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

Remember the letter-writer whose coworkers were passing around a list of reasons they didn’t like working with her? Here’s the update.

So I confided in a few coworkers (with whom I was on good terms) and discovered that the childish coworker treated a handful of other women from our department the same way.

We all came to realization that he was sexist and insecure. Also, people actually complained about his actions – though none complained as loudly as I – thus his need for creating the burn list. We think he needed something to cover his behind. Also, I found out only a small few were actually contributors to the list, contrary to what childish coworker mentioned. Definitely felt better knowing that a large majority declined to contribute. In hindsight, I took his actions personally when I really shouldn’t have. He apparently does this, on varying levels, to other people. It’s his “thing.”

I took the high road and provided a blanket apology. We had to have a HR step in because despite my attempts to turn the other cheek and work as expected, he would not. Lo and behold, he was a ray of sunshine to chat with during the HR-mandated mediation. So I thought all was clear. But after that, he STILL held a bit of resentment. So I sucked it up and sucked up to him. When he wanted to feel important, I let him. I bit my tongue around him. I stood up for him (when I shouldn’t have). I even bought the man a Christmas gift.

Working with him was exhausting. So after a year, I resigned. I’m better off now, in a professional environment where my executives have a strict NO ASSHOLES rule. They really put an effort into hiring the right fit, we’re like a little family here. I’ve been happy since day one and from my interactions and reviews, my coworkers enjoy working with me and the feeling is mutual.

{ 125 comments… read them below }

  1. Temperance*

    I don’t understand – why did you apologize to HIM? I am not a believer in the “high road”, but it sounds like this pig got away with a lot of bad behavior.

    1. Nina*

      In addition to defending him and sucking up to him, too. Honestly, why? I had to reread the original post because I thought “WTF? Was he her boss and I missed that?”

      At least the OP is out of there and in a better environment.

      1. Immy*

        Haha! my thoughts exactly… I literally also went back to the original post as I thought the guy was her boss or something, not sure of the gender of the OP but we women tend to apologise for other peoples poor behaviour- fact is if you treat people good (apologising , gift giving) for poor behaviour it will simply reinforce this behaviour…..

        1. Immy*

          Glad she got out though and now after reading more, understand why she decided to take the high road….

    2. It's me*

      Yep. He did and he got away with more poor behavior in the future (he complained so badly about a harmless coworker – who was just having a rough day- that she was fired and he boasted about it post the firing…)
      He was/has been with the company for years and had tenure based seniority. No one asked nor told me to apologize. But I knew I had to, to keep a valid working relationship.
      When other ladies mentioned his behavior and how he was stubborn, I knew I had to offer a blanket apology to move on. I just wanted to move on.

      I realize Doing this was more than taking the high road – it was building the highway – so to speak.

      1. JJ*

        Ha, your post beat mine by a minute, OP!

        Glad to hear you got out of there. I can understand the urge to smooth things over as much as possible until you could get out.

      2. Jerzy*

        Where’s you manager in all this? Was he or she even brought into the conversation? If this guy is making sexist remarks on the regular, and/or, blatantly acting out towards his female coworkers, he’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.

        I completely understand the desire to just sweep stuff like this under the rug and not run it up the ladder for fear of making a bad situation worse, but I also hate hearing updates that amount to bad people getting away with doing bad things and forcing good workers to move on. I wish he would have been held accountable by someone.

        1. It's me*

          My manager was ineffective in everything. We had the first mediation (there were two) where she allowed the childish guy to overtake and yell at me. I ended up crying in her office post that event and all she did was apologize and ask me to make it work it. Useless.

          She ended up leaving (not sure if she was fired for letting it happen) about 3 months later.

          1. Jerzy*

            Wow. Thanks for clarifying, OP. Sounds like you did the best you could in an awful situation. Glad to hear you’re out of there and safely in a “no asshole” zone.

      3. Sadsack*

        I still do not understand what you apologized for. Was it for making the mistakes he kept track of, or the fact that you complained about it? Sounds like you are in a good place now, so congratulations!

      4. Kobayashi*

        One suggestion for anyone who has to deal with a possibly sexist coworker and decides to resign — you’ll do the company and your coworkers a favor if you file an actual complaint of sexual harassment at the time of your resignation. I work in HR, and such a thing happened in my company. At first, we thought it was “disgruntled employee syndrome” because the employee in question had some legitimate performance and personality issues, but we did our duty and investigated. Low and behold, we uncovered some actual issues that we dealt with (via training, stern formalized warnings, and, ultimately, termination).

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Wow I always wonder if there are companies that actually act upon info from exit interviews/resigning employees, that is awesome to hear.

