my colleague wants to fire a domestic violence survivor

A reader writes:

I work for a midsize office in a building that houses multiple businesses. We share reception and security, but little information flows between different businesses, as you would expect.

Recently, there was a terrible incident where the ex-boyfriend of one of my reports, Sansa, got into the building by booking a job interview with a different company. He then made a beeline for our office instead, and made a huge scene shouting at Sansa, and even tried to hit her in front of all of us.

Thankfully, security tackled him before he could hurt anyone, and he’s been arrested. We had a security meeting with reception and the other business managers in the building, and have agreed to a shared appointment calendar and some other precautions to prevent this from happening in the future. I’ve done my best to support Sansa with what she needs to feel safe in the buildung, and she seems to be doing remarkably well.

The problem is Fergus, the other manager in my office. About a week after this incident, I was giving him and our new boss an update on the steps we were taking in case this man is released and causes further problems. Fergus was clearly annoyed and asked me why I didn’t just “solve” the problem by firing Sansa. My boss and I were too shocked to say anything for a minute, and he seemed to take this as encouragement. He went on to claim that Sansa was being unprofessional by “allowing her personal life in the office” and that we were going to a lot of trouble for “just one employee.”

This is not the first time he’s said something insensitive about our employees, but this was by far the most egregious comment. I pulled myself together and told him that Sansa had done nothing wrong, and that it was our job to provide a safe work environment. He rolled his eyes and visibly tuned out for the rest of the meeting.

He hasn’t said anything else since that meeting. But I find it increasingly hard to work with him. I’ve been defaulting to email or office chat to communicate with him, even though his office is right next to mine, because I feel gross being in the same room with him. I especially feel icky when I see him chatting in a friendly way to Sansa, knowing what he thinks about the situation. It’s bad enough that I briefly considered looking for a new job, but that would mean Fergus would temporarily be in charge of my reports. I’m worried he would actually fire Sansa if he could.

How do I address this in a professional manner? I don’t feel like it would be appropriate for me to pull him aside and tell him what I think of his reaction, but I also feel like I’m dropping the ball by not the challenging what he said more directly. Is simply avoiding him as much as possible the most I can do here?

Oh holy hell. “Allowing her personal life in the office”? Like she invited her abuser in! Like she was okay with what he did! He used deception to gain access to your building in order to assault her.

There are two terrible people in this scenario, and the abuser is only one of them.

You don’t need to just avoid Fergus. You can address it with him directly if you want to, and if you don’t want to, you can ask his boss to do it.

Frankly, having his boss do it might be more effective. He already knows what you think and clearly doesn’t care.

Does your boss — the one who was in the meeting where this happened — manage him as well? If so, I’d go back to her, tell her you were too shocked to address it in the moment but that it’s been heavily on your mind since then, and ask if she’d speak with Fergus about what he said and why it’s utterly out of sync with the company’s values. The fact that she too looked shocked in the moment is a good sign, and she may just need a nudge to address it with him now. (It’s also possible she has already addressed it with him privately, who knows. But you have standing to bring it up with her and express your concern.)

If his boss is someone different, talk to that person or ask your boss to.

You should also check your state laws because some states have specific employment protections for victims of domestic violence. Most of those laws say an employer must allow the person time off to deal with court dates, finding new housing, and other issues related to the violence, but some of them say an employer cannot fire someone for being the victim of domestic violence. You might suggest that your employer educate all managers about whatever state laws apply.

I would also assure Sansa, if you haven’t already, that this doesn’t affect her standing at work in any way and the company supports her and will work with her to keep her safe. (Although I suspect you’ve already done that.) You should then document that conversation and the assurances you’ve made and make sure it’s on file with HR, so there’s a record of those promises if you ever leave.

Also, what is up with Fergus? Is this the first sign you’ve seen that he’s wholly indifferent to other humans / a massive asshole? I’d be thinking about what this says about his judgment and who he is as person, and if I were his manager I’d be taking a very close look at how he’s managing his team. You’re not his manager, but if you have the capital and standing to raise those larger issues yourself, I hope you will.

{ 375 comments… read them below }

    1. Just J.*

      Yes, how wonderful it is for Fergus that his life is so perfect that no aspects of his personal life have ever infringed on work. No divorces, no sick children, no back-due bills, no March Madness pools, no football talk around the water cooler…….

      1. LunaLena*

        The problem with Ferguses like this is that they don’t realize how incredibly lucky they are that they’ve never experienced an intrusive life event like this, or think “for the grace of God, there go I…” To them, their perfect life is due to them being smart/organized/healthy and active/good planner/good person in general, and their easy lives are proof that they did things “right.” I suspect this is the same mentality that drives people who say things like “privilege? What privilege? I’ve *worked* for everything I have! No one handed me anything!” or “well if they did/didn’t do X, this wouldn’t have happened…” They have no idea how easy it is for everything to change due to something completely out of their power (say, a pandemic), and then when it does, they act like it’s the worst thing to ever happen to anyone anywhere, and they cry about “why do bad things happen to good people.”

        I mean, obviously this is all Sansa’s fault, she should have left that ex years ago, or filed a police report and gotten a restraining order, or moved halfway across the world and changed her name, or gone back in time and never dated that guy, rather than disturb the office with her petty affairs. That’s what HE would have done. (I kind of want to barf just typing that)

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          The formal name for this is “Just World” fallacy, yep. Powerfully strong in the US.

          1. Tiny Soprano*

            And according to a paper in a recent lit review I had to write, it has a small but persistent association with higher rates of victim blaming, especially in instances of violence against women.

      2. Captain Stubing is my spirit animal*

        Fergus, siding with the abuser and carrying out the abusers goals is not what you should be aligning yourself with. You are true scum.

      1. lorij*

        Human resource should be brought into the conversation. There is a good chance that Fergus has behaved like this in the past.

        1. Nita*

          Seconding this. I highly recommend taking this to HR, so they have this on the record in case Fergus tries to make life difficult for Sansa in any way.

    2. Lynca*

      I went blind with rage reading this.

      A follow up conversation with the boss and HR is really warranted here because that is a huge red flag for judgment. Especially if this is a state where victims have protection against being fired (here’s hoping).

      1. GilaMonster*

        Same here – in fact I’m having trouble getting my heart rate down. OP, I’m glad Sansa has you on her team.

      2. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

        As a domestic violence survivor myself, I think my head exploded when I read it. What in fresh h&ll is wrong with Fergus?

    3. kittymommy*

      Seriously!! Honestly, if I was the boss I would very much consider firing Fergus, both because morally it’s absolutely repugnant, but also as it might be the most pragmatic and protective decision for the company. Should something like this happen again (either with Sansa or someone else) I would think his utter inaction and victim-blaming would put the company at risk (physically and financially).

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        Seconded. If somebody in Sansa’s position were under his management instead of OP’s, the company would probably be trying to dig itself out from under a legal snarl right now because he was ass enough to try and fire her for being a victim. He’s not only dangerous to his subordinates (which is very much the most important thing, of course), he’s dangerous to the company. Frankly, being dangerous to his subordinates SHOULD be enough reason to fire him on its own, but since in many cases it’s not actually seen as such, hopefully being dangerous to the company would be.

      2. Vanilla Nice*

        Agreed. If Fergus were one of my employees, I would at minimum put him on a PIP that says “one more comment like this and you’re gone.”

    4. T2*

      This is outrageous. But I had a similar situation happen a long time ago. A boyfriend took to yelling and hitting our employee in the parking lot. And one of our team leads decided he was the devil’s advocate and proposed firing the victim. Me and the other team lead promptly marched into our bosses office and threatened to quit if the idiot was not cut loose immediately.

      To this day my greatest regret was that the other team lead took the lead in speaking out. But I was young.

      The idiot was fired immediately. Sometimes you have to take a stand. And this is one of those times.

    5. Database Developer Dude*

      This letter makes me thankful that I wasn’t the letter writer. If that other manager had said that to me, I’m not sure I could have held my temper.

      Any employer who would fire Sansa for her abusive ex-boyfriend tricking his way into the building to accost her is an employer that needs to be named and shamed, publicly.

      1. Morticia*

        And then he could be fired for bringing his personal life into the office. (Not actually advocating violence, just really really angry with this man).

        1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          Sigh. We can’t advocate for violence against Fergus. It’s not something I could morally endorse. But could I fantasize about violence being done to this guy? Oh my goodness yes. So I’ll just sit here enjoying the thought of this guy being kicked so hard in the testicles that he actually falls backwards through space time and is reincarnated as a woman. who is poor. in Medieval Poland. During the Plague.

  1. HoHumDrum*

    Fergus is a monster who absolutely should not be in charge of other people. Sorry I don’t have anything more constructive to add, still seeing red. The fact people with no empathy or awareness can still end up getting paid big money to manage others is a sign of a broken system.

    1. Anon for this one*

      Agreed. I know people don’t want to go firing people all willy-nilly, but his reaction, plus his utter disrespect to his colleagues even when they called him out on it should be a fireable offense.

      1. Red5*

        He should at least be demoted for sure. I wouldn’t trust him to be in charge of a goldfish cracker given his obvious poor judgment and lack of humanity.

        Oh, and has Fergus fired or formally disciplined any of his team in the past? Might warrant a re-look to ensure he wasn’t punishing someone for having to watch a sick kid or something. Sheesh.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          I agree completely but I also laughed so hard at the image of Fergus trying sternly to order around a goldfish cracker! Thank you.

        1. JSPA*

          You can’t require someone to develop actual sensitivity (or a sense of proportion) if they don’t have one, but you can require them to fake it seamlessly, and inform them that they have lost the ability to fire or even seriously discipline their reports for the next year, without first clearing it with their own boss and/or someone in HR and/or someone in legal.

          It completely sucks that his attitude was the default not twenty years ago; but I’m pretty sure that was the case. Ergo, plenty of people have made the mental switch, and it’s not impossible for him to do the same.

          That’s assuming he has other redeeming qualities, and that the business believes in teaching by teaching, rather than teaching by firing, wherever possible. (They’re both valid options.)

        2. Wintermute*

          Seconded, there are some things for which a PIP is appropriate. Low performance is a GREAT situation, because you don’t WANT to fire them, you want the job done well! But you need to lay out specific milestones and see those hit, see evidence of real skills growth.

          For incompetence not just low performance it’s harder, but not impossible. Milestones could be things like completing training courses, finishing work independently and without errors, and the like.

          But for serious behavioral stuff? No… just no. I’m reminded of that letter (I don’t recall which or when sadly) where we discussed the idiocy of a “racism PIP”, much incredulity and comments about how there’s no shades there to look at gradual improvement, and even once is too many, ever. What would a “racism PIP” even look like, By the 17th I want you to be using three or less ethnic slurs a week, and by the 31st only one or fewer”?

          Some events are truly one-and-done, they shatter your confidence in someone so thoroughly there’s no unringing that bell. This is one of those times. Trust in someone’s judgement and fundamental empathy is like a mirror, once broken they can piece it back together, but there will still be noticeable cracks. And in this case even if he’s not being a total ass, even forcing people to deal with the crack is unacceptable.

      1. A*

        Agreed that formal action should be taken, but I don’t know if a PIP is the appropriate course of action since it’s not really based on his work output/performance. But perhaps I’m mistaken and PIP’s are also used for cases of lack of professionalism, or in this case – being a terrible person?

        1. Jackalope*

          I don’t know if a PIP is the right option here or not, but especially since he’s a manager, this is a performance issue that could affect his ability to do his job.

        2. Working Hypothesis*

          Sure, it’s a work performance situation. He’s a manager. Treating his employees with respect and building trust with them is a significant part of his job, and it doesn’t sound as if he’s been doing it very well. He’s certainly just lost the trust and respect of at least two of his colleagues, and I can’t really imagine his having been decent to his subordinates before this even though this incident didn’t involve one of them. ( In fact the letter itself says “this is not the first time he’s said something insensitive about one of our employees.”) So he’s very much on thin ice from a purely professional standpoint, if I’m his boss.

