is a particular problem from one particular person who is being a jerk. Sometimes, there really is just one or a few people being a jerk and they are the problem. It sounds like in OP’s case that there are some departmental issues since others are going along with it, but I would say that the person who started it is totally a jerk and they are the epicenter of this problem.

        2. Melissa*

          That’s not the fundamental attribution error, btw. That’s cognitive dissonance.

          And while everyone has their moments, I think it’s safe to say that the type of person who would make a list of faults and pass it around is an asshole, full stop.

          1. R2D2*

            Good point — fundamental attribution error would be why an outside observer assumes the list-maker is an asshole, but I suppose I was talking about why placing that same outside observer in the same situation they would never see themselves as an asshole, which (if I recall correctly) is the actor/observer error, a complimentary but distinct problem.

            1. R2D2*

              (It also looks like I recalled the term incorrectly; the actual term is “self-serving bias in attribution”, which covers both the fundamental attribution error and its opposite.)

      2. AggrAV8ed Tech*

        My manager falls under 1, 4, 5 (especially this one, he thinks he’s hilarious), 6, 8, 10 and 12.

        That settles it – my manager is an asshole.

  31. TT*

    OP, I’m sorry you work in such a horrible office. I can’t even suggest anything legal at this point.

  32. Riri*

    I would get a copy of this list if it is at all possible. If the list writer has only referred to it verbally, it may not really exist and anyway, when confronted, the listmeister is likely to say “List?What list? I don’t know what you’re talking about.” And OP will look like the crazy one.

  33. Ann Furthermore*

    No further advice for you, OP, just really really sorry you’re having to deal with such awful people!

  34. sunny-dee*

    Is there any chance the listmaker is trying to build a case to get the OP fired? I’ve heard of people doing this exact thing privately when there were problems with a manager or coworker as a way of documenting a pattern of behavior. If the OP is a minority (i.e., a protected class), then the listmaker may have complaints about the OP’s performance and this is their way of documenting it to try to ask for or justify a termination.

    The reason I mention it is that that changes is from “the listmaker is a jerk who is torturing you” to “this guy thinks you deserve to be fired and is actively promoting it,” which is a really different perspective. Especially if he is getting multiple people to feed into it.

    That may be something to watch out for.

  35. Cheryl Becker*

    WTF? Are these co-workers high school girls??
    Sorry, I shouldn’t malign high school girls, but this behavior SO reminds me of high school! Younger than high school, actually. Shame on them.

    1. Jazzy Red*

      Yeah, some high school girls are totally terrific. I had a high school co-op student once, who I was sure would end up ruling the world. And the world would have loved it! I should look her up sometime.

    2. BethRA*

      In defense of high school girls, I believe OP has referred to the person who wrote the list as “he” in their responses.

      OP, I’m so sorry you have to deal with this, this is wrong and gross on so many levels.

      1. Aggielou*

        Yep. And the OP wrote “him” and “he” in the original post.

        OP, sorry to hear you work with such horrid people. I hope this gets resolved quickly and that your co-worker gets escorted out of the building.

  36. Jazzy Red*

    Wow. That’s one of the worst work related things I’ve ever heard. OP, I’m so sorry that you’re going through this. I wish I had some really great advice for you that would make it all go away.

    Even as dysfunctional as my last company was, they would fire the list maker immediately. And everyone who added to the list would be PIPed.

    I hope this is over soon.

  37. Ann without an e*

    This is odd behavior, I would personally leave the protected class out of it with the manager. While it might make that manager hop to due to fear of a lawsuit, it could cause some internal eye rolling, an internal “I knew it” dialog…….or other nasty thoughts that will turn others callous against you and could be more harmful in the long run to others of your class whatever it may be. Which I assume is why you were hesitant to bring it up in the first place. You are right, this offensive behavior to anyone, regardless of protected status or not, that should be enough. I am sorry your co-worker has flying monkeys in the belfry. I suggest we all now dub him Crazy Guy for the rest of the time you work at this place.

  38. Not So NewReader*

    ugh. This is the stuff nightmares are made out of. I am sorry you are going through this, OP. And if you called in tomorrow and quit, I could totally understand that one. No one, anywhere, should have to put up with this kind of crap.