      5. annonymouse*

        It sounds like a place where there are two solutions: the correct one and the right one.

        The correct one is what should happen (he is put on a PIP or terminated, managers take this seriously and do their jobs, no female coworker has to go through this again)

        The right one is what you actually have to do in the situation to survive (apologise to ass-hat, stick up for ass-hat, frantically search for new job)

        It sucks that they aren’t the same thing and I know exactly where you’re coming from because I also had a Super Ass-Hat Deluxe for a boss.

        He had serious control issues and mood swings.

        This is a guy that would give me the silent treatment for a day if we both received an email but my name was before his in the greeting. I.e To annoymouse and Ass-Hat.

        The correct thing to do would be to call him out on his behaviour and tell him it is impacting my ability to do my job and hurting his small business when he acts like that.

        The right thing to do was move it from the general emails to mine so he couldn’t read the “incorrect” greeting, forward it but switch the names first “To Ass-hat and annoymouse” while job searching.

        Super Ass-Hat Deluxe.

    3. JJ*

      Those details really stuck out to me, too. I don’t blame the OP and can envision a few possible reasons. I wonder if the OP had reason to fear that the co-worker/manager wouldn’t take her concerns seriously, or perhaps the OP isn’t comfortable with confrontation and thought that the co-worker’s tactics would escalate if a manager tried to reprimand him. I can also see this happening if someone feels trapped in their workplace and succumbs to the workplace version of Stockholm Syndrome as a means of coping. That might explain her standing up for him and the gift (tokens of respect and appreciation that are miles away from what that co-worker deserves).

      Somewhat related: I’m not saying the OP did what I’m about to say next (or anything I’ve said here; just throwing around possibilities), but I think that sometimes people also apologize for things that aren’t their fault as a means of subtly pressuring the other person to apologize (norm of reciprocity and all that jazz). Unsurprisingly, this tactic has led to negative outcomes in all of the real life situations my acquaintances have described to me. I think I was guilty of trying this once when I was much younger, and yeah…I don’t recommend it, haha.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        On your second paragraph: I have often made what sounds like an apology when someone else is behaving badly. And it has turned out well for me. I’m interested in the relationship, and when there is a break, someone has to make the first move. The person moving first for reconciliation may not be the biggest offender, but there is usually something that can be used in approaching the other person. It’s not an easy road, but over time the result for me has usually been worth it. Others know that I truly care for them.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        My tactic is just to apologize (if necessary) and then be super sweet to the point of sickening. What is Jerkus going to complain about then–that I’m too nice? Ha!

        But no gift–that’s out. I don’t spend my money on [insert rude plural British curse word that begins with a T] like this guy.

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        I got the impression Op apologized etc as a way to give the jerk as little fodder as possible for his burn book going forward, since Managmemt and HR didn’t help. So just a means for coping until she got a new job.

        1. VintageLydia USA*

          Being a victim of that sort of bullying before (in high school and middle school, by the way, where this sort of stuff is actually expected if still not OK to do) this is exactly how I handled it. Make nice and they’ll still hate me but they have less legitimate material to put out there.

  2. Artemesia*

    This is unusually horrifying except for the ‘now I have a better job’ part. Why isn’t passing along a burn list grounds for being put on PIP or fired on the spot. Mediation for this? Wow!

    1. Nina*

      Yeah, the fact that he’s passing along a burn list with sexist overtones to other coworkers and it’s considered his “thing” is blowing my mind. Disgusting.

      1. annonymouse*

        I think the participating would be more like ass hat asking coworkers

        “Hey, does OP ever do something at work/in her job that annoys you?”

        And they venting normal frustrations not realising what he was going to do.

        Because I cannot imagine anyone (besides him) thinking that a burn book / list of failings is a good idea to contribute to.

        But WTF is wrong with the company to let this keep happening? Not just once but at least 3 times? Can someone say sexual harassment/ discrimination law suit?

  3. Shannon*

    Updates are a real mixed bag. Either everything works out great or……. not so much.

    His “thing” is being an immature middle schooler. That should not be tolerated in the work place.

    1. Florida*

      Agree. Often, managers will tolerate the immature middle-schooler because it easier (in the incompetent manager’s mind) to tolerate the immaturity than to actually deal with the problem person. Sometimes, managers underestimate the cost of the middle-school behavior. Sometimes, it’s a trade-off because the person has an unusual skill that makes their immaturity worth it.
      Whatever the reason, I am always amazed at how often we as a society tolerate assholes. It seems the every workplace, organization, family, or any gathering of two or more people should have a No Asshole policy.

    2. The IT Manager*

      Yeah, this is a bummer update. I am glad the LW got out, but there was zero negative impact for the problem child (as he was acting super immature). Management and HR should have made HIM shape up (apologize and suck up) or gotten rid of him. I’m not asking for vengeance – just justice.

