my employees and their relatives are coming to my house and leaving me threatening voicemails

A reader writes:

How do I handle a manager above me who insists on interfering in decisions I make regarding my employees — such as leave time, work assignments, staff not coming into work and then apologizing to him with no explanation to me, etc.?

When I approach my manager regarding very specific issues that have arisen, such as false comments made at work by those I supervise that cause relatives (whom I do not know) to come to my home to “confront” me, he laughs because he finds the topic humorous (never mind the fact that I felt threatened–a topic he never addressed). Or when threatening calls are made and messages left on my work voicemail, he does nothing. I am supposed to have authority over the people involved, but my manager has never addressed those involved in the situation. He’s only said to me basically to ignore it. HR is not much of a help either.

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 38 comments… read them below }

  1. Student

    Also – if you’re being threatened, call the cops! At minimum, if they do nothing else, there will be a police report to document that this has happened, and it will make the other party think hard about whether intimidation is likely to get them the results they want or not.

  2. Amy S

    This is unrelated, but has anyone tried viewing this site on a mobile device and had the webpage randomly direct you elsewhere? I keep getting sent to other pages saying “You’ve won! Please click OK to accept,” or something along those lines. Looks very fishy so I don’t ever click and immediately exit out of Safari. This only happens when I’m viewing AAM from my iPhone and this is the only website where I experience this type of issue.

    1. Amanda2

      Yes, me too!! I just submitted a report about it it’s been happening the last 2days.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Waves of these keep coming through various ad networks, and they stamp them out for a while and then another wave seems to arrive. Here are two solutions that they say have worked for other people:

      Change Cookie Settings
      1. Click Settings on your iPhone
      2. Select Safari
      3. Scroll down and click Block Cookies
      4. Select Allow for Current Website Only

      Clear All Website Data
      1. Double-click your home button and close Safari
      2. Go to Settings
      3. Select Safari
      4. Scroll down and click Clear History and Website Data
      – Note: This will close all of your Safari browser windows

      1. MillersSpring

        I’m not having this happen on my iPhone, but maybe because I’m coming to your posts via Facebook. Might be a good workaround for some readers.

    3. Dulcinea

      Yes, I have been meaning to write to Allison about this- thanks for bringing it up!

    4. Mando Diao

      Same thing happened to me, and to boot, the ad complaint form here didn’t work either.

      I’m not willing to clear my entire browser history :/

  3. Three Thousand

    I’m really wondering what exactly the relatives think the OP did to warrant visits to their home, let alone the threatening voicemails. Just complaining to your family about what a pain your boss is doesn’t seem like it would get that kind of reaction.

    1. Joseph

      Yeah. I’m trying to envision a situation which would justify that reaction and cannot think of anything.

      Or, at least, no situation that would get that reaction that wouldn’t ALSO involve me leaving immediately for my own safety/sanity.

      1. Allison

        Me either, only possible situation I can think of is if there was a rumor that OP said or did something very disrespectful to an employee, and the employee’s family had one of those “nobody disrespects my family! when you disrespect one of us you disrespect all of us!” reactions, and that’s why they’re confronting the OP.

    2. hbc

      I had someone who thought that being told to document her time was a form of harassment. She also claimed that having the weekly error rate posted (by work area, not by name) was personally shaming her, and then later that she had never been told she had errors at her station. Also, someone was supposedly sabotaging her work (for unspecified reasons) to cause those errors that she wasn’t aware of.

      If a relative believed half of what she said went on here and if her gradual descent into irrationality was genetic, I’m sure her supervisor would have had some interesting phone calls.

    3. Mando Diao

      It’s probably a lousy job on a lot of levels. The only time something similar happened to me, I was working at a business that was knowingly scamming people. The employees had to deal with retaliation from the people who were scammed, and they were so miserable they started lashing out at each other.

  4. Chickaletta

    Wow. If employees were sending their relatives to my home to threaten me, I wouldn’t just have a talk with them, I’d move and find a new job. That is scary!

      1. davey1983

        Indeed. I would have the doors and windows locked, police on the phone immediately, and as soon as the individual is gone I’m calling a lawyer for a restraining order!

        1. Donna

          It’s an order from the courts that tells a person that he/she has to stay away from you and have no form of contact with you. You don’t even need to provide proof that the person has been bothering you. If he/she purposely violates the order, then there are different consequences depending on the state.

          1. NJ Anon

            Haha, I know what it is. I guess my post hit right after. I was suggesting they get one. But seriously, “if your relatives call me or come anywhere near my house, you’re fired!”