    I hope it is some consolation that the readership here is from across the globe. People, world-wide, are reading this and saying this is so very, very wrong.

  39. Nobody*

    This looks like a case of mobbing, and it is just awful. I went through something similar at my last job, except it was sort of the opposite — we got a group of fresh-out-of-college new employees who thought they were the cool kids, and they started a campaign against me (a seasoned employee with an excellent performance record). They spread slanderous rumors about me and circulated a petition for getting me fired. They enlisted other employees and managers and made me out to be the bad guy. I stuck around for way longer than I should have, hoping it would get better, but it didn’t and I left earlier this year.

    Along the way, I did a lot of reading about workplace mobbing, and it is horrifying. I wish I could tell you there is some simple way of making it stop, but there’s not. You can try going to your manager or HR, but if enough people have ganged up against you, they will assume that you are the real problem. The bullies will probably lie about what they’re doing to you and call you paranoid. If they get disciplined for this, they will continue to plot against you but more secretively. I am not saying this to make you feel worse than you already do, but often, the only way to save yourself from a mobbing situation is to leave. There is really no legal recourse unless the “burn book” has comments specifically about your race. I am so sorry you’re going through this. No one deserves it.

    1. Ann without an e*

      Dude, that’s so terrible. I’m sorry you had to go through that.
      I am in a toxic place too, not as bad as you though, my co-workers are turning against my mobster but management won’t do anything. Long story short, the week I announced my pregnancy he made a joke on the production floor to an audience of 10 men that he is the father, it lead to some pretty nasty rumors, I refuse to work with him anymore, but he is a major manager….its an ongoing saga. I have found that yoga helps me, I don’t get angry anymore, my arms look great, my husband loves the added flexibility

      When you left were you worried about going to a place that was worse than where you were already at? That is a big concern for me, I’m worried that if I leave here I might end up somewhere worse. Its caused me to be very picky. But like you I want to get out before the damage becomes scaring.

      1. Concerned*

        I went through a similar thing at my former company seven years ago. Somehow I rattled a coworker who seemed at first to be a nice person but somehow I upset and lashed out against me, literally sending an email to my home address saying I was this, that and the other. and badmouthed me repeatedly to everyone in our company. She worked in a different office from me, but friends of mine in that place would alert me to what she was saying. I had sent the email to my boss and this woman’s then boss, but nothing happened at first. The comments kept going on – the long-timers didn’t take her seriously but the new employees seemed to listen to her – and then it took another instance to get the publisher’s desk. She got talked to, but her behavior never changed. It wasn’t until she was laid off that the whole ordeal ended, and this on and off experience had been going on for almost 5 years.

    1. J-nonymous*

      “You have a bunch of people who agree with you? Well *ALL* of Ask A Manager agrees you’re a jerk.”

  40. JustMy2cents*

    Don’t walk, run. Fast. and Far.

    Unless this a fabulous dream job/GREAT pay/some other omg reason.. cut your losses now. You’ve only been there 3 months and can recover from this. The damage they are doing to your psyche (whether you realize it or not) and to your career is not worth it. This isn’t going to get better. Consult with a lawyer, continue pursuing this with HR.. but, it isn’t going to get better.

    Don’t walk, run. Fast and Far. And don’t look back.

    (I’m sorry you’re having to deal with these horrible people. Been there, cut my losses.. moved on :)

  41. mel*

    Woah, wait… are you saying that everybody decided not to train you, and then gang up on you when you didn’t magically figure out everything on your own? Because that’s messed up. That sounds like the kind of thing that would happen at my job…

    …brb, job-searching.

  42. Z*

    Y’know something, I was recently on the opposite end of something almost exactly like this.

    I work with a group of people, two of which are treated differently to the rest of us in several noticeable ways. Basically, it’s a case of poor performance and shitty behaviour colliding with weak management – who ignores these problems and pushes the responsibility for covering gaps, fixing issues and doing more work onto the rest of us, as opposed to holding these people accountable and to the same professional standard.