    3. olympiasepiriot*

      Oh please, middle schoolers know better than this. The ones that do it are creeps which is *separate* from their chronological age!

      What a horrible company that would let this be a norm in any corner of it.

      So glad the OP is o-u-t.

      1. Tesseract*

        Actually, this exact same thing happened when I was in middle school, except it was a song set to the tune of Campton Races. It is the only time I have ever willfully bullied someone. The subject of that song was devastated and I have been ashamed of myself for 20 years.

        Anyway, my only excuse is that I was 12. This guy? Way too old for that shit.

  4. The Other Dawn*

    I feel like something is missing in this update. I don’t get why OP apologized to him, sucked up to him, and bought him a gift (!!). I’m glad she got out of there, but I’m missing something here.

    1. Myrin*

      I feel the same way. There was an HR mediation → OP thought the coworker had mellowed but turned out he hadn’t → she… stood up for him and let him feel good? I’m honestly missing a logical step here. Did the coworker proceed to make OP’s life a living hell and only stopped once he felt she let him get away with it? Is he surprisingly influential and/or well-liked by people in authority so she felt like she had to so as to not be treated unfairly by higher-ups?

      How does the blanket apology fit in here? What does “We had to have a HR step in because despite my attempts to turn the other cheek and work as expected, he would not.” even mean? I get the first part, OP was trying to pretend like nothing was happening behind the scenes/ignoring the coworker, but then… he apparently behaved so badly that HR had to step in? So I reckon someone else complained about him OR an HR person witnessed his behaviour. But then he was “a ray of sunshine” when the actual talk with HR came up and what was before didn’t matter anymore?

      This is seriously making my head spin. I mean, I’m very glad OP is out of that kind of environment and sounds very happy with where she is now, but I’m honestly pretty much not getting anything of what happened here.

      1. It's me*

        Yeah. That’s why I left the company :)

        The fact that I had to suck up to someone who treated me (and other people poorly) was it for me.

        Sucking up to someone so they’ll treat you with respect happened a lot with the company. There was once a VP who blatantly lied about an issue. When the team being accused proved she was wrong, they swept it under the rug. I think title and time spent at the company = turning the blind eye when wrong is done.

        Did the coworker proceed to make OP’s life a living hell and only stopped once he felt she let him get away with it? Yes. Once he saw that I wanted to “start fresh” (because I guess mediation wasn’t enough of a means to show that we needed to let the hurt go and move on…he started to become more professional towards me.

        Is he surprisingly influential and/or well-liked by people in authority so she felt like she had to so as to not be treated unfairly by higher-ups? Yes, spot on and perfectly worded. He’s a guys guy/let’s get drunk every now and then guy, and most of the executives loved getting hammered every so often. I don’t drink as much, nor do I get hammered in front of coworkers. But he had the drinking friendships, which helped him hold his ground. This is just my opinion based on what I saw – there could be more to it. I just could never tell how all the executives loved him despite the complaints.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            As a mechanism for coping until you can get the f**k out of there, though, it works brilliantly. Besides, it’s fun because you can laugh like hell about how insincere you are when you get home. It’s like making fun of them secretly.

            Yes, I’m evil. >:)

          2. Ad Astra*

            I never thought about it before, but I guess in this case there’s a practical difference between being treated with respect and actually being respected. If actual respect is completely off the table, I guess I’ll have to take basically humane treatment.

    2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      I read the OP’s actions as survival.

      Like, this was the only way to keep going until she could get out :(

        1. Miss M*

          Did HR give this person a warning or any type of write up? It seems your ex-employer is opening them up to legal trouble or more departures?

  5. annonimouse*

    Always glad to hear updates where people are happy. This is odd, but I swear you must work at my old company that had “no assholes” as one of the company values, always spouted the “family” term when describing the organization, and were all about hiring the “right fit”.

  6. SB*

    From the letter writer’s description of her current work environment, it seems like it’s possible to actually mesh with your team. I haven’t experienced this despite trying to fit in. I have friends in every other department, and I get along just fine with everyone in mine, but my colleagues and I are not friends. The rest of them sort of are, though.

    Just out of curiosity, how do you know when you’re the problem/reason why you feel left out of a group, and when it’s their fault?

    1. fposte*

      Well, I don’t think it’s always a matter of fault, and I think there might be better ways to frame it. Sometimes you’re peanut butter in a group that likes chocolate, and it doesn’t make either of you wrong.I also think a team meshing isn’t necessarily the same thing as a team being friends–you can work well with people without being crazy about them or joining them at lunch.