      2. ragazza*

        Good point about the PIP from several commenters–I was just thinking of some form of giving him a warning. But I’m not sure he deserves one.

    2. designbot*

      yeah I would seriously be going back to your mutual boss and saying that the more I reflect on Fergus’s POV here the more concerned I become for his reports because this is not a response that should be entertained for even a second in a professional office.

  2. LittleRedRiding...huh?*

    Holy sh*tshow. I don’t even have the right words for this, because the level of disgust and anger this poor excuse of a human being triggers just doesn’t have an appropriate word.

  3. Littorally*


    Does Fergus manage anyone right now? If so I’d be highly concerned both in case he has any DV survivors reporting to him and also because if he’s this callous in one regard, I would have zero confidence in him handling any other personal issue with even a shred of decency. What a thoroughly atrocious human being.

    1. Littorally*

      Right, I misread, he is a manager. Holy shit. Escalate this up the chain because he should not have any hire/fire powers over anyone.

    2. Mama Bear*

      Firing Sansa for her ex-bf booking an interview with ANOTHER COMPANY in order to access the building to harass/assault her won’t help OP’s company. In fact, wouldn’t it potentially set them up for a lawsuit? It also wouldn’t do anything to prevent this from occurring with someone else in the future. Sansa’s ex is not the only abusive person out there. I’d definitely mention these thoughts to OP’s boss at minimum if Fergus is able to hire/fire other people, too. This is an HR problem, IMO.

    3. Ray Gillette*

      I have no confidence in Fergus’s ability to handle any challenging personnel situation. His first thought when an employee has a problem completely outside their control is “well, that’s inconvenient for me, better to get rid of them and try to find a robot instead of a human with a life and problems.”

    4. Observer*

      It’s not just DV survivors. It’s any person who has anything major going on in their lives.

    5. Code Monkey, the SQL*


      His utterly callous response to someone being attacked (!!) – and not a reponse in the moment, but after the fact, as a sort of Monday Morning QB – would drop my confidence in him as a manager who can effectively hear and respond to employee issues to ZERO. Possibly into the negatives, because if that attitude has infected anyone else in his department, then there would be a whole passel of people with that stance.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Fergus just announced that he has ZERO management skills… and zero people skills. He’s a walking liability to that company.

  4. agnes*

    This is absolutely unacceptable. I hope the manager VERY firmly sets this guy straight and tells him to SHUT. UP. IMMEDIATELY.

    1. Just J.*

      Yes, this is just a sign of the bad week I am having with all of the crises and conflicts in the news, but if I were Fergus’s manager, he would instantly be on a PIP. It’s only that I know that I need to calm down and count to ten, or I would fire him.

      1. JM in England*

        Forget the PIP. If I were Fergus’ boss, I would summarily fire him for his attitude towards others…

        1. T2*

          Amen this that. No PIP. This is one where he doesn’t even get the luxury of cleaning his desk. Security throws him out on his butt and we mail him his effects.

        2. agnes*

          I am an advocate of giving people a chance to correct their behavior. That said, I wouldn’t give him much time–like, say, 5 minutes?

      2. Wintermute*

        PIPs are for things you can improve, that you can set milestones for and measure gradual improvement. “I need you to not be a sociopath” is not conducive to a PIP. How would you rate that? How do you measure growth?

        Also, PIPs are for ongoing situations that are long-term. This is a literally once-in-a-lifetime event, most of us will never see such an event in our lives. If you’re waiting to see evidence of growth it may never happen again. In any event you cannot trust this man to react like an actual human being any longer, and that level of broken trust is summary termination area. When you have fundamentally lost your faith in their ability to empathize and conduct themselves with a bare minimum of human decency, you can’t risk the damage leaving them in place could do.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I would agree. This isn’t a situation where a PIP would be useful. If you’re not ready to fire Fergus on the spot, you can do a “This is the only warning you will ever get and if I ever hear of you speaking or acting in such a callous way toward other employees of this organization it will be your last day as our employee” speech. Or a “This is an extremely worrying way for a person who manages other people to talk about their fellow employees, we’ll be moving you from your management position to an individual contributor position, effective immediately” speech.

          1. Wintermute*

            I agree that if you can’t fire on the spot those two are not-great-but-survivable alternatives. My concern if he’s not fired is how PUBLIC he was, how much damage that may have done to his team’s confidence in his A) ability to recognize and handle difficult situations appropriately B) to be a decent human being to them and C) to control his emotions and not alienate people. The risk of A and B is that people may suffer in silence rather than risk being judged, or they might put the company or themselves in danger because his very public attitude is that he’ll think less of them if they have safety concerns.

            Removing him from being a boss helps some of that, for sure, but lets be honest, “the asshole tax” is real, companies that tolerate people that treat people poorly suffer real costs for it.

  5. EPLawyer*

    OMG. If this weren’t a coworker problem, I would nominate Fergus for worst boss of the year. Someone who is clearly trying to get away from an abusive relationship and get her life together might LOSE HER JOB because the abuser was well, abusive?

    Fergus needs more than a talking to. He needs education on this subject right quick. His blame the victim attitude is exactly how abusers keep getting away with it.

    But please, please do not send him to spend time in a DV shelter. The survivors are not there for his learning experience and the last thing they need his this neanderthal around them.

    1. Just J.*

      +1 for worst co-worker of the year.

      And still: +1 for worst boss, because, as a manager, his is someone’s boss.

      1. Gamer Girl*

        And I move that there be a category for worst coworker of 2020, in addition to worst boss!

        1. I'm just here for the cats*

          I agree, let’s get Allison to set up worst co worker of the year. There’s enough letters to do so!

    2. ThePants999*

      No reason this guy is ineligible for Worst Boss of the Year just because he happens not to specifically be the OP’s boss.

      It may only be June, but let’s just give him the award already…

  6. OrigCassandra*

    Calling Whole Fergus Disposal Services, because Fergus is a dumpster fire.

    I agree that a PIP is warranted. The standard for management this organization walks by is the standard it accepts… and it really needs not to accept this.

    My best wishes for Sansa.

    1. Justme, the OG*

      I’m used to Twitter, because I was about to page Whole Man Disposal Services to yeet Fergus into the sun.

            1. Alexander Graham Yell*

              I appreciate that, and look forward to the day he has been yoted into the sun.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            “low orbit sun yeet” is also my favourite.

            Do we think Alison would oblige with a Laurie photo so warp speed could be authorised?

  7. Rebecca*

    I was so shocked by what I read, I went back to read it again just to make sure. Fergus is terrible. I’m being kind here and following the rules, because what my brain is thinking and what I want to say are a bit different. What in the hell makes him think the best solution is to fire Sansa, so she has no income, endangering her further by taking away her means of supporting herself?? This needs to go all the way to the top, to HR, etc. and Fergus needs to be dealt with. Period. I’m glad to see everyone is taking steps to hopefully prevent this from happening again. Now I need to stop typing.

    1. somanyquestions*

      He thinks this is the best solution because he truly doesn’t care if he destroys someone else’s life, if it makes his slightly less annoying.

      1. Sparrow*

        This is exactly it. He’s completely unconcerned about how it would impact her – I’m sure he would consider that to be her problem, not his. He only cares about the slight inconvenience in his own life, and really it’s probably more about his discomfort than his inconvenience, since it sounds like he’s doing exactly nothing to help OP address the situation. What a jerk.

    2. Kiki*

      It’s shocking in that it’s clearly very terrible and I think most people who feel this way have learned they shouldn’t say this aloud, but it’s also not an uncommon sentiment! The reason the laws Alison mentioned exist is because a lot of managers find their employees who are DV survivors to be “inconvenient” and let them go. I’m glad Fergus isn’t the only manager in this situation and I hope LW and their boss protect Sansa and talk some sense and empathy into Fergus.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        yeah, every labour law that exists has had to be drafted because of a boss that doesn’t want to do the right thing. I was just gobsmacked when I started examining the French labour laws, imagining the terrible situations workers had found themselves in that had led to the drafting of those laws.

    3. Elbe*

      Agreed. This shows an incredible lack of judgement. This is not someone who should be in charge of other people, and definitely shouldn’t continue to rise through the ranks and take on more power to action his terrible ideas.

        1. willow for now*

          Ooh, I LOVE the trebuchet because there is that lovely few seconds of anticipation between activation and something actually getting flung.

  8. juliebulie*

    I have a better idea. Fire Fergus!

    Yeah I know OP can’t. But from the evidence presented here, I’d rather work with Sansa than with Fergus. If Fergus thinks it’s reasonable to fire people for presenting an inconvenience beyond their control, he ought to be on board with firing people like himself.

    1. T2*

      OP can stand up and loudly say “him or me”. This is an opportunity for the organization to prove their worth.

      I am white and male and middle aged. If this particular climate has shown people like me anything it is that we can no longer sit there and excuse basic inhuman behavior like this. Personally I learned that lesson many year ago. But come on people. It is high time we have a little empathy towards the situations of others.

      It is not enough to not be an abuser, or harasser or a racist yourself. But you must identify and root out any tendency to accept such attitudes in others. People shouldn’t have to be hurt or killed to see how important this is.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        yes, thank you. We must not remain silent, we must speak up and speak out any time anyone is abused for whatever reason.

  9. Matilda Jefferies*

    “Oh holy hell” is a lot more polite than anything I’ve been able to come up with. Wow, Fergus. You are a truly horrible person. WOW.

    OP, please raise this with whoever has standing to tell Fergus to knock it the F off, and please also reassure Sansa that you’ve got her back and will do everything you can to make her feel safe in her workplace. And if your office doesn’t already have a DV policy, please get after HR to start writing one. This is not, not, not okay.

    1. Mama Bear*

      This. Abusers can do things like show up unannounced, call and harass the victim (and other people if they can’t reach the victim), etc. If there’s no game plan, it would help everyone to make one.

      1. bleh*

        And this in how the patriarchy reasserts itself. Male human causes a problem – obvious solution is fire female human, who is the victim.

    2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      ah yes, if there are no laws they can at least have their own policy! good idea Matilda!

  10. NyaChan*

    I find it sad that part of me is relieved he said it out loud so that someone can counteract him – how many DV survivors are quietly shut out and let go by employers more savvy, discriminatory decision-makers?

    1. Frankie Bergstein*

      This! Fergus’ actions seem like standard-issue patriarchy, which is what worries me more. How many more people think like him but are silent? And would rather quietly push someone out than fire them outright?

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yes, it’s like the studies that show that 25% of people think that women wearing a mini-skirt are asking for it. And that 40% of men admit to rape provided you dress it up as “forcing your GF a little bit in the heat of romantic passion”.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      “She was asking for it.” Makes me want to claw someone’s (in this case, Fergus’s) eyeballs out with a screwdriver.

    3. KAG*

      That’s an excellent point! There’s more than one case where TBTB have made
      all the appropriate noises about concern, etc, while subtly discriminating against the survivors. A disgusting, reprehensible Fergus might indirectly engender more practical support for DV survivors. (I’ll take my Polyanna hat off now; I think I’ve exhausted today’s optimism reserve).

    4. LizM*

      This is a good (but sad) point. One of the ways that abusers operate is by making it hard for their victims to maintain employment. Decision-makers may link performance issues to absences, perception of unspecified “drama,” or other things beyond an employee’s control, without explicitly linking it to the abuse, and in doing so, play right into the abuser’s hands.

  11. AW*

    He wants to fire her? That’s outrageous there’s absolutely no way she should be punished for someone else’s bad behaviour.

  12. Bex*

    After winning guardianship of my sibling a few months ago, my father has stepped up his own campaign of abuse. He actually showed up at my workplace, making a scene and causing lots of grief.

