I’m being physically bullied at work, coworker leaves bathroom in chaos, and more

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

1. I’m being physically bullied at work

I’ve worked in the same office for about five years now. The department I work in seems to be run by a large clique of tight-knit friends (we’re all women), who are also close with management (they all hang out together outside of the office). Those of us who weren’t accepted into the clique are often treated as if we don’t exist, but most days are tolerable.

However, I’ve been experiencing bullying/harassment from two of the more popular women for some time now, and one frequently threatens to get physical. Every time we pass each other in the hallways (we have very wide hallways – plenty of room), she purposely gets so close to me that we nearly collide, and we’ve brushed up against each other several times. She’s had me to where I’m completely against the wall and can’t get away from her. She’s never tried to touch me with her hands, but we’ve grazed each other’s arms before. She comes at me very aggressively, like she’s going to run me over. The entire hallway will be wide open and she’ll get as close as she possibly can. She won’t do anything when other people are around though.

I’ve also had to start parking in a different parking lot. Our main parking lot is separated from our building by a side street, and here lately, if this woman and her friends see me trying to cross as they’re pulling in, they won’t let me cross, even when someone in the opposite direction has stopped for me. I nearly got hit last week.

Things got worse a few months ago when I got a promotion she’d been hoping for, so now she hates me even more than she did before. In my opinion, she’s trying to intimidate me – I’ve been told that she doesn’t like me because I’m “too quiet.” The whole situation reminds me of high school. I’ve had multiple talks with her direct supervisor, but she won’t do much – she said she doesn’t want to “ruffle any feathers.”

Do you have any suggestions? I’m currently searching for a new job, but I live in a pretty rural area where jobs aren’t super easy to come by, and the company I work for is one of the best in the area.

Good lord. You told her manager that this person is routinely trying to mow you down in the hallway and endangering you in the parking lot and her manager has declined to intervene?

Your next step needs to be to escalate this. If you have HR, go to HR immediately. If your company is small and doesn’t have HR (or doesn’t have real HR), go to your own manager or whoever in your company has the authority and the sense to say “this is not okay and we’re going to stop it immediately.” If your company is so small that no such person exists, and if your own manager is her manager too, then you should go back to that person and say, “You’ve said you don’t want to ruffle feathers. Something far more serious is happening than feathers being ruffled. I’m in danger of being pushed in the hall or hit by a car outside. It’s not an option to do nothing. I need you to intervene before I get injured.” I’d also add, “I’m frankly shocked that you’ve declined to intervene in what’s clearly a coordinated campaign of bullying and harassment. If you’re not willing to intervene, who should I speak with who will be?”

(Legal note: This isn’t workplace harassment in the legal sense unless you’re being targeted because of your race, religion, or other protected characteristic. But I’d put the word in there anyway because it’s accurate in the non-legal sense, and it might spur the manager to stop twiddling her thumbs.)

Read updates to this letter here and here.

2. My coworker leaves our bathroom a mess

I work in a mostly male office. There are only two other women here besides myself, and one is often out in the field. The other is someone I am friendly with but who is much younger than me.

The issue is she is a pig in the bathroom. We have a single-occupancy restroom and we do not have customers or anyone else who uses it. She uses WADS of toilet paper to blow her nose (I guess because it’s always in the trash). We went through four rolls one week! I put facial tissue in the bathroom but it’s untouched. She can’t seem to replace the empty roll. This morning I found the new roll had been yanked and half unwound onto the floor. There are always bobby pins left around, cabinet doors left open, and her box of tampons on the counter for all to see. Today there was a wad of presumably used toilet paper on the floor by the toilet.

I feel like a mom with a sloppy teenager around. I can’t live or work in a mess, but I don’t see a good way to get this resolved without embarrassing her or causing an upset. The men are pigs too but that’s for another topic! I’m the newest employee and I figured it’s my problem since no one else seems to mind, so I started cleaning up after everyone but I’m starting to feel really resentful.

I think you’ve got to get clear on what’s a problem here and what isn’t. If she wants to blow her nose in large amounts of toilet paper instead of tissues, that’s her business as long as she’s throwing it in the trash afterwards. (If your company is concerned about how much toilet paper is getting used for nose-blowing, that’s theirs to deal with. It’s not something you need to worry about.) And a box of tampons left on the counter isn’t a big deal. Lots of bathrooms have tampons out because the bathroom is a logical place for them to live.

Leaving toilet paper unwound and dangling on the floor isn’t great, and neither is used toilet paper on the floor. Bobby pins lying around and cabinet doors open — not disasters in an of themselves, but combined with the rest I can see why it just feels messy in there.

You didn’t say how new you are but assuming you’ve been there at least a few months, you could say to her, “It bothers me how messy our bathroom gets, with toilet paper everywhere, empty rolls not replaced, hair pins lying around, and cabinet doors left open. It seems to be up to us to keep it clean, since we’re the two who use it most often. Do you think you could help me keep it cleaner?”

Hopefully that might help. If it doesn’t … well, it’s probably not something you can keep harping on. But it’s worth a conversation.

3. The office thermostat war is right by my desk

I recently began a new job and was pleasantly surprised to learn I’d have my own office. I’ve spent some time over the last few weeks getting it organized and am finally feeling at home in my little space. Taking my cue from my coworkers, I leave my door open most of the time, unless I’m on the phone or otherwise need privacy.

People generally hang out in the doorway if they want to speak to me and wait to be invited in … except that the thermostat for a row of offices is located in my office, and the dreaded thermostat war plays out in my office every day. There are two coworkers who come in and adjust the temperature back and forth, and they don’t knock or ask to come in— I just look up and they’re in the corner of my office adjusting the thermostat. I was warned when I started that this was going to happen, but I didn’t think much of it. But now I’m feeling like I need to set a precedent before this gets out of hand and I don’t feel like I have any privacy in my office. Am I wrong in finding this odd and rude? What’s my best course of action here, recognizing that I’m very new and barely even know anyone yet? I’d like to just find a temperature we can all agree on and leave it at that so these two will stay out of my office, but I’m afraid it won’t be that simple since this has been going on for ages.

Try this: “Hey, Jane, it’s distracting to have you and Cecil in here so often adjusting the temperature. Would you mind working it out with him directly so my office isn’t a thermostat battleground?”

If you’re senior to them, feel free to just tell them to cut it out: “It’s distracting having you and Cecil adjust the temperature so often. It’s fine to adjust it occasionally if you need to — like once a week or so — but I need to ask you not to do it as often as you have been.”

This kind of thing is why some offices end up locking up thermostats.

4. Should I quit with nothing lined up?

I have been in my company for nine years. It’s my first employer out of graduate school. I’ve been trying to find a new job since about 2012 to no avail (I don’t even get interviews). My mental and physical health is suffering to the point I have FMLA arrangements and am looking into short term disability and workers’ comp.

How risky is it to quit with no employment lined up and demonstrated inability to find new employment? How bad would this look to future employers?

It’s not so much that it would look bad to future employers that you quit without something else lined up (although it’s true that it’s often easier to find a job when you’re already employed), but more that if you’ve been looking for seven years, I’d be extremely worried about how long you’d be out of work before you found a new job. If you’re unemployed for a year or multiple years, what will that mean for your finances and ability to support yourself? Plus, if we start getting into years, plural, at that point I’d get more worried about what that means for your hireability; employers will start wondering why you’ve been out of work so long and whether your skills are getting stale.

So if at all possible, I wouldn’t quit at this point. But when you’re job searched for seven years with no interviews, that says there’s something seriously wrong with your search. It could be the jobs you’re targeting, or it could be your resume. (It could be your cover letter too, but a weak cover letter isn’t as likely to lead to seven years of active searching with no bites, so it’s more likely to be one of the other two.)

There are a bunch of resources here that may help. You could also check out my job hunting guide.

5. Am I about to be rejected?

I interviewed for a job a few weeks ago and just received this email from the employer: “We are currently holding off on making an offer until we can further define our staffing needs for new projects. We should be able to update you further toward the end of the month.” Does this sound like I’m about to be rejected?

There’s no indication either way. It sounds like they’re reconsidering exactly what they need to hire for or whether they need to hire at all. They might end up deciding not to hire anyone, or they might realize they need to hire for a different skill set than they originally advertised for. Or they could end up moving forward exactly as they’d originally planned, but still might hire someone else — or they could come back and offer a job to you. There’s no way to know at this point, so the best thing to do is to put it out of your mind, move on, and let it be a pleasant surprise if they do come back to you with an offer.

{ 696 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    Alison, I don’t know if this is helpful to OP#1, but if they’re in the U.S., there are 29 states that have outlawed workplace bullying (just the act of bullying, no “on the basis of” required). I know that appealing to “the law” is not always an effective strategy, but OP may be able to leverage the law in order to reframe how HR or others view the abusive coworker’s conduct.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hmmm, that is news to me so I checked! What I’m seeing says anti-bullying bills have been introduced in a bunch of states but passed in none. That could be outdated info (although I’m seeing multiple sources, including the Workplace Bullying Institute, say it’s not the law in any state yet) — if you’re sure about it, do you have more recent info you can link me to?

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Oh, I apologize! You’re right that 29 have introduced the bill but not many have enacted a workplace anti-bullying law (some laws have passed in the legislature but have been vetoed without an override). I truly apologize for the misstatement.

        Tennessee has outlawed bullying in the workplace; Utah and California require mandatory anti-bullying training, and Utah has made it unlawful to retaliate against a whistleblower who alleges abusive conduct; and North Dakota requires public agencies to develop a plan to address harassment (but this reads to me like it’s related to sexual harassment, not general bullying).

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Ah! Yeah, and even for Tennessee, their law is only for public sector employers; it doesn’t cover private sector workers at all. So it’s zero states, but protection in Tennessee for government workers.

        2. Utahn*

          Wait, Utah has mandatory anti-bullying training? That’s news to me… I’ve worked in Utah for 16 years and don’t think I’ve ever had that.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It looks like that only applies to state government workplaces there, not private sector employers. The California law requires anti-bullying training for all employers with more than 50 employees.

            1. designbot*

              well I’ll repeat the ‘whoa’ reaction from California. Had no idea, and I’m a top level contributor/lower level manager in an employer well above 50. We had diversity training for the first time last year, so that was some progress at least.

            2. Not Rebee*

              From California and have never had this before. But, I’m not and have never been a manager of people so it’s possible that it’s only required for employees with direct reports. My boss does go through annual harassment training, which I thought was more of the ordinary meaning of the word and wouldn’t cover bullying, but maybe it does.

            3. Jules the 3rd*

              Hunh! I guess this explains why my employer rolled out anti-bullying training this year, including 4 – 5 paths to reporting it. We have offices in CA.

              The more I read here, the less I want to leave. It’s not perfect, but they are trying.

          2. Marmaduke*

            I even worked in schools, where we had to provide anti-bullying training for kids, and never saw any given to the adults.

            However, I know Utah schools can satisfy the requirement by adopting “good citizenship” style programs; possibly workplaces do the same?

            1. Ginger Peachy*

              I work in the school system in Michigan and we have to watch an online bullying course and pass a test afterwards Every. Single. Year.

          3. Assistant to the Regional Manager*

            My brother is a state employee in Utah and he’s never even heard of this anti-bullying training.

        3. Carrie*

          Never mind workplace bullying. This is stalking, harassment, intimidation, etc. If no one wants to get involved I bet the police will.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I don’t think law enforcement would deign to intervene, unless she is actually hit by the car or the coworker slapped or shoved her.

    2. GigglyPuff*

      Victoria, Please–I don’t think that’s what Vic meant at all, as according to all my timestamps and the nesting of the comments, Vic commented after the discussion of the laws. Without explanation/context, they sound like a dick.

      1. Victoria, Please*

        Nestingwise, Vic’s is a first level comment, an immediate response to PCBH. Timestamps indicate very little, since many of us don’t read all the comments before commenting ourselves.

        Hopefully, Vic will come back and clarify.

    3. Snickerdoodle*

      I was going to say that even if the workplace won’t do anything, the police will. OP may need to get a restraining order. Also, my advice would be to LOUDLY and REPEATEDLY tell the bully to STOP and BACK OFF. If she doesn’t, then it’s time to take more drastic measures.

      1. DJ*

        Agreed, you could definitely get the police involved (though I’m not sure if you want to go that route without seeing if it can be resolved without them first). This may not be workplace harassment, but it’s still a criminal offense and worth getting police involved if nothing else works.

        1. The Bean*

          Right. I am confused about how Alison says it’s not harassment. It depends on your jurisdiction but this could conceivably be misdemeanor harassment or even felony stalking in my state.

          And individual incidents might count as assault (assault is generally just putting some one in reasonable apprehension of harmful or offensive contact)

          1. JustAnotherHRPro*

            unfortunately federal law only considers illegal harassment in the context of quid pro quo sexual harassment, or ill treatment based on a protected class (gender, race, etc….)

            But i also suspect the car incident might be a true worklace safety issue and is worth considering reporting to OSHA.

            and whoever up above mentioned getting LOUD when it happens . i agree. if anything those who aren’t being harrased will know it happened when the authorities ultimately get involvesed.

            AND finally – for the OP – you need to make detailed notes going forward as you will need these for legal reasons later. Your employer is fostering an unsafe work environment, and on more than one occasion there has been workplace violence that the companies knew about before it turned deadly. Furthermore, if a company doesn’t disclose incidents like these, and then something worse happens down the road, it can be devastating for them (whch, IMO would be awesome. i hate companies that operate like this.

            oh one more thing – there are attorneys that work on a contingency. it may be worth it to look into that option. In any case, your employer has a duty to stop this behavior and stop it NOW. and if they dont you need to do something about it.

              1. NerdyKris*

                There is no way that an employee only interacting with you in the office falls under stalking laws anywhere.

                1. The Bean*

                  I mean, neither of us knows OP’s jurisdiction but it would in mine, potentially. (This is not legal advice to OP, just submitted for the sake of discussion)

                  Misdemeanor harassment: “…insults, taunts or challenges another person or engages in any other course of alarming or distressing conduct which serves no legitimate purpose and is in a manner which the person knows is likely to provoke a violent or disorderly response or cause a reasonable person to suffer fear, alarm or distress.”

                  Felony Harrassment: “… knowingly engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person and that conduct would cause a reasonable person to: (1) fear physical injury to . . . herself… or (2) suffer other significant mental anguish or distress that may, but does not necessarily, require medical or other professional treatment or counseling.”

                  It could get bumped up to a higher class of felony since it includes threat of death or serious physical injury, and a car is a deadly weapon.

            1. ugh*

              OSHA may be the best way to go. Start documenting, wear a camera if you can do so discreetly, and be careful.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It’s not workplace harassment. For work stuff under labor law, harassment has to be based on protected class (like race, sex, etc.). It sounds like you’re talking about criminal law, which is a different thing that civil workplace protections.

            1. The Bean*

              I could have sworn the end of that section post originally just said it wasn’t legally harassment, without the workplace qualifier.

        2. Hey Nonnie*

          Agreed… trying to hit someone with a car is assault with a deadly weapon. Document EVERYTHING. If the employer won’t do anything, file a police report.

          Perhaps mentioning the criminal nature of what she’s doing will light a fire under her manager’s ass too.

          1. Quill*

            Oh good, someone else mentioned this! The car thing is what took me to defcon 5 with “there is a huge possibility that this woman will physically attempt to harm or kill you and you need a legal paper trail NOW.”

          2. MechanicalPencil*

            And by document, dates, times, who was there, what occurred, what was said. I’ve included a link that is a template that can help, just take out the space after the org.

            https://victimsofcrime. org/docs/src/stalking-incident-log_pdf.pdf

        3. Wing Leader*

          Totally agree, OP. Obviously this woman is trying to be discreet and not draw any attention to herself while she’s bullying you, so you bring some attention. You don’t have to push her or yell at her or anything that’s going to make you look aggressive or like the bully. Instead, loudly say, “Bernina, please do not touch me that way. I don’t appreciate it.” Next time, say, “Bernina, I’ve asked you not to put your hands on me. Is there a reason you keep doing it?” Chances are, you’ll get someone’s attention.

      2. Massmatt*

        I don’t see how anything the LW talks about rises to clearly criminal conduct. The bullies ignore her, one of them brushes up against her in the hall (never with any witnesses) and don’t give her the right of way when crossing a street. I would anticipate major eye rolls from any cop brought into this.

        Maybe the police in other jurisdictions or countries are different, but when my apartment was burglarized the police literally said “what do you want US to do about it?”

        1. Lady Phoenix*

          The last case is reckless driving and/or vehicular assault.

          If a cop is rolling their eyes on the last one, then that is one sh1tty cop

        2. Rainy*

          If you think that not giving a pedestrian the right of way when crossing a street is minor, you need to seriously check yourself.

          And if you think it’s not a big deal because you yourself don’t give pedestrians the right of way in a marked crossing, you are going to kill someone someday. Cut it out.

          1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

            I think this depends a lot on where you are, honestly. In New York, crossing the street is a bit of a game of chicken. If you’re physically in the middle of the crosswalk, then sure, a car will stop, but no one’s gonna stop as you’re starting to cross, and people will speed up to get through the intersection before you’re in their way. Whereas, when I visit California, it’s always incredibly weird to me to have cars…actually stop…when I’m crossing the street.
            That said, this situation does sound dangerous

            1. Glitsy Gus*

              You must not be visiting San Francisco. I almost got taken out by both a car AND a bike while walking into the office this very morning.

              But yeah, if there were video or something cops here might check into it, but just telling them someone almost hit you with a car? They wouldn’t even bother with a report. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be documenting it, I agree with writing everything down, even if it’s just for your manager/HR. It gives you more than just “sometimes she does this, and then this one time? She did that.” Documentation is always good. I just don’t know how far it would go legally. There is the letter of the law then there is the practicality of actually enforcing said law. They aren’t always the same.

          2. Massmatt*

            I do give the right of way at crosswalks, but see cars pull through them all the time. Jaywalking/crossing without a light or crosswalk (I suspect the case in the letter? More “she didn’t stop to let me cross” than “she tried to run me down with her car”) it is definitely often a case of who is in the bigger hurry or who wants to be courteous.

            Really have those talking about this being vehicular assault etc ever been to a city?

            Around here, Someone driving is not under an obligation to stop for someone crossing the road when it’s not a crosswalk, it’s up to the pedestrian to cross when and where it’s safe to do so.

            1. Amethystmoon*

              I have been walking to work since spring and any given day, there is usually at least 1 person who goes to turn right on red, even though my light clearly says walk and I was standing there, waiting for it to change. I always have to check to be sure that people aren’t running red lights. Going splat would not be fun.

            2. Rainy*

              I have been hit by a car. I wasn’t hit hard, thank god, but it sucked. A lot. So no, I don’t really care that “other people do it”. Cut it the fuck out.

              I have lived in a couple of big cities, tyvm, and that doesn’t mean I’m any more sanguine about being menaced with someone’s car. If anything, living in bigger cities means MORE pedestrians and you should be MORE careful not to murder them with your giant rolling weapon.

            3. JSPA*

              Some cities have driving cultures that are very respectful of pedestrians, others don’t. Ditto some suburbs and some rural areas. This is entirely not a city/burbs distinction.

              I do think that before taking it up legally, it would be relevant to confirm that OP and the body-checking coworker are from similar enough backgrounds that there’s no question that “swinging close” could be excused as “that’s just how we interact where I come from.” Not because it’s likely to be true. (The fact that body-checker doesn’t do it when others are there to see suggests it’s entirely intentional.) But because it’s a wrinkle OP doesn’t want to be blindsided by.

              If that argument is made, I’d suggest wearing a gopro on your purse strap in the parking lot, unless that’s a violation of company policy. (Recording general surroundings outdoors, without sound, is not a violation of policy in any state I know of, including states with draconian two-party permission requirements for audio recordings.)

              For the hall, try adding some chunky, sharp bracelets to your wardrobe. If she scratches herself on your wrist, she’ll learn to keep her distance (or she’ll complain about you, and be told to leave some space).

        3. Decima Dewey*

          “She’s had me to where I’m completely against the wall and can’t get away from her. She’s never tried to touch me with her hands, but we’ve grazed each other’s arms before. She comes at me very aggressively, like she’s going to run me over. The entire hallway will be wide open and she’ll get as close as she possibly can. She won’t do anything when other people are around though.”

          That’s more than “brushing up against her in the hall.” And the bullies are harassing her in ways that do not fit the legal definition of workplace harassment. I assume that’s deliberate. It sounds like psychological warfare to me.

          OP #1 needs to tell HR about what the bullies are doing. What what her boss is refusing to do about it.

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          You’re right that this very much depends on your local police department and how many other issues they deal with. If this were a busy city, the cops would likely brush it off. OP notes they’re somewhere rural, so there may be considerations about who knows who in a small town. But it’s hard to know for sure how seriously this would be taken without knowing the context of OP’s jurisdiction. I agree with you that many police departments would not intervene based on what OP has described, even though the behavior she’s described is alarming, dangerous and violent.

          1. Kendra*

            Then again, if it ever gets to the point of a lawsuit, it might be to the OP’s benefit to have a police report on file that she’d complained about this behavior before. It might not have an immediate benefit, but it’s another layer of documentation. (And, if the worst happens and she turns up injured – or worse – in that crosswalk, the cops will know exactly who to question first.)

        5. Wing Leader*

          When I worked in a restaurant, one of the customers called the police because a waitress spilled some soup on her (She did not throw it on her or do anything on purpose–she literally tripped and fell). They came to the place, but then left when they heard what it was about. That’s because no actual crime had been committed (it would have to be intentional for it to be assault and it clearly was not).

          Intention is very big in the legal worse. Whether or not you purposely do something can have a big effect and how they respond. You can still commit a crime without genuinely knowing you did, but the punishment will be a lot worse if you do it willingly and knowingly.

          In the case of OP, this woman is acting very intentionally and deliberately. I’m sure she’d claim otherwise but, if it is any decent sort of cop, this is something the police would want to hear about. Especially with the car.

      3. Lauren*

        A few well timed – STOP HARASSING ME exclamations. Honestly, the easiest way out of this – is to tell her manager that it happened again, and that you are going to the police station to file a complaint of the the repeated harassment and will be asking for a restraining order and that the managers will be called to give statements pertaining to each instance that you reported to them. Filing a complaint with the cops is a good way to have them show up to work and ask to speak with her and her manager – it also forces the company to take action – even if its finally calling on the person to stop it. It doesn’t have to be legally binding or lead to some grand winning of a lawsuit, its the freak out of hiring lawyers and spending money on it that will get them to stop. OP should record every instance, and even tell the cops that she thinks that there are cameras in the parking lot. Hell, a nicely worded letter from a lawyer asking for the camera footage in anticipation of the workplace harassment campaign, stalking, and violent tendencies of X toward OP in anticipation of a restraining order and lawsuit against company for inaction (name the manager / dates of complaints) – will get the owner to shut this down very quickly.

  2. Kimmybear*

    #1 – I got a bit confused as to whether the OP went to the bully’s supervisor or her own (could be the same person). In any case, I agree with Alison to go to HR. If there is no HR, try her manager, try your manager, and then keep going up the chain until you find someone with any sense and political capital to stop this.

    1. Auntie Social*

      It sounds like her boss is intimidated by her too if s/he doesn’t want to “ruffle feathers”. Sometimes that’s a manager’s job.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I think this means LW needs to show that her own feathers are ruffled. This is a squeaky wheel moment, where appeasing bully needs to become more difficult for the manager than, I dunno, actually doing her job of managing.

      2. OhGee*

        Yup, boss is definitely also intimidated by this person — I’ve had to deal with this (a cowardly manager) before and it’s wild to me that some managers would rather deal with the time, cost, and stress of replacing employees who leave due to unaddressed bullying than simply addressing the issue/terminating the bully!

        LW 1, I’m sorry you’re going through this, but you absolutely should not have to put up with physical intimidation at work. I hope you take Alison’s advice. Good luck.

      3. Michelle*

        That just pissed me off. They don’t want to “ruffle feathers” but they are A-OK with OP being hit/injured/killed by a car?

        1. Perse's Mom*

          What do you want to bet they don’t or won’t believe it, or will accuse her of exaggerating, right up until it escalates and OP is actually injured, at which point they will shake their heads and declare there’s no way anyone could have seen that coming!

      4. Jadelyn*

        Also, like…pretty sure OP’s feathers are unavoidably ruffled by having someone physically threatening her every day at work. The manager just doesn’t want to ruffle certain people’s feathers, because the boss is scared of the bully too.

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      Yeah – I got confused by adcice to say to OP’s manager “you said you didn’t want to ruffle feathers” when as far as I can see OP’s manager didn’t say that – bully’s supervisor said that.

      Going to your manager is good anyway!

        1. Ham*

          I agree but in the meantime OP needs to look after herself. Is there an immediate workplace service like employee assistance program, where you can talk to a professional right away? Today for example? (We have this at my work). Firstly do this, then the rest will follow when they give professional advice on how to handle this. It might be worth paying even to call such a service if your work does not offer it. You need to study your HR documents and see who you approach to discuss this. Everything has a process.
          I think as well you need to stand up to the bullies in the workplace and pull them up on the behaviour. I know it’s hard I was in the same scenario but only through my own will I did a complete 180 and have never been a target again. It took time but stand up for yourself – the workplace is mean and you have to stand up for yourself because sometimes (or most times), no one else will.

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, I think Alison inadvertendly changed from “bully’s supervisor” to “OP’s supervisor” halfway through the answer – it’s very clear that the person who doesn’t want to “ruffle feathers” is the bully’s manager and Alison acknowledges that at first but then addresses the following very serious and stern conversation (the one with “you decline to intervene” and “there’s more than feathers being rustled”) at OP’s manager, which doesn’t make any sense – that script should be addressed to the bully’s supervisor (I think Alison simply mistyped here).
        But like you, I recommend OP talk to her own manager about this whole clustertruck regardless.

    3. BRR*

      I read it as the LW went to the bully’s supervisor (and I’m making the assumption the LW and the bully don’t share a supervisor). I agree the LW should cast a broad net in who they go to with this. HR, their manager, the bully’s Grandboss.

    4. Mama Bear*

      If the OP got a promotion, then OP is valued at work by upper level management and I think OP needs to remember that and use it. OP should be clear with HR/management that this behavior is unacceptable and if it isn’t handled they may lose someone they value enough to promote.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, is it possible that the negative effects of your current job are also affecting your job search? Sometimes when I’m feeling ground down, undertaking positive alternatives like a job search are a huge lift. My energy is drained and it’s hard to put my best foot forward.

    Would quitting help you get yourself back, including your headspace, so that you can undertake a more successful search? If quitting won’t make a significant positive impact on your ability to pivot, then I think it may help to create a more definite timeline and action plan during your FMLA leave so that you won’t feel so trapped. But if you have a financial cushion and quitting will truly allow you to move on and refocus on securing a new job, then it sounds like it could be worth it. You know yourself best, and I think the important thing is to separate your feelings of dread in the current job from your plans for the future.

    1. BRR*

      Sort of similar, this got me thinking about all of the candidates I’ve interviewed who are applying to the open role to leave their current awful role (I’ve also been there myself). A bad job can really warp your mind and bleed through to how you present yourself. You have to work extra hard to hide that stress and unhappiness which stinks.

      1. JessaB*

        Also I want to add in a thing, OP you said you’ve been there nine years, ten years is often a big deal with some companies, is there anything you might be vesting in that you might have overlooked if you stay for the last year there?

        1. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

          Absolutely nothing! My stock options are vested, all I get at 10 years is slightly more PTO.

        1. Quill*

          Is it possible that your search is just throwing you into a pool that’s already flooded with candidates? I know I’m going to have to leave my current area to ever get a job with benefits because people with a BA in STEM fields are pretty much disposable to the industries local to me.

          It might also be worth doing some due dilligence on the places that you’re searching for job postings – is there a site that’s more reputable in your industry, are you dealing with bad recruiters? (Also check if there’s some sort of negative public impression of the institution that gave you your degree…)

    2. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

      Hi! I’m #4 – to a certain extent, yes, the feelings in the current job are likely affecting the search (learned helplessness and all that). I think part of the search issue might also be my advanced degrees which overqualify me for a lot of positions despite not even being in a field that uses them.

      1. Joielle*

        You can take the advanced degrees off your resume for positions where you think they’d be a liability! As Alison says, your resume and cover letter are marketing documents, not a comprehensive list of every degree and position you’ve held. I know some of my law school classmates have done that when they’re looking for non-law jobs – otherwise people assume they’ll jump ship as soon as they can get hired in a law firm (even when the person has zero interest in practicing law and is not looking for that kind of job at all).

        1. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

          Ok awesome! So then how would I explain the apparent “gap” between undergrad and my current employer?

          1. Washi*

            Do you need to have the date you graduated from undergrad on your resume? I would just leave it off since you’ve been working almost 10 years.

            1. The Original K.*

              I don’t have my education dates on mine either! I think this is becoming common – at least it is in the resumes I’ve seen.

          2. Smithy*

            If you’ve been at your current job for 9 years, then that gap will be so long ago it really may not come up.

            What I would also recommend is check out in your area whether there might be more bespoke job placement services. I was working overseas and applying and applying for jobs globally and just not getting anything. I quit my job, returned to the US and moved in with my parents to attempt to start over. A friend had recommended Jewish Vocational Services and it was exactly what I needed. I got help with my application materials and interview prep, but also had someone hold my hand through some of my mental and emotional blocks from my old job. I think city to city the best resources may vary, but if your job is draining and you’ve found the job hunt that hard – I strongly recommend seeking out something similar.

            1. Veronica*

              If there’s a state unemployment comp office nearby they might have a list of organizations that could help you, or they might offer this help themselves.

            1. SarahTheEntwife*

              Sure, but if she’s getting rejected for looking overqualified, TA work pretty much says she at least made it most of the way through an advanced degree to anyone who knows how grad school works. Unless the TA work is relevant to the position, I’d just leave the date off the BA.

          3. Venus*

            AAM has recommended in the past that people remove the dates of graduation. Also, you might put some of the work parts of grad school on there, so that you have another job/workplace (assuming, like I did, that there was some sort of pay – teaching assistant, research, etc). You don’t have to include those, of course, but I would think that you can reference your time spent in grad school without being forced to mention any degree. I’m not sure if it would result in questions of why you worked at the university after your undergrad, but it happens. I did some extra work for profs for a year after I finished school (it was a bit artificial, as I postponed my official graduation by a year so that I was employed as a student despite not having any studies, but it was a slow employment market and I couldn’t turn down the money and opportunity for experience, especially since they chose me).

          4. Psyche*

            If you are being asked about it, you made it to the interview stage. You don’t need to lie about it, just downplay it. “I was pursuing a degree in X but decided that I prefer to do Y.”

            1. kitryan*

              Yes, *if* eliminating the grad work and leaving the dates off or leaving a gap works to get you to interview stage, then they’re already interested and just saying that you were studying X and then realized your interests lay elsewhere – like *thing that this company does* should easily address things.
              And since you’ve had such poor luck so far, it seems that trying new approaches is more than warranted. I’d send out some with the gap and some with no date on the undergrad degree and see if one or the other approach seems like an improvement

          5. Librarian of SHIELD*

            A lot of people leave their graduation dates off their resume these days. Unless you’re working with an online application form that requires a date, I’d say skip it.

      2. wittyrepartee*

        Did you get an MS with your PhD? If so, you can put that. You can also list “graduate studies” without listing the degree.

        1. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

          So I have two masters degrees, and didn’t have to work as a TA or RA during the programs and didn’t do the part time job thing since I was on a PhD track and our program just paid us. I’ve been applying for things outside of my industry as well as within it, I’d prefer outside of it. What I’m finding tricky now is the graduation dates, etc that I would be omitting in the resume are required for the job applications here. It’s also a tough area in general, and relocating is no longer an option for me at this point.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I would leave your undergrad graduation date off your resume and take your graduate degrees off. Are the dates truly “required” for the job applications? Or are these online forms that require a response? If they’re forms, I’d just say 0000 or some similarly made-up year.