      It sounds to me like maybe you’re meshing fine but you’re not friends with them. Could you reframe that as being okay and you having plenty of close friends anyway so it wasn’t necessary to find them on your team?

  7. AvonLady Barksdale*

    I do not like this update. At all. The OP sounds like she’s excusing the actions of a sexist jackass because she complained and therefore he needed to cover himself??? I don’t get it. This is like excusing racist Grandpa at your Thanksgiving dinner because “that’s just how he is”… even though your Black best friend is sitting right across the table from him and has to hear his BS all night without intervention. Not a good overall look, OP.

    1. Nancy*

      My reaction as well. The OP was not taking the high road, the OP ended up enabling a toxic, immature, sexist coworker.

    2. Kyrielle*

      Agreed, but to be fair, OP was at a place where HR decided on *mediation* for this sort of thing and the jerk played himself sunny-side-up and got away with it. I feel like HR didn’t do their due diligence there since other coworkers could have affirmed the situation, and it was way beyond “mediation” territory. If HR also expected them to “get along” after that, it may have been made clear (whether or not it was true!) to the OP that getting along with this jerk was required to continue having a job, and that OP was out of line to feel the way they did.

      (OP, if you got that impression, you ABSOLUTELY WERE NOT out of line, and anyone who enabled and pushed you to enable this jerk did a terrible thing. Don’t apologize for this guy, he was so far out of line he wasn’t even visible on the same graph as the line.)

    3. De*

      Yeah, so the guy harassed a coworker and everyone was nice to him and he even got a gift. I’m not getting the OP’s action at all. Ignoring or being neutral are totally fine things to do, why go out of your way to be nice to him?

      1. It's me*

        I had to suck up, or he wouldn’t work with me. I couldn’t get things done, emails, calls etc were going unanswered. He still wouldn’t make eye contact.
        I know I was wrong, but I just needed to get through a few more months until I found another gig.

        1. Sarah*

          Ooooh, I am 100% on board with your decision to do whatever it took to keep your work environment at least marginally comfortable until you could leave, but I would have been very curious to know what would have happened if you’d let that not-answering-emails-thing come back to bite him… HR might not have cared about unprofessional behavior, but I bet *someone* would have cared about work not getting done and if there was a strong email trail leading straight to his desk, I wonder how well that would have gone for him. (I’m imagining karmic revenge scenarios for him now; ignore me.)

    4. neverjaunty*

      No, this is not like excusing racist Grandpa. This is a job that OP did to put food on her table and a roof over her head, and HR and management made it pretty clear that they were not going to do anything to stop the co-worker’s behavior. OP made things tolerable until she got out. She’s not required to take a foolish heroic stand to make us have a happy update.

      1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        ^ This.

        To me the better analogy would choosing to stay in the closet until you are 18 because you have homophobic parents who will kick you out the second they found out.

      2. LabTech*

        +1 Tolerating this kind of behavior because it’s the least-awful option (versus quitting without a job lined up or taking a stand when it’s clear it will affect your job security) isn’t the same as excusing it.

      3. fposte*

        Absolutely. It is not the OP’s job to fix this guy. She took the good faith and appropriate actions to get management to fix him, and when they failed, she mitigated the situation as effectively as she could until she could get out.

        And in this case she’s the black best friend, and she gets to decide how much trouble racist grandpa is and what she’s willing to sacrifice to fight him. We don’t.

        1. It's me*

          Funny because I actually am Black. And when you’re a minority at work, you (or I) tend to second guess everything based on my race. Eg: can’t be too stern with timelines and deliverables or they may play the mean/angry black woman complaint, etc.

          1. fposte*

            OMG, I forgot this was the situation where you were the only black person amid 50 employees. Your management is deeply, deeply lucky that they’re not in major legal hot water right now.

            It’s so frustrating that you have to underplay a significant problem in order not to make your own life hell.

            1. neverjaunty*

              They probably ARE in major legal hot water. This guy is still there, creating a long trail of problems, and sooner or later somebody (if not the OP, who I totally get has better things to do with her energy) is going to be in a position to cause legal trouble for them – and that’s not going to be a pretty history.

              1. fposte*

                It’s not hot water until enforcement turns on the faucet. Right now they’re just hanging out in the tub.

                1. Kyrielle*

                  True, but they’ve installed one of those tankless water heaters and turned the thermostat up almost as high as it will go. If anyone wants to yank the spigot open….

      4. Shell*

        Yeah, this. It’s all well and good to take a stand for the principle of the matter if you have other options. But when that crappy job is keeping food on the table and a roof over your head, sometimes there are no good options. If what OP did made her life more bearable because her Jerk Coworker saw her as less of a target, then good for OP.