    If I for one second thought anyone in my chain of command would react like Fergus, that would have been the end of me. Luckily, my managers and bosses are amazing and are helping me through the process of checking for legal remedies.

    When someone is facing abuse or trauma in their home life, the office might be all they have left. It is incredibly disheartening to hear someone viewing this as the fault or responsibility of Sansa. And I’ll be honest, I’d be reassessing everything I thought I knew about Fergus – his response is the equivalent of gleefully kicking a puppy.

    1. Blarg*

      Thanks for caring for your sibling. I hope you are both able to access the resources you need to live safely and heal.

  13. Cobol*

    If you are seriously thinking of quitting, then put everything in an email to your manager (maybe even bcc’ing your personal email). First, because you’re trying to hold Fergus accountable, but more importantly, you’ve just created discoverable documentation if Sansa gets fired.

    I don’t believe that domestic abuse survivor is a protected class, but it will give her ammo without putting you at risk (although kudos to you because you seem to not care about that, as much as doing what is right).

  14. Goliath Corp.*

    I don’t mean to derail the topic at hand because this is so incredibly awful on its own, but it makes me wonder what else he would consider “bringing one’s personal life into the office” as a fireable offence. Are pregnant or disabled employees “bringing in their personal lives” when they need accommodations? If a marginalized person were the victim of a hate crime, would that be a fireable offence? Just f*** this f***ing dude. I hope he gets fired.

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Good point. It might be worthwhile to never allow Fergus to hire/fire or even discipline other people without another person’s input or oversight.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        If I were there HR department, I would be reviewing all previous disciplinary actions that Fergus has carried out.
        I’m on team Fire Fergus.

    2. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I wouldn’t put it past Fergus, given how callously he perceived this situation. I do agree that it should be flagged with HR for background on his attitude. And, he needs training in being a decent human being.

      1. Dancing Otter*

        I’m not sure any amount of training could make Fergus a decent human being.

        It /might/ be possible to train Fergus to behave as if he were a decent person for fear of consequences to himself.

    3. Littorally*

      I don’t think it’s a derail at all. The OP (and hopefully the company at large) learned something very valuable about how Fergus views employees who are human beings that have lives outside of the office. This has to be addressed, because while this is an unusually dramatic example of outside lives coming in to the office, it’s far from the only one, and so it’s a major issue for how Fergus operates as a manager.

    4. leapingLemur*

      He probably does consider those things “bringing in their personal lives”. He sounds totally lacking in empathy.

    5. Observer*

      This was actually the first thing that came to mind, once I got past the initial shock.

      This is a terrible human being that blames people for having the misfortune to have misfortune around him.

    6. violet04*

      Seriously. I feel like this hateful attitude has to seep into other ways he interacts with people in the office. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s discriminatory towards women in general.

      1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

        And as a manager, the longer he is in place, the more that attitude has a chance to amplify, by infecting those he manages, and possibly clustering people with that attitude under him.

        OP – this is how toxic departments get started. Please speak up!

    7. old curmudgeon*

      I definitely wonder about that.

      I also wonder if Fergus himself is an abuser, and that he simply cannot conceive the idea that an abuse survivor is not at fault for the treatment they receive.

      I know, that’s a reach. But with my personal history, that was honestly the first thing that occurred to me.

      1. old curmudgeon*

        I should expand – my “personal history” does not include abusing others. It was a reference to an abuser I encountered years ago.

      2. Pennyworth*

        That was my reaction too – Fegus thinks she must have deserved what happened and therefore has to be held accountable for it . If Fergus isn’t an abuser he is a sympathiser. At least he is now out in the open, but those sort af attitudes aren’t easily changed. What he said about Sansa needs to be reported.

    8. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Given I’ve had a manager deny any bereavement time after my cousin died due to it being ‘an outside issue’…it wouldn’t surprise me.

      (I’m a survivor of domestic abuse, from over 20 years ago. The feelings I’m having at the moment regarding this letter are…intense.)

      1. On a pale mouse*

        Wait, so what would be a death that wasn’t an “outside issue”? I guess you can only have bereavement leave if you yourself are the one who died? Terrible bosses abound, it seems.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Pretty much. He told our receptionist (who’s mother just died in a car crash) that ‘everyone dies. You’re not special’.

          (She upped and resigned a few weeks later, saying she had another job with a ‘human boss’ and wouldn’t be needing a reference)

    9. Avasarala*

      I agree. What an egregious lack of empathy and understanding. Surely that goes against the values of the company (and humanity). Fergus should be walked off tomorrow. Let it be a message to everyone else: “His kind are not welcome here.”

  15. Blarg*

    His attitude isn’t surprising. There’s a reason laws were created to protect IPV survivors in the workplace: people like Fergus. He is proud of his desire to further punish the victim of a crime. Wouldn’t be surprised if Fergus enjoys a little recreational spousal or child abuse at home.

      1. Batgirl*

        Yes, that’s how the system works isn’t it? Abuser makes a lot of noise to get person fired; sexist boss notes “Looks like you didn’t get permission from your owner” and complies. Abusers don’t do this because of Sansas, they do it for Ferguses.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Right. Abuser figured he could get her fired and then she would “have to” go back with him. Fergus is so dull minded that he fed right into this guy’s criminal behavior.

    1. Vendelle*

      I don’t like Fergus one bit, but this comment seems to be a bit of an overstep to me. People can be horribly insensitive about other human beings’ misfortunes without being violent to their wives or children.

      1. Flora*

        “violent” and “abusive” do have Venn diagram overlap, but aren’t the same thing. A person can be abusive as all hell but never actually be what most people would describe as violent. See also: emotional abuse; gaslighting; neglect/withholding of care… It’s not that big a stretch that he might be a party to some kind of abusive relationship (also, it’s possible, along the same line, that he has experienced abuse and internalized that he brought it on himself, although I’d hope that would lead someone more toward empathy).

      2. Avasarala*

        I agree. There are plenty of people who support and perpetuate rape culture, sexism, racism, harassment, etc. without violently participating themselves. It’s important not to conflate them, not because they are blameless, but because it’s harder to fight passive participation if the only standard we have is “violent aggressor”.

  16. Liz*

    Wow. I am genuinely furious on Sansa’s behalf here. Like full on, pounding rage headache starting in my forehead. LW, I’m grateful and glad that you called this out at the time. That can take guts and quick thinking when you are shocked over something like that. And it sounds like your boss is on your side, too.

    While it wouldn’t be appropriate for your boss to go into detail over any discussion she may or may not have had with Fergus, if I was in your position I would probably flag it as a concern. She could at least reassure you that the situation is being handled in some way, that may help you feel a little easier, or push for something to be done if it hasn’t already.

    From an abuse survivor, thank you for your support. I hope Sansa’s situation improves and she is able to rebuild.

  17. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    UGH. Just UGH. This type of thinking is just poison. Can you imagine reporting to someone like this? Who is completely without empathy or compassion? Who embodies the idea of rape culture and blame the victim?
    I’d be very interested to see how Fergus is managing his team during the pandemic, as I bet that his team’s not been given an ounce of leeway or understanding.
    OP definitely needs to raise this with Fergus’ manager, and honestly a word with HR to make sure multiple people are monitoring him wouldn’t be out of line. This isn’t Fergus’ first time saying something reprehensible and getting away with it, you don’t get to be that bold with your misogyny without practice. I’ve no doubt that he’s said something just as hideous to at least one other employee who was too intimidated to come forward because of his title.

  18. Apocalypse How*

    Someone needs to drill the point into Fergus’s thick skull that changing security procedures isn’t just to help one person–it’s to help everyone working in the building. There is no way to predict who is going to get an abusive ex, a stalker, or a disgruntled ex-employee. Those employees and their coworkers all deserve safety.

    1. leapingLemur*

      Also, with Fergus’ attitude, there are probably at least a few people who really hate him. He might need the security. But I hope he doesn’t stay at this job or at least isn’t allowed to be in charge of people.

    2. Dragon_Dreamer*

      I also hope someone alerted the other company to what happened, so they can improve their own security.

  19. Lady Heather*

    This makes me so angry I don’t even know what to say.
    I don’t think there is anything to say.

    Except that I think employers can file restraining orders against people who threaten employees. I know the efficiacy of ‘normal’ restraining orders is disputed and their use sometimes even contra-indicated.. I’m not sure about restraining orders filed by employers (that stop someone who’s threatened an employee from coming to the workplace).
    I think the article this was about employer liability in case of workplace shootings and that if someone threatens an employee at work once and shows up with a gun the second time, the employer is liable if they didn’t file a restraining order? (So its protective purpose might have had to do more with liability than with safety, actually. Hm.)

    1. Clorinda*

      If they can do that and ban him from the entire building and parking area, it seems like a reasonable precaution. And someone should walk with Sansa to her car/transit stop/bicycle or whatever every day. The ex is very scary and every business in the building needs to be on the alert to keep him out.

    2. rear mech*

      This is going to be vague and probably missing info because I’m going off what the responding office told me over a year ago, but…
      A place of business (even one that is normally open to the public) can get something called criminal trespass order. Basically someone shows up at your business and does something like harass an employee. You call police and identify the person. If they show up again you call the police and they get arrested for criminal trespass.

      1. JSPA*

        This is also used (and IMO, misused) against people who take pictures in one supermarket or store to pirate the look and feel at the behest of (or while employed by) another supermarket or store. There was a letter here from someone whose boss was trying to force them to go back, in defiance of such an order. Will post link if nobody beats me to it.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        This is true. I work in public libraries where basically anybody off the street can come in during any of the hours we’re open. But in almost 20 years in this profession, I’ve seen probably about a dozen trespass orders. Some for indecent exposure, some for harassing staff or other customers. It’s completely possible for an office building to ban a person from the property, and I hope OP’s office building is pursuing this for Sansa’s ex.

    3. BluntBunny*

      Yes they can report him to the police for the assault and trespassing. I’m not sure if they called the police at the time but it never to late to report it.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Harassment, menacing…

        If there is an order of protection in place breaking that order is a felony in NY.

  20. NW Mossy*

    The only person who should be worried about getting fired in this scenario is Fergus.

    I’ll also say this, which is stemming from my own experience as a manager calling out someone in another area who crossed one of my moral-and-ethical redlines recently: this is the kind of thing that’s worth spending your political capital on. Yeah, maybe it’s not the classical usage, but in this national enough-is-enough moment, I couldn’t sit by any longer.

    What I did not expect in starting this effort is that it can actually help build your credibility and standing in the organization to spend this capital. Beyond the immediate benefits you get from your direct reports, it shows other leaders what you’re about and the risks you’ll take to stand up for the kind of work environment you’re trying to build. People respect that, and you’ll mark yourself out as an ethical, principled leader.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yep. It’s a hill to die on, OP. Pull your words together because people will watch and replicate how you explain this. They will also remember what you do here. It’s the kind of thing people see and they put in the pocket in case they need it at some time.

    2. Persephone Underground*

      This- I have a large amount of respect for a particular defense contractor’s (named L.M.) internal ethics because they publicly fired the newly appointed CEO (or heir apparent right before he took the promotion) when it was revealed he was dating a subordinate. If I worked there I’d feel much safer as a woman knowing if anything happened in the arena of harassment that management would have my back, regardless of the rank of the person involved.

  21. Elbe*

    I mean, this is a lot of trouble to go to for just one person. The LW is writing into an advice column, getting additional advice from comments, they’re forced to document interactions, they’re setting up meetings with the boss… this is a lot of work.

    Why can’t someone just “solve” the problem by firing Fergus?

      1. Dasein9*

        Apologies. I meant for that to say “slow clap” but typed one of the code-y thingies instead.

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      Best solution, in my opinion. BYE FERGUS! Don’t let the door hit you on your way out. Actually, scratch that, I HOPE IT DOES

  22. Dasein9*

    Yep, Fergus is a monster.
    And yes, this is a good place to spend political capital.