            Because you’ve spent nearly 10 years at your current employer, no one is going to think twice about whether there’s a gap between undergrad and work, or about why you haven’t included a graduation year.

            Part of me also wonders if your frustration is bleeding into your written materials? If you’re feeling powerless or beaten down or unmarketable, sometimes that tone comes across in your application materials, which may be contributing to the lack of interviews. (But also, if you’re in a tough market, oftentimes a lack of interviews has nothing to do with you as a candidate and more to do with a restricted market.)

    3. Buttons*

      I was going to say something similar. When I was in a toxic job I was madly applying and interviewing, and I lost a job I really wanted because I was so negative in the interview. Which isn’t my normal state of being! I had gotten an email and phone call from toxic job on my way to the interview and it threw me off my game.

      Although OP says she isn’t getting interviews, that could indicate a tough industry or she needs to get some help with her resume.
      Good luck OP4!

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Sadly, if you aren’t getting a job in your industry and your health is suffering because of your current one, I’d suggest looking for jobs in different industries. I gave up on A Real Career long ago myself.

        1. Veronica*

          I gave up on A Real Career too, and focused on finding a job that would be good for long-term financial stability. I found an excellent one, and now it looks like I might have a bit of a career after all. :)

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            I gave up on “Real Jobs,” then eventually gave up on temping too. I now patch together part-time retail with freelance/gig economy type jobs and I am actually doing better financially because I always have at least one source of income, without the long fallow periods I had while temping.

        2. GreyjoyGardens*

          Seconding this. Sometimes (often?) it’s not even you, it’s that the field is so saturated that employers can pick and choose to their heart’s content, and will reject people for things like wearing a gray suit instead of a navy one.

          And sometimes the field is so small and tight-knit that one PO’d “Big Cheese” can tank your career for what can be truly petty reasons.

          It’s *okay* to have a job instead of a career, to pay the bills instead of pursuing your passion. This “do what you love!” stuff is so overrated. Nobody’s going to pay me to go to museums, play with cats, or write fan fiction, so a job it is. Don’t work in a field you *hate* or are really incompatible with, but really, careers are overrated and jobs underrated, IMO.

          1. Veronica*

            I agree!
            It also confused and held me back. I kept thinking I had to figure out what I “wanted” to do for a career/living. I didn’t know, kept changing my major, dropped out of college.
            I eventually figured out what my strengths are and that I should apply them to a job. When I looked for a job that could use my strengths, I found my first Good Job after many years of working. If I’d understood I should look for a way to make a living that plays to my strengths – and nothing more – I would have saved many years.

    4. BurnOutCandidate*

      I relate to OP #4. I’ve been in my role for twelve and a half years and searching since 2015. At that point, I reached 100 issues of the publication I work on and I recognized that the promotion I’d been offered two and a half years earlier, based on an assumed departure, was never going to happen. It seemed like a good time to go. Four years later, I’m still here. I’ve had no interviews, I’ve been contacted by one recruiter (who told me that he found my resume “unbelievable” and, based on the below market salary I make, “unhireable”). It’s frustrating, and it has not been good for my mental health. I’m depressed all the time, and its exacerbated by stress about the job and concern for the company’s future (we seem to be in financial distress, and I expect a third year without a raise). Half the time I apply for a new job, I feel a sense of momentary elation that I can finally escape, followed by severe feelings of guilt that I’m abandoning (and dooming) my coworkers, and that feeds into the depression and leaves me feeling even more trapped. If this goes on much longer, I fear that I’m resigning myself to a life of endless despair and misery.

      1. Lyka*

        I don’t even know if you’ll see this, but I wanted to say something: things look bad and bleak because you’re in a cycle of stress and worry, not because you deserve it or will be stuck this way forever. Don’t think about that recruiter again – plenty of recruiters are terrible at their jobs, and the one you connected with wasn’t helpful. That’s NOT your fault or problem, and their opinion of your resume or candidacy is not some objective truth.

        Also, I too have been stuck in a terrible work situation and bonded with colleagues over it. It’s very normal (maybe even healthy) to have each others’ backs in that way. But as Alison always says, people leave jobs – it’s the normal course of business. You don’t owe your whole life to your coworkers because you’re overloaded with projects, and you aren’t dooming them if you find an opportunity that’s better for you. You have to try to do the things that will bring you closer to mental wellbeing. Don’t trap yourself, you don’t deserve it. I so hope your future brightens up – I believe in you, stranger.

        1. GooseTracks*

          Yes, seconding this. BurnOutCandidate, I hear you. I was at a job so bad that staff were crying at goodbye parties for coworkers who were “escaping” to new jobs. When my turn finally came, I felt guilty leaving people behind who been in the trenches with me. But then the coworker who had been suffering the most got an offer two weeks after I left!

          People leave jobs. It’s not personal – you have to do what is best for your finances, career, and mental health. You definitely can’t put your life on hold for coworkers, and really, you staying doesn’t help them. Maybe your leaving will motivate them to look for something better, or even put you in a position to give them a hand in their own job search.

  4. All Outrage, All The Time*

    OP# if she rushes you in the hallway again put your hand up in a “stop” motion and say very loudly “STOP! What are you doing? You need to move away from me now.” I’m so incensed at your treatment I can hardly contain myself.

    1. Linzava*

      Yes! I was watching Jane the Virgin, and one of the characters young daughters screamed, “KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF MY BODY!” I’m so teaching my daughters to do that.

      1. valentine*

        Not everyone can safely do this. Even if OP1 and the steamroller are both white, the latter’s supervisor may well fall in line with painting OP1 as the abuser. They will say no one saw the multiple assaults, but everyone heard OP1 yelling.

        1. Mookie*

          Yep, very easy to turn attempts at self-defense and de-escalation into “histrionics.”

          If that’s both a concern and a real possibility, any chance, in addition to reporting this and hopefully continuing to document it, the LW is comfortable saying in a loud, amused voice “woooaahhhh there, you’re about to bulldoze me!” followed by a chuckle? Second or third time, “we gotta keep running into each other like this lol!” Fourth, “WARNING, YOU’RE ABOUT TO COMMIT A HIT AND RUN HERE.” Just keep getting noticeably louder, and gradually evolve the tone from bemused, to polite but concerned, to a stern warning followed by a loud request that co-worker stop daydreaming or she’s going to hurt someone. Kind of publicly documenting every incident by attracting the attention of people who can’t see these interactions but can hear you trying, in good faith, to prevent them.

          1. Just Elle*

            Yes and no. They can attempt to defend their actions by labeling it “histrionics” but at least then they’re still on the defensive. These kids of bullies thrive on plausible deniability. By calling out a specific request (“Hey, could you please not walk so close to me in the hall? Its weird.”) You are now voicing a thing you wish to stop happening, and they are forced to blatantly ignore you (much easier to get higher ups to take action on) or to stop the behavior.

            I do agree that you have to be very careful with your wording. Do it calm and collected and in a tone that matches someone unintentionally doing something annoying – not the full blown emotions that can come with finally standing up to a bully.

            Getting back to Linzava’s point… I had a friend in college who was amazing at this. Very few women are actually comfortable escalating to “STOP TOUCHING ME” until they feel the situation ‘deserves’ it – which is often far too late. But this friend would level a withering stare on a guy who tried some nonsense and say “Gross, No” calmly (but loudly enough for nearby people to hear), and then just walk away. It worked every time.

                1. Veronica*

                  That’s what I was wondering. Can you bring your phone and film her coming toward you?
                  It would be interesting to see how she reacts to that!

                2. Mama Bear*

                  I was thinking the same thing. I’d keep my phone handy and the first time warn her loudly that she needs to stop crowding you in the hallway and the second time pointedly hold up the phone and record her. You can also stop midway down the hall when you see her veer and wait, so that it is obvious that she is coming at you and not the other way around. Stand your ground and let her pass. Report any deliberate bumping that occurs. Same with the parking lot. I’d also ask if any security cameras picked up the behavior from the other week.

                3. Just Elle*

                  I don’t know, I think this veers really far into the “hysteria” category. Not that it really IS but that it would be easy for the bully to flip the script into “woah, you RECORDED ME walking down the hallway? That is weird and I feel violated.”

                  I think it would be much more effective to just describe it in clear concise words. “Boss, I want to let you know that at least once per day, Bully deliberately veers into me in the hallway, causing me to dodge her or be hit. That is really aggressive and unacceptable and I need it to stop.” Its almost somehow more believable to call it out than to come in there armed like you need proof because its so unbelievable.
                  Also, from LW, it doesn’t sound like the boss doesn’t believe her, just that she doesn’t care.

                  I would, however, be super tempted to call my local PD and ask that they come monitor the crosswalk for a few days because failure to yield is becoming a problem.

                4. Librarian of SHIELD*

                  I’d save the camera option for MUCH later in the process. That’s the option of last resort.

            1. East of Nowhere South of Lost*

              Not a bully, but a touchy-feely person i worked with of the same sex would always grab my hand when she was talking to me. It finally escalated to a firm ‘Don’t touch me!’ from me. She was shocked, but stopped doing it.

            2. Dr. Pepper*

              I did the exact same thing! “Ew, no” or “Gross, no” complete with withering stare. It does work, and because you’re completely calm, it looks very weird if the other person gets worked up and they know it.

          2. Shirley Keeldar*

            Or even just step to the side, right against the wall, if you see her coming. Just stand there and wait until she’s gone. If she asks what you are doing, say, “I just don’t want to be in your way.” This is a suggestion if you feel uncomfortable with “STOP!” or “Hey, I need some space here!”–just a lower key way to address what’s going on, if you need it. She’s relying on you to pretend that she’s doing nothing–just walking down the hall, just driving her car. Anything you can do to remove that screen of plausible deniability might help. This is in addition to getting help from those in authority, of course!

            1. Essess*

              Agreed. I am constantly getting walked into by commuter pedestrians who bully their way through the sidewalks and don’t yield right of way. When someone is coming straight at me, I stop and stand still with my hand straight out in front of me as a shield. If someone makes any deliberate physical contact, even a brush then I yell loudly “That hurt!” and grab my arm so that other’s can hear it. I recommend you yell “That hurt” every time she makes contact with you so that others can hear what’s happening.

              1. Just Elle*

                Ugh I have this argument with my husband all the time. We’ll be walking down the sidewalk and some 4-person-wide group will be coming toward us. Husband will not let me duck behind him and make me stand firm and let them literally walk into us because “why should we have to dodge them” but I’m kind of more on the “my quality of life will be better if I just do what it takes to avoid a mid-sidewalk showdown right now” side of things.

                But good for you and heres hoping at least one person changes their behavior over it. I do agree that failing to yield to her and letting her come bump into you might be necessary.

                1. Lepidoptera*

                  Will he let you switch with him? So that he’s the outermost body that’s going to be hit?
                  If he’s the one getting hit he might change his tune.

            2. Jules the 3rd*

              Stopping until she passes is a good idea once in a while. You will want to vary it, so that she doesn’t know what to expect, stopping or moving.

              I wouldn’t say “I don’t want to be in your way” – that’s submissive, and probably would encourage a bully. Try, “I’m not going to try to guess where you’re wandering” or “I’m not interested in playing bumper cars (alt: your games today)”: Name her bad behavior, state you don’t want to participate. After one or two times, stop and give her the ‘child, be done’ look. Your attitude: adult dealing with foolish children.

              However: they are escalating. The car issue is huge, and dangerous – a lot of people don’t think about the difference between two bodies and one body, one car (because we identify with the car we’re driving). Maybe ask your manager or HR person if they can watch from a not-obvious place as you walk in / out, so that they can see this attempted assault.

          3. Linzava*

            Thanks to the me too movement, I don’t care if someone lables me hystrionic. Been there and it’s old hat.

            If someone trys to tell you you’re overreacting in a situation, remind them that unwanted touch is the definition of assault and we can have an outside party like a cop or lawyer mediate the situation if they can’t be objective. Explain that using an outdated and offensive term like hystrionic is proving their lack of objectivity. Explain that doctors no longer belive the uteris can float around the body causing unwarranted emotions. If they belive raising your voice is more of a problem than someone touching other people knowing they don’t like it, there’s a problem with their judgment.

            Ideally in a work situation, it’s good to have savings(F-You Money), before dying on that hill. I would, but I don’t blame anyone who wouldn’t.

            I know I’m a bit extreme on this one, but I’ve been sexually harassed at a lot of workplaces, I have no tolerance left in that jar.

          4. sofar*

            I like this approach. The coworker’s behavior is ridiculous, so poking fun works well. I might also stop, step to the side as she makes a beeline for me, gesture with my arms and say, “After you, madame!”

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              Or “gesture with my arms, ‘the office is that-a-way’ “. Might be too aggressive to say, ‘wow, having trouble walking there?’ but I’d be tempted.

        2. T2*

          If her company is filled with people who are willing to overlook continued attempts to commit assault and battery then they have other problems.

          Personally, my behavior is the same as John Wayne’s. “ I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted. I won’t be laid a-hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.”

          I may not respond to force with the same force, but I will not let a wrong go by uncommented on. Nor will I turn a blind eye to others being bullied around me. I gotta think most people are like that.

      2. wittyrepartee*

        My mom taught me to do this (she was a city girl from a bad neighborhood). She taught me to go “Excuse me, that’s inappropriate. Please stop touching me” VERY LOUDLY. It’s worked gloriously well in each situation.

        1. Mimi Me*

          I’ve had luck with being loud calling out bad behavior. A loud, stern voice calls attention to the situation and that’s what bullies don’t want. “Stay to the right, please!” called out as the OP is walking down the hallway might be enough to call attention to the fact that the bully is purposely walking in a way that blocks the path. Although, in this case I’d suggest sterner wording including the words NO, STOP, and DON’T. And the car thing? I’d be on my phone with the local police so fast the bully wouldn’t know what happened. Next time you’re crossing the road, pull out your phone and video the crossing with the plates / cars clearly shown.

    2. Mr. Shark*

      I think that’s a good idea. Make a big deal about it, don’t let it go unnoticed if you can. You don’t have to be aggressive to the point where it looks bad on you (the LW), but it’s good to let the bully know that it won’t be tolerated.

    3. tamarack and fireweed*

      It’s an outrageous situation, alright. This – loudly (but inwardly calmly, so that you can turn it off at a moment’s notice) making a big deal of it might work.

      I’ve tried to figure out the reporting situation, and if I’m reading it correctly it’s this: You’re a fairly large department (at least ~10 people? so that there are multiple sub-reporting chains?); you got a promotion she wanted, so presumably you’re now a notch higher in the hierarchy than her, that is, maybe at peer level with her direct supervisor; when her direct supervisor says she doesn’t want to “ruffle feathers” she’s maybe concerned so much about her reports, but the management chain further up, with people who are close to the clique? In any event, it sounds to me that you have ample standing to take this up the management chain, one or two notches above her direct supervisor. “I need to talk with you about something that I should have been able to resolve with Lucy, as it is about the behavior of one of her direct reports, but after trying many times nothing has been resolved. So unfortunately now we have an untenable and I’m afraid quite serious situation…”

      Whoever is reasonable. I presume someone is as you DID get promoted, so my presumption is that people higher up value your work and want you to have adequate work conditions. If this has to go outside your department, so be it. (This is something I’d have gone to our European Managing Director, who was two notches above my manager … but also an approachable and excellent manager.)

      If you don’t have the standing to do the “there is something more junior in someone else’s reporting chain that is causing me trouble” approach, I agree with the suggestion to band together with other “uncool” co-workers who might be willing to back you up, and who may have their own tale of woe with the clique. (“Tolerable” isn’t really an acceptable state of affairs either!)

      1. Tinuviel*

        I agree, OP, it sounds like you have more power here than you give yourself credit for. You got promoted, she didn’t. She maintains power by keeping you small and afraid and quiet. You need to escalate escalate escalate.
        -Have you talked to your boss about your concerns for your safety?
        -What about HR and her boss’s boss as Alison mentioned?
        -What about other senior leadership who you have a strong relationship with?
        -What happens if you call out what she is doing in the moment? “Are you trying to run into me?” “You almost hit me with your car!”
        -What about other members of the clique, could you ask for “advice” since they seem to know her so well?
        -What about other coworkers outside of the clique? Men? I would ask their advice and let the rumor mill spread how she is treating you.

        Also, what about the other woman, who was bullying you but not getting physical? I think you need to start sharing your story so this clique is broken up.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          Yes, this, too. I meant to add, but forgot – along the same lines – that this could be a “have my boss/grandboss talk to their boss/grandboss” situation.

          Also, how to handle the steamroller-in-the-hallway situation, I’ve been thinking that even though the OP knows that this is intentional physical intimidation, she has plausible deniability. So one strategy could be to a) back away as little as possible without risking actual physical harm and b) say very loudly something like “Bloody hell, Lucy, one day you’re going to mow someone down if you keep this up! Could you PLEASE watch your step?” In a very assured, serious tone (which, if the OP is quiet, could get attention and sympathy on the OP’s side), and also while saying the PLEASE so that everyone hears you mean a swear word by it. Sometimes publicly embarrassing a bully does help to stop them.

          But that’s of course only if the OP doesn’t think her bully would go so far as to plot or commit an attempt at serious bodily harm / murder / anything else the police would consider an obvious felony.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            +1 – I like this script.

            OP, you have power. This is a way to use it proportionately. Practice in the mirror / with friends a few times, it really helps.

            1. Former Employee*

              I was just thinking that when I read your comment. Nothing like making people wonder if someone is drunk at work.

              That could tie into the whole police report idea. LW could leave an anonymous tip to the police before bully leaves for the day and say that she saw bully walking erratically and then she saw her go to her car, so she is concerned. Naturally, she will have bully’s plate number available.

      2. T2*

        I want to echo the Loudly but innerly calm attitude here. Most people make the mistake of actually being angry, which affects their judgement. I have never been like that.

        Never yell at people who do not deserve it. It is the difference being seen as reasonable, and being discounted as a raving lunatic.

    4. Maria Lopez*

      I was thinking about this, and some people have visual problems that prevent them from seeing the right or left side. She doesn’t, of course, but OP could ask her loudly, in the office or break room, “I notice you are always brushing up against me in the hallway, almost like you don’t see me, even when there is plenty of room for you to pass. Do you have a visual field defect? My (aunt, cousin, friend) was doing that and they got checked out and it turned out to be serious. You should see an ophthalmologist.”

      1. Wintermute*

        This is… just no. I know around here we often go way out of our way to figure out why someone might have some medical condition that would force them to mistreat the LW, but that beggars belief. She said that these people SWERVE TOWARDS HER, if they couldn’t see her they wouldn’t be able to target her. She said it happens when they’re driving their cars (!) and frankly if they had an issue where they see so poorly they crossed an open hallway to run into someone without realizing it there’s no way they’d have gotten to work that morning without a major collision. Also it doesn’t happen to people they like, and if it were some sort of condition that did this, then they would be equal opportunity and it wouldn’t be targeted.

        This is the far end of extreme comment fanfic inventing, frankly, impossible things. Taken all-in-all the picture is very, very clear, this is targeted harassing behavior.

        It’s also a distraction, doesn’t matter if someone has extreme medical issues that cause them to step on your foot, the solution is still “get off my foot”, doesn’t matter if they have a lifelong trauma about not stepping on feet, they still need to get of your foot, doesn’t matter if all their friends let them step on THEIR feet, they still need to get off your foot.

        1. Jaybeetee*

          I can’t speak for Maria Lopez, but her mention that “she doesn’t, of course” suggests that Maria doesn’t seriously think this bully has a visual problem – the purpose of Maria’s approach seems to be to publicly call out/embarrass the bully in a way that “appears” sympathetic. “Oh, you seem to never be able to see me in the halls and you’ve nearly crashed into me a few times – maybe you should look into that.” In a tone dripping with sympathy, but with a clear overtone 0f “on notice.”

          The problem is, especially since the bully seems to have back-up, stuff like that can lead to more retaliation against LW. It’s one thing to get into a one-on-one standoff with a colleague. This sounds like one major offender, but an entire clique of colleagues who have targeted LW. She’s unlikely to intimidate the lot of them on her own.

        2. Samwise*

          Also, just NO on suggesting anything about a physical disability. Just don’t. It’s gross and offensive. And you may give further ammunition to the clique and their boss: OP discriminates against people with disabilities.

          1. Maria Lopez*

            There is no discrimination going on in my statement. NONE. What is gross and offensive is the bully’s actions, not a possibly concerned co-worker who is giving the bukly an out for her behavior and a chance to stop it.

      2. Jessie the First (or second)*


        In general, people need to avoid asking “hey do you have [insert medical condition here]” because it is incredibly intrusive and rude, outside of a few very narrow situations. (and this is not one of those situations.) OP should NOT respond to the bullying by asking her bully an incredibly inappropriate question about physical disabilities. There are other ways to handle this problem.

        1. Maria Lopez*

          Most commenters seem to have missed the entire point of what I said. OP of course knows there is not a physical problem (a mental one for sure, however), and pointing out something like that is NOT inappropriate, anymore than asking if there is a problem with her always brushing up against her. Since the bully has actually tried to hit her with her car, OP is perfectly fine to be “concerned” about a visual problem.
          The comments of “No, just no” are actually rather rude and condescending and presume a lot more knowledge about the situation than is in evidence.

          1. Maria Lopez*

            If saying this loudly is to aggressive for some people, OP could pull the bully aside and say the same thing in a quiet voice. The point is to not be the victim in this case and to put the bully on the defensive.
            If someone almost hit me with their car then the last thing I am concerned about is their feelings. It is my safety, first and foremost.
            Bullies may have a clique, but that falls apart quickly once the leader is removed.

      3. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I don’t think you need to go so far as suggesting she might have a medical problem. If you want to start off with something lighter rather than something confrontational, a simple “Whoops, you’re veering into my lane again, Judy!” could be enough to let her know that her behavior has been noticed and will no longer be going unmentioned. Escalate as necessary from there.

    5. T2*

      I have to echo this.

      Your boss doesn’t want to ruffle feathers, so the solution is to ruffle the feathers yourself.

      Cause. A. Scene! Loudly and so everyone can hear.


      The idea is to make everyone a witness to the bad Conduct. Document every interaction in a Martha Bad Behavior log, including witnesses. Perhaps if they stop seeing you as an easy mark, they will move on.

      Seriously. This is high school bull crap. I am so sorry

      1. EPLawyer*

        If the clique has been going on for so long AND they hang out with management outside of work, management is okay with this behavior. It is highly unlikely that OP is the first person they did this to. Creating a scene will just cause that same management to push back against OP, including questioning whether she should have been promoted.

        the bully’s manager doesn’t want to ruffle feathers because its 1) her friend and 2) afraid bully will turn on her next. OP making a scene is not going to change that. OP needs to talk to her own manager, then escalate it up the chain. This clique has power somehow, OP needs to find someone else who also has power to help her.

      2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        Yelling and swearing at her is not going to make anything better or make anyone believe the OP – it’s just going to make her look hysterical. When woman get loud about being angry and upset, we are believed a lot less – it is upsetting but true. You have to bring up the behaviors in a calm way to make yourself look like the sane one. “Jane, did you see me this morning? You nearly hit me with your car!” In a calm slightly concerned tone. “Jane, could you give me some more room, there is lots of hallway!”

      3. smoke tree*

        If it was just the hallway business, I would say something like “Whoa, Jane, what are you doing?” and make it clear you notice she’s being weird. But the car business raises the stakes to the point where I think it’s necessary to call in a higher authority. The LW can still say something if she wants to, but I’m doubtful that will have much effect, and there is the possibility Jane will double down on her intimidation tactics.

    6. The other Louis*

      I think this isn’t great advice. The bully is being pretty clever (only doing this when no one is around), so could (and would) turn that reaction into, “What is wrong with you? I was just walking down the hall!” Same thing with driving into the parking lot. The bully may well be trying to provoke OP into something that could be characterized as “over-reacting” (it’s a classic thing for them to do).

      As always, Alison’s advice is great. Another possibility would be to go to the boss or HR with the position of, “This is really weird behavior on the part of [bully].” Sometimes reframing the bully’s actions as weird, irrational, and inexplicable takes their power away. They look weak and petty rather than mean and powerful.

    7. irene adler*

      Maybe while carrying a hot cup of coffee too. With an open top.

      You have a good point. One must call out, or stand up to, the bullying behavior. Otherwise the bully will just get worse.

      I have a work bully. Among other behaviors, whenever inventory of an item ran short, he would accuse me of having the item. Or that I’d lost the item. We’re talking about items that are thousands of dollars in value.

      Usually this was an item where he’d forget to relieve inventory of the amount I’d used for testing purposes. And then, down the line, there would be nothing left. But his his records showed there ought to be some available. He’d chew me out something awful. ” Where did you put it? Why aren’t you more responsible?”

      He loved ripping me a new one. And I’d feel extremely guilty as I’d lost the company thousands of dollars. So I’d cower and put up with whatever anger he unleashed on me. After all, I screwed up, so I deserved it.

      Then I started keeping a written record of what I’d used, when I returned the item, etc. Full CYA mode.

      So one day, after discovering another inventory short, he came after me screaming “what did you do with the item? It’s not in inventory!”

      I stood up, looked him right in the eye, and told him I didn’t have the item. But if he’d correctly relieved inventory of the amount I’d used up front for testing, then he’d realize that HE screwed up and there shouldn’t be any of the item in inventory.

      He never yelled at me again-about inventory issues.

    8. RabbitRabbit*

      One technique that tends to throw off sidewalk/hall hogs is to stop in place until they pass. Suddenly if you’re not moving, possibly running into the other person (rather than expecting them to give way) becomes much more intimidating and hard to brush off.

      1. Anonymoose*

        Glad to see that I’m not the only one with this suggestion!

        I have a visual disability which includes bad depth perception, and when there is a tight space for passing someone I am not a good judge so I stop in place to let them pass. In my case it’s for the benefit of both of us, as I don’t bump into them and when standing still I can pull in my elbows, but OP please know that it usually results in people instinctively giving me a wider space. I have no problems just stopping, but in this case the OP could have a cellphone to suddenly check, or paperwork to peek at, or… something to distract them when the bully is in the hallway. Do it when the bully is maybe 5 meters away, so they have enough time to see what is happening but not enough time to come up with something new.

        This does have the potential problem that the bully may come up with something new, so it’s not perfect, but standing still in the hallway (close but not too close to the wall) will likely address this particular problem if there is no way for the OP to get support from management.

        My impression is that the place is so toxic that OP won’t get any help there, but hopefully my pessimism is unfounded.

      2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        I had a job where I worked in a building with many senior citizens who were mobility impaired. I got in the habit of stepping out of their way by stepping to the side with my back flat against the wall, so they had ample space to get through with their walker/cane/wheelchair.

        This could be an option, if only for documentation purposes, it’ll be more obvious that someone is physically harming you on purpose if you’re flat against a wall.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          mm – flat against the wall would be too submissive in this situation. Quietly standing 6″ away from the wall is perfectly reasonable.

          I don’t recommend making an excuse to stop like checking your phone. This bully is at the point where she’d run into you / knock stuff out of your hands. Just stop and look at the bully, calmly, maybe a little smile. If she says anything, then respond with ‘you’ve been erratic lately, all over the hall.’

          1. LeighTX*

            I like this, particularly the response if she comments on the fact you stopped. Calmly stop, look directly at her until she passes with a neutral or coldly pleasant look on your face, and then continue walking once she has passed. But also please escalate this whole situation because it’s ridiculous.

          2. EddieSherbert*

            Love this suggestion, especially with the response for if (when) she comments that you’re stopping (likely in an attempt to make you feel weird about it).

        2. Ann Nonymous*

          Carry a small, concealed air horn and let it rip right as she’s going to barrel into you as a warning. No, don’t do that.

          1. AKchic*

            “she ‘bumped’ me hard enough to set it off… and I got it after multiple such ‘accidental’ bumpings when we are the only two in the hallway. Boss, you didn’t want to ‘ruffle any feathers’, but I’m tired of having MY feathers ruffled for the sake of your complacency. Now, how do you plan on handling the multiple near misses in the parking lot with her vehicle, or should I just call OSHA and the police to handle that?”

      3. Quiltrrr*

        I have a lazy eye, and I do this all the time, especially on a sidewalk where a group of adults are approaching and they don’t leave enough space for anyone else. I’ll just stop in place. It forces them to move over to their side, as I become an immovable object.

        1. TeapotNinja*

          I’ve found a much more effective way is to pretend you’re distracted.

          I do this very often when I’m about to be mowed down by some jackass walking on the left side by side with 4 other people blocking the entire sidewalk. I’ll go into full tourist mode. “oh, wow, the Empire State Building is AWESOME! Let’s gawk at that while obviously not paying any attention to where I’m walking”.

          1. TeapotNinja*

            In an office environment, maybe OP1 could be pretending to read notes, or something, or getting an urgent phonecall conveniently at the same time she’s about the collide with the office bully.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              The bully then knocks phone / papers out of your hands. It’s more *games*.

              Don’t play a game. Calmly stand your ground, with stuff in your hands near your body / offside so it’s hard to reach. Watch her so you can respond quickly. If you have to interact, name the bad behavior and your choice.

              “You’ve been walking erratically. I’m helping, since you seem to have trouble with moving objects.”

              But on the car stuff: that’s assault. Escalate escalate escalate

      4. sofar*

        I used to do this when I lived in a bigger city. It felt like, constantly, big groups of people (often men) would take up the whole sidewalk and bulldoze me, even though I moved to the right. Their assumption was that I’d step OFF the sidewalk so their group could pass without stopping their conversation.

        So, if I moved to the right and they were still coming straight at me, I’d plant myself and stand still. And they all had to awkwardly get around me. Such fun.

        If LW is moving, and her coworker keeps launching towards her, she could stop and plant herself. This gives her coworker the choice of swerving around her, or being even more obvious about crashing into a stationary person.

        1. Dahlia*

          I live in a tiny town and I recently watched a dude walk into the street instead of moving over to the empty side of the sidewalk because he was so sure I’d move out of his way.

    9. Lara*

      Or just shoulder-check her. Granted, there’s a lot of dynamics here (size, for one, and reactions by the bully) but I recently did this to another woman who was clearly expecting me to dodge out of her way like a ninja and it felt…well, empowering, as petty as that sounds. I’m a 6’2″ woman filled with angry pregnant energy, however, so I’m pretty solid.

      1. skadhu*

        I wouldn’t shoulder-check her; that’s aggressive and could be turned against you. But on the city streets, where I used to get forced to the side or even off a sidewalk occasionally by “oblivious” businessmen, I started to simply stand still and let them walk into me. I stopped when I saw them coming, so that there couldn’t be any suggestion that I’d walked in front of them and suddenly stopped. It turned out that they rarely bumped me, because they would instinctively move to avoid me at the last second, but when it did happen they were clearly in the wrong —they walked into someone who was standing still, it couldn’t be interpreted any other way. I didn’t make eye contact because I figured that would be a challenge, but I made sure my body language said, NOT MOVING. In this case it would involve standing enough to the side that OP is clearly not in the way, and then absolutely not moving as the other person bears down. Doing this obviously requires a level of comfort in physically standing their ground that OP might not have (and shouldn’t need to have), but if they are comfortable with trying it, it might work, because it is fully non-aggressive but at the same turns an implied threat into actual physical contact, which is a direct escalation that the offender might not want to make. It makes the offense tangible for reporting and much harder to deny if it happens more than once, and it sounds like they’re relying on plausible deniability. It also gives a really good reason to complain loudly so that others then hear. And it says very clearly, “I’m not going to let you intimidate me any more.”

      2. I Need Coffee*

        I wouldn’t say “shoulder-check”, but is there an issue with squaring her shoulders and holding her ground as she continues to walk forward?

    10. Nicole*

      What if OP stops herself? If she stands still, it’s entirely on the bully if she bumps OP.