      5. Turtle Candle*

        Yeah. In a situation like this, of course it’s more satisfying as readers to get a followup that’s like, “I gave the asshole what-for, and I was totally backed up by my boss and now the jerk is fired and everything is great!”

        But sometimes workplaces are screwed up or toxic in ways that mean that that’s just not going to happen, even if it would make a vastly more satisfying story. And I’m not going to judge someone (especially someone in a comparatively more precarious position than the jerk) for doing what they had to do to survive there while looking for a way out.

      6. TootsNYC*

        I agree. I don’t think the OP deserves any criticism for “enabling” or anything. She was coping with what she had in front of her–part of which was “no power to change anyone else’s behavior.”

        Even w/ rude Grandpa, sometimes you do just have to tolerate and buffer as best you can. It’s not necessary to argue with the world all the time, and to demand that people become someone other than who they are apparently stuck being.

      7. pope suburban*

        Thank you for saying this. I really needed it today. I work for a company a lot like the one in this letter. I am talked down to, kept in the dark, treated like garbage, and forced to work with someone who has sexually harassed me. Management is worse than useless, and while I am trying incredibly hard to get out, I haven’t had more than one bite in the last year, and that position went to someone else. I *know* this is wrong. I *did* speak up about it. The offending employee (well, employees, really, there’s an entire department that is terrible) was not spoken to or disciplined, and nothing I said was taken seriously. Some days, I hate myself for doing it and feel like I’m complicit. Other days, I realize I need to keep the lights on, and that I can’t eat principles. It’s been a really difficult couple of weeks, and your comment took a lot of that pressure off. Thanks.

        1. neverjaunty*

          You aren’t complicit. It’s not your fault that these people are choosing to act the way they do. They’re not sitting there tearing out their hair and wailing “I feel compelled to behave in a horrible manner! If only someone would stop me!”

          In addition to looking for work elsewhere (which I hope you find shortly!), if you’re in the US, you may want to quietly talk to an employment lawyer who represents employees. Not because you want to threaten your boss or go off and file a lawsuit, but you may be able to get some advice on your legal rights, and sometimes it’s possible to arrange for a mutually agreeable severance package where you can keep the lights on while finding a better place to work.

          1. pope suburban*

            And thank you again for this. I have, in a fairly informal way, been talking to an attorney about my workplace– my dad has been in practice for about 30 years, the majority of which has been as corporate counsel for companies that do a lot of staffing or contracting. I have recently been thinking that I might need to have a more formal conversation with him, and maybe ask for a referral to a colleague or practice in my state. A lot of what these people do is gray-area, just-this-side-of-actionable stuff, but some of it is beyond the pale. It’s not exactly the most *cheerful* topic of holiday conversation, but I am coming around to the idea that I might finally have enough stuff that sticks to make it worthwhile. I think I’m going to start by making a list of incidents and behaviors that we can review, to determine the best course going forward. Thanks again for your input; it’s been really helpful in clarifying both the situation and what I ought to do going forward.

    5. Chickaletta*

      Woah. I just came to this page after reading a couple articles on the internet about rape culture and violence towards women, so the hair on my neck stood up when I read this.

      The perpetrator is 100% completely in the wrong. It is not “just who he is”. OP should not have to have apologized, and she should not have to make excuses for this person, or be nice to him for fear of what he might do next (I assume he’s a male and she’s a female from the sexist comment in this letter). What in the world is the OP apologizing for? For being a woman? For not being perfect? For having feelings? For having an opinion? For existing?

      Oh, OP. The person who wrote a list about you is wrong. He’s not childish, he’s a misogynist. It’s not a “thing”, it’s a serious issue.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      Just start playing Adele every time he says anything. HELLLOOOOOOOO FROM THE OTHER SIIIIIIIDEE

      I’m sorry; I couldn’t resist. I think I need a cup of tea. Or a large brandy.

    7. Erin*

      I’ve worked with the equivalent of racist (and sexist) Grandpas. You really do just have to look the other way sometimes, unless you’re going to get all Norma Ray and stand on a table and really Do Something and commit Everything to this cause, including paying out of pocket for a lawyer.

      Or, you can keep your head down, do what you have to to get your work done, and leave under fairly good terms. Why is the OP responsible for protecting all women in her workplace from this dude? She’s not, and now it’s officially not her problem.

      I think she did what she had to do to get by in a very unpleasant work environment. And instead of quitting abruptly, or doing something rash to get herself fired, she stuck it out and ended up leaving on her own terms, finding a great job. Thank goodness. I’m glad she did what she had to do.