    And can Fergus’ decisions about the people he manages please be looked at too?
    This incident makes him look like someone who has a habit of being abusive to employees.

  23. crchtqn*

    What an absolute POS person he is. Allison, I’m wondering if this would warrant some investigation into Fergus’s management into his team and seeing any major decisions (promotions, firings, etc) have been based on sexist and/or discriminatory behavior on his part?

    1. Geralt of HRivia*

      I was thinking the same thing, what else has he done that is not only morally wrong, but legally “grey” enough to get the company into major legal issues.

    2. Ginger Baker*

      There’s a really good article on the higher likelihood of work fraud for people who have been sexual harassing others (anywhere not just at work iirc) and why for Work Reasons it makes sense to start carefully investigating those accused folks for all possible violations. You can search for “The Al Capone Theory of Sexual Harassment”, should bring it up. I am highly confident that correlation would also apply to this mind-numbingly awful man.

  24. boop the first*

    I hope this letter is a bit older, because looking the other way and hoping a situation patches itself up on its own is a large part of why there have been large protests all over the world for the last couple of weeks, and also why people are thinking the protests have ended. It’s not the safe and noble response you think it will be. Any time is the right time to help someone.

    I’m utterly disgusted that Fergus’ complaints came AFTER someone else had done all of the work. It sounds like it literally didn’t affect him in any way apart from, I guess, having to hear about it. Another common response to any small attempt at justice.

    Sorry, I guess I’m just not super impressed with humans today.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Sorry, I guess I’m just not super impressed with humans today.

      I know what you mean. Sigh.

  25. James*

    I’m going to (once again) catch flak here, but: I understand where Fergus is coming from. I DO NOT CONDONE IT. But I understand it. Fergus is trying to run a business, and this interferes with that goal. He’s looking for an easy way out of an uncomfortable and potentially volatile situation, and found one. Most people simply aren’t mentally equipped for violence, and most do whatever they can to avoid it. Usually that’s the correct reaction, but sometimes it leads people to making really stupid decisions that make the situation far worse. Evil thrives where the good do nothing, after all. Worse, most people stop thinking clearly in a violent situation. It’s shocking in our day and age to witness, much less be part of, a violent altercation. So when they find a way to make the scary badness go away, people will often take whatever option is available.

    Fergus is a coward, in other words.

    I’d wonder where else he had also taken the easy way out. Business involves conflict (not violent, but conflict none the less), and someone who makes a habit of taking the easy way out is someone who’s eventually going to cause you to run afoul of the law. If such a person is in a position of authority, it also is likely that those working under him are uncomfortable raising concerns. Particularly in the area of health and safety, pushing back against a boss is hard. If the boss deals with people making waves by firing them, you quickly get a team of yes-men who refuse to take any responsibility and constantly put junior staff (too naive to know better) in dangerous situations. I’ve seen this process on a number of jobs, and every time got out as soon as I possibly could.

    1. Littorally*

      I’d wonder where else he had also taken the easy way out. Business involves conflict (not violent, but conflict none the less), and someone who makes a habit of taking the easy way out is someone who’s eventually going to cause you to run afoul of the law.

      This is a good point. We’re focusing on other employee matters here, such as who else Fergus would be willing to throw to the wolves to avoid anything even slightly complicated, but it’s certainly true that if he is unwilling to deal with any even mildly difficult situations, that’s an inclination that could well extend beyond employees experiencing difficult circumstances outside of work. Part of being a manager is taking on the hard situations. What else has or will Fergus dodge?

    2. Former Young Lady*

      It is very human to fall prey to the just-world fallacy — we see some brutal injustice visited upon an innocent victim, and we go searching for the “one weird trick” that person failed to deploy to protect themselves. In part, we just don’t want to believe horrible things happen to undeserving people; what’s more, we want to believe that horrible things won’t happen to US, because we (know where not to walk at night, know how not to upset the police, know which a-holes not to date, live a healthy lifestyle, etc.).

      Thing is, as compassionate, thinking adults, we’re supposed to override that victim-blaming impulse, just like we’re supposed to override the impulse to beat up someone for dumping us or to poop on the boss’s desk. We have those thoughts, all of us, but we check ourselves. If Fergus can’t do that, he’s unfit to manage people, let alone “run a business.” (And boy, haven’t we all known a middle-manager who mistook the former for the latter!)

      1. James*

        I don’t think Fergus’ mentality stems from the Just World Fallacy. I don’t think he put that much thought into it, to be honest. The situation was bad and uncomfortable, so he found a way out. I would be surprised to learn that he even considered the perspectives or actions of the people involved; this sounds like a knee-jerk reaction to make the discomfort go away rather than any sort of assessment of the situation. Which in no way excuses his actions; someone managing a team or running a business cannot give in to knee-jerk reactions, because the consequences can be catastrophic.

        1. pancakes*

          He needn’t have put any thought into it at all for it to be reflected in what he says and does. Your first comment doesn’t make much sense to me, either — the letter-writer isn’t necessarily “mentally equipped for violence” in a way that Fergus is not. And his response doesn’t need to have been knee-jerk to be worthy of condemnation.

    3. Lora*

      I’ve met a lot of Ferguses and Fergusinas – yes, they are cowards. They’ve never thrown or taken a punch, and often have amazingly naive ideas about domestic violence and conflict in general – they really do think that women can just waltz into a police station with a bloody nose and announce, “Spouse hit me!” and just like that *snap* Spouse goes to the pokey and learns never to hit anyone ever again. Or, that perhaps the woman was making it up in order to win a custody battle from a poor put-upon man, as Evil Lying Beeyotches do in their worldview.

      Yes, this is most definitely an undesirable quality in a manager, as they inevitably are of the kiss-up-kick-down flavor who will definitely screw up the group they manage. Nevertheless, senior management often loves them: they’re too scared to make waves to ask for a much better budget and will constantly nickel-and-dime their group past the breaking point, then crow about saving money; it often takes months to years before senior management observes the pattern of over-promising and under-delivering; they never say boo to ANYONE above them and are often quite good at hiding their screw-ups.

    4. doreen*

      I don’t know that I would exactly say I understand where Fergus is coming from – but I will say that there’s no reason to assume that he’s proud of punishing a victim or that he is an abuser himself. It’s far more likely that as James said , he’s trying to take the easy way out – or actually, wondering why the LW didn’t do so and prevent Fergus from enduring any inconvenience. Starting a conversation with the assumption that he’s an abuser or proud of punishing the victim may be counterproductive.

      1. Amy Sly*

        Agreed. Yes, he’s a crappy human being, but having one vice is not the same as having all vices. He’s a coward trying to avoid problems and keep his own hide safe; does anyone want to deny that firing the abused woman would mean that the abuser wouldn’t show up to the workplace? Firing her would protect everyone else at the office — it’s a nasty solution lacking empathy, but it would work. The resolution of the company needs to not only protect the abused woman but also address the reasonable fears of the other staff who probably don’t like the idea of being collateral damage if the abuser comes to call again.

        It’s fun to flex the creative writing muscles to imagine this dude as abusive who bites the heads off of kittens and suchlike, but the LW needs help, not fanfiction.

        1. Star*

          does anyone want to deny that firing the abused woman would mean that the abuser wouldn’t show up to the workplace?

          I do deny that. If Sansa is fired but is able to get away from her ex he would have no way of knowing she’d been fired and might show up to her now-former workplace to look for her again. And there’s no guarantee he’d believe them if they said “after your last visit we fired her so she’s not here.” Which is just one of the reasons why improving security is a better overall solution than firing her.

          (To say nothing of general humanity, not punishing victims of abuse for being abused, etc.)

          1. KoiFeeder*

            Also, Sansa’s abuser has rationalized physical violence against her as so objectively correct that he’s willing to commit that violence in front of witnesses. I’m having trouble phrasing this in a way that doesn’t sound like “all abusers are mentally ill,” but people who can rationalize physically harming one person are quite ready to rationalize physically harming multiple people. If he comes to the conclusion that the workplace was in any way involved with her no longer being willing to date him, it doesn’t exactly matter whether or not Sansa was fired.

            1. Mookie*

              People are violent in public all the time. Some even get paid for it. People behave irrationally and against their own interests. There’s no need for a psychological diagnosis here.

              1. KoiFeeder*

                I was trying to avoid sounding like I was giving a diagnosis, that’s not what I meant at all. Words are hard and I am very stupid.

          2. NotRealAnonForThis*

            Most frightening day ever as a teenaged retail worker: the day where my former coworker’s estranged husband came into the store, stomped up to the cash wrap, and demanded we (two teenaged girls) page her back from break. Thankfully it wasn’t our first rodeo with her spouse, we hit the silent panic button, store security sent their biggest dudes over to us AND got the local PD to the scene very quickly.

            I had never to that date seen someone froth at the mouth in anger. And d@mn were we happy that our manager reached out to our former coworker/her lawyer to let them know about this. That way she had documentation. Not that our manager wanted her to manage her spouse’s behavior, but so that she would be aware.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              This is what good companies do and good bosses do.
              I am sorry this happened to you and your CW, but I am glad you have the back-up that was necessary.

              I am very fond of those hidden panic buttons.

              1. NotRealAnonForThis*

                I realize in hindsight, for a retail job, it wasn’t bad at all. Our manager realized that she had a team of mostly teenaged high school students. She flexed that fact in a way that helped everyone. The adults who didn’t want to work late didn’t have to, because we couldn’t work during school and wanted the hours. She asked the teenagers if we minded working semi-holidays (think Christmas Eve or similar) first, and made sure that the managers in that half of the store covered a big pizza and sub lunch for all of us. She worked our schedules in the summer around our high school grad parties and the friend groups within our coworkers. She taught us how to be professional when customers were impossible, how to “adult” (“this is what I need to hear from you if you call in; that’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. You can talk to me later if you want, but I don’t need it on the machine.”), and generally just walked the line of boss/mentor/awesome person very well.

                She also took a DM/RM to task over his “I’m not sure its a great idea for your location’s women’s department to have so many teenagers” with a “why don’t you look up which department has the highest customer service score in your district, I’ll wait”. (Yes, it was us.)

                Those panic buttons were installed in the front half of the store as we had a lot of smaller items of clothing/accessories, and it was the mall entrance/exit to the store. The security office was close, and they kept an eye on the front of the store. Never did figure out if it was because it was a bunch of teenagers working closest to this point, and customers did on occasion try to use that (shoplifters, check bouncers, bad-faith-returners, oh my!)

        2. PollyQ*

          DV is common as hell, and workplace violence is not unknown. Firing one employee would do nothing about another violent attack from someone else.

          1. Mookie*

            Yep. This is literal victim-blaming. The victim got her victimhood all over her innocent co-workers. How irresponsible and disruptive of her. Like she isn’t one of many.

            This advice doesn’t “lack empathy.” It lacks grounding in reality and is also engaging in a comforting “fiction” of its own.

    5. Ominous Adversary*

      Did you read the whole letter? The LW said: “This is not the first time he’s said something insensitive about our employees, but this was by far the most egregious comment.”

      Fergus wasn’t just worrying about the business. He rolled his eyes and sulked when the LW and another manager explained why they were helping to protect Sansa rather than firing her.

      Fergus isn’t a coward. He’s just an asshole.

      1. James*

        And here’s the flak, starting with an insult. Glad to know I understand how this community works.

        If it makes you feel good to put the man in a pre-established bin and leave it there, that’s fine. It is not productive or useful, but it’s certainly a valid way to deal with someone else’s problem.

        1. Ominous Adversary*

          If it makes you feel good to put the man in a pre-established bin and leave it there

          Say, by calling him a coward?