      What a ridiculous situation.

    11. TootsNYC*

      I think the OP should just get really righteously angry, and get a steely eye, and walk forcefully right at HER. Hold that middle line, plus a little to her side, and walk. Meet her eyes with that steely eye, and see if she’ll give way.

      Don’t go so fast that you can’t stop dead to avoid a collision

      But honestly, there are times when only strength will stop a bully. And if her manager, or yours, won’t put their strength into it, you may need to put your own.

      I’d alert every one that this is what I’m going to do now, to try to inoculate myself from punishment (true, it might not work), and then I’d do it.

      1. Jadelyn*

        “there are times when only strength will stop a bully.”

        This, this, this, this, this.

        There are many times when the way to get a bully to stop isn’t to ignore them. It’s to show them they can’t get away with it.

        Which, easier said than done, I get it. Believe me, been there, done that. But even if you don’t feel comfortable getting aggressive in turn, a simple show of immovability can do wonders for convincing a bully that you’re not a good target. They think of themselves as an unstoppable force? Be an immovable object and let them break themselves on you.

    12. Jadelyn*

      I’m wondering what would happen if OP just…refused to move out of the bully’s way at all.

      Hold your line, no twisting sideways to make yourself a smaller target, no shrinking yourself to try to avoid her. Stand strong, shoulders square, and let her run into you. Don’t move toward her at all, of course, but just keep your eyes on the other end of the hallway, keep walking toward the spot you were originally walking toward, and see what happens.

      Bonus points if you can do the Charlize Theron “core tight, shoulders down, neck long, think “murder” and walk” thing.

  5. TexasThunder*

    OP#1, one option, (and this is not for everyone obviously) the next time she tries to shove into you in the corridor, say “I really wouldn’t do that.” , and look like you are going to *slug* her.
    She’s doing this because she doesn’t expect any consequences.
    The real prospect of a broken nose will almost certainly give her pause.

      1. TexasThunder*

        I’m not suggesting raising her fists or anything. Just intimating firmly that the situation will become unpleasant if she proceeds.

        1. Nopeasaurus Rex*

          No. Nope. Nah-uh. This is bad advice and you should not repeat it. Doing this would make the OP the problem, and the bigger problem – the bullies haven’t directly threatened physical violence so escalating to that positions OP as the aggressor even without a blow.

          Terrible, thoughtless, unhelpful advice. Just, no.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            I agree ‘get threatening’ is bad advice, but trying to hit someone with a car is physical violence. Please don’t minimize what it happening to OP. It’s serious and dangerous. They have escalated.

        2. Lance*

          Definitely not; the last thing OP wants to do here is escalate this further. They’ve already been nearly hit by a car; they need to get someone else who can help deal with this.

        3. Tom (not THAT one)*

          NO.. No!!!
          Seriously – if one is the victim – then by all means BE one.
          Report every transgression if you can – but record (make a note, as someone said here) of all.
          Date, time, location, what happened.

          With the car thing – that actually is more serious – and I would consider the option of talking to the police – as that looks like bully is trying to actively cause you harm – and the police should have something to say about that.

          Is a discreet bodycam an option? Or recording option on your phone (video)?
          As an alternative – have you considered going ‘metal’?
          Those spiked jackets and armbands look totally cool / hip / current term for good – and have as a side benefit that people will NOT try and bump into you.

          (When I was younger, i was a visible metalhead – it did give me plenty of personal space – even in packed public transport)

          In all seriousness .. consider leaving for another job as soon as you can – and in the mean time :
          Document, contact higher management (above the bully managers) and try and get into a mental state of projecting awesomeness and confidence. A real bully will target those that project / are insecurity, or general cluelessness. (Been there, got the scars – but the minute i found my strenght, and confidence – the bullies lost interest)

          1. rubyrose*

            I like the bodycam idea.
            Also, the street situation – are there any surrounding businesses that have security cams that would pick up their behavior?

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              Or could you call and talk to a police officer or company security officer? Ask them to monitor a certain area at a certain time for an unsafe driver who doesn’t yield to pedestrians?

        4. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          This tactic only works if you are genuinely prepared and able to break someone’s nose. As people explain below, the workplace consequences are such that you should NOT be prepared to escalate like this. And even if you are at that point, physically, not everyone is equipped to win every fight.

          Never bluff. It makes things worse.

          1. Quill*

            Every fight (or ‘fight’) I was in as a child ended with the bully belatedly realizing that bluffing had been a stupid idea. (If you threaten to break my arm your nards ARE in danger, dude. Especially if you’re twisting my arm at the time.)

            I still wouldn’t consider anything physical a good option except in immediate self defense. Half the idea of self defense is avoiding a fight in the first place, after all, and when you’re a grown up you get sent to jail for assault, not detention for “behaving badly.”

        5. NotAnotherManager!*

          It’s generally not a good idea to make threats that you’re not willing to follow through on, and I don’t think anyone would suggest that OP1 actually physically escalate the situation. You’re essentially suggesting she make an empty threat which is (1) going to look awful when she complains, or at least much worse than her having done nothing to cause/escalate the situation and (2) going to make her look weak if the bully kicks it up a notch and she does nothing.

          Defusing a bully is all about exposing their behavior as inappropriate and not something a reasonable human being would do. Menacing a bully sucks you in to playing their game.

        6. yala*

          Nothing is weaker or less intimidating than a threat someone *knows* you can’t back up.

          Not a good idea. At all.

        7. EventPlannerGal*

          But it won’t, though. Be real here – the OP is likely not willing or indeed capable of “making the situation unpleasant” for anyone. Most people aren’t. And there are very few things more pathetic than someone threatening violence that they can’t follow through on.

      2. Tinybutfierce*

        Yeah, that just sounds like a great way to escalate this even further, and the wrong way, very quickly.

    1. WS*

      Oh no, definitely don’t do this. One thing about female bullies is that they’re exceptionally good at making the victim look like the perpetrator. If OP does this I can almost guarantee she will be the one in trouble, not the bully.

      1. JamieS*

        It’s a bad idea but from the sounds of it the other woman could straight out punch OP with OP doing nothing and OP would still be blamed. Real lose-lose.

      2. YetAnotherUsername*

        “one thing about female bullies is that they’re exceptionally good at making the victim look like the perpetrator.”

        Men do this too FYI. Abusive men do it to their partners all the time.

        OP I agree with Alison’s advice. If you haven’t already explained things clearly to your manager, explain them as clearly as you can. Ignore all the petty cliquish high school crap and focus on the physical assaults. Tell her about almost being run over in the car park, and about this woman deliberately walking into you. Focus on the actual physical stuff. I’m guessing you may have told your manager about the cliques etc and not made clear that they are literally trying to run you over! If she still says she doesn’t want to ruffle feathers after you make clear they are physically trying to hurt you, then do as Alison says and go higher.

        But I would leave the cliques and the rest of it out. There’s a law and presumably workplace rules against physical violence and dangerous driving, but not against forming a clique and being unfriendly to people, so leave all that out as it’s irrelevant.

      3. Beth*

        I agree with the concern about the bully turning any direct response back on OP. But I want to push back on the gender piece of it. I know there’s that stereotype that female bullies are sneaky and conniving while male bullies are direct and aggressive, but I’ve never seen evidence that it holds up in real life. In my experience, female bullies are just as likely to be violent and confrontational as men, and male bullies are just as likely to make themselves look innocent or fall back on social ties for support as women. I’d love to see us avoid this kind of gender essentialism here; it’s not helpful to anyone.

        1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          Yup. I not-so-fondly remember one early job made miserable by a lady meathead whose tactic was shoving people into things and threatening to kick your rear. She was humongous, unpredictable, and dumb as nails. I’ve also dealt with unbelievably conniving and sneaky guys.

        2. Quill*

          I’ve had both strains of bully in both genders. The difference isn’t gender, it’s what advantage they can get over you and how they can use it – if they have social capitol, they use that, if they have a physical advantage, they use that.

        3. smoke tree*

          I don’t have any actual evidence to back this up, but since women and girls tend to be disproportionately punished for showing overt aggression, I wouldn’t be surprised if many female bullies decided that it was to their strategic advantage to use subtler and more passive-aggressive methods. But men are certainly capable of doing that too. It probably has a lot to do with the social context as well.

          1. Quill*

            Yeah, in general – the girls that I got physically bullied by generally weren’t equipped to use subtle strategies. Boys it was about an even split whether they were physical or psychological bullies.

          2. Beth*

            Many bullies of all genders rely on subtle, passive-aggressive strategies to get away with their shit. How many male bullies get away with it because they’re college buddies with the company president, and their buddy supports them, so no one feels empowered enough to tell them to stop? Or because they save the worst of their aggression for in private, keep it verbal so no one has a record and it’s ‘he said, she said’, and act personable and friendly enough with others that it’s hard for people to reconcile the victim’s account with their friend Fergus? Or because they intentionally provoke their victim until things escalate and they can pass off their physical aggression as self-defense? Pretty much everyone knows it’s unacceptable to just go off and punch someone; I think just about all bullies fall back on these kinds of tactics to get away with it.

      4. Slow Gin Lizz*

        100% this, what WS said. The bully will *definitely* find a way to make herself appear the victim and OP will be in a whole mess of trouble.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Oh, except for the whole gendered aspect of it. I know of at least one male bully who does the same thing. ALL bullies do it.

    2. Magenta Sky*

      The mention of cliquishness in the office suggest that any physical counters would be ill advised. In all likelihood, her complaints *will* be taken seriously.

      If you really want to go hardcore, push her buttons to provoke her into a physical attack, and make sure it is caught on video. Then have her perp walked out in handcuffs, and dare the company to fire the victim of a violent assault.

      Make sure you have plenty of savings to live on while the lawsuits get resolved, though.

      1. Nila*

        “I’ve also had to start parking in a different parking lot. Our main parking lot is separated from our building by a side street, and here lately, if this woman and her friends see me trying to cross as they’re pulling in, they won’t let me cross, even when someone in the opposite direction has stopped for me. I nearly got hit last week.”

        If the bully was in her car when she did this, it’s a crime. Potentially a serious one.

        In my jurisdiction it is, at best, misdemeanor assault (my jurisdiction defines this basically as the threat of a battery by unwanted/potential injurious contact with a person or an object). However, my state has laws on the books about threatening people with a car. It’s no joke. The last case I worked on was one where the driver got mad at someone loollygagging in the crosswalk, revved the car and drove at them before breaking well short of the pedestrian. There was jail time involved in the sentence.

        As a former LEO, I can tell you that my department would have taken this very, very seriously and would have conducted an investigation. If there were video of the incident, we would have referred it to our prosecutor’s office. While it’s highly unlikely it would have resulted in charges and a trial, we would have done our level best to ensure that the criminal bully understood that they were threatening someone with their car.

        Further, this type of behavior endangers not just the OP. I’ve seen third parties get hurt b/c of petty, bullying behavior like this. Even once in a situation where the pedestrian swore the driver was joking. Didn’t matter. He hit another person and their dog. The dog died.

        OP: Please, please, please take this behavior seriously. The behavior in the hallway is not a police matter. It’s not a sign of intent to do physical harm. The behavior with the cars is very serious indeed.

        If you were walking and they were attempting to block you/herd you, etc., I would take that as a threat of physical harm.

        If the supervisors and HR don’t take this seriously, please go have a talk with your local community resource officer or equivalent.

        Also, fyi, where I live, a judge would absolutely grant a restraining order over behavior like this. Not the hallway behavior, but the behavior with the cars.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Thank you! I’m pleasantly surprised to hear that threatening someone with your car is a crime – unfortunately I’ve had numerous drivers do the “rev and move forward” thing at me when I was in a crosswalk, even though I was crossing normally rather than “lollygagging.” I once also had that happen during a protest march, after the Charlottesville car attack, which was scary.

        2. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Yeah, the car thing makes me think OP should call the police on this bully. If it happens again, she should definitely do it.

        3. Robbenmel*

          I wish I’d thought of that when my neighbor beat up his girlfriend and then acted like he was going to run over us both (I had gone across the street to try to help her.) Sadly, after a lot of screaming on his part, at both of us, she got into the car with him and they took off. They were gone within a day or two, but I would 100% have brought charges against him on my own account even if she wouldn’t.

        4. GreyjoyGardens*

          I think it’s a good idea to sic the po-po on the bully if this happens again. Trying to mow someone down with your car is against the law. Bully might just rethink her ways if she finds herself cuffed and stuffed.

          1. Nila*

            I’m the last person to say “call the cops,” particularly given what happens to POCs in the USA, particularly black, Latino, and Indian men. However, this is the exact type of situation where talking to the cops is warranted.

            1. GreyjoyGardens*

              The bully in this case is a woman, and her race is not apparent from the letter. I, too, would hesitate at involving the police if it came to a man of color, but if Bully is a white woman, it won’t matter.

    3. Beth*

      This is a bad idea. It might work…or it might seriously escalate things.

      If OP wants to personally confront the bully, they’ll be better off standing their ground and coming off totally calm and unruffled–perhaps even puzzled by the bully’s aggression and how inappropriate it is for the workplace–than by responding with aggression of their own. But I’m not at all convinced that this would work; it’s a chance at best, not a guarantee.

      The car thing is really what gets me here. Assuming OP is a healthy, able-bodied person, getting shoved in the hallway would be unpleasant but not inherently damaging; if this were all it was, I might even say to let her do it once, because being able to say “Susan has physically cornered me and shoved me” might spur action in a way that “Susan acts kind of intimidating in the hallway” isn’t. But cars are nothing to play with! Even a very minor impact can cause serious injury. Threatening OP in the parking lot like that shows that the bullies are willing to escalate to some pretty serious damage, which makes me think that OP should 1) escalate this as high as they can, and 2) avoid any confrontation that isn’t in a very well-populated area.

      1. BethDH*

        Yeah, I’m really curious whether the bully would follow through on any of it. I’ve seen a lot of situations where they get pleasure out of the feint— “haha, you were afraid!” — but if you don’t shy away they pull back. Agree with you that the car isn’t the place to try it but hallway might be, and it creates a result that management would have a harder time ignoring.

        1. Nila*

          “Whether they would follow through”

          Absent the behavior with the cars, I’d agree. But the stuff with the cars is some seriously messed up behavior. It’s escalation. It’s criminal.

          I hate to be the alarmist here, but once this moved form the hallway to the parking lot, it became potentially lethal. Not just for OP, but for any poor creature around when the bullies act.

          This needs to be shut down. Yesterday.

          A car traveling at very low speeds is still lethal and should never be used as a means to threaten someone.

          1. Nila*

            I want to repeat and reiterate this: a car, even at very low speeds, should be treated as a lethal weapon. It should never, ever be used to try and threaten or even tease/prank someone. Ever.

            Any LEO or former LEO can tell you story after story of people injured or killed by jackasses who weren’t paying attention while driving under 15 miles per hour, who thought “it was just a joke,” or who were trying to use their cars to bully someone. All at very low speeds.

            If bully was using a traditional weapon (e.g., knife, gun) or even a baseball bat and acting this way, we’d all see this for the problem it is. The fact that it’s just a car is throwing most people off here.

            But she’s still using a movable object that weighs several tons to threaten and harass OP. And looping in others into the game.

            I think that if OP’s boss/HR/etc. don’t act, she needs to speak to her local cops and/or a lawyer who understand both civil torts and criminal law.

            No matter what, this needs to be shut down yesterday.

            1. blackcat*

              I would, frankly, start wearing a body camera or taking video with my phone while walking in the parking lot. Intentionally hitting a pedestrian with a car is, at a minimum in most places, assault with a deadly weapon.

              Pedestrians can die from even VERY low speed collisions with cars (often due to falling and hitting a head on a curb).

              If they do it again, and you have it on camera, I’d go to the cops. If they’re doing this to you, they’d do it to someone else, and someone COULD DIE.

              1. Nila*

                I am, quite frankly, shocked at how little discussion there is of this relative to the other behavior.

                Forget the stuff inside the office, this is dangerous.

                This is also something where there’s no pass for doing it only once.

                Heck, even the old canard “dogs get one free bite” rule is going out the window.

                I agree, if she needs to, wear a body cam once she steps out side. (No audio though unless you speak to a lawyer, as it can be problematic in a lot of states and we all don’t want OP in trouble for that).

                I also wonder if any local businesses might have caught this behavior on video.

                1. Meh*

                  Many states are one party consent states for recording audio. She can look that up easily without having to speak to a lawyer. If her state is one of them, she can record anything she wants if it’s in public, as there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in public settings, or in private if she is one of the parties in the discussion. (She would be the one giving consent.)

                2. Nila*


                  There are considerations beyond one party/multi-party consent.

                  That’s only one potential law they are breaking.

                  Even if you are ok from a one-party consent, you might violate other laws in the process.

                  Also, audio and video are very, very different. Taking an image is not the same wrt to expectation of privacy as recording conversations.

                  I’ve seen the FBI have conversations with people who recorded conversations in one-party consent states. It’s not pleasant.

                  It’s always best in these situations to ask a lawyer or go straight to the cops.

          2. RC Rascal*

            Absolutely agree threatening OP with the cars is in another category. I believe you can get an incident report from the local police, even if it happens after the fact. (In my state I had to do so after I left a flash drive at Kinkos containing old tax info and my SSN; I was worried about identify theft). Law enforcement folks on the board may be able to add thoughts about that. Documentation is important here–the company may not take it seriously, but if the situation continues to escalate it will be important. Secondly, iPhones have a Voice Memo function you can use to record conversations. If you are expecting you may run across the bully in the office, it would be wise to activate it and keep the phone in your pocket. Ditto if you plan on confronting the bully verbally. Note: Please find out if you live in a one party consent state for recordings prior to taking this action.

            1. GreyjoyGardens*

              That’s a good point re documentation – if the OP goes to the cops and files a report, even if they don’t do anything, it’s on record. That way, if bully tries any potentially harmful or lethal maneuvers again, the police have the first report “hmm, it seems this is not the first time Lucinda tried to mow Jane down with her car” and can take appropriate action.

              And if bully finds herself “cuffed and stuffed” that’s liable to put a damper on her funsies.

              1. RC Rascal*

                My local law enforcement explained there is a difference between a police report and an incident report. You can file an incident report because someone threw a baseball through your window, for example. It just means something happened. That was what they advised me regarding the missing flash drive–that someone took it, and it had personal data on it, and I had reported it. That way, if I had an ID theft issue in the future, I had documentation. A police report is different. Not sure if that applies all states. But in my state, the car bullying episode would qualify for an incident report.

        2. Beth*

          I think even the fact that the car thing has happened means OP shouldn’t test these waters. Just the THREAT of hitting someone with a car is a serious escalation over crowding them in the hallway. That’s already a lot to ignore–more than a shove, honestly, I think. If OP has told them that this happened and they’ve still chosen to take no action, that’s a lot, and OP should be seriously considering their safety in this workplace.

    4. Salymander*

      While it would be very satisfying to put the fear in this bully, I don’t think this is a very good idea. OP #1 could end up looking like the bad guy, especially when the bully and her little pals start trashing OP’s reputation to the supervisor. Sounds like the supervisor is afraid to confront the bully, and might be only too willing to throw OP under the bus if it means that the supervisor stays off of the bully’s shit list.
      Also, this group of bullies is threatening to run OP over. With a car. I don’t think that making the bully think OP will hit her will do anything but escalate the situation, and OP’s life could be in danger. This will not end well. Better to have a manager or HR deal with this.

      1. JJ*

        Yeah I agree with this, unfortunately (as it would be SO satisfying to fight back). I think any “accidentally” spilled coffee, “inadvertently” keying their car when you almost get mowed down, or (correctly) reporting her for attempted assault with a deadly weapon will all EASILY get turned around on the OP. Remember the person who stole the super spicy lunch and the lunch owner got in trouble? Plus it’s all so much worse because management is friends with this jerk. :(

        1. Quill*

          No, report the thing but DO NOT TELL MANAGEMENT.

          If you tell the police about a potential crime first, it’s gone over your company’s head and there’s a record of it – and the police will be biased in your favor, especially if you have something like video evidence. If management / this coworker doesn’t know they have less time to retaliate or think up lies. Don’t take any physical action yourself against the bully, because that opens you up to counter-charges “she vandalized my car!”

          1. GreyjoyGardens*

            Seconding this. Don’t retaliate, report. Go to the cops with a report on how Bully tried to run you over in her car – even if they don’t or can’t do anything, *it’s now on record* and leaves a paper trail. And if the cops get involved, this signals to management “Serious Business!”

    5. Joielle*

      I wouldn’t do anything to suggest she might punch the bully, but an ominous “I really wouldn’t do that” might not be bad.

    6. Frankie*

      This really wouldn’t work in many bullying scenarios.

      Honestly, bullying is often about baiting. Eliciting any kind of emotional reaction from OP is the bully’s goal. An approach like this may just feed the bully as opposed to really putting them in their place. Also, many of OP’s potential responses could be used as ammunition or to paint the bully as the victim (or the OP as unstable).

      I mean they’re pretending they’ll run over her with a car at this point. Seems far beyond anything this tit-for-tat suggestion could deal with.

    7. Quill*

      No, the last thing you want if and when she escalates will be for there to be plausible deniability, and the idea that this was a “mutual” form of violence.

      (She’s already escalated. Helping her muddy the waters by implied threats – ESPECIALLY when the clique will likely back her up as a character witness and lie about you – means that when she does, YOU are more likely to face legal consequences instead of, or in addition to, her.)

    8. Louise*

      If the ultimate goal is to get the bully to stop bullying, this is not going to achieve that. This is the opposite of deescalation or conflict resolution and will probably only lead to the bully escalating as well or turning the situation on OP.

  6. Linzava*


    I have a strict “Don’t touch me” rule in the workplace, I’m really sorry you’re going through this. Just an idea, could you just start recording on your phone whenever she’s walking towards you or when you’re walking in the parking lot? Not subtly either, really obviously. If she does outright attack you at some point, abusers escalate, you could press criminal charges and it would be on video.

    Of the manager asks, you could tell her you’re concerned for your physical safety, I would be too.

    1. Mookie*

      I’d be comfortable very ostentatiously videoing the parking structure/crosswalk confrontations, if only for psychological comfort*. Take a step back to keep a safe and legal distance from the cars, but make a point of pointing the camera or phone in their direction and follow their movement prior to after they’ve fully cleared the intersection.

      *I’m assuming what these drivers are doing is legal, but also rude and unsafe, so it’s not likely there will be an opportunity to show anyone else these videos for any official reason (barring an unforeseen future accident where the drivers actually touch or injure the LW, and the videos can be used to demonstrate a pattern of negligence)

      1. Esti*

        I wouldn’t suggest recording for the car situation, because to be effective you’d need to do it while you were crossing the street (no point in videotaping them driving by while you stand on the sidewalk) and that just sets you up to be blamed for anything that might happen on the basis that you were distracted by your phone and not paying attention.

    2. Holy Carp*

      I came to give a similar comment. I was being bullied by a student who on a daily basis committed a series of low-level transgressions, none of which (individually) was worth calling a parent. I finally started keeping a log of the transgressions with date and time (just a notebook with assorted notes to myself), and let the student know I was keeping track of a “pattern” of misbehavior. The student was not allowed to read the log but was reminded periodically that I had a LOT written down. If the perp at your work knew you were keeping track of these incidents, I wonder if they would abate.

      1. Quill*

        Sadly, this probably worked because you had institutional power that the student lacked, not because the threat of documentation actually deters bullies.

        1. linzava*

          I’m not so sure, there’s a lot about bully theory going around this last decade. A lot of the studies do show that bully’s are usually insecure, abused or previously abused, and power seeking. Threats of documentation can be a great deterrent, especially to a paranoid bully. Some people are saying that bullies have too much self-esteem, but I don’t believe that to be the case because a secure person wouldn’t flip out if someone bruised their pride, a classic bully trait.

          So often, I’ve found that a psycho driver has gone from screaming weirdo to wilting flower the moment I mention I have a dash-cam. I also noticed during a stressful road trip taking I-5 to LA, holding my phone up like I was taking video reigned in almost all of the jerks trying to cut people off when a big-rig created a bottle neck. Documentation is a strong deterrent.

        2. Holy Carp*

          Institutional power in that district was virtually non-existent. Behavior that would have been deemed expulsion-worthy (and often criminal) in other places was not only tolerated, but blatantly ignored by administrators. We were encouraged to find our own management tools. This was one of mine.

          1. Quill*

            On the other hand, just being an adult who was “in charge” of him might have been psychologically chilling to his behavior when he realized there was a record.

  7. mark132*

    #1, I don’t know how legal or wise this is, but you may want to actually consider a some form of a hidden camera. There are cameras that are built into pens for example. Literally turn it on when you walk in the halls and catch her actually trying to “run” you over.

    My wife and I actually bought one for our daughter for when her teacher insisted on introducing her religion to class. (To be fair it didn’t workout the way we had hoped, but we were desperate).

      1. T3k*

        Depends on the state (OP will have to look up theirs). I know mine for instance allows video and audio as long as one of the parties involved knows (i.e: typically the recorder).

          1. wittyrepartee*

            If it’s a public area where the other person doesn’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy (like a parking lot or a public street), it’s legal no matter what.

      2. Rectilinear Propagation*

        The attempted murder in the parking lot is happening in public, where there is no expectation of privacy.

        1. VeryAnon*

          How do you get the point where you’re thinking, “Jane got the promotion I want. I could move on or work on myself. Nah. I’ll try to murder Jane.”

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            Because their mental options don’t include moving on or working on themselves. The options include “cause such a pain to Jane that *Jane* moves on, in whatever capacity she ends up moving on.”, because to them Jane is the issue, not themselves.

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            It happens more often than you want to think. Most murderers or violent individuals aren’t known for impulse control or problem solving.

            1. GreyjoyGardens*

              I have a friend who is a former DA and she agrees – criminals, on the whole, are not bright bulbs. Especially the violent and/or “I was drunk” kind. As for the ones who do it for gain – scamming and stealing are so hard to make a long-term living from that most people, who are not doing it for the rush or the satisfaction, find it easier to get a job at Mickey D’s instead.

              It’s really truly a lot easier to live on the straight and narrow.

      3. Gazebo Slayer*

        Audio recording without the other party’s consent isn’t legal in my state, but I’ve seen audio recording without consent used to get someone fired anyway.

  8. Black Targaryen*

    Wow. I’m so sorry for what you’re going through LW1. Does your office and/or parking lot have cameras? I think you should keep a record of all the times the bullying occurs, and also I’m wondering if indeed there are cameras, then perhaps you can go to management (not your manager whom you’ve already tried, but higher up) next time it happens and have them play the tapes. I’d think actually seeing the bullying play out would make them take it seriously.

    Option B, have any of the other “outcasts” witnessed this play out ever? Can you band together? Option C, can you try personally confronting her and asking WTF her problem is? Or not moving in the hallways and letting her collide with you/a game of chicken? D, is there any committee or industry ethics board you can file a complaint with? E, police complaint for endangerment with a vehicle for her parking lot antics? I don’t know, that’s all I can think of for now. :(

    Also—is this just about the promotion? And are there any other characteristics the “outcasts” share by chance? (I’m wondering race, ethnicity, orientation etc?)… good luck. I hope a happier update is in store.

    1. Blunt Bunny*

      Yes maybe the other “outcasts” are also being bullied by her. I think the final thing would be to refuse to come in until they sort it out. Also get it in writing about the violence and threats that have let continue. If you are feeling petty an out of office message saying you will return when they have dealt with the harassment in the workplace. If they can’t guarantee your safety you don’t owe them anything.

  9. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

    To ram into someone so you keep your balance, you crouch down slightly to lower your center of gravity and tense your shoulder so it’s set slightly forward. Think football player but more subtle. It probably won’t help your overall relationship with this woman, but I personally would stop giving way to her in the halls. If she wants to walk into you, her problem. Maybe it’s stupid, since cars are dangerous, but I don’t think I could keep stepping aside when she’s pushing into my space. But this is probably bad advice so maybe don’t listen to me.

    1. juliebulie*

      I would go a step further – literally – and approach her as she approached me. (In the hallway, not the parking lot!!) Yes, this might escalate things. And/or it might show that she can’t intimidate me.

      (I was bullied as a kid, and now as an adult I tend to meet bullying with aggression. No, it’s not ideal. I’m not necessarily endorsing it. But I have to say I feel a little better afterwards when I face bullies than I did when I was avoiding them. On the other hand, I’m lucky this has never backfired on me; I’ve never had to do more than take a stop and use a cold tone of voice.)

      1. VeryAnon*

        Captain Awkward says the only two ways to handle bullying is to either stand up for yourself or remove the bully’s access to you. In my experience that is true.

    2. Mickey Q*

      It would better to fall down and start screaming that she pushed you down. People will rush out of their offices and find you on the floor writhing in pain while the bully is standing over you.

  10. Marmaduke*

    My response to hallway crowding by bullies is to stand still and, as they come closer, say “You’re making me uncomfortable,” in a strong but calm voice. It makes them look ridiculous without making me look too emotional.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      I’d go more with, “Hey, other people here!” and “Earth to Jane”, leave my feelings out of it.

      1. Marmaduke*

        I choose the “uncomfortable” language very intentionally, ever since an experience years ago where a coworker was making some pointed “teasing” comments and crowding me physically. I made casual, “Hey, I’m right here!” comments but it didn’t do much. One day when he was out, I mentioned to a different coworker that I felt more comfortable without him in my space. Our supervisor heard. She said she wished she’d known how I was feeling. Within days he’d been spoken to and the situation was resolved.

        What I learned from that experience is that my feelings are highly relevant in a bullying context and that explicitly clarifying them is an important step in identifying bullying and recruiting support to end it.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          That works great when you’ve got people around who will support you or are working with someone with good intent but clueless. It’s pretty clear that OP doesn’t have that, and I am concerned that mentioning feelings in that situation will only signal that the bully is succeeding in their goals.

  11. CouldntPickAUsername*

    OK, so I’ve dealt with a lot of bullies unfortunately and there’s already a string of “tell her to back off and intimidate her” advice and on some bullies that’s all you need to do, puff up your posture, death glare them down and make it clear it aint gonna be tolerated. However you might have the other kind of bully, you mentioned that she threatens you with her car. You might have the kind of bully that escalates. So you need to be careful, you need to do a combination of things. So first off, record everything, absolutely everything. Dates, times, details, be sure to record that you’ve reported her to who and when.

    If this were about a personality clash and she was a bit frosty I’d say be nice and give her time to warm up to you maybe but this person is playing a dangerous intimidation game. Despite what child tv shows and grade school teachers think bullies and victims don’t usually become friends.

    Now some of the advice from further up is correct in general idea but not practice. When you’re walking in the hall how do you walk? are you timid? well from now on you’re a confident mean [gender term] who marches down the hall. You might need to practice this but you need to start putting off an aura of confidence. That’s your goddamn hall and you’ll walk down it however you want, whenever you want. Take a deep breath, stand up straight and walk down it. Don’t even look at her. She walks close to you, that’s great don’t even break stride. Act like she’s not even in the hall. If she touches you, you just keep going. Don’t let it work. Now if she actually tries to knock you down, you got 2 choices either go with it and play it up or stand your ground and not fall. Read the situation and decide for yourself. Basically make it clear she’s the irrational one, don’t give her ammo to paint you as some hysterical whiner as she would love to do.

    The car bit is a bit trickier. Look you’ve made the decision to switch buildings for your own personal safety and that is a good choice but if you ever find yourself in that situation again where you’re trying to cross and she’s waiting to do the car thing again pull out your phone. She’s there at the crosswalk waiting for you to go by pull out your phone and point it right in her face. Make a very, very clear “after you” motion and when she doesn’t then walk across never letting the phone leave her face. Also get an otterbox phone case, those things would survive a tank. Turn on the light on your phone and you can claim you were using it as a flashlight.

    This person ever approaches you outside of work and you feel threatened? use your most powerful weapon, scream, scream your goddamn head off, as loud and as high pitched as you can, get every single person in a mile to come running to see what the f*** happened.

    Don’t try to be friends with this person, give her no info, give her no ground but most importantly give her no ammunition. Don’t give her anything to take to HR and paint you as the bully.

    You didn’t mention how she acts towards you in front of other people but I assume she either plays the supernice card to hide her behaviour or it’s pretty much open disdain. If it’s supersweet she now gets greyrocked. Give her the bare minimum answers to anything. She’ll start asking seemingly innocent leading questions about personal things, it’s a trap, it’s always a trap. If it’s open disdain this is better, still greyrock/deadpan reactions but just say “wow, that was inappropriate and I didn’t deserve that” and ask the other people to back you up in reporting her.

    1. CouldntPickAUsername*

      also, this’ll vary wildly depending on the quality of your local police but if she tried to run you over a police report may be in order.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        Even the threat to file one might wake up the supervisor who doesn’t want to ruffle feathers. Make it clear that feathers are *already* ruffled, and let her choose whose.

        Because she’s made it clear that it isn’t that she doesn’t want to not ruffle feathers, she only want to not ruffle *certain* feathers. And you’re not that person. She’s chosen sides, and very, very overtly so. So long as that has no consequences, she has no reason to do anything about the bullying.

        If she’s all about the path of least resistance, adjust the resistance of the path you want her to not take.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          “If she’s all about the path of least resistance, adjust the resistance of the path you want her not to take.”

          Ooh, that is spectacular phrasing. Very well put!

          1. Dr. Pepper*

            This is pretty much how you modify anyone’s or anything’s behavior. Most people/animals want to do the easiest, most comfortable thing. Make the easiest, most comfortable thing to do the thing YOU want.

            1. Quill*

              Rather like if you want your dog not to look like a complete fool jumping up and down barking at other dogs, you put him at heel on the opposite side of your body from the dogs he’s going to run towards.

              And then you deal with a block and a half of him bumping into your knee. :)

      2. Delta Delta*

        And when the police do nothing because the bully will say it was a mistake/accident/coincidence, the bullying will increase dramatically because OP got the police involved. I wouldn’t go there yet.

      3. GreyjoyGardens*

        If someone *deliberately tried to run me down with their car* it would be po-po time. I’d file a report so fast that Bully’s head would swim. Now, granted, I’m white and middle-class and don’t live in a small, insular town, so I’m very likely to be treated well by the cops; YMMdefinitelyV here. But if someone tried to KILL ME WITH THEIR CAR? Off to the police station to file a report I would go. Even if the cops don’t do anything then and there, the paper trail has been started.

        Last week, a bicyclist was seriously injured by a careless driver in a crosswalk (only way to cross the street there; it’s a nature trail on both sides). So I’m thinking that LW is lucky she is not hurt or killed. And if Bully find herself questioned by the cops it might wake her up to what she is doing will have Consequences.

    2. Dr. Pepper*

      Yeah, I agree with you. As great is it would be to simply “stand up for yourself” and make all this go away, that’s not how it often works in the real world. And this bully has likely had a lot of practice at doing (and getting away with) exactly what she’s doing. This isn’t the kind of thing you can solve with threats of potential fisticuffs, restraining orders, or anything, really. Bullying is such a big problem because it’s not an easy one to solve.

      Body language is everything here. Practice your murder walk, your stone cold stare, and your calm strong voice so you’re ready to use them. You are now a brick wall, impossible to intimidate or rouse to emotional response, because make no mistake, an emotional response is EXACTLY what she wants from you. If she simply wanted you to be cowed, well, it sounds like she already got that and since she keeps doing it, that isn’t what she really wants. Remember that in all interactions with her. She WANTS you to get mad, upset, defensive, scared, etc so she can use it against you. She can’t escalate until you do it first, because she knows damn well that if she does she will look bad and she will have fewer options because other people might believe you and not her. A sad fact of life is that others will ascribe blame to whoever gets the most emotional. Of course she may escalate anyway out of frustration that her tactics don’t appear to be working anymore, but then you will be recording everything and continuing to be a brick wall.

    3. KWu*

      This is excellent, and what a self-defense course for women that I took would advise. Stand your ground without being the one to escalate. Doesn’t matter that the bully here is another woman. It’s going to take some practice but I think it would be worth trying.

    4. Consultant Catie*

      I think this is all awesome advice. It’s satisfying to imagine shoulder-checking her in the hallway or keying her car, but at the end of the day, you have to what’s effective, not what’s satisfying.

      Your power is in having a normal reaction to the legitimately weird things she’s doing. Don’t give up that power by doing weird/abnormal/out-of-the-ordinary things in response. Imagine everything you do is going to be on the front page of the New York Times, so that you can make sure you don’t give her any ammunition to turn back onto you to make you look bad. She’s being physically intimidating to you, so you have carte blanche to channel your inner passive-aggressive Mean Girl.

      When she runs you down in the hallway? Dramatically scooch up against the wall and say condescendingly, “That was really weird of you to do, Jane. Can you not walk like a normal person?” Bonus points for talking to others with fake concern about how you “hope Jane is ok, apparently she can’t even walk in a straight line.”

      When she runs you down in her car? Talk to someone within her earshot about how you’re not sure *who* almost ran you down today, but next time it happens you’ll call the police on the reckless, distracted driver. Feel free to invent the fact that they said they were going to station someone by the crosswalk or install cameras. Talk about how they told you it was a $___ fine and/or ___-day jail sentence for failing to yield to pedestrians. Talk about how bad drivers are not as smart or not as good of people as the rest of “us” are.

      At the end of the day, the most important thing to do is to document, but you can also protect yourself and bring her actions to the attention of those around you in a subtle way that makes you look like the normal one.

    5. TootsNYC*

      Take a deep breath, stand up straight and walk down it. Don’t even look at her.

      Shortly after I moved to NYC, a friend shared with me his secret for getting from our office in Times Square to Penn Station at 34th Street in record time.

      Focus *beyond* the people you’re immediately faced with. Don’t look at them.
      it send the message that what YOU are navigating around is NOT them, but instead is something far off. It totally works–people get out of your way. (and, of course, power-walk)

      That’s not quite a bullying situation, and it’ll be obvious what you’re doing when it’s just the two of you in the hallway.

      But another thing you could do is, when you turn into the hallway and she’s the only one there, just stop right where you are and wait for her to come to you. Look her in the eye the whole time.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        The thing is, I think the “focus beyond” is what the bullying colleague is doing – pretending OP doesn’t exist, and so walking “through” her. This is why I think greeting nasty colleague when OP sees her coming is a better solution, because then colleague has no excuse.

      2. texan in exile*

        Please tell me that he walked on the right side of the path, not that he expected to walk on the left and for everyone to yield to him.

  12. H.Regalis*

    It’s okay to have tampons in the bathroom. Seriously. Menstruation is not something you need to shamefully hide from other people, especially in a women’s restroom. Let that bit go when you talk to your coworker.

    1. Tinuviel*

      I agree in spirit, but I still wouldn’t store my personal items (whatever they are) just out there on the counter taking up space, as OP shares it’s part of a pattern of disrespect for others who use the bathroom. I’ve never seen an office where you could leave personal items on the counter like it was your house (whether tampons or hair elastics or makeup or wet wipes or laxatives or magazines).

      Everyone I’ve ever worked with takes what they need with them in a little pouch/pocket/hand. We also have little lockers in the bathroom at my office as well.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Yeah, I agree – I think it’s odd to get upset about seeing tampons specifically, but if there are cupboards provided I would always assume I should be storing my things in there, or in a locker or in my desk etc.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          We have a little basket for things like that in the women’s room here, but I don’t see anything wrong with leaving the box instead, so long as it’s not in anybody’s way.

      2. Approval is optional*

        You have a point, but given the OP says ‘for all to see’, I get the impression it’s more to do with what the item is rather than where the item is- so I’d go with not mentioning it, or simply asking that nothing be left on the counters (rather than going down the path of deeming items acceptable or non-acceptable).

        1. Quill*

          It also depends on if they’re contained or just loose on the counter potentially becoming nonsterile or having compromised packaging!

          Tampons hanging around in basket? fine. Tampons cascading off the counter towards the wad of toilet paper that might be ‘used’ in the corner? NOT FINE.

          1. GreyjoyGardens*

            I’m thinking the same thing. Box of tampons, or tampons in basket? C’mon, everyone knows that menstruation is a bodily function, and shouldn’t clutch their pearls over that. Scattered over the counter, or used applicators (ugh) lying around, is a no-no. Keep your tampons neatly boxed and throw away the wrappings/used applicators.

      3. The Bathroom Police*

        You just put very succinctly what I was trying to get across. My original question to Alison was not as eloquent as it could be. The tampons were just an example of a general sloppiness issue, and disregard for the office and the people who work in it. I guess I should have picked a different example. For the record, I never left tampons on the counter at my house either.

        1. KimberlyR*

          But there’s nothing inherently wrong about having them on the countertop. You just don’t want her stuff all over the place when you’re trying to use a shared space. So if she has the box neatly in the corner or against the wall or whatever, let it go that they’re on top of the counter. If its dead center of the countertop with tampons spilling out or whatever, that would be cause for complaint.

        2. Close Bracket*

          Where did you put the box of tissues you left out? On the counter? Counters are perfectly reasonable places for boxes of tampons and tissues.

          1. Tinuviel*

            Y’all must have very large bathroom counters. Or lots of women in your house who need them readily available often.

            Either way I would side-eye someone who just decided to take up counter space in a shared work space with their personal hygiene stuff. But that’s not this person’s worst offense here.

        3. AdminX2*

          I have a lovely capiz shell cup I keep them in on top of the toilet, next to a capiz shell tray for pads, and an extra paper roll. Happy space!

      4. Observer*

        Yes, leaving ANYTHING on the counter when there are cabinets is sloppy. But “tampons for all to see” is absolutely not something to raise. It’s a woman’s bathroom, for crying out loud. The vast majority of women menstruate at some time in their lives. Are we supposed to hide the toilet paper in the bathroom, too?

        1. P.C. Wharton*

          Also, it’s almost exclusively two women using the bathroom, so the “all” would just be OP and maybe a custodian.

    2. Mary*

      Yeah–I’m also unclear on whether “for all to see” means “literally just the tampon user and LW”, or whether there are occasionally visitors or clients using the toilet. I’m assuming if clients and visitors used the toilet, you’d have stronger grounds for complaining about the mess and requiring it to be kept clean, so does, “for all to see” mean, “literally me, I can see them”?

      You might prefer not to see them, LW, but it’s not some tremendous and egregious breach of professionalism or common decency to leave tampons out. There are more and more moves to de-stigmatise menstruation, and having visible sanitary protection out where people can help themselves if necessary is a really good thing and something that a lot of companies do deliberately. I think this is one you need to let go!

      1. Approval is optional*

        I had a (mostly professional version of) a knock down fight with a fellow manager who thought having tampons and pads on a shelf in a unisex bathroom (the company provided them) was ‘disgusting’. I pointed out that menstruation is as much a bodily function as, and no more disgusting than, excreting, and therefore acknowledging people menstruate and providing ‘ feminine products’ is no different from acknowledging people excrete by providing toilets/urinals and toilet rolls. And that he should grow up – though that came later in the least professional part of the discussion!

        1. Devil Fish*

          [activating Grumpy Cat mode] GOOD.

          You are my hero for the day. More dudes need to be told to grow up—or at least be quiet—if they’re uncomfortable with “lady topics,” especially straight dudes. (All my guy friends are chill when I complain about being completely incapacitated by death-cramps. This is because I do not fucks with guys who can’t “handle” mentions of my monthly Shining elevator situation.)

      2. Devil Fish*

        I’m confused here too. LW2 says “We have a single-occupancy restroom and we do not have customers or anyone else who uses it.” but she also talks about the tampons being visible to “everyone” and then she says “The men are pigs too but that’s for another topic!” and she’s cleaning up after “everyone.”

        Is the single-occupancy bathroom one unisex bathroom for everyone in the building? That’s the only way all those things make sense together.

        If that’s the case then I’m confused why LW2 thinks the men being pigs in the bathroom isn’t an issue but it’s a BIG PROBLEM if one of the other women who uses it is. That’s just … not a great look, so I hope I’m wrong and there’s a different bathroom that the men are being pigs in that the LW knows about somehow.

        LW2: More details please! This is a sort of confusing set-up even though it doesn’t seem like it should be. :)

        1. Devil Fish*

          I should clarify that ideally everyone should try to not leave the bathroom a mess, and one or more dudes getting gross in there doesn’t give anyone else a pass to join it, it’s just weird to enforce this on a gendered basis instead of being equally resentful of everyone.

          I’m also just now wondering why the tampons are living next to the sink if there are cabinets? (I’d be upset if the whole box got soaked/destroyed from sink run-off but maybe it’s not a problem because of the layout … or because no one is washing their hands (ew).)

          1. valentine*

            wondering why the tampons are living next to the sink if there are cabinets
            If you can reach the sink from the toilet, that’s an ideal place for the tampons, but more likely it’s because this person, if she’s the culprit, is using the place like it’s her home and she’s always had cleaners.

            1. The Bathroom Police*

              yes exactly. I could give two shakes whether it was a box of tampons, pads, a mascara, a hairbrush, a playgirl magazine or her lunchbox…

              1. Monican*

                But why do you care if its in the cabinet or on top of the cabinet? Some people like to keep frequently used items out in the open for convenience. This doesn’t sound like an issue of cleanliness. It sounds like you want her to comply with your personal preferences.

                1. Kelly L.*

                  Yeah, I keep my own feminine hygiene stuff on my counter at home during the week it’s in use, and I don’t have cleaners.

                2. Tinuviel*

                  Because if you have limited space in a shared area, it’s a little selfish to just claim it for your stuff. You should properly store it so it’s not in anyone else’s way when they want to use the facility.

        2. valentine*

          That’s the only way all those things make sense together.
          The single-occupancy restroom is a ladies’ room and part of how OP2 has narrowed down the suspects to the on-site female coworker. The men are fouling another shared space OP2 feels obliged or compelled to clean, like a kitchen.

          In an all-employee bathroom, OP2 wouldn’t know who did or owned what, including the tampons.

        3. The Bathroom Police*

          OK so there is a cabinet in the bathroom, right by the toilet. The box sits on top, all I am saying is it wouldn’t be hard to open the door and put them inside. There’s no counter. And the tampons aren’t the issue, they are just an example I used. The used paper on the floor was really what prompted me to finally write. I have worked for 25 years in similar industries and was trained by many that the office should always be prepared for visitors. If a client or supplier rep happens to come in and wants to use the bathroom, it should look like professionals work here, not a truck stop. It doesn’t happen often, but all offices have visitors.

          The comment about men being pigs too was literally another topic – the entire office is a mess constantly. Takeout containers on the conference room table, trash everywhere for days. Someone left a very used dust mask on the eating table for a week. I finally threw it out. The men have their own bathroom. I don’t go in there. They are just pigs everywhere.

          1. Observer*

            Well, I have to say that you chose a really bad example. Leaving stuff on the cabinet is not that big of a deal, even if visitors come in. Same for the heavy use of toilet paper for her nose. I mean, why is anyone even looking?!

            The mess on the floor is a different issue – that kind of thing is genuinely sloppy, and I agree that you can try to bring it up.

          2. msjwhittz*

            I mean…it seems like your coworker’s behavior is consistent with the behavior of others in the office then? It’s not a her-thing, it’s a culture thing. If I were you, I’d be asking the higher-ups for a regular cleaning person to come in because the whole office sounds like they could use it.

        4. VeryAnon*

          Unfortunately I’ve worked plenty of places where male pigs were given a pass while women were a) excoriated for the same thing b) expected to clean up after them.

    3. Zip Silver*

      Honestly the OP’s complaints about the bathroom being unkept are much better than I expected when I read Allison’s headline. Unused tampons in a box and bobbypins laying around are better than body fluids being sprayed all over the toilet.

      1. Ophelia*

        I live across the street from an elementary school, and they are literally–right at this moment–talking about keeping the bathrooms clean during an assembly (whoever is speaking has a mic). Sounds like OP’s office could use a visit from the NYC DOE!

    4. Asenath*

      Tampons are fine by me, even on the counter. I know of a couple toilets which have a little basket of tampons, lotions, wipes etc on the counter. But it can be odd what annoys some people. I’ve started discovering a hair (not the same one each time, because I disposed of the first!) in the bathroom basin, and it’s annoying me out of all proportion to its importance. Is it the new woman’s hair? I never noticed it before, and she does have long dark hair. Is she brushing her hair before the mirror over the sink? How can I object to someone brushing their hair in the bathroom??? That’s as far as I’ve gotten.

      Not replacing the toilet roll when you used the last of the old one is even worse than not refilling the photocopier after you’ve used the last of the paper in it. But if I had a solution, I’d apply it to the hair in the sink. Aside from a comment about how annoying it is to find no toilet roll, or to find it unrolled on the floor, I don’t think there’s much that can be done. They are, in the big scheme of things, fairly minor.

      1. Jamie*

        Hair is one of those things that can be gorgeous on someone’s head as a plural thing, but once one or two straggle off on their own they are just kinda gross.

        You can’t object to someone brushing their hair in the bathroom, as that’s where they should be doing it, but they should also be checking the sink after to make sure they clean up any that got away. I worked with someone who always left hair on the bathroom counter and she was the only other redhead so, as we were friends I told her to knock it off because I didn’t want people thinking it was mine!

        But we were actually friends and I knew she would laugh. And prefer it to my leaving post-it notes disavowing the strands!

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Same with teeth brushing in the bathroom–it’s fine but please rinse the sink after you’re finished. Don’t leave your toothpaste spit blobs all around.

    5. The Bathroom Police*

      OP#2 here. The issue is, as one of the replies stated, not so much the tampons themselves (although I was raised to keep a shared bathroom very tidy out of respect for others) it’s the general mess. Is it harder to put personal items in the cabinet than on top of it? When one finishes a roll of TP, is it harder to put the new roll on the spindle rather than leave it, also, on top of the cabinet? Menstruation is absolutely a fact of life, but I also don’t carry a tampon tucked behind my ear to advertise it.
      As to cleaning up after everyone – it goes much further than the bathroom. I clean up after everyone. Paper plates, lunch leftovers, dirty coffee cups, push in the chairs in the conference room, pick up the napkins and the sugar packets, throw away the coffee stirrers, wipe mayo off the table, recycle the documents they printed three days ago and left on the printer, etc. etc. etc. I was raised to keep my work and living area presentable, and trained by several successful bosses to keep the office always ready for visitors. Ours looks like a college dorm.

      1. Asenath*

        I think, if I were you, I’d stop the cleaning unless it was part of your job description. If your bosses are OK with working in such a mess, there’s not much you can do to change their minds. And if they aren’t, you are doing far more than your share of the cleaning , which is bound to be annoying for you and also to take time away from the work you’re paid for. It might also give your boss the impression that there isn’t a problem – things are clean, and they don’t notice you actually cleaning.

        It does sound as though there’s a mis-match between you and your boss’s view of the proper level of tidiness, which is not something you are going to change. There are levels though – perhaps it would help to try to ignore the minor (like the positions of the chairs in the conference room) and push back a little on the hygienic (food left lying around or as stains on tables), even though both are grating on your last nerve. And the toilet paper – really, I do sympathize, it’s extremely annoying to discover at the worst moment that someone didn’t replace the roll, and the spares are in a cupboard out of reach from the toilet. Would it be possible for management to install one of those super large toilet paper dispensers which at least run out much less frequently?

      2. Doug Judy*

        People should be working together to keep the office clean. Speak up and ask for others to pick up after themselves. And stop doing it for them! They have no incentive to change if you always take care of it.

        As for the tampon thing, you really need to get over it and let it go. If you want to be more discrete about it, that’s fine. Your coworker isn’t, but unless she’s leaving soiled items outside the trash can, drop it.

      3. Agent Diane*

        You need to rethink this desire to tidy others’ mess in the office unless it is actually in your job description. You are damaging your professional image and making the men in your office think women are there to clean up after them. You will be being taken less seriously as a result of this.

        Talk to management about getting a cleaner for the place and spend your time at work focusing on your work. Management are probably loving that they are getting cleaning for free.

        In terms of the tampons, I personally like the “communal free products” basket but I know others prefer less visibility. You could take a few and, if challenged, say you thought they were a communal supply. (You don’t need to use them, if you use other products, just make her realise the bathroom counter is a communal space.)

        1. The Bathroom Police*

          Maybe I will bring in a basket for her. I don’t care about the product being visible, it’s just the untidy-ness of it tipped over with one corner mashed in kind of thing.
          I guess I’m the one who needs therapy. We have a cleaning service but they come once a week, so when the lunch gets left on the table on Tuesday…. Anyway, I can’t concentrate with filth all around. I blame my mother for raising a clean person who has great regard for the feelings of others in my environment. Darn her.
          The men totally think women are here to clean up after them. It is repeated often and loudly, as a “joke” of course, that that’s all we are good for. Washing the coffee cups and filling up the copier. Male dominated industry…. Doens’t excuse it but little old me isn’t going to change it either.

          1. Nanani*

            Stop all the cleaning. Stop it immediately.
            Let your company deal with the consequences, whether that means hiring pro cleaners or getting some sort of rota.

            IF they try to make you do it but not the men, you have a sexism complaint.
            Actually it sounds like you already do with the “jokes” flying around.

            1. Liar Liar Pants Dracarys*

              This. 100% this. If they leave lunch out, let lunch be out. It will make you twitchy, but it will also show whomever left lunch out that his personal cleaning service is on strike.

          2. CheeryO*

            Once per week is not enough. We have maybe 10 women on our floor, so more than you, but still not many, and our cleaner comes every day M-F.

          3. Approval is optional*

            Sounds bloody awful! I don’t have an answer to the ‘jokes’ (trip and spill coffee on them every time they utter one?) – but I feel for you. I like tidy too, and once worked for the untidiest man on the planet. To cope I started learning focus meditation (sort of helps ignore things): when he started leaving coffee cups with cigarette butts in them on the conference table (which shows how old I am), I found a new job.

              1. Liar Liar Pants Dracarys*

                I know that a lot of office buildings were going smoke-free around 1985 in southern California. Up until then, you could (and most did) smoke in your office/cube/desk all the live long day.

              2. Autumnheart*

                Yeah, smoke-free buildings started becoming a thing in the ’80s. I was working as a teenager when this started to happen (retail, restaurants, airplanes, etc).

              3. Approval is optional*

                Indeed they did! Some places banned it earlier than they were legally required to of course, and some restricted it to certain areas -when I had my first child in the early 80s hospitals still had sitting rooms you could smoke in – but in some offices the air was like fog.

              4. The Bathroom Police*

                I used to work in an office that allowed smoking inside if you were working after 5. And that was in 2003.

              5. College Career Counselor*

                You have NO idea. In higher ed, faculty used to smoke WHILE TEACHING. (Source: my father, the professor)

                1. kitryan*

                  Circa 1990, when I was in middle school, two of the science teachers would basically fill their shared office with smoke, just a full on cloud of smoke would puff out the door when you opened it.

              6. Aitch Arr*

                I worked in London in 1997 and there was a smoking lounge on one floor of the office building I worked in. It was next to the canteen. *gag*

          4. Colette*

            I understand that you prefer cleanliness, but what you’re doing is not helping yourself.

            I think you need to distinguish between untidiness (e.g. toilet paper that hits the floor) and unsanitary conditions (e.g. food left on the table for a week). And then you need to ignore the first category – maybe you keep your individual work station clear, but everything else is not your problem. The second category you can speak up about (e.g. “that lunch has been there for 2 days, can you dispose of it?”) but not solve yourself.

            You are in charge of your own area and can have it as clean as you want, but you’re not entitled to expect everyone else to clean to your standards. I get the impression that you think your way is best, but that’s not your call in the workplace.

            Now, the sexist words would have me going to my manager or HR. That is not OK and should be dealt with.

            1. Samwise*

              I would not even say anything about the food left out. OP, I know it is driving you crazy but you have to stop. As a number of others have already said, it hurts your “look” as a professional. Unless it is attracting rodents or insects, food trash left out is not a health hazard — it’s just gross and unprofessional, but that’s all it is. In fact, it sounds a bit like a deliberate provocation. Don’t rise to the bait.

              Clear yourself a spot at the table — you can even be jokingly overboard about it: bring a box of nitril gloves, disinfectant, and a roll of paper towels, snap the gloves on with a big flourish, shove the offending leftovers aside (not off the table, though), spray, wipe, snap off the gloves. You could even get a little basket to keep these supplies in and paste biohazard labels on it.

              Bathroom: you have to get over the tampons, as long as they are in a box they’re fine where they are. (I know you said they are just the proverbial straw, but in the cupboard, on the cupboard — this is totally not a thing to say anything about to anyone at work because you will come across as unbearably uptight and Felix Unger-ish). The paper all over: This would drive me crazy and I’m one of those people comfortable with clutter. But again, not anything that is yours to deal with. I’d just bring my own roll of toilet paper with me, though, in case it’s all been used.

              Best thing for you to do: Suggest to your supervisor that they bring in a cleaning crew twice a week (I’d say Tuesday and Friday for maximal effect). Then drop it.

              I really do feel for you, but you need to disassociate yourself from anything having to do with messes and cleaning. Unless it is *truly* a health hazard (poop on the floor, mice running around on the tables, roaches in the hallway, that kind of thing), stop saying anything at all about it.

              1. Colette*

                Oh yeah, if the food is just there (and not attracting bugs or rodents, or smelling), I wouldn’t mention it at all.

          5. Isabel Kunkle*

            I don’t think you need therapy, but your office mates are literal garbage fires, except for the fire part, and that’s not going to change. If you have standing to talk to the boss and either get a WFH arrangement or have some kind of “FFS, your mom doesn’t live here and if she did you’d still be a grown-ass adult who should clean up after yourself,” company-wide announcement/consequences, I’d do that.

            Otherwise, I sympathize with your situation, because ew, but I’ve been there myself, and The Guy Who Thinks Leaving Dirty Plates In the Office Sink Is Okay isn’t going to change for anything short of a dictate from his personal boss.

          6. Aquawoman*

            I’m curious why you view your female co-worker’s behavior as “the problem,” when your male co-workers sound … so much worse. The bathroom sounds mostly untidy, but the men are creating a gross situation. And yet you wrote in to complain about cleaning up after the woman but not the men. I wonder if you have internalized some gender roles. I hate a mess, too, and there is no way on God’s green earth I’d be cleaning up regularly after everyone.

            1. Approval is optional*

              I think I can sort of see it: I could see how the bathroom would feel like the only place the OP can be sure she will out of range of the sexist jokes, the dirty dishes etc, so it *could* almost be like a sanctuary (even a short break from ‘horrible’ coworkers can feel wonderful) – but it isn’t. I wonder if the ‘messy’ coworker was hired some time after the OP was- if so, that would make it even worse – what was once a sanctuary no longer is.

            2. it's me*

              I was thinking about this too, but I assumed she knew she would have more of a shot of getting the female employee to change, so she’s channeling a lot of the annoyance she feels at everyone onto the female employee.

            3. Acornia*

              I think she is at some level buying into the “women clean up after people” idea, so when her fellow woman employee isn’t ALSO taking up that role, it feels even worse.
              OP, sometimes you just have to let people deal with the mess until they learn to deal with is. It sounds like (since you have cleaning people) your job is NOT to be the office maid.
              Back off and stop doing what they should be doing, or they’ll never start doing it! You’ve got to stop enabling the slobs.

            4. Samwise*

              Because it’s the bathroom the OP has to use. The men are not using the same bathroom, and OP does say the men are a whole other problem.

            5. The Bathroom Police*

              Good insight! Yes, as I am reading all the responses…I realize I have internalized the role of clean-up lady, and yes on some level I feel like I can expect more from a sister-coworker, like she should be in my camp because she gets the “women are only useful to hold a hose and fill the coffeepot” jokes more than I do, being younger and lower on the hierarchy than me. But perhaps you all are right that she is just trying to buck the expectation in her own way. And yes, I wish the bathroom was a place I could expect to be free from the gross-ness. Very observant!! What a great discussion. I’m loving all the responses!
              I am going to stop cleaning up after anyone but myself, effective immediately.

              1. KWu*

                FWIW, in my own heart of hearts, I do think you are “morally correct” here about the bathroom and other mess and that your parents raised you well to clean up after yourself in spaces shared with others in order to be considerate. To me, “different standards” and “personal preferences” should be for *personal* spaces. Do whatever you want in your own private bathroom, at home! It does not seem to me to be too much to ask that literal *garbage* is thrown out. My dad was actually the one that sat me down before I went to college to make sure I knew the basics of washing dishes/doing laundry. And I am a 32-year old American woman.

                However, as it seems you’ve come to realize, I do think the advice and comments here pertaining to your feasible options in this office going forward are correct. You’re kind of in the “my roommates are a lot messier than I am and don’t seem to care about it” situation, even though it’s a professional setting. I’m impressed that it seems like you’re taking the feedback from commenters to heart and whether you decide to move on from this job or not, I think reclaiming your own agency in declining to clean up after others is going to be good for you.

                1. The Bathroom Police*

                  Yep. I came here for help in fixing the problem, and I am willing to own my part in the problem as well. Thank you for your kind response.

                2. kitryan*

                  Seconded – I totally get wanting stuff off the counter – my feeling is that you want the counter free so that everything both looks tidy and so that you can put things you need right then on the counter without having to clean it off first. If it’s a cabinet top right next to the toilet, you might want to put your own individual pad/tampon on there ready to deploy while using the toilet or rest your purse there if you’re on your way in or out. If it’s filled up with a box of tampons then there’s no/less free surface and you’re sitting on the toilet surrounded with visual clutter you have to just stare at.
                  But it’s definitely the aspect of the problem least worthy of pursuing.

              2. Agent Diane*

                I’m really glad you can see we were calling out the bigger picture and not piling on: I’d been worried I’d been too blunt!

                I’d suggest you flag any really egregious “can’t wait for the weekly cleaner” stuff to whoever is responsible for the cleaning service contract. Because it is their responsibility. If you’re in a shared building and someone else is the manager, speak to them.

                The “jokes” is a whole other thing. Others have already advised, but you can also do a deadpan “wow, I’ve never heard that one before” sometimes. People who do those jokes want to get a rise out of you, and also think they are freaking hilarious. Dent their ego gently.

              3. Tinuviel*

                FWIW I think you are doing your office a great service they don’t deserve, and in doing so you are suffering doubly from their mistreatment and the burdens you have placed on yourself. I hope you can focus on yourself and let your office feel the embarrassment of its filthy state. Best of luck to you and do update us.

          7. Lora*

            Unless your actual job description is housekeeping, stop cleaning immediately.

            Am in a VERY male dominated industry and the buildings I work in are NOT a sty – they have a cleaning service come in daily.

            It is the company’s job to hire sufficient staff to keep things clean and tidy. It is not your job, and if you take on that job you will never, ever be considered an equal professional to your male peers.

            You are well within your rights and the bounds of professionalism to raise the issue of needing more frequent cleaning services, and you can definitely tell male colleagues who think you should clean up their messes that they can fk right off with their teenage bullsht.

            Also note: whenever I am interviewing for a role, I check out the restroom. If it’s messy, out of toilet paper, doesn’t have soap dispensers full, etc. then I know this about the company:
            -They either can’t afford or can’t be arsed to hire enough support staff for basic functions
            -They are likely to be sketchy and disorganized and unsupportive in other ways, such as not wanting to hire experts or not wanting to pay for a good quality service
            -They are probably going to give me a lowball offer, they likely pay on the low end of the scale generally
            -I don’t want to work there unless I am very desperate

            1. Turquoisecow*

              I tend to check out the bathrooms whenever I go somewhere and they do tell you something about the place. Is it nice and clean? Is it tiny and smelly? Is the dispenser out of towels and water all over the counters, or is it spotless and well-stocked? All this is useful information whether you’re at a restaurant or a place of employment.