  8. Clever Name*

    You know, I’m starting to understand that the phrase “don’t take things personally” is the same as saying “you’re too sensitive”. Your former coworker is a jerk and your former company is awful. He attacked you personally and you had every right to take it personally. What a bunch of jerks. The only person who deserves an apology is YOU. I’m glad you’re out of there.

  9. CaliCali*

    I feel like this was an attempt to kill him with kindness that just ended up…accomplishing nothing? But I know how it is in a toxic environment: you feel like not being the target means you’ve scored a victory, that “rising above” is the victory itself. Which, mentally, it can be. Hopefully in the new environment, OP can ensure that the warm, collegial feeling she has applies to all, including those who may not be as tight a fit as presumed.

    1. Nina*

      I think you’re on the right track. It sounds like she was trying the “kill him with kindness” route until she could get out of there and away from his awful antics. Which makes sense, it just sucks that she had to do it at all.

  10. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Yeah, I’m kicking myself for not reading this more closely and realizing how many questions this raised! (I’m in a sea of updates over here so apparently missed this pretty important detail!) I’ll email the OP and ask if she’ll come back and tell us more!

    1. fposte*

      I also think that the OP’s later comment on the original post is really important here–while she’s initially talking mostly in terms of gender, this was the one where she was the only black person in the office. Which raises the failure of management and the stakes for the OP.

  11. LizNYC*

    I thought OP was apologizing for all of the reasons people listed that she’s a “pain to work with.” So if the list said “never emails back,” she said to the jack@$$ “sorry I don’t email back quickly enough.” Basically, apologizing he had to make the list to begin with.

    Too bad you couldn’t band together with the other women he did this to and present it to your manager(s)/HR and hint that this smacked of different treatment based on gender.

  12. Nervous Accountant*

    Man this is just so so…depressing.

    Is it too much to wish that someone (not OP) would kick him in the balls? Karma?

  13. irritable vowel*

    I get that this guy was the instigator, and I completely agree with everything that’s been said so far in the comments. But…what about the other coworkers who thought this was okay, and even contributed to the list? How was this behavior not addressed by HR at an organizational level?

    1. It's me*

      The other ladies there had a very passive “let’s not complain or else we’ll get fired” mentality. Banding with them would have been too much work.

      The job was great but I wasn’t ready to fight that type of fight for the environment. It wasn’t worth it.

      1. irritable vowel*

        Thanks for responding. I wasn’t referring so much to the other women in the office who also had lists circulated about them, but the people who contributed to the lists (although I realize there might unfortunately have been some overlap there). When HR approached the instigator, did he acknowledge that other people had added items to the list, or did he say that it was all him? Even if the latter, I still don’t get why HR wouldn’t have held the list-making up as a general example to everyone of “absolutely do not do this kind of thing or you will be fired.” They at least knew it was being circulated, so it’s not like they would have been revealing a confidential personnel issue. I have worked in some dysfunctional places in my career, but never anything where people were so openly hostile *and* HR refused to treat it effectively. I’m glad you got out.

  14. SCR*

    Okay maybe I make sense of it… She apologized because he had complaints and he was pushing those complaints as valid so she felt like she had to say “I acknowledge I’m a pain to work with because of x,y,z and I’m sorry and I hope to move on, won’t you please stop being a dick then?” Which is a … not awesome way of handling it. Even if some of his stuff was half-valid, the way he brought it up is completely inappropriate.

    Smells of gaslighting and self victim blaming?

    1. CM*

      No, see OP’s updates above (under “It’s me”). She did what she had to do to survive in this job, until she could get out. Allison, I hope you’ll post an update clarifying that!

      1. SCR*

        Well that’s sort of what I meant. Accepting blame as a form of getting through it. “Yeah, sure, I’m awful, I’m sorry, I’ll work on it, can you stop being abusive to me now? Thanks.”

        1. Turtle Candle*

          I think “self victim blaming” is a kind of harsh way to put it in that case, though–because “victim blaming” is almost always portrayed as a morally wrong thing to do. I don’t think there’s anything morally wrong in gritting your teeth and saying what you need to say to get by while trying to find a less toxic workplace.

        2. neverjaunty*

          Saying the right words to make things settle down so you can work is not “self victim blaming”.

  15. J-nonymous*

    OP, sorry this went so poorly for you. Organizations that tolerate encourage bullying behavior like that (and there’s no mistaking that tolerating = encouraging when it comes to bullying behavior) simply cannot be worked through. You can do everything in your power to make things smoother for the bully, but they’ll continue to bully you.

    Glad you got out. The no assholes rule (and book!) is fantastic, and organizations who take that seriously seem to do better in the long run.

  16. AMG*

    Okay, so maybe We can’t create a wall of shame based on places like this, but I really hope someday Alison can create a list of good places based on ‘I’m so much happier where I am now’ updates without actually getting into any OP details. Just a list. Don’t have to know why. Fingers crossed.