          1. James*

            I called him a coward, sure. But take a look at why. In my first paragraph I outline my reasons for thinking so–reasons which differ from many comments here. Then I called him a coward, as a rhetorical device to both call attention to those differences, and to demonstrate that my explanation is not an excuse (far too many people confuse understanding something with approving of it). In my third paragraph, I point to specific areas where, if I’m right, Fergus will have major failings as a manager. The label isn’t the whole of my statement, but merely one component.

            Labels aren’t bad. There’s a reason we use them. But labels prove nothing, and provide no information. They are useful as a rhetorical device, but cannot be the full extent of your argument. That’s where your post and mine differ.

            1. PollyQ*

              “Glad to know I understand how this community works.” in response to one comment that disagrees with you is not an example of a higher level of rhetoric.

            2. biobotb*

              Ominous Adversary’s original comment did explain why they consider Fergus an asshole.

        2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          Nobody is calling anyone else here names, and you yourself called Fergus a coward.

        3. Former Young Lady*

          Several people engaged respectfully with your first comment. One of those people asked if you missed a rather key point from the OP, and you reacted as if you were under attack. “HA! SEE? I TOLD you everyone around here was out to get me!”

          If you’re here to be congratulated on your insights, you will be disappointed. If you’re here to reinforce a persecution complex, you don’t need any help from the rest of us.

          1. Courageous cat*

            Agree. Also this is a fine case of “don’t dish it out if you can’t take it”. If you want to provide a hot take, be prepared to argue it – that’s how it is sometimes.

        4. biobotb*

          Not sure where you see the insult, unless you consider mere disagreement to be insulting? And commenters in this community definitely don’t agree all the time; there’s often a back-and-forth. Is that what you mean by how the community works?

        5. College Career Counselor*

          Ominous Adversary didn’t insult you. A pointed question about reading the totality of the letter, followed by information contained in that letter in a rebuttal to your earlier comment is perfectly appropriate discourse from where I sit. If that constitutes an insult, I would suggest re-calibrating your epidermal density.

          FWIW, I understand your point about Fergus taking the easy road to improve things according to his world view. In my opinion, that’s far too charitable toward Fergus, whose behavior in the rest of the LW’s post makes him sound less like a cowardly person regarding DV issues and more like an entitled asshole overall.

          1. Pomona Sprout*

            I absolutely LOVE “re-calibrating your epidermal density” and will almost certainly use it myself in the future. Well done!

      2. JSPA*

        He could be both… and the question still stands, whether Fergus’ manager has been pushing back, is competent to push back, even sees the need for pushback, etc.

        OP doesn’t have standing to fire Fergus. OP can quit, or can threaten to quit (with the risk they’ll prioritize Fergus) but both of those things leave someone currently at high risk from a domestic abuser with a bit less cover.

        We can write fan fiction about how OP will get a new job, and as soon as OP’s in a new job, OP can bring Sansa in. But that just shifts Sansa’s risk to a new workplace (one that may be less able and willing to fortify and protect their employees).

        Putting Fergus on the radar of people who can re-channel and retrain (and eventually, once they independently see the need, remove) him is a winning strategy. OP gets to stay with a (mostly good) company that (except for Sansa) prioritizes doing the right thing. Fergus gets at least a formal, abbreviated chance to fly right (unless his boss and grandboss independently conclude otherwise and ditch him faster without OP staking their own job on it) not because he deserves it, but because it’s the most straightforward process. OP can absolutely continue dealing with Fergus by email and text, to avoid sneering, retching, or wincing in his face, as well a for OP’s own comfort.

    6. moo*

      Domestic viololence is a risk for workplace violence against both the abusers primary target as well as others. It is a tough call- I own a small business and had a boyfriend of an ex-employee show up twice with a gun pulled. The police don’t take this seriously, now what do you do? I don’t agree with the sentiment – but I am not going to fault someone who feels that way. It is not as black and shite as wew wish it were.

      1. JSPA*

        Where, FFS, do police not take this seriously, when someone pulls a gun in a workplace????? That’s highly problematic.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          In rural areas it can take over an hour for the police to show up. By then all that is left is clean up.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I should say, people can request that a police car do safety checks when possible- so random drive-bys could happen. But it’s entirely possible that an employer could be blindsided and have no plan.

            Sadly, I do think that Fergus is living back in the 1950s somewhere. This was the more common approach and thinking. But now a person can chose to educate themselves on situations like this. Maybe I am a bit of a hard nose, but if a manager is unwilling to educate themselves and unwilling to help their employee, then they should not be managing people. Modern management is not for the faint of heart. I have had to break up fights between cohorts, deal with a starker SO, briefly had my own stalker and all kinds of stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with the work at hand. Crap happens and someone has to take charge.

        2. AKchic*

          the majority of the US, for one.

          I know Alaska certainly doesn’t care unless people are already injured, dying or dead. And their response to the act(s) will depend greatly on the victim(s), the perpetrator, and the money/property/area of town and who else might have been affected.
          Example: two low-income individuals involved, possible criminal history on the victim’s side? It won’t make more than a small blurb in the paper as a domestic disturbance.
          If it’s a shooting in a business and a customer has been affected (witness, or injury); then there’s a slight outcry. If the woman happens to have a criminal history, it’s swept under the rug quickly. If the woman BIPOC, it’s swept under the rug quickly (unless she is well-connected).
          If the woman is Caucasian and not wealthy, or the perpetrator has more money (or is more connected), it still gets swept under the rug.
          Essentially, to effect any kind of high-profile change, the woman has to be rich, or high profile (or know someone high profile), blonde, pretty, with no criminal record whatsoever. They must be “the perfect victim”.
          It still won’t help. It’s almost seen as a punishment for picking the bad partner in the first place.

          1. JSPA*

            I’m surprised at it happening for a workplace invasion, as opposed to the home (where all those biases are so often exacerbated by a dose of “we weren’t there to see what happened/maybe she goaded him/maybe they both were drinking” or whatever else is pulled out to to paper over the attack). But none of those things apply when someone hunts a person down in their workplace. By definition, they’re employed, almost certainly cold sober, there are often other observers, there’s no chance of non-premeditation or mutual escalation. And while the target may have been systematically rendered more helpless during the abusive relationship, and be short on money, non-work friends and clout, that’s rarely anywhere near as true of the businessowner, or even the manager. Plus any remaining friends tend to be work colleagues. Plus the person calling in the event is less likely to be the upset victim (when as we know, people judge victims for sounding too upset or not upset enough). Thus my surprise, that a work invasion and attack, with a gun, doesn’t merit attention.

    7. Elbe*

      I don’t think that this really fits the situation as it was described by the LW.

      Fergus didn’t suggest firing Sansa as a knee-jerk reaction to a violent situation. He suggested it after measures had already been put in place to prevent it from happening again. And his logic wasn’t that other employees (like himself) may be in the line of fire, it was that fixing the situation requires too much *work*.

      There’s nothing here to suggest that he was doing this from a place of fear. He just sounds like a garden-variety jerk who wants to take the easy road, even if that means firing a good employee for the violence inflicted ON her.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Actually he sounds like he is a shallow thinker, perhaps he is prone to being manipulated because of his lack of thinking.

  26. Narise*

    I would tell Sansa that if anyone says anything to her implying that she should quit or anything derogatory she is to let you know immediately or if needed go to HR. I worry Fergus will target her and try to make her miserable so that she will quit.
    I would also be very tempted every time Fergus needs to leave early for a family event or has to be off work because of personal issues to say ‘You are letting your personal life impact your work. Didn’t you suggest we fire someone for that?’ Hope he never needs FMLA for any reason because that is his personal life not his work life. The advice to raise to the big boss and make sure HR is in the loop of how twisted this belief is will be much more effective.

    1. Caroline Bowman*

      Yes, this totally. The childish, ridiculous, spiteful part of me would watch super-carefully for Fergus to need anything whatsoever in any way that might slightly impact his work life. Then I would give him a serious lecture on not letting his personal life impact his work life and if it happened again, I’d say ”this is just a lot of complication for *just one person*, we’re going to have to let you go and yes Fergus, this is about Sansa, now get OUT”.

      This is clearly not something one could do in reality, but it feels fun to think of.

      But seriously though, he needs a very serious conversation about How Being a Decent Person works and also his reports need an alternative channel to get any help from because this guy must be a peach to work for.

      1. HugsAreNotTolerated*

        This is another case of having to say to someone “I shouldn’t have to explain to you that you should care about other people.” Between protests, masks, etc. I feel like I should be getting that tattooed on my forehead!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Your first paragraph: I had a big boss do something a long that lines for me. My immediate boss did Jerk Move XYZ. I reported it. When the dust settled, the big boss said to me, “If Immediate Boss does XYZ again, I want you to come directly to me and tell me.”

      I went from feeling really down in the dumps to walking on air. I felt empowered again.

      I never needed to go back to the big boss, but the offer was there for the rest of my time at that place.

  27. A Simple Narwhal*

    What a giant wad. He absolutely should not be managing anyone if he’s this callous. I seriously hope the OP escalates this and the powers that be are equally horrified and take appropriate action, which should at minimum involve some serious retraining.

    If he gets placed on a PIP, what should the change they hope to see at the end of it? I’m kind of struggling how one would quantify the goal post of “be a decent human being with at least a shred of empathy for others”.

  28. Jennifer*

    If I had to guess, Fergus is one of those types who thinks any claim of violence against women is overblown and the man is being railroaded. It seems he has a specific prejudice regarding this type of situation.

    Yes, the situation with Sansa does endanger everyone that works in the building but that is the fault of her abuser, not Sansa.

  29. Slow Gin Lizz*

    Also, what is up with Fergus? Is this the first sign you’ve seen that he’s wholly indifferent to other humans / a massive asshole? I’d be thinking about what this says about his judgment and who he is as person, and if I were his manager I’d be taking a very close look at how he’s managing his team.

    One billion times this ^. Fergus is the one who should be fired, and I wouldn’t at all be surprised that he gets fired and it’s because of some other reason and not this one.

    1. Ominous Adversary*

      The LW clearly said that this wasn’t the first time Fergus has been an entire tool cabinet.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah, I definitely missed that in the letter. My bad. Also love “entire tool cabinet.” Totally stealing that.

  30. AthenaC*

    This is absolutely awful.

    Unfortunately, it’s not all that uncommon, either, which is why domestic violence survivors (those who are professionally successful anyway) get really good at hiding behind more “acceptable” excuses for court dates, etc., and keep all their cards VERY close to the chest.

    1. JustaTech*

      And why there are laws in some states that explicitly require people be given time off (or at least be allowed to use their sick time) for leaving, court dates, etc.

      If there has to be a law telling you to do the right thing, then a lot of people/companies chose not to do the right thing.

  31. Geralt of HRivia*

    Even if you do not feel capable of going to Fergus or his boss (frankly Fergus sounds like a waste of time), can you go to your HR? Approaching it as a “based on Fergus’ response to a meeting about Sansa’s Horrible Ex, I am worried he could open up the company to a lot of legal trouble both in regards to how he handles Sansa and how he could handle these types of problems in the future”. You’re not approaching it as a Fergus problem, since Fergus may not be fixable, but at least HR could lean on him to protect the company?

    1. leapingLemur*

      I’m worried that Fergus has already done things that could cause legal trouble if one of his reports decides to report it.

      1. Geralt of HRivia*

        That’s absolutely true too! How are his hiring practices in general, not to mention the people he fires, promotes, or advocates for? I’d be interested in knowing if this was him taking a total leave of his senses or an indication for something far worse.

  32. irene adler*

    We had something akin to this.
    One morning an employee reported that the day prior, her estranged SO had been on-site, looking for her. And Carrying. A. Shotgun.
    He had accessed a side door of the building. Doors were always unlocked during the workday. We have long hallways, akin to a maze (if you don’t know the way around). And we have very few employees. So there’s usually no one to run into to ask directions.

    Apparently SO arrived during the work day, entered the side door, wandered through the maze. Never encountered anyone. Then he left. No one in the building ever even noticed the stranger in our midst.

    Later that day, he contacted this employee, and told her what he tried to do-shoot her at her work place. But gave up because he could not locate her.

    (yes, authorities were notified)

    Management immediately installed automatic locks on all doors. Visitors would have to ring the doorbell -at the front entrance- to obtain entry. Folks weren’t happy about this, but understood the safety issue here.

    I can’t for the life of me, imagine the mindset of a Fergus in dealing with this sort of situation.

    1. pebbles*

      That’s absolutely horrifying and I’m so glad that he was unsuccessful. What the fuck. It’s very good that the company immediately installed safety measures but holy shit.

        1. irene adler*

          Thinking you are correct. Deny that he did anything once it dawns on him that his actions could land him in jail.

      1. irene adler*

        I really don’t know. I don’t know if there were restraining orders in place or anything else that might trigger a trip to jail for the SO for admitting to this.
        I do know that he never came back. Never troubled our employee -at work- again. Can’t say about whether he continued to bother her outside of work.
        Our employee remained employed. No negative repercussions whatsoever from management.

      2. Bex*

        Most likely not. As a member of law enforcement said to me after my father brandished a firearm (but specifically didn’t point it at my partner or I) and said he’d like to kill us, “they can say whatever they want. Until they try to act on it, it’s not a crime”

        This left me sick, btw. And in constant fear.

        1. bleh*

          Many states do in fact have laws against communicating threats. Not that law enforcement likes to deal with it.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          The member of law enforcement was wrong. Threats of violence (eg, “I’d like to kill you”) are illegal in the US. Google “Threats of Violence Against Individuals cornell” for a good rundown.

          They can not say whatever they want. Credible threats of violence are a crime.

          It’s true, though, that law enforcement often does not want to deal with it. It’s slowly changing, but police are mostly working under a reactive punishment model; they don’t have the training and time for a proactive preventative model.

          1. Bex*

            Oh I know, but it’s hard when I’m not the one with authority.

            Ah well. That’s off topic. Back on topic …

            I’m so glad to see more companies work to help employees who are facing these challenges.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Oh boy!

          It may vary by state. However there is a difference between saying, “I could kill someone one” and “I want to kill you both.” The latter is specific.

          I think I would talk to the chief of police and go over this whole story. If you aren’t getting some type of help you may want to go up to your county prosecutor’s office (DA’s office) and try to talk to the DA themselves.)

          If you have not already started please line up Team You.

    2. Batgirl*

      Not only is this a perfectly reasonable response to protect one employee, it also protects everyone going forward. Security for all!

    3. JSPA*

      Any independent verification that he was there (as opposed to sitting at home, smoking up, drinking, and fantasizing the story he was going to tell her, to scare her stupid and maybe get her fired)?

      Good that you beefed up security all the same.

      But I’ve met a lot more (alleged) people who’d lie to an ex about doing something like this (or even, ask a mutual friend to leave an item inside as a “memento”) than go to the risk and effort of actually driving there with a gun.

      There are far too many who do show up with a gun, but there are many times that number of losers sitting on the couch, lying their asses off and laughing about how much misery they can cause with a few words.

    4. MJ*

      “Folks weren’t happy about this…”

      Well I’m glad they at least understood the safety issues. If I worked there I would be rejoicing at the new entry system. It’s like some people have never read The Gift of Fear.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        um… I realise that commenters here seem to all consider this book to be some kind of Bible but apart from on this website I have literally never heard of it. Since I’m pretty well-read compared to probably at least 90% of the population, I expect there are loads of people who have not read it.

        1. Morticia*

          You could take it as a recommendation. It’s not just mentioned here, but also in the comments of some other blogs, various discussion forums, and subreddits where relationships are discussed. The only caveat is that the domestic violence chapter isn’t very good because Gavin DeBecker has personal biases there.

          If you hang around these types of discussions, you’ll probably also run into mentions of Lundy Bancroft’s “Why Does He Do That?” It would actually be an excellent resource for Sansa, and actually anyone who dates or gets into relationships.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            I’m not sure that I need it, but thanks. I’m just taking issue with MJ’s expression “it’s like some people have never read”, as if everyone had read it, because it’s very far from the truth. It makes me feel like I must be completely out of it because I’m not part of a clique of readers. MJ comes across as irritated that there are people who haven’t yet read it, like, she has and she’s taken it all on board and is now impatient to move on to the next thing. Just saying.

  33. SheLooksFamiliar*

    Fergus wants to fire Sansa even though she did absolutely nothing wrong here, yet he violated any number of standards for leadership, management, and respectful corporate citizenship. Heck, if there’s an employee handbook, he likely violated its Code of Conduct in a big way, for this and other situations.

    I’m willing to bet he would be shocked and outraged if he were to lose his job for his behavior, but that’s what he deserves. Fergus should not be in charge of people. He’s not even a good co-worker. OP, please don’t let this go.

  34. nnn*

    You could solve the problem by just firing Fergus. I mean, he’s the one being unprofessional by allowing his personal asshattery into the office, and you’re going to a lot of trouble (even writing to an advice column!) for just one employee.

  35. Curiosity*

    I thought the issue was going to be someone who was concerned for the safety of the people at the office since the abuser had shown himself to be a violent threat. There would be a liability issue, but even more so, a risk of actual lives. You would certainly never want to add to the abuse of an abuse victim, but what is the responsibility of the workplace?

    That would have been an interesting scenario – I would be curious to hear what people would say about that.

    1. Elenna*

      The LW and their boss are concerned for the safety of the people at the office – hence the added security measures, shared appointment book, etc.

    2. WellRed*

      Putting in steps to keep Sansa safe (possibly with extra support/measures as needed) seems to me that would be the same as keeping others safe.

    3. Star*

      I would be curious to hear what people would say about that.

      Whether or not we would find it justifiable to fire Sansa because her abuser violently threatened the office?

      1) That’s why LW and her boss are most intelligently and wisely working on upgrading office security, instead of saying “nothing can be done” and firing Sansa.

      2) Even if they fired Sansa (which would be unconscionable, for reasons which should be obvious) that wouldn’t guarantee their safety from the Angry Ex unless they also implemented office security measures. So they might as well implement increased security while NOT taking the terrible option.

    4. Observer*

      That argument can be made for just about every accommodation in the book. The reality is that you cannot eliminate every risk, on the one hand, and on the other hand you CAN mitigate risk without firing the person. So, let’s please drop the excuse making.

    5. James*

      I assume that the company has a lawyer or two, either on retainer or on the payroll. Press charges against the abuser. He’s guilty of trespass, fraud, and assault at minimum, maybe violating a restraining order. All of this is in addition to anything Sansa does.

      If you don’t want to pay for extra security, make the lawyer do their job and prosecute the abuser to the full extent of the law. Ideally, he should be removed from civilized society via incarceration (I personally would want it to go further, but that’s why we allow the courts to handle these things, so justice, not vengeance, is served).

      1. pancakes*

        In-house counsel aren’t prosecutors, and the office doesn’t need to have a lawyer on staff or on retainer to try to have this guy prosecuted.

    6. PlainJane*

      Even if that were the issue, firing Sansa wouldn’t be helpful–Abusive Ex is as likely as not to come storming into the workplace demanding to know where she’s gone, and possibly being more frustrated that she’s not where he expected her to be.

      I sympathize with the frustration of having to deal with an outside problem that was never planned for. I really do. I think all of us do this summer, when plans are completely upended by something outside of anyone’s control, and sometimes, you want to place blame in a place you can take action. (Eg, Fergus can’t do anything about Abusive Ex, but Sansa’s right there and that would totally fix it, right?) Only that’s never going to make a difference, AND it’s immoral, unjust, and cruel.

    7. JSPA*

      You can’t keep people safe by throwing others to the wolves. In any case, it’s odious (and in some states, illegal, as you’re basically aiding in the abuse). It’s also not particularly effective.

      Someone violent enough to shoot up their ex’s workplace with their ex present is also violent enough to attack the ex’s ex-coworkers for their presumed role in the breakup, or their presumed sympathy for the coworker, or for reminding the ex of the coworker, or because the ex doesn’t believe coworker was really fired…or whatever other grudge the ex concocts.

      Firing the target of domestic violence is like not having doors on the closets of your pizza restaurant because of what someone might think is behind them. You can’t protect against violently irrational people with a huge sense of entitlement who are determined to be the hero in their own personal video game.

    8. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Well, Fergus might argue that it’s best to filter for DV at interview stage to prevent such scenes occurring at the office ever again.

  36. WellRed*

    I see several comments calling for a PIP. I’m genuinely curious what that would entail in this situation? What metrics/goals is he supposed to meet, when the issue is he’s an ass?

    1. Uhtceare*

      I think a PIP in this situation is more “a very short leash” or “the first step in a firing”, if OP’s organization is especially bureaucratic about these things.

      The metrics/goals would be “never say anything like that again” and “every decision you make/email you send/conversation you have will be reviewed in detail for signs of idiocy/assholery/bias”. Which is not really a workable standard for any length of time, nor would it teach Fergus the error of his ways, just how to hide them.

    2. (Former) HR Expat*

      I disagree with putting him on a PIP. In my reasoning, PIPs are for issues that are recurring and relatively tangible/measurable. Unable to meet metrics, not following up on issues, consistently not following documented processes, etc. Things like “be a better human being” are pretty much impossible to measure and maybe wouldn’t even occur during a PIP time frame. Things that are completely subjective like this are part of a company’s progressive disciplinary system (if they have one), but in this instance would be either a firing or a strict final warning. I’d lean toward firing, if I were legally able to do so.

      In short, Fergus is an ass and no PIP can solve that.

    3. James*

      “Fergus, you have a history of making inappropriate comments in the workplace, which expose us to tremendous liability. If you make another such comment in the next six months, you will be fired. In six months we will revisit the situation and determine if continued monitoring is appropirate.”

      Simple metric: presence/absence of reprehensible behavior. Don’t specify WHAT inappropriate comments, to avoid rules-lawyering. ANY inappropriate comment results in immediate termination. Tie it to liability to get the point across and prevent “You’re just picking on me” nonsense. Give a time frame so that everyone is on the same page should you have to fire him (at least where I work a PIP has to have a duration), but leave it open-ended so that you have the option to continue to dangle this threat over his head if need be.

      1. Avasarala*

        Shouldn’t it have to be longer than 6 months though?
        6 months later, Sansa’s bf comes back, Fergus says they should fire Sansa again.
        It’s still not acceptable, right?
        That’s the issue with the duration–the punishment needs to be “if you EVER say that again, you’re fired” not “if you say something again in the next 6 months”.

    4. JSPA*

      Absence of complaints, while being monitored for treatment of his reports, I assume.

      Growing a filter and learning when to use it.

      He can think what he likes inside his head, but he can’t treat people like dirt, or like their life is less important than his inconvenience.

  37. divorcednow*

    This makes me so sad. I was in a very similar situation last year (almost a year to the day, actually). My husband assaulted me, I dropped him off at his work to get rid of him, then filed a police report, made arrangements to stay with a coworker, and went to my office. That afternoon he talked his way into the building and tried to grab me. I ran to the HR director’s office, slammed the door, and they called the police.
    My work was SO supportive through the entire thing, they gave me everything I could have needed, changed our security protocols, even let me borrow a vehicle he wouldn’t recognize. Nobody even blinked about my mess of a life overflowing into work, they went all out for me. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me that they had my back. Everyone deserves the same.

    1. Star*

      I’m really glad your work helped you and that you made it through this. I’m impresed with you.

    2. JSPA*

      That planning, execution and follow-through are impressive!

      Your workplace was good about it, too.

  38. two cents*

    This is bad on so many levels. Is anyone else wondering how many of his people Fergus has fired or given crappy performance reviews to because they were “inconvenient”? It’s not just domestic/intimate partner violence that can “intrude” into someone’s workplace after all. Has Fergus been getting rid of people with childcare or eldercare issues? People who are ill? People who don’t wear the “right” clothes etc etc etc.

    The man is trash.

    1. Kettricken Farseer*

      I totally agree. Bad people aren’t just bad in one arena. I bet if they scratched the surface of his actions towards any of his employees they’ll find exactly what you’ve outlined.

  39. Patricia*

    Fergus needs to be fired and pronto. If he wants to stay in the 1940’s then he can. But at minimum he’s proven that he doesn’t care about the company employees in any way. That can’t be what the company wants. He also expressed that this employee should be fired for no reason leaving her vulnerable. I can’t roll my eyes enough at this jerk. I would also wager that his asshattery has shown itself in multiple ways before but people ignore it. There is no way that this is a one time occurrence.

    At the very least he should be suspended without pay and a strongly written letter placed on his file.

    This is appalling. This is how abusers get away with it. The fact that he is kept on and nothing is done (yes I know she’s trying to figure out what to do) is tacit approval of his stance. He should have been hauled into HR (or the equivalent) immediately after he said that.

    This is soooo bad.

  40. Remote HealthWorker*


    There was a similar argument on EvilHR recently around the firing of Aleksander over his spouses Instagram posts despite his public condemnation of them.

    Hard to believe their really are jerks out their willing to punish domestic violence spouses! I assumed the comment was hyperbole!

    It sounds like you are doing a fantastic job OP and all the right things!

  41. LD*

    “This is not the first time he’s said something insensitive about our employees” makes me think that Fergus should not be managing people at all. I hope your HR department takes a good hard look at him as this appears to be a pattern of behavior.

  42. Observer*

    lso, what is up with Fergus? Is this the first sign you’ve seen that he’s wholly indifferent to other humans / a massive asshole? I’d be thinking about what this says about his judgment and who he is as person, and if I were his manager I’d be taking a very close look at how he’s managing his team.

    Please highlight this when you talk to whoever it is.

    I have no doubt that he has not only violated basic decency, but the law already. And if he hasn’t, it’s just a matter of time. Beyond that, he’s a TERRIBLE manager. As someone else noted, he’s probably developed a bunch of “yes men” who would rather do the wrong thing than tangle with the boss. I’d also look at what his turnover looks like – I’m sure he’s gotten rid of anyone who has had any “unprofessional” (aka unconvenient) events in their lives. And good people with options may be leaving as well, because who wants to work for someone like that?

  43. LGC*

    It sounds like this should be resolved by firing someone. Unfortunately for Fergus, that person is him.

    And yes, that’s harsh. But seriously, I don’t think Sansa or any of your employees are safe with him in a position of power in your office. And – while I don’t blame you for being shocked by his callousness – you and your boss definitely have the right (and probably the duty) to go back and tell him that his attitude is messed up and unsafe.

  44. Dittany*

    Y’know, when I read the subject line I foolishly assumed that the question was going to be about a problem employee whose home life made firing them and therefore cutting off financial support other than their abuser’s an ethically tricky issue. Surely, I thought, no one would be awful enough to want to fire someone BECAUSE they were an abuse victim!

    *hollow laughter*

    1. Leah K.*

      Yeah, that’s what I was expecting to see – someone questioning whether they should fire a non-performing employee knowing that they are a victim of domestic violence. I really didn’t expect to see someone suggesting that the company should fire an employee BECAUSE they are a victim of domestic violence and it’s “inconveniencing” them to help the employee feel safe at work. What a garbage human being. In my book, this would certainly disqualify this person from ever holding any sort of managerial role again.

      1. Observer*

        Tsk, tsk. Fergus did not complain about being inconvenienced. He claimed that Sansa was being UNPROFESSIONAL. Because somehow making magic is required in order to be professional!

        (In case it was not obvious, that was sarcasm.)

  45. KR*

    This is just…. Something else. What is UP with Fergus?! OP, at least you learned valuable information about Fergus and what kind of person he is.

  46. Pipe Organ Guy*

    Wow. Just, wow. Fergus is a repulsive toad, and needs to be deprived of any opportunity to manage and hire/fire people until he can show that he has become an actual human being.

    1. KoiFeeder*

      Toads are wonderful members of the environment who perform important tasks. Fergus is the corroded grate in a sewage system- causing more harm than he ever solved.

      1. Knitting Cat Lady*

        Better make a pile of hakarl and launch him into it.

        Much more satisfying.

  47. DollarStoreParty*

    Holy hell is right. And then he took your stunned silence as agreement. Could he be any more tone-deaf?

    1. JSPA*

      Which is why a tiny part of me feels for him. Not sympathy, but shame, that is. Some of us were basically raised by wolves, as far as what’s within the bounds of normal responses, and we had to learn those lessons at a more advanced age than most. Fergus is unacceptable. Fergus needs an attitude transplant and loss of supervisory authority, and a first class ticket on the shape-up-or-ship-out line. Quite possibly, this adds up to, Fergus is a knowing and committed jerk who needs to lose his job; but it’s only one of several possible answers.

  48. Mimmy*

    I have nothing to add except I’m hoping OP updates us if they feel comfortable.

    I will say that I think in today’s society, the lines between work and personal life have blurred. Sure, it’s very appropriate to want to keep those lines clear in order to keep things running smoothly. However, sometimes crossing those lines is unavoidable. That’s where good work/life balance policies come in.

    I’m wishing the very best for Sansa.

  49. Uhtceare*

    Because everyone has covered “Fergus is trash”, I’ll just ask–
    what kind of office is this, where bringing in a personal life is fireable? Has Fergus never mentioned his wife/children/education/hobbies/car/what he had for dinner?

    That is, unless what Fergus means by “personal life” is the fact that Sansa is dealing with an abuser (which clearly is what he means, and with which he’s clearly uncomfortable). So, “personal life” == “makes Fergus uncomfortable”. And that is a terrible standard for both interpersonal and professional relationships, especially considering that Fergus likely has the comfort zone of a raisin.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I do have a solution for Fergus. If having a personal life is an issue then STOP hiring persons.

  50. Kettricken Farseer*

    The fact that he said it so casually and in front of people shows he thinks there is nothing wrong with what he said. I can’t wrap my head around the complete and utter lack of compassion or care, and that makes me wonder where else he’s discriminating against others.

  51. Bookworm*

    I would honestly be sincerely concerned for any staff he supervises in any capacity. If he sees something like this as a “personal life issue” or whatever he doesn’t have any people skills, to put it mildly. Good luck. :/

  52. Fred*

    There was a place I worked, a while back, where we hired outside workers for something and, long story short, they were loud and inconsiderate and the building owners made noises about terminating/not renewing the business’s lease, which would have been a major headache. There was a pretty big internal fight over who’d hired the cowboys in the first place. Fergus might have gotten it in the neck from the other business and was feeling pretty frustrated about having to handle the fallout of an incident that was not remotely his fault (for once) …

    … which doesn’t even remotely excuse such a display. Sigh.

    Personally, I’d give him a pretty strict warning to behave himself.

  53. 2horseygirls*

    Genuinely bless OP’s heart – I would have gone thermonuclear on the spot.

    I know Alison is not a fan of addressing one person’s issue as a group, but I think an in-service (perhaps as a collaborative offering for all the companies in the building, since they are also undoubtedly rattled by the events) with local law enforcement should be scheduled as soon as possible. A review of recommended precautionary measures, as well as protocols for responses, and resources available locally to victims of domestic violence, will offer comfort to those who are rattled, and impress upon Fergus that domestic violence is a real and present danger that a great many people take very very seriously.

    And his behavior and management techniques absolutely must be watched very carefully from now on.

  54. Anon for this one*

    I wonder if Fergus is aware that the guy used a ruse to gain access to the building and initiated the confrontation. If he heard a piece of the story, he might be thinking “she brought her psycho boyfriend into the office and there was drama.”

    1. James*

      I doubt that’s true, for two reasons. First, it appears to be common knowledge–the LW at least knew about it, and doesn’t appear to be in a position to have knowledge denied to others of her standing or above. Second, Fergus has a history of making such comments, so even if he was aware it’s unlikely he’d consider it relevant.

      You raise a really good point, one that’s worth looking into. I don’t think it’s the case, but I’ve been wrong before. :)

    2. Observer*

      Not possible that he is not aware. The measures that are being taken make it clear that this guy did NOT come into the office with Sansa. And he’s complaining that it’s “too much work” to take these measures.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I wonder how he is doing with his Covid mask. Is that too much work also?

    3. Avasarala*

      I think this is part of a story Fergus might tell to further blame Sansa for the drama.
      “I bet she brought him in.”
      “There was ‘drama’.”
      “I bet she started it.”
      The issue here is that all of this language minimizes the harassment and culpability of the abuser, and shifts the blame to the victim. It’s all predicated on the assumption that a “reasonable person” would not just attack someone (see: just world fallacy), so logically Sansa must have done something to deserve it. We know this is not true, abusers are not “reasonable people” that are just “misunderstood”. This stance reflects ignorance of how DV happens, and is in fact victim-blaming 101.

      And I say this gently and with love, your comment is doing something similar.
      “Fergus must not have heard the whole story.”
      “Fergus must have misunderstood.”
      “Someone (OP? Sansa?) needs to explain it to him.”
      This is the same assumption: that Fergus is a “reasonable person” and if only he had all the facts, he would understand.
      In fact, none of us readers have all the facts and yet we are able to see that Sansa is not guilty. I argue that there is no amount of information that you could provide to Fergus that would change his mind, if he has already assumed that Sansa deserves it.
      Fergus is not an objective judge and we don’t need to cater to him and beg and convince him to change his mind. He is not only wrong but cruelly wrong, we can say that unequivocally, and we don’t need to invent excuses for him and speculate why he might be wrong. He is not a reasonable person with wrong information–he is a malicious supporter of the patriarchal unjust systems that allow this crap to happen to people like Sansa.

  55. Dimmie*

    Not that this is OP’s problem, but…

    Is anyone else worried that if Fergus thought this is Sansa’s fault then he’s also the type of person who thinks his wife/partner “made” him lose his temper? If you know what I mean. Abusers often frame it as their victims fault and he might be guilty of his own accusation of bringing his personal life to work.

    1. Random IT person*

      I admit – I thought this.
      Did he feel ‘threatened’ or afraid of being exposed.. and lashed out ?

  56. Someone Else*

    I completely agree with firing Fergus and reviewing every decision he’s made. With the instance of victim blaming, any other incident brought to him as a manager has the risk of having been handled improperly. What if a previous employee brought up sexual harassment and his action was to fire them rather than investigate the allegations. I am very surprised that no one has brought any lawsuits against the company due to Fergus’s lack of empathy.

  57. La Triviata*

    I agree that any personnel decisions Fergus has made should be reviewed. I don’t know that firing him would be possible, depending on local laws, the kind of internal support he has and so on. The fact that the abuser got into the office does indicate that their security protocols should be examined. The fact that he got in once increases the chances that he could come back and escalate – as in shooting up the entire office. It’s happened in the past.

    On thing I don’t know if it was addressed – this is a tactic abusers can use to keep their victims under their control. If the abuser makes it impossible for the victim to keep a job because of disruptions in the workplace, it will be harder for them to avoid the abuser or remain independent. I think – hope – most workplaces are enlightened enough not to fire someone in Sansa’s position, but I believe it used to be more common.

  58. Sis Boom Bah*

    What Fergus said was so egregious, so immoral, that I read the headline as “wants to hire” because my mind couldn’t fathom that someone would want to fire someone else for being a domestic abuse survivor. Fergus is straight trash, and is a serious liability to the company.

  59. AngryOwl*

    I got nothing more than what’s been said about Fergus himself, but OP, I’m glad Sansa has you. This is absolutely a time to use whatever standing you have. You’ll not only being helping Sansa—I’m sure she is not the only one who would benefit from less Fergus in their life.

  60. NoLongerStuckInRetailHell*

    It goes without saying that Fergus behavior was appalling and repugnant. OP definitely needs to go over Fergus’ head about this and about Fergus’ terrible judgment. Even disregarding the personal part, looking at it from a business standpoint shows he is an idiot and has no business being in management: a hazardous situation occurred. Thankfully no one was injured. OP coordinated with both security and the other businesses to put in place procedures to hopefully prevent something like this from happening again. Which is exactly the right thing to do. Because next time the ex may have a gun and shoot up the whole office. And because next time it may be the ex of someone in one of the other businesses. Firing Sansa in no way solves the problem. It’s like if there was something like a trip hazard, maybe a curb with no signs or yellow paint. A worker trips on it and gets a serious injury. Firing the employee doesn’t solve the problem—painting it yellow, putting up signs, etc. is what solves the problem.

  61. OpsAmanda*

    Definitely look into your state employer laws to see if there’s any provisions about domestic violence. And if there isn’t, depending on your company maybe suggest they add in their own policies about domestic violence. Also, can we get sensitivity training for this guy? The OP mentioned being interested in looking for other employment, and I wouldn’t want them to feel tied to this job in order to protect the Sansa from being fired.

  62. Jess*

    Having worked in a domestic violence shelter, I can tell you that Fergus’ reaction is, sadly, all too common. While most wouldn’t be so up front about it, victims of domestic abuse frequently lose their jobs because of the abuse they are suffering (yes, even in states where this is illegal). This compounds the victim’s suffering by taking away their financial independence and making it difficult for them to find a new job (due to lack of references or fear that this same cycle will happen again).

    If you’re outraged by this post, I encourage you to seek out training from local advocacy groups. Many offer some variation of “domestic violence in the workplace” courses, and can help your company develop clear policies that protect victims.

    1. JanetM*

      I have, sadly, also read articles about landlords being pressured to evict IPV survivors as being “police nuisances.”

      1. Jess*

        Yes, that’s also very common. Even our shelter was subject to nuisance ordinances, and we had to evaluate carefully which situations were worthy of a call to the police, in case they decided we’d made too many calls. Bear in mind, we had all the proper permits and the neighbors knew we were a DV shelter.

        1. tangerineRose*

          That’s awful! If I live near a place where there might be domestic violence, wouldn’t I want the police to come out if there is any trouble?

          1. Jess*

            In theory – though here again, there are issues with the system. Police generally are woefully under-trained in recognizing and supporting victims of domestic violence.

  63. Ms. Ann Thropy*

    Aaaaand 2020 has a new leader in the Worst Boss of the Year competition. What an ass.

  64. Are We There Yet*

    I would like to address just one point in Alison’s response regarding the political protest arrest. 1. Even if not convicted it will show up on your background record for the rest of your life unless you get the record expunged. 2. For anyone holding a security clearance i.e with the Department of Defense (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Airforce, etc. , I believe this would instigate an instant investigation if not outright revocation. They don’t mess around with Secret and above level clearances.

    1. Brownie*

      Or BLM, DOE, FBI, NSA, or any contractor for any government agency where the clearance is needed for work. Even a family member or roommate’s arrest can become a trigger for an investigation of the clearance. If there is an arrest it’s best to always notify whoever is the boss in charge of the clearance before the internal monitoring catches it. Self-reports can save a clearance as hiding/not reporting an arrest is a giant red flag for the investigators.

    2. Crisis/DV worker*

      Also, if you haven’t already done so, please tell Sansa you’re willing to testify about witnessing the trespass/attempted assault and encourage your company to press charges. DV victims need outside support to validate claims that their abuser can dismiss for lack of evidence.

  65. Crisis/DV worker*

    This isn’t just asshole behavior, it is extremely dangerous. It shows, at the very least, dangerous victim blaming. At worst, it is an easy way to subtly support the abuser/abusive and misogynistic behavior by allowing the actions of an abuser to threaten a victim’s employment, which is one of the most common control tactics of an abuser. He should not be allowed to continue in any kind of management position. Really, he should be fired immediately especially if he has a history of this. He has said enough to give the company reason to believe he could create/allow a physical threat to employees which has huge potential for negative company blowback, whether by lawsuit or reputation damage (imagine of he had been able to fire her, did so, and she ended up forced to return to her abuser and he killed her- that legitimately happens!!) OP if you’re reading this, please advocate for his removal.

    1. HRArwy*

      Yes! This!

      An employee’s safety was compromised through no fault of their own and then Fergus blames them. I would be very much questioning his judgement as a leader.

  66. TurtleIScream*

    Fergus is awful.

    But, I want to focus on how amazing the other building tenants have been. I love that they were willing to work with you and put cross-company policies in place to protect your employee. That really is a beautiful thing.

    And, Fergus is awful.

  67. Smh*

    Fergus is a manager?! That is deeply concerning on many levels. You need to have this conversation documented with HR. It might start a hell of a storm, but it’s worth it in the long run. Any reasonable organization will not keep him as a manager and possibly not even as an employee, because he is a liability. It is just a matter of time when he will do or say again something insensitive.

  68. It's mce w*

    This is infuriating. Maybe get in touch with a DV organization where a representative could speak about DV victims and survivors could face from their abusers at their place of work so that Fergus gets a reality check.

    1. Observer*

      I wouldn’t bother. The problem here is not ignorance. It’s lack of humanity and empathy. And a lack of understanding that if you don’t actually have empathy, you should replace it with some reasoned ethical behavior.

      This is not something that hearing about DV is not going to change.

    2. Avasarala*

      Agree with Observer. Fergus had a DV victim/survivor at his place of work, this is how he responded. One training or workshop or very special episode can’t overcome a lifetime of ignorance, privilege, and lacking empathy. Don’t subject the DV org rep to mongoose turds like Fergus.

  69. IrishEm*

    May I yeet Fergus into the Sun?

    He’s a man who clearly has no kindness or empathy in him.

  70. Slow Gin Lizz*

    Somehow I glossed over this the first time I read this: Fergus rolled his eyes when OP told him that it was their job to provide a safe working environment. Rolled his eyes. So he could be fired entirely on the basis that he doesn’t seem to think providing a safe working environment is important. I would love to hear what other insensitive things Fergus has said before this. What a nob. What an absolute nob.

  71. PLM*

    I’m wondering how a business should respond though to an employee who repeatedly tells co-workers that there may be problems with her possibly violent boyfriend coming to the office. Last year one of my co-workers came into our small office and warned us that she was worried her violent now ex may come and cause problems and she’d already called the police. We were all very supportive and worried for her and our own safety. Every few months we were given the same warning and told she’d got back together with her ex, and had now broken up again. This has happened 4 times now and I’m frankly fed up with having to worry about my safety at the office. I’m sympathetic to the fact that it is often hard to leave an abusive relationship, but what are the employer’s options/ resposibilities here?

    1. Blueberry*

      Options include asking the experts for advice at the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1−800−799−7233 , if the employer is within the US. There are security protocols (which are a good idea to have set up anyway) and possibly restraining orders and other ways to legally bar an individual from a location.

      It’s frightening to have to worry for one’s safety. I hear you. But please remember, while your link to the situation is your coworker, the engine driving the situation is her boyfriend’s choice to be violent and threatening. I’m really sorry she’s stuck in an on-again, off-again cycle with him, and hope she can get out of it safely, that you and your office can be safe. But I don’t think terminating her employment would actually be a step towards safety for the office or for you.

      1. Wintermute*

        I agree in part dissent in part. He is driving it, but she is bringing him, repeatedly, into their lives. There’s a limit to how much risk you should require other people to take on someone else’s behalf.

        It also depends the level of risk, of course, if this is “hire an armed security guard at great expense” or “institute new policies that are a hardship on employees and a cost to the business (no single-person-on-duty shifts, allowing people to only use a single entrance, no food delivery in the lobby, etc)” it’s hard to justify compared to just “we have policies about visitors and we’re more stringent about them than most places are.” If it’s just a matter that you’re more aware of the issue and institute good best practices but there’s not an actual high level of real danger, just the need to be aware, then I’d say she’s doing you a backdoor favor by making you a company with some awesome policies to keep employees safe which have benefits not just for her, but anyone else that may find themselves in a tough situation: whether that’s domestic violence, a craiglist deal gone ugly, an abusive estranged relative or a loon who is incensed you were wrong on the internet and ties to track you down.

        But if there’s more serious disruption or people are saying this is causing them anxiety and stress, they have to consider their primary mission as a business and ability to attract and retain good employees If I was at a place like that… I’d leave, I have job options, I’m not going to stick around to potentially get hurt because they insist I allow that into my life as a condition of employment, I signed up to be an IT admin not a soldier. I think we can all agree that it’s a continuum and that we need to be aware leaving someone dangerous the first time rarely sticks, but somewhere between the first time and the fifth “do whatever it takes, you owe it to her” starts being tempered with “how much stress, anxiety and insecurity is everyone else working there expected to take?” and “how much disruption to our office and business can we allow before it starts to hurt us?”

    2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      You don’t feel safe because of this person’s dangerous relationship.
      Safety measures need to be implemented because of this relationship but also because of any other possible relationships.
      As someone else said above, if someone trips over a kerb, you don’t fire the person, you put bright yellow paint on the kerb so nobody will miss it.
      Why should it be any different with DV?

  72. MS*

    Employment lawyer here: 1. there are courts that have recognized discrimination against survivors of domestic violence as a form of sex discrimination; 2. Some states don’t have an explicit domestic violence provision, but have protections for people who report crimes or otherwise testify in a legal proceeding which can cover DV. I don’t know if this covers Sansa. 3. YOU can get extra legal protections for opposing discrimination by framing the way they are treating Sansa as sex discrimination.

  73. Jaybeetee*

    Semi-serious question: Does Fergus know the ex? Is he friends with the ex?

    That is some catastrophically bad judgment on Fergus’ part. People may think/feel weird things, especially in response to stress, but that those words made it out of his mouth, that he thought the others were agreeing with him, that he was sullen when he realized they didn’t agree. Fergus has some very very bad thinking going on. Fergus should not be in charge of humans.

    1. Wintermute*

      I think this is good to call out, actually, you made me think of something I hadn’t before. Now maybe this is going out to extremes of “what-if-ism” to justify Fergus, but it is worth a conversation. Maybe this isn’t a safe topic for him? Children of abusive relationships can develop weird reactions to abusive relationships. Some of them, even otherwise very rational, sensible people with a good handle on violence and abusive behavior (hell, the guy who literally wrote the book on the topic, Gavin De Becker, seriously has this going on) lean REALLY hard into the “once is a victim twice is a willing volunteer” thing as a result of growing up a victim of an abusive home.

      1. Observer*

        Nope to the nth degree.

        I can’t speak to whether being a DV survivor would warp someone’s view so much. But regardless, if the conversation is really “not safe” for him, then he needs to find some way to let others have the conversations and do what needs to be done. What he DOES not get to do, even if he happens to be a DV survivor, is to BLAME a DV victim. Especially not with the claim that she was “unprofessional” because her abusive ex lied his way into the building!

  74. Kathlynn (canada)*

    I am a big supporter for recognizing and finding resources for men who face domestic violence. But I do wonder if Fergus’s reaction would have been “lets fire him” if the DM victim in this letter was a guy. Or if the abuser would have been seen as a crazy lady and not a reflection on the victim. Because yes, I think a main part of Fergus’s response is from sexism, but not in a way that would be easy to prove. And yes, I do agree with other users, that his past disciplinary actions should be reviewed.

  75. Anon for a Sec*

    So, I am both a manager in a social services agency and DV survivor who had her (now ex)partner show up at the office screaming and yelling and covered in blood and threatening suicide.

    This is horrible behavior from Fