my coworker put pins on my chair, new assistant makes mistakes I have to fix, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My coworker put push pins on my chair

I have a coworker on my team who I work on a lot of projects with, and I think she may be mentally disturbed. She has been targeting me for the past couple of months, and I only caught on a few weeks ago. Basically, she has now has a history of breaking a figurine and leaving it all over my desk, going through my personal papers while I was in the bathroom, going through my coworkers’ and my personal sheets identifying our merit increases, and (yesterday) leaving push pins facing up on my chair in the morning before I came in.

I told my manager about this and she said nothing will probably change but she will document it, anyway. She is a pretty passive manager and does not like getting involved in conflict. She also has a lot going on with her family and health issues, so she is often over-stressed and away from her desk taking calls from doctors/schools/etc.

HR now knows about this problem employee and they claim they are investigating it, and my manager has said many times that she wants this employee fired but she takes no steps to document the employee’s behavior unless I tell her in writing to do so. Do you think it would be best for me to cut my losses, search for a job at another company and take chances elsewhere rather than sticking it out here? What am I supposed to do? This coworker is gradually getting more aggressive.

Your manager sounds like she sucks, unfortunately — not because she has family and health issues distracting her, but because she’s overly passive and not managing people. When a manager says she wants to fire someone but doesn’t take the steps to actually address the problem, she’s actually a bigger problem than the should-be-fired employee.

Sometimes with overly passive managers, you can nudge them into action by making it more uncomfortable for them to stay passive — meaning very directly telling her that you are not okay working around someone who is leaving push pins on your chair and insisting that she needs to address the situation. If you’re firm enough, she may eventually find it easier to act than to not act.

But given her passivity, you should also go to HR yourself. Make sure they have full info about what’s happened here — that your coworker has intentionally broken your belongings, went through your personal financial documents, and most importantly, put pins on your chair in an attempt to injure you. Don’t downplay any of this, especially the last part — the fact that she’s escalated to putting pins on your chair is a really big deal, and you can tell them that you need to know what they’re going to do to protect you from someone who’s demonstrated unstable and vindictive behavior. If they’re not taking it seriously, then yeah, at that point I’d question whether this is a good place for you to stay — but talk to them first.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. New assistant makes tons of mistakes that I have to fix

Our office recently hired a new executive assistant, “Mary,” whose primary job is to schedule events/meetings for our boss and make sure he is on schedule. (The position was empty for several months before Mary was hired, and I filled in during that period so I feel obligated to “show her the ropes.” But, I am only in my early 20s while Mary is in her mid-40s, so I don’t want to be too pushy.)

I like Mary as a person, but she has been making a lot of mistakes: mandatory events are not put on our boss’s calendar, and meetings that I am involved in are accidentally moved or deleted. I don’t know how to address these mistakes with her. Emailing her hasn’t worked (she either doesn’t read my emails or chooses to ignore them), and when I speak with her she smiles and nods but doesn’t actually correct the calendar. Thus far, I’ve been personally ensuring our boss is where he needs to be based on my own calendar, but this is not ideal as it is incredibly time-intensive for me and it means my coworkers don’t always know what meetings are going on.

I can’t simply drop the ball. I am involved in the majority of these meetings, and allowing my boss to miss a meeting/event would ultimately be my fault, not to mention that it would make my boss look bad.

Mary is a really nice person, and I don’t think she is being stubborn or purposefully dismissive. Honestly, I just think that she doesn’t understand the importance of some of these events, and maybe struggles with technology and/or reading comprehension. Going forward, what should I do when I see mistakes on the calendar?

It’s time to talk to your boss! You’ve tried bringing the mistakes to Mary’s attention but that hasn’t worked, so you need to let your boss know what’s going on. This isn’t about getting Mary in trouble; this is about alerting your boss to a work-related problem that you don’t have the ability to resolve yourself.

The solution can’t be that you just keep fixing the problem on Mary’s behalf. That’s keeping you from your own priorities, and at some point you won’t be able to do it (you’ll be sick or busy or on vacation or you’ll just miss it), a meeting will be missed, and your boss will wonder why on earth you didn’t speak up earlier! He almost certainly would want to know this is happening so that he can intervene and get it fixed. Right now, he doesn’t know there’s a problem, so you’re denying him the ability to manage Mary the way he needs to. (I’m assuming that he’s her boss. If she reports to someone else, talk to that person instead.)

If you want to give it one last try before you escalate it, you could say this to Mary: “I’ve pointed out a bunch of corrections that need to be made to Bob’s calendar, but those items still aren’t corrected. Are you clear on how to do that or do you need me to show you again?” But given what you’ve described, she may just not be cut out for this job — and the sooner you alert your boss to what’s going on, the easier it will be for him to start figuring out if that’s the case or not. (And who knows, maybe that’s not the case. But this is at the point where someone with authority over her needs to look into what’s going on.)

3. My coworker keeps inflating her title

I’m a junior/mid-level person (senior enough to manage a handful of people and to be basically trusted to do my own thing, not senior enough to have any real power) in a large organization, and occasionally I’ll come across the situation where someone will be claiming a job title or qualification they do not have.

The most egregious example is someone I work pretty closely with, who has exactly the same job title as I do. I am 100% sure of this fact. Twice now I’ve introduced her to someone else at a social event as “this is Sansa, she’s a research fellow,” and she’s immediately jumped in with “no I’m not a fellow, I’m a lecturer,” followed by a long explanation of how what she does is more prestigious than what I do. (It’s not — and I would know — though she is a few years older than me.)

In the past when people — usually student interns — have done something like this, I’ve very cheerfully said something like “ooh, I didn’t know you had gotten your PhD, congratulations!” (or whatever). That usually causes them to instantly backtrack and apologize. But in Sansa’s case, I would absolutely know if she was promoted, and she hasn’t been, so any “congratulations” would be obviously fake. Do I just let it go and allow her to pretend to be a lecturer? It seems like such a weird thing?

Continue introducing her by her correct title. If she jumps in and claims to have a different title, it’s perfectly reasonable to inquire about that if it seems surprising to you. It sounds like it would indeed be surprising if she had suddenly become a lecturer, so there’s nothing wrong with saying, “Oh! When did your title change?” or whatever other natural response you might have if your mind wasn’t being taken over by the sheer weirdness of her lying about it.

Or, now that it’s happened twice, you could go to her and say, “Hey, I’ve noticed that when I introduce you as a fellow, you’ve corrected it to lecturer. I want to introduce you correctly, but my understanding is that we’re both fellows and that you’d need to have your PhD and get promoted before you’d be eligible for lecturer.” If she again tells you that what she does is more prestigious than what you do, you can say, “I’m just asking about the title. The university still considers you a fellow, right?”

The other option, of course, is to just roll your eyes at her pretension and ignore it. But she’s being so obnoxious in trying to look better than you that there’s nothing wrong with calling it out if you want to.

4. My husband’s friend listed me as a reference without my okay

My husband’s best friend, let’s call her Gwen, applied to my place of work. She asked me questions about the job through my husband. At the time, I expressed reservations to my husband about Gwen’s suitability for the position and said I would not be comfortable with her using me as a reference. Obviously, I said she should apply if she thinks she can do the job, but I very clearly drew the line with my husband that I was not to be a reference.

Tonight, I found out Gwen applied for a position at my company and used me as a reference. I suspect my husband never passed on the part of my message in which I said it wasn’t okay (not maliciously, but thinking it was unnecessary). In my world, you ALWAYS ask permission before putting someone down as a reference. I asked her to remove my name from the application, but she cannot at this point.

I’m now very concerned about where this could go, because I do have valid reservations about her ability to do the job. She’s flighty, impatient with perceived lack of intelligence, and doesn’t think things through. She’s also needy and has crippling self-doubt. I have compassion for Gwen’s personal and employment struggles. I really want her to get a job! But, I work in customer service in a detail-specific, heavily regulated industry. The above qualities are red flags in personal relationships (and much of the reason we’re not close), much less professional ones. Also, I don’t know her professional demeanor — which my husband does assure me is much less concerning — as we’ve only ever interacted personally. I feel like I am a wildly inappropriate pick for a reference, even if I HAD given permission.

And now my name is attached to her application. I’m a relatively well-known employee at my office. I network, sit on committees, participate in roundtables, and have trained as a backup associate for two other departments. I’m visible and known for a good standard of work. I do not want recruiters thinking I’ve endorsed Gwen when I have not. Am I totally wrong about it being a courtesy to ask someone to be a reference? And is there anything I can do at this point to make clear to the recruiters that I cannot speak to Gwen’s professional abilities and should not be considered a reference? (I, of course, would keep my personal dynamic with her out of it.)

Yeah, in general you should ask someone before listing them as a reference. But not everyone realizes that, and so sometimes people don’t. Not asking ahead of time is less about being rude and more about not being savvy — because it’s in candidates’ best interest to ensure the people they want to list are willing to provide a reference and can give a strong one.

That said, simply listing someone as a reference does not convey “this person thinks I’m awesome.” Surprisingly, some people list references who do not think they’re awesome (probably the same people who didn’t bother to check ahead of time). Listing you as a reference just means “this person knows me and can speak about what I’m like,” and that’s it.

If you’re worried about it, you can certainly contact whoever’s managing the hiring for the position and say, “I understand that Gwen Livermore listed me as a reference when she applied for the X position. I’ve never worked with her, and I actually have some reservations about her. I’d be glad to share more if you get to a point where that would be helpful, but I wanted to make it clear she’s not someone I could vouch for.”

Read an update to this letter. 

5. How can we best accommodate a deaf employee?

We’re in the process of putting an offer out for an interviewee who is deaf. The job would be basically a data entry position so there’s very little interaction beyond the training that would be necessary, so it should be fine in that regard. But I don’t want her to feel lonely or isolated. I learned the alphabet in Girl Scouts and I’ve been watching YouTube videos and using Sign Savvy as a dictionary. I’m going to give it my best shot to not rely on writing everything down for her. But that’s where I’m stuck. I can learn words and phrases (slowly, I’m afraid), but I’m hearing and have no connection with the deaf community. We’re a hearing office and set up as such. What can we do to make this better for her? And if anyone knows anything about deaf culture that would help us avoid faux pas I’d be very grateful for any insight.

P.S. We’ll get her a video phone, of course. And anything we can manage for her we want to do, but we can’t afford a full-time interpreter.

I hope commenters, particularly commenters who are deaf or hard of hearing, will weigh in on this, but my big piece of advice is: Ask her! Ask what she needs to be comfortable at work and if there’s anything you can do to make her day-to-day work life better. And then check in again in a month or so, once she’s had a chance to see more about how your office operates, at which point she may have additional ideas or requests. Anyone with more specific advice?

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 676 comments… read them below }

  1. neverjaunty*

    LW #4, it sounds like your husband may be part of the problem here. Gwen may be his best friend, but you have reason to suspect he maybe edited your advice a little more to be happier for Gwen, and he’s assuring you she has professional qualifications that you don’t see – worse, he’s expecting you to put your professional credibility on the line for her.

    1. LouiseM*

      +1. Some people are so conflict-avoidant that they will do anything to avoid having an awkward conversation with a loved one…without caring that they end up making things awkward for the other people in their life. Not sure if this describes your husband, but it might be worth a conversation!

    2. Observer*

      I don’t think there is reason to believe that the OP’s husband is expecting her to put her reputation on the line. On the other hand, I would probably not discuss this any further with him, if I were in the OP’s situation. The less said about the matter the less uncomfortable it will be all around.

      1. MK*

        Frankly, I think the OP partly brought this on herself by allowing this communication with Gwen to go through her husband. The person to talk to Gwen in this situation was not the one who was close to her, but the one who had the first hand information. She should have either refused to help at all, or talk to Gwen herself.

        1. Penny Lane*

          I think the OP is wildly overreacting. Being listed as a reference is not the same thing as “saying loudly and publicly that a person is practically perfect in every way, and having one’s professional reputation ruined if she turns out not to be.”

          And if OP is called upon to give a reference she can say what she honestly thinks of this woman; she is not obligated to puff her up into something she’s not.

          Alison is spot-on. It just means “this is someone who is conversant enough with me to have something to say.”

          1. Anonanonanon*

            I agree. Being listed as a reference is not an endorsement. It means that they can contact you to ask your opinion of the candidate. Any good recruiter will contact the OP to ask about Gwen. And if they don’t, that is not on the OP who never said they should hire Gwen.

          2. DJ Roomba*

            Thank you for this! I do think OP is overreacting, but I suspect it goes further – she said “I asked her to remove my name from the application” which leads me to wonder if this IS a reference issue.

            Yes, it totally may be the case that under the references section Gwen listed OP. But what I suspect happened (since it sounds like they’ve never worked together so why pick her for a reference) is that it was one of those stock questions lots of companies ask: “Do you know any one who works for this company? If so, who?”

            If that is the case, then the overreaction is even more egregious. And if I were Gwen, if OP’s husband said “Please don’t use my wife as a reference” I don’t know that I would think that means claiming not to know anyone (or her) at the company.

            Apologies for a slight speculation but it seems to me this is the more likely situation that was misconstrued by OP.

            1. Arjay*

              Yes, this is where my mind went too. We’ve seen confusion in the past about the difference between referrals and references.

          3. Stranger than fiction*

            Exactly my thoughts. So she put your name down? Meh, people do that all the time. If/when they actually call Op, just say you can’t speak to her professional qualifications.

          4. Michaela Westen*

            I’ve read that many employers don’t check references. In that case they assume the reference endorses the candidate and in this case she doesn’t.
            I suppose that’s on the employer though, if they don’t check with her.
            If it was me I would send an email saying what Alison suggests, and HR could attach it to the application. Just to cover myself in case of misunderstanding.
            I’ve had acquaintences try to connect with me on LinkedIn whom I would never, ever recommend for a job – I can totally see such a person giving my name as a reference without permission. I would protect myself!

        2. Specialk9*

          Really? Close friends are like family – the partner who ‘owns’ them has to have the hard conversations with them. That’s a pretty standard relationship thing. I would never have a hard conversation with my husband’s BFF, that’s his job.

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            This was about a professional networking thing. You don’t network professionally – which is what Gwen was trying to do – by going second-hand through a spouse.

            A difficult personal conversation, I’m with you. But Gwen was attempting to network. You do actually have to do that *with the person you are attempting to network with*, and the OP would have been better served to discuss professional issues with Gwen directly.

            1. What's with today, today?*

              You mean Gwen would have been better served discussing this with the OP, instead of broaching this with the husband first, right? Gwen should have talked to OP in the first place, instead of what she did which was “ask me questions about the job through my husband.” That’s not on OP.

              1. Anonanonanon*

                It sounds more like the OP was trying to avoid networking with Gwen and her husband was pushing it.

                1. Penny Lane*

                  Nonetheless, the OP needs to remember that having her name attached to this person’s resume is not the Big Crisis she seems to think it is.

          2. Sketchee*

            I agree with Specialk9. This is partly a personal matter as this is her husband’s best friend.

            In personal matters, it’s often an etiquette suggestion that the person closest communicate. This also can be a helpful to help a couple put’s their life plans in a separate category than friendship. Couples are a practical planning unit.

            Just as a business might choose to communicate through certain closer relationship roles. (A manager would be the closer person rather than having the CEO communicate all of their decisions)

            The LW has said that she didn’t want to develop this professional connection. Having the husband communicate that also strengthens that message. aIt’s okay for her to ask her husband to assist in that boundary. And as he is closer.

            It’s okay to acknowledge the role and reality of the spouse’s relationships with those involved.

    3. OP 4*

      Using this to reply to the whole of the thread, and not just you, neverjaunty. Also, to provide an update to the the situation, as there is one. Apologies for the length.

      There seem to be a few themes to the replies, which I see as:
      1) Why was husband involved in the first place/maybe some of this miscommunication is on him?
      2) Why not deal directly with Gwen?
      3) The reaction seems outsized to the issue, especially since it is probably a referral, not a reference.

      *A note before we begin: I am not a woman. I am a non-binary trans person, so please use they/them or spouse, rather than she/her or wife in future comments. It’s not anything I mentioned before, so I thought I’d say so now.

      So, context first, then I’ll go back and directly respond the original feedback:
      Gwen has boundary issues. She’s run roughshod over boundaries in the past to the point that I have had to limit my contact with her. My husband almost disinvited his best friend from his own wedding because of these issues (I was very glad he chose to have a conversation instead–I wanted her there for him). I am, admittedly, more sensitive to missteps by her because of this history. So often, small boundary pushes are preludes to large ones. This is never malicious but often a lack of awareness of how her actions affect others. As I said in the letter, I have a lot of compassion for Gwen and I really want her to get a job. I suspect her behavior will be less problematic if she has a steady, stable job and doesn’t have to worry about basics like money or health insurance. Both my husband and I are actively invested in getting her back on her feet.

      I am on a second career. After leaving my first career because, while I loved the work and the people I served, I was in a toxic environment that was negatively impacting my ability to work and my health. I totally switched industries and have been restarting and building a new professional network. Due to the nature of the toxic culture I left, my hard-earned reputation in my previous field was in tatters within months of leaving because I was an easy scapegoat, not being present. I am always worried about impacts to my reputation in this job/field because I REALLY do not want to start over again. I love this work, my company, and the culture.

      Now, the questions/observations:
      1a) Why was husband involved in the first place? Husband has been spearheading the “Get Gwen hired” project. One date night, in the course of the conversation, he asked me about how to apply to my company. I gave him the basics, figuring he was fact-finding and would email it to Gwen at some point and then we went back to our conversation. I excused myself to the restroom, during which time he sent my answers to Gwen and I came back to a few more questions. I could have said, at this point, “Have Gwen contact me directly.” But, because of the past history of our interactions, I only feel comfortable interacting with Gwen in person, with my husband present. I was reluctant to make that offer because of my reservations about her suitability, so I answered no more than seven basic questions about the application process and the job qualifications, and then went back to my date night with my husband.
      1b) Maybe some of this miscommunication is on him? As it turns out, I have since learned that the answer to this question is YES, very much. My husband didn’t initially tell me he was transmitting my answers directly to Gwen (thus forcing an awkward conversation transmitted back and forth through him) until it was already happening or that she wanted a more robust conversation and he didn’t tell her at all that I wasn’t comfortable being used as a reference. We could have set up a time for all of us to talk face-to-face and done this right the first time. The day after I wrote this letter to Alison, he told me he “didn’t think it was a big deal if she used you as a reference,” even after I had explicitly said I wasn’t comfortable. So, while I still think Gwen should have asked me in person or through my husband if I was willing to be a reference, this is very much on him. Additionally, he mixed up whether she used me as a reference or a referral when he told me about this. Turns out, it was a referral, not a reference, which significantly changes how I see this. Still, we had a talk about him dismissing my concerns and how he acted in bad faith in this situation.
      2) See above. There have been some REALLY unhealthy interactions that make interacting directly with Gwen difficult. I try very hard to help as best and as often as I can without exposing myself to situations that are harmful to me.
      3) The past histories I detailed definitely influenced the reaction and may have caused it to be outsized. I will note, employee references are taken very seriously in my company. Referrals as well, but only if they come directly from the employee, which this did not. This looked like another incident in a series of disrespectful behaviors and definitely made me feel like I was being asked to tie my professional credibility to a person I cannot, in good conscience, endorse. The referral/reference mix up due to the fact that this all filtered through my husband made me think it was the former, not the latter. My perspective is much different now.

      TL;DR: Husband ignored my explicit request, which was the main cause of the issue. The issue was exacerbated by communication through the husband, which resulted in some massive miscommunications about exactly what happened up to the point of this letter, which were revealed post-letter. There are some personal dynamics that made this behavior look like it was a continuation of past issues and also had a higher personal impact than this situation would normally.

      1. Observer*

        You have my sympathies regarding Gwen. Boundary pushers are very hard to deal with.

        On the issue of your reputation, even in a company that takes references seriously, if it’s at all a reasonable place, telling them up front that the person who had used you didn’t ask your permission should be enough to deal with the problem. Yes, that’s likely to torpedo her application, but that’s what happens when people are not clear about boundaries. That applies to both Gwen and your husband.

    1. Gallahad*

      #5. I agree. One thing I noticed with hard of hearing employees… they tend to be socially isolated as others don’t know how to approach them. You could try asking the new employee to coffee breaks with you and one or two others, from time to time.

    2. Hear to Learn*

      There are a lot of variables with deaf people which will impact their communication style. Alison is correct that it is best to ask her what will help her the most and how she’d like to communicate with her coworkers. It will help to know which kind of sign language she uses. American Sign Language (ASL) is different from Signing Exact English and there are a few others in use. With ASL, the signs convey meaning along with the body language, sound and facial expressions. In some cases, a single sign can be equated to a very complex English sentence. Sound is incorporated too where it makes sense as part of the description like with a car or a motorcycle, where it is usual to include the sound of a motor. The size of the signing can add emphasis. For example, the sign for a car is the steering wheel and the sign for a truck is a larger steering wheel.

      Deaf communities as a whole are very blunt and to the point. Much of this is due to the nature of signing – in order for someone else to understand you, you must show exactly what you mean. So that, if you are angry, you look angry when you use the sign for angry. You look disgusted when you are signing disgusted, you look happy when signing that you are happy, etc. The fun part is when this starts wearing off on the hearing people and they find themselves showing their emotions no matter what, even when they are communicating with hearing people. I discovered this when I was taking interpreting classes in college.

      There are also video interpreting services for those times when you need to be certain that things are properly understood, such as some types of new hire information. Most states have a listing of certified interpreting services. It is very important to check the qualifications of an interpreter. Some states have very stringent standards of quality and some do not. You’re going to do great!

      1. OP #5*

        I’m worried about this because I’m not an expressive person. I feel like I’m acting in a bad movie when I try to sign happy. But maybe it comes with practice.

        1. Another Jill*

          I’ve had 16 weeks of conversational sign language and due to all of the nuances of time/place, it is really difficult smoothly to converse with a practiced signer.

          That being said, learning the alphabet and a few simple signs as you have been doing will go a long way toward making your new employee feel welcome.

          But Alison’s advice is really the best – just ask her what she needs and check in with her often. She is the best source of information to help her succeed.

        2. SkyePilot*

          I took ASL as my foreign language in college. Part of the class was attending weekly meet ups of folks in the local deaf and hard-of-hearing community. I found that, like most cultures, people were incredibly welcoming and happy to help somebody learn their language – so maybe check and see if there is a similar group in your area? Nothing like practicing the real thing to feel more confident!

          Also, as someone else pointed out below, unless you KNOW she signs ASL (which…I suppose you do since you interviewed her and hired her!), you may want to hold off. If she went to a traditional public school and/or had hearing parents, there’s a reasonable chance she was taught Signed Exact English.

          Last thing, you have already probably thought of this, but getting the attention of someone who is deaf or hard-of-hearing can be a bit tricky! Obviously don’t want to startle them, but you’d be amazed how many auditory clues hearing people use without even realizing it. Someone who is deaf or hard-of-hearing (or in much more contact with someone who is!) correct me here – but something I noticed was occasionally less spatial awareness than a hearing person. If you think about how we subconsciously places our selves around other people or in a room just based on the rustle of clothing, footsteps, or even breathing it’s pretty incredible.

          Best of luck! Would love to hear an update of how things go!

      2. Triple Anon*

        This is fascinating! Now I’m going to look up the different sign languages. I didn’t know there were more used in the US than just ASL.

        1. thegirlriots*

          They’re more or less on a spectrum between straight ASL, which is its own language with grammar and syntax divorced from English, through Contact/Pidgin Sign Language, which is sort of in the middle, with some ASL structures and some more closely resembling English, then Signing Exact English, which is literally English that’s been converted directly to signs. SEE is used almost exclusively in school settings for teaching Deaf children reading and writing, you almost never see it used conversationally.

        2. SkyePilot*

          It’s pretty crazy! If I’m remembering correctly, ASL was originally developed by someone from France who came to the US to teach at one of the first schools for the deaf, so many of the original signs are somewhat similar to French sign language.

          American Sign Language is different than British, Canadian, and Australian Sign Language, to the point that someone who is in fluent in ASL may have trouble in another “English” speaking country. Again, if remembering correctly, an example would be that the ASL alphabet can all be signed with a single hand, whereas the British signed alphabet uses two hands.

          There are also obvious regional variations around the US. At one time, Martha’s Vineyard had a much higher rate of deafness than surrounding communities so a distinctive dialect developed.

          1. Talvi*

            English-speaking Canada actually uses ASL, I believe. BSL and Auslan are very different from ASL (but Wikipedia tells me that BSL and Auslan are related languages).

            1. SkyePilot*

              Noted! I knew that BSL and ASL were very different, but should have fact checked on the rest. Thanks!

    3. Liz*

      I line managed a deaf member of staff. Alison is dead right that the most important thing will be to ask her what she needs!

      A few other things that worked for me:
      – I attended sign language classes – just enough to be able to say good morning and make a bit of small talk. I learned a new skill and my report really appreciated it.
      – Organised deaf awareness training for the wider office. The main advantage was to give people a bit more confidence to approach my report – I tended to find people stayed away out of fear of doing the wrong thing, which was exactly the opposite of what we needed. We also learned about deaf culture and how to work with an interpreter.
      – In the same vain, be prepared to advocate for your report if they do become isolated – doing what you can to help them to integrate, and for the office to adapt to them. I found myself having some awkward conversations with senior managers for example, about how key it was just to say hello in the morning.
      – Use, and encourage others to use, office IM to say good morning and chat throughout the day.

      A word of caution on interpreters. I vastly underestimated how much interpreter time we would need to make my report effective in his role. In the end we had to push for having an interpreter every day for a few hours. Some members of the deaf community struggle with written English. BSL (I’m in the UK) is structured very differently, so reading/writing in English really is like using a different language for deaf people. As a result I found we couldn’t rely on emails or written guidance, and we had a period where I thought my emails were being ignored, and my report just didn’t understand them. I work in government so it was fairly straightforward for us to get interpreter time, but if this is restricted you need to be really clear about that upfront, and make sure that what you can offer will work for your report. At a minimum, you’ll need an interpreter for the initial induction, to go through all processes (potentially more than once, as was the case for me); and on an ongoing basis: for team meetings, performance reviews and every now and again for a ‘free’ hour.

      If your report also struggles with written English, you and colleagues should spend some time learning how best to draft emails so that your officer can read them. Using simple English is key (written English has lots of adjectives with subtly different meanings); as well as signposting key information/instructions with underlining, capital letters, colour. Really I found that I couldn’t be blunt enough over email.

      I really enjoyed managing my report, and by adapting the way I (and colleagues elsewhere in the office) communicated, we were able to help him become really effective in his role, and I think pretty happy at work. I became a much better communicator as a result. You sound really open to that, and I wish you the best of luck!

      1. Annie Moose*

        On sign languages being different languages–definitely. It’s easy for people who aren’t familiar with sign languages to miss this, but sign languages are largely unrelated to spoken languages. ASL and BSL have very little in common with English, even though ASL and BSL are spoken (signed?) in English-speaking countries. (and have very little in common with each other, too) So for a lot of deaf people, English really is a second language.

        1. many bells down*

          Yeah, my friend has two deaf siblings (out of seven), and when they type on Facebook I instantly know that it’s one of those two because their English writing tends toward ASL grammar. My ASL is, I guess, adequate, so I can see in my head what they were saying in sign.

          The way I heard the history of ASL, Gallaudet went to England to learn their system, but they refused to teach him, so he went to France and learned theirs. So ASL has more in common with French Sign Language than British.

      2. Midge*

        Other employees may find an office IM system to be really useful as well. There’s an educational framework called Universal Design for Learning that basically says if you design learning experiences for learners on the margins, everyone will benefit. So a classic example is closed captioning on TV and movies. It’s designed for people who are deaf and hard of hearing, but it can also benefit people who are learning English, people at the gym, Americans who are watching mumbly British dramas, etc. So you may find that making changes to the office to help your new employee will end up helping everyone in the office.

        1. Just Sayin'*

          “mumbly British dramas” HA! I’m dying…. And subtitles can be a huge help for some folks with ADD, too!

      1. schnauzerfan*

        As an HOH person who does not sign: Don’t hesitate to write notes or send emails! I’d much rather get something in writing than struggle to understand a phone call. Your new hire may well read lips, have some hearing, if so: Look at her when you are speaking, keep your hands away from your face, don’t mumble or speak with your mouth full, speak up (but no need to yell) make sure you have her attention. If she uses an interpreter, talk to the employee! Don’t turn away and talk to the interpreter. Look out for the smile and nod of “oh, I didn’t quite get that, just go away, you’re making me nervous,” so many of us resort to such when the boss tell us something that’s not clear… The modern workplace is much easier to deal with than the work place I started in 35 years ago, so much tech that will help. Make use of tools like texting and slack. If there is video training, make sure to get a transcript or captioned version. Make sure she can use technology she has to call out sick. Can she text you or who ever needs to know?