  17. Menacia*

    I’m glad the OP has come back to explain a bit more about her reasoning why she did as she did. It was about survival, and she felt like she was on the losing end if she went about it any other way. This might be one of those experiences that is put into our lives that we learn from so that it’s not repeated. No one should be treated the way she was, and it would be great if we could all put bullies in their places, but if that were the case, there would be no bullies. We need the negative in our life to make the positive that much better. You GO, OP.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      It was about survival, and she felt like she was on the losing end if she went about it any other way.

      I second this. I had a similar experience the first time I went to college–we had a required psychology course, and the professor was just awful. He was rude, incoherent, and I really struggled in that class. And psychology is a subject I actually like. I just had to nod and smile and do the work as best I could to please him until I got the hell out of that class. There is NO WAY I wanted to repeat it.

      That experience helped me give my mum some support when she went back to school and had the same thing happen. I told her, It’s not you; some instructors are like that; give it your best shot and pass the class and then you never have to deal with them again.

      1. Chinook*

        ” I told her, It’s not you; some instructors are like that; give it your best shot and pass the class and then you never have to deal with them again.”

        I have heard DH call it “playing the game.” He would mutter it to himself whenever he went through his police training that included how to make his bed, shine his boots and march (keep in mind he had just finished 7 years in the military, so he knew this stuff blindfolded, though this group did literally march to a different beat). He could see some instructors had a purpose while others enjoyed the power trip. He just kept reminding himself of the shiny badge at the end and was willing to put up with anything as long as they would give that to him.

    2. Shan*

      +1! I think some of the comments are a little heavy with the criticism and, “Why did you apologize?! You’re excusing his behavior!” vibe. It’s easy to say what you would have done, but when you’re actually in the situation, other factors come into play and sometimes you just do what you can to survive. I believe the OP did the best she could, and I’m thrilled she not only has a new job, but also came back to clarify a few things and is taking it all in stride.

      1. HRish Dude*

        I think sometimes people kind of expect posts to be a movie with everything tied up in a neat little bow where people do things “in character”.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Yes, this. “How dare your real lived experience not provide us with a satisfying moral ending!”

          1. Nina*

            Not necessarily. I thought the OP was being blamed for it anyway, and when she went out of her way to placate this jerk, giving him a Christmas present, etc. I was wondering if she blamed herself for any of it, because why would she? Until she posted, I wasn’t aware that she did it as coping mechanism until she was able to get out.

      2. Nerdling*

        I agree! OP, I’m glad that you were able to get out. I’m sorry that it came to the point where you felt compelled to act the way you did, but I get why you did it. It’s not necessarily as though you could say “Screw it” and let the chips fall where they may with a formal complaint or refusing to stand up, from the sound of things, without seriously risking being shown the door and suddenly having no way to pay the rent and buy groceries. I hope that this new job works out well for you, and may that jerkus one day hide from the people he’s wronged in an alligator pit.

      3. Ultraviolet*

        Totally agree. It’s hard to understand how sexism, racism, and general toxicity still persist in the workplace given all these heroes among us.

    3. Mookie*

      Seriously. No matter the outcome, OP, you handled yourself really well here. You focused on the job, rather than the persecution you were being put through; you set aside the justifiable paranoia and hurt that comes from organized hostility and bullying, and tried to mend a working relationship. It’s true that there are no Ideal Victims (except in the furious imaginations of victim-blamers), but you behaved in such a stand-up, honest way, that I’m practically in tears for you. Nobody deserves this kind of toxic, soul-crushing garbage. I’m so, so pleased for you that you’re out of this situation. I wish you nothing but the best.

  18. Allison*

    OP, I can’t say I blame you for apologizing and doing what you could to try to pacify the situation. As women, we’re constantly told that “boys will be boys, and girls must take care,” meaning men are gonna do what we want and we need to accommodate it, by either helping or getting out of the way. We can stand up for ourselves and fight back, but too often it escalates a situation and if no one has your back when the jerk gets angry, it’s a bad situation.

    I’ve also heard managers defend jerks by saying “that’s just his thing” or “he has an odd sense of humor, he didn’t mean anything by it” or “that’s just how she communicates” and it is really frustrating, because you know the situation is never going to change and you can either adapt or get out. So I’m glad you got out.

  19. Anna*

    The OP did the best she could with the lack of support she had. Maybe she went a little too far the other way, but in a situation where you’re trying to get your job done and you rely on this person’s work to do that, it’s not too crazy to imagine she had to figure out what would get her the best results.