    Once I finally decided to confront our manager about this, you’d better believe I had a list – a structured list of specific examples and general trends where these people doing the wrong thing had shafted the rest of us and resulted in them getting no discipline or corrective training and then having a repeat of the behaviour. This list was, in fact, the result of brainstorming between myself and my peers because I wanted to have a strong set of examples to present and this issue was affecting all of us in different ways and completely tanking our morale. I needed to be able to clearly, coherently and accurately convey that there was a problem and that it really needed to be fixed.

    Not to put a too fine a point on it, but if all of your coworkers are passing around a list as to why it is a pain to work with you, it could be that you really are a pain to work with and you’ve done some things – or possibly a lot of things – that are causing problems for your coworkers.

    I’m not saying that it’s definitely the case, but it’s certainly a possibility.

    1. Observer*

      After two months they had messed up so badly that you had to develop a list with your peers of all the terrible things you needed to talk to your managers about? And then spent a month “refining” it by taunting the poor performers with it?

      The context here is important. And context indicates that even if there are genuine performance problems, the co-workers are not acting in good faith.

      1. AnonyManager*

        Agreed @ Observer

        Anyone who brings me a list that they worked on with someone else (anyone else) and they haven’t talked to the “poor performer” directly and professionally before resorting to “list making” is as much of a problem as the “poor performer”. Of course, I would never fail to train or manage my team.

        The minute the co-worker started circulating a list w/o talking to the OP (maybe even offering to show the “new kid on the block”) or the OP’s manager he crossed the line from reasonable and professional to childish and morale killing. His credibility is G-O-N-E! I mean what did he really hope to accomplish?

        OP should get out of that toxic environment as soon as possible. It is obvious that the manager has no clue and the fact that the co-worker is a d-bag who has to resort to these kind of tactics (and thinks this is an acceptable way to act) says way more about him than anything OP could ever do or fail to do at that job.

      2. Z*

        Not quite, these were recent examples stretching back maybe three months or so pertaining to behaviours that they’d been doing for the entire time I’d been there (2 years – both of these people predate me).

        A lot of the things that they’d been doing are the sort of things that certainly could present themselves within three months if the person in question has particularly poor performance and/or behaviour. Some examples would include:

        Ignoring work or types of work that they have been told is top priority, flexing their time without the consent of the manager (who is dead against everybody else doing that), refusing to do assigned tasks in front of everyone at meetings and literally shouting over the top of people in meetings, to name a few.

        There is a plausible scenario where a weak manager, confronted with somebody with poor performance or bad behaviour and is for whatever reason unwilling to tell that worker to get back in line, is facilitating things that are unacceptable to this person’s coworkers .

        Is it just me or is it not unreasonable to think that when ALL OF YOUR COWORKERS are passing around an entire LIST of why working with you is unpleasant, the problem might be you and not everybody else having the exact same personality defect all in the same place at the same time?

        1. Op.*

          Just saw this reply. Just to clarify, and I didn’t mention this in the original satatement. But half of the “burn list” items were people upset that I stepped on their toes by successfully taking over their duties – and there are numbers that prove my successful completion rate. The overall department has an issue of lack/ laziness with coworkers and A lot of things fall through the cracks. I’m always willing to take the extra step(s) to get things done – even if it means going outside my stated duties. My co workers never reached out to me to warm me to back down.

          One complaint mentioned I “needed to stop communicating task updates” to my team members. Which is a silly complaint – such a reach. The person in charge was too busy, and movement wasn’t being made, and people need to know deadlines, so I stepped in. We claim to be a lean and flat org, were people can step up/in when needed.

          The remaining issues were a mix of my lack of division knowledge or process support issues / issues that would have been solved early on if my higher ups answered my requests and attempts for knowledge transfers.

          Also, a few “issues” we’re just down right mean and silly: “(my name) was mean towards me in an email,” without ANY other explanation. Just the complaint that I was short with that person, in an email – where tone cannot really be properly conveyed. Another issue mentioned my involvement in a project that was actually not an actual project. It’s weird when coworkers make up scenarios to just to throw you under the bus.

  43. Elizabeth*

    Minor detail, but why is everyone referring to the employee as “she”? Didn’t the OP say that it was a man?

    “The coworker is not my boss, and no one asked *him* to create this list. But *he* uses it as ammunition whenever possible. “

    1. Zahra*

      Because I didn’t check, so I fell into Allison’s standard of referring to people of unknown gender as “she”.

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