          8. tamarack and fireweed*

            Good grief, you aren’t dealing with (just) an only untidy coworker, but with a gendered culture of messiness. Your coworker appears to be taking her cue from it and is overall is on par with the general state of things. And I have an inkling that you’re really disappointed that the only other woman isn’t turning out to be an ally in this.
            So my advice would be – treat it as an attempt at cultural change. That is, radically ratchet down your own cleaning up efforts, only clean up your personal workspace’s immediate environs, never fill the copier with more than the amount of paper you need for your current print job, and have your own cup and wash only it. Be very outspoken about your opinion about filth. Tell your manager what you said about not working with filth around. In a general meeting, bring up the littering food containers and how they are unprofessional and disgusting. If your desk neighbor has a mold garden on his desk in the week’s takeout containers, make a deal out of it (I-sentences, and treat it as obvious that he’s being a jerk to anyone else who has to live with it). And when someone makes a sexist joke about it, fix them with a serious stare and let the joke fall flat. Do not ever laugh with it. I would actually not be surprised if you wouldn’t find unexpected allies. There are always some people who have been raised with high standards of hygiene, but go along with the bro culture.

            Alison’s script is still good for that one co-worker (maybe with a slant towards “given the general state of the office, I’ve been hoping that we an keep at least the bathroom a little more tidy”).

            1. Colette*

              I disagree about trying to change the culture (and especially about trying to change the culture by complaining about it). The OP should focus on her own area and let the rest of them do what they want, or she should find a job somewhere neater.

              1. EventPlannerGal*

                Why? There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to work in a clean, reasonably well-kept environment. It shouldn’t be a choice between shutting up and dealing or quitting her job. I agree that the OP has taken on more of this than she should, but I’m surprised that you seem to be blaming her for not just agreeing to work in a trash-heap of her coworkers’ creation.

                1. Colette*

                  First of all, complaining will not help her reputation at all, and will likely mean people stop listening to her.

                  But also, her view of what is a clean, reasonably well-kept environment sounds like it severely differs from her coworkers. If she owned the company, she could require them to up their standards – but as a coworker, she doesn’t have that authority.

                  If she doesn’t want to work in that environment, that’s fine – but then she needs to either lobby for more frequent (professional) cleaning or find somewhere that better suits her, because she can’t make these people change.

            2. Jamie*

              I disagree that this is a gendered culture thing as men do not have the monopoly on being messy.

              I also disagree about the advice to constantly complain. It’s only going to turn her into the office nag and if there is no true sanitation issue and it’s just her standards the reply could well be, it’s bothering you so either learn to live with it or deal with it yourself, but you can’t impose your own standards on your co-workers.

              Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s inconsiderate to leave food out to spoil, but there are a lot of inconsiderate things others do we can’t police.

              I do think putting just enough paper in copier for her own job would be incredibly petty…you have to load it anyway so to deliberately leave it empty as you found it is intentionally rude in a way messiness isn’t.

              1. VeryAnon*

                It’s not ‘inconsiderate’ to leave food out to spoil, it’s a hygiene and health issue. Also maybe don’t use terms like ‘nag’. It’s an extremely gendered term for a sexist phenomenon where a man promises to do something, doesn’t do it, then insults the woman reminding him to do it so that she’ll a) stop reminding him b) do his chores for him in future.

                Which is exactly what’s happening in OP’s office right now. I’m willing to bet that the co-worker is in no way actually messy; she just refuses to clean up after other people and OP feels like co-worker is ‘not doing her share’. Whereas in reality her male pig co-workers should be cleaning up after themselves.

                1. Colette*

                  Sometimes “nagging” is reminding someone to do something they have never agreed to do – which appears to be the case here. The OP likes the workspace cleaner than her coworkers; that doesn’t obligate them to clean.

                2. VeryAnon*

                  Colette, not leaving spoilt food out and cleaning your own plates is baseline adult behaviour. They don’t have to ‘agree’ that – society already agreed for them that adults do those extremely minimal hygiene tasks in shared spaces.

                3. Colette*

                  @VeryAnon, having adults who don’t clean their own plates is a very, very common workplace issue, so I disagree that society has reached that conclusion. And I don’t know if the food is spoiled, or even what kind of food it is. I know the OP finds it too messy for her standards, but there’s a difference between an open bowl of chips, a vegetable tray with one cherry tomato and a couple of carrots, and a bunch of rotten meat. We have no indication which situation applies. But even if we knew for sure, in this environment it’s OK to leave the food out. We know that because people are doing it with no repercussions.

              2. EventPlannerGal*

                Why are you saying “impose her standards” as though standards like “a bathroom floor not covered in used toilet paper” or “a kitchen table not covered in filthy dishes” are somehow unreasonable? Of course you can police these things, it’s just that OP’s management is choosing not to. I have never worked in an office where these things would be okay.

                1. Observer*

                  Well, MANAGEMENT can police those things. Colleagues, not so much.

                  I totally don’t understand why management stands for some of this stuff, but it’s their call. The only thing the OP can do is to ask if they would get a cleaner in more often.

                2. One of the Sarahs*

                  The bathroom floor isn’t covered in used paper – there was a piece of paper on the floor once, and she seems more upset about the amount of TP in the bin. Anyone can blow their nose/wipe their fingers and think their paper landed in the loo/bin without noticing they missed it, by accident – it’s not ideal, but it’s not some terrible moral failing either.

                3. The Bathroom Police*

                  Management: one manager is the third woman, the other is the main one making the “only two things women are good for” jokes… I’m the new kid on the block.

                4. Observer*

                  You’ve got bigger problems than the pig stye.

                  Talk to the female manager about getting more cleaning in. And, under NO circumstances should you clean up anything other than your OWN mess, no matter how much the mess makes you crazy, even the stuff that is objectively objectionable. Because a manager who makes that kind of joke IS going to make clean up your job if you give him any hint that you’ll do it.

                  To be honest, to me that’s a much better reason for looking for a new job. That’s just disgusting behavior on the part of the boss.

            3. The Bathroom Police*

              I have tried some of these approaches, as far as trying to get others to clean up after themselves fr the sake of all of us, but no takers. I couldn’t do the copy paper thing either – I think that’s how the world got the way it is. My intent starting to clean up in general was to attempt at the high road, hoping I would get a few people to realize that the office was looking better and start to like it enough to help keep it that way. I don’t want to come across as petty (too late for that now). I definitely don’t buy into the sexist jokes, but it hasn’t slowed them down either.
              And please OMG everybody it’s NOT about the tampons. But it’s also, as many have observantly pointed out, not really about the bathroom either…the bathroom was just the tiny piece of the problem I was hoping I coulf effect some change.

              1. Observer*

                I seriously doubt you’re going to get anyone to change. It shouldn’t be that way, but it’s a lot better for your mental health to recognize it.

                I do agree that filling the copy machine with only enough paper for your job is petty and silly, and it won’t accomplish anything anyway. But, I would absolutely NOT fill the copy machine when one of the guys says “Oh, the machine is out of paper.”

                If it’s plausible the the guy actually does not know how to fill the copier, then you can show him – ONCE. After that, he’s on his own.

          9. Malarkey01*

            I think you need to let the tampon box go. Complaining because the box is mashed in one corner and sitting on a cabinet is too much. You also compared it to carrying a tampon behind your ear advertising your period. It’s not the same, it is in a bathroom where it is appropriate to use and prevents her from carrying it around the office. Having a box of clean bathroom needs is not dirty and you need to let this specific thing go.

          10. Batgirl*

            I’m assuming that your mother didn’t conduct your workplace training! This is work. Your personal or ‘raised to be x’ standards simply don’t apply and the workplace set up doesn’t reflect on you personally in any way. If clients come in and perceive that the company is a bit scruffy; well that’d be a correct assessment, wouldn’t it?
            I think you’re fine to chuck out something viscerally offensive like old food, if it’s bugging you, but let as much of the general ‘not your mess’ go as you can. It isn’t what the company wants! You may feel better if you can carve out a corner that is just for you, like a sharp looking desk or well organised cupboard, and treat the rest as not your jurisdiction. The bathroom isn’t
            just yours, or in any need of meeting your aesthetic standards, so as long as it’s hygienic, let it go. This may not be the culture you’re going to be happiest in if you can’t.

          11. Observer*

            The men totally think women are here to clean up after them. It is repeated often and loudly, as a “joke” of course, that that’s all we are good for. Washing the coffee cups and filling up the copier

            That’s gross. And you NEED to stop going along with it by cleaning up after them. You may not change the attitude directly, but you can help get them used to the idea that “woman” doesn’t mean “the (cleaning) help”.

            Stop for a week or two, and then talk to your boss about getting a cleaner in more often.

          12. Dahlia*

            Don’t touch her tampons. That would be incredibly weird. If she wants a basket, she can get herself a basket. If the office wants a basket in the bathroom, they’ll put one.

          13. VeryAnon*

            They’re not joking. And actually, little old you might change it if you leave them to wallow in their filth for a while.

          14. smoke tree*

            Ugh. I would hate this too, but I agree with everyone else that it’s ultimately not a great use of your time to clean up after them. It will just make you resentful and make them come to expect it (ask me how I know). I recommend picking your battles and creating a haven of cleanliness for yourself at your desk. Only deal with the messes that have a direct impact on you. Clearly the company you work for doesn’t care about making a bad impression on visitors, so try not to care about that more than they do.

          15. nonegiven*

            You should only clean enough that you can use something. Like wipe off the toilet seat, kick the paper out of the way, dry off enough of the sink that you can use it without getting water on your clothes. Clean off just enough counter to fix or eat your lunch, then leave it. I’d be using those tampons if I needed them, they’re just laying around, they must be for communal use, right?

      4. Zip Silver*

        If you have cleaning up after people, just stop doing it. You mention college dorms, and you sound like the roommate who is the default house cleaner.

      5. Jaybeetee*

        FWIW, I sympathize with you. I’m assuming the tampons don’t bother you in a “Keep that stuff hidden!” kind of way, but more as part of the general picture – bobby pins sitting out, wads of tissue on the floor, tampons sitting out on the sink when there’s a perfectly good place to put them, etc etc. What you describe sounds, to me, like it’s pretty messy for a work bathroom. Even at home, my bathroom doesn’t look like that (and I’m not a super-clean person). Half-unrolled toilet paper would make me wonder if a cat was getting in there somehow!

        Unfortunately, it doesn’t really change the advice. You should probably stop cleaning the bathroom, unless you want to get locked into that “cleaning” role (and I hate on your behalf that men in your office make those kinds of jokes). Remember that this isn’t your personal bathroom at home, and even in your own descriptions, most of it doesn’t sound *unsanitary or gross* to the point you wouldn’t want to use the bathroom, just sloppy. (Though that “used toilet paper on the floor” – WTF. I’d be telling *someone* about that). It sounds like a situation where you’re better off learning how to tune out the clutter, since no one else seems to consider it a problem – and in the end, it isn’t actually your problem either.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          I agree – the one thing that I think the OP can directly lob back to the co-worker is the used toilet paper on the floor. Immediately afterwards, though. “Hey Amelia, did you by any chance use the bathroom just before? I think a piece of used toilet paper didn’t go where it was supposed to and ended up next to the toilet on the floor. That was a bit gross to deal with.” Leave it open, and if she isn’t responding with signs of at least mild embarrassment (“Oops, sorry about that…”) Just add “I’d really appreciate it if you took care of your own used wipes.”

      6. Observer*

        Leaving tampons on a cabinet IN THE LADIES BATHROOM is totally NOT the same thing as “wearing a tampon behind my ear to advertise it”, and it’s pretty bizarre to make that comparison.

        Honestly, you need to take a step back. There seem to be some genuine problems in your workplace, but if you want to have the least bit of a chance to heard, you need to stick the legitimate stuff, not this kind of nonsense.

        Also, I agree with the others that unless this is actually part of your job, you should stop cleaning up after everyone.

        1. The Bathroom Police*

          I’m going on a tangent. Just general crap I thought normal people were taught as children to push in their chair and all that other stuff…i.e. not leave it for someone else.
          At any rate I think I’ve gotten all the good suggestions I can expect at this point.

        2. Jamie*

          I worked in a place where it was required. People were told by management to go back and push their chairs in if they’d forgotten.

          I had done it by habit, but it would never occur to me to notice that kind of thing.

      7. Close Bracket*

        Menstruation is absolutely a fact of life, but I also don’t carry a tampon tucked behind my ear to advertise it.

        I’m not sure where this is going. Are you saying leaving tampons on top of a cabinet in the bathroom is advertising menstruation? That’s a fallacy. The toilet paper in a bathroom is generally in view. Is that advertising that you have to poop? No, it’s keeping something that you will use in that location readily accessible.

        I do have a friend who keeps the toilet paper in her house in a closed drawer that is hard to reach from a seated position on the toilet, and it’s weird. It is weird to want things that need to be reached from a seated position on the toilet to be kept someplace where they cannot easily be reach from said position. Tampons can stay out and visible.

        You should ask her to flush the used paper, though. That’s unsanitary.

      8. AdminX2*

        Oh…well if you enjoy it and want to keep doing it, awesome. But they won’t change and you’re only enabling their choices.

        I’m an admin and I’ll clean up after MY lunches, but I am not a cleaning person or a mommy. Shared space is everyone’s responsibility.

    6. PhyllisB*

      If I read the letter correctly, this is not just a women’s bathroom, everyone uses it. However, adult men shouldn’t be coming unglued at the sight of a box of tampons.
      Unless there’s one like a letter from a long time ago who wrote up a woman for having feminine products IN HER CAR that he could see through the car window and declared it “unprofessional.”

      1. The Bathroom Police*

        I wasn’t clear in my letter. I should have proofread a few more times! No it’s just a ladies’ room and the tampons are just an example of the overarching messiness. I also suppose I should have picked a different bone to pick. And I wouldn’t give a hoot if she kept tampons on her dashboard haha. The comment about men was quire literally another topic – they are pigs everywhere. And I am really realizing that I can either keep cleaning up the office myself or not, because nobody else cares. I’m going to have to keep cleaning though because I can’t work in chaos…

        1. it's me*

          Well… you don’t want to stop cleaning because no one else will, but you also don’t want to be thought of as the office mom who cleans up after everyone. You don’t like the situation as it stands, but you also know it won’t change/don’t intend to try to change it. I’m not sure what else we can tell you.

        2. QCI*

          If you don’t like cleaning after them THEN STOP CLEANING AFTER THEM. It’s that simple. They aren’t going to change because they don’t have to. Martyring yourself isn’t going to fix anything.

        3. Approval is optional*

          You can’t make people care of course – but you can make them change the way they behave while they continue to not care (or at least try). Have you spoken to your manager/HR about increasing the number of times the cleaner comes or putting in place policies about cleanliness, or about putting a cleaning roster for the kitchen in place? There are health issues, PR issues and morale issues that you could raise with them if you haven’t.
          If you’ve tried some/all of these and management’s attitude is ‘don’t care’ too, then do the minimum you have to to function effectively. Stick their dirty dishes in a cupboard (or on their desks/in their drawers) so you can’t see them rather than washing them- if they don’t care, then they won’t care if they have to balance their reports on a tower of plates, yes? Rearrange your desk, if possible, so you don’t have to look at the messy areas. Buy a thermos and bring hot water/coffee to work so you don’t have to go into the kitchen. Buy potpourri or candles and stick them in the bathroom, and then buy lots of pretty baskets and give your coworker some as a ‘gift’ – how nice it’ll be if we have some pretty stuff in our bathroom, yay! Toss her stuff in her baskets if it’s on the counter when you go in, and then smell the rose petals and relax.

        4. BethDH*

          I’m curious why the bathroom seems to bother you more than the rest of the office? The issues there don’t seem worse than the other spaces, and you and occasional visitors presumably spend a lot more time in the non-bathroom areas. So is it that because it’s only two of you using it so it seems easier to tackle? Is it because women are “supposed to be naturally cleaner”?
          Thinking about this distinction might help you delineate what you can live with and what you can’t, as well as suggest some paths forward.

        5. Jaydee*

          I think everyone is getting derailed by the tampons. They’re an important detail, but not the main problem.

          The main problem is that your standard of cleanliness is significantly higher than the overall standard at your workplace. And it sounds like there are two parts to this. One, is that your workplace is messy. Below objectively reasonable standards messy. Trash left out for days messy. The other side is that your standards are probably a little higher than objectively reasonable in a shared space.

          So the real question is, what can you do? I don’t think your only solution is to just keep cleaning up after everyone. I think you can push back on this, but you’ve got to temper your expectations. Take the feedback from other commenters as guidance for what is an objectively reasonable standard of cleanliness for a shared workplace and aim for that. It may be lower than your personal standards, but if the common areas improve, then having them slightly below your preferred standards will probably be less bothersome and you can focus on your personal office/cube/desk area for the higher standard you prefer.

          – Start calling people out in the moment, especially with actual trash. If you’re in a meeting and you see a coworker walk away from the conference room table and leave food trash on the table, say “Hey, Lucinda, you forgot your banana peel!” “Hey Fergus, toss your lunch garbage.” “Do you want ants? Because this [gesture to table covered with trash] is how you get ants.”

          – If there are non-trash issues that directly impact your ability to do your work, point those out in the moment too. This isn’t just the fact that you find it hard to focus when you perceive your environment as chaotic. That’s a legit problem for you, but it doesn’t give others clear guidance on what they can do. Instead, focus on specific things. “Jane, I noticed the llama grooming shears weren’t put back in the supply room, and you were the last person to use them. The last time this happened, I wasted 20 minutes looking for them. Can you be sure to put them back where they go when you’re done with them?” “Wakeen, there are piles of your TPS reports all over the copy room counter, and they’ve been there all morning. I need to prepare packets for the teapot presentation tomorrow, so I need to use that space. Can you please move the reports or finish up what you’re doing by 1:00 so I can start my packets when I get back from lunch?”

          – Talk to your boss about increasing how often the cleaning crew comes and what they clean. Again, focus on the worst things and the specific effects they have on sanitation and safety, productivity, and public perception of the office (if that’s an actual issue). Is trash piling up? Are there odors? Bugs? Are the floors covered in crumbs and scraps of paper? Are there tripping hazards or other safety concerns from clutter? Are the entryway floors muddy for days after it rains? Are dishes piling up in the kitchen? Are bathrooms running out of supplies and getting unsanitary?

          – If it isn’t possible to increase the cleaning services, ask the boss to assign cleaning tasks to staff members. Be cautious that this is done equitably (not one person doing everything unless that legitimately makes sense, not the women doing all the cleaning) and that everyone is actually held accountable (so if there’s a rotation you don’t have 3 people not do the thing and leave it in progressively worse shape for the 4th person).

          Another thing that might help is reflecting on your standards and expectations. There’s only so much you can do to change other people’s thoughts and actions. But you can work to change your thoughts and feelings about the situation. So, instead of thinking “I can’t work in chaos” you could try getting more specific about what makes it feel like chaos and what work is hard to do. Then you can tackle those pieces. So maybe your real thought is “I feel overwhelmed when I’m in a visually cluttered environment.” You’ll o visually want to keep your own work area very orderly. But identifying that might help you find other solutions like changing the placement of your computer so you face away from a messy common area or getting a couple plants as a physical barrier to block the view of a neighbor’s messy desk. Or you might find that the issue is “It’s hard for me to focus on work when I know there are cleaning tasks to be done anywhere in the office.” Then, when you start thinking about all of the mess, you can remind yourself that cleaning those areas of the office isn’t your responsibility and that your priority is writing the llama feeding protocol or finishing the TPS reporting system update.

          You might also explore whether your expectations of others differ based on factors like their age or gender. Expectations around cleaning are often gendered, so this wouldn’t be surprising. But you don’t want it to unfairly affect your perception of your coworkers. I suspect that’s part of what’s leading to the responses that focus on the tampon box in the bathroom. It feels like your expectations of your female coworker are higher than your expectations of your male coworkers, so while everyone is leaving the office in general disarray, your focus on the bathroom feels disproportionate. You just want to be careful not to start thinking “Ugh, Lucinda’s such a slob” if she’s actually neater than most people in the office or feeling like there’s no point expecting the men to be cleaner because “that’s just how men are.” You also don’t want to get into a dynamic where you become the “office mom” if you’re older than most of your coworkers. Everyone there is a grownup, so you shouldn’t be cleaning up after people or nagging them to clean up after themselves.

          1. The Bathroom Police*

            Thank you for the first sentence lol I don’t know how many more times I could say it’s not about the stupid tampons.
            And thank you for the rest of it also. I’ve learned a lot today and I am grateful for the constructive comments.
            My priorities have been realigned as of today. My expectations of others are going to be level-set. I guess I’ve been in the same field so long…it’s hard to separate yourself from hearing the same crap every day for a couple decades. I’ve worked at 7 companies in the same industry in 20 years, it’s the same everywhere.

      2. Close Bracket*

        I remember that letter. The person who allegedly complained was a woman, not a man. She was trans, and once that was revealed, there was significant debate about the reality of the situation, since complaints from trans women about menstruation-related things are a TERF false narrative.

    7. Dust Bunny*

      I don’t care about seeing tampons in a restroom but I do care about stuff cluttering up precious counter space in a shared bathroom. Keep your personal items in your personal space.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        From the updates that @bathroom police has made the box of tampons are not on the “sink counter” but rather on top of a storage cabinet in the bathroom. OP bathroom police would rather that the box of tampons be stored inside the cabinet, while the coworker thinks it is better to store them on top for easy access. That particular issue to me reads as just a personal preference. But I do think OP’s other concerns about general messiness are valid.

        I get it I was raised as counters, table tops, were made to put/store stuff on them and they will be used as such. My partner was raised as tables, counters should only be used when you are actively doing something like eating, cutting/chopping and all other times they should be 100% clear. It has taken some time to come to a middle ground and no one is right or wrong it is just personal preference.

        1. Batgirl*

          Yeah I think it’s personal preference. I would keep tampons out in a box at work. Ideally I’d put them in a ‘help yourself’ basket but I don’t see what’s wrong with the box! It’s work, not your best guest bathroom (where I would also keep the tampons out and visible).

          1. Kelly L.*

            Right, I’d see “out on the counter” as meaning “take one if you need one,” and “in the cabinet” as “my personal stash, don’t mess with it without asking.” They’re both OK but send different messages, and I’d probably just guess that the co-worker was trying to send the former. At my work we have baskets in some restrooms and cute fabric bags in others for this same purpose.

    8. TootsNYC*

      true–but there is a cabinet, apparently, and people should put stuck back in it when they get it out.

      I think the OP should just say, “The mess in the bathroom is stressing me out when I go in there. Can people/you tidy up your own mess before you come back out?”

      And I think she can say to her colleague, “You left the tampon box out again–can you remember to put it back when you’re done?”

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I agree on the first comment, but I have to disagree on the second one. Just because there is a cabinet does not mean that everyone had to adhere to OP’s @bathroom police personal standard of how things should be stored. Leaving a box of tampons out on top of the cabinet where it is not blocking the sink is not being messy.

    9. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I have to admit, I was puzzled by OP’s description of a messy bathroom. TP in the trash? A cabinet door left open? Tampons on the counter, “in plain view” of ONE other woman using that bathroom? OK but where’s the mess I was promised? I was expecting, at a bare minimum, urine on toilet seats and hair in the sink.

      1. emmelemm*

        First, good commenter name/subject matter synergy. Second, compared to some of the things we’ve read on this blog, it’s hard to get worked up about OP’s description of a “mess”.

  13. Anono-me*

    Before you decide to bring up the car aggression by this person, please be sure that you are in the legal right comes to crossing the street at that place. If you are jaywalking; it will weaken your case to bring it up, because the person almost running you over will try to make it all about you jaywalking. If you are crossing at an approved or implied crosswalk, then that is something that may help. ( I am only bringing this up because of the potential impact it might have on 1st OP’s situation. )

    Couldn’tpickausername has some good advice about how to carry yourself. If I need to walk with confidence, but am not feeling it; it helps to wear boots. Not cute boots, serious s__kickers. Real cowboy boots, goat ropers or combat or hunting boots . Go some place like Fleet Farm to shop for boots. Walk like you deserve to wear those s_kickers.

    1. CouldntPickAUsername*

      that boots thing is a good tip. It’ll probably also influence your walking just by wearing them so that will actually help.

      1. Marmaduke*

        Combat boots literally changed my life—I’d say the harassment I experienced in public was cut by about 50% immediately. The confidence I felt wearing them translated to my bearing and behavior in a big way.

        1. Tinybutfierce*

          Ditto! When I wear those, or another more work appropriate pair of boots with just a liiittle bit of a heel that gives me more of a noticeable “stomp” when I walk, I feel like I could kick the whole world in the face if I needed to, and I know it definitely translates to how I carry myself when wearing them.

        2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          One of the places I worked, the woman in charge of PR/Communications for the company had to go to a series of contentious community meetings. She did all of them in those boots with the spike heel, because they made her look and feel more authoritative and confident.

    2. Beth*

      Is jaywalking a relevant concept in a parking lot? In my area, many parking lots have no marked crosswalks per se; my assumption has always been that people are reasonably likely to be on foot in any part of one, since they have to walk to and from their cars. In that space, I think OP is safe to assume that drivers are responsible for being aware of the area around them and not running down pedestrians.

      1. Aquawoman*

        I think she was crossing a street–she mentioned that the parking lot was across the street from the building.

        1. doreen*

          Yes, it seems that the issue happens when PO is trying to cross the street that separates the parking lot from the building and the bully is about to turn into the lot. OP needs to make sure both that 1) she’s not jaywalking and 2) that she’s not expecting bully to stop when she’s not legally required to. This part ” if this woman and her friends see me trying to cross as they’re pulling in, they won’t let me cross, even when someone in the opposite direction has stopped for me. ” could mean that the OP is expecting the bully to stop when it’s not required. There are some places where cars must stop if someone is on the sidewalk waiting to cross, and other places where pedestrians must wait until traffic is clear. Can’t tell from the letter which applies to the OP’s location – and if there’s a mismatch between the law and OP expectation’s, it will weaken her case.

          1. TootsNYC*

            a car is ALWAYS legally required to stop for a pedestrian. It’s never legal to run someone over, even if they’re not at a crosswalk.

            If you’re not at a crosswalk, you can get a ticket for jaywalking, but the person who ran you over will get charged with a crime (as long as there was time for them to see you, and you weren’t darting out suddenly from between parked cars, or too close to them for them to stop).

            1. Elsajeni*

              Yes, of course. But you may not be legally required to stop for someone who’s waiting to cross, even if cars in other lanes are stopping for them. No one is suggesting that in some cases it’s legal to run people over, but “are they at a spot where they’re required to yield or would it just be polite of them to yield” is a relevant question.

      2. OP2000*

        OP # 1 here. There is a designated pedestrian crosswalk, which I use. There are also traffic signs regarding stopping for pedestrians in the crosswalk.

        1. nonymous*

          I suggest recording what happens in the crosswalk and showing it to the person that Alison identified in her answer. If it happens a second time, file a police report and include both the recordings. In the police report identify a person of contact at your org (that individual you escalated to). Every time she tries to mow you down, record it and report it.

          I personally would avoid being in the hallway alone with the clique. Do a u-turn, find a different path (even if that means going to a different floor), position yourself so that a neutral person is between you two, change your start/stop time to minimize when you’re in the building together. My take on this is that she is like an untrained, reactive dog – when she gets too close to her trigger (you) her hindbrain engages in all sorts of unsafe/inappropriate/dangerous behavior. Now with time and effort this sort of stuff can be resolved, but that’s on her and her support system, not you. But in the meantime a practical management strategy is for her to avoid the trigger. To bring up the dog analogy, find the equivalent of walking behind a car/increasing distance/u-turn. To be clear, this is absolutely not fair to you, my suggestions are strictly about keeping you physically safe in the moment.

        2. TootsNYC*

          has this happened very often? Not the “almost getting hit” part, but the “not stopping” part?

          You could avoid contact by arriving a little before or after–not that you should have to, but at least you’d be alive!

        3. The Bathroom Police*

          OP#2 here. Just want to say I am sorry for what you are encountering at work, and I feel like a complete jerk that my “issue” is even on the same page as yours. Next time that woman started to try to mow me down in the crosswalk, I’d pull out my camera and stop in the middle of the road until she stopped. Hit someone in a marked crosswalk and she can pay your “promoted past me” salary for a few years. I also like the suggestion of coming to a stop in the hallway when she started towards you. All bullies are looking for a reaction. Just stop and start reading whatever is in your hand intently. Don’t make eye contact or acknowledge her presence. She’ll feel pretty stupid when she is face to face with you and doesn’t get the reaction she craves. I truly hope this gets worked out before you get hurt!

          1. Observer*

            I know that you got a lot of flack, but don’t be too hard on yourself. Your workplace does sound pretty bad. Not the same as this problem, but still a genuine problem that you have a right to try to address.

          2. Tinuviel*

            I hope you aren’t too hurt by the many people who misunderstood the point of your letter. I think many people read these with the goal of finding one thing they can comment on, and since Alison already answered your actual question, they just stopped reading on “tampons” and didn’t think about the context of the letter.

    3. T3k*

      Yes to the s-kickers! (Assuming OP can wear them at their office) Not only do I feel like I can go kick a** in mine, but the extra height they add also helps if OP is shorter than the bully.

    4. Dr. Pepper*

      Yes! Your clothing and footwear choices can help you here. Boots can change your stride, make your footfalls sound heavier, and just generally make you feel badass. In the same vein, choose outfits that make you feel confident and in charge. Not that shirt that you don’t love but it’s clean, or the pants that don’t fit quite right. No. Wear only items you love, that you put on and think “yeah, I am awesome and I look good”. “Dress for success” isn’t just a cliche about wearing the right business suit to close a deal.

      1. Quill*

        Added to say: dress in ways that don’t put you at a physical disadvantage if you have to dodge any more cars! No spike heels, go for boots that make you stomp like a dinosaur. No bombshell pencil skirt – you may have to run out of the way.

  14. Magenta Sky*

    OP #3: Odds are, there is no temperature which the two will agree on. That is how thermostat wars go. There are a few possible solutions, but none that don’t require the backing of someone higher up in the company.

    You could start locking your office door. Probably not the most practical approach.

    You could ask management to install a thermostat that requires an access code to change settings, and make it a written policy that only certain people (like the janitorial or maintenance staff) can have the code, but unless the company is willing to fire people who violate this rule (or even ask for the code so they can), it won’t work for long.

    If the two children don’t work right next to each other (and maybe even if they do), you could also see if the building’s maintenance staff can adjust the air conditioning to raise the temperature around the one, and/or lower it around the other. A competent HVAC tech can do amazing things – if you’re willing to pay for the expertise.

    And, of course, you could consider whether or not this is really the job for you.

    But you’ll never get the two to agree on a temperature that works for both of them.

    1. CouldntPickAUsername*

      actually locking the door is probably the most practical approach. it’ll drive the point home real quick and make them look silly. *tries to open door* *finds out it’s locked and knocks*
      *OP opens door a crack* “sorry, gotta lotta work to do, is it an emergency?” “I was just gonna change the temperature” “so no, not an emergency” *op closes door*

    2. Zip Silver*

      They can get a thermostat lock box for $10 at Home Depot and keep the key hidden away. 4 screws and it’s solved, and OP can keep their door open. If the coworkers mention anything, just tell them that you’re such of the temperature battle happening in your office.

    3. Angwyshaunce*

      Depending on the size of the office/building, it might not even be a real thermostat.

      For info, do a search for: “office dummy thermostat”.

        1. Angwyshaunce*

          The sad part is that it apparently works a lot of the time.

          Give people the illusion of control and they become satisfied.

    4. Sparrow*

      I think you’re right that they’re not going to agree, but I also think OP should start by calling them out and asking them to tone it way down and, at minimum, to stop coming into her office unannounced. I think she’d have a hard time convincing management to invest funds in dealing with this if she hasn’t tried to address it directly.

      I personally find this all really odd, because at past jobs where the thermostat was in someone’s private office, it would’ve been considered super rude to invade that person’s space just to change the temperature. In this case, they’ve started thinking of this as communal space, and OP needs to break them of that habit. Personally, I’d spend more time with the door closed, and I’d also say something to them directly – first as a big picture conversation and then on a one-off basis, as needed.

    5. Lady Blerd*

      I vote for the locke box with the custodians being the only one with access to change the settings. That way the warring coworkers will have to take it up with them if they are unhappy withe settings.

      1. Mama Bear*

        I’d tell them that the constant traffic in your office is a problem. What temp do they prefer? Then set it in the middle. I’d also encourage them to use fans/heaters at their desks. I have no control over my office temp and have a space heater.

    6. JJ*

      I will never understand people who are so brazen as to change the office temperature. If YOU are warm or cold, get a fan or heater, because I guarantee someone else in the office is the opposite temperature as you. If I were in charge I would forbid anyone from touching the thermostat.

      Also I heard a lot of building management will disable the thermostats anyway (as has been the case in most of my office jobs) so it’s possible this is all pointless drama which is fun.

      1. pony tailed wonder*

        Personal space heaters and fans solved a lot of the temperature problems in my building. Go to your boss and ask if they can order a space heater for the worker who is too cold and a fan for the one that is too hot.

        We have these rules for space heaters –
        1500 Watts max
        Tip over cut-off protection
        Seal of an independent testing lab
        MUST BE inspected and approved by the Safety Office
        Must plug directly into the wall
        Don’t operate under a desk
        Place on a solid, flat surface
        Turn off and unplug when you leave

    7. HVAC Engineer Here*

      +1 to everything written above. Magenta Sky nailed in when they said you will never find a suitable temperature. Because, yes, that is absolutely how thermostat wars go.

      But as other have pointed out, it is the disrespect of your office that is an issue.

      The cheapest, fastest solution is to go get a locking thermostat cover. (Or work with your door closed or locked.) But if people can still see the temperature read-out they are still going to complain. So, I suggest taping paper over the temperature read out so it can’t be seen. If you are the manager of your co-workers, inform them that this is your solution to the temperature war and the two of them need to work it out. If you are not the manager, then inform management what your are doing because their thermostat wars are impacting your productivity. (Because you know, as soon as you deny access to the thermostat, they will complain to management.)

      There are other more permanent solutions, but without knowing your system, I’ll withhold from going down an engineering rabbit-hole.

  15. Swampy*

    Alison, just a heads up, it is incorrect that harassment in a legal sense has to be based on a protected class. That is only in the context of HR and employment law. In the context of criminal law, harassment in most Western jurisdictions is any course of conduct which annoys, threatens, intimidates, alarms, or puts a person in fear of their safety. By “course of conduct” it means it needs to be multiple actions that would reasonably cause a person fear. Can’t speak for everywhere but in the jurisdiction I did my law degree in, this woman’s actions Prima Facie do constitute harassment in a legal sense.

        1. Colette*

          The police and the court system are responsible for dealing with criminal conduct. It’s not the employer’s jurisdiction.

          1. ToS*

            Employers manage employees on the job, including problematic behavior that affects work productivity. Employers cannot charge employees with a crime, but they can investigate, discipline, write up, suspend and fire people for ANY behavior that challenges work productivity long-term if it’s happening on the job, and in some circumstances, if it happens elsewhere and has radioactive half-life or fallout that makes people call out or under-perform.

            Problems don’t happen because people complain. They existed in the behavior that gave the person something to complain about to HR, not the littler things.

            Even the police will tell you, there are many, many opportunities for intervention and conflict resolution for most situations before they should be involved.

            1. Colette*

              Sure, but that’s different from employers being obligated to discipline what might be criminal conduct at work.

        2. Jessen*

          My understanding (not a lawyer just someone who reads too much law) is that typically not inherently. There might be potential arguments to be made, but that’s very much in the territory where you’d need to talk to an attorney in your state to get the right answer.

        3. Magenta Sky*

          I suspect it’s more complicated than that, but the thing to keep in mind is that the employer cannot stop the victim from pursuing criminal charges against their attacker. And they’ll be in a deep, deep world of hurt if they try. In short, you don’t need your employer’s permission or cooperation to sign a criminal complaint.

        4. Magenta Sky*

          I suspect that the employer’s responsibilities could get complicated.

          But you don’t need the employer’s permission or cooperation to file criminal charges, and it would be very, very unwise for them to interfere. Especially if you can document that you tried to get them to deal with it before calling the cops.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      It also seems to fall into a “hostile work environment” category.

      Is there an employee handbook to lean on here?

        1. ToS*

          Yes. There is HOSTILITY, but “hostile work environment” has a very specific definition. Just like we say “tax return” and nothing might be returned. Thank you Alison for keeping the clarification and definition above the fray, and providing a framework for internal options for LW#1.

          LW#1 has external options, including contacting the police. Given that this is about relationships at work, HR needs to step up and get people (the clique) away from behavior that will land their employer in in headlines. There should be an internal investigation. Don’t focus on the outcome, being investigated can get people to understand what will, and will not be tolerated.

          They (the clique) are chasing away good, long-term employees (promoted employee) – that’s expensive.

          They are engaging in cancerous interpersonal behaviors that should not be allowed to metastasize. The employer cares about being a viable business with longevity.

          Even if a formal investigation is not started, HR does have the chance to talk to the reporting employee and the employee(s) with the problem behavior and remind them that making it difficult for other people to work can hold them back professionally. Engaging in a pattern of behavior, and including other people, can make them unemployable. Routinely running into people, as well as getting too close to their person, especially if you are operating a motor vehicle, may result in police and lawyers, which, in addition to safety concerns, is a giant time-suck to the employer’s productivity.

          If there are hurt feelings about outcomes at work (not getting a promotion) bullying behavior that results in an investigation is a great way to limit your options, if not get fired. There are other ways to embrace change and work through your own hard feelings that do not cannibalize progress.

          LW#1, if everything holds up with going to HR, is likely a whistleblower.

          On the flip side, if the clique is being anti-social, responds with even more ostracism and thwarting workflow, they could be held accountable for retaliation. They don’t need to be friends, they do need to get along.

          1. Blue Horizon*

            Don’t employers have an obligation to provide a safe working environment, though? What if one of their employees was prone to pulling out a knife and threatening to stab people, and they did nothing about it? I would say that is different from the vehicle threat in degree only, but not in kind.

            If OP#1 were to (a) quit her job after the employer refused to do anything after the vehicle incident and then (b) claim that she feared for her personal safety and felt she had no choice but to quit since the employer refused to do anything, I wonder what an employment lawyer would make of it?

  16. Ama*

    #1 I think you should definitely start documenting all the occourances. Keep a diary or log or something where you write down just the date and what happened each time.

    That way, if you need to show its an ongoing thing, you’ve got specific incidences and how frequent they are to show people.

    1. JM in England*

      At OldJob, I kept such a journal. When I felt I had enough evidence, I told my line manager. The conversation quickly went south and he became livid, essentially saying that I was in the wrong to keep such a journal and that accusing a co-worker of bullying without “proof” was a fireable offense.

      Ermmm hello, if this journal isn’t proof, then what is???

    2. XF1013*

      Yes, and keep a offsite copy of that documentation. I wouldn’t put it above the bullies to go through your computer or purse at the office, and to find and destroy your documentation.

      1. JM in England*

        I actually kept the journal on my home PC and filled in any new entries immediately on getting home from work whilst the details were fresh in my mind. Even documented the meeting with my line manager detailed above!

    3. TootsNYC*

      It’s true it might be hard to document exactly what she does in the hallway, but simply writing down the date, time and description will have some weight when you show it to people.

  17. MommyMD*

    Next time this person pins you against the wall and touches your body, call the cops. This is outrageous.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          The thing is, if you phone the police and tell them “my coworker deliberately brushed up against me in the hallway, and I want to press charges” they’re probably going to laugh at you. They’re certainly not going to come to your office and haul your coworker away in handcuffs, not even if you claim that being bumped in the hallway while being female means it’s sexual harassment. Trying to run you over in the parking lot, on the other hand, would reach the level of involving the police, although it might be difficult to prove intent (vs just not seeing you).

          It might be worth the OP talking to the police on the non emergency line to see what kind of options are available to them, however.

      1. 8DaysAWeek*

        This is what I was wondering. Can you call it assault? And to that point I don’t see why you can’t file a police report. You don’t need to press charges, but to have the report on file can be very helpful should something else happen.

        And maybe go to your manager using that language “I am being assaulted in the hall….”.

        1. DJ*

          I would at the very least bring it up to the manager that if nothing is done about it you will go to the police (assuming LW is willing to follow through on that). And I do think at least some of this could qualify as assault though it may vary by jurisdiction. But an implied threat of physical harm is assault. It doesn’t need to be explicitly stated or carried out. I’m basing this off my state’s laws and my Criminal Justice classes back in school, so I’m not an expert, but I feel pretty confident that the police wouldn’t just laugh this off like some others have said, especially since there is a pattern of behavior here.

          Also, if the LW isn’t already documenting these instances, start documenting them now. Hopefully just telling your manager (or HR or whoever) you’re willing to file a police report and explaining the full extent of how long it’s been going on will be enough to spur them into action.

  18. Lauren*

    Things come to mind when I read your letter. I no someone in a similar position.
    1. Are your standards too high?
    2. Do you let external sources like media and economy put you off?
    3. Do you have confidence issues?
    4. Do you have supportive friends to give you a boost?
    5. Do you put out vibes such as “they are not interested” or “they will never give me a chance”?
    6. Do you lack any skills for a type of job your applying for?
    Trust you inner gut. Have you sought help for CV, interview skills and so on?
    The friend of mine got all the help above but I think she needs to read your letter and my response. She like yourself has been stuck in a demoralising and professionally crippling job for six years and job hunting that same time frame. She does not know why either. Both of youse both need confidence. Thanks for reading. P.s youse is Liverpool UK word for addressing two people at once.

    1. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

      I will literally do any job if it’s in a “safe” environment for me and I’ve been applying as such. I know I’m awesome and a great employee, so that’s the energy I’ve been coming to applications with.

        1. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

          Oh heck yeah, because in all honesty they look SO INTERESTING or I’d be learning something new. I know it doesn’t help so I try to really put effort into the cover letter to plead my case.

          1. Observer*

            When you write your cover letter highlight that the job looks interesting or that you are excited to learn something new, because that will help people see your candidacy a bit more seriously. Like not “Oh, AB is just applying as a stepping stone to something else” and instead “Hey, someone who thinks this job is actually interesting!”

      1. The Original K.*

        Hmm. I actually wonder if this is harming you. I completely get the impulse, but if you’re applying to literally everything, odds are good that you’re applying for a lot of stuff that’s a bad fit – stuff that you’re overqualified for, not at all qualified for, underqualified for … I went through a similar struggle after I and my team were laid off – I needed and wanted a job, so my initial approach was “let me just apply for everything and I’ll make whatever sticks work and sort it out later.” (Which was foolish for a lot of reasons, not least because the job from which I’d been laid off made me miserable because it was a horrible cultural fit, so I had firsthand knowledge of how bad the wrong job feels.) That approach did me no favors.

        Without knowing what field you’re in, are there specific sites or outlets you can use that pertain solely to your field (e.g. the Public Relations Society of America for PR jobs)?

        1. BeeGee*

          I second this. It’s easy to get desperate about wanting or needing a new job, and I too was applying to just about anything I could as soon as I was laid off end of April. I have been using this blog as a tool to instead work on “quality over quantity”, focusing on updating my resume and tailoring as needed for certain roles and also submitting a focused cover letter whenever possible. I’ve noticed that I have gotten more interest back when I have done so! Best of luck, I know the strain and fatigue of job hunting. I’m going to my first in person interview tomorrow since being laid off, so keep at it!

            1. BeeGee*

              Thanks!! :D I am also spending time today and tonight reviewing Alison’s interview tips, so hopefully I can put my best foot forward!

        2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

          Desperation is never a good look.

          The employer has a specific need. Their need does NOT include guessing whether you can do that thing.

          Focus on what the employer needs. Then tell them how you can meet those needs. (Resume)

          Once they think you might be a solution to their problems, you can start to address the ways in which you will be able to do that best — including any accommodations you might need. (Interview/offer process)

  19. YetAnotherUsername*

    OP 2: ” I started cleaning up after everyone but I’m starting to feel really resentful.”

    Unless you were hired as a cleaner, please stop cleaning up after everyone.

    I agree with alison that you need to think about what is actually a problem versus what is just personal preference. Think how does this actually affect me. If the answer is just “I don’t like having to look at it” or “I would do it differently” then it’s a personal preference thing not a proper problem that’s actually affecting you.

    Eg her using more toilet roll than you like, using toilet roll instead of tissues, leaving tampons visible = personal preference, no impact at all on you.

    Her leaving dirty used toilet roll on the ground instead of flushing it down the toilet = serious hygiene concern! Big problem. She is putting urine and fecal matter on the actual floor! Sheer insanity. Definitely raise this with someone.

    1. The Bathroom Police*

      You are correct, and I realize it’s my preference. She has as much right to use the bathroom as me. I’m trying to find a way to manage my reaction, because she’s a sweet girl and I do like her very much. Feeling like the work mom, and generally being sore about the cultural lack of manners and respect for others in our country makes me extra sensitive to these minor affronts to my delicacy haha. My office is very casual but I cam up through years of strict training on how clean an office should be kept and I am having a hard time reconciling that to the modern ideas of what is okay and not okay in a professional setting.

      1. Nanani*

        Hello, red flags.

        First, your coworker is not a girl, she is an adult woman. (If your work hires children you have bigger problems)

        Bigger than that though, is this line “cultural lack of manners and respect for others in our country”

        Bathroom Police, are you by any chance seeing yourself as trying to “”civilise”” a woman from a different cultural background than you? Cut that shit out -yesterday-
        You think your background and strict training are superior, but clearly your job isn’t to clean the office so it’s not relevant.

        Leave your colleague alone. Stop looking at the wastebasket. Ignore her tampons.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          Oh interesting, that’s not how I read that at all. To me it sounds like the OP is a slightly older person who has fallen into the role of office mother and is getting frustrated about it in a “young people today!!” kind of way.

        2. lemonade*

          Agree, I think its time to take a step back and examine some biases and if a sense of superiority and/or martyrdom has crept in. In a previous post, you mentioned this is because your mother raised you to be concerned about the feelings of people around you. I don’t think its helpful to think of this woman as disregarding your feelings or actively looking to offend. It might just be that her standards are different. You’re not better than her and she’s not better than you. As someone who leaves a trail of bobbypins in her wake, I’d be pretty offended (and confused) if I found out a coworker was secretly harboring opinions about my rudeness or upbringing, or attaching my messiness to some kind of issue they have with a the nation as a whole.

          1. Jamie*

            As someone who leaves a trail of bobbypins in her wake

            Are you my daughter? :)

            Seriously, you’re making a great point here. The co-worker isn’t being untidy at the OP, she just has different level of standard for clean. Tbh noticing that a tampon box had a crushed corner and considering that an issue is not something I can wrap my head around…but the OP seems to be taking things personally which have nothing to do with her.

            1. Quill*

              Bobby pins jump out of my hair like skydivers from an airplane… so I don’t use them. :)

              The toilet paper on floor (which was probably used to mop up a liquid then not taken care of) is to me the major issue on bathroom cleanlieness here. Everything else, it sounds like the company just hasn’t ever paid anyone to clean.

          2. YetAnotherUsername*

            “time to take a step back and examine some biases and if a sense of superiority has set in”.

            I think a the people attacking OP based on their assumption that she must be racist should take this advice also!

        3. The Bathroom Police*

          No it has nothing to do with a cultural difference. I don’t appreciate your assumption. Trust me that is the last thing on my mind. I meant cultural as in current American cultural lack of respect for other people: “I do what I want” and to he77 with everyone else. And yes, in an older woman sort of way. Like I said, I am friendly with this woman. I just get annoyed when I go in to pee four days a week and there’s no flippin TP. I could give a crap about the tampons. As I’ve stated in numerous previous replies, they are just the example I used to illustrate the situation.

          1. Close Bracket*

            “I just get annoyed when I go in to pee four days a week and there’s no flippin TP.”

            You should address this. This and the used paper on the floor. Don’t worry about embarrassing her. Be kind and matter of fact that used paper on the floor is unhygenic and leaving no paper for the next person is inconsiderate. You say you are new, so she is not used to having you share the bathroom. Hopefully, by picking your battles and being direct and kind, you can change the situation.

        4. Tinuviel*

          For goodness sake, you are reading all sorts of things here that are not in the letter or in her comment. What happened to giving OPs the benefit of the doubt? She has said nothing about being from a different background than anyone and it’s not that egregious to call someone younger than you a “sweet girl.”

          Let’s chill out and try to help letter writers, not call out biases we’ve projected onto them.

      2. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

        ‘In our country’. ‘Sweet girl’.

        Oh dear. I think you need to stop clutching your pearls. Live and let live.

        1. The Bathroom Police*

          I find your username ironic. I do not wear pearls. I did not mean our country as if it was not her country (it is, but your assumption is uncalled for), only our country as in the United States. If it is hers, mine, and yours, it is by definition “ours”. She IS sweet. It was an affectionate term. If she was a jerk I’d have way less problem understanding all of this. I came here for help in correcting the problem. Your comment is not helpful and borders on mean.

      3. LKB*

        You’ve said repeatedly that you were raised “to respect the feelings of others” and that’s why you’re as tidy as you are. But it seems like in your current context, respecting the feelings of others is a problem you’re having. Based on your assessment, you work in an office that has generally agreed on a certain cleanliness standard. It appears that they’re all okay with the way the office looks, so respecting others here means letting it go. As others have said, if this is a hygiene issue, raise it with your manager. Where it’s tidiness and personal preference on the way a kitchen and bathroom should be kept, you need to figure out a way to adjust your expectations or look for a place that is a better fit.
        For context, I work in a small office in which I am the only female and we have shared single-stall co-ed bathrooms and one shared kitchen that’s used both by staff for lunches and for many events. My standards are not always the same as my coworkers. I’ve had to let certain things go — toilet paper rolls never being changed; trash cans occasionally overflowing, coffee cups piling up in the sink, etc. It’s not how I would keep my home or my office, but I’m one of 12 here and after a discussion with my supervisor, it was clear that fixing the tidiness issue wasn’t a priority for management. However, I have raised issues when dishes are left out that have attracted bugs or when their messiness migrates to my office. In other words, I’ve picked my battles on what are issues that I can control and which I can’t.

        1. The Bathroom Police*

          Thank you. I think that is going to be my plan. I do care about how others feel, and by that I try to make sure that my standards for myself are high enough, and you are right that I shouldn’t impose them on others. It sounds like you work in a similar office, and you’ve found a way to manage your own expectations. I’m going to work on that.

      4. Observer*

        modern ideas of what is okay and not okay in a professional setting.

        This has nothing to do the (degenerate) “modern ideas”. This happens to be about a specific workplace with a sloppy culture and understaffed cleaning crew. And about your getting too caught up in how well YOU were trained.

        But, you actually seem to have missed an important piece of training – you don’t seem to have learned about flexibility and adaptability. You keep on talking about how YOU “can’t help” that you were raised a certain way and trained a certain way. But you CAN help how you behave. And that includes stopping to assume that YOUR way is THE right way, and also stopping to do things you were not asked to do and then being resentful about it.

      5. TootsNYC*

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting a tidy bathroom, with stuff not left out on the counter, and stuff not left on the floor.

        I’d own that, and simply start asking people if please, would they be tidier in the bathroom, since it’s bothering you.

      6. Michelle*

        I wanted to say I understand that working in a messy place is disconcerting to you. I was raised much like you that you clean up behind yourself and don’t leave messes lying around. It appears that the manager/management has no issue with all this mess, so there are not many options. Are they not worried about all the food containers, used dishes, and food stains attracting pests?

        I think the suggestion about speaking to your coworker about keeping the bathroom cleaner is a good idea. If you feel comfortable raising the issue with management, perhaps you could suggest having the cleaners come in more than once a week. If they say no, then you might need to make some decisions. (A)You can keep cleaning up behind people, be annoyed by it and let the men think it’s a woman’s job to clean up behind them, (B) Try to find a way to overlook all the mess or (C) Ask yourself if nothing changes, how happy/comfortable can you be knowing that you will walk in to a messy workplace everyday?

        I can only say for me, I would not be happy in a messy workplace with food containers, dishes, coffee cups and used toilet paper laying around all the time. How hard is it to dispose of your empty food containers or pickup toilet paper if you dropped it on the floor or clear the counter tops of your bobby pins?

        I hope this doesn’t sound dramatic, but you may need to decide if you should job hunt. Your level of cleanliness is miles away from theirs and unless you are willing to be the default cleaner or management agrees to have the cleaners come more frequently, I don’t see you being happy/comfortable in your workplace.

        1. The Bathroom Police*

          Thank you for your kind response. I’ve decided that it’s not fair to expect her to come to some standard that is mine alone. I just have to let it go as so many have told me, and decide if I can live with it or go work in an office with the other stuffy old people. Sad part is, I’m well under 50 still.

        2. EddieSherbert*

          This is well said! I can so relate to your frustrations as I tend to be an extremely neat person (my spouse and I have been driving each other nuts for years on the topic!).

          I had to find a solution I could be comfortable with the office kitchen. For awhile, I was running/emptying the dishwasher, posting reminders to put your dang dishes in the dishwasher, cleaning the fridge every month… and I was miserable and mad.

          Eventually I gave up. I talked the office admin into buying a dish drying rack and I just wash things by hand when I use them. I keep my ‘dish essentials’ (like silverware) at my desk. And I bring in a cooler lunchbox and rarely go into the fridge. I still don’t *like* it when I walk through to use the microwave and see a stack of dishes in the sink, but it’s mostly far from my mind and I’m not nearly as annoyed as I used to be.

      7. The Original Stellaaaaa*

        To me it sounds like your coworker is wrapping her tampons up and tossing them instead of flushing them (which is the better move for your plumbing), blowing her nose with toilet paper because it’s stronger and softer than cheap tissues (true story!), and is chill enough to not be ashamed of getting her period. Leave her alone.

        1. The Bathroom Police*

          I actually hadn’t thought of that. And yes TP is way better to blow. But dang… just replace the roll! lol that’s all I want…
          BTW I am totally going to leave her alone. I really do like her personally. I would never want to make her embarassed or upset with me. That’s why I came here for help.

      8. fposte*

        This seems to carry a lot of meaning for you beyond merely a clump of tissue; it’s important to your identity to work in a space without random things, and it feels like this is happening because people are inherently problematic in not sharing that identity with you. But it might be helpful if you can back away a bit and consider it really is just a few bobby pins and some tissue; it doesn’t have to be about disrespect or generational degradation.

  20. Orange You Glad*

    #1 – I wonder what would happen if you calmly called out and labeled the behavior?

    “[Name], I’ve noticed that on several occasions when it’s only you and I in the hallway, you almost bump into me. Why is that?”

    Then no matter what she says, it’s “Please don’t do that anymore.”

    And when it happens again, move away as much as possible and say loudly, “[Name]! You’re almost bumping into me! Please Do Not Do That!”

    Treat it like the bizarre behavior that it is – and then when you need to escalate it up the ladder, you can say you specifically asked her to stop.

    My experience with bullies is they don’t like calm and assertive responses to their inappropriate behavior. I don’t think there is anything to lose by trying it this way first since your manager wasn’t helpful.

    1. DashDash*

      I sadly had the opposite experience. I tried to calmly talk to my bully a few times; each time she calmly wouldn’t look at me and “mmm”ed and “hmm”ed and didn’t know what I was talking about, and everything kept on as status quo. But, then I could tell higher ups that yes, on days A, B, and C, I did try constructively talking to her about “my” issue.

    2. Batgirl*

      Wrongdoers are working a plan of their own design, which usually contains a ready made excuse in case they are called out.

  21. One of the Sarahs*

    Here’s what I think is happening with OP1’s colleagues: obviously they’re arseholes, and there is no excuse, but I think their clique bully tactic is all about pretending OP doesn’t exist. So hallway bully and car bullies have decided she’s not there, and are acting accordingly.

    This is NOT to excuse them! It’s to say that if OP complains, and they counter “I didn’t see her”, that’s likely part of the bullying. And they probably don’t even recognise that they’re bullying – they would say that they were told as kids that if someone is annoying them, to pretend they’re not there.

    A similar thing happened to me, but it didn’t get violent. When clique star walked past me in the corridor, she’d be fascinated by the magnolia paint, making a big deal with her body language that she couldn’t see me. She would never hold doors for me in the ratmaze chicane to our office, would never say hi, and do 101 other passive aggressive bullshit. It sounded really petty, trying to describe it, but I had friends in the office, so could find it funny.

    OP1, I would 100% report this, and make it clear that it’s not 1 individual action, but a cumulative effect of people trying to make you invisible. But also, whenever you see her coming, say a loud, friendly “good morning!” or “how’s it going?”. NOT to try to mollify her, but so she can’t use the excuse she was thinking and didn’t see you. And if she is trying to barge, go for a loud exclamation, like “ouch!” so she’s definitely noticed it.

    And as someone said upthread, check out the experiences of the other out-group types too.

    It all feels horrible to be in this scenario, and I feel for you. Remember, this is NOT your fault, you’re not “too quiet” or whatever – they’re arseholes, and management is weak (in my case, I was told that they knew what was happening, but as I was there on a short term contract, they thought it was best to leave it… except my contract kept getting extended, so I guess they just shrugged? But in an organisation dedicated to social justice, it was just one example of principles contradicted by actions)

    1. Veronica*

      This reminds me of my boss’ former admin. She never said good night. If I said good morning, she replied shortly while looking away. If I needed anything from her, she made clear she was too busy and I was an imposition. I usually had to go through our boss to get what I needed. I stayed later than she did, but she always closed the inner doors as if she was the last one out. She never pitched in to put food away or wash dishes even though she sat closest to the sink.
      It was all part of a pattern of unfriendliness and mild sabotage. The sabotage was so mild I couldn’t be sure if it was deliberate or flakiness. When she was laid off last year (yay!) it became clear she treated our professionals and other staff much better than she treated me. I don’t know why she had it in for me.

  22. MommyMD*

    Unless you can support yourself for at least one year, don’t quit your job. It will make your job search harder and you have to discover first why you are not getting called for interviews. Check your resume for misspellings and grammatical errors to start. That’s a big turn off. Good luck.

  23. Phil*

    #1 For the driving at least, get a dashcam. Make a compilation. I don’t know if your car park is part of the company or not, but at least it’s documented evidence of some of her behaviour.

    The hallway stuff… Are there security cameras? Take note of times, make friends with the security people…

  24. KatieKaBoom*

    OP#1- Let her hit you. When you are in the hallway and you see her start to zoom in on you, you stop and adopt a protective stance (forarms to chest, angled torso) and stare her straight in the eye. One of two things will happen. She will either see that you are standing your ground, and veer away, which will show that you are not taking her sh*t and standing up for yourself. Or she will hit you. Now you have a coworker assaulting you, and grounds for a myriad of options.
    As for the car, use your phone to video record every street crossing. You can say you’ve almost been hit by speeders so now you record just in case you need to get a license plate. Not that you even have to justify recording anything in public.

    1. Angwyshaunce*

      Great idea about taking video of the car incidents. Get a bunch of those, and it can clearly show a pattern and not just a single instance that could be explained as a one-time mistake.

      I wonder if the OP could get a restraining order against the bully with that kind of evidence. It’d be just if the bully wasn’t allowed at work anymore.

  25. Manchmal*

    OP1, I would start carrying very hot, very full cups of coffee in your hand when you walk the halls. Let her bump into you..actually, you start veering slightly toward her with a cup of coffee in one hand and your phone “distracting” you in the other, and let her feel some consequences. FFS. This is taking me back to middle school where I experienced bullying eerily close to this. The problem with appealing to higher-ups is that these behaviors never occur in front of them. I think you put yourself in a weaker position by running to them than you would if you stood up for yourself. She can still be a nasty piece of work to you when there’s no one around. If she doesn’t want to behave differently, she won’t.

    1. CheeryO*

      I think that’s a recipe for disaster. If the coworker ends up burned, you know that story would be spun a hundred ways to Sunday, and it’s just going to escalate the bullying.

      1. On a pale mouse*

        Not to mention, I don’t see how OP can accidentally only spill it on the bully – it’s just as likely they both get burned. If she goes out of her way to make sure only the bully gets it, that’s not really an accident and we’re right back at the (IMHO) bad idea of answering violence with violence.

    2. No more games*

      When I worked in manufacturing I was very young and out of college. I had one engineer who had the habit of running into me or just standing too close. I am not meek or timid but I have to keep my temper in check. I found a clip board that had a wire attached and carried it for a month. Every time he came near me he got scratched. One time it really scratched him and he turned and glared at me and I just stared at him confused like I didn’t know what had happened. Never came near me again. I did end up reporting his behavior and after a few people had reported it as SOP for him he was terminated. Maybe OP can carry a pen or notepad with a jagged edge and if bully runs into her they run into the object. OP can state that it was an accident as bully veered towards her and she was unable to move but didn’t realize her pen or notepad was sticking out. This worked for me but I understand it may not work for everyone.

      1. Commercial Property Manager*

        This. This is brilliant, and a great way to go, and carries far, far less liability than a hot cup of coffee. Good grief, people need to stop recommending that.

      2. Angwyshaunce*

        I’d advise against this. Even if it seems like a genuine accident to the bully, just think how they may (and probably will) spin it to make it sound like the OP hurt them on purpose.

      3. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        As satisfying as that sounds, I’d go with something less like a weapon…how about a Sharpie? She gets ink all over her arm or blouse. Just make sure it’s very noticeably in your hand as you walk and not hidden behind papers.

        1. No more games*

          I like the sharpie without a lid idea a lot. It will literally prove how close the bully was to OP and sense they were in a large hallway it should have been easy to avoid running into OP.

  26. silvertech*

    OP1, please, and I say this very, very seriously, ignore most of the advice you are getting in the comments. Confronting the bully, especially physically, is an almost surefire way to get them to escalate and you don’t want that. Do not engage, do not retaliate, do not humiliate them in public.

    I’d follow Alison’s advice, if i were you, and I’d also start logging all the incidents in detail on a personal notebook that you must keep at home and never bring to work (or if you need to, just bring copies). I also think it would be a good idea to ask a lawyer/the police for advice on how to proceed. I did that when I had a phone stalker and they were very helpful by giving me tips on what to do, how to log every call I got, etc.

    I’d also start to discreetly job search, honestly. Your workplace sounds very toxic and you deserve better than this!

    1. Betty*

      I agree – there is no need to turn this physical intimidation into a physical fight. The most I would do is, when she approaches in the corridor, just stop stock still and let her either walk around/past me or decide to walk into me. If you’re not moving, it’s her decision to make.

      But I absolutely agree with everyone who has said to document EVERYTHING. I would start a new sheet of paper every day at the office so you can be sure to record things the moment they happen and be accurate and detailed, and then bring it home every day and put it in a ringbinder there for safekeeping.

      Your colleague sounds absolutely bonkers, but if you were promoted and she wasn’t then someone in the company likes you. Find them, and escalate things with them. Absolutely use key trigger words like “bullying”, “harrassment”, “intimidation”, “unprofessional”. Also consider whether you can think of any actions (apart from her having a good bollocking from a manager) that would be helpful – moving desks for one of you so you’re further apart in the building and see each other less often? Reserving both of you parking spaces that are FAR away from each other? Anything to give her fewer opportunities to be a twerp.

      1. Christmas*

        I like your advice much better than my own. Standing completely still would make it incredibly more obvious what she is doing, and she would really have to decide does she still want to walk over and try to shove up against the writer. Also I feel like it may benefit to show the bully that she knows what she’s doing and is trying to stop or avoided. I feel like the bully is taking advantage of her quiet nature, knowing that she will not protest against these behaviors in that moment.

        Because I can be petty as hell, I would not take well to a game of “hallway chicken“. I’d make a spectacle of it until we both look crazy. Like, “Ouch!! You just walked straight into me! Daydreaming about Friday already? Be careful!!”

          1. Christmas*

            silvertech: I don’t know if this makes sense, but I explain my thoughts more in a post below:
            L1: The bully is 100% counting on you to do nothing in that moment and allow yourself to be moved aside or pushed against the wall. You mentioned that you’re “quiet”… I guarantee that she is taking advantage of it. The book The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker is often mentioned here. A piece of advice I read there applies. Sometimes it can be enough of a deterrent simply to verbalize what’s happening out loud and plainly force the other person to acknowledge it. Have you been able to try loudly calling out “Woah!“ Or better yet, “What are you doing?” Or “Where are you going?! Did you not see me?!” These are *appropriate* responses to someone who is walking *straight at you* in an aggressive manner. She is being strange and aggressive. Reflect the spectacle back at her.

        1. Manchmal*

          I guarantee you that the bully is not doing this when anyone else is around to see it. Standing there would make it obvious to whom? If no one is in earshot, who will take notice of the spectacle? And most of the coworkers are friends with the bully in any case.

          But you’re right that the bully is taking advantage of the OP’s meekness.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      I agree. I know it’s very satisfying to say (seriously or jokingly) “oh you should act like you’re going to slug her/spill hot coffee on her/create a huge scene when she walks into you/etc” but that will all make the OP’s situation worse. Not only will it escalate the situation, but it’s also handing the opportunity to the bully to tell all her clique friends (which apparently include management?) about how crazy and aggressive and unstable the OP is. She needs to aggressively escalate until she finds somebody who will listen to her.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        (By which I mean, aggressively escalate the issue with management. Not with the bully. Please don’t do that with the bully.)

    3. Nanani*

      This so much.

      All the fantasies up-page about retaliation are just going to get OP fired, and possibly hurt worse on the way out.

      Management is clearly siding with the bullies, escalating will just be an excuse for them to fire OP for “bullying” which is absolutely what the clique will claim she’s doing.

    4. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Yes, agreed on all counts. I understand people’s anger and feel the same way, but retaliating is only going to put the OP at risk.

      OP, this is definitely not your fault at all. It’s the fault of the abusive person, full stop.

      Your safety is the most important thing and any kind of escalation is very likely to harm you. These abusers have shown how far they’re willing to go. Keep yourself safe, please.

      Follow Alison’s advice, document everything and start job hunting, just in case.

      Finally, I do recommend talking to a professional if you can. Abusive behaviour really does a number on a person and it might not show up until later. You deserve to be happy and well. Do what you can to take care of yourself now and minimise the damage.

      Good luck and let us know how things go, we’re cheering you on!

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        Sorry, I missed the part where you said you were already job hunting. Keep up the job search, in that case, and it might be worthwhile to let your friends and family know what’s going on, just in case you do have to leave this job and need their support.

    5. Middle School Teacher*

      Thank goodness someone is being the voice of reason. I can’t believe what I’m reading here.

    6. Observer*

      Unfortunately, I have to agree with this, especially on the job hunt. This is absolutely toxic. You are a good worker – by the standards of the workplace, yet a supervisor is more worried about “ruffling the feathers” of a dangerous bully? That’s some serious dysfunction right there.

    7. Consultant Catie*

      Agreed agreed agreed. The bully is the one acting out of the ordinary, and for your reporting to carry its full weight, you have to ensure that your behavior is above reproach.

    8. Veronica*

      For keeping an incident log at home – you could record them (maybe even type them on your work computer and print them out, why not?) and bring them home and put them in a binder or file. As silvertech says, keep the original safe at home and use copies if you need to carry them around.

  27. Jdc*

    I finally locked up our thermostat. I was beyond done hearing it. I set it to my comfort which says a lot since my office was always the coldest or hottest depending on the season. I would be on phone calls and have to hear arguing in the background. I was beyond over it. I swear don’t marry someone you don’t share the same general thermostat temp settings with. Based on what I’ve seen in my office I could see it being grounds for divorce.

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      Where were you with that marriage advice a few years ago???? My general body temperature I think tend to run a bit hotter, and my partner tends to run colder. In summer we will have the AC and I will sleep with just a sheet on while they have a small blanket on. In the winter with the heat on, my partner is wearing sweaters, sweatpants while I am in a tshirt and shorts. It took a little while but we were finally able to come to a compromise on thermostat settings.

  28. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    OP #1: WTH?! I’m really shocked at this and disappointed with your manager. As someone who was merely frozen out by the Queen Bee at one job, I know how clique behaviour can impact you at work. Get help AT work (all the great advice listed above) but also get help outside of work. This is probably impacting you more than you think.

    OP#3: See if the landlord of your offices can move the thermostat. Inside an office is dumb. In the meantime, get a locked box to put over it, you keep the key and you will get less folks coming in, after the shock wears off. I fondly remember putting an end to the constant whining, complaining and tweaking over the thermostat when I put the lock box on the thermostat two jobs ago (I handled operations). I had the key, I would tweak as needed (often warmer) and was interrupted much less often. (It didn’t help that the way our office was built the air distribution was poor.)

  29. Christmas*

    L1: The bully is 100% counting on you to do nothing in that moment and allow yourself to be moved aside or pushed against the wall. You mentioned that you’re “quiet”… I guarantee that she is taking advantage of it. The book The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker is often mentioned here. A piece of advice I read there applies. Sometimes it can be enough of a deterrent simply to verbalize what’s happening out loud and plainly force the other person to acknowledge it. Have you been able to try loudly calling out “Woah!“ Or better yet, “What are you doing?” Or “Where are you going?! Did you not see me?!” These are *appropriate* responses to someone who is walking *straight at you* in an aggressive manner.
    She is being strange and aggressive. Reflect the spectacle back at her.

    1. Jaybeetee*

      I was going to suggests “what are you doing?!” as well. This behaviour is juvenile, and it’s unlikely the bully would want to state out loud that she’s deliberately beelining towards LW in the hallway to intimidate her or to prove some sort of point. Asking her what she’s doing puts her in more of a defensive position, where she either has to pretend it’s some kind of accident (“Oh sorry, I was so deep in thought I didn’t see you there…”) or pretend it isn’t happening (“What are you talking about, could you please move?”)

      While I’m not a fan of the advice to try to physically intimidate the bully (which could seriously backfire, especially since the bully has friends), I also like the idea of just standing her ground and not moving aside. Make it into a game of chicken, but my guess is bully won’t want to actually risk injury to *herself* by actually plowing into LW.

    2. san junipero*

      Yes, this was my thinking as well, and I’m a little surprised to see it so far down (below all the much more physical/combative responses). If anyone is in earshot at all, try to rope them in on it. Highlight the bizarre and inappropriate behavior calmly and forcefully.

      I like something like, “Woah! What are you doing? You almost ran right into me!”

  30. JulieD*

    If I were OP#1, I’d directly ask the bullies to stop, then pull out my cellphone and start recording the next time the harassment happened. Bullies will do a lot of things when they’re alone with a target that they wouldn’t do with an audience.

  31. Pretzelgirl*

    Someone above said it and now I can’t find it. Next time you are both in the hall and she runs into you purposefully, I would make a big loud deal out of it. She’s been bullying you, so why no make a fuss? Say loudly (and I mean loudly) “Why did you just bump into me, in this large hall? That hurt!” Or something like it. I would highly encourage you to seek out the parking lot/building’s owner and ask if they have video footage you can send to police about the parking lot incident.

    Lastly I would escalate this as much and as annoyingly as possible. Go to her supervisor every single time something happens, document it, go to their supervisor and their supervisor. Be a pain in the ass about it. Trust me I have seen employees be a PITA about much less things. Be as annoying as she is, but to them.

  32. Llellayena*

    If the street crossing incidents happen at a crosswalk, can you ask the police to place a car there for week during the times you’d be crossing? Unmarked might be best but you might not get that. Say you’ve almost been hit a few times while crossing in the crosswalk and you think it’s an unsafe crossing. If they’re caught trying to run you over, great! But the police presence might help in general to curb the car incidents. For the hall incidents, move over a little to show you’re giving room but don’t squeeze against the wall, let her bump into you. Then look at her all confused. Some possible phrases: “do we need lane markings in the hall?” “Did we move the office to England when I wasn’t looking?” “Is there a reason you bumped into me? I gave you plenty of room” all said with a mild, confused tone.

    1. 8DaysAWeek*

      I made a comment above about filing a police report just so you have an official record of the hallway nonsense and you can add the attempts to run you over. And if you go to the police you can say you have a co-worker who has attempted to run you over X number of times and is there anyway they can pull camera footage? In some cities, there are traffic light cameras or cameras on street lamps.

  33. Askalibrarian*

    It might not be harassment, but it’s definitely menacing according to the second definition on uslegal.com:

    He or she repeatedly follows a person or engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts over a period of time intentionally placing or attempting to place another person in reasonable fear of physical injury, serious physical injury or death

    I think she should file a police report, HR or no HR. A written report could be useful for utilizing a sick and safe leave law, which some states have, and then the job search can be conducted without daily altercations. Too extreme for some, other alternatives could be a compliance line (many organizations have them) or perhaps writing a review on glassdoor. This isn’t normal, rational behavior for an adult at work. It might seem extreme but the behavior could escalate. I would file the report.

    1. Fabulous*

      I was thinking this may be the next logical option as well, especially if the managers and/or HR continues brushing it off.

  34. StressedButOkay*

    OP3, if it gets too bad, maybe asking management to lock up the thermostat isn’t a bad idea! I’ve never worked in an office where staff had the ability to change the temperature on their own. In fact, in my current office, we have to call in building maintenance to make adjustments – when someone asked why, management very bluntly said it was to prevent this very thing since everyone has a different idea of what is the perfect temperature.

    OP4, if you’re getting to the point where you feel like walking and you have nothing lined up, have you looked into temping or contract work in your area? Temping saved my financial bacon and it meant I was able to have something on my resume. Also, there are jobs out there that are temp to perm and could end up in you having a full time job at the end of it.

    1. JJ*

      Yeah I agree for OP4, can you afford to get a ‘whatever’ job in the meantime? i.e. a bit of a paycut in exchange for a mental reprieve? Temping is a great idea (oh the meditation of stuffing envelopes!), retail, serving?

      Is your profession something that is freelancable? There are lots of freelance agencies out there who are happy to give you things to do to get you started, and interacting with coworkers/clients who are not toxic is profoundly important when your job has stomped you down.

    2. zora*

      Yeah, I third this advice about getting a whatever job as an option. I did exactly this with temping when I was leaving a terrible toxic job and I was dealing with depression, too, and didn’t have the emotional energy for a real job hunt. It meant I had to be super frugal for a while, which wasn’t easy, but it was totally worth it at the time. I got some easy receptionist type temp gigs, and they helped build my confidence back that I was actually a good worker, and was good at a lot of things! And, I got some very pleasant workplaces with nice people, so that reminded me that there are nice people in the world, and not everyone is awful like at my former job.

      In other situations I’ve gone with retail or catering work, which again, is kind of mentally easy and at the end of each day you leave it all at work and don’t have to take it home with me. (Not that those are easy jobs, but they are easier for my brain when I’m recovering from being emotionally crushed and depressed.)

      1. zora*

        That said, it was hard for my career path to recover after doing that for a few years. But the alternative at the time was probably a total breakdown from the depression and anxiety. So, while I’m still working on getting my career back on track and where I want it, I still think it was the right decision at the time. Because I wasn’t mentally capable of applying and getting a job at my level in the field I was in at that time.

        It definitely has downsides, but it is an option if you really can’t find another way out right now.

        1. ChaChaChaChia*

          Not the OP, but I have been considering doing the above (quitting and taking a temp job while I look for something permanent). My job is sucking the life out of me and not sure how much longer I can hang on. For those who have temped in “whatever” type jobs, are these easy to come by once you start working with a temp agency? Can you generally ask to be on these assignments for a certain time frame, whether you want a week or a month, etc?

  35. NeonDreams*

    I feel for you, LW4. I’m in the exact same position as you. I want to quit so badly, but can’t because I don’t have the financial means to support myself. I was unemployed for 2 years post college and don’t want to repeat that experience. No advice, just empathy and solidarity.

  36. mcr-red*

    OP #1 – Honestly, with management not wanting to “ruffle feathers,” you need to do what is best for yourself and that is GET OUT NOW. I know jobs are hard to come by, maybe you can take up the level of harassment you are receiving and the fact that you reported it and they did nothing to the unemployment office and let them fight it out. Having been bullied in school, bullied by a spouse and witnessed my child get bullied in school, I know first-hand the kind of damage it does to you. And it’s the kind of damage that leaves a wound on your spirit that may never heal. The longer you stay, the more damage will be done. Psychological abuse is bad enough, but when it reaches the level of physical, that’s a hard NO. And this has reached the level of physical – they are threatening to harm you physically, and it is abuse.

    Believe me, I’m all about getting another job before you quit one, but there is a level of NOPE that I would quit and would tell a friend or family member to quit with no hesitation and no back-up plan, and this is one of them.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      And it’s the kind of damage that leaves a wound on your spirit that may never heal.

      Oh yeah.

      Leaving immediately was my first thought when reading the letter, but since OP only spoke to the abuser’s direct supervisor, it is probably worth trying to speak to other higher-ups first. OP did get promoted, which means someone sees her value. But OP should leave immediately if things don’t improve very quickly, though. This is not a safe environment.

      Sending many good thoughts to you and your child, hope you’re both doing well now.

  37. Joie De Vivre*

    OP#1 – I’m so sorry you are going through this.

    For the parking lot/crossing the street issue – if you have a building facilities department, could you make them aware of the issue? My thought is that if someone from the facilities department, or property owner/manager witnessed the “mean girls” coming close to hitting you, hopefully there would be additional pressure on the clique to back off.

    Also, for crossing the street – if you are in the state of Texas, it is the law that cars have to stop for pedestrians in marked cross walks. So it you are in Texas, I’d let your local PD know. If the clique gets tickets for being a**holes, it may solve part of your problem.

    Good luck

    1. Rainy*

      It’s the same in Colorado–state law requires a full stop to yield to all pedestrians in marked crosswalks.

    2. zora*

      In California it’s not only at marked cross walks, it’s also at any intersection whether marked or not.

    3. Joie De Vivre*

      Thanks for the comments that it applies to un-marked crosswalks in your state. After I saw your comments, I checked – the Texas law applies to unmarked crosswalks too.

  38. Buttons*

    OP1 As other people have posted I am horrified that adults are behaving like this. The parking lot incident is incredible. OP, whip out your phone and start recording, and if they nearly hit you or follow you, call the police and show it to management.
    I am shocked that your attempt to get help from management was ignored. If they don’t intervene when you try again, you are going to have to leave. I hate that a bully is going to “win” but you can’t continue in that environment.
    I hope you will send an update soon. Good luck!

  39. Lisa*

    #3 – I had a friend who had the exact thing happen to her, the thermostat for the entire floor was in the comer of HER office. Daily shenanigans would ensue over its adjustment driving her absolutely crazy. She finally put her foot down and demanded that the facilities manager move the damn thing out of her office. She said it took like 15 minutes for an electrician to move it to the wall outside of her office(they also put a locking cover over it). Maybe OP can request the same?

  40. stitchinthyme*

    Am I the only one who thinks it’s seriously screwed-up that workplace harassment is only illegal if it’s based on a protected class? So like, someone’s allowed to harass you as long as they’re not being sexist or racist about it? That’s kind of insane.

    1. Elbe*

      Yeah, I hope this changes soon. A lot of people have really toxic work environments that they can do nothing about because their income depends on it.

    2. Meh*

      Same for hostile work environment! So many instances when the actual environment is hostile due to a bully or someone displaying threatening or violent or concerning behavior (or a supervisor who won’t do anything about it) which has nothing to do with protected categories. What an outdated definition.

    3. Holly*

      A workplace can prohibit any harassment and fire/otherwise discipline the perpretrator. You just can’t sue about it, and there’s potentially good reason for that.

  41. Jaybeetee*

    Adults acting like 12 year olds always gets my blood boiling.

    So I was bullied a lot as a kid and in high school, particularly in environments that I couldn’t get away from – the school bus was a ring of hell for years. 99% of the time it was nothing physical, but “girl bullying” – harrassing, comments, etc, but also things like taking my stuff, not giving me a seat on the bus (I was one of the last ones on in the morning), and one time a girl punched me. My experience, and the experience of other people I’d spoken to who have been through similar, was that at least with “kid bullies”, the only really effective thing was to, well, go @pe$hit on them. Ignoring wasn’t effective, adults (“management”) were generally useless unless they directly saw something really egregious. Even the time I got punched, I got almost into as much trouble as the other girl did, because she’d made up a story of me provoking her.

    Of course, adults can’t really do that, and you really really can’t do that at work.

    If I were in your position, I’d document the hell out of things that happen (I never had a “workplace bully” per se, but I had a colleague once who disliked and scapegoated me for her performance issues. Documenting was a big piece of resolving that situation). I’d stand my ground in the hallway and let her crash into me if she’s so desperate to prove a point. If your direct manager isn’t doing anything, I’d go over that person’s head if at all possible. It sounds like the road between your parking lot and building is a small one, no crosswalk, so you just have to wait until the way is clear – I agree with the call to park elsewhere, as it sounds like they’re not doing *quite* enough that you can prove they’re doing something, but they’re also behaving very dangerously. Just steer clear of that whole business. (An alternative, if you wanted to keep that parking, might be to shift your working hours so you’re not showing up when they are).

    And get aggressive about job hunting. In War Games, the only way to win is to not play. If they want to drive out everyone that isn’t them, and management is willing to let it happen – do it. Let them have the entire company to themselves if they want to.

    The most important piece of this, though, is your attitude. I don’t mean to “try to intimidate them”, which could backfire on you in bad ways. But just remember… you’re not a kid. They’re acting like kids. I wouldn’t try to intimidate them, but I don’t think I’d be able to conceal how childish I found them. If you can mentally reframe this woman and her gang as a bunch of rowdy middle-schoolers giving you attitude, that might make things more bearable – or, optimistically, even reflect a change in your demeanour, then a change in their behaviour.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yeah, my experience with bullies is also that the only way to get them to stop is to *terrify* them. But yeah, that involves a lot of escalation and you can’t really do that in the workplace.

      1. Quill*

        I solved half my harassment problems at 14 with a 2×4, because boys will get the heck out of dodge when that happens in a way that grown men will not. (For context all I did was pick it up and start running towards the guy, who was trying to shoot us with a staple gun from his bike…)

    2. OP2000*

      Thank you. Your school bus comment really hit home – I endured very similar treatment on my school bus when I was a kid. I’m sorry you dealt with that, too. I’ve been very aggressive about job hunting – I’m searching job postings every single day, and conversing with people in my ‘network.’

    3. Dr. Pepper*

      I definitely agree with reframing their behavior as childish and ridiculous in your own mind. Because it is. It will help give you confidence and aide in not reacting to their shenanigans.

    4. Quill*

      Yeah, going apextrement only works on child bullies and ONLY when you aren’t at a disadvantage to them in terms of public opinion of your harmlessness. (Experience: small white girl goes apesheet on larger white boy who’s been bullying her – best scenario for the victim not being considered the perpetrator. Black kids? They’re gonna be blamed no matter what actually happened in our modern America.)

  42. blink14*

    OP #1 – Definitely start documenting, particularly the issues when crossing the street. Documenting that they will not let you cross could potentially be turned into the local police as a public safety concern, especially if there is a crosswalk (not sure there is). If you are able to get photo or video of that, I would say do so. You could also call the local police station and say that you’ve noticed that drivers are not stopping for pedestrians to cross, and see if they can send out a patrol to drive by and take a look. That alone may deter them from continuing to do such a stupid thing.

    For bullying within the workplace – you need to report this to the highest authority possible in your office, first thing, and your own manager. Keep a log of the incidents. I would refrain from video or photos for now, as that may be considered some kind of harassment on its own in a counterargument. The best thing to do in the moment is to literally ignore these women. With the woman who is getting physical – do not engage, do not make eye contact, avoid physical confrontation if at all possible. Act as if she is a stationary object in your path and go around. The thing with most bullies is they want and crave interaction with their “victim”. If they see they are wearing you down, the bullying will likely continue to get worse. By not reacting, they may intensify for a short period of time, but hopefully they get bored and back off because you aren’t reacting.

    Lastly, I would do some research and see if you can find a lawyer that you can discuss with, and see what their advice is. In a rural area this may be more difficult, but a local lawyer can probably direct you to someone specifically who deals with this kind of thing. I hope these women get over themselves and stop!

  43. Minocho*

    #5: This sounds to me like they’re still trying to gauge how much help they need. The fact that they’re bothering to let you know this suggests there may still be a possibility of an offer for you.

    Something similar happened to me during a job search, though I didn’t find out the full circumstances until years later. I applied to a place at the recommendation of a friend’s husband. I drove down and did a day long interview, and was pretty happy with the interview and hopeful. My friend called, very excited, to let me know her husband had received the company’s referral bonus. I got a call two days later, informing me that they were unable to offer me a job.

    I was sad about the lost opportunity, and my friend and I were confused about the bonus, but I continued my job search.

    Years later, my friend asked her husband to follow up on what happened, out of curiosity. It turned out that the contract they’d intended to hire me for fell through – they no longer had the work they were going to hire me to do. But they paid the referral bonus to their current employee because they would have hired me, had that not happened.

    Something similar is likely going on in this situation. Hopefully, they end up needing you! Good luck!

  44. Jenn G*

    “This isn’t harassment in the legal sense unless you’re being targeted because of your race, religion, or other protected characteristic”

    In Ontario it is under the Ontario Health and Safety Act, just in case you’re in Ontario.

    OP, I would advise that you take martial arts – not to slug your coworker! But because even a few months’ of training in self-defense or martial arts will give you an ability to take up more space in the hallway and may give her the body language she needs to see to back down. None of this is your fault and you shouldn’t have to do that. But it might help you feel a bit better as you find other solutions.

    1. Mickey Q*

      I agree. Martial arts will give you more self-confidence. I have had a couple jobs where there is extreme bullying or cliques going on. I subtly let everyone know I practice martial arts, which is essentially hand-to-hand combat, and can kick a grown man in the face. Not that I would, but I can if I have to. I’ve seen the bully scream at the person to the left or right of me, but never at me. The cliques politely step aside in the hallway while I smile sweetly at them as I walk by. It’s very empowering.

  45. OP2000*

    OP # 1 here. Alison, thank you for taking the time to read my emails and provide feedback. I also appreciate all of the advice and comments from the people reading the post. My self-confidence is a bit ragged after having dealt with this situation for so long.
    I’ll try to answer some of your questions.
    This is a rather large department of about thirty people, all women. There are two managers and one director. Each manager has a team, and then the director is over everyone. The manager I confided in is manager of the bullies, and at that time, she was also my manager. When I got promoted, I was moved to the other team. My current manager and our director are very good friends with the bullies, so I’ve always felt as if I’d be digging my own grave if I ever went to them about anything; I feel like I can’t trust them. There are a few other women in the department who are treated like I am. Two of them have tried to escalate their issues; one felt that she wasn’t taken seriously, and the other said that HR and management treated her as if she was the problem.
    When I told the bullies’ manager about my hallway incidents, she acted very surprised and stated that she’d ‘never seen her behave in that way before.’ Bullies are mean, but they usually aren’t stupid… these women aren’t going to act out in front of their own manager… they’re very well-behaved in front of certain people – they have an image to maintain.
    I’ve never confronted the hallway bully directly. I’m afraid that anything I’d say would be twisted and used to make me look like the bully; she comes across as someone who would do something like that. The non-physical bully is best friends with the hallway bully and is the department gossip queen; she’s also a former classmate of mine (this is a small town-type area). A few years ago, an immediate family member of mine committed suicide. The next day, I received a text from the non-physical bully. Her text wasn’t anything compassionate – just utter nosiness. She honestly wanted to know how my family member killed herself and why. Made me sick. This woman has also made a lot of uncomfortable comments about my appearance and my home (she knows where I live, unfortunately).

    1. blink14*

      I’m so sorry you have to deal with this. I also grew up in a rural area, and I’ve seen what happens when nosy busy bodies start playing games like this, it’s childish but also ramps up in a really crazy way.

      There are at least 2 other people being bullied – form a support group for yourselves and approach HR and upper management as a team. There are also likely other women in the department who if they are not being bullied themselves, have a sense of what’s going on. Is there someone outside of your department you can talk to?

      I would also go back to parking in the main lot – stand your ground. See if you can time your arrival with that of others and walk as a group. Document with photo and video, what they are doing outside on the public street could very well be illegal, and it is worth bringing this to the attention of your local police. If they don’t hit you or another pedestrian, or cause an accident, they are acting as wreckless drivers in a manner that could cause that.

    2. silvertech*

      Hey OP, thanks for commenting and giving us further information! I’m very sorry about all of this, it certainly feels like nobody is in your corner right now. If there’s really no one else to turn to in your company above HR/your director, I’d focus all of your energy on getting support (therapy, family, friends, other bullied colleagues) and getting out of that place. I mention therapy because being bullied messes with your head, and even if you know it’s not your fault, your start to question everything from your competence to your personal self-worth.
      I’d still recommend to consult with a lawyer to see what options you have and keep logging the incidents.
      I wish you the best and I hope we will soon get an happy update from you!

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        I’d focus all of your energy on getting support (therapy, family, friends, other bullied colleagues) and getting out of that place.

        Yes, agreed! Feeling isolated or that you have to do it all on your own makes everything so much worse. But knowing you have support elevates you and gives you strength to keep on going.

        Another idea is to job search with the other bullied women. Help each other out with practice interviews, etc. And who knows, you might all be able to quit at the same time!

      2. OP2000*

        Thank you. I’ve been hitting the job search hard, and I actually have a phone interview later today. I totally agree on the therapy part – I was bullied in school and at home, and this nonsense at work has opened up some old wounds for sure.

        1. Dagny*

          My best to you.

          For what it’s worth, it’s doing more than opening up old wounds – the old wounds are making it hard to effectively shut this down. (Ask me how I know this.) It’s more ingrained in you to accept it, so you don’t react exactly the way a lot of other people do, which causes the bullies to escalate. This is not a you problem; it’s endemic to people who grew up like that.

          I don’t know your personal situation, but if it’s possible for you to move to another area or a nearby city, really consider that option. That, plus therapy, gets you a clean slate and an opportunity to be around people who treat you normally.

          1. Quill*

            Seconded. The trauma from old bullying makes it harder to deal with both new bullying and toxic workplaces, ESPECIALLY if the old bullying involved people using plausible deniability / gaslighting / authority figures not believing you.

            Adult bullies are child bullies who have gotten much, much better at getting away with what they do.

            1. Tinuviel*

              Yep, they’ve had years of training and practice. And I suspect they can smell victims who were bullied themselves. It’s so sad and cruel.
              I hope OP1 can get out of this.

        2. Mama Bear*

          Good luck on the interview! If the promotion isn’t helping you to feel more supported at work then at least use it as leverage to a new job at that level or higher.

          Insofar as the bully knowing where you live, etc., I’d be quick on the draw with the local authorities if she hassles you at home – either now or later. Find out what your rights are and consider installing a security camera.

        3. Third or Nothing!*

          I totally feel you on bullying opening up old wounds. I’m also going through a situation with a Mean Girls style clique at work and it is definitely a struggle to let things roll off my back. I’m starting to suspect it’s because their actions/attitudes reflect the same kind of crap I dealt with from 4th grade until graduation.

          So in case you need to hear it (cause this was the piece missing for me growing up): you matter and we care.

          Good luck on your interview!

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Specifically mention this person by name in your Glassdoor review. Maybe this will eventually be part of a small mountain of evidence that will convince the less clueless members of management to cut her loose. At least it will be a pinch of public shaming for someone who deserves it.

        4. The Bathroom Police*

          I hear you on this! I’m always waiting for the next kid to pour orange juice into my hair…

    3. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Whoa. That’s vile. I’m so sorry for your loss and what you’re dealing with now.

      Could you and the other women who are also treated badly band together? Or did you already try that? Alison generally recommends pushing back as a group. Or can you go as a group to a lawyer or the unemployment office? It’s hard to ignore a group than individuals.

      I know exactly the kind of people they are and why they’re getting away with it. I wish only bad things for them and good things for you. None of this is your fault, they are simply pathetic, shallow abusers with nothing to offer this world. Why these kinds of people exist is beyond me.

      If you haven’t already, definitely get some kind of cameras or surveillance system set up. You shouldn’t have to do this, as you have enough on your plate. It’s just better to protect yourself.

      It’s awful this is happening and I hope things change for you and your nice coworkers soon.

      1. OP2000*

        Thank you. I’ve suggested banding together, but the others are afraid, which I can’t say that I blame them.

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          That’s completely understandable, especially since this person knows where people live. I’d be scared as well. Where’s Batman when you need him???

          It sounds like you’ve done all you can with other people, and you can now solely focus on yourself and moving on. Please do keep us updated. Sending you so many good thoughts and job-finding vibes!

        2. Elbe*

          Even if they won’t push back as a group, do you think that they would document their instances and share it with you? If this ever gets traction with HR or management (or law enforcement, frankly) proving that it’s not just you that sees them act like this would do a lot of good.

        3. Mama Bear*

          Retaliation fear is legit. What I’ve seen happen in toxic workplaces where too many are too afraid to speak up is that anyone who can just leaves and nothing else changes. I hope that they change their minds or leave with you.

    4. Buttons*

      Hi OP. I am so sorry this is happening to you.
      I think you are exactly right thinking that if you stand up to her she will twist the story to make you the bad guy and get more support for herself. She is obviously a manipulator.
      You have to get out. I hate it, but you can’t stay there. If you can’t trust your manager and director, and HR won’t help, you don’t have a choice. They have obviously made the choice that this little clique is who is most important, and they aren’t going to change it. They have created this culture, and you aren’t going to be able to change it. Update your resume with your new promotion and get it. When you leave make sure they all know you are leaving because you were bullied and nothing was done about it.
      Please update us again soon! Good luck!

    5. WorkIsADarkComedy*

      Every once in a while there is a question that makes me wish I could gather all the managers in one room and say to them, “Are you people INSANE”? This is one of those.

      OP, I hear you about the difficulties in finding other work nearby, and I hope that some of the ideas you have heard here help the situation where you are. But if the dysfunction in your workplace is as wide and deep as it sounds, you might want to consider starting on the path to finding work elsewhere. Look around, if you haven’t already; there may be jobs around that you didn’t even know existed. If you need some training or classes to make yourself more competitive for jobs you would like, start on that now. The sooner you begin, the sooner you escape an intolerable situation.

      Make sure you are taking good care of yourself — that’s something more within your control. If counseling is available, make use of it; it will help reinforce that this is not your fault and that you are not helpless. Your family and friends should be supportive in all this, and if they’re not supportive don’t let them get away with it.

      Good luck! We are all rooting for you, and definitely want to see an update, no matter what you have to report.

    6. Rainbow Roses*

      Ask the police if you can file a report. They may not be able to do anything but at least there will be a report. Let the so called “manager” that you filed one and will no longer tolerate workplace harassment. What does this bully have on the so called “manager.” Or is she a bully herself?

      Get a dashcam. Get evidence to send to the police.

    7. applegail*

      It might have gotten lost in all the comments and threads- but a former LEO (law enforcement officer) above strongly recommended filing a police report. The car stuff is incredibly dangerous, not just to you, but to others in the area. And is plenty of grounds to at least file a report, if not a restraining order. That is WELL beyond a prank and into threatening your life.

    8. Batgirl*

      Sometimes you can’t do what you’d like to do and there’s no shame in that. I’d keep a sea-eye open for possibilities though as this situation may ripen. Either they will show their arse in a way they can’t deny afterwards (so let them cocky enough for that) or your friends will feel pushed into taking you up on your offer, perhaps with the police. These women are such batcrap wildcards that you never know when an opportunity may present itself. Log everything, support your co-workers with an after work venting venue, stay calm and watchful. And keep job hunting!
      I had a situation where a bully tried to frame me for a mistake, but because I was prepared for her I was able to catch her in the lie and get her into all sorts of trouble. It took time and the appearance of meekness.

    9. QCI*

      You need to decide if it’s better to stand up for yourself and possibly have consequences or keep the hellish status que.

    10. Meh*

      I’m so sorry you have to deal with this. I too have experienced workplace bullying and you’re right that they of course choose to do what they do when the boss isn’t around. When I’ve taken my concerns to a boss, boss pointed out how I’m the only one who’s seen or heard it or who has complained, so it basically turns into they said-they said. That’s where a recording could come in useful esp in the car situation; even in a one party consent state you have to be very careful about playing an audio recording to a third person because then the other party could claim you are slandering them. It’s all ridiculous. My best advice is that life is too short to put up with this kind of crap. “Winning” the fight or taking down the bad guy doesn’t usually happen in the real world, so sometimes our best course of action is self-preservation: get out, get a different job, get in a better place.

    11. in a fog*

      It looks like you have a posse of people here ready to escort you from your car to your office. Just let us know when and where.

    12. AKchic*

      It sounds like you need to go above all of these people who are friendly with the bullies.

      Keep documenting. Keep getting information and reports of other instances of bullying behavior from the other “outsiders”.
      Continue to greyrock the bullies. Continue to look for other employment.
      Talk to your local law enforcement about the unsafe crossing area. I mean… it’s unsafe currently, but perhaps if the bully(ies) are dealt with, it will be safe eventually. Perhaps a tip to OSHA about the unsafe crossing and parking lot(s). All of the unreported near-misses because management refuses to believe that the bullies would ever do such a thing…

      Maybe even talk to an attorney, if you can. It sounds like moving away from your small town would be beneficial, but you really wouldn’t be able to without a better job, which is difficult.

    13. UKCoffeeLover*

      Having experienced workplace bullying my instinct is you’re never going to win this fight. For your own sanity it’s time to leave.

      This is a good supportive group full of people who had had similar experiences to you. http://www.dignitytogether.org/

      Please take care of yourself. X

  46. Manchmal*

    All this advice to OP1 to escalate the issue to authorities is coming across as ineffective at best. Having just read a review of Rachel Denhollender’s (the woman who took down Larry Nassar) new book, I am reminded that people in power very rarely side with victims–particularly in situations where to do so would cost them. If a manager takes the OP’s side, s/he pisses off not only the bully but all of the bully’s friends. The manager may very well be the bully’s friend.

    As a person who has experienced bullying multiple times, I can say from experience that bullying stops when the bully no longer feels sure about their power over you. They stop when they no longer see you as an easy target, but someone who might stand up to them. That doesn’t mean that the OP has to respond physically, though she certainly could be more physically assertive (standing tall, standing her ground, looking the bully in the eye, etc). But bottom line is that the OP has to dig deep and act as if she’s not afraid of the bully and not willing to take her shit, in whatever way is most authentic for the OP. Staying still, avoiding eye contact, avoiding the person, continuing to be meek, appealing to the authorities (who will rarely enforce norms of civility against the popular clique) – these are not going to work. In my opinion, from my experience. Plenty of people here disagree with me, but if you do I’d like to hear of examples where these strategies did work.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      You’re not wrong, but OP has been promoted; I think that’s giving most of us hope that the right lever will be effective.

    2. Jennifer*

      I just said nearly the same thing below. Victims usually have to take it upon ourselves to fix these problems because the people that are supposed help us rarely do.

    3. Quill*

      You need to go to an authority that has no investment in the status quo. In this case, considering that the car was a threat to life and limb, you need to go to the police and not involve work at all. (It happened on a public street, if management tries to say ‘you should have come to us about this traffic incident before reporting it to the police’ the police will look at them like they’ve got two heads.)

      Don’t let management know you’ve taken this out of their hands: they can’t retaliate or concoct their cover story if they don’t know they’ll need to.

      Don’t let management know you’re documenting this harassment: they’ve already proven they don’t believe you, but in this case, police are far more likely to be biased towards you, as the person who initially filed a complaint that included a reasonable fear for your life or wellbeing from, best case scenario, negligent driving, and are more likely to take that documentation seriously.

      Bottom line: this is no longer a management issue, this is a police issue, and has been ever since this person nearly hit you with a car.

    4. Goldenrod*

      This is ALL so true! Unfortunately, since bullying isn’t illegal in the United States, HR and others in power will do very little to stop it. (Retaliation, however, IS illegal so if you repor them for any legal violations, you will have the law on your side, just FYI.)

      From my own experience, the best way to stop it is doing what Manchmal describes here. Make yourself bullyproof. And there’s lots of info online about “workplace bullying.” Also, Robert Sutton’s book “The Asshole Survival Guide” is a great one.

      Good luck! my heart goes out to you.

  47. Lady Phoenix*

    OP #1: Since this bullying is resulting in almost being hit by a car, this could dangerously escalate to vehicular assault…

    Maybe have a police report on these incidences might make this jellyfish of a manager shape up.

    (Also, who the f tries to assault people with cars? Oh wait, I know a few and they tend to go to prison)

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      This is exactly why harassment needs to be shut down immediately. It starts with comments and ‘accidental’ bumps. No one takes it seriously and the abusers learn they can do what they what without consequence, and then it escalates. I’m horrified but not surprised that they’ve started to assault people with cars. They don’t see themselves as doing anything wrong.

      1. OP2000*

        OP # 1 here. I totally agree. They do any sort of little passive-aggressive thing they can think of, just to be nasty, and the aggression just builds and builds. And then in front of the managers, they act sweet as pie.

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          Oh, I know the type very, very well. That is exactly what they do. I really hope you can get out of there soon, you deserve far better than this.

  48. Dasein9*

    OP #1, I’m sorry you’re going through this.

    Studies show that there tend to be three parties involved in much bullying: the bully or bullies, the target or targets, and an audience. When an onlooker says something like, “That’s not cool,” the bullying tends to stop very quickly. (Not 100% of the time, but a strong tendency.)

    You mention other people who are not in the bully’s clique. Are they being bullied too? Can you work together with these folks to create a culture where people who are not the target of bullying, but are the audience, are the ones who speak up about it? This may mean doing some roleplaying and practicing what to say: there are some good scripts in these comments I’d suggest using.

    In the hallway, what would happen if you stepped aside in the direction that is not your usual one? In the US, we drive on the right, so most people step to the right when there’s oncoming foot traffic in a hallway too. What happens if you go left instead of right? (Or the opposite if you’re in the UK.) If the bully is swerving toward you, maybe you just swing right around in an unexpected direction and keep going on your merry way.

  49. Quill*

    Popping down here to immediately say: if you have a coworker whose driving is threatening your safety, record it AND report it to the police, including the license plate number, especially when it’s a repeated pattern! Trying to crowd you against a wall may not be legally actionable, but driving that endangers you probably is. (And when someone trying to intimidate you with their car involves the police I bet your workplace will change their tune.)

    1. Jennifer*

      I doubt the police would come out for a car that wouldn’t let you cross the street. It’s horrible and bullying behavior most definitely but I doubt the police would take it seriously unless it’s a small town department with nothing else to do.

          1. applegail*

            Maybe, although a car can absolutely be considered a deadly weapon. Either way, that’s a question for her local PD, not us. :)

      1. Lady Phoenix*

        It would if the person isn’t stopping at a designated crosswalk (which the OP has stated) AND if it is a repeated pattern AND if OP shows documentation

        Reckless Driving, Potentially Vehicular Assault.

      2. Quill*

        I’m going off the “was almost hit” part. Upthread, OP2 stated that she was in a designated crosswalk, the police are going to take this seriously.

        Especially when coupled with a record of the other harassing behavior, but the “time I was almost hit by a car, here’s the license plate number,” needs to be the #1 incident on the list so police will take it seriously.

      3. GreyjoyGardens*

        Even if the cops don’t *do* anything then and there, a report is still a paper trail, and it’s wise to have that trail. If Bully tries to injure the OP, and OP reports it and there is *already* a report filed, chances are the cops will sit up and take notice, because this is part of a pattern.

  50. TooTiredToThink*

    I’m sorry – I didn’t have time to read all the comments so if this has been discussed….sorry:

    OP1 – do you live in a 1 Party State? Could you start using your smart phone (if you have one) to discreetly record when you are walking down the hallway so you can get video proof of what she’s doing? That way when you do present it you can actually show it?

  51. Jennifer*

    #2 I agree that (unused) tampons left out “for all to see” isn’t a big deal. She may have even left them there as a courtesy for you or any other woman that may happen to use the restroom and have a need for them. I’d also let the toilet paper as Kleenex thing go. Bobby pins left all over is inconsiderate and messy but it doesn’t rise to the level of pig imo. The only thing that’s truly nasty is the used toilet paper on the floor. I’m guessing she blew her nose and tried to throw it away and didn’t notice she missed the can. If that was just a one-time mistake, I’d let that go too. You just have a different standard for what is “clean.” This is just part of working with people you don’t know and wouldn’t befriend if you’d met in any other context.

  52. To be honest maybe I'm MAD*

    I might just be out of my mind, but if I didn’t have two jobs and I were in the position of LW#1, I’d probably allow that car to hit me if it’s moving slow enough. Take the day off (if not more) as injured on duty, let the “bully” pay associated bills, and then let the management have their feathers ruffled.

    1. Quill*

      You can have serious, long term consequences from being hit by a car going even 5 mph.

      Source: Knew a girl who was hit by a car backing out of a parking space, while on her bike, she wore a walking cast for 3 months.

  53. Dagny*

    As a legal note, the car thing is an actual crime: assault with a dangerous weapon. (Generally, assault is an intentional act that causes someone to be put in fear of physical harm.)

    My suggestion is to speak with the manager again and let him/her know that you will be going to the police the next time this happens.

    (I once worked for someone who made threats of physical harm, and one of my biggest regrets is treating it as a “workplace issue” because it happened in an office, not just going to the police like I would in any other circumstance.)

    1. Jamie*

      It depends what it is. I couldn’t really tell from the way it was written, but it read to me like when she’s trying to cross the street they don’t do a courteous stop for her, even if another driver is. If they are in fact breaking traffic laws in order to scare her, then that’s a different story.

      1. OP2000*

        OP # 1 here. There is a designated pedestrian crosswalk, which I use. There are also traffic signs regarding stopping for pedestrians in the crosswalk.

        1. Rick Tq*

          Have your cell phone video camera recording every time you use the crosswalk and make it very visible you are recording. That MAY get your bully to back off. If not, contact your local DA with the evidence of her vehicular assault. The police may arrest her (if they catch her in the act) but the DA is the office for criminal charges.

        2. Jamie*

          Thanks for clarifying. I am really sorry you’re going through this.

          Any chance that crosswalk is covered by security cameras?

        3. blackcat*

          How are your local cops? Mine LOVE tips of “Hey, if you park here, you could collect $$$$ in traffic fines.”

        4. Batgirl*

          OP, consult your spider senses here. If you were to breeze back into the office saying “I’ve filed a police report/restraining order complete with evidence. Now that it’s being handled by people more equipped to handle assault/ ruffle feathers all I need you to do is (protect me from retaliation/suspend her pending investigation) …would you get what you need from them? Or possibly the outside help would be enough?

  54. Amethystmoon*

    #1 Is there a reason why we cannot get anti-bullying legislation passed, both at work and in schools? Hold people (at least, those who are old enough to know better) accountable for their actions? It seems like existing laws and policies aren’t doing much to stop bullying.

    1. Quill*

      Existing laws and policies can’t seem to do much about descrimination for gender, sexuality, race or disability, largely because that type of descrimination is widely popular among some of the public. Anti-bullying is, unfortunately, an even more nebulous concept.

      1. Holly*

        I don’t know where you’re getting this. Many states have Human Rights Laws that are more protective than federal law, and legislators have the ability to pass laws that directly address discrimination.

        1. Quill*

          This was phrased poorly: I meant that there are many states where we can’t get funding to enforce, or get anyone to pass, laws that make descrimination, especially on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, illegal.

          1. AKchic*

            Realistically? Because certain people are insistent that it’s their fundamental religious right to bully others. Emphasis on religious “right”. With an unspoken “wing” on the end of that.

      2. Amethystmoon*

        Well, and what about bullying for things not protected under the law? As a little girl, I was bullied for being the quiet, shy, nerdy type. As far as I know, being introverted and nerdy isn’t protected under the law.

  55. Jennifer*

    OP1 – I am sorry this is happening to you. I hate to be overly cynical, but I doubt management or HR (if there is one) is going to do anything about this, especially if they are all buddy buddy with the women that are doing this. I doubt the police will either. Building security may be a resource to help with the parking lot issue. In general, I think you are going to have to handle this yourself. I know that’s scary, but you can do it! Sometimes you have to fake it till you make it. Practice in the mirror. Maintain eye contact. Shoulders back, head high, back straight. Think of what you’d like to say to them the next time you see them and say it in the mirror until you believe it.

    When she tries to crowd you in the hallway, tell her where to go and how to get there. I have had to do this in the past. I won’t repeat what I said, but it did the trick. Remember, they are just nasty little 12-year-old girls who do this to feel better about themselves. They wouldn’t be acting this way if there weren’t some insecurities at play. You don’t have to be afraid of them.

    If counseling is an option for you, I’d suggest it to cope with the situation and rebuild your confidence. Again, I’m very sorry.

  56. MindIsBlown*

    OP #1, please keep a log of each and every incident – time and date, location, people involved, and people who observed, and a statement about the action.

    In the hallway, I would just stop in place – literally. If you see her approaching, just stand still. If she beelines for you, that’s super odd (and I expect she will, cause she’s crazy). Then call her on it – “Jane, don’t stand so close to me.” Each and every time.

    If you have no formal HR, report it to your manager each and every time – eventually she will be forced to act. If you do have HR, report it to them, and keep your log. They will want that as evidence.

  57. Elbe*

    ‘I’ve had multiple talks with her direct supervisor, but she won’t do much – she said she doesn’t want to “ruffle any feathers.”’

    I really dislike this person. The LW’s feathers are already obviously ruffled and worse. What she’s saying here is that she doesn’t want to upset the bully. This makes me think that she already knows this person is a bully and either is trying to avoid becoming a target herself, or she kind of supports the bullying behavior. No decent manager would hear a story like this and shrug it off.

    How the LW should move forward here depends on the people who aren’t in the clique. Are there enough of them, and in high enough positions, that the LW could take this issue to someone else who could help? If so, I think her immediate focus should be documenting the issue and trying to gather as much evidence as possible.

    I do love that the LW was promoted and this bully wasn’t. I hope that in a few years the LW will be in a position to fire this person, and we’ll get an epic update about it.

    1. Michelle*

      I really dislike that supervisor, too. I think you are right about trying to avoid becoming a target. The supervisor will be seen as sympathizing with OP and then she will start getting mowed down in the hall and on the street.

  58. Lady Phoenix*

    OP#1: It seems the clique has poisoned the well and you are better off moving on.

    But before you do, I would document EVERYTHING. And especially document the continuing incidents of near vehicular assault and establish to the police that this IS a pattern.

    Then you can decide whether you really want to ring these effers up, or leave the documentation for other victims if they want to escalate.

  59. Lalitah28*

    OP#1: Find out if your state is one-party consent state and, if so, consider recording discreetly the treatment you’re enduring (as long as it’s not in the restroom or any other space where one would reasonably expect privacy), while documenting it (take your phone everywhere to jot notes of date, time, place, who, what they did, how, and where). Your state’s EEOC or Attorney General might be able to point you to a legal resource for this.

    But it’s time to get a lawyer to protect your interests.

    1. MindIsBlown*

      Even if state law permits it, it may still violate company policy. Not that I think it specifically matters in this case cause this behavior is awful…

      1. Quill*

        Recording on the street should be fine regardless – unless the street is gated off, it’s public property. Recording in the building will easily be trickier due to confidentiality, etc.

          1. Quill*

            They could, but if the street and parking lot aren’t owned by the company this is going to look mighty suspicious / ridiculous in court.

            If they are, then yeah, OP probably wouldn’t have any recourse. And honestly, OP is at the point where there is a worse case scenario than being fired – being hit by a car.

  60. Regina Phalange*

    OP1- I would love for you to do a basketball spin move next time she tries to plow you down! Or let her bump in to you so you can call out how close she is without her gas-lighting you. Right now she is getting away with everything, so make it a problem for her to continue with her behavior. Another idea is to engage with her when you are in the hallway alone? If you see her and say “Hi Jane, how’s your day going?” that’s going to make it super awkward for her to then plow you down. It also takes away her excuse of “oh i didn’t see you there”. Continue to document and talk to your manager, her manager, and HR if you can. Since support from your company seems limited, and leaving isn’t in your immediate future, you gotta take some of this head on. Good luck!!

  61. Logic*

    Contact the Attorney General in your state, sounds crazy but they will get involved, like your own private lawyer, you can email them, they’re great. Let the supervisors know what you are doing. When you see the idiot coming down the hall don’t hug the wall – look her in the eye, if she bumps you bump her harder. Yell! Make a scene, don’t let them drive you out! Fight for what you have worked hard for for nine years! Contact law enforcement. Are there cameras where you were almost hit? Ask for it to be watched. Tell the supervisors you are being harassed and you DEMAND they do something. Get outside help first tho such as law enforcement or the Attorney General bc they will do nothing. I am so angry!! Rooting for you! Please give us an update!!

    1. Holly*

      I appreciate the sentiment of your comment, but we shouldn’t mislead LWs as to what results to expect. At least in my state (with a very liberal AG), this is not the kind of issue our AG would handle *at all.*

  62. Elenna*

    OP #2: As a Messy Person ™, a couple comments:
    – Did you actually ask her to keep it cleaner? I can’t tell from your letter. If (for example) you just pointedly left a facial tissue box on the counter, I promise she did not think “Oh, OP wants me to use those instead of tissues”, she probably just thought “Oh, OP likes having facial tissues in easy reach” and forgot about it.
    – Sounds like she was basically the only one using the washroom before? There’s a good chance she legitimately finds this a reasonable state for a washroom and hasn’t yet thought through “maybe OP wants it different”. What I consider “clean enough for everyday life” is probably what you would consider “messy, needs to be dealt with”.
    – As such, instead of just saying “we need to keep it cleaner” it would probably be more useful to give specific comments like “Please stop leaving bobby pins around” to make sure you’re on the same page.
    – I agree with the above comments that told you to stop cleaning, it’ll just train the messy people to be like “okay, I’ve been acting like this all along and this room looks fine, so I can keep acting like this.”

    1. Jennifer*

      Good suggestions, from a fellow messy person. I think people who are less messy just assume that everyone has the same standards they do. I’ll happily change my standards if it will make life easier for someone but you have to be specific about what you need.

    2. The Bathroom Police*

      Nah at this point I’m just going to let it go. I really would feel awful if I embarrassed her, which any mention of this would do, and I need to relax I guess. If it comes to a point where I can’t relax then I’ll just have to move on. I’ll just be neurotic at home.
      My best friend since middle school is a Messy Person. She owns it, we laugh about it, I clean her kitchen when I visit, she makes fun of me for cleaning all the time. I feel like a lot of commenters assume that I have completely assassinated this person’s character over it, and it’s just not true. Thanks for helping me see the other side of this coin.

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        (Just read your comments and replies to this situation.) For what it’s worth, I really admire how you’ve handled yourself here and am complete agreement with you on the bathroom situation. People are really disgusting and I don’t know why it’s so hard for them to do the bare minimum. I think people were a little harsh on you as it’s clear you are trying to find the best solution, not make someone else feel bad. It sounds like there are other stressors in that workplace making things tough for you (although that could be me projecting my own feelings about cleanliness on to your letter). Good luck and I hope everything works out for you!

  63. CatMom*

    OP1, is there any way to surreptitiously *record* these incidents, either on camera or, if applicable, on an audio recording? You should check the laws in your state before doing this, but where I live it would be perfectly legal. It may not do any good with your boss, but it might help with legal action, if it comes to that. I’ve seen at least one lawyer in these comments pointing out that attempting to strike you with a car is a serious crime.

  64. Ursuela*

    I really feel for LW 1. I jsut want to add that while Alison’s advice is solid, iot may be best for LW to go in with the mindset that management and company will happily do nothing regardless of her complaints as it is not legally harassment.
    I’ve been through a similar situation and went through almost two years of harassment and bullying with mulriple reports to management and HR and was told it was a personality conflict and I needed to learn to deal with difficult people and there was nothign they could do as it was my word against his. It only got better when he was fired for completely separate reasons, I was later told I still needed to learn to handle a situation like that without complaining going forward to move up.
    Your best solution may be finding another job. It sounds like your management is hesitant to get involved which isn’t a great sign for the company at large.

    I hope you get through it, and if you can, please start seeing a therapist about it as soon as you can to cope.

  65. Rambler*

    OP #3: I had this exact problem a few years ago. Except I was always cold and I wanted to turn it up too, but didn’t want to add to the war. So I went to every person in the row of offices controlled by “my” thermostat and asked them if they were usually hot, cold, or comfortable. Yeah, I took a vote. The cold people won and I adjusted the thermostat accordingly and told the one dude who was hot that I was sorry, but the cold people won. Checked in a few days later to see if the adjustment was good for everyone. Guy who was hot had bought himself a fan. Everyone was content with the situation, and from then on, on the rare occasion that someone came in to adjust the thermostat, I was able to verbally slap their wrist and say we took a vote, leave it alone. They might complain a little, but they went away and left me alone. :-)

  66. Anonymeece*

    Just a note:

    I agree with taking this to your boss and trying to get it escalated. But even if she gets fired, I would be very leery of reprisal from her. Someone who would try to hit a pedestrian with their car is so far out of the norm that I would be cautious when walking to your car alone.

    Start documenting these incidents, if you haven’t already. Write what happened and when. And if it escalates – even if she gets fired – then report it to the police. Sadly, I’ve been burned by this before, and the officers didn’t take a series of threatening events seriously, but at least there’s a report out there in case it escalates further.

  67. Pumpkin215*

    LW1, I’m very sorry this is happening to you. It sounds very much like HS and a situation I faced back then. Another girl for reasons unknown to me, would push and plow past me in the hallway. So one day when I saw her coming, I body checked her. She went flying and never did it again. Maybe this is not the best tactic for an office but if you run out of avenues…..all I can say is that it worked for me!

    1. nonegiven*

      In middle school, we had a short teacher, a little shorter than half of the kids. She power walked down the hall with her elbows swinging all the time, expecting everyone to get out of the way. One time my friend had her back to her getting something out of her locker and the teacher knocked her flying. She apologized, but I noticed it didn’t slow her down any, after that.

  68. RB*

    The LW 1 letter gave me absolute chills. Before I even got all the way through it. That was really tough to read. I really hope we get a favorable update at some point. I don’t have any advice because I know how insurmountable these situations can be. And it is compounded by the rural area, and maybe being a very small company. All-female cliques are the worst but this one sounds particularly insidious.

  69. WTF This is not OK*

    OP #1 I have my fingers crossed for your job interview! I hope you get it. And I hope when you leave you give the 2 managers and the director each a letter listing all the behaviors that drove you to leave and point out that their blind adherence to not ruffling feathers is costing them an excellent employee (you had to be awesome to get a promotion over the Queen Bee) plus whatever lost productivity and money to hire someone new. I’d definitely add a (anonymous) pointed review on Glassdoor or anywhere else that prospective employees might see. Because people need to know they are walking into a nest of wasps.

    *I know you mentioned the other victims didn’t want to band together but perhaps they wouldn’t mind your including some of their experiences in your resignation letter as long as you don’t specify they are the persons involved.

  70. anonagain*

    OP 4: I read your questions and felt the old-job chest pains again. I sympathize.

    I didn’t plan to quit without something else lined up, but my company did something slimy that forced my hand. I started getting a bunch of interviews immediately after I quit. I got to the reference checking stage early on with a company that wanted to talk to the old supervisor with the slippery ethics. Needles to say, I didn’t get that job. I felt quite defeated. It was hard to believe that I would ever be free of the corrosive effects of my previous company.

    After that, I had a few more interviews that were pretty good. But the longer I was out of work, the more pressure I felt. I thought the interviewers must be wondering what was wrong with me that I hadn’t found a job even with the low unemployment. And once that thought was in my head, I started flubbing my interviews. Each successive interview was worse than the one before.

    I’m still unemployed. I am no longer looking for work in my previous profession.

    I still don’t regret my decision to quit though. I didn’t compromise my ethics. I am also orders of magnitude happier and healthier than I was, even with all the challenges I’ve faced since then. Quitting can be costly and still be worth it.

    In your position, I’d consider taking your medical leave first. Maybe that time will be enough to get you feeling a bit better and give you the opportunity to do some applications when you’re in a better frame of mind. It might also allow you to avoid some of the challenges I faced with my references. You can always quit after if you still need to.

    If you do decide to quit without another job lined up, I’d looking for some kind of part time work right away. I had this idea that I was going to get something within a year, so I put it off. I eventually picked up some house-sitting, but I really should have been doing that all along. I think having some kind of income can help job searching feel less desperate, even if you have enough in savings at the moment.

    In the end, the only reason any of this stuff matters is because you matter. If you get to the point where you’re at risk of suicide, save your life first and fix everything else later.

    I’m cheering you on.

    1. Observer*

      It can be, but that doesn’t make it illegal. Mostly, it’s only illegal if it’s based on a protected characteristic like race, gender or religion.

  71. staceyizme*

    OP1- You should polish up your resume and get out of there as quickly as you possibly can. This is very toxic behavior and the culture sounds like it’s pretty toxic as well and will be resistant to change. It’s not really fair that you have to be the one to leave but, for the sake of your sanity and your health, you should look for greener pastures and move on at the earliest opportunity. (Also- If they think nothing of leaving you out socially, and think nothing of overtly attempting to intimidate you, what reasonable basis do you have for concluding that they will treat you with respect when it comes to work projects, raises etc.?

  72. OhBehave*

    LW 1 – I’m cautioning you to take legal advice in these comments with a grain of salt, unless it’s from a lawyer who knows the laws in your state. I am so sorry you are faced with this horrible behavior. These “Mean Girls” have gotten away with this for far too long. Thank goodness the jerk didn’t get the promotion! Imagine the deeper hell this place would be now.

    I echo comments recommending documentation with dates/times/incident. They are working so hard at their bullying campaign that it’s hard to believe anything gets done.
    Adopt a strong attitude when you enter your building. Own the hallway! Head held high, etc. If she crowds/hits you, call her out that instant by expressing surprise that she did so. DO NOT APOLOGIZE! There are some good scripts in the comments. Keep your temper in check. Use a tone of shock and disbelief.

    Start parking in your lot. They may leave you alone the first few days until they realize you moved back. Use your phone to record their behavior by either blatantly doing it or becoming engrossed in your screen. Record a few days to establish a pattern instead of them thinking it’s just a misunderstanding. Consider getting a dash cam. This band of bullies may escalate to possible damage to your car.
    The coward of a manager will not do anything. I don’t know that HR would either. Find a manager who is not in bed with these idiots. Maybe attempt to transfer out of this department, although if your managers are this cowardly, it may not be better elsewhere.
    Speak to those who you know are not in concert with this group. My guess is that they keep their heads down and are thankful they aren’t the target of the day. Encourage them to stand up for themselves. Once they see you doing it they will find the courage also.
    Please, Please update us. Post on the Friday thread to find support and encouragement.

  73. Observer*

    #2 – In reading your letter and all of your responses, I got to thinking about the question you asked and the situation you outlined. It fits a pattern of letters where someone writes in about a small problem and it turns out that that’s really the least of the issues that the person is dealing with, with the bigger problems being BIG. It feels almost like someone focusing on the small problem to avoid dealing with the elephant in the room.

    Your issues with the other woman who you share the bathroom with are mostly “you” issues. And, even the ones that really are legitimate (like not refilling the TP) are not major things that should be causing you so much angst. On the other hand, what you describe in your office does sound (mostly) pretty gross. Also, it sounds like your management is problematic in other ways as well.

    What I’m getting at is that maybe what you need to do is to give a broader look at the situation you are in and figure out how to deal with the bigger picture.

  74. TeapotNinja*

    OP1: If her problem with you is that you’re too quiet, next time she tries to intimidate you, yell at the loudest voice you possibly can: “GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY WAY!”

    See what the reaction is.

  75. Former Employee*

    I’m confused by the insistence that it is only harassment if someone is female or a member of certain protected classes.

    When I used to work in corporate America, we had training that was both about harassment and creating a hostile work environment.

    From what I remember, creating a hostile work environment sounded a lot like bullying and the person who was being bullied did not have to be a member of a protected class for this to have the potential to cause some serious problems for the corporate employer.

    Note: I am located in California, so maybe that is a state specific issue.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not only if you’re female. In the U.S., the only harassment at work that’s illegal for a company to allow is harassment that’s based on membership in a protected class — so sex (men too), race, religion, etc. Hostile workplace similarly must be based on a protected characteristic. Workplace bullying is not illegal in California. Your company may have had its own internal rules they taught you, but what you’re describing isn’t the law.

      More here:

  76. gsa*


    Please look up the terms: “force escalation” and “force continuum”.

    I think it applies to you because you can and should be able to tell this person to get out of your way in polite and an increased manner.

    Based on what you wrote, if I were you, there would have been a thumb in her eye a while ago.

    Violence is never the first choice, but sometimes it’s that last thing that works…

    I hope the situation gets healed in a manner that suits you.

    Stay Safe,


  77. Get Out!*

    OP#1: I read a lot of comments before I saw one that said what I would do: leave the company. You are in physical danger and management is not supporting you–and there isn’t just one bully; there’s a whole group. I’ve been in a situation like this, and I learned that jobs may be hard to come by, but you only have one life. The heck with trying body cameras and what-to-say tactics; get out before these psychos hurt you, and go work somewhere safe. (And if you were already promoted, finding another job may be easier than you think.)

  78. That Marketing Chick*

    #3 It’s obvious the company knew this was an issue when they hired OP and placed them in that office. A simple, low-cost fix would be to re-locate the thermostat on the OTHER side of OP’s wall – in the hallway. Yes, you have a drywall repair and some painting, but it seems like this would be a permanent, low-cost solution to the issue. *And then lock it!

  79. Stef*

    OP #1, I would definitely document, report the car incident to the police, and always have your cell phone out to take video as proof. Also, get everything in writing from your managers if they ever say to you that they’ll solve the bullying issue or make big promises. I’m taking a real estate course for my real estate salesperson license, and one of the most important things that is stressed is everything must be in writing. Verbal agreements can be misconstrued and don’t stand up in court (though check your state laws because I’m no expert in law).
    I’m sorry you’re going through with this, OP #1. I had a horrible interview a month ago with a store manager who bullied me at a job interview for a key holder position for a handbag company (I have previous experience selling handbags) and she laced into me saying the store is too small for me to manage, I can’t manage like she can, and don’t bother applying to this position until I have 2-3 years of management experience (which the qualifications only listed 2-3 years of experience selling in a luxury retail environment, no keyholding experience necessary). The manager made up a lie saying that the company was restructuring the management roles, so you’re not alone. I know how it feels.

  80. lilsheba*

    Wow you would think after high school, in an adult job, you wouldn’t have to worry about being bullied anymore! The fact that this goes on is just outrageous. I was bullied a whole lot all through school, but luckily not at work. If I was I just don’t even know what I would do!

Comments are closed.