    HR is out of its mind for not taking care of this right away. There’s too much of a risk that someone down the road will not be exhausted to the point of resignation by his BS and take it up the food chain and HR will certainly have a hard time explaining his “thing” away.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Yep. The first time he pulls this on someone in an analogous situation but who can afford to risk their livelihood to pursue it…well, he better hope they don’t have _my_ personality, and so had the company. But the cynical side of me wonders if he treats those with that sort of privileged security the same way. Some people know really well who they can “get away with” treating like this.

  20. voyager1*

    This sounds like a law/brokerage firm and the jerk in question a partner. And yes those folks can get away with anything because they bring in the dollars. Money talks sadly.

  21. BeeBee*

    I’m mixed on this. I get the point that in order for your working life to be better that had to be done, but at the same time I’m so angry! Why must his horrible behaviour and actions have no consequence?!

    Either way, congratulations on the new job and better work environment!

  22. Jules*

    You know, the last time something like this occurred where I had a male co-worker who can’t stand me because I asked a lot of question instead of accepting his word for the only way to do some technical thing, I literally acted polite to him but otherwise ignore him. If he wasn’t interested, I dropped him. When he complains to his boss, I brought up the fact that he misses meetings due to other more important things on his plate. He kept on making up trouble and his boss who trusts him, constantly stir up trouble for my project. I addressed it with management and when nothing changed, I completed the project perfect despite of this behavior and left the organization. I made sure the Employee Relations Director knew what happened and why I left, though. I knew that culture will not change. Nor will he. Why bother trying? I am so glad you got out.

  23. jeppers*

    I’m not sure what’s all this negativity in comments. I’ve done nearly exactly the same thing, minus the gift. There was someone I had to work with, who was impossible to work with, my boss claimed to have my back but wouldn’t back me up at all, and it was my fault for complaining about the abuse. The coworker was so vital that after he retired, they brought him back at twice the salary. I couldn’t work with him, but I had to work with him. So I did my best to manipulate him into actually doing his job and being a decent person to me. It was frustrating, it only partially worked the way I needed it to, and then I finally got another job.

    I recently heard he’s retired permanently. But *a lot* of damage has been done. It was the fault of 30+ years worth of managers refusing to manage. I did what I had to do. Sometimes I get mad that I had to suck up to him, but that was the only way I could get even partial things from him. C’est la vie. My current job is better.

  24. AcademiaNut*

    I can completely see why the OP did what she did.

    I see her coworker as the type of person who has a need to dominate people. As long as the OP was properly subservient – smiling, agreeing, apologizing profusely, buying gifts, defending him to other people – she got treated with a minimum level of decency, and he wasn’t actively abusing or sabotage her. If she got uppity – talking back, getting angry, complaining, demanding any sort of basic respect or decent treatment – she needs to be put in her place by whatever means necessary. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the OP being a black woman was a good part of the reason she was targeted.

    And in this case, the people with the power to do something about him didn’t want to do anything, or were actively on his side, and the people who were standing by watching didn’t want to rock the boat or risk being the next target.

    So, the OP can quit immediately with no job lined up, have terrible references, and risk her financial security and well being. She can stand up for herself, which means she will be treated even worse, with the toll that takes. She can pursue legal action – she might get vindicated in the end, but only after being dragged through the mud and losing her financial security along the way. Or she can do what she did – keep her head down, and do whatever it takes to survive with her finances and sanity intact until she can get out, even if it means leaving her coworker thinking that he has won.

  25. Erin*

    When I was reading this last night, after going back to the original post, I think I was literally holding my breath as I came back over here for the update. *So* glad everything worked out for you!

  26. eastallegheny*

    Late to the party (and first comment ever!!) but here goes.

    I had an issue with a coworker once where I was definitely in the moral and legal right. I complained to management, to HR, got the Human Rights Commission involved… and in the end, management just weren’t willing or equipped to back me up. I realized pretty quickly that the more I pushed, the worse I looked – because I was the one rocking the boat, not Jane. Yes, she had done something awful to me, but her action had been a one off. Meanwhile by continuing to push for some sort of punishment for Jane, I looked petty, and like I was unable to let it go.

    Additionally, another coworker (Jenny) who worked closer with Jane than I do, had been backing me up. She had been witness to the incident, and had corroborated my story when I complained. So, my pushing wasn’t just destroying my credibility, it was destroying Jenny’s, and she didn’t deserve that, no matter what.

    In the end, I went to Jane and I accepted the “apology” she had written to me (which wasn’t an apology at all, hence my continued pushing for a real resolution). The incident hasn’t been repeated, and Jane has been downright pleasant to me since I made the first move to resolve the conflict.

    Sometimes, it’s not about being right. It’s about being nice (or at least appearing to be the nice one).

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