  5. Christine Miller

    I have a couple of recommendations:
    1) change your phone number and/or block the relative phone numbers that have called & harassed you.
    2) Follow AAM’s advise
    3) If the manager is undermining you (versus you having a poor management style & he’s a weeny for not addressing it) I would go to a labor attorney about your rights if your boss is a total weeny and just enjoys watching the fall-out.
    4) I’m reading this as your manager doesn’t like you & is enjoying watching you twist in the wind.
    5) It’s time for you to find another job, and just leave them all behind. You’ll never get above this unless you’re allowed to clean house & start over fresh.

    1. Elizabeth West

      I’m inclined to agree, especially with the last point. This has escalated to the point I’m not sure OP can salvage it. Especially with no backup from her own manager.

  6. Fish Microwaver

    I’m sorry this is happening to you. Your manager is an asshat and isn’t going to change. Time to start job seeking.

  7. Cop's Wife

    I’m really concerned that “call the cops” is not AAM’s and everyone’s immediate reaction to OP having people showing up at his home and threatening him.
    From painful experience, trust me – if a coworker makes you fear for your safety and HR doesn’t take your concerns seriously – they’re trying to set you up for a major fall. Document your boss’s dismissiveness, document HR’s dismissiveness, call the police, call a lawyer…
    If you save and record the threatening voicemails, and if your home security camera picks any of this up, the police won’t be inclined to ignore you.
    Threats and showing up at your house make this no longer a work matter.

    1. near things

      I’m glad you made this comment. Letting your workplace decide how you deal with a threatening employee situation is like a college student reporting a rape to campus security: in neither case is party you’re trusting actually on your side – they’re looking out for their institution. Call the cops. Start a paper trail. Don’t let anyone convince you that your safety and well-being are not paramount. If someone has harassed you in the fashion the OP has described, they have shown their willingness to go outside the bounds of acceptable, normal behavior. It is entirely prudent to assume they will continue in that direction, and you are simply not equipped to guess where they will stop.

    2. V.V.

      +1,000
      Contacting the police (or at least the possibility thereof) should have been on the list. After something like this, the company does not get to decide the level of escalation or protection of the OP.

      I remember this one from long ago, and I am surprised Alison didn’t update her answer to include police involvement this time around.

  8. steeped in anonymtea

    This happened to me, and the employee in question claimed I was “racist”, and ” could not trust me.” This was not true. The higher up boss got so intimidated that she had the employee basically report to her, and it became untenable. I quit with no job, no unemployment, and an absolute bad feeling about all of this. This was an employee that used “racism” as an excuse for her poor performance at many former jobs. Still bitter about this experience.

  9. steeped in anonymtea

    What I am saying Alison, is that you can say sieze the power, but often your company will not allow it. Sometimes they have a tighter Rein on Managers and Directors than they have on line or staff employees. They are SO terrified of being sued, it’s crazy.

  10. No longer new commenter

    Yes – where I work, low-level Managers don’t have much authority. Even their most trivial decisions are routinely overturned by upper Management in response to staff complaints, which are frequent, because everyone knows it works. That said, threats and unwelcome home visits don’t happen at my job and if they did the police would be summoned and the offenders fired and removed from the premises.

  11. Cyberspace Dreamer

    Since we are talking about threats to managers and how it should be addressed, this reminds me of what happened at OLDJOB.

    How it affected me personally is already buried deep in the AAM archives. But a former manager received a death threat shortly after firing some employees. HR was fully aware of it but according to a reliable source the did nothing about it. This manager was escorted from her car to work by her boyfriend (who presumably was armed) and then another manager walked with her whenever she left the office. No way to live, not even for a bad manager.

    Some speculate that she wrote the letter herself as a way to get out of the job but that was never proven. I cannot speak to her overall ability as a manager since I only worked for her a short time. But she was partially responsible for my decision to leave the company.

    While I was there the company called the police on numerous occasions when they were going to fire someone “just in case the “firee” snapped or something. But it appears they never investigated this threat.

    Either they did not take the threat seriously or they wanted something to happen to her. She was greatly disliked even by unlikable executives but life is precious nonetheless.

    Wondering if it should have been handled better.

  12. Christine Miller

    I dropped the ball, should have include calling the police on this. Your employer has no say in how you handle issues at your home including unwanted visitors that are work related. Video tape & call the police as others suggested, you have to protect yourself. Many times you hear of employers over reacting or under reacting to an use due to fear of lawsuits; this particular manager doesn’t even have a self protective bone in his body from the sounds of it.

    I wonder after reading this stuff; that people do not think about “if I say or do this, it’s going bite me in the ass.” This manager has no sense of self restraint or the ability to protect himself from legal action.

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