        1. Marissa*

          I’m not HOH, but for communicating with people who read lips, I like to call it “speak with your best handwriting” :)

          1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            I don’t know if it is my ADHD (diagnosed) or a processing issue (suspected due to family history), but I often find myself reading lips while people talk to me and I am not HoH at all; however, if I can’t see what people are saying as they say it, I often ‘fall off the train of the conversation’ as it were and suddenly words will go from having meaning to having none.

        2. SophieK*

          Coming here to say something similar.

          As a kid my uncle’s two best friends were deaf so I learned the “rules” early on. Whenever I have a customer facing position I end up with more members of the deaf community seeking me out so I must be doing it right.

          OP, it’s simple. Face her directly. Make eye contact. Do not be eating or drinking as you are speaking to her. Enunciate, but not so much you are a Will Farrell character. Use short phrases–get to the point and do not ramble. Have paper and pencil handy to write or draw. Most importantly, let her take the lead and teach you what she needs.

          Come to think of it, this is how I interact with everyone.

    4. bluemoon72*

      Yes! Seconded. When I was in technical college learning ASL with the goal of becoming an interpreter (which I sadly had to abandon due to awful carpal tunnel after 2-1/2 years of ASL classes) we learned that blindness cuts a person off from things, but deafness cuts a person off from other people. So glad that OP is looking to include the new hire and welcome her so warmly and graciously.

  2. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

    No.1 Document, document, document, take date stamped pictures of her destruction of your personal items and of the pins in the chair etc. You’ll need it because it sounds like you are going to have to quit and may need the evidence to collect employment or for medical expenses when she really does physically harm you.

      1. HRH The Duke of Coriander and Gomasio*

        LW1: I would consider filing a police report. Now. She is dangerous and there is no telling what she could do next.

        1. Jennifer*

          I’m amazed someone went this far with the damn pins. Hard to do plausible deniability when you go that crazy…er, I mean far.

          (Now I’m glad that uh, nobody got that idea for me at work.)

          1. RVA Cat*

            Sadly people have gone farther. This reminds me of the letter where pranks at a call center escalated to scissors (?) in a chair and the poor guy had to go to the ER for stitches in his rear.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I don’t think it makes sense to file a police report about this (it risks putting the spotlight on OP’s response instead of focusing on how batshit crazy the coworker’s behavior is), but I would certainly escalate my complaint to HR. Or, if it’s not going to cost you too much political capital, your boss’s boss. This person has lost their damn mind if they think it’s ok to put pushpins on a coworker’s chair.

          1. Lynca*

            I agree. While what happened is not okay and should not be tolerated in a workplace, filing a police report about push pins in a chair is going to be seen as over the top. People will focus on the response the OP took rather than the egregious behavior of the coworker.

            1. witt4*

              I agree with this. I guess the way I’m thinking about it is that this was an action intended to harm the coworker, in the same way that an attempt to hit or kick would be. But I think where I see the difference is that this is more passive and less immediately threatening in the moment, because one can see a hazard like thumbtacks and quickly eliminate the threat with no bodily harm, whereas with a physical assault like punching or kicking is highly threatening in the moment and is much more likely to lead to unavoidable harm (either one gets hit, or one risks harm blocking it or fighting back).

              It’s still unacceptable, but I’m not convinced that it rises to the level of warranting the involvement of law enforcement.

            2. Tuxedo Cat*

              Is it? If the OP can document a clear escalation of behavior, why should she wait until her coworker does something even worse?

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                She may not be able to document it. (And unless there’s video of the coworker placing the pins on the chair, “Here’s a picture of a chair with some pins” is not evidence.)

                The police are not mental health workers. What OP describes is fireable, but not arrestable.

                1. paul*

                  The pins in the chair is possibly *technically* arrestable, but I’d bet a non-trivial sum of money that no cops in even a mid sized city would bother arresting someone over that. Maybe in a small town if they didn’t like the suspect, and were really bored that day.

                2. Clinical Social Worker*

                  PSA FOR POLICE REPORTS: You can always file a miscellaneous report. You must insist on it but you can file it. It’s basically a report that gets filed under a person’s name but there’s no crime attached it and no investigation.

                3. Lindsay J*

                  Never mind arrest, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to get a cop to come out and take a report of someone putting pushpins in a chair.

                  They barely wanted to come out and take reports when my house was broken into and my car was stolen. They did, but it was pretty clear that they thought they had better things they could be doing.

                  And when I was illegally evicted they came out, but were pretty much like “eh, this is civil, not criminal” and would not take a report even though basically all my belongings were taken by the landlord and destroyed.

                  (This was in 3 different cities. Two large, one small.)

                  I’m pretty sure if I called them about someone putting push pins on a chair they would think I was a loon.

              2. fposte*

                To add to what people are saying, escalation isn’t a criminal offense in and of itself. Like it or not, the cops can’t do much to step in *before* the really arrest-worthy offense happens.

                1. eplawyer*

                  Intent to cause bodily harm is an arrest worthy offense. At the very least, HR needs to be told that if they don’t act, a police report will be filed. Does the company want THAT publicity because they won’t act to protect the safety of their workers?

                2. fposte*

                  @eplawyer–the “really” comes from the fact that even in my sleepy jurisdiction nobody would be arrested for pushpins on a chair, whether they technically could be or not.

                  I also don’t think the filing of a non-emergency police report would bring any publicity at all. There’s some possibility the OP could use the notion as leverage, but I’m not sure it provides that much, so I wouldn’t hit it hard–I’d just say “Okay, I thought I’d try here before I filed the police report” and end it there.

                3. Nita*

                  However – would the report be helpful later, in case escalation such as a restraining order is needed?

                4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  @Nita, probably not. But OP can document the concern on their own and make a complaint to HR, which is just as evidence-worthy and useful (perhaps moreso) when petitioning for a restraining/protective order. A police report is going to make OP look crazy.

          2. What's with today, today?*

            Yeah, my local radio show includes the sheriff coming in for a half hour a week. A police report over push pins is exactly the kind of thing he would include as “dumb report of the week.” And then I’d use it in our newscast, and then every other media outlet within 100 miles would pick it up, and then…well, you get the picture.

            1. Bagpuss*

              It might be worth speaking to the local police to ask whether they can advise or take any informal steps – I know in this jurisdiction (UK) there is behaviour which can be classed as harassment where the individual actions aren’t serious enough to be criminal but that taken together as an ongoing course of conduct they can amount to harassment which is a crime. The police would typically start with a formal verbal warning to the perpetrator and can then escalate up to ad including arrest and charge.
              I agree that if you filed a report you might get an unsympathetic ear, but if you were raising it as a query and a concern about a worsening pattern of harassment that they might be able to offer some advice

        3. MuseumChick*

          I would consider it after doing a few things first, Once the OP starts going directly to HR and makes it clear to both them and her boss that she doesn’t feel comfortable working with someone who is actively harassing her, if nothing happens then I would consider filing a police report. But that would be a last resort.

        4. MLB*

          I think I would meet one last time with HR to make sure they have all of the information as Alison suggested, and let them know that if nothing is done about the co-worker, that you will be forced to file a police report. Not a threat really, just a fact. Maybe I watch too much L&O, but she sounds like she’s a sociopath who’s escalating dangerous behavior.

          1. Aveline*

            Lawyer here. She’s escalating. No question. She will hurt someone of not stopped.

            As to why? Could be sociopathy, medication, other physical issues. But ther is something wrong mentally. She needs treatment, not enabling.

          2. AnonEMoose*

            I don’t think we’re supposed to be diagnosing people, here. That said, I fully agree that the behavior appears to be escalating – she has now gone from damaging OP’s property (the figurine) to attempting to damage the OP (the pins). That’s a clear escalation.

            Think about this: from what I have read, domestic abusers will sometimes escalate from damaging the victim’s belongings to damaging the victim. Which is NOT to say that there is any similar kind of relationship between OP and the co-worker; just that this does fit with a known pattern, and that’s not good.

            That’s a big concern. I’m not a lawyer, I don’t even play one on TV (or anywhere else). But I wonder if it, when the OP goes to HR (and it should be “when,” not “if”), it would be fair to use the phrase “escalating pattern of harassment.” Which might get their attention.

            Seriously, OP, when you report this, don’t minimize it. Don’t implicitly give HR “permission” to treat this as some kind of “juvenile” conflict between employees. Be very clear that this is concerning behavior, and it is now escalating. Tell them that you are concerned for your safety and that of your coworkers.

            And I would say, don’t speculate that she may be mentally/emotionally disturbed. What may be causing the behavior isn’t so much your concern – your concern is the behavior and that it needs to stop, so focus on that.

            1. Olivia*

              Hi! (OP here) Yes I used that exact phrasing when speaking with HR. I told them I felt unsafe, that this has been snowballing into aggressive behavior. It started with negative comments and perceived verbal jabs, and for months has gotten more aggressive with the breaking things, going through personal papers, going into drawers, and now leaving the pins on my seat. I told them this is now an unsafe work environment and harassment and our policies and procedures should be protecting me from this. The HR rep said that I shouldnt be scared because the world is a scary place and whether its in the office or outside the workplace anything can happen. To me….that is not a response I shouldve received from HR. Anyway, HR is meeting with the department heads in about a day so we will see what happens….Im very nervous though because my whole team will be out on a trip for work next time and I will be alone with her for 5 days. What do I do then when Im alone with her?!

              Thank you so much for your response!

              1. Irene Adler*

                YOU put your foot down and insist that you not be alone with this person. Even if you have to foot the bill for separate accommodations. Stay away from her as best you can. Your HR dept sounds like they are fruitcakes too.

                1. OP*

                  I am going to try to do that today. Tell them I will be working from home or something because I cannot work with her alone while everyone is out for a week. Yea the HR rep kept repeating to me “you just have to take it where it comes from”. I said “thats not really a suggested response for resolving this matter.” and she said “Take it where it comes from…and dont let it effect you.” …..I’m dumbfounded at this point. The most vague, incoherent responses I’ve had thus far are from HR reps.

                2. Luna*

                  Take it where it comes from? What the heck does that even mean??? That person should not work for HR. That’s ridiculous. Is there anyone else in HR you can speak with instead or is it just 1 person?

                  And yes definitely TELL them, don’t ask, that you will be working from home while the rest of the team is away.

                3. Jadelyn*

                  @OP – “Don’t let it affect you” And how, exactly, are you supposed to not let puncture wounds affect you? If you hadn’t noticed the pins before you sat and removed them, they would have affected you, and that is plain old fact.

                  What kind of idiotic….ugh. It sounds to me like she’s never been trained in how to respond to harassment or potential workplace violence issues, and so she’s just sort of scrambling for something to say to make you go away. Is that rep your only HR person? Is there an HR manager or other senior HR person you could talk to?

                4. Observer*

                  Document your head off. Get every exchange into email. And escalate up the chain. Your HR rep is being an idiot. Bring specific policies if you have them. And loop in both your boss’ boss and the HR Rep’s boss.

                  And start looking for a new job.

                5. OP*

                  Hi Luna, Jadelyn, and Observer: Yes I can speak to others and I have been! My boss’ boss (VP) and my HR Reps boss (head of HR) are meeting on Wednesday to discuss all of the incidents. I have now had three other employees speak with HR as witnesses to the events. Hopefully that helps!

                  But yes, it is time to at least begin searching for jobs at different companies. Thank you all!

                1. beanie beans*

                  Seriously. Your manager sucks and your HR sucks. These are about the worst responses to some seriously terrible behavior. I’m so sorry!

              2. LBK*

                The HR rep said that I shouldnt be scared because the world is a scary place and whether its in the office or outside the workplace anything can happen.

                What the f*ck??? A lot of other things exist in the world that HR is responsible for…would they not bother with a discrimination or sexual harassment claim because those things can happen anywhere, so you just have to get over it? Jesus.

                1. OP*

                  That’s my point! I don’t understand how they can respond that way and think it is a reasonable response. I actually said to her “Yes anything can happen anywhere. I was in a car accident last year and I blamed the guy who ran the light and T-boned me, I didn’t blame the fact that the world has risks in it. So if she leaves glass in my keyboard next or knifes up my desk or something, thats something I am not entitled to be protected against in the workplace? That is insane and unacceptable in a workplace such as this one.” and she said “You just have to take it where it comes from, she may have issues outside of the office that shes bringing in and is unfortunately focusing on you, but try not to let it effect you and try not to think about the things she might do in the future.” ….How am I supposed to NOT think of the thing she might do in the future?? If I decide I want to buy a baby lion cub because they are so damn cute, I’m probably going to think about what it will do in the future when its a gigantic wild lion and decide not to buy it…..not the same lol but you get what I mean…

                2. Bagpuss*

                  Wow, your HR sucks.
                  You mention using that wording when you spoke to HR. I would suggest putting it in writing. Be explicit. “This is escalating harassment. I do not feel safe in the workplace and I am concerned for my personal safety if I am alone with this individual. For my own safety, I am unwilling to be put in a position where I have to be alone with her.
                  I am very concerned that when I spoke to [name of HR person]’ their response was to tell me that ‘anything can happen’ and tat there were risks outside the workplace. I feel that this is an entirely inadequate response and fails to take into account [name of employers] obligation to provide a safe work place and to protect me and other employees from harassment or assault in the workplace.”
                  Is there anyone more senior within HR? If not, who is above HR / your manager ? I would be raising the issue with them directly and would also consider getting legal advice.

                3. boo bot*

                  Right??? Also I don’t think HR meant that to sound like a threat, but just imagine it being said with a New Jersey accent.

                4. 42*

                  Question: Who or what entity oversees HR departments? Is there one?

                  If HR is demonstrably ineffective, particularly to the extent where it impacts an employee’s physical and emotional well being on the job, can that HR department be reported to some sort of body that can kind of reprimand them (or something actionable)? Is the HR department the absolute end of the line for workplace conflict resolution?

                5. TeapotSweaterCrocheter*

                  @42 – It depends on the company, but often the VP of HR or the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) reports directly to one of the executives. For example, my VP reports directly to our President & CEO. HR is not necessarily the end of the line – if you had an issue with your HR department, you could probably take it to Legal and/or an executive. Often companies with ethics hotlines use those if someone doesn’t want to report something directly to HR.

                  Regardless, I work in HR and I am appalled by OP’s HR department’s answer. It is not reasonable and at a bare minimum I would have opened an investigation. Sorry, OP, no additional advice other than what’s already been offered, but you have my sympathy.

                6. Lance*

                  ‘She may have issues outside of the office’

                  I… don’t follow the point your HR person is trying to make here. So because she might happen to have problems, it’s somehow your fault that she’s taking whatever it could possibly be out on you? And ‘try not to think about the things she might do’? No, just like you said, there’s no reasonable way not to try and think about those things, because those things might involve actual physical harm (see: the pushpins).

                  That HR rep needs some very real training on how to handle serious issues like this, until which point they should not be involved in them at all if this useless handwaving is going to be their response.

              3. many bells down*

                Well yeah, anything can happen. But it’s their whole job to prevent the things they can FROM happening. HR can’t protect you from a meteor hitting the office, but they should damn well be able to stop someone putting pins on your chair.

                That’s like saying people are going to run stop signs anyway, so why bother putting them up? Anything could happen!

              4. Naptime Enthusiast*

                The HR rep said that I shouldnt be scared because the world is a scary place and whether its in the office or outside the workplace anything can happen.

                They’re basically asking for bystanders to be bystanders with this logic. “Ch well, we can’t fix what’s going on outside these walls so let’s ignore what’s going on inside them too!!”

                Sorry OP :(

                1. Chester Burnette*

                  I’ve been told that, too–“Just don’t let it bother you.” Well, how about HR not letting it happen instead?

                  People get into really bad situations by being so obsessed with avoiding a lawsuit that they don’t manage, and that’s what’s happening here. This is an unreasonable person–of course she’ll sue when she gets fired. That’s what unreasonable people do. What HR can do is document carefully, and show that the accommodations aren’t reasonable. And then fight the lawsuit.

                  I’m sorry you’re going through this, but it sounds like you have a really good grandboss.

                  Also, it’s *possible* that HR is dealing with it, but just can’t say anything useful to you. We can hope, right? Good luck.

                2. OP*

                  Thank you Chester!! Yes the VP is great and I am confident he is going to try to do whatever is within his power. We will know more later – thanks again!

              5. AnonEMoose*

                Wow – your HR really does suck. I wish I could say I was surprised.

                And, as said above, insist that you not be alone with this person. Make a fuss. Is there someone above the HR person you spoke to? Do you have a good rapport with your boss’s boss? Talk to either or both.

                If it’s a possibility for you, I would start quietly looking for another job. Easy to say, I know. But might be easier on you than trying to get your ineffectual boss and gaslighting HR (seriously? They tried to tell you how you should FEEL?!) to deal with the situation effectively before something worse happens.

                1. Virtue*

                  I was going to suggest this, but really– GO HIGHER. If you’ve got more than one HR rep, go higher. Is there an HR manager? I’d be shocked if they condoned this response, because I can’t imagine this wouldn’t open them up to some kind of liability. I’d also document HR’s non-responses, preferably via the ‘reiteration email’, so that there’s a paper trail of their non-response.

                2. OP*

                  Thanks AnonEMoose, Yes I have great rapoort with my boss’ boss. He’s supremely pissed about all of this and also wants her fired. He’s met with HR multiple times stating that he wants her fired as no one in the department feels comfortable working with her anymore, and HR still isnt sure what theyre next move will be. Its BS honestly.

                  I will be keeping an eye out for a job unfortunately – I love it here and love most of my colleagues but this is just too much nonsense to have to be nervous about every day I think….Im weighing the possibility of getting transferred but I may just leave all together.

                  Thank you!

                3. AnonEMoose*

                  Response to Olivia, but out of nesting.

                  I’m glad your boss’s boss has some sense, at least. That’s something. Can you talk to him about your concerns about being left alone with this person for a week?

                  Also “take it where it comes from”?! WTF does that even MEAN?? I agree with the advice to document this response and take it higher.

                4. OP*

                  response to AnonEMoose out of nesting: Yes I can absolutely speak to him, he is very reasonable and is pretty passionate about this ending in getting her fired. I am going to meet with him after his meeting with HR higher-ups on Wednesday. I am going to go past my manager and ask him directly if he would allow me to work-from-home during that entire week to avoid having to work alone with her.

                  And I have NO idea wtf “take it where it comes from” means but the HR rep said it to me at least 9 times during our hour-long chat. Im pretty sure she was relating it to the ideal “you never know what someones going through outside of the workplace” but I’ll be honest, none of us are without personal hurdles and bumps in our lives, but that does not mean I give a single F what is going in hers that would cause her to try to physically hurt me and go through/destroy my personal stuff. At that point “reasoning” behind it doesnt matter to me….

                  Thanks again AnonEMoose :)

                5. Lindsay J*


                  It sounds like your whole company sucks, honestly.

                  HR should not be preventing a manager from firing someone in their department like this. That’s not something that should be up to HR at all, other than making sure proper procedures are being followed and that it’s not for an illegal reason.

                  And, in this case, even if her behaviors are due to an ADA covered illness or something, this is still something she can and should be fired over. HR should just be making sure that it is done correctly and legally, not putting up roadblocks.

                  It seems like they’re dumb and afraid of being sued over this – I find a lot of HR departments are overly fearful of litigation. However, if you get injured by this woman after HR has been warned multiple times that she is dangerous and they’ve done nothing to fix things, you have a much better reason to sue and are much more likely to win than she is if she tries to sue for being fired after she has gone through personal financial documents and attempted to attack you with thumbtacks.

                6. Observer*

                  More out of nesting.

                  Don’t ASK if you could work at home. Tell your GrandBoss that since, as he knows, CW is trying to harm you, you are going to work at home for the period that CW is going to be the only other person in the office.

                  You might also want to remind people that while bullying is not illegal, the workplace does actually have a legal obligation to provide a workplace that is physically safe. And since they are on notice that this person DOES pose a risk to your physical safety, they need to do something about it. It does NOT matter “where it’s coming from” or that “the world is a scary place”.

                  Is this HR rep a former kindergarten teacher, perhaps?

                7. OP*

                  @ LindsayJ – that is EXACTLY what they are concerned over. They are afraid she will sue due to an ADA covered illness. (which is absurd honestly because this is not a small company, this is a very large company with a large customer base and, therefore, a lot of money). Its insane….thank you for your insight! :)

                8. fposte*

                  @OP–do they really think that continually replacing good employees who leave because of her will cost them less than that? (Rhetorical question, but I bet they haven’t considered things that way.)

                9. Samiratou*

                  @LindseyJ that was my thought, too–she’s got some sort of disability on record and HR is scared of a discrimination lawsuit and/or don’t believe they can do anything about the situation because of it. They’re wrong, and very dumb, but that’s the only thing I can think of to explain the “take it where it comes from” BS from HR.

              6. MuseumChick*

                Damn. Your HR sucks so, so bad. Could you push back with a “What I’m hearing you say is I should accepted being harassed in the work place. Is that what you mean?”

              7. Lynca*

                “The HR rep said that I shouldnt be scared because the world is a scary place and whether its in the office or outside the workplace anything can happen.”

                This is not a response you should receive from HR. Ever. Definitely document the response you got and which rep said it. Absolutely you should not feel like you should be afraid for your safety at work. The person who told you this has lost their damn mind.

                1. tangerineRose*

                  I wonder if this HR and the harasser have a personal friendship or something like that.

              8. Legal Beagle*

                Wow, that’s a terrible response from HR! Do they understand that the employer would face legal liability if you (or another employee) were injured by this person on the job? I would consider filing a police report, or at least telling HR that you intend to do so, to get them to wake up and take this seriously. And do whatever you have to do to not be alone with this person. Your personal safety is more important than work obligations.

                1. Stranger than fiction*

                  This sounds like one of tbos typical scenarios where just because someone has an ada covered illness they’re somehow untouchable. That’s simply not true, especially if all this behavior is documented.
                  Op, I wish so bad you could punch that hr person in the face when you quit and say “take it where it comes from”
                  I hope to god this person has no pets or children.

              9. Aveline*

                Find out who is head of HR. Go directly to them.

                This is not ok, they are telling you to accept being harassed and put at risk.

                This is not ok.

                Also, if it persists, pay the $150-250 to talk to a lawyer. This is unacceptable.

                I am afraid for you.

                I could understand if they were saying “Disciplinary action is pending and we can’t tell you what it will be yet, but we are taking these steps to protect you.” To tell you to accept abuse in the workplace is not ok.

                I’d work from home whether or not they agree to let you do so. Take all your personal belongings with you.

                Protect yourself first. Whatever it takes.

              10. Nobody Here by That Name*

                Wow. I didn’t think it was possible for there to be an HR as bad as the one at my company. And that bit about “don’t let it affect you”? Is your rear end supposed to magically be immune to pins because this woman may have a bad home life?

              11. Detective Amy Santiago*

                Is it a big enough company to have an Ethics hotline? This is the kind of thing that should be reported there. Or if there’s a Risk Management or Legal department. If HR is failing, those types of departments should step up and help.

                1. OP*

                  Yes we have an ethics hotline…I actually work in compliance…that’s what is making this all so insane! It seems that HR gets the final say no matter what and my department keeps getting pushback from them…I mean my division heads boss is the CEO of the company and somehow HR will still be able to shut this down if they want. This seems organizationally incorrect…dont you think?

                2. Detective Amy Santiago*


                  I am so sorry you’re dealing with this. Please keep us posted on what happens and stay safe.

                3. Not a Morning Person*

                  Yes, to OP’s question about HR having some kind of power that is more than the CEO. That’s bonkers. HR is there to serve the interests and needs of the company and the employees, but not to protect one employee who has been behaving in harassing and potentially physically harmful ways to her coworkers. Where are they demonstrating that they are protecting the company or the other employees by what they are doing? That is seriously a complete misinterpretation of what HR should be doing to handle this situation. Wow.

                4. James*

                  If you have a Health & Safety officer they may be the ones who would take this more seriously, and would want to know about it

              12. Troutwaxer*

                The HR rep said that I shouldnt be scared because the world is a scary place and whether its in the office or outside the workplace anything can happen. To me….that is not a response I shouldve received from HR.

                You shouldn’t have heard that from HR, but I’m wondering if you ran into some kind of privacy barrier. So the question is, what does HR know that you don’t know? And is there some way you can find out?

                Whatever you do, don’t escalate… as noted above, you may want to consult a lawyer.

                1. Jadelyn*

                  Yeah, but even if she ran into a privacy barrier, the correct response from HR is “The details are confidential at this time, but I can tell you we understand your concerns and we are actively investigating the situation. Thank you for bringing this new information to our attention so we can make sure we’re looking at all the fact as we decide how to proceed.” or something to that effect, not a shrug and “Just don’t think about it.”

                  (As a side note, if HR knows something an employee doesn’t, there’s probably a reason they’re not sharing it around, and it’s not generally a great idea for the employee to actively go about *trying* to find out what HR knows that they’re keeping confidential.)

                2. Observer*

                  It doesn’t matter what HR knows. There is no law on the books that requires a company to allow someone to pose a danger to others. The closest you could theoretically have in this situation is the ADA, and the rules there are EXPLICIT that you don’t need to allow people to put at risk.

                3. Helena*

                  “The world is a scary place and anything can happen”

                  “Yep, and if it happens inside this office, you’re legally responsible for it”

                4. Starbuck*

                  That’s bogus, OP doesn’t need to know what this person’s issue is, because it doesn’t matter. Workplaces can prohibit dangerous behavior, and discipline and fire people who break those rules, regardless of any kind of illness they might have. They might be worried that this person will bring a discrimination claim if they are fired for their behavior, but that’s an equally bogus claim. No workplace is obligated to accommodate behavior like this!

                5. OP*

                  Lmao, Helena – I wish I used that response! And thank you Jadelyn, Starbuck, and Observer – those were also my thoughts on all of this!

              13. Lindsay J*

                Wow, your HR and your manager both sound like they are terrible and conflict avoidant. I would be looking for a new job ASAP given that response.

              14. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                If I were your lawyer, I would love to have a record of that request. If anything happens to you, they’re now on notice and can be legally liable for her crazy.

                OP, I’m sorry you’re going through this. Your manager sucks, your HR sucks. It sounds like your company may also suck. Do what you need to be safe, document your head off, and consider reaching out for a lawyer. This is the kind of situation where a firm letter might get HR to put their heads back on straight.

                1. OP*

                  Thank you Princess! I am and will continue to document everything that occurs. I will also be meeting with my division head after his meeting with HR tomorrow to discuss next steps. Thanks again!

                2. Decima Dewey*

                  If I were in OP’s position, I don’t think I would care *why* Awful Coworker was harassing me. I would want the harassment to stop and would want to feel that my complaint was being taken seriously.

              15. Stranger than fiction*

                Omg sne said what?! Is tbis person related to the owner or being protected for some other reason? That is so ridiculous HR said that.

                1. OP*

                  Hi Stranger than fiction, yes they are afraid to fire her because they feel she will sue claiming ADA or FMLA violation or something. She has sued previous employers for the same thing apparently.

                2. PersephoneUnderground*

                  I know I’m late to the party, but this is so stupid of HR! I mean, they think *you* can’t sue if they let the coworker harm you? Their logic based on some vague “let’s avoid being sued by anyone ever even if we win” doesn’t even work- they’re afraid of an unfounded ADA lawsuit so much that they’re setting up a lawsuit they’re more likely to lose by ignoring a threat to employee safety!

                  HR: “Oh no, coworker might sue us! We can’t do anything!”
                  OP: “Yeah, and so might I if you do nothing- and I’d probably win. Sucks to be you.”

              16. anycat*

                as an HR person this disgusts me. i’m so sorry; i’ve always escalated issues like this up immediately so we can resolve these.
                i agree with everyone else.. document document document and be the squeaky wheel.

            2. myswtghst*

              “Seriously, OP, when you report this, don’t minimize it. Don’t implicitly give HR “permission” to treat this as some kind of “juvenile” conflict between employees. Be very clear that this is concerning behavior, and it is now escalating. Tell them that you are concerned for your safety and that of your coworkers.”

              I think this is key. It’s not at all uncommon for people to use minimizing language when bringing up things like this, because they’re afraid of being labeled as dramatic or causing problems. It is important for OP to remember they are not the problem, and there is nothing inherently dramatic about factually reporting the coworker’s concerning behavior to HR in a way that makes it clear that it is not okay, it appears to be escalating, and it is not a situation that OP can remain in as it stands today.

              1. OP*

                Thank you! I told them in a direct manner multiple times that I feel nervous every day now, and I feel unsafe in a work environment. I also got the HR rep to agree that if she were in this position she would also feel unsafe. Now, she still used minimizing language to chalk this up to personality conflicts but every time I would explain to her that this is not a personality conflict. That when I first started here we got along and now her entire behavior has since 180’d towards me and all of our coworkers. I also told her I should not be expected to work in an unsafe work environment where my reasonable well-being is threatened. I hope that helped to stop her from saying this is a personality conflict!

                1. Autumnheart*

                  What if you said something like, “I’m coming to you to report a problem where I am being harassed and threatened by another employee on an ongoing basis. Because this is happening on company premises in a working environment, YOU are liable and therefore responsible for making sure it stops. I want to know what you will do to ensure that this behavior stops.”

                  And if you still get pushback, hire a lawyer and/or call the state AG/labor board.

                2. Observer*

                  Well, if she says that again, you can shut it down by pointing out that it doesn’t really matter. The fact is that she has destroyed your belongings and has escalated to actively trying to hurt you. It doesn’t matter why she’s doing it. Not liking someone or having a personality clash with someone does NOT excuse that kind of behavior. (It doesn’t explain it either, but that’s not really the point.)

                3. mrs_helm*

                  Maybe talking about your concerns and fears had HR person stuck framing it as a discussion about feelings. I would try leaving all discussion about feelings and fears and verbal conflicts out of it. It needs to be about actions. Specifically “what *actions* is HR going to take to ensure their employee does not continue to attempt *bodily harmful actions*. And if they come back with “don’t be afraid”, restate it as “you’re telling me you will not take action when an employee clearly tried to physically harm another employee”. Make it a statement followed by silence. Repeat until they either agree to take action or acknowledge they won’t take action.

                  It sound strange to say, but your feelings actually have nothing to do with this. Consider: Even if you thought it was funny, or sexy, or whatever *trying to stick someone with a pin is not OK*. Just like how horseplay, where everyone involved agrees and is having fun, is STILL not OK in the workplace because of safety/liability issues.

                4. Mananana*

                  “…try not to think about the things she might do in the future.”

                  So does that mean HR person doesn’t lock her doors when she leaves home? Or goes without medical/car/home insurance because one shouldn’t worry about these things?

                  If you’re not already, please think about documenting, journal-style, what’s been happening. As in “On 3 April 2018, Cruella put push-pins on my chair. Later that day, I spoke with HR Puffenstuff who told me “xxxxx”.

                  Good luck and stay safe.

                5. OP*

                  Thank you Autumnheart, Observer, Mrs Helm, and mananana! I so so appreciate your input. I will definitely be utilizing your advice in my next meeting. You are all so helpful thank you!

              2. pcake*

                HR might consider that escalation could lead to PushPin throwing acid at the OP – she wasn’t physical originally but has been working her way up via broken property and now the pins, which could actually do serious damage if sat on and if it entered into certain areas.

        5. Guacamole Bob*

          I came to read the comments on this post specifically to see how long it would take someone to suggest filing a police report.

          Commenters here jump to police involvement very quickly, and it always makes me curious. I’ve always lived in big cities with overworked police forces that are overburdened with serious crime and who would want nothing to do with a situation like this. Do the commenters suggesting police involvement live in very different sorts of places?

          I wonder this about my neighbors on NextDoor, too, who once discussed whether the police might test a cigarette found on the ground for DNA evidence related to a stolen bicycle and who often suggest calling the police when seeing things that seem only vaguely suspicious, like a car that circled the block a couple of times. Have they all just been watching too many cop dramas?

          The commenters who feel there’s no harm in reporting things to the police just in case might want to do some reading about the ways that isn’t true for everyone in all situations, particularly for people of color. The police serve a valuable function, but bringing the criminal justice system into a situation isn’t a risk-free thing to do.

          1. LBK*

            Agreed – all I can think of is the episode of Friends where they think a stripper stole Ross’ wedding ring so Joey calls the police and they tell him they’ll look into it as soon as they “solve all the murders.” I would be extremely surprised if the police did anything about this.

            1. fposte*

              Even if they do something, I think the something is likeliest to be just talking informally to PushPin, same as they might do around my small town for a dispute with neighbors. That’s a pretty big police presence for pretty low gain, and it could make things worse on several fronts.

            2. the gold digger*

              I was shocked to see paramedics responding to a cut finger on Chicago Fire. Has nobody ever heard of a bandaid?

              And on another blog, someone was asking if she should go to urgent care to get a splinter out of her foot.

              1. LBK*

                In fairness, I’ve thought about that before when I was struggling to remove a splinter on my own (moreso because of my squeamishness about sticking a needle/tweezers into my own foot and needing a third party not connected to my nervous system to do it for me).

              2. AnonEMoose*

                Years ago, I was a 911 operator. If called, medical services at least will respond, although prioritizing still applies, of course.

                And depending on the circumstances of the splinter, if I couldn’t get it out myself (or my husband couldn’t), I might go to an urgent care if there was one available. Urgent care isn’t like the emergency room, which is generally for more serious stuff. Around here, at least, urgent care is more for “I have an issue where I need to be seen, but it doesn’t need the ER.”

                So, something like an ear infection, sore throat that might be strep, a cut that might need stitches but isn’t a dangerous level of bleeding…that kind of thing. A splinter, if left untended, could not only really hurt but could cause a nasty infection (and if the person isn’t up to date on their tetanus shots, maybe not a bad idea to have that seen to, as well). So I wouldn’t say that a trip to urgent care (not the ER) would be completely ridiculous in that instance. Especially if the person had an underlying condition (diabetes or poor circulation, for example) that might make them more prone to infection.

              3. Lindsay J*

                I see no problem with going to Urgent Care for that. An Emergency Room would not be appropriate, but where I’m at urgent care is basically just a walk-in clinic staffed by nurse practitioners and the like who deal with things like that all the time and caters pretty much to people who don’t have a primary care physician or who can’t wait to get an appointment with theirs.

                Like, try to get the splinter out yourself first. But if you can’t, or can’t get all of it, then you’re better off going to urgent care and getting it taken care of immediately rather than waiting until it gets infected and then going.

              4. Michaela Westen*

                I think if there’s no one around who is able to remove the splinter, a person should see a doctor. A splinter that’s not removed could cause infections, tissue damage… it has to be removed somehow.

          2. Chalupa Batman*

            I just learned recently that police in my area are generally restricted to three items per case for diagnostic testing-fingerprints, DNA, everything. It makes a lot of sense logistically, but they sometimes have to explain to juries that this is not CSI, and the fact that the police didn’t test every possible thing doesn’t mean they have doubts about their evidence. They just have to prioritize testing for the MOST compelling evidence.

          3. Tardigrade*

            I could rant endlessly about people on NextDoor.

            “I saw a car driving slowly. Suspicious! Where is our Sheriff?”
            “I saw a car driving too fast. Slow down! The police need to patrol more!”

            1. K. VonSchmidt*

              We need a whole separate column on the most bizarre or passive aggressive discussions on Next Door!

              1. Kriss*

                LOL. a week after Harvey & once the flood waters started receding my neighborhood on NextDoor got back to complaining about people’s dogs pooping in their yard very quickly.

                1. Kate 2*

                  I have to empathize with the homeless shelter thing. In our city a big crowd (20 or so) homeless people spend all day hanging around the shelter waiting for it to open at night. I feel really badly for them, but they take up the whole sidewalk in front of that building and the ones next to it. Add to that the fact that they panhandle, some of them are aggressive, and all of them, well smell bad which isn’t their fault, and it is an EXTREMELY unpleasant and unprofitable situation for the businesses around the shelter.

            2. JB (not in Houston)*

              Ha, this seems to correlate with the police testimony I have seen over the years with the varied reasons cops pull someone over for driving “suspiciously” (too fast, too slow, exactly the speed limit, looking at the cop, not looking at the cop, making a block–anything can be suspicious!). People see what they want to see sometimes.

              1. NextDoorDramaFan*

                I literally just came here to say thank you for the Twitter rec. It’s everything I wanted and more.

              2. fposte*

                OMG how have I not known about this? It makes me feel so much better about my neighborhood.

                And also there is apparently bestofring–and I have been marveling at the utter pointlessness of what people’s Ring seems to capture, judging by their NextDoor posts, so I’m excited for that one too.

            3. LilySparrow*

              We do have some streets in our neighborhood that occasionally get treated as the Autobahn. Some of the residents will call, the police will set a speed trap or wait for folks to blow through the stop sign, write a whole bunch of tickets, and everyone drives safer for a few months until it wears off.

              I don’t think that’s misuse of police resources, I think that’s perfectly appropriate. We’re 1 block from an elementary school, and we have no sidewalks. Walkers and bikers shouldn’t have to be constantly poised to jump for their lives.

                1. Starbuck*

                  But how would a speed bump make money for the cops? If they’re writing enough tickets, they’re making money doing that. Speed bumps just cost money. Would be safer though!

            4. RestlessRenegade*

              In my old neighborhood it was either “my dog got out” or “fireworks or gunshots?” Deactivating my Next door account was at the top of a long list of things to love about moving.

          4. BigJlittlej*

            This is such an important point. The police do not exist to solve all of our interpersonal problems, and calling police when people of color are involved creates risks to those POC’s safety as well as risks that they will end up in the system that is rigged against them. Think carefully about these possibilities whenever you consider contacting law enforcement.

            1. Guacamole Bob*

              Not just POC, though that’s the most prominent group. People with some kinds of disabilities are also extremely vulnerable. There are horrible cases of police not understanding that someone wasn’t following police commands (like to stop running or to put down whatever was in their hands) because they were autistic or deaf, and getting shot and killed as a result.

              Police departments and officers vary widely in their ability to work with people with serious mental illness or substance abuse problems, too.

          5. Katniss*

            NextDoor paranoia almost always has one major basis: racism. The trend to treat anyone not-white as suspicious was bad enough that they had to implement steps to prevent it in posts there.

          6. paul*

            My suspicion is that it’s mostly people who’ve rarely had to deal with the police beyond a speeding ticket or two.

          7. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

            The point of filing a police report is to have an official record. You don’t expect an official investigation but you do want the incidents duly noted by the authorities. Your credibility is enhanced with a record of the incidents.

            1. fposte*

              I think that mostly applies in limited situations where the *pattern* of behavior is important, though, and filing the police report doesn’t necessarily have a big advantage over just taking notes. And you don’t have control over what the police do once you file–you can’t say “I’m just leaving this here for a record, please don’t come to my office.”

              I think it’s reasonable to call the police non-emergency number and ask if they have any suggestions; that might help clarify whether you’re in an area where they’ll come out if she steals your stapler or whether the building would have to be in flames. But I think filing a police report is an action that feels more useful than it is.

            2. Luna*

              And after reading the OP’s comments, in this case the police report will also serve as a way to get HR to take the situation seriously.

            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              You can have an “official record” that isn’t a police record, though. Keeping your own regular records is an “official record.” Making a report to HR, by email or in person with an email confirmation of your report, is an “official record.” You don’t need government officials for your record to be official.

              The issue I find frustrating in the comments is that anytime there’s some kind of possible physical harm or contact, commenters jump on encouraging the OP to file a police report or to prosecute someone for “assault.” Those aren’t really workable recommendations in most places, and making a police report over pushpins is going to make OP look like she’s lost all sense of perspective (I’m not saying it’s fair, but it’s how most police departments and most outsiders are going to perceive the situation). It also doesn’t help the OP with their immediate or long-term problems.

              1. Engineer Girl*

                Also document your HR conversations through email.
                Email entitled “our meeting on (date) to discuss coworker (action)
                THe body would say:
                I said (bla)
                You said (bla bla)

                Bad HR likes to keep things verbal and untraceable. By documenting the conversation through email you have created discoverable evidence.

                Also, your HR is wrong about video. Multiple witnesses are just as good as any video.

                Also, tell HR to knock it off with the “personality conflict”. Tell them it is a gendered response and you won’t put up with it. Their failure to respond because they’ve downgraded it to a personality conflict makes them more liable if something worse happens. Let them know that.

              2. fposte*

                I think maybe we’re influenced by the medical model, where it can make sense to note that you’ve had, say, a couple of nosebleeds this winter so that six months from now if it’s still going on the doctor has an idea of duration. But outside of things like harassment and stalking, I’m not sure duration gets you much in criminal complaints.

                That being said, this behavior, as the exceptionally level-headed OP details it throughout her comments, is alarming enough that in my accessible jurisdiction I probably would consider a non-emergency conversation with the cops to see if they had any guidance, but it wouldn’t be about getting anything on the record unless the cops themselves recommended it.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Totally fair and agreed. I think my opinion has changed between when I first commented and now that I’ve read all of OP’s follow up. I think a non-emergency discussion with the cops re: escalating harassment (assuming OP is not in a high-demand, high-severity metro area) would be a good step to take. I’m still veering away from a formal police report (unless the cops offer or recommend it), but depending on the jurisdiction, I do think having the conversation could be worthwhile.

              3. OP*

                Im answering a few of you so take a look below :) :

                Engineer Girl, thank you!! I will definitely be confronting them
                regarding the “personality conflict” standpoints because it just doesn’t make sense to ignore their constant minimizing of this situation.

                fposte: Thank you for the compliment! And I am actually considering a non-emergency discussion with police. I am going to see how the meeting with the VP’s goes today first, but rest assured that aforementioned option is definitely in my potential next steps. Thanks!

                Princess: Thank you! I agree, I do not plan to file a formal police report because, realistically, I do think it might have an adverse effect on how I am viewed in this situation and, also, I would rather have just a discussion so I can refer back to it should a true formal police report seem necessary in the future. Also, you are correct! I don’t work in a high-severity metro area, I work in an industrial building area of a large suburban community.

                Thanks again, all! I so appreciate all of your help.

          8. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

            Hmmm… This comment gives me quite a bit to think about.

            I’m totally with you – in that I live in a large city where I would not expect something like this to prompt any sort of actionable response. Much bigger fish to fry, so to speak.

            That said, I’ve always erred on the side of reporting rather than not reporting, even in situations like this. I don’t expect any concrete action to be taken, but I do see the value in a more official paper trail/documentation trail. On a very personal level – I’d feel at least a little bit better having a police report filed (even if nothing is done beyond putting that information in a filing cabinet) than just documenting that info in a personal notebook. It just seems like if the behavior continues to escalate it might be quicker and easier to get to the next level (restraining order maybe?) with a police report on file, rather than it being the first time this has been brought to police attention. That’s if the situation at hand even rise to the level of technically criminal (but so low level that I don’t actually expect action to be taken).

            Also – I’ve had good luck in using the police as a resource when it comes to concerning behavior. I had a coworker who had someone following her and displaying some other concerning/creepy behavior (you’ll just have to trust me that it was purposeful behavior but the type of behavior with plausible deniability – my biggest concern was escalation). She was dead set on “reporting” the guy, but I knew the behavior did not rise to level of criminality (yet). So I went with her to the local precinct to talk to an officer on duty about what her options might be and what suggestions they had. They confirmed that there was no action they could take based on the current circumstances, but they did offer some great advice. They gave her some suggestions and they told her exactly what would constitute criminal behavior so that she knew what to watch out for and when she could bring it to the police and expect some sort of action.

            My point is – when I recommend “reporting it to the police” I mean more along the lines of stopping in at a precinct, explaining the situation and seeing what they recommend – maybe that will include filing a formal police report and maybe it will even lead to some sort of further action from the police… Maybe it won’t. I’m wondering if some of the other “report it” suggestions are coming from this place as well?

            You do bring up a really good point about bringing the criminal justice system into a situation (unfortunately) not being a risk-free thing to do though. Definitely something that I will try to consider more carefully when either recommending police involvement or involving them myself.

          9. Recently Diagnosed*

            Jumping in here right quick, and understanding that I’m speaking from the limited perspective of a white woman with all the privilege therein, I live in a small town with a low crime rate. The police HOUND us to report every little thing, and I suspect that may be the perspective, however short-sighted, that a lot of people are coming from.

            1. Antilles*

              Do they actually do anything about the complaints though? They can push all they want about reporting every little thing (presumably under the ever-popular “see something, say something” motto), but if all they do is nod politely and file a report that gets buried in a (digital) cabinet, what’s the point?

              1. Recently Diagnosed*

                Again keeping in mind that this is just my perspective, yes. To a detrimental, silly, and pretty-definitely-racist degree. The force is small, bored, and white (in the deep south). We once had a suspicious report in our neighborhood (i.e. POC walking through neighborhood) and suddenly had two police cars stationed at the entrance for two days.

                1. Sylvan*

                  It’s the same in my neighborhood, minus some of the racism. I live between two police stations. Each has a lot of bored officers.

                  Somebody got a cop to come to her house because she wanted him to cancel her newspaper subscription for her. He did it.

              2. Working Hypothesis*

                I once lived in a small town, and shortly after I moved there, I got pulled over by the police because (they explained) someone in a passing car had called them on cellphone about a “suspicious vehicle which was driving slowly and flashing its lights erratically.”

                I explained to them that I was driving slowly because I was new to town and trying to locate my street; and that I had turned off my brights whenever there was oncoming traffic opposite me, as I’m legally supposed to do. I also pointed out that I had not seen any vehicle pull over and stop anywhere within sightline of me… and if they’d phoned while driving, they were breaking the law.

                The cop asked me what street I was looking for, told me where to find it, tipped his hat and left. So yeah, they do come out for the little stuff, at least in some places.

            2. the gold digger*

              I was helping my neighbor do the walk-through of his duplex the day before his tenant’s lease expired. The tenant was there and she was furious that I was with the neighbor and that he, her landlord, was conducting a detailed walkthrough and documenting damage and dirt.

              She threatened to call the police.

              I shrugged and told her to go ahead.

              She. Did.

            3. Lindsay J*

              That’s interesting, and it sounds like exactly the perspective people like Guacamole Bob and I are missing.

          10. Mike C.*

            If it’s anything like the folks who post on my local nextdoor, it’s mostly about the color of someone’s skin.

          11. Antilles*

            Do the commenters suggesting police involvement live in very different sorts of places?
            I won’t speak for others, but I’ve lived in various middle/upper class suburbs over my life and even in *these* very safe places, the police don’t really do much for complaints like this. Yes, the police here aren’t overburdened with murders, assault, gang activity, etc like they are in downtown Detroit or wherever, but even so there’s still plenty of other more useful things for them to do.
            The *absolute most* you’d get from a complaint in this case is them filing a report nobody will ever read and sending by a cop to deliver a generic warning about “please respect your co-workers”.

          12. Bea*

            You can file a report by going to the station or we can do it online here because technology is king. So if they do want an official document, fine I guess. But if people think the cops show up on these calls or that 911 is appropriate to use, nope nope nope.

            I’ve seen the police reaction to being called even in a small town for a domestic assault in progress. They heavily weigh things like the area and show up sometimes hours later pissed you called in. Small towns are worse when you’re in state trooper jurisdiction so maybe I’m extra cautious having only known that and major cities who are stretched thin.

          13. ThatGirl*

            Yes, I live in a quiet suburban neighborhood — one that’s fairly diverse, though! — and I see a lot of that on NextDoor where people call the cops for every little thing. And I think, I bet that makes my Muslim and black and Latinx and Asian neighbors feel unsafe.

          14. Lindsay J*

            I’ve had the same experience.

            Like, I grew up in a large rural area. It’s the type of place where people don’t lock their doors, and leave their cars running while they run into the corner store. I don’t think the cops even there would be interested in coming down and taking a report about someone putting some push-pins on a chair. There was a lot less serious crime going on there, but a lot of square mileage and there were still things like drugs, car thefts, shoplifting, etc, to deal with.

            Living in two large cities in Texas, the cops still acted like they had better things to do when dealing with actual serious crimes like when my house was broken into and all my cameras and prescription medication stolen, and when my car was stolen.

            I’m pretty sure I would be treated like a loon if I called them about someone putting push pins on a chair (or to DNA test a cigarette found near the spot a bicycle was stolen) or a car circling the block.

          15. chocoholic*

            The police in our community has a “non emergency” number, where you can report suspicious cars, things like that. I used it once last summer when there was a car just idling outside my house in the middle of the street. I got the license plate # and let them know where it was. My kids were home alone at the time, and I didn’t know if this guy was casing the neighborhood or something.

        6. I See Real People*

          This is my advice also. It will spur HR to take action against this employee pending the police investigation outcome, and it may also uncover previous workplace or personal problems with this employee. Sounds like crazy to me!

        7. else*

          Yes! The police may not be able to do anything now – there’s a surprising amount of bad/weird behavior that is just so confusing that there are no laws covering it – but at least they’ll be able to advise you about what they CAN do. And if she gets more aggressive, there will be proof it’s a pattern and not some one-off aberration.

    1. Safetykats*

      Is your office big enough for it to be reasonable to request a transfer to a different group or department? Since the pushpin incident, I think you can reasonably say her behavior is escalating and you don’t feel safe. I would strongly recommend, before you decide to leave altogether, that you let your manager and HR know that, and request a transfer. That should either get you out if he immediate vicinity of this person, or force them to take some action.

      1. OP*

        Hi Safetykats, yes it is a fairly big office, we are a HQ for a very large national company. Thank you! I am going to start looking for positions elsewhere, but I am considering getting transferred to a woman in the same division but different department. Hopefully that’s a plausible option after this is all completed if they get rid of her.

        Thank you!

    2. Engineer Girl*

      Going beyond this:

      Keep your journal at home or on you.

      Not all Work areas allow pictures. Be careful on this because HR will pounce on something out of line (not fair, but that’s how they work)

      Make sure you list witnesses where possible

      Get your other coworkers to go with you about the personal sheets. Especially if they can act as witnesses for other events.

      Go to HR, not your boss. This is well within HR territory.

      Let HR know that you feel threatened and endangered. Put it in the email when you set up the appointment with HR. Print out the email and keep it as part of your journal. The email becomes discoverable evidence in case of anything bad.

      1. Lynca*

        Also document the supervisor’s lack of action. Many times HR will default back to “why hasn’t the supervisor been taking action? Have you even gone to them?”

        So you will need to show them you went to your supervisor, they’re not taking action, and the behavior is escalating.

        1. Naptime Enthusiast*

          Yes, emails are good for this. Make sure you BCC your personal email on anything to do with dangerous coworker so you have back-up documentation. My email at work gets messed up from time to time and I’ve lost chunks of emails, don’t let that happen to you!

          1. Troutwaxer*

            And make copies of your emails and keep them at home (if you can do this without causing some kind of problem for yourself.)

            1. OP*

              Thank you Lynca, Naptime Enthusiast, and Troutwaxer – yes I have been keeping copies and they are saved on my personal computer and my g-drive everytime something else happens.

              1. else*

                Make sure it’s somewhere she can’t access in any way – for instance, if you ever use Google Drive at work and at home, she might be able to get into that from your work computer .

        2. PhyllisB*

          Also I’m wondering has the OP confronted the offender? Tried talking to her at all? If so, what was the response?

          1. Lance*

            Considering the level this has risen to… I’m not sure that’s a very good idea. I’d much rather have the boss or HR dealing with the problem, because this is very much a problem.

            1. Naptime Enthusiast*

              Agreed. Once you get to the point where someone is actively trying to hurt you, I don’t think it’s safe to approach them yourself, especially if the manager hasn’t done anything.

            2. Mike C.*

              Push pins? Come on, you can directly confront someone over this. These are office supplies, not weapons.

              1. Specialk9*

                You’re minimizing something that is deeply creepy and escalating rapidly. In my decades of work, I’ve never had a coworker try to harm me physically. Are you really saying that the OP shouldn’t worry because a pin is so small? That’s weird.

                Also, look at the additional info that the coworker put the push pins on her chair the same day they related with relish to OP a fantasy that OP would end up jobless, carless, homeless, and miserable. O_O

                So those of us who were creeped out were right on.

                1. Mike C.*

                  Uh, justifying a position based on evidence that was only known after the position was taken is really a bit much.

                  Also, the push pins still aren’t creepy to me, the threats are.

              2. Observer*

                Anything can be weaponized. Had the op sat on them, she WOULD have been hurt unless she was in very heavy clothing, in which case her clothing would have been damaged.

                When someone has gotten to the point of actively trying to hurt someone, it’s past the time for a conversation about it.

                1. Mike C.*

                  Look, I get that it’s really cool here never to ever directly confront the people who are acting obnoxiously, but you guys should really, really try it sometime. Like a bad sitcom, 60-75% of the letters to this blog can be solved by actually talking to someone directly about what’s going on. I never said to stop at that, but I’m willing to bet that this wouldn’t have gone as far as it had if something was said earlier.

                2. Guacamole Bob*

                  Mike C., I agree with you about just talking to someone whose music is too loud or who isn’t coming in on time or whatever. But when I read your comment, I see you implying (most likely without meaning to), “Hey women who have been socialized to be deferential and who often have legitimate fears about physical safety, stop being so silly! Approach this situation like a confident man would!”

                  Yes, many women in the workplace probably should get better at enforcing boundaries and speaking up and such. But to say “come on, it’s only push pins” skips over a whole lot of complexity around what makes people feel unsafe and how they respond to feeling physically threatened.

                3. Lance*

                  Sure, if it’s just someone behaving obnoxiously, I’d agree to confront them… but this has gone beyond the point of ‘obnoxious’ and into ‘physically dangerous’ territory. I would not want to be anywhere near that woman at that point.

                4. OP*

                  Thank you Observer, Guacamole Bob, and Lance! I have confronted her in the past before it had turned into damaging things, leaving sharp objects for me, etc. When I confronted her in the past she would tell me she wasnt in my desk she was simply standing “at” my desk and Id tell her I clearly saw you in my desk and shed say that she wasnt there…..Overall, someone who denies their actions and behavior when someone physically witnesses said actions, is not capable of reasoning skills as far as I am concerned. Then when it became aggressive, I decided not to stoke the fire any longer and take myself out of any direct action that would instigate a “snap” from her.

                5. Naptime Enthusiast*

                  OP, so in addition to everything else she’s gaslighting you about what you’re seeing? And escalated after you approached her about it? That makes me even more worried, because rational people would back down or skulk away after realizing you’re not going to roll over and be bullied. Irrational people double down.

                6. Observer*

                  Mike C no one claims that no one should ever confront the person who is bothering them. But you yourself estimate that up to 75% of problems could be resolved with a conversation. That leaves at least 25% percent of situations where a conversation is NOT useful. This situation is clearly in that 25%.

                  Perhaps you’ve never been the victim of an attack, or of bullying. But the reality is that there really ARE some situations where expecting the victim to try to have a conversation with the person who is trying to perpetrate violence is cruel and useless at best.

                7. OP*

                  Naptime Enthusiast and Observer, yes exactly! I have confronted her, she denied what was actually witnessed, and then continued to escalate the situation weeks later. This is not a rational person, as you’ve mentioned. And yes, I agree this situation falls into that 25% zone where nothing would be accomplished if I were to approach her directly again. Thanks for your support!

              3. smoke tree*

                I think if someone is in the habit of breaking a coworker’s possessions, going through their files and leaving pins on their chair, that’s a sign that a reasoned discussion will probably not be effective.

              4. Kate 2*

                Um no. Have you ever encountered a clearly disturbed person? Are you tall or strong, because those are seriously mitigating factors?

                You CANNOT reason with disturbed people. They are not rational and if they are also mentally ill their brains are not working properly on a chemical level.

                I live in a low income building with more than one mentally ill person in it. I had a person shouting at me to let her in and pounding on my door because she wanted an item she believed I had that I didn’t.

                Another one of my neighbors screams at people who don’t exist.

                Talking to disturbed people who are acting like the lead up to bunny boilers DOES NOT WORK and is physically dangerous.

                1. Kate 2*

                  It shouldn’t need to be said, but I suffer from mental illness myself, so I am not coming from a place of prejudice. If you are mentally ill and not on your meds, you can’t help it. But you can still be very very dangerous.

                2. OP*

                  Thank you Kate 2 – this is my thought exactly…she seems disturbed and I do not want to give her any reason to lash out at me at this point.

                3. California MFT*

                  Hi, I’m a therapist and I wanted to make a note here that the co-worker’s mental health diagnosis (if any) is not the concern for OP; the behavior is the concern. In this situation, given the increasingly irrational and erratic behavior, OP’s concern for their own safety is eminently reasonable. OP, it’s absolutely appalling that your HR is not supporting you on this. I suggest following up to HR in an email with a summary of your conversation, including their weird comments about just letting it go because the world is a dangerous place (!). Also, I encourage you to consider doing some basic safety planning in case things escalate more with the person who is harassing you. E.g., is there security where you work? Do you know where to find the emergency exits if you need them? How do you want to handle any potential confrontation? (walk away, find a coworker, shout for help, leave the building, etc.). I don’t want to frighten you; these may not be things you need, but in my experience working with people who have experienced stalking and abuse from romantic partners, I have seen the value in having a plan ready for any worst-case scenario. Finally, my experiences with Law Enforcement on similar topics suggest that filing a police report might not be helpful at this time, but if you feel comfortable doing so you may be able to get more information on what constitutes a danger in the workplace, etc. Sending good vibes your way and glad to know you’ve got some support from higher-level management.

                4. OP*

                  Thank you so much CaliforniaMFT! I really appreciate it all of your advice. Yes, we have security in this building and I have their number in my cell phone saved to favorites. I do know where all of the emergency exits are. I, unfortunately, am on the top floor of the building with her, but I can outrun her…so that’s would work for me should anything get to that point! Also, there are other departments on this floor, so I have other groups of people within shouting distance. I will take all of your advice into consideration. Thanks again!

                1. OP*

                  Exactly, AsItIs. Okay Mike C., well thank you for your input, but I would much prefer this situation not getting to the point where this person decides to escalate to pulling out a weapon capable of killing me. Should you ever find yourself in a situation similar to this (though, I hope you don’t), you are free to wait until there is an immediate and imminent threat to your life.

            3. PhyllisB*

              Lance, I meant when it first started. I wondered did she say anything at the beginning of all this? I wouldn’t confront her now, it’s gone too far.

          2. LBK*

            I agree, I was curious about this too (and curious how the OP knows this was all the same person).

            1. Chalupa Batman*

              Yes, how does OP know? There are so many more things I want to know from OP 1 that I’m not sure where to start. This is not a normal situation at all. How are other people targeted? Is anyone in the office *not* being targeted? Why? What’s already been said to her? What’s her behavior like otherwise-is she always a difficult person who does over the top difficult things, or is she a normal seeming person most of the time who unexpectedly acts on destructive compulsions? Do we know she’s mentally ill? I know that seems like an odd question in light of how serious these behaviors are, but I’ve known people who are colloquially “crazy”-they do things that seem totally out of line to others, but they know exactly what they’re doing, and their way of rationalizing and reasoning is based on logic, albeit unusual or flawed logic. Their worldview is weird, but they aren’t necessarily mentally ill.

              1. LBK*

                I’m with you on that – not a fan of the trend I see picking up steam lately where it’s deduced someone must be mentally ill based on violent behavior, which does nothing but further stigmatize mental illness and deflect from other, more correlated traits of violent people.

              2. Specialk9*

                Right on. I believe the DC shooter pair were both found to be legally sane. Sometimes people just like to do awful things.

                And one of the hallmarks of an abuser is that they seem out of control when they yell and break things and hit, but they magically pull it all together when motivated (around cops, extended family, at work, at place of worship, etc). The apparent lack of control is a deliberate technique to *maintain* control.

                Not to say that is what is going on here – in fact I’d say the opposite, because she’s not hiding it from authority – but it’s worth the reminder not to jump to mental illness just because someone seems out of control.

                1. fposte*

                  Though legally sane is a whole different standard from clinically sane, just to complicate things.

              3. NaoNao*

                There’s a very slim chance that it’s something like the infamous “bullet casing” discussion; where the person in question (I believe this is how it worked out) saw the casing on the floor and just plopped it on the nearest desk.
                At my work the building got cleared out very substantially in a merger and many cubes are now empty and repositories for all kinds of junk.
                Is there *any* chance the cleaning people are picking up push pins and leaving them on the chair for whatever reason? Or a coworker (oh, hey are these yours? and they didn’t leave them on the desk because it was overly full or they didn’t want the pins to roll off?)

                Granted, in light of the other behaviors, it seems very unlikely.

                I guess my best advice is next time something happens you go over to that person and do the following:
                “Hi, I need to talk to you right now, in private.”
                “Push Pins, did you leave these on my chair?”
                Her: (no, yes, whatever)
                “Okay, well that’s out of line. I don’t know why you’re doing these things, but I am asking you to stop. I don’t want to have to go to someone else and report this. Let’s solve this between us. What needs to happen for us to repair our working relationship?”

                You might get some answers, or you might not. But at least you went to her and tried.

                Also, any chance you’re in the Philippines? Some of the phrases and words you used remind me a lot of both the particular tone and wording that was used in HR over there when I worked there. I complained that a coworker cat called me and they squirmed around and claimed he was just saying “hi” and I should take it as a compliment. Just a cultural thing of *really* wanting to avoid any conflict whatsoever.

                1. OP*

                  I’m not very inclined to go directly to her at this point after everything that has happened. Also, my HR has suggested that we do not confront her on our own anyway as this is an open issue now. Nope, New York!

                  Thanks for your advice!

              4. Observer*

                You’re looking at two different issues here. One is whether the CW is mentally ill. I’d say that the correct answer is that we don’t know. And that it DOES NOT MATTER. If someone is doing this, they present a danger to others and the behavior needs to be stopped. Period.

                The other issue is how does the OP know that it’s this person. That’s a legitimate question. But, given the other facts, I think we can accept the OP’s assertion that it is indeed this Coworker.

                1. tangerineRose*

                  Thank you! I was meaning to say something like “It does not matter”, and you were eloquent about it.

          3. paul*

            This is past that point as far as I’m concerned. I’m not wasting my time dealing with or talking to someone that thinks it’s OK to rifle through my personal stuff or put pins in my chairs.

            9 times out of 10 I’m all for talking to the person first, but here? Why the hell would I do that? Even absent the pins this is the sort of crap that you’re supposed to learn in elementary school.

            1. LBK*

              For the most recent incident I more or less agree, but I’d think after the first or second time she’d still have been comfortable saying something.

            2. Mike C.*

              You would do it because you want it to stop, not because you want to make polite conversation.

            3. Penny Lane*

              I’m not doubting that the coworker knows that it’s this particular person, but if that’s the case, then she has had to have seen her (break the figurine, put the pins on the chair, etc.). So my question is, how has the OP interacted with this coworker — in general? Is coworker nasty to OP in communal or work settings with other people around? Is there an incident (real or perceived) that might explain (not excuse, just explain) why the coworker has it in for OP?

              And if the OP has seen the coworker break the figurine, etc., how has she reacted to her IN THE MOMENT, or when she’s come back to her desk and seen her broken figurine all over it? Did other coworkers say, “Hey, Jane did that”? Do they commiserate with her that Jane’s out of line or is it a culture of keep-your-head-down-and-ignore? So many unanswered questions. Alison, I wish more of these details had been probed for before posting, because they do impact the situation (not that your advice isn’t good).

            4. Strawmeatloaf*

              I guess what I’m not getting about all of these “talk to them directly now!” comments is, normal people, even when they are angry, don’t do this. They don’t go and break your stuff. They don’t go and put push-pins and continually escalate. I won’t blame it on mental illness, but in polite society, a person would probably leave a note if they broke the figurine(s) by accident, or would have picked up the push-pins if they had accidentally spilled those on the chair.

              This is far beyond normal. I would suggest people head over to reddit JustnoMIL just to see how bad people can escalate from pretty harmless stuff.

              1. OP*

                Thank you strawmeatloaf, thats the point I and my other nervous colleagues have been discussing. A healthy-minded, functioning person doesn’t do this regardless of their mood. We have all been extremely pissed off at our jobs on one day or another – however, most of us just work the day through and pray for 5:00. It is the difference between that and breaking items, leaving sharp objects around, and ranting about ominous dreams, etc. that make someone the outlier from the normal professional behavior of an office space.

            1. tangerineRose*

              Based on the OP’s comments, it sounds like the OP did talk to the co-worker about the earlier incidents, and the co-worker denied it.

          4. Lindsay J*

            I’m just not sure what good that would do in this case.

            The coworker seems to purposely be making the OP miserable. This isn’t a case of disagreement over what level of music is appropriate or microwaving fish where the coworker might not know what they are doing is bothering the OP.

            Confronting them about the push-pins is only going to let them know that they are getting to the OP, and possibly allow them to manipulate the situation to their advantage (by claiming they don’t know anything about it and making the OP look crazy, by painting the OP as the aggressor for confronting her), etc.

            When I was bullied in school, a lot of the suggestions were to confront them, or to talk it out, and it annoyed me because they were not rational actors and thus there was nothing to talk out. It wasn’t a disagreement. There was nothing I needed to change. I needed them to stop making fun of me, using sexist/homophobic slurs against me, etc. And treating it as something to talk out as if we were both culpable was exactly the wrong approach. And anytime someone told me to approach my bullies and say something like, “When you call me [insert slur here], I feel hurt and scared,” I felt like they just completely didn’t get it. Making me feel hurt and scared was the point of their behavior. Telling them that was just letting them know that they were winning. It wasn’t ever going to stop anything (and didn’t).

            1. OP*

              THIS^^^ YES, Lindsay J! You hit the nail on the head. I will not be confronting her directly for 1) fear that she will retaliate because she would then know that she is upsetting me (thus, ‘winning’) and/or 2) fear that she will snap from being confronted and become more aggressive.
              Thank you for your insight!!

            2. Michaela Westen*

              My parents told me to ignore bullies. That didn’t work either.
              Grown-ups are so clueless!

            3. smoke tree*

              Yes, this is what I was thinking too. When someone is behaving inappropriately like this, it’s usually because they want to get some kind of reaction from you–to get your attention, to see you get hurt, to intimidate you. Engaging with them further is giving them what they want and in my experience, it’s more likely to escalate the behaviour than anything else.

              1. TootsNYC*

                they want to get some kind of reaction from you–to get your attention, to see you get hurt, to intimidate you.
                actually, this kind of comment tends to set me off.

                It is true that bullies, etc., want some kind of reaction. But the REAL payoff is not your reaction, but THEIR OWN, or the reaction of other people around you.

                The real payoff is the knowledge that they did something mean and got away with it.

                So if you stop giving them a reaction, that’s not going to stop them. They still know that they are getting away with it. And if the bystanders or onlookers see it happen, that’s fuel for them as well.

                In most bullying, the only thing that stops it is if negative feedback arrives. That’s why the “punch him back” thing can actually work. And that’s why a bystander or two saying, “Not cool, dude!” can work.

                I’m not quite sure how all this intersects with our OP’s situation, because it sounds like this is not a normal bully.

                1. PersephoneUnderground*

                  OMG, I love your comment. I wondered why I always felt like there was no good answer to being bullied – even “ignoring it” never really works. This is just it- there really isn’t much on the victim’s end that CAN be done unless they’re in a position to impose a negative consequence (like if everyone likes the victim so the bullying backfires by getting the bully ostracized). I’ve never seen the real motivation/payoff spelled out like that before- it makes so much more sense now!

    3. Bagpuss*

      I agree with documsnting, also report each incident as soon as it happens, to HR and CCd to your manager.

      In each case, stress that it is a further incident 0 e.g.
      “Following on from my reports made on [date] and [date] there has been a further incident of harassment by [co-worker]. On this occasion, she placed 8 push-pins point up on my chair so I would have been injured had I not noticed them before I sat down. ”

      You could add in “I am concerned that [co-workers] harassment of me is escalating and has moved from damage to my property, to going through confidential paperwork to attempts at physically harming me. Because of this escalation I am concerned that she poses a real threat to my physical safety and that of other co-workers”

      If your workplace has any kind of formal grievance process, use it.

      1. OP*

        Thank you, Bagpuss. I appreciate your response! I have been documenting, but I will be keeping a formal documenting process complete with emails, pictures, conversations, etc. too. Thank you!

        1. Observer*

          And make sure you keep a copy of all of this at home. Also, document not just with the HR rep and your boss, but the Boss’ Boss and the head of HR.

    4. Isabelle*

      Agreed, and I have no doubt that she will harm OP1 or someone else if she is not stopped. This woman is dangerous and her behaviour has escalated to trying to injure her colleague.
      OP1, if you’re reading this please be extremely cautious with what you eat and drink at the office, this is the kind of person who may poison you. Document everything and go to HR.

      1. The Supreme Troll*

        I really hate having to agree (because I really do worry) with the last part, but you are absolutely correct 100%. Also, not only should OP#1 go to HR and document every single one of these incidents, she also has every right to go over her own manager’s head and bring this matter up to one or more levels above her own boss. There is nothing amusing or humorous regarding the coworker’s antics whatsoever.

        I think OP#1’s manager is doing her best (maybe subconsciously, but who knows) of making sure that none of her team members have to deal with harsh criticism or judgement at the expense of…well…performing the duties of what a manager is supposed to!

      2. OP*

        Thanks Isabelle, I agree….I’m by no means a dramatic person but this is not normal healthy behavior from anyone. She’s done a plethora of other things that haven’t been mentioned here of course, but it has without a doubt just been gradually getting more threatening and ominous. They day of the push pins she also mentioned to be that she had a ‘dream’ that I was homeless, carless, and jobless, living in a basement somewhere and my life was in shambles…..I said “Wow, [name], that’s such an awful thing to say.” and she said “It was vivid, you had nothing to your name and you were miserable!” Again more than this has happened, but I agree shes kinda lost it….

        I will be only eating and drinking outside of work! IF I bring coffee in I always take it with me everytime I leave my desk now too….I truly feel nervous all the time here now that I am extra cautious.

        Thanks again Isabelle!

        1. Aveline*

          Talk to a lawyer about a restraining-order. I think they are over used. In case, I think you need one.

          This person is fixated on your suffering and starting to try and make you suffer.

          Be afraid. Act in that fear.

          This woman is dangerous and will hurt you if not stopped.

          Please tell me she doesn’t know where you live. If so, watch your pets, family, and anything she could harm.

          1. OP*

            She actually does know the complex that I live in :(. Before she went crazy we all were pretty open about those things. I have a puppy and she always asks about her, always asking to show her pictures of my puppy, etc. Even this morning she asked if I brought my puppy to my parents house or if I leave her home usually….needless to stay I have been sleeping at my boyfriends for the past few weeks every night….

            1. Aveline*

              I’d put the puppy somewhere else and get a new apartment ASAP.

              This is a valid reason to break the lease.

              Even if you can’t break the lease, ask your agency to move you from your current apartment to another one.

              1. OP*

                Yes, my thoughts exactly! My puppy stays with my boyfriend now and we don’t go back to my apartment unless he’s with me. Typically we never go back for more than one night. Also, my lease is up in two months so I’m just going to continue sleeping at my boyfriends until its up!

                1. OP*

                  Hi Michaela! She knows the town he lives in but doesn’t know where – it’s a big town too so chances are she would never be able to find it if she tried. As a side note, I know her cars and I do keep an eye out for them when I am heading back to his house every day.

            2. Half-Caf Latte*

              Also, consider reading the Gift of Fear, by Gavin de Becker. ( the DV chapter has issues and you can skip it, but the rest is applicable)

            3. Lindsay J*

              JFC, the more I read this the more I am getting the creeps.

              At this point I would contact the police, include everything including that she has tried to physically harm you with push pins and at this point indirectly threatened your dog, and see if there is anything that you can do.

              It may not rise to the level where you can get a restraining order yet, but they can tell you what would need to happen for you to be able to get one, and how you can protect yourself and your puppy in the meantime.

              1. OP*

                Thank you Lindsay J! I have taken it into consideration and have been working out all of the details to ensure that should I take it to restraining order level I have everything in order. Thanks again!

            4. Engineer Girl*

              This is the time to learn low contact non-responses.
              Don’t give her any more useful information.
              Can you take the dog to your parents or boyfriends? I’d be worried she’s targeting your pup next.

              1. OP*

                Thank you Engineer girl. Yes, I have my puppy at my boyfriends now full-time and I mostly sleep there now. I joke now that I pay monthly rent for a really really big expensive closet that I only visit once a week ;)….gotta add a little humor to a stressful situation every now and then.

        2. Specialk9*

          Holy shit. So she’s escalating from destruction, and violation / possibly theft of your personally identifiable information (PII) data, to deliberate physical harm and fantasizing to your face about you losing your job, car, home, and being utterly miserable and destroyed.

          Ok. So, let’s go through the Workplace Violence checklist. Yes, yes, yes…

          With that information, I’d look into getting a restraining order. Seriously. The other stuff could, if one squinted and were a gutless wonder trying to avoid having to do hard things, be seen as pranks. Looking you in the eye and reveling in a vicious fantasy of your destruction is evil creepy serial killer psychopath stuff.

          (Btw, I mentioned PII data violation because that could make your company pay extra attention. Especially with the new European privacy law GDPR that affects most of the globe even if not intl, people are paying attention to privacy violations.)

          1. OP*

            Thank you SpecialK9!! I agree this should be identified as workplace violence…it doesnt seem like my HR agrees unfortunately. I will bring up the PII thing in my next meeting, absolutely. Thank you so much for your insight, I really appreciate it.

        3. fposte*

          The additional details from you plus the horrible HR response is moving this into the seriously sinister. I think investigating the possibility of a restraining order is a good idea, especially in that it would require your workplace to take some action and stop yammering about the world being a dangerous place.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Agreed. This is creeping me out badly.

            OP – do you have any clue why this person is targeting you? Is it *just* you or is the same thing happening to others you work with?

            1. OP*

              My manager thinks that she is targeting me because CW sees me as a “threat” as a result of me being younger and more energetic than CW. I dont know if I agree with this as the reasoning but my manager seems to think that is why this is happening. She does occasionally go through our other colleague’s ppwk and desks but I am the only one she has made weird verbal fantasies too and she has not physically threatened anyone else …yet.

          2. Specialk9*

            Seriously sinister indeed.

            Workplace Violence warning signs:
            -Serious and escalating conflict with clients or colleagues;
            -Extreme stress;
            -Bizarre or suicidal thoughts, or other signs of emotional or mental problems;
            -Insulting, discriminatory comments or behaviour directed at specific people;
            -Telling others about violent thoughts or fantasies.

        4. Michaela Westen*

          Is there a way to lock your stuff up at work? Where I work we have locks on our desks and cabinets and office doors.
          If so, does crazy CW have keys?

          1. OP*

            Hey Michaela, yes! I lock my things up every time I leave my desk for anything (e.g. bathroom, meeting, conference, etc.) We have a very new building so everything is open concept (only VP’s and Executives have offices with doors), but I do lock everything in my desk when necessary. She doesnt have the keys to this desk. Thank you!

    5. K.*

      Time-stamped photos don’t prove the date and time because that can be altered in a camera’s settings. And, although mobile phone images have the date/time in their data files, keep the original on your phone as well.

      1. 2horseygirls*

        If possible, document the damage, and include your work phone display. Unless you manage the telecommunications, there is no way for you to change the date/time display on your desk phone at work.

        1. OP*

          This is a great idea! I will be using my work phone display from now on if I can in any future pictures. Thank you for the tip!

      2. Penny Lane*

        … Which is why you make sure all your coworkers know about this and see evidence of her behavior. Don’t just pick up the pins and sit down. Take pictures, call over coworkers; if your boss isn’t there, text the pictures to him or her.

        1. OP*

          Hi All! Yes I have documented the damage and I take pictures each time there is something concerning. These have all been submitted to the HR department and they are using these pictures in their “investigation”.

          1. Blue Eagle*

            I hope you are also documenting all of your conversations with your boss and with HR by sending them an e-mail to confirm the conversation. IANAL but having it in a separate journal is probably not as effective as evidence as having an e-mail that you sent to boss/HR that confirms the conversation.

            Sorry that this co-worker is causing you such emotional distress.

            1. OP*

              I have been saving all of the instant message conversations as much as I can! The HR meeting I had yesterday was in person so I could not save that but I did document some of her responses for the future. Thank you!

              1. Observer*

                When you have a meeting in person, you follow up with an email. BCC yourself (and you PERSONAL address that your employer has no access to!)

      3. LKW*

        Perhaps there are security cameras? I know most of the offices in which I work have cameras in the ceilings.

        1. OP*

          LKW, I agree and I wish we had them! I asked them if there was footage we could pull to timestamp and visually see every single incident and they said there are no cameras in the work areas, there are only cameras in the elevator bank lobbies (not even inside the elevators) and all over the parking lots but no where else. Thats not sufficient in my opinion!

    6. Penny Lane*

      OP, what do you actually do/say to the perpetrator when she breaks your figurines, puts push-pins on your desk, etc.? Have you actually confronted her and said – I know that you did that; it is not acceptable and do not come over and bother me again? Have you alerted your coworkers so that they, too, have seen the evidence of her bad acts? I would make sure every single coworker of mine knew of her bad behavior.

      And I would be in HR’s office so often until this was resolved. Completely unacceptable. I wouldn’t hesitate to involve the company’s legal department, too, and let them know this was going on.

      On the other hand, a police report is just kind of silly. Don’t waste the cops’ time with this; they aren’t going to do anything.

      1. Aveline*

        As to the police report being a waste of time. That depends upon the department.

        Currently, the county sheriff where I live would want a report. If for no other reason than they have it as a record for when the culprit does something worse. They encourage people to call if they have any doubt as to whether it is an event worthy of their involvement.

        The local city PD would not. They don’t care about low level violence, abuse of women, etc.

        1. Troutwaxer*

          The place where the local PD would care would be if they were investigating an act of violence large enough to make them take action; murder, assault, arson against the OP, etc., and looked at their records – then they have someone to question. But before a “large” act of violence they’re not interested in the records.

          1. Aveline*

            That’s YOUR department. I’m a lawyer and a former LEO. I used to wear a badge. I used to take these reports.

            There are some departments that care.

            Please don’t erase my experience in this. I’ve actually got lived experience on the matter.

            Some departments want to document this type of stuff.

            It is really dependent upon where she is.

            1. Aveline*

              Addition to this comment: Police don’t want to take reports of many minor traffic accidents either, but they do it.

              The question isn’t whether or not they want to, but will they do so. Most departments will take a report if there is any violence, even if they aren’t going to act on it.

              There’s a lot more “record and file” policing than the general public would think.

              They aren’t likely to come out to the office to take the report as a formal report or even a field report*, but if OP goes into the station with her log and her photos and she is calm, she will get a report filed. If she goes with a lawyer in tow, she will get a report filed.

              This isn’t as black and white as everyone is making it out to be.

              What she won’t get is an investigation. That’s not likely to happen based on the facts presented. But a report? That’s a different animal.

              *Departments have different types of reports depending upon the type of incident, the level of follow-up required, whether the report was taken on scene or later. It’s not as if there is only one type that can be made.

              1. fposte*

                Can you give some idea of what value a report might confer? I’m absolutely down for the OP consulting with the cops on appropriate next steps–my locals would definitely do that–I’m just not sure what a report on file gets you.

                1. Chinook*

                  From what DH describes with our national force in Canada, reports go into a national database which can then be accessed whenever someone’s name, address or license plate comes up. It gives the officer a heads up about the history of a particular person and flags potential issues. It is why there is a push in Canada to have some mental illnesses and disabilities flagged in it so that an officer can understand a non-response to an order, for example. It is also why pulling over a car is so dangerous – they have no guarantee that the driver is the owner and have to act as if it is stolen and the driver is dangerous until they have identified them in the system.

                  These records are only supposed to be accessed under particular circumstances and it is a crime to say look up a boyfriend’s background or a neighbour’s just because you are curious.

            2. Troutwaxer*

              I was thinking more in terms of a worst-case scenario; a mostly-indifferent police force coupled with a major crime against the OP. Making a police report ASAP gives the department someplace to start in that case, but after reading more it looks like the OP is pretty much on top of things… I don’t think we’re in any conflict – your advice seems very good.

      2. Glomarization, Esq.*

        Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V

        The pushpin thing is so bizarre that, combined with the supervisor not properly handling the situation, I would up the drama. Like, yelling when I see a pushpin on my seat, loudly saying “Who moved my papers around” when I get back to my desk, all that kind of thing. Take the pushpin back to her desk and say, loudly, “I think this belongs to you.” Make it really awkward for everybody else in the office. I can’t imagine you’re the only co-worker she’s doing this to.

        And, yeah, filing a police report is actually pretty ridiculous. I don’t know why so many people would suggest that. What are the police going to do? They’re not a principal’s office compiling the co-worker’s permanent record of things you suspect but don’t have proof that she’s done.

    7. Specialk9*

      I know that ‘hostile work environment’ isn’t just, well, hostility at work. But any chance this could become turned into a legal matter by the OP?

      1. Gem*

        In the UK the fact HR are refusing to deal with escalating bullying and It’s now progressed so far would make this a good case for constructive dismissal. I’m not sure how it would work in the US.

    8. Olivia*

      Thank you! I do always take pictures and I have submitted pictures of the broken figurines and push pins to HR with my deposition on the incidents yesterday. I have also saved conversations with other colleagues and my manager stating that everyone is concerned about her unstable behavior and how they are all uncomfortable working with her as well. They keep claiming that since I don’t have video footage of her actually smashing the items and putting the pins down that they can’t fire her on those grounds alone….I asked if I could have a small camera at my own expense placed on my desk and they said they don’t allow recording in the office spaces. So basically, I think you’re very correct in that I will need to quit – hopefully I can find another job before that happens!

      Thank you so much for your insight.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, I misunderstood then; it is more than one item she’s smashed. And wow, your management sucks. I’m sorry.

      2. Narise*

        I think it would be worth your time to speak to a lawyer and see what advice they can offer. Whether its this employee or someone else leaving pins in your chair your company has a duty to make sure you work in a safe environment. Maybe a letter from your attorney would spur them to take action or at least approve a transfer for you. Look at other departments/jobs and make sure you have an idea of what job you want. You should not have to take a demotion/pay cut to get away from Annie Wilkes.

      3. Glomarization, Esq.*

        Ask HR how you are supposed to provide them video of her behavior, if you’re not allowed to record in office spaces.

        1. OP*

          I asked them that yesterday, and they said that I should just be documenting. I said “I can give you evidence if you allow me to put a personal camera on my desk” and they said “No, we don’t allow that, you can only document” And I said “but then this will always be hearsay and it will never be evidentiary support. How do you suggest I give you evidence if you don’t allow it?” and she said “I’m sorry we don’t allow recording devices. You can document when something else occurs.” So basically they couldnt answer my questions and I am left with nothing but witness accounts which HR considers as “possibly legitimate”.

          1. Penny Lane*

            OP, have coworkers actually seen her do these things? (smash the figurine, etc.)

            Do you have any hypothesis as to why she has it for you? (Again, not justifying her behavior, but in her mind, did you do something to her)

            1. OP*

              My manager thinks it is because (and these are my managers words, not mine) I am “younger, energetic, and get along with everyone” which causes this woman to hate me for some reason. My manager thinks that this woman has a bunch of things going on in her personal life that is causing her to be angry with someone who is very different from her. To be clear, these are not my words – these are my managers theories. I honestly dont give a flying F why she is targeting me and for what personal vendetta reasons she may have, I just want it to stop. Thanks Penny Lane!

    9. Millennial Lawyer*

      I came to comment just to say this. If it’s too late to take photos of the incident, write it down in a memo with the date it happened. If your manager doesn’t do this, at least you’ll have it for either situation – if you need to quit, OR to assist HR in removing your colleague.

      1. OP*

        Thanks Milennial Lawyer! I have multiple pictures of the incidents and I will continue to take them as needed. I also have been keeping a log of dates and descriptions of incidents (verbal or otherwise) and I just read it off to HR yesterday. I keep all of the IM conversations I have with others, as well, stating their issues with her as well and their concern for everyones wellbeing here for the exact reason if I need to quit or if HR needs them, etc.

    10. Clara*

      Given her escalating behavior and attempts at bodily harm, you could get a work specific restraining order. Then the next time she violates it you can call the police and have them deal with her.

    11. Database Developer Dude*

      If this were me, an update to “My coworker puts push pins on my chair” would be titled “I got fired for kicking my coworker in the head”. Seriously….push pins in the chair??? Who does that?

  3. Meg Murry*

    For OP#5 – one thing that can be helpful (especially if the new employee reads lips or has partial hearing) – if she asks you to repeat something, try to repeat what you said before pretty much exactly what you said the first time. Many people, when asked to repeat themselves tend to try to adjust what they say when they repeat – assuming they weren’t clear about something the first time. But when dealing with hearing loss it’s more often that they missed a few words and the most helpful thing is for you to do an “instant replay” of what you previously said, so they can pick up the missing words/phrases.

    I have partial hearing loss, as does my son, and for us written instructions go oh so far. If you don’t already have them, screen shotted documentation is a huge help over trying to conduct training by sitting side by side and giving verbal instructions.

    1. LouiseM*

      Yes! This is also a good example of how strategies that are helpful for deaf people (or people with other disabilities) are actually helpful to everyone regardless of hearing etc. Written documentation should be offered to all your employees! You should speak clearly and at a reasonable volume to everyone! And so on.

      1. attie*

        Heh, I was about to say, this is an example of how similar situations can require completely different strategies, because I’ve had more interactions with people with auditory processing issues and they kept telling me “Don’t just say the same thing! My brain will just garble it the same way and we’ll end up in an endless loop of ‘the snirgle’ ‘what?’ ‘the snirgle!’ ‘what?’ ‘THE SNIRGLE’ ‘what?’! Speaking louder does not help at all! Please rephrase to give me a different way of grasping what you are saying.”

        1. laylaaaaaaaah*

          That’s true! My brain does that a lot, although I think with straight-up hearing loss, it might work differently?

          But yeah, so many (very kind! very well-meaning!) people will gently repeat the same thing, sometimes increasingly loudly/irritatedly, and my brain will still keep interpreting ‘thing’ as ‘thong’ or something equally helpful to the conversation.

          1. laylaaaaaaaah*

            Speaking of which, try not to get frustrated if she asks you to repeat things. A lot of people do, and it’s both obvious and hurtful to the deaf person trying to hear you.

    2. NoMoreMrFixit*

      I have a life long hearing impairment. Reading lips gets me past a lot of problems but has one big limit. I can’t believe how many people like to talk with their hands in front of their face! It drives me bonkers.

      Definitely ask this person what you can do for her to help. I’ve always been pretty open myself about what issues/aids are appropriate for me.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        That and multiple people talking over each other. One at a time is very helpful.

        1. Mimmy*

          +100!! This sometimes happens in our daily morning meetings and it makes me rather rage-y because the discussions are usually about students and schedule changes and I really don’t want to miss anything that could either potentially make my day easier or more unbearable, lol.

      2. Red Reader*

        I don’t have major hearing issues, just minor ones, but my god it annoys me when people mumble at me with their hand over their mouth while facing away. My housemate does it all the time. If you’re talking to me, talk to me. :-P

        1. Julia*

          Yeah, I have exceptionally good ears, and even I can’t understand if my husband or brother mumble at me while facing somewhere else. Good ears don’t make me magic.

          1. AngelicGamer aka that visually impaired peep*

            I really wish I could get my mother to understand this. My hearing is excellent but, honestly, if she’s mumbling, I cannot understand her. Full stop. Or if the TV is on, even on low, and the water is running or I’m cooking. My hearing’s awesome but even I need a second to adjust my brain to focus to hear!

      3. SarahTheEntwife*

        Also for lipreading, speak clearly but don’t try to deliberately exaggerate your mouth movements — that’s more likely to just make things look weird and harder to read.

      4. Specialk9*

        Yeah, there is lots of research on covering the mouth as a subconscious non-aggression / feminization strategy… But so annoying for lip readers!

      5. Nobody Here by That Name*

        I always remember a prof. in college who kept turning his back on a hearing impaired student in the front row, making it impossible for her to read his lips. In his defense he was used to the usual thing of talking while writing on the white board so it’s not that he was snubbing her on purpose, but at the same time the onus is on him and the rest of us to remember that if lip readers can’t see our lips we are effectively mute.

        1. else*

          I had one of those who not only did that, but habitually used a gesture that was an obscene word in ASL and did it in the direction of my friend who was Deaf. She told the prof that this was what she was doing, and the prof made ZERO attempt to not do that because “she didn’t mean it that way.”

    3. laylaaaaaaaah*

      Also, whenever giving her instructions or speaking to her in general, make sure she can see your face. Try to get her attention before you try and say a sentence- as a hard of hearing person, I’ve had so many people assume I’m listening to them when actually, their voice is just part of the background noise of the office as far as my ears are concerned.

      1. fposte*

        Light matters in this as well–try not to stand with your back to a window when you’re talking to her, for instance, so that your face isn’t in shade.

    4. OP #5*

      She doesn’t have any hearing. From what I was able to find out from the interpreter we got to do the interview she’s been deaf since birth. So repeating won’t help, but I’ll definitely file this away in case I’m dealing with someone with hearing loss down the line. Thank you!

      I have written instructions for everyone because I like people to have what they need, but I was told by the interpreter (maybe falsely? I have really no knowledge of this) that reading can be a roadblock to understanding for deaf people because small incidental words like “the” and “at” aren’t used in ASL. You only use the most important things so reading comes with a lot of clutter. Someone please correct me if this isn’t true. I certainly don’t want to insult her if reading is just fine.

      1. Dinosaur*

        For deaf people with no residual hearing whose first language is ASL, reading and writing in English can definitely be a challenge. It’s written in the person’s second language which they cannot access through hearing, which is certainly a challenge. However, there are tons of deaf from birth folks who are fully proficient in English and can use it as well as any hearing person. It’s really variable and you’ll have to spend some time with your new employee and figure out what is most effective. I second Alison’s suggestion to ask her what she prefers! Deaf folks have figured out tons of strategies for living and working in the hearing world, and she should have some ideas for what works for her. So definitely ask!

        I know that interpreters can be expensive and it wouldn’t make sense to hire one for a full work week (and honestly, probably aren’t needed for the majority of the time) but if you’re having a big meeting to talk about changes to the department or a performance evaluation, please try to hire an interpreter for those kinds of things. Deaf folks feel really left out having to try to piece together what is happening in those situations and it really is to everyone’s benefit that the deaf employee has full access to what’s going on. I know you didn’t ask about this, but it’s just a suggestion.

        (And it’s less that articles and prepositions are “clutter” or not important, it’s that ASL shows these categories of information visually/spatially rather than with specific lexical items (aka signs) that mean the same thing as in English. ASL users definitely have ways to communicate prepositional information, but it isn’t analogous to a spoken/written language system.)

        1. Dinosaur*

          I also forgot to add that the Deaf community is small and people talk, which is great! Your thoughtfulness and desire to accommodate this employee is fantastic, and to be honest is pretty rare. If this employee is connected with the local Deaf community, you might find yourself with a whole new talent pool to utilize next time you’re hiring. :)

        2. OP #5*

          Everything is useful since like Jon Snow, I know nothing. So thanks, Dinosaur! Anything helps.

        3. Thoughts*

          It’s important to note the point here that English is a second language. So just like anyone learning a second language, proficiency can really vary.

          1. else*

            Definitely true, but wait to see what she says when you ask about what she needs. Just as many or more likely more Deaf people who are in the workplace are completely fluent English users in writing as not.

      2. Not a Blossom*

        FYI, just because she doesn’t have any hearing doesn’t mean she doesn’t read lips; many deaf people do, even if it isn’t their preferred method of communication. You can ask her if she does or how she prefers to communicate.

        It’s true that ASL doesn’t use articles or some prepositions, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that reading standard text is difficult for her. Again, asking her is the best way to figure this out. Don’t ask if she has problems with standard (or worse, “normal”) text; just ask if there’s anything you can do to make the instructions clearer for her, which is really good practice with any new employee.

        I also wanted to add to those who think it’s great that you are putting so much thought and effort into this. :-)

        1. MechanicalPencil*

          I knew someone growing up who was deaf from birth and could read lips. You just had to get her attention first by putting a hand in front of her or kind of waving a bit so she could see motion. Definitely keep any meetings/lunches/gatherings small so the employee can keep up better. My cousin’s wife is HOH, and our very large family gets overwhelming for her, so she specifically chooses to sit at an out of the way table to talk with whomever, and I know she often reads lips to make sure she catches everything.

          I feel like sign language is more about communicating the main ideas without a lot of clutter instead of writing a ton of exposition words. Some of the important prepositions that show placement would get used, but of or things like that? Not so much.

          1. minuteye*

            As well as keeping meetings small, give some thought to sight-lines. Particularly if lip reading is being relied upon, it’s important that everyone can be seen. When everyone is hearing, it’s easy not to pay attention to who can see who in a room, but in visual communication it’s really important.

      3. Thlayli*

        Definitely ask her about how useful lip reading is for her. Most deaf people can read lips to some extent. I have a friend with 50% hearing loss who relies on lipreading as well as her partial hearing. when she visits we always sit in a well-lit room facing each other.

        If your new employee reads lips at all, lighting and chair position would be important. Set up her desk so people can’t approach her from behind and she can see someone coming to speak to her from peripheral vision, even when she’s working at her screen, and make sure the lighting is good so she can see clearly to read lips if that is part of how she communicates.

      4. Scrivener*

        BSL (British Sign Language) speaker rather than ASL so things might be different over the pond but the thing to understand about why signing and written English aren’t really equivalent is that they’re different languages. Parts of grammar like tenses, syntax, verb agreement and the vocabulary are quite different – for example, the English sentence ‘I made a cake’ would be translated as ‘Cake I made’.

        A lot of d/Deaf people will be able to read in English but it’s reading in a second language. You need to think about words in a different way than you do when you’re signing, and you need to move between one way of understanding to another. Some people are able to do that more fluently than others and would find written instructions very easy to follow, others might struggle to express themselves in written English but be excellent at communicating in sign language. It’s worth checking with your employee if your instructions are suitable, or if she would prefer they were rewritten in plain English, if she needs anything to be explained more clearly or if there is any specialised vocabulary she’d need a definition for. Similarly, different people will lip read more fluently than others – check with your employee but if she is lip reading a lot, repeating things may well be very useful to her.

        Other things to consider include where your employee will sit. Rooms with good lighting where other employees are not silhouetted against bright lights or windows are typically preferred – if people are directly in front of windows, it is harder to see the detail of their face. If people are likely to approach her from an angle she cannot easily see, agree a signal for letting her know that they are there – I sit near the door so I see everyone arrive in my shared office; another of my colleagues has her own office and she uses an alert system with a flashing light that lets her know when people arrive. For team meetings, horseshoe or semi-circle seating arrangements may be useful so your employee can see everyone who is talking. For larger meetings or e.g. attending a conference your employee is likely to need a seat near the front and slightly to one side of the speaker (she should know what works best). If someone sitting behind her asks a question in this meeting, repeat the question before beginning your answer so she knows what has been said.

        In groups, make sure only one person talks at once and encourage any employees who mumble to speak clearly. If it is a training session or presentation, providing notes or other visual information in advance will make it easier for your employee to follow along – and remember that your employee will not be able to look at your face, look at your PowerPoint or other training materials and take notes at the same time. You may need to build in more pauses so that she can keep up – think of it like taking a few extra breaths at the end of the sentence rather than saying individual words slowly. Your natural pace will normally work but if you are ever in doubt, check with your employee.

        During one-on-ones, it is usually easier to follow information if there is a clear structure to your discussion – writing down what will be talked about, sharing it with your employee in advance and sticking to that order during the meeting as much as possible may help your employee participate more. Using gesture and facial expression can also help d/Deaf people understand what you are saying – this doesn’t need to be anything artificial or cheesy like miming a cheer to say ‘well done!’ but a clear smile and other natural gestures can go a long way. Make sure she can see your face, especially your mouth – don’t put your hand in front of your mouth while talking, don’t talk while bringing your mug of coffee up to your mouth, don’t talk with your back to her etc. Try not to nod or move around too much.

        As always, the best advice is to talk with your employee about what she needs to do the job to the best of her ability. You’re on the same team, you both want her to succeed and having an open dialogue about how you can make that happen will be useful for both of you.

        1. OP #5*

          That’s really interesting to hear that ASL/BSL are really considered different languages even though finger spelling is using English spelling. That’s helpful to think about written English terms of a second language.

            1. OP #5*

              Oh, I meant from spoken English. But yeah, I’ve picked that ASL and BSL are not interchangeable. Makes sense though since British and American English aren’t always in agreement.

              1. Sebastian*

                Another thing to be aware of is emergency warnings – it sounds like your employee is towards the severe/profound end of hearing loss, so things like fire alarms need to be re-considered. You can get alarm systems designed for d/Deaf people that involve flashing lights and so on.

                Another thing is, it’s totally ok to tap someone on the shoulder or arm to get their attention – as long as you don’t tap too hard! As a hearing person myself (and british!) it seems very pushy, but since my son is deaf I’m learning that it really is a good way to get a deaf person’s attention.

          1. Scrivener*

            Yes, they are completely different languages – ASL was originally based on French sign language and it shares a lot more signs with FSL than it does BSL. It’s more accurate to think of ASL and BSL as individual languages that developed in completely different communities than as a way of ‘speaking English with your hands’. They both use English spelling (although in the UK, we’d sign COLOUR and ALUMINIUM rather than COLOR and ALUMINUM) but we don’t have the same signs for individual letters – the biggest difference is that Americans only use one hand but in BSL, we have a two-handed alphabet. (I mean, if you really want to blow your mind we can get into regional variations or idiosyncratic signs but this isn’t really relevant to your question!)

            We might fingerspell to express a word that doesn’t have a sign equivalent, to add emphasis or to give a definition of a sign, but a lot of actual sign language doesn’t involve stringing letters of the alphabet together. It’s usually done by concept – e.g. ‘jump’ isn’t signed ‘J-U-M-P’ but by standing two fingers up like a little person and making them leap forward. Fingerspelling can be useful! But it can also be tiring to follow along if every conversation you have during an eight hour shift is the equivalent of ‘aitch eye oh pee eff eye vee ee aitch oh double-ewe ay arr ee why oh ewe’ when you are used to dealing in whole words, you know? As a manager, I think the best thing you can do is be conscious of the fact that understanding other people in your team and making herself understood might take a lot more effort on her part than it does your other employees so she may well need a little more time to process information or to avoid scheduling interaction-heavy meetings in a row with no breaks in between.

      5. Meg Murry*

        Even if her reading is just fine, the “a picture is worth 1000 words” cliche is totally true when it comes to documentation (for all employees, not just this one). A screenshot with the appropriate button to click on circled in red is a lot more helpful to a lot of people than just a paragraph of text. Short bullet points are better than full sentences. Flow charts and/or lane diagrams are also more useful for processes than expository text.

      6. JLE*

        I’m the mom of a deaf daughter who communicates solely with ASL. A few things, and I apologize if I’m repeating other commenters. Allison’s advice is spot-on–ask her what she needs. She’s been living as a deaf person in the hearing world all her life, so she probably has many strategies for communication. Please don’t assume she reads lips. Lip reading is a skill that must be acquired, not an inherent ability, and even the most proficient lip readers can miss significant pieces of the conversation. Ask her about her English proficiency. ASL is its own language with its own grammar, but that doesn’t mean that she can’t read it (even if she uses ASL grammar when writing). Anytime you can include visuals (pictures, videos, hands-on demonstrations) with written instructions, do it. Many cities have an organization that provides services to the deaf and hard of hearing. If your city has one, I imagine they would be happy to consult with you about possible accommodations and to do some training with other employees on Deaf culture (they might even be able to offer ASL lessons at your workplace). My daughter is incredibly social and works hard to communicate with others, regardless of whether or not they share her language–hopefully your other employees will be open to such attempts if your deaf employee makes them. On a completely personal note, as a mom who loves her daughter more than life and knows how much she’s capable of if given opportunities, thank you for giving someone else’s deaf daughter an opportunity.

    5. Raine*

      If you can provide access copies of any meetings (like sharing the slideshow with everyone or having a sheet with the presenter’s speech outlined) would be very helpful for people who are HOH, Deaf, or with low vision, plus it’s generally a good practice in having an accessible workplace. Also, if you truly can’t invest in an interpreter, consider providing a tablet with speech to text or captioning software that will type out what is being said in real time. It’s not a perfect solution because most software can’t distinguish between speakers, but it can be helpful.

      As an HOH person, I would also suggest just asking the prospective employee what would work best for them.

      1. Chinook*

        I think you also need to review all your emergency procedures to ensure that there are visual cues available. Ex. Are the fire alarms audio only or are there flashing lights? If messages are sent via intercom, can they also be sent via text to computers or phones? What happens at the gathering point to ensure she knows what happens next? There may be be tweaks that need to be made.

        1. MsSolo*

          Fire alarms leapt out at me immediately – OP5 will want to go over all their emergency procedures to make sure there’s non-audio cues, especially in any parts of the building where the employee might be alone (e.g. flashing lights in the toilets) and to make sure anyone who’s responsible for sweeping the building knows that opening a door and yelling isn’t sufficient.

  4. LouiseM*

    OP #1, could it be that your coworker is also threatening your boss? That would explain why your boss is so reluctant to intervene.
    The fact that your coworker habitually breaks figurines on your desk makes me wonder if there could be some element of ritual or witchcraft here. At ToxicOldJob I had a coworker who, after learning that I had a passing interest in witchcraft, began giving me some clearly threatening “gifts” that terrified me (we are in a very competitive niche field and it seemed likely he was trying to scare me out of it, or worse). One thing that helped me was documenting every incident carefully in my journal and then also telling everyone at work about them. For example, “Did you see this nice sprig of wormwood Fergus left on my desk?” every time he did it. It helped spread the word about what was happening so he could not gaslight me. Actually, I ended up leaving for unrelated reasons.

    1. Alison Read*

      This reminds me of a classical AAM quote: Black Magic can be an occupational hazard!

      1. Temperance*

        Wasn’t there a letter about an employee who called herself a witch and said she was cursing her coworkers?

    2. Minerva McGonagall*

      Speaking of, anyone else hear about the study on reducing stress through voodoo dolls of your boss?I heard it on a podcast, but here’s a quote from a related article I’ll link to in a reply:

      “As ScienceAlert reports, a new study published in The Leadership Quarterly found that when employees feel mistreated in the workplace, stabbing pins into a voodoo doll of their boss can be an effective way of managing the situation (and certainly a much better solution than stewing in anger). The study, led by psychologist Dr. Lindie Hanyu Liang, an assistant professor at the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada, found that engaging in “symbolic retaliation” against one’s boss after perceived mistreatment eased participants’ bitterness.”

      1. EmilyT*

        Sounds interesting but I hope people don’t really do this, karma from black magic is particularly bad!

        1. Penny Lane*

          Except it really doesn’t matter, because if I go home and stick pins into a doll that I’ve made up to look like my coworker, it’s certainly weird behavior, but it’s not actually going to *make* something bad happen to my coworker. If this was *really* effective, we could have gotten rid of Hitler / Osama bin Laden / pick your favorite bad guy by sticking pins in voodoo dolls.

          1. Wicked Odd*

            It’s accurate to say that many people’s mainstream OR magic-based traditions forbid and/or strongly discourage stabbing voodoo dolls of your oppressive boss. It’s totally fine to include your own religious beliefs in deciding what actions are ethical for you. (But if I need to make a effigy of my boss to help me feel in control of my life, other magic practitioners should think carefully on the rule of three before condemning me for it, no?)

            1. Jadelyn*

              The rule of three is a specifically Wiccan thing. There are many, many non-Wiccan and/or secular witches who do not believe in the rule of three, and whose traditions/practices would have no issue with them taking magical action against their boss.

        2. Aleta*

          Even if you’re a magic practitioner, you still need to actually subscribe to the concepts of black magic or karma as used here. They’re hardly universal within the very diverse number of magic traditions in the world.

        3. Jadelyn*

          That’s a matter of belief – first that you believe that sticking pins in the doll is actually doing anything metaphysically-speaking, and second that there’s such a thing as “black magic” that inherently results in “bad karma” from doing it. And even people who believe the first, may or may not also believe the second.

      2. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

        I know that an Infosec conference makes a ballistic gel torso so attendants can punch it every year.

    3. fposte*

      I don’t think she habitually breaks figurines at her desk–I think that was just one example of the things she does.

  5. Emmie*

    4: I wonder how she listed you as a reference to the recruiters. Did she list you as a personal / work reference, or use your name as a referral? Some people use them interchangeably, and one has more weight than the other. I recommend raising this to the recruiter so they know your doubts about her experience. Hearing that she used your name without consent or contact should be a concern to them – even more so for a reference.

    1. OP 4*

      I posted an update on the first thread. Turns out it was a referral, not a reference. I’m holding off on going to HR because this was not nearly as big a deal as I thought it was because my husband used the terms interchangeably. Thanks!

  6. LouiseM*

    #3, I’ve seen this happen too. The best way to deal with it, in my experience, is to correct people only when there is risk of a genuine misunderstanding (ie, someone thinks the coworker is qualified to do something they can’t actually do). Otherwise, I think it’s fine to just mentally roll your eyes and move on. I think it’s unfortunately common for people to overstate their own importance to the workplace–like when you hear someone say “well, I basically do X higher up’s job” or “Teapots Inc. would fall apart without me.” When someone thinks like this it can be hard to change their mind.

    1. Sam.*

      I agree, to a certain extent, but I also think there’s a difference between exaggerating what you do and lying about your title. If this coworker thinks she’s more important that she is…well, that’s pretty subjective and there’s probably not much you can do to change her perspective. But a title/role is more clear-cut, so I think it’s easier to push back on that.

      1. Lance*

        Not to mention, it could ultimately be beneficial for Sansa, who’s just going to back herself into a corner someday if she keeps inflating her title especially.

      2. Runner*

        I think though there is also the chance that the coworker knows what her job title is. I just want to put it out there just in case. If it seems odd that someone would twice publicly provide an incorrect title and stick to it, imagine how it looks if OP is wrong and keeps insisting that another coworker has a job title that she doesn’t.

        1. OP#3*

          I’ve thought about this a lot! But I’ve heard Sansa introduce herself as a research fellow many times in a work context, both before and after these two incidents, as well as allow her boss to introduce her as a research fellow. And it’s in her email signature.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            I recently changed positions/titles, but have continued to use my old signature and title with existing clients while I finish up projects for them, and I use my new signature/title when I am doing things for my new position. It may not apply to your coworker, but she could be straddling two roles and shifts the title depending on context.

    2. Petunia Pig*

      I think #3 needs to chill and stop getting worked up over how someone else chooses to introduce herself. How is this her business? I also find her reaction to the title-inflating student interns (“ooh, I didn’t know you had gotten your PhD”) incredibly obnoxious–how is trying to humiliate someone in front of others a good thing? I can imagine she’s not too popular among this group! These exaggerators will eventually be found out, and they’re only hurting themselves in the long run.

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        If it’s causing confusion or other troubles, I could see it being worthwhile to correct someone. Maybe not how she is, but I could see it.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        The lying seems to hit a nerve with OP where others might shrug it off.

        Still, it’s not like OP is explaining the correct table into a vacuum, in which case I’d suggest she not worry about it. In This Day And Age, there’s something to be said for pushing back with a reality fact when someone is trying to lay down random things they just made up as being more valid than reality.

        1. Runner*

          I think it’s a very strange hill to die on, and could too easily backfire given there’s too much room for the OP to be mistaken and to have publicly been corrected on this twice now.

          1. MakesThings*

            I’m pretty sure she publically corrected another person twice, not been corrected herself twice.

            And FWIW, pretending not to hear when other people wildly misrepresent themselves is not at all a “strange hill to die on”, honesty is kind of a very basic thing.

          2. Oxford Coma*

            Lying about one’s credentials, particularly in an academic environment that highly values scholarly integrity, actually seems a very mundane hill to die on.

        2. DoctorCactus*

          Given that she mentioned they hold the same title, I can understand her feeling (rightly or wrongly) personally belittled by being falsely outranked by this peer in a social situation.

          Academics is bonkers, and I’m willing to wager a bet that this runs deeper and the “lecturer” has other annoying but somehow totally acceptable traits like slacking off, weaseling authorship on papers, exaggerating data presentations… OP, am I getting warmer?

          1. finderskeepers*

            OP isn’t in the military. Being “falsely outranked by this peer in a social situation” only hurts one ego if said ego is easily bruised

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              People have given several examples where this is not true. If professional contacts go to OP’s boasting colleague, on the assumption that she has authority and OP does not, OP is harmed by it. This isn’t “social” in the sense of people whose professional lives never touch. (And even there, the people in your social life who know that you are lying about something–whether that’s being a notary public or where you really were Tuesday when you said you were working late–don’t have to go along with the lie you float, like everyone else’s role is limited to supporting cast member.)

            2. nonymous*

              I get where you’re coming from re: the ego comments. However, in my grad school “lecturer” means someone who’s primary role is actively teaching undergrads, while a “research fellow” is someone who’s primary focus is research activities and they may only teach occasionally if at all. In addition, “social situations” for academics can be incredibly insular. Depending on the institution it’s very common that people don’t socialize outside of academia & family, so all socialization is networking.

              Depending on what networking opportunities the audience represents, there can be a very real benefit at OP’s detriment from the coworker’s inflating. Even if the audience is not directly hiring, they may pass along job opportunities or act as informal references.

          2. OP#3*

            Yeah, “Sansa” and I have a history — which I should probably deal with directly rather than, you know, emailing advice columnists — but I really do encounter title/qualification inflation on a semi-regular basis. Sometimes it’s relatively harmless (PhD students not realising that “Tyrion Lannister, PhD” means that Tyrion *has* a PhD rather than *is working towards* a PhD), sometimes it’s less so (“it says here that you have a Master’s degree in X?” “well, as an undergrad, I did a module in X” “…that’s not the same thing”).

            Part of the problem is the conversation that followed after Sansa “corrected” me.
            Sansa: “…I’m a lecturer.”
            Me: “Oh, sorry, I thought you were a research fellow.”
            S: “No, I’m not, because I supervise PhD students.”
            Me: “Many research fellows supervise PhD students? For example, I do.”
            S: “Not like I do.”
            Me: “Okay…”
            S: “And I write grants, whereas you don’t.”
            Me: “I write grants.”
            S: “Not real ones.”
            Me: “Sansa, we apply for exactly the same funding schemes.”

            But mostly the problem is that this is really, really weird, and I can’t explain what’s going on. Lectureships hiring is An Event (advertised internationally, the entire department attends the job talks, the entire *field* gossips about who’s been short-listed, even an internal promotion would merit a fancy official announcement and a party), so I really would know if she had been promoted in the time that I’ve been here. Plus, she could just say that, rather than telling me that I don’t do my job as well as she does?

            And, no, this isn’t a hill I’ll die on. Given that Sansa and I work closely together, though, in the same highly competitive field, it’s slightly annoying if opportunities are going to be given to her rather than to me because they think she outranks me (or even that she’s my boss!)? But mostly, whatever!

            1. Dr. Speakeasy*

              The title scheme here sounds British/European… Any chance Sansa is from the states? Because you could use lecturer here for anyone who had a role teaching/supervising students and I don’t think many people would bat an eye. (In fact, fellow sounds like the more prestigious role). So there *might* be a possibility she’s just applying that framework when she’d never dream of calling herself an Assistant Professor without the official hire. (I’m probably being overly generous here).

            2. Michaela Westen*

              The way you describe it here makes it sound like Sansa is building herself up by pretending or convincing herself she’s superior to you. I wouldn’t take this too lightly because depending on how far she’s willing to take it, it could cause problems.
              Is it appropriate to let your boss know she does this? If it becomes common or seems to escalate, I would definitely let management know.

      3. LKW*

        But it’s important if it sets up a situation where people are not dealing with the correct person, under a false assumption that things need to go through Sansa.

        1. The Supreme Troll*

          Yes, definitely true! And, personally, I don’t think OP#3 is being selfish or petty in giving these hints to Sansa (and I think in one of the most gentlest ways that still appears not be understood or accepted). OP#3 rightfully doesn’t want to appear as if she is the less effective, less competent, or less important member of the team in front of influential industry folks. I don’t blame her for that.

      4. The Supreme Troll*

        But I think OP#3 does have some standing here to say something; continued title inflation by Sansa (in the presence of industry or networking colleagues) could, over time, start to diminish the OP’s effectiveness in the eyes of those colleagues. Especially if Sansa does that “followed by a long explanation of how what she does is more prestigious than what I do”. Given what I think is probably one of the most gentlest ways that the OP wants to handle this, I don’t think what she is doing is “incredibly obnoxious” in the least.

      5. NaoNao*

        You know, I politely disagree that it only hurts “them” (the exaggerators). From what I’ve read here, it seems to me that many people sort of…promote themselves up the ladder with a combination of made up accomplishments, fake titles, phony references, and stealing credit.
        Many people have written in saying they missed out on credit, promotions, jobs, etc because someone with an ability to toot their own horn and write their own story conned their way into the position or project they rightly should have had!

      6. LouiseM*

        Totally with you, Petunia Pig. I agree this habit is annoying but I think it would reflect more poorly on the OP if she used one of the disingenuous and frankly kind of mean scripts suggested here.

        1. Kate 2*

          But as OP posted above, and as others have said, Sansa making a fake title for herself puts her up for more promotions and opportunities than OP has. And we have seen, from LWs and commenters, that this actually works! OP will actively be losing out if she stops correcting Sansa.

          And since when is it mean to tell the truth?? To not let someone lie in front of you?? The scripts question and correct Sansa in a perfectly polite, reasonable way.

      7. Luna*

        I agree, it seems unnecessary to be policing people so closely. Especially when it is just being said in conversation, it doesn’t mean they are putting a wrong title on their resumes. I used to sometimes use a slightly different title in conversation because it was just easier for people to understand (I had a strange title for my position, due to HR technicalities) and I didn’t feel like always answering their questions of “oh what does that mean?” every time they asked me what I did.

        1. Kate 2*

          But how many people are seeing your resume? If you go around telling everyone in your industry that you are a Grade A Monkey Groomer, and no one corrects you, why wouldn’t they believe it? And how do we know Sansa isn’t ALSO lying on her resume? She certainly is comfortable lying to people’s faces.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      I’m going to take the OP at her word that she 100% knows the coworker’s title, but more generally, my experience has been that you wouldn’t always know the coworkers’ titles. My company has a limited number of official HR job classifications, and then we have our functional titles. I am a Design Engineering Manager officially, but recently moved from Project Manager to Regional Manager functionally. No one would know that if they snooped around the personnel management system or internal profiles, and our org chart updates lag behind.

      I think we have all had that coworker who inflates their title or duties, but I would probably take the approach to just roll my eyes to myself rather than correct them or question them in front of someone. You never know what the ladder-climbing coworker has talked management into behind the scenes.

    4. finderskeepers*

      I just wanna see a tenured prof rip into a VAP or RAP for calling themselves a prof. that is all

  7. Athena*

    For OP #5 – I’m deaf and use a mixture of ASL and English at work. Alison’s right in that the best thing to do is just ask! She’ll know best what will work for her, and I have no doubt she’s already thought a lot about how to handle communication at work. One suggestion I might have is to make sure you chat with her like you would other colleagues – things like “how was your weekend?” or “did you see that movie that came out?”. That’s actually one of the hardest things for deaf employees – it so often feels like we’re out of the social loop in workplaces! I appreciate my colleagues who take the time to keep me in the know and ask about my day. It makes it much less lonely.

    1. Mad Baggins*

      I have a hard of hearing coworker and I worry that he is socially isolated. For work-related things, we mostly write things out and he can speak and understand to a certain extent (not sure how much). But people often avoid talking to him at work parties because it’s difficult and I feel for him. I will take inspiration from you and try harder to make small talk with him!

    2. OP #5*

      Yes, I’m worried about this! I can learn ASL (as best I can) for her but I can’t really force my other employees to do it. I can encourage it and will, but beyond that it might just be me that she talks to.

      1. Job Searching in Jacksonville*

        OP, if your office uses some kind of chat feature like Skype, Lync, etc… Don’t be afraid to use that for casual chat! Definitely ask your new employee how she wants to communicate, but this might be a clearer way to have casual conversations, at least while you are learning the basics.

        1. KitKat*

          I was thinking this as well! My old job used Google as a platform and even though we were all hearing and sitting right next to each other, 70% of our conversation was over gchat :)

        2. OP #5*

          I’m afraid not, since we work with secure information. We have production computers that are linked to a closed server and literally the only loaded on them is the program they need to key the information. There are terminals available to check emails but that wouldn’t allow for ongoing conversation.

          1. Chinook*

            You might be able to make a request for one to be loaded on it based on it being am ADA accommodation. If the system is closed, it shouldn’t be a security threat.

        3. Kitty*

          IM chat is a great idea! I’m not hard of hearing but I find Skype chat useful at work for occasional chat with teammates, because we’re in an open plan office and our work requires concentration so I don’t want to disturb others too much with non-work talk. :-)

      2. Squeeble*

        I wonder if your job would be willing to pay for you to take some basic ASL classes? Not sure if it would even interest you, but a lot of places might be willing to consider it a business expense.

        1. OP #5*

          I would love actual classes since I think it’s better to meet someone on their terms when you’re building a relationship. But ASL classes are also not in the budget. :(

      3. AK*

        You’re definitely right that you can’t force anyone, but if you have some time to find helpful resources before this employee starts, it might help your team if you send those directly rather than just say “hey what if we all go learn ASL?” There are LOTS of lessons on YouTube for everything from simple signs to basic conversation, so it might help to say “here, the first 30 seconds of this video (linked to my name) will teach you how to say “nice to meet you” on employee’s first day.” Or, you could find a video not made for children, I just prefer them because people move slower and more clearly that way :)

        1. Anne of Green Gables*

          Is there any chance that your local public library subscribes to Mango? It’s an online language learning program, and they do have ASL. If your library has it, anyone with a library card would have access to the online lessons for free. People could do 5 minutes a day, you could get together and do a lesson as a group, there could be ways you can encourage it without requiring it. I believe Mango also has an app for phones; I’ve only used it on a desktop.

          And on the really slim chance that you are in North Carolina, I can tell you that all public libraries in the state of NC have Mango, at least for the next 3 years.

          1. Peep*

            Seconding Mango!!! I use it on my phone, and I access it through my library (the LA county library system subscribes, at least). I’m excited to learn it has ASL — I’ve used it for German, and they have less common languages too like classical Latin, Hawaiian, etc. It can be super expensive if you paid for it, so it’s an amazing resource.

        2. BookCocoon*

          Lifeprint is a free online resource with videos and gifs of signs. They have a set of lessons that start with the words you’ll likely need most frequently when conversing with Deaf folks and work through different topics. There’s also a Lifeprint Facebook group for chatting with others who are learning sign, both hearing and d/Deaf, which is a good place to ask “dumb” questions about Deaf culture and the needs of d/Deaf and HOH individuals.

          1. JLE*

            YES! I second the Lifeprint/ASL University suggestion. The lessons are great and include units on Deaf culture. It also has a good video dictionary that could be helpful for everyone.

      4. Meg Murry*

        Could you ask if anyone is interested in serving as a peer-level mentor for her, and if so would they like to take some ASL training? At previous jobs I’ve had, assigning a peer mentor gave the new person another go-to person for when the boss was busy or to ask more general questions that you wouldn’t necessarily want to ask your boss – it’s another best practice that may be especially helpful for this employee but would actually be beneficial to all new hires.

        1. OP #5*

          I can’t offer to pay for classes for them but it might be worth asking if someone would volunteer to be her alternate. I’m happy to talk to her in whatever form, but like you mention I worry that she won’t feel good about her person being the boss. There might be too much room to invite talk about favoritism.

    3. Kitty*

      Not work related, but in my sports club we had a new player who was deaf, and I tried to learn some new sign words so I could chat with her a bit each training session, even if it was just “Ugh, this drill is hard!” or “did you understand the coach’s explanation?”. I’ve since moved to a different club, but I hope she’s kicking ass at the old club. :-)

  8. Intel Analyst Shell*

    OP #5 – My husband has severe hearing loss (wears hearing aids and all) and the one thing I remember having to watch myself on when we first started dating was where I was looking when I spoke. Between his hearing aids and his lip reading abilities he gets by just fine, but if I was looking down, had my back to him, etc. he couldn’t see my lips to read.

    1. Athena*

      That’s a great point. Looking at your employee when you speak will be helpful for her, as will keeping your face clear of any obstacles (like covering your mouth with your hand or standing with your face in shadow). One caution I would have is that there are several hard of hearing or deaf people who struggle to lip read, so I would be careful about relying on it too much for communication, unless your employee specifically says that’s her preferred method.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        My local supermarket had a deaf employee working on the checkout. She had a special sign on her till asking people to look at her when talking to her.

      2. Gen*

        Also don’t overenunciate/exaggerate your mouth movements when you speak to them. Some people think this makes lipreadung easier but it rarely does, and if you don’t do it all the time- in meetings or group conversations etc- then it’ll get confusing

    2. OP #5*

      It might just have been because we contracted an interpreter for her interview and she was going to the person that she best understood, but she didn’t seem to want to read lips or maybe couldn’t. But I’ll ask her.

      1. Gaia*

        Reading lips can be mentally very exhausting and so even if she can, if she has another option she may prefer that. Think of it like trying to read the lips of someone speaking your second language. Sure, maybe you can do it, but you’re going to have to focus a lot harder.

        1. BookCocoon*

          I once went to a French conversation group that was in a noisy restaurant, so I was trying to pick out what people were saying in my second language through mostly reading lips, which was near impossible. I got done and went, “This is why my Deaf friend hates reading lips!”

      2. Thany*

        Reading lips is like any skill. It can be learned and practiced, but it takes a very long time to be proficient. And like any skill, there are some people who naturally have an inclination for it. Lip reading is very challenging as only 30% of speech are visible on the lips, so I wouldn’t rely on it to heavily unless the deaf person says otherwise. Also, since it doesn’t seem to have been mentioned, facial hair can make it difficult to read lips as well.

        A great example of a mistake that happened from lipreading: A group of my coworkers and I (a mix of deaf, HOH, and hearing) went out to the bar. As the lone hearing person, I respect my coworkers to decide for themselves how they want to order without interpreting for them unless they ask me to. One of my coworkers ordered from the bar using lipreading (which he was very skilled at doing) . He bought us a round of shots, and then bought us a second round when I was with him. It turned out he thought the bartender was saying “Fifteen” when they actually said “Fifty”. Mouth that to a mirror and you’ll see how easy it is to make the mistake! His bar tab was definitely not what he was expecting.

    1. LS*

      This works really well in some industries – I have a deaf coworker but because most communication is via Slack, it’s not a big deal. There’s a lot of working from home or other locations anyway. Of course that’s not going to work everywhere, but it can be great!

    2. Christy*

      Yes! With my Deaf coworker, we tend to type on Skype to each other rather than picking up a phone (because that means he needs to call an interpreter).

      Also remember that if you are on a conference call, have everyone say their name as they speak, like “This is Christy, I think we should do X…” because their interpreter is not going to recognize voices. Do not address the interpreter, address your employee.

      It would be smart of you to look up Deaf culture and see if your new employee identifies as culturally Deaf or not. My coworker does. He also doesn’t read lips or speak—he communicates exclusively through ASL (and written English).

      Don’t sneak up on your Deaf employee! When I need my coworker’s in-person attention, I wave my hand (if I’m in his line of vision) or I knock on his desk.

        1. Meg Murry*

          Also, if the conference calls are business critical, assigning someone (on a rotating basis if possible) to take minutes and then send the minutes after the call is helpful for all involved. Honestly, this is a best practice for everyone, but with a deaf employee it will be especially helpful.

      1. Gaia*

        That is a very valid point about identifying as Deaf or deaf. There is a strong identity within the Deaf community and not all people who are deaf identify as Deaf.

  9. Loose Seal*

    #2 — This is a bit tangential to what you asked but try to stop letting your age get in the way of your interactions with fellow employees. I know that’s easier said than done, much like it’s sometimes hard for young people to call older co-workers by their first names. But you really need to start seeing yourself as an equally valuable employee (and in this case, more valuable, since you are the expert on this particular part of your job). It doesn’t do Mary a bit of good to have you be tentative when correcting her because you feel that she deserves respect merely because she’s been alive longer than you.

    Over the course of your career, you’ll work with people who are in their early twenties up to retirement age so it will help you to stop cataloging co-workers into age brackets. Every so often, you will find an older employee who will try to put you down because you’re the “young’un“ but hopefully, most co-workers will accept you as a peer regardless of the difference in your age and you should treat them as a peer as well.

    I do not mean to suggest that you are ageist in any way. I think what you’ve mentioned here is something a lot of young people feel when they enter the workforce (I know I did) and it’s something to think about here. Are you truly giving Mary the correction she needs — if that’s what you’re assigned to do — or are you being so tentative about it that she cannot be expected to know that you really do mean for your corrections to be corrected, rather than just be suggestions?

    1. BRR*

      This is very well put. Even though LW you’re younger, you’re the subject matter expert on this in your office and you also need her to do her job because it’s affecting you.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yep. One of my skating coaches had trouble telling me what to do because I’m older than her. I told her “I’m paying you to do that!” There was no other way for me to learn it!

  10. KR*

    Hi OP5 – do you have an intercompany IM software? There may be one that comes with your email software. It might help her to be able to IM coworkers for quick questions and casual conversations. Disclaimer – I am not deaf.

    Also, my sister took an ASL class and I’ve heard that you’re not supposed to tap deaf people on the shoulder or anything to get their attention, but wave your hand in their peripheral vision or in front of them when you want to talk to them. Make sure you’re facing them so they can read your lips. But she will know best!

    1. Asperger Hare*

      Otoh, my British Sign Language teacher told me to tap him on the shoulder to get his attention, and that this was a common way of getting attention in the Deaf community. (Not trying to be unhelpful; just providing other data points in case that advice isn’t universal.)

    2. Marlene*

      Hard of hearing person here who grew up with deaf people!

      It’s fine to tap someone on the shoulder.

    3. Daria Grace*

      I have a coworker with hearing difficulties and we’ve fallen into the habit of waiving an access card when we need something relating to transaction authorisations from her and waiving a hand for everything else

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      If OP5’s work requires that coworkers go to each others’ offices a lot, I’d recommend configuring the new employee’s office so that she faces the door, so people don’t have to come up behind her if they need to talk to her, and she doesn’t have to do a 180 from her work every time she needs to talk to someone who comes into her office.

      1. DaisyGrrl*

        I know of someone at my organization who had a pressure mat at the entrance to their cubicle that was linked to a small light in their line of sight. The placement of the light was discreet, and replaced the need for a sign (the office had many people coming through).

        1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

          I once worked in an office where I was the only hearing person. Because of space issues, all the cubes were configured so people’s backs were to the hall and there was no room for pressure mats.
          We used mirrors, placed on the desk where they’d reflect the cube entrance and also register in the peripheral vision of the employee. You just waved at the mirror when you came to talk to someone. It was a cheap, low-tech, effective solution.

        2. Watamote*

          This is really neat. I’m hard of hearing and something like this would be beyond useful to me – thanks so much for sharing!

      2. smoke tree*

        I’ll bet the new employee has her own preferences for how people get her attention, so as with everything else, it’s probably best to ask her what she’d like people to do. Even if someone doesn’t mind being tapped on the shoulder normally, while at work it could get distracting if she’s trying to concentrate.

    5. LBK*

      Interesting – I took an ASL class in college taught by a deaf woman and she did tell us tapping someone is an acceptable way to get their attention.

  11. Marlene*

    Definitely ask your employee what she prefers and needs!

    It’s great that you got your employee a video phone. Did you know that you can call your state’s free deaf interpreting line? You talk to the interpreter and they sign to the employee.

    Include the person as much as possible. Watch out for bullying among your staff – you’d be shocked by how often that occurs to deaf and hard of hearing people.

    1. BeenThere*

      Yep bullying is a big issue! People can be really cruel to deaf folks.

      I’ve been subjected to the I’m going to move my lips and not actually speak when you told me the reason you leaving one headphone out so I can shout across to talk to you in a noisy room won’t work….

      …I have single sided deafness and no hearing aides so people only know if I tell them, generally they are shocked…

      fortunately everyone else in the room jaws dropped in disbelief that anyone would do something so grossly inappropriate. Also fortunate that after seeing that they decided the offender wasn’t leadership material.

      1. OP #5*

        That really sucks. I’m sorry that you dealt with that but also glad that they didn’t end up having that person supervise you.

  12. BRR*

    #1 This is definitely something you can keep making noise about to your manager and HR. As Alison said, make sure you’re very clear on what’s been going on and specifically ask what’s going to be done about this. Also don’t make excuses for your manager. They still need to do their job.

    I’m concerned though that they’ve been so inactive and you might just need to look for a new job. This sounds incredibly stressful and I’m sorry you’re going through this.

    1. Cat owner*

      I find their inactivity concerning too – I mean there is co workers not getting along and then there is SOMEONE PUTTING PINS IN YOUR CHAIR.

      I’m sorry also, OP- this sounds incredibly stressful.

      1. Irene Adler*

        Surely the threatening behavior will escalate. I would not want to be around to find out how.
        Might remove all unnecessary items from the desk- just so there’s less “ammo” for this person to use.

        1. OP*

          Thanks Irene. Yes, I have removed almost everything possible and have left only necessary items at my desk. I also lock up all of my things whenever I am away from my desk (e.g. going to the printer, bathroom, cafe, etc.)

      2. OP*

        Thank you BRR & Cat Owner, your kind words are much appreciated. Yes I am very stressed now all the time at work. Its a shame because I used to truly love working here, but it might very well be the time to change companies…

    2. One of the Sarahs*

      Yeah, I can’t imagine the stress this must cause just coming into work – I hope you’re ok, OP. Is there any kind of EAP you can talk to, to help manage any anxiety?

      1. OP*

        Hey Sarah, I am very stressed about it (Im a little ashamed to admit I shed a few tears over all of this….apparently I’m wimpier than I thought ;)). I will be looking into the EAP if we have one, great idea – thank you!

        1. fposte*

          Dude, I have a pretty thick skin, but a hate campaign complete with intimations about pets and sharp objects in my chair? I would find that corrosive. I think you’re doing an amazing job in keeping it together and keeping the issue where it should be with HR.

          1. else*

            +1! Yes, OP. Your colleague is a terrible, irrational person and is behaving badly to you you in ways that are well outside of normal and that you do NOT deserve. Kudos to you for seeking ways to keep yourself safe and handle this after your boss failed you!

    3. AMT*

      Yep, I can’t imagine that this manager is capable of going from “I guess I’ll sit back and wait and see where this pins-in-chair thing is going” to “I’m going to actively manage from now on!” Even if this coworker quits or gets fired, the LW is still not going to have a competent manager. It’s tough to develop your career at a place this dysfunctional.

      1. OP*

        That’s what I am beginning to think, AMT. Part of me wants to transfer to another department within my division, and another piece of me says – this entire place is poisoned with a lack of actively solving problems, so maybe I am not meant to stay here. It doesnt feel like I can develop my career in a place so hellbent on inactivity…Thank you!

        1. Observer*

          At the very least you need to transfer out of your manager’s division. But, yes, I think moving companies may be your best bet.

        2. No Mas Pantalones*

          I’m gobsmacked that you’re in Compliance and nothing is being done about this. If this came through our hotline, or if someone went to the CCO (my boss) about it, there would have been action pretty much immediately. Perhaps not after the figuring breaking, but the tacks? Yeah, that’s not gonna fly. I really hope you get a good resolution OP.

          1. OP*

            Nos Mas Pantolones Oh! another compliance employee – nice to *meet* you! I know, it is ridiculous. Our CCO is the VP of the department and he has been very serious about this. I am getting the details slowly that HR is probably going to record this but essentially throw it out and not pursue it – but they do have a meeting with the VP’s today…so hopefully something changes after that. Thank you!

  13. Hmmmm*

    I have a deaf coworker. she is a good lip reader and most of us know a few basic signs related to work and basic politeness. We also have an interpreter come in once a month for our big staff meeting and she always has a one on one with her manager on that day as well. The interpreter has also been present at during major training sessions and other important events. You don’t need one full time but it does seem to help to have someone come in from time to time.

    It might also be worthwhile to see if your employer would pay for basic ASL lessons for you and some of the staff. Now that I know some, it’s terribly useful!

    1. Grits McGee*

      Yeah, our org also makes sure to have at least one ASL interpreter at large meetings, and an interpreter at small team meetings where a hearing impaired employee will be present. We have a contract with an agency to provide interpretation services, which seems to work well. The only issue that trips people up sometimes is scheduling meetings far enough in advance (usually a week) to make sure that we can arrange for an interpreter to be there.

  14. Apari*

    I am not Deaf or hard of hearing, but I have done some limited work supporting employees who are. One thing that they said that stuck with me is that for some Deaf people, if they first learnt sign language and then learnt English, they are actually speaking English as a second language. So like for other second language speakers, it can be helpful to use plain English and not jargon, and try to write clearly and directly so they don’t have to read long paragraphs of text to get to the point. But as everyone else has said, your employee will know better what works for her!

    1. Christy*

      Yes! And ASL grammar is very different from English grammar, so if you ever get grammatical weirdness in written English, that might be why.

  15. G*

    LW5 I concur with Alison’s advice of asking the applicant themselves. Individuals do vary in regards to what accommodations they require so the best person to tell you is usually the individual themselves. This is applicable to all potential employees with disabilities you may encounter in the future. If they are able to attend a job interview then they are able to tell you what accommodations they may need.

  16. Cat owner*

    #3: Ug, I have to deal with students in academia inflating their titles all the time. Not putting PhD Student in their email signature has caused me some headaches. We have one at the moment who is not causing problems with her “Research Scholar” signature (which I roll my eyes at every time I see it) but one was inadvertently representing himself to potential funding sources as an employee of the University and agreeing to things he couldn’t agree to. Students are third parties to Universities – they are people we provide a service to, not employees. It was so frustrating to try to explain that he was misrepresenting himself to both him and the potential funding source. To top it off he was certain he was definitely smarter than me (not in contract and legal matters, mate) and was very resistant to anything I said to the point of straight up rudeness – because he saw himself as very important and as an employee. In this case, the woman IS an employee so it wouldn’t causethese kind of problems but I definitely feel OP’s frustration in terms of those kinds of people in academia (or anywhere) who inflate their own importance and try to put themselves above you.

    1. Roeslein*

      There are places where PhD “students” are actually full-time employees of their research institute, i.e. do not have a student status (so are not entitled to student discounts, etc.) and are staff for all intents and purposes. This was the case at the lab where I did my PhD. My official title was “PhD candidate” but “research scholar” or “instructor” would have been perfectly appropriate as well, as I was employed to do both of these tasks (meaning I was managing my own projects, and not a research assistant – we had master students as research assistants in my lab). It caused some trouble when I was did a research stay abroad and the border officers gave me a hard time about not having a student visa (which I was not entitled to, not being a student.)

      1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

        ^^^This. I won a case against unemployment, because I was able to demonstrate that the work I was doing was open to all qualified applicants, not just students, so even though the university wanted to continue to classify me as a student (and therefore FICA exempt), they weren’t legally able to.

      2. Thlayli*

        I was actually employed part time as a lecturer by my college when I was a PhD student, so I was both. Where I taught you don’t need a PhD to be a lecturer. I also had a scholarship with an official title attached; can’t remember it now but it was something like “scholar of llama research council” or something like that. So this definitely varies by location and also by scholarship.

        That said, it sounds like your female student is being pretty pretentious, even if she’s entitled to that title. And it sounds like your male student needs some hard truths about what he is and is not authorised to do!

        1. OP#3*

          The details of academic job titles vary so much by location/institution/field, but where I am, “lecturer” is a permanent position, equivalent in rank to the American “assistant professor”, whereas “research fellow” is a temporary (1-5 yr) position. Only about 20% of research fellows become lecturers, so, for better or worse, there’s a lot of prestige associated with lectureships.

          1. Rock Prof*

            I’m from the US and did a post doc in a country with similar titles to what you describe. I’m really digging for an explanation here, but is there a chance that your colleague is perhaps from the US or Canada? Lecturer here is often used for a teaching position (a bit more permanent than an adjunct professor, who might just be hired for a semester or two), whereas assistant/associate/full professors also have research/service duties.. So if your colleague has any teaching duties, even as a research fellow (is this post doc or habilitation equivalent?), they might be thinking of themselves as a lecturer in North American terms.

            1. OP#3*

              Sansa has done most (all?) of her education in the country where we set our scene, and has been at our current institution for a few years, but, yeah, it might be some sort of (willful?) confusion about titles. Academia is utterly bonkers when it comes to the amount that we care about this!

              1. Student*

                In the US, at least, many grad students who work full time under fellowships or scholarships (PhD student does PhD research, possibly teaching, and receives a stipend that looks like a salary plus sometimes gets tuition paid for) have a special legal status.

                Here, by “special”, I mean “screwed out of all legal protections afforded to normal employees”. They can’t take unemployment, can’t challenge working conditions that are otherwise illegal (minimum wage is the biggest one, but also discrimination issues, injuries, and health & safety issues come up). If they are on a fellowship/scholarship, they just don’t “count” as employees, even if they do work identical in all respects to full time employees. Preserving that legal ability to prevent grad students from claiming back pay for minimum wage violations, and preserving the ability of individual professors to treat them very badly with no normal recourse, is a big part of why US academia goes really bonkers about things like grad student titles, grad students representing the university to outsiders, and grad student employment status.

          2. Rock Prof*

            I realize my comment above is basically making excuses for your colleague. I wanted to add that it’s just kind of surprising because almost all places I’ve worked, people have been very title conscious (though I suspect no academic wants to actually admit to that).

            1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

              *raises hand* Nope, I’ll totally admit that. I keep to my title (Lecturer (American system)) and will occasionally either waive or insist upon the Dr. as circumstances merit.

    2. Not my usual name*

      AHHH!! NO! (I’m in university research development and this makes me weep.)

    3. Naptime Enthusiast*

      I made this mistake when I first started working, though not nearly as bad as your student! I described myself as the Rice Scuplture Lead because I was the one doing the work and putting together presentations, but I didn’t understand that a Lead typically could also sign off on all work done by others. Luckily the real Lead corrected me before I presented and made a fool of myself.

      Today I am a Teapot Lead but with limited approval abilities, and I make sure that’s clear when starting tasks so we can loop in the right people as needed.

    4. Rock Prof*

      I wouldn’t judge a PhD student not putting PhD student in their signature too much. I was actually told NOT to do that when I was a TA because it had been found to lead to some issues when teaching undergraduates. In a few instances, there was a case were an undergraduate would only email the professor teaching the lecture session about the lab session of the TA because they didn’t believe the TA was qualified to teach since they were still a student. There were some similar but less egregious issues along a similar vein, particularly for women.

      1. Cat owner*

        Yeah, I probably am being much harder on these two because of the headaches that they have caused me. I probably don’t even notice it with the others. I think that just the whole mess of this guy going out to companies and making them think he was an academic who could do consulting instead of a PhD student looking for a scholarship has really soured me on email signatures.

        That sucks about the TA situation – I’ll try to be a little less judge-y about the rest of them in future (except if they cause me as much trouble as these two – then I have to be judgy as a coping mechanism so I’m not rude to them in person!)

  17. SAS*

    #2 if you are both under Boss, I would start cc’ing him in email correspondence when you are having to ask/remind Barb to do her assigned tasks or any time you’re doing her tasks for her. I would try Alison’s tack of approaching her first, saying you’ve noticed you’re still having to do her tasks, would she like a refresher? But if it’s wilful ignorance then I would cc away, personally!

    #5 is an awesome question and I can’t wait to read the responses!

  18. Bagpuss*

    #2 Definitely speak to Boss to explain the issue and the problems it is causing, and the extent to which it is impacting on you and your ability to effectively do your job.

    At the same time, speak to Mary, be explicit “I’m very concerned that although I have raised with you, several times, that there are problems caused by you not putting mandatory items into Bob’s calendar, and by you moving or changing or amending items I have added. It is essential that you ensure that Bob’s calendar is correct – that means making sure that you put the mandatory items into it, and also that you don’t move or change items added by others, unless Bob specifically instructs you to, in which case it is essential that you let the person who added the item know”

    It sounds as though Bob’s calendar isn’t only used by Bob, but also for other people, so make that clear to her (i.e. that the calendar has to be accurate even of she is using a different method to keep track of Bob’s movements or commitments)

    I think you can also explicitly say to Mary that so far, you have ben correcting her errors to ensure that they don’t cause problems for Bob or the department, but that you cannot continue to do so, so she needs to ensure that she is addressing these issues herself.

    I would follow this up with an e-mail perhaps phrased as being for future reference, and cc it to Bob .

    1. LKW*

      Start documenting the changes or corrections you are making as well. Make it clear what was moved, added, removed, changed, etc. to show the number of issues and the effort required to maintain his schedule. Be explicit and direct “This week I have spent XX hours to make the following changes to Bob’s calendar:
      1. Update of meeting to include people
      2. Added mandatory meetings (see email of xx date and xx date outlining mandatory meetings)
      3. Moved meetings that conflicted ”

      basically show that you’ve given her the information but she’s chosen to not apply it. Older doesn’t mean smarter and experienced doesn’t mean accurate.

  19. Erika22*

    #5: one thing that comes to mind is ensuring that she has a way to easily communicate/speak up during in-person (and even virtual) meetings where using visual aids to communicate isn’t as easy. Maybe instilling some meeting norms that everyone uses, sticking to agendas with built-in discussion time, finding several different ways of receiving feedback, etc? I imagine that person-to-person communication is easier than getting caught up in a meeting and forgetting someone may have a more difficult time contributing or following.

    1. Erika22*

      Meant to add that this can also help others who may have different learning/contribution styles and who don’t feel as comfortable just diving right in with ideas/suggestions/etc. and also, reiterating what others have said, just ask what will work for her best!

  20. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

    LW5 – I had nearly this exact same situation a few years back!

    1) First of all, you’re far more proactive than I was. I tried to learn, but I was…not very good at learning sign language. Thankfully, she was understanding, and we managed to get along pretty well. I’m also a compulsive writer to begin with, so that kind of played into my strengths – I prefer writing things down because I stammer a bit when speaking and I find writing to be a better way to express myself.
    2) We brought in a translator for all-hands meetings (what helped was that one of our other employees was related to a translator), and in other important situations. I think we had the translator when she was training as well.
    3) On that note, one of the things I tried to be REALLY conscious of was my body language. I’m normally terrible with eye contact (it’s a comfort issue for me), but I tried to make sure I was facing her and not the translator when I was speaking. I think I was…mostly successful?

    That’s most of the advice I can think of for right now. It was a couple of years ago, and hopefully I’ll think of more stuff.

    (Also, I kind of went back and forth on the deaf/Deaf thing, before anyone asks. I opted to leave it lower case because I’m not sure whether the new hire identifies as part of the Deaf community.)

    1. OP #5*

      I hadn’t even thought about capitalization. I didn’t really know there was a difference so thanks for pointing that out.

      1. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

        It’s something I just know about in passing – it could go either way, but I think capital-D Deaf is usually used to refer to the community of people who are Deaf and their culture.

        (If I’m getting this wrong, please correct me!)

        1. ZTwo*

          No that’s right! “Capital D” Deafness refers to people who are very connected to Deaf culture, whereas “lowercase d” deafness refers more to the medical condition. It’s not hard and fast and also how much hearing a person has, whether they sign, etc have little bearing on what group they consider themselves to be in.

  21. Rebecca*

    For #1, I need to ask this – if the level of harassment has risen to the level of intentionally causing bodily injury, and the company refuses to do anything, could the police become involved? Placing push pins in someone’s chair is clearly meant to cause pain and harm, and at this point, I’d be demanding that the company do something about this employee.

    1. OP*

      Hi Rebecca, I am actually not sure if the police would bother with something like this. But I am currently demanding that something be changed. I also informed the division head that this is unacceptable and I will not be able to stay here if something is not done about this, to which he was very concerned and said he is doing everything he can to remove her. We will know more on WEdnesday. Fingers crossed!

            1. OP1*

              Hey there Impatient Rabbit! So far, this chick still works here. They confronted her in an HR meeting with my VP last week and she was “very upset that she would be accused” of everything. I mean…they literally showed her physical proof of her antics and she is still denying it. My manager also had a meeting with her and told her that she no longer trusts her and her behavior is abhorrent and will not be tolerated. She seemed to be numb to that conversation. In the HR meeting today at 2, my VP said he will be informing her that she will be moved to the other side of the floor in front of his office to essentially babysit her and he is giving her a “final notice” letter today that states if he or anyone else ever hears, sees, or suspects that she has said or done anything else (even as small as a sarcastic snide comment), she will be fired. Basically, they’re giving her a ‘hail mary’ chance. I am not thrilled about this of course, but there’s nothing more I can do. I am not allowed to work from home because we have a policy that specifically states employees (at ANY level) are not granted work-from-home privileges under any circumstance. So basically I have to avoid her like the plague this week while the rest of my colleagues are away on a business trip (which I couldn’t attend because I had a medical procedure scheduled for Monday). I am here at work with the nutjob at the moment. No clue where to go from here – I feel like I should take half of the day off or a couple hours off so I’m not here when she returns from her meeting with HR and needs to move her things to the other side of the floor…but my VP said he imagines she wont even move her things today and she’ll probably do it tomorrow at some point so that seems like a waste of using my personal time. I don’t know…this all seems really nuts.

  22. Mazzy*

    Oh # 3 I have a coworker who negotiated a better title before he started and does the same thing. He will go through all sorts of mental and verbal gymnastics to make himself out to be above or other or better than because of it. So freaking irritating! It’s obvious to those who work with us day to day that you aren’t way up there

    1. tangerineRose*

      Someone who uses a title to appear better than others probably goes around feeling not as good as others. Because otherwise, what would be the point? Some of the smartest, highest in the hierarchy people I’ve met are also people who don’t act like they think they’re a big deal.

  23. Guy Incognito*

    OP #5 – I used to work in Disability services. There are several options. One is what I’m sure 99% of your office has – IM services, your phones for texting, etc. But I’d like to offer a different solution that worked for our office.

    Once a week, usually during lunch, there was an OPTIONAL (emphasis on optional) sign language lesson available for the staff, during lunch. (or ish. No one was given a hard time if they attended this, then grabbed something to eat.) Get the new employee involved. It’s a great way to learn about each other, and learn how to communicate for everyone!

    the best advice I can give you, though, is to remember that there is a such thing as Deaf Culture, and brush up on it a little. Be wary of the fact that your employee can’t hear, so offer her up some things that might help, like a mirror for her desk (If she’s in a place where people might approach her from behind), interpreting services at office events, lunches, etc (ALWAYS talk to the employee, not the interpreter), and anything else that you and I take for granted because we can hear.

    Good luck!

  24. Project Manager*

    LW#5 – Ask. I am deaf and don’t know sign language, so your efforts in that regard, while certainly well-meant, would not support me. (BTW – it’s unfortunately quite common for people to assume I sign, such that total strangers will actually walk up to me and start signing at me. Makes me feel like a zoo exhibit.)

    What helps me at work is my captioned phone and getting support for telecons. The captioned phone is easy enough to get. Unfortunately, it isn’t supposed to be used for telecons. If you have a lot of those, and you are not in a technical industry, I suggest CART (real time captioning). If you are in a technical industry, you may run into the same problem I have – neither the voice recognition software nor the transcriptionists working with it are really equipped to support highly technical conversations. I typically handle telecons by arranging to be in a room with at least one other person and/or planning for a team member to support me by either answering questions for me or relaying them to me on Skype real time*. Your employee may prefer something similar. Or something totally different. The only way to find out is to ask!

    *I usually explain this to the audience beforehand in the hopes of staving off unflattering assumptions about why I am not quick off the mark to answer audience questions…seems to work so far.

    1. OP #5*

      I know she can sign from the interview but I’ll definitely keep this in mind if I interact with deaf people in the future. If I were helping you on the street, say giving you directions, how would I best help you without signing?

      1. Project Manager*

        You can talk to me. I hope that doesn’t sound sarcastic, but I’m really not sure how to respond to the implicit assumption that I don’t speak.

        1. OP #5*

          No, sarcasm read. Someone else mentioned that lip reading can be exhausting. My question is more would it be better to just do the lip reading for you or would you be better served if I were to write it out or offer to walk you there (hopefully not creeping you out that I’m following you)?

          1. Project Manager*

            Hmm, well, you probably would not know I’m deaf just from a chance encounter… (I am REALLY good at compensating) I suppose you could offer to write it down if you did notice. I would probably be repeating everything back anyway. Thanks for thinking about it!

            1. OP #5*

              Thank you for helping me understand your outlook! I feel like I’m coming late to the game and maybe should have been asking these questions before this.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        A lot of d/Deaf people are not provided the opportunity to learn sign language. It’s truly a language, with grammatical constructs, and is not easy to learn. Deaf children who are born to hearing parents are sometimes seen as an embarrassment and the parents try to teach them to lip read/talk because they don’t want them to be ‘different’. It’s very problematic.

        1. Patty Mayonnaise*

          Also, in the past, auditory-oral schools for deaf kids discouraged signing because they thought kids would rely on that instead of learning to listen or lip read and speak (which was understandable – lip reading is really difficult, let alone speaking when you can’t hear all or any of the phonemes). This belief is slowly changing with some auditory-oral schools offering total communication classes (where kids are using both sign and spoken language) – and kids today aren’t being punished for using sign as they were in the past. I used to work in the auditory-oral field and while I’m proud of the work I did and the work being done today, it definitely has a super problematic past.

          1. else*

            I’m not so sure this even is limited to “in the past” – I think there are still a lot of people who think that deaf children with cochlear implants should not be taught to sign even though having a cochlear implant destroys any residual hearing. I do NOT understand this at all – who cares if they are a little slower at speaking aloud if they are also taught sign, if that’s even true? They get there eventually, like any bilingual kid. I’ve heard some pretty bad things about this from a couple of Deaf writers I follow on Quora.

      2. fposte*

        Can’t speak for PM, but over 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents, and only about 25% of hearing parents ever learn ASL, so it’s not the language spoken at home for most deaf kids. There’s also pro- and anti- ASL factions when it comes to its value.

        1. Minerva McGonagall*

          It can’t be overstated how controversial certain issues, like ASL, are within the Deaf community.

          Most hearing folks assume cochlear implants are a great medical advancement, as they allow many deaf people to hear. However, a large portion of the Deaf community objects to them, as they imply the deaf person needs to be “fixed,” and the surgery is often done on children too young to decide for themselves whether they want it. Some also view it as an attack on Deaf culture in general. (And several other reasons – those are the two I’ve personally discussed with a deaf person.) It’s a complex issue.

      3. Project Manager*

        I was already oral (speaking) by the time my loss was finally diagnosed at 3 or 4. I was diagnosed late because I was very good at compensating, and this was well before children were routinely tested at birth. (That test wouldn’t have caught me anyway, but that’s a story for another day.) There was never any reason for me to learn ASL.

        And yes, I do have a profound loss (70-80 dB detection). In fact, I have just had my second cochlear implant activated, and it’s pretty awesome. I am actually listening to audiobooks and doing the listening exercises on Duolingo, and I hate the phone with the burning fire of only one sun instead of twin suns. I might even take voice lessons now that I have access to a wider range of frequencies (I was right on the hairy edge of what hearing aids can do).

        (As for the “deaf community”, their behavior to me has not been welcoming, to say the least. So I am not involved with them. Sometimes it bothers me, because these are the people who better than anyone else can understand how challenging it is for me to perform at a high level in a technically demanding profession, but I tell myself it is their loss.)

        1. OP #5*

          I apologize, I didn’t get down this far before I responded to your earlier comment. You wouldn’t need me to write anything or do anything otherwise so the question is moot.

    2. CART Captioner*

      You should be able to find a CART provider that is able to accommodate the technical vocabulary at your workplace. Your boss, or whomever arranges for your CART provider should be forwarding that person documents that you will be using and/or would provide background vocabulary. This is something that is often overlooked when making arrangements for CART providers. An issue that may come up is that CART writers who are more proficient in technical and challenging vocabulary always cost more, sometimes shockingly more. The price is compensation for years of hard work. Unfortunately, in arranging for coverage most offices only look at cost, not quality.

      To look for quality CART providers, look for certified CART providers that have the CRC designation (certified realtime captioner) behind their name. It is a certification from the National Court Reporters Association. They have strict standards as to who can use the letters and how high of a percentage of correctness is needed (96% correct to pass the skills test). They have an online source book available.

  25. Handy nickname*

    #5 Dies your company use currently use IM for any communications? That would be a way for her to be involved in some of the office chatter and feel more connected.

    1. OP #5*

      Unfortunately not, we aren’t allowed to have IM/email on production computers because we deal with security information. There are terminals to use email but she’d be waiting a long time to get a response from anyone working production. I’m not on that side of things so I have more leeway but there again she might want to speak with her peers.

      1. Meg Murry*

        When you say production, do you mean a factory floor? If so, you may also have to take some extra safety precautions – for instance, letting all forklift drivers know that she won’t be able to hear them honking, make sure all warning alarms have flashing lights in addition to auditory alarms, etc.

        That said, if it is a factory floor, those are often so noisy that ASL can actually be a huge boost. One of the production lines I worked on had an employee that was partially deaf, and he was able to teach the others some basic signs (and/or they came up with their own signs that could be easily seen across the shop floor), and it actually improved the overall line performance dramatically to be able to signal to the person on the forklift across the room that they needed 2 more bins, this was the last one, please come over we have a question, it’s break time, etc.

        1. OP #5*

          No, not on a factory floor. I mean just general work output. We’re a data entry center so her surroundings should be pretty safe. We categorize computers by what functions are loaded on them. So the ones that they work on most of the day are production computers, meaning that they are for work output applications only and then there are additional terminals that are email compatible so that you can email your benefits questions or know about the upcoming potluck, etc. But if she needed an immediate response for something… it wouldn’t be the right medium.

          1. Meg Murry*

            Will she pretty much be assigned to one computer? If so, is there any way to have an internal messaging system installed only on that computer and your computer (or even better, get it for your whole group)? There are systems that are for internal IM’ing only that can not send messages outside of the company or outside a designated group that might be compatible with your secure environment.

            Do you have an IT department? If so, it would be worth asking them about an internal communication system as an accommodation for this employee. For instance, we use an (old but functional) piece of software called LanTalk XP for internal messaging at my company – I can send a message to my boss or my co-worker, but there aren’t any attachments or any way to communicate outside of our Windows network.

            1. OP #5*

              Interesting. This could be a good one to suggest. Someone mentioned that I could maybe spin it as an accommodation issue and maybe with a software suggestion it would pass security.

  26. Lynca*

    OP 3- I deal with this a lot but I’m not in academia. We have several employees that use incorrect titles or inflate their job duties/credentials. Not so much credentials because if you actively start claiming a license you don’t have that can get you in legal trouble.

    I’m a fan of calling them out privately first. “Sansa, you do know that when you present yourself as a lecturer when you’re classified as a fellow you’re hurting your own credibility as well as the credibility of our office right?” And then hammering home the ways that is a serious problem for the office.

  27. GovMgr*

    One of my staff is deaf. She and I worked together last year to put together some tips for her coworkers which I’ll share here in case they would be of help to anyone else. We put this list together based on her personal experience and a couple of online resources our HR had.

    Etiquette for Co-Workers of Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing Employees

    1. Be patient.
    2. When meeting a Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing (HOH) person for the first time, it is natural to feel “nervous” and reserved. Try to relax and use whatever means available to communicate. Remember, they are people first.
    3. Ask the Deaf/HoH person the best way to interact.
    4. Get the Deaf/HoH person’s attention before speaking, and DO NOT turn your back while talking to the Deaf/HoH individual. If a Deaf/HoH person happens to join an ongoing conversation, please include him or her and tell him or her what is being talked about.
    5. Lip-reading is an acquired skill. Do not expect the Deaf/HoH person to lip-read a conversation with complete accuracy. Lip-reading is 80% guesswork and the amount any one person can receive using this skill will depend on the individual’s level of competency.
    6. Do not shout at a Deaf/HoH person. Speaking louder doesn’t help and it exaggerates the lip movements making lip-reading more difficult. Someone who cannot hear will not be able to hear you because you shout.
    7. Include the Deaf/HoH as much as possible in the workplace. Telling a Deaf/HoH person “never mind” or “I’ll tell you later” alienates them and gives the impression that they are unimportant staff members.
    8. Upon entering the area of your deaf co-worker and realizing they are on a videophone [or TTY call], DO NOT read the message on the visual display or watch the conversation. This is eavesdropping. Also do not interrupt their call be as courteous as you would be to a hearing co-worker.
    9. There are a variety of ways to get the attention of a Deaf/HoH co-worker. Some examples are: a light tap on the shoulder or arm, a wave within their visual range, physically move within visual range, or tapping on the desk.
    10. Remember that the use of speech is a choice to Deaf/HoH individuals. Respect their decision and remember speaking is not related to one’s intelligence.
    11. Remember that facial expressions and body language tell a great deal. Make sure your “visual” messages match your spoken/signed one. Also, eye contact is valued in Deaf communication. It shows interest and conveys the feeling of the conversation.
    12. Have paper and pencil available whenever possible.
    13. Be courteous to the person during the conversation. If you are interrupted by the phone or another individual, explain the temporary interruption, but do not have a conversation with another hearing person while the Deaf/HoH person waits.
    14. Do not place anything over your mouth when speaking.
    15. Speak directly to the Deaf/HoH person. When using the services of a Sign Language Interpreter, avoid using phrases such as “Tell him../Tell her…” Speak naturally as though the interpreter was not there. If the Deaf/HoH person cannot understand you, he or she will look at the interpreter. The Deaf/HoH person will speak to you and if you do not understand him or her the interpreter will step in and translate. The interpreters are extensively trained to be observant and follow their clients’ cues.
    16. Use of gestures, facial expression, and body language enhance the communication are natural to the Deaf/HoH person. Using these will reinforce the message.
    17. Since conversation is a two-way street, receiving messages is as important as sending them. DO NOT hesitate to ask a Deaf/HoH person to slow down or to repeat when you do not fully understand. It is embarrassing to the sender as well as the receiver.
    18. Do not make references to the Deaf/HoH person’s deafness or the interpreter during a meeting even if it is meant to be a joke like “I hope you are able to keep up with my presentation.” It interrupts the flow of the meeting. The interpreter will interpret everything. It also brings unwanted attention to the Deaf/HoH person.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I used to be an admin for an interpreting agency and this is a great list! I wish I had it when I started working there since we had several d/Deaf employees.

    2. OrganizedHRChaos*

      This is beautiful. May I “steal” it for future use? Also, the senior owner (in his late 70s) of my family owned company has developed a form of ALS that has taken his ability to speak from him, so I downloaded the ASL app on all 7 of the owners families phones and they are all using the videos to learn various words and phrases as they need them. We have all found it quite useful, even for little things like “come here” or “ready to go?” If you try the app or any other resource, dont be hard on yourself and know that it will come easier with use.

    3. Cats On A Bench*

      This is a great list! I think the only thing I would add is if you hear any auditory announcements for meetings or urgent/emergency situations, find a way to let the Deaf/HOH person know since s/he won’t hear them. Hopefully your office is set up with lights that flash along with the alarm during an emergency, but not all spaces are. Plus, sometimes we get further information through a loud speaker that a Deaf/HOH person doesn’t have access to so it’s important that the hearing people in the office get that information to them. Also, if you want to learn more ASL and more about Deaf Culture, is a great resource! It’s put together by a Deaf ASL teacher. It’s where I started before I took classes and became involved with the Deaf community.

      1. Ama*

        That’s a good point — I’d add that it is far more common at my office to test the alarms by turning the sound off but still flashing the lights, so if that’s the case in OP 5’s office someone should also make sure the employee knows that it *isn’t* an emergency.

        1. OP #5*

          We do send out email alerts for testing to everyone a couple of days prior. I wish they’d turn off the sound when they did ours!

      2. GovMgr*

        Our fire alarms also have strobe lights and we have floor wardens who clear each floor when the alarm sounds. Another thing I would mention is power outages. Our power went out a few years ago. It was chaotic for everyone as we found flashlights, etc., but especially for our colleague who is deaf because everyone was talking and she couldn’t see our lips well in the dark. What we did was to have one person stay with her and share information as we learned what was happening so she wasn’t trying to read many people’s lips at once.

    4. Mimmy*

      Awesome list!! Just a couple of additional thoughts:

      1) Although rare, there may be deaf/HOH people who also have a vision impairment. I am one of them :)

      2) I completely agree about your point about not shouting at a HOH person. I do think it’s okay to raise your volume *slightly* while still speaking naturally. I ask people to “speak up just a little” all the time. Interesting story: Years ago, I participated in social recreation activities with an organization that serves people with varying degrees of deaf-blindness, and it was not uncommon to hear staff and volunteers speaking to the clients at louder volumes than probably necessary.

    5. GovMgr*

      I’ve learned so much from working with my deaf colleague. She was telling me that even though she considers herself to be an expert lip reader, much of it is understanding context and guesswork. For example, she said that words that sounds similar such as do and chew can look similar to lip readers so context is helpful in understanding. We have also learned that the interpreters sometimes have a hard time interpreting in our meetings because they aren’t familiar with our work and the terms we use. My colleague will try to meet with the interpreters before the meeting to prepare them and she and I often debrief after meetings where she’ll ask me to clarify something that she wasn’t sure the interpreter quite got.

  28. Lance*

    Re: #2: You say she’s a nice person, but as has been brought up on this blog several times before, it doesn’t matter. She could be the nicest person in the world, but if she’s not doing her job properly (as she isn’t here), it’s fine to be more direct with her about it. It sounds like you’re worried about possible impact on her — which is fair — but at the same time, you can’t keep picking up her slack. It’s not fair to you, with the increased workload, and it’s not fair to her, with remaining apparently incapable of doing her full job at this time.

  29. MuseumChick*

    #1, your boss SUCKS at an extremely high level. I think there are several things you need to do. 1) As Alison says, start going directly to HR. 2) Push back with your boss, “Jane has continued to harass me and create an unsafe work environment. I don’t feel comfortable working with her at this point.” Use words that with your boss and HR that trigger business to react “unsafe” “harass” “hostile” etc. 3) Create your own documentation. Print off every email you have sent your boss about this, keep a log of dates, times, witness, take photographs.

    #2 Mary sucks at her job. Stop covering for her. Someone can be a nice people and still not be right for a job.

    #5 As Alison says, the best thing you can do is ask the employee and check in regularly to see if anything needs to be adjusted. Plus, make it clear that they should come to you if they need anything.

  30. Aveline*


    Your coworker tried to physically harm you. Repeat that. She tried to cause physical harm and pain.

    It’s easy to dismiss pins and tacks on chairs because it’s part of American school children’s lore. Don’t do that. It’s not harmless.

    If HR does nothing, ask the, directly why you are expected to work with someone who has tried to physically hurt you. Who tried to commit physical assault you (ie, harmful or offensive contact).

    Point out to them that she is escalating her behavior. Going from property damage to physical harm to a person is abusive escalation. It will get worse. Someone will get hurt.

    Ask them what it will take for her to be fired. Will it be actually sending someone to the ER?

    This is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Or a segment in the nightly news.

    I thing generally people overestimate the risk of being sued. This is not the case here. If your company doesn’t fire her and she hurts someone, some plaintiffs lawyer is going to be very happy.

    Also. make sure your tetanus is up to date. I knew a teacher once who stepped in a tack and wasn’t vaccinated. Not pretty. While it’s a rare reaction to a cut or scratch, it’s so easy to prevent and so nasty if not.

    It’s also not kind to the culprit. She may be having medication or mental health issues and needs treatment, not enabling. When people do things such as she is, we either ignore them or go immediately to the worst criminal punitive action. Sounds like your coworker needs a good doctor.

        1. LKW*

          The pins perhaps but damaging personal property doesn’t really fit. I think they’re just avoiding it because they don’t want to deal with someone who is clearly mentally unstable. Ignoring this will not make it go away.

          1. OP*

            I actually said something similar to the HR rep. She tried to downplay my fair and apprehension for even coming into work now due to the threat of some type of physical harm and I said “Listen, if someone left sharp objects on your chair or in your keyboard or on your phone or in your purse or something, you wouldn’t feel unsafe?” and she said “well of course I would!” and I said “Okay, then please don’t try to downplay my sense of a lack of safety here.” Didnt really get much of a response after that one but I did turn it around and made her realize that she would not be happy if this was happening to her so that made me smile inside a bit haha.

        2. Tricksy Hobbit*

          I also thought this about this, either way, the manager and/or HR needs to step in.
          OP Does she have a bizarre sense of humor? If so that might explain it.

    1. fposte*

      I gotta say also I’d follow skeezy bar rules–food and beverages are either sealed or attended at all times.

      1. OP*

        Hi fposte! Yes I have been following those rules for a few months now…can’t trust things that I am going to eat or drink! Can’t trust that one!

    2. OP*

      Thank you Aveline….sometimes I am not sure if I am overreacting because they were just push pins but then I remind myself that a healthy person doesn’t do these kinds of things and it is potentially just the beginning to a series of potential physical threats that are more dangerous. Thank you so much for your response, I appreciate it!! I will be having another meeting with them later this week and there is a meeting with my division head and the head of HR tomorrow, so we will see what comes from that. Thanks again, Aveline!

      1. Aveline*

        Please let us all know that you are ok.

        The community here can sometimes be snarky and we can all be sometimes tetchy, but I think most of us here are generally kind and caring and don’t want to see someone hurt.

        1. OP*

          Will do :) Thank you so much, It makes me feel so much better talking to all of you and getting all of your opinions. I will definitely stay in touch and comeback and comment when I have more information!

        2. OP1*

          Hi Aveline! Copying and pasting an update for my situation here….So far, this chick still works here. They confronted her in an HR meeting with my VP last week and she was “very upset that she was “accused” of everything. I mean…they literally showed her physical proof of her antics and she is still denying it. My manager also had a meeting with her and told her that she no longer trusts her and her behavior is abhorrent and will not be tolerated. She seemed to be numb to that conversation. In the HR meeting today at 2, my VP said he will be informing her that she will be moved to the other side of the floor in front of his office to essentially babysit her and he is giving her a “final notice” letter today that states if he or anyone else ever hears, sees, or suspects that she has said or done anything else (even as small as a sarcastic snide comment), she will be fired. Basically, they’re giving her a ‘hail mary’ chance. I am not thrilled about this of course, but there’s nothing more I can do. I am not allowed to work from home because we have a policy that specifically states employees (at ANY level) are not granted work-from-home privileges under any circumstance. So basically I have to avoid her like the plague this week while the rest of my colleagues are away on a business trip (which I couldn’t attend because I had a medical procedure scheduled for Monday). I am here at work with the nutjob at the moment. No clue where to go from here – I feel like I should take half of the day off or a couple hours off so I’m not here when she returns from her meeting with HR and needs to move her things to the other side of the floor…but my VP said he imagines she wont even move her things today and she’ll probably do it tomorrow at some point so that seems like a waste of using my personal time. I don’t know…this all seems really nuts.

  31. MsChanandlerBong*

    Re: #5
    The fact that you care enough to ask speaks volumes. The last time I worked in an office (I have worked from home for 10 years now), I had such a hard time hearing people on the phone that I would just have to say “I can’t hear you” and hang up on them. Every single other person in the office had a multi-line phone with a volume controller that had nine levels. I, on the other hand, was given a $15 cordless phone with two settings, neither of which was loud enough for me. When I brought in a note from my ENT stating that I have nerve-based hearing loss and needed a regular phone, my supervisor said she’d have to check to see if it was okay to get one out of storage for me. I didn’t last much longer at that job.

    1. OP #5*

      That really sucks. How hard would it have been to switch out a phone with someone whose hearing wasn’t impacted.

  32. Travelling Kate*

    OP5, when I worked at an exhibition, we had T-loops available for visitors who were hard of hearing or deaf. Maybe you can ask if she’d like one set up at her table? But yes, I’d go with asking her what she needs :)

        1. OP #5*

          Oh, that’s cool that those exist. I’ll file that away for the future in case we get someone with hearing aides.

  33. Argh!*

    LW 5: Technically, it’s up to the employee to request specific accommodations. They know their needs and probably have experience in a variety of situations. They may have a preferred tech tool, too.

  34. Lady Phoenix*

    I use to work with someone partially deaf.

    1) Be patient. You will have to repeat yourself or talk slower (or rather mouth slower). Don’t get discouraged or mad about it, just roll along with it
    2) he also told me that same pitches are hard/inpossible to hear. Sometimes I had to repeat on a lower range cause my voice pitch was too high
    3) definitely face then when you are talking to them and try to keep your mouth uncovered
    4) signing up to sign can be very helpful. Just be aware of any difference in grammar and word choice (sorta like conparing UK English with US English)

  35. Nyltiak*

    I’m not deaf, but I have a couple deaf friends and the best thing to do is to ask your employee what she needs, really. Most deaf and hard of hearing people I know are used to these questions and they know best what they need. One of my friends mainly just needs to make sure she is sitting at a certain point in a group so that her better ear is aimed at the conversation and she can see peoples lips enough to lip read. Another of my friends uses an interpreter for many professional interactions, but gets by fine with lip reading and use of text message in most friend interactions. Deaf people are all different in their needs and comfort levels.

  36. TheNotoriousMCG*

    My boss told me that a director of operations was discussing how to promote someone on his team and he mentioned that he wanted to do it quickly because he looked on our intranet site and saw that someone had already adjusted her title to the promotion title and he assumed that meant that our Home office wanted it done.

    My boss had to explain to him that people manage their own profiles on the intranet site and that his team member did that herself

  37. Lady Phoenix*

    LW1: You know the old saying, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself”?


    I don’t trust your incompetent manager with actually voicing your ACTUAL SAFETY CONCERNS or documenting the events. So you need to do it yourself: names, dates, times, witnesses, incidents. Make two copies to keep in your house for YOUR personal records (especially if you need backup for unemployment or a lawsuit), and keep the other with you AT ALL TIMES since you know your coworker will rifle through your personal belongings.

    Also, consider getting security or the police jn the know. It is one thing to be a jerk… but Coworker has shown thenselves to be capable of physical assault. You defibitely want law enforcements to be in the know (even if they can’t arrest coworker).

    Also, keep your bag lunches secure. Maybe this is because I watch to much anime… but There might be a chance you’ll find needles in your sandwiches (or laxatives).

    1. OP*

      Thank you Lady Phoenix – I do have all of the documentation in my personal computer at home. Everytime I update the document tracking the incidents I send it to myself. I never print it either so as to ensure she cannot access it. And yes, I keep all of my food out of the office and dont let her go near my stuff anymore. Everything gets locked up every time I need to leave my desk. Thank you!

  38. Ladylike*

    I would NOT rely on self-taught sign language to communicate with a new hire, especially for her training period! If the company has made a decision to make accommodatations, they should provide a professional interpreter. It would be nice of the LW to pick up some sign language for casual chit-chat, but there’s too much involved and at stake to attempt to train the new hire this way.

    1. Thlayli*

      It probably wouldn’t be necessary to have an interpreter full time long term, but as others have said above, having an interpreter once a month for one-on-one meeting, or during all-hands meetings, would be useful. This is a data entry job afterall so most of the actual work will be done on computer/email.

      I agree that an interpreter would also be useful during the training/onboarding period.

      OP I suggest you arrange for an interpreter on the first day and discuss accommodations needed on that day.

  39. S Stout*

    #1 – Document. Use your cell phone to take a picture of the pins/the broken figurine. If possible, call your supervisor so she can see.

    1. S Stout*

      And if your manager thinks she has a lot on her plate now, she should consider what would happen if you hadn’t seen the pins and were injured. I mean, really.

      1. OP*

        Agreed! I keep saying that, what if next time I DONT see what shes done? Don’t they know they will have much larger issues if I actually get injured while working here, ESPECIALLY after all of this HR documentation? Seems absurd to allow this to continue because I hear a lawsuit brimming if nothing is done.

  40. Gaia*

    OP 5, I am not Deaf but my nephew is and I’ve learned a great deal from his experiences and those of the people he interacts with on a daily basis.

    You should ask your employee what she prefers. She may want an interpreter or she may not. Respect her choice in that. Some (in fact, many) Deaf people can read lips, some prefer (or need) things written down. She will be very used to communicating with people who rely on spoken language and so she will know what works best for her.

    You can also inquire if she’d like a sign or note on her desk so that people who might not otherwise know will realize she is Deaf and will not think they are being ignored.

    I will echo the other comments to not rely on self taught sign language. You can use some (if you are confident) but it really is using a foreign language. And, if you are in the US and she isn’t originally from the US it might not even be a language she knows.

  41. Former Border's Refugee*

    LW #5, When I worked at a fabric store in college, one of our stockers was a Deaf woman. and while I could communicate what I needed her to do, I felt awful that I didn’t know how to say “Good morning! How are you?” and other social niceties. Luckily, one of my roommates was studying to be a Deaf interpreter, and she taught me basic greetings and “please” and “thank you” and the first time I told our stocker “Good morning!” she was stunned and then got a HUGE smile on her face. Learning more to have a basic conversation is great, and I think you’re on the right track.

  42. insert pun here*

    Some specific recommendations for OP 5: it’s not clear if your employee identifies as culturally Deaf, but if she does, the book Inside Deaf Culture might provide some helpful background info for you. There’s an app called The ASL App that is very good, and also an app called Cardzilla that is basically like notepad but sizes the text to fit the screen. This is useful for typing short messages on your phone, since the text will be big enough to read, unlike with the notepad app. And, as others have said, see if you can do a sort of lunch-and-learn ASL class going. It is a lot of fun and you can pick up the basics (how are you, how was your weekend, do you want to go to lunch, etc) pretty quickly. If you or other employees do get really interested, there is probably an ASL practice meetup group in your city, so that’s something to look for as well.

    1. Rainier*

      Cardzilla is great for in the field notes, etc. At this point most staff at my organization have it because some of my seasonal staff have been deaf. Also seconding reading about Deaf culture if your employee identifies as Deaf.

  43. Kyubey*

    Op 1 – If reporting your coworker doesn’t work maybe you could put pins on her chair to show her how it feels; and do all the things she does to you back at her. Clearly your manager doesn’t care so it doesn’t matter if she reports you! /s

  44. Shiny Door Knob*

    Push pins on her chair? What’s next? Bleach in her coffee? It sounds like that woman is escalating her aggression. If HR does nothing, can OP call the police on this woman while documenting everything?

    1. Thlayli*

      OP absolutely can call police since this is probably within the definition of assault. However the police are likely to think it is an office prank unless it gets worse. OPs best bet at this point is to do what Alison has advised and go to HR, along with documenting everything. If there is a second attempt at assault, at that point OP would have a stronger case for the police.

      OP, document your interactions within HR and your manager, as well as all the incidents.

      1. OP*

        Hi Shiny Door Knob & Thylayli, I have been documenting and keeping a log of dates, times, and pictures. I will continue to do so so the record keeps adding incidents each time I go to HR. Thank you!

  45. Yep, me again*

    #1- your co-worker needs to be fired immediately. Going through your personal information to see if you got a better raise or bonus?!?!? Umm, no. She may not be violating a company policy but I honestly can’t see your manager or HR being okay with that. Ever.

    Maybe they are trying to manage her out of the company by not giving her more money in an effort to leave, but it’s entirely the wrong approach.

    1. OP*

      Yep, me again – I agree! And she absolutely is violating company policy which is why it baffles me that she hasnt been fired yet and may not get fired at all. Ridiculous! Thank you for your insight :)

  46. Coelura*

    #5 – please visit It gives great suggestions for accommodating many different kinds of disabilities and challenges in the workplace. It may suggest things that neither the employee nor you would consider.

  47. Widgeon*

    #5 You’ve gotten great advice so let me share what my organization does (we have several programs, one is taught exclusively by Deaf instructors/assistants to Deaf students – adult education).

    1. Interpreters at all non-instructional times (not used or required in Deaf instructional classes of course).
    2. Professional development days always include a Deaf culture/ASL session component, taught by either the Deaf staff or outside experts.
    3. Webinars for introductory ASL communication.
    4. Webinars for Deaf culture.
    5. No “us vs them” at all, ever, they are highly respected for their qualifications and always referred to as the ASL team (I’m the Employment team, we have a Volunteer team, etc).

    Overall, I’m sure she knows what she needs – let her tell you – work on helping others understand her culture, language, and world.

  48. LongTimeListenerRareCommenter*

    #5 re: deaf co-worker

    I’m not deaf. I used to work with a deaf engineer. He worked there before I started, and he was still there when I left.

    My manager let me know that if I ever wanted to take ASL lessons at the local community college, that work would pick up the tab. A few of us took them up on that offer.

    That was interesting. Once he found out I was taking lessons, he taught me the words and phrases that they don’t teach in class. I am now prepared to be offended by people signing who don’t realize I understand. :)

    1. many bells down*

      Heh, my first ASL professor told us that he wasn’t allowed to teach us any profanity. Unfortunately, when you’re learning, it’s not too difficult to *accidentally* sign something rude, so we ended up learning it anyway in the context of “don’t ever sign THIS!” I remember one time a student somehow botched the sign for “everyday” badly enough that she actually signed “whore” and we all involuntarily went “NOOOOO!” out loud.

        1. bluemoon72*

          Yep, both wrists facing the same way, not tapping them against each other. ;) Also use only one finger (the index finger” when you say “nice to meet you!” Two fingers is a common mistake that leads to giggles (usually not offense, because it’s so easy to do.)

    2. Elizabeth H.*

      Your last paragraph reminds me of the episode of Master of None that features a Deaf character :) I loved that episode so much.

  49. LSP*

    Not sure if this was already mentioned, but OP#5 (and anyone with questions about accommodating people with disabilities) visit – the Job Accommodation Network. They are an amazing resource. I’ve done some work with them in the past, and this is exactly what they do.

  50. ZTwo*

    #5 you’re already doing this, but encourage people to say “deaf” rather than “hearing impaired”. Most culturally Deaf people find that sort of framing of deafness to be offensive/frustrating, even though a lot of hearing people use it because we’ve been taught it “sounds better” than just saying deaf.

    (There’s actually an ASL sign for “signing impaired” which is what Deaf people will jokingly refer to hearing people as when they say stuff like that).

  51. BananaPants*

    LW5 – do you know that this employee uses sign language extensively, and which sign language they use? Do not assume that they use sign language as a preferred means of communication. In North America, with the high rates of hearing aid use, the shift to spoken language as the more-prevalent intervention for children with hearing impairment, and skyrocketing rates of early implantation of cochlear implants, many people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing do not know ASL or don’t use ASL often after childhood.

    Also, be aware that not all people who are deaf/HOH identify as part of the Deaf community (capital D is intentional). The use of cochlear implants and even hearing aids can be very controversial in the Deaf culture. On the flip side, many deaf/HOH people who exclusively use spoken language communication are frustrated when well-intentioned hearing people automatically assume that they use ASL. Rather than assuming, it is best to just ask the deaf/HOH person how they prefer to communicate.

    I have two friends who are hearing children of Deaf adults, I grew up with a classmate who is deaf, and our children have classmates who are deaf/HOH (one of whom I coach in youth sports). Some suggestions for communicating with a person who is deaf/HOH:

    ~ Ask the person how they prefer to communicate, and follow their lead.

    ~ If they use an interpreter, talk to the deaf person rather than speaking a narrative to the interpreter; in your speech patterns, basically pretend that the interpreter isn’t even there.

    ~ Make sure to have pen and paper handy at all times as a backup in case of confusion, a no-show interpreter, or a hearing aid/CI battery or receiver issue.

    ~ If the employee communicates with signing – for anything beyond casual or social conversations, don’t rely on self-taught ASL or SEE skills, just get the interpreter. This is especially important for on-boarding, training, performance reviews, etc. A video interpretation service may be cheaper than an on-site interpreter. If there’s particularly technical or specialized language used, it would be helpful to consult with the interpreter and the employee to clarify or establish vocabulary.

    ~ If the employee signs, it would be thoughtful to learn some signs in their system of choice, in order to include them in casual conversation.

    ~ Your workplace should already have visual notification appliances (strobes) as part of the fire alarm system, per local building and fire codes. If not, make sure you get them installed.

    ~ If the person uses spoken language communication, make sure to face them when you speak so that they can lip read. Avoid holding a hand near your mouth or talking while eating or drinking. Even if they use hearing aids or have cochlear implants, their hearing is not “normal” and lip reading is often an important part of understanding what is being said.

    ~ If they use technology such as hearing aids or CIs, don’t speak loudly or yell. These devices are carefully calibrated by audiologists for normal conversation, and being loud doesn’t make you more-easily understood. Bear in mind that the person using such technology may sometimes turn off their assistive devices to get some peace and quiet, so you may still need to have a visual or tactile way of getting their attention.

    1. OP #5*

      This may be common place, but around here our local job-placement center “loans out” interpreters for interviews. So I’m pretty confident that she signs ASL since that’s what she asked us to set up. So at least that part isn’t a mystery. But I’ll definitely keep the implant and hearing aid advice stored in my mind in case we end up with other applicants where those would apply. Thanks for the extensive list!

  52. Meaghan*

    #5– as a hard of hearing person I can speak to this a little, but was also raised by a hearing family so my ties to the deaf community are small as well. Video phones are incredibly help– for phone calls, but nothing else. When you’re having meetings, an interpreter is incredibly useful. If you cannot provide for one then make sure you: 1. have an incredibly detailed note taker handling your minutes so the person can review them after (this always helps for me because my hearing loss is part processing disorder so sometimes I think I’ve understood but have not) and 2. always make sure you’re facing the person with a hearing impairment and that they have a clear line sight to your mouth so that they can read your lips efficiently (if you’re back is to them, it’s both rude and unhelpful)
    For larger meetings, like a company-wide town hall, live interpreters are best but there are also some translation services where an off-site person will type the spoken words out in real time. (shop around, not all of these are great)

    Other things to keep in mind– each hard of hearing and deaf person’s accommodations will be different as every person is different. I’ve come up with some creative ways to handle offices (setting up a small mirror so I’m not startled by someone approaching me from behind), teaching my co-workers a couple of basic signs so I feel less disconnecting (What? OK, Yes, No, etc.) Definitely, always, first and foremost, ask the person what they need. New technology to bridge the gap between the hearing and deaf communities is coming out every day and they’re much more likely to know about it then you are.

    Lastly, just treat them like a person. Don’t make it all about their deafness, because that can be just as isolating as not accommodating a person at all.

    1. DeeShyOne*

      Hear, hear! (pun intended)
      I am also hard of hearing, wear hearing aids and know conversational sign language. In my other working life in the aviation manufacturing side, I also worked with a large contingent of deaf people and truthfully, they are just regular humans who can have a conversation through a window.
      Keep learning sign language, keep trying to talk to this person, make the accommodations necessary to make this employee feel inclusive and rely on their input! They will happily help you with learning how to speak with them, syntax, words, phrases, etc.
      For ASL (American Sign Language) interpreters, this individual probably has a handful of favourite ones. Ask her to give you a list so you’ll have a handy reference for her potential future needs.
      This is a bit exciting! The deaf community is commonly overlooked because of their different needs and the working worlds misses out on intelligent and skilled people.
      All the best!

  53. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP#1 — Sorry you’re going through this. Do you work in a library, by any chance?

    One thing I’m not clear on is how you identified the employee who has been harassing you. Did somebody catch her in the act? Is she harassing anybody else, or are you her only target? You’ll be asked about this going forward.

    I agree with Alison that your manager is grossly mishandling this. (Her personal circumstances are irrelevant here.) I’m not clear from your letter whether you’re talking with HR directly, but given your manager’s passivity, I think you should be.

    Commenters upstream have already given good advice on documenting all incidents. (And I agree with the one who said to keep an eye on your lunch.) In addition to documenting actual incidents of harassment, you should probably keep a journal of any other incidents with your coworker, conversations that seem “off,” etc. It would also be a good idea to document your discussions with your manager, her responses (or lack thereof), and so forth.

    Keep all documentation online where you can get to it, but off your local system — I like Google Drive and Evernote, but there are plenty of options out there. Remove as much of your personal stuff from the office as is practical, and lock up anything you do have to keep at the office.

    If HR won’t support you — I’d be inclined to write off your boss, at this point — why not just start looking around for something better? If your boss is worthless, and your HR department won’t address ongoing harassment, why stick around?

    1. OP*

      Hi Sara! Yes she has been seen multiple times, when she went through my personal agendas a coworker behind me saw her do it when I got up from my desk, and when she went through the merit increase sheets, I saw her go through my coworkers sheet (and immediately informed my manager). There are other witnessed incidents but HR claims since we dont have video recordings they cant count very much (but then they also wont allow us to record sooooo ????) And Yes I keep all conversations and logs and pictures documented on Google Drive so I can pull it up if every need be at work. She is mostly harassing me but I am not the only one who she infringes on – she goes through my other coworkers’ things as well. I am the only one she has physically targeted with menacing commentary and the push pin incident (in response to your question above).

      Thank you Sara!

      1. Sara without an H*

        I’m sorry to hear that your HR department is apparently as useless as your boss. (They have eye witnesses, but won’t believe them???)

        Frankly, I’d start looking for another job. Even if your harassing coworker left tomorrow, you’d still be working for a deeply dysfunctional organization. Surely you can do better!

        1. OP*

          Thank you Sara! I actually have started just browsing around…I imagine if nothing is done to rectify this I will start a much more in depth job search. Thanks again :)

  54. Tricksy Hobbit*

    As someone who works with students with disabilities, I’m excited to hear about employers who want to increase accessibility in the workplace. It sounds like you have a good start, but don’t rely on YouTube videos solely to teach you about ASL and Deaf Culture. Some of them are very good and accurate, others not so much.

    I would encourage you, if possible to take a class. The community college where I live offers classes; an introduction class would be a great start. If that’s not possible, and you feel comfortable, try connecting with a deaf church or other deaf organizations in your area, they can direct you to specific resources in your community.

    Please send us an update!

    Gallaudet University, the only university in the world gear to deaf students, has list resources at the link below.

    If you are a reader, here are a few books that I enjoyed and helped me to gain a better understanding of Deaf Culture/Community.

    For Hearing People Only: This book has a list of basic questions that hearing people ask about deaf people. It’s a large book, but you can skip around to your specific questions.,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch

    Deaf in America: Voices from a Culture by Carol Padden and Tom Humphries,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch

    Inside Deaf Culture by Carol Padden and Tom Humphries

    A Journey into the Deaf-World by Harlan Lane, Robert Hoffmeister, and Ben Bahan,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch

  55. Disaster Voyeurism*

    lifeprint dot com, is an online ASL learning commons made by Bill Vicars who is Deaf and from California. His website offers lessons in video format, a dictionary, and written lessons about Deaf culture and history.
    Sign Savvy is a good ASL dictionary as is Hand Speak (sometimes there is a word in one and not the other and vice versa).
    It’s really awesome that you are trying to ensure a welcoming culture before the new employee even gets there. As Allison said, asking the new employee what they need to succeed is best and you should absolutely do that. You can additionally have a list of the suggestions commentors have made which might also help and the employee can simply check off ones that work and cross out the ones that won’t, and add ones that are missing very easily.

    1. OP #5*

      I like this idea! I could easily put a list together of options my boss approves and let her choose what she would like from those.

  56. Cowgirlinhiding*

    Op#1 – Since your boss isn’t helping, HR isn’t helping, I would go up the chain until someone listens to you, even if you have to go to the top. You shouldn’t have to work at a place where you feel harassed, which this is harassment.

    1. OP*

      Hi cowgirlinhiding, I am working on bringing it all the way to the CEO via my division head – there is supposed to be a meeting with the division heads on this tomorrow so we will see where that leads. Thank you!

      1. SoCalHR*

        Not to be a total downer here, but it is possible that HR isn’t helping because the people up the chain have prevented them from doing so (either explicitly or implicitly). But if it turns out that is not the case, then I highly question the competence of your HR – and if I was senior management and found out HR was downplaying something like this, it would be a serious issue.

        1. OP*

          I hate to say it but I think you may be right, SoCalHR. Thank you for the input – I wish you were HR senior management here so you could implement better practices than what’s currently occurring.

  57. Akcipitrokulo*

    #3… Wouldn’t do it, but love idea of responding “Yes, dear. Of course you are.” with just a touch of a sigh and eyeroll.

  58. Stranger than fiction*

    What the actual F #1, that is so not ok what sh is doing and is doubly not ok management seems to be ignoring it! I hope you’re taking pictures of all this anf giving to HR, in addition to what Alison says.

  59. Robin*

    The response to the hearing impaired/deaf employee – do not treat the disability – treat the person normally. Communicate in a face to face manner, if they understand lip reading. Never make the employee feel bad. Provide feedback

  60. Not a Mere Device*


    If you haven’t already tried this, it might be worth going to your boss and saying something like “I realize that HR is here to protect the company as well as the staff. But what they’re doing is the opposite of that. It’s bad for both me and the company for the HR rep to be telling me that I have to tolerate harassment, including things that she agrees would make her feel unsafe if they happened to her. She has told me in so many words that there is no possible evidence of harassment that she would accept: if it’s not on video it doesn’t count, and she told me not to install a camera.”

    That makes it look like the HR rep is either pro-harassment in general, or for some other reason on the side of the harasser. We don’t diagnose here (though it sounds like your HR rep is going in that direction), but while the harasser may need a therapist, she doesn’t need or deserve a Get Out of Jail Free card.

    Can you ask your boss, or the CEO, for permission to install a camera?

    1. OP*

      Hi Not a Mere Device! Thank you so much for your insight. Yes, I will be discussing with my division head about installing a camera at my desk as a special circumstance today or tomorrow before his meeting with the head of HR. And I did tell my manager all of the above about the HR rep and she said she had a feeling thats how HR would respond to us because this is how they always respond and its “basically impossible” for people to get fired here. Shes pissed about this as well and wants her fired, but she has been here for so long that she has no faith in HR at all and I think its resulted in a lack of fighting spirit in her. Thank you!

      1. Half-Caf Latte*

        Hi OP-

        I’d caution you to think twice about requesting the camera.

        The absence of video evidence is really a technicality, and misses the point. You don’t want video proof you are being harassed, you want to NOT BE HARASSED.

        If you get a camera, but your harasser catches on, and responds by making sure her harassment happens out of the range of the camera, now you’re (1) still being harassed, and (2) in a worse position with your garbage HR person, who can say “but even with a camera you STILL don’t have evidence- now I *really* can’t act/you’re overreacting.”

        She’s shown she’s going to keep erecting hoops to jump through. You might win the video battle, but she’ll come up with new proof she wants from you, and you’ll never meet the bar.

        Keep the focus on “I want the harassment to stop”, and let them figure out what measures need to be taken.

        1. OP*

          This is such a fair point Half-Caf Latte…she has been operating out of the cameras thus far, so why should I assume she wouldnt continue that if I were to have a camera placed on my desk? Such a good point, thank you. Okay I will keep the focus on that. Thanks again!

  61. Workfromhome*

    OP1-Its crazy that they are protecting this person by saying only video documentation will get action but video recording is strictly prohibited. If it were me I’d be punishing this as far up the chain as possible via email using the words “I feel unsafe ” “this person makes me fear for my safety”. All you have left now (other than leaving) is creating fear of media exposure/lawsuit. You need to make someone far up the food chain fearful that something bad will happen (the person flips out and hurts someone) and then it comes out that you have documented your fears for your safety .

    1. OP*

      Hi Workfromhome, yes that is completely my intention! I have been saving all instant message conversations in the event this occurs and I have documentation of me saying how unsafe I feel and this is a threatening work environment, etc. I will continue to do so….thank you!

  62. Daphne MoonO*

    OP # 5: maybe walk around your office and see what sort of things may need instructions. Does your copier have specific instructions/login codes? Can the coffee machine be tricky to brew? Are there instructions in the business center/mail room? Writing up and printing clear instructions now could help with those first-week-on-the-job questions that any employee might appreciate having.

    1. OP #5*

      That’s a good point. I think most things have labels but a double check never hurts.

  63. bohtie*

    first, I skimmed the comments, so apologies if I missed this. Second, I’m hard of hearing and not full Deaf, but it’s definitely affected my work to some degree. In my case, I’ve made it very clear to my coworkers that they cannot come up behind me and just start talking, because I will not notice them and then we will scare the living daylights out of each other. (You’d be amazed at how many people, KNOWING I cannot hear them, will still do this. It takes a few tries.) Second, because I am hearing impaired on one side only, I try to seat myself in such a way that my “better” ear is facing where noise is likely to come from, in meetings and so on — I even set up my cube so that my better ear is towards the door, to avoid the accidental sneak attack thing. I also tend to prefer email over meetings and phone calls if at all possible, so I’ve worked out procedures to do that wherever I can. Your employee is highly likely to be aware of these sorts of, for lack of a better term, social accommodations that work for them.

    But I definitely second Alison’s advice — odds are quite good that this employee knows what kinds of accommodations they require in terms of equipment, etc. The tricky part comes with the social behaviors of the people they work with. Like that one person who will inevitably think they can communicate with a Deaf person by shouting at them. (No malice intended — there’s just always one, haha.)

  64. Heather*

    I’m hard of hearing and have worn hearing aids since I was a child. The advise from Bohtie is great…just having a general sensitivity about whether you’re being heard/understood will go a very long way and she will appreciate your efforts.

    But something I’d add, that I hope is not insulting or overly obvious, is to ensure that everyone treats her sensitively and doesn’t tease her.

    You’d be surprised the number of “hearing tests” I’ve gotten from colleagues (like whistling low, then asking if I can hear that) or when someone learns I’m hard of hearing, they respond with “What? Hahahaha!”

    This has happened to me and it’s happened to a number of hard of hearing people I know. It’s dishearteningly common to the point where I actually haven’t told anyone about my hearing loss in several years. The jokes get painful because to many of us, not being able to hear well or at all just isn’t fun or funny. Don’t let anyone make them around her because I guarantee she will not find them amusing.

    1. OP #5*

      Ugh, I’m sorry that’s something that you’ve gone through. I would have thought that not teasing someone about their ability to hear is a no-brainer.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        People are dumb. Ask any very tall person you know how often they get asked about the weather.

  65. She Who Must Be Obeyed*

    I’ve worked with hearing impaired (the preferred term, btw) persons a few times (the government’s really good at hiring disabled persons where possible). And, of course, being the government, we had certified translators on board for meetings. You might want to consider that for important meetings and training, if it’s not in writing, unless she’s an expert lip reader, which a lot of hearing impaired persons are. One of the women I worked with was an expert lip reader, and as long as someone was facing her, she didn’t need sign language at all. Another time, we all took sign language lessons. We never got very good at it, because we didn’t have a lot of time to devote to it (I think they gave us half an hour a week, with just a translator, not an instructor and no books or anything to learn from out of class), but it did show the employee that we cared. She was very touched and it helped her feel included and cared for.

    I’ve seen two videos on the internet that really impressed me. One was a company (I can’t remember which one), where all (or most) of the employees learned sign language and they even put in visual screens in their drive-throughs so hearing impaired persons could even go through that way. The other was where a small town all secretly learned sign to support a hearing impaired resident. Both showed so much caring, they were awe-inspiring.

      1. bluemoon72*

        That is correct — many in the community prefer Deaf, deaf, or HoH (hard of hearing). Also, the correct term is not ‘translator’ but ‘interpreter’. Translators translate written languages; interpreters interpret spoken languages. :)

  66. nonegiven*

    OP 1 needs to take pictures, if there is evidence of anything else happening. The broken figurine and the chair tacks would be something you could show evidence of if it happens again. Ask people nearby to look at it, so you have witnesses. I’m not sure how to show evidence of some one going through my papers unless they were locked up and then were not. Keep a log of everything and go to HR yourself, every time. Encourage others to do the same if she’s doing things to them, too. Also, help each other keep a watch out for her.

    OP 2 Mary is trying to deliberately undermine you.

    1. OP*

      Hi nonegiven, Yes – I have taken pictures and have had colleagues witness these events too. I have submitted the pictures and witness accounts to HR for documentation already and, of course, will continue to do so. Thanks!

  67. SpaceNovice*

    OP1: Good advice above. I would add in one more thing: You don’t know where your coworker had that pushpin BEFORE putting it on your chair. Consider it contaminated. Normally, that’d be paranoid, but in this case… well.

  68. Thany*

    LW #5- I don’t think I saw it here, so I wanted to add one more comment. Depending on your area, there might be an agency (usually a nonprofit that works with disabilities) who service the Deaf community. We have one in my city, and they host free ASL classes for people who want to learn some basics. In case that paying for classes isn’t an option. Community colleges often have ASL courses as well. Maybe ask the agency to do a presentation on deaf culture. Or have the new hire do it themselves! (if they’re comfortable doing so). Of course, as everyone suggested, ask your new hire about this.
    Also, good for you in being proactive in learning the language and being open to your new hire. In my experience as a student interpreter and working in the deaf community, deaf people really appreciate when hearing people make a sincere effort to communicate and connect. Good luck!

  69. Mimmy*

    #5 – I’ve been skimming through the comments on this all day and it is awesome to see so many AAM readers who are knowledgeable about the needs of d/Deaf and HOH people and even about sign language. I have a slight hearing impairment myself (plus a vision impairment) and I always appreciate people proactively seeking ways to be inclusive and accessible. I also work in the field of sensory impairments (right now, I just work with blind & visually impaired adults, but I have also had some HOH students). I will definitely look through all the resources everyone has posted – again, so awesome!!

    OP, please come back and let us know how things go with your new employee :)

  70. Lady Phoenix*

    You know what, I would be looking for a lawyer now too. I hope you document HR’s little comment about “the world is scary” because I’m sure District Boss, Grand Boss, and a lawyer would LOVE to know HR’s comment about workplace violence is “starving Aftican children”

    1. OP*

      Haha, such a good point Lady Phoenix. And yes, I have taken that into consideration and it is on my list of potential next steps! Thank you :)

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        Just want to wish you luck and hope you get help and justice. What’s happening is outrageous and you deserve much better!

    1. OP*

      Gaz112, I don’t know what bash street kids are haha – a quick google search though and I see what you’re getting at! Almost feels like I’m in a comic at work these days!

  71. IHaveANiceCat*

    Not sure which city LW #5 is located in, but in NYC there is a great place called the Sign Language Center. We don’t have any deaf employees but we do work with members of the deaf community. If it’s in your company’s budget, I highly encourage their corporate classes, as it will educate you about deaf culture as well as the language. They have teachers, all deaf, who will come to your office. If you’re not in NYC, I’m sure there’s something similar in your city.

    If it’s out of the budget, I recommend utilizing something like gchat or slack to keep your employee involved. According to our teacher, writing notes back and forth is the second best way to communicate with a deaf person, after signing. Accompany work meetings with powerpoint, and perhaps gift all your employees with small dry-erase pads and pens. This is a great way to talk back and forth.

    For work meetings, keep in mind what my teacher calls a ‘deaf-friendly set-up,’ which means all sitting in a way where people can see each other, like a circle. Having people sit behind each other is not deaf friendly.

    But most of all yes, ask your employee. They will tell you what they need.

  72. spinetingler*

    I’m hoping that you kept the pushpins.

    Take one home and sterilize it.

    If they show up on your chair again, photograph the evidence and then clear your chair.
    Sit down. Scream in pain. Run to restroom and stab yourself in the butt with the sterilized pin. Perhaps have some blood saved up for dramatic application.
    Take medical leave for as long as you need to recover physically and mentally. Perhaps go into therapy. Insist that an incident report be filed.

  73. OP1*

    Hey there Impatient Rabbit! So far, this chick still works here. They confronted her in an HR meeting with my VP last week and she was “very upset that she would be accused” of everything. I mean…they literally showed her physical proof of her antics and she is still denying it. My manager also had a meeting with her and told her that she no longer trusts her and her behavior is abhorrent and will not be tolerated. She seemed to be numb to that conversation. In the HR meeting today at 2, my VP said he will be informing her that she will be moved to the other side of the floor in front of his office to essentially babysit her and he is giving her a “final notice” letter today that states if he or anyone else ever hears, sees, or suspects that she has said or done anything else (even as small as a sarcastic snide comment), she will be fired. Basically, they’re giving her a ‘hail mary’ chance. I am not thrilled about this of course, but there’s nothing more I can do. I am not allowed to work from home because we have a policy that specifically states employees (at ANY level) are not granted work-from-home privileges under any circumstance. So basically I have to avoid her like the plague this week while the rest of my colleagues are away on a business trip (which I couldn’t attend because I had a medical procedure scheduled for Monday). I am here at work with the nutjob at the moment. No clue where to go from here – I feel like I should take half of the day off or a couple hours off so I’m not here when she returns from her meeting with HR and needs to move her things to the other side of the floor…but my VP said he imagines she wont even move her things today and she’ll probably do it tomorrow at some point so that seems like a waste of using my personal time. I don’t know…this all seems really nuts.

  74. ThatAspie*

    I have read that Deaf people think it’s rude to leave a room without saying why. I think it makes sense.

Comments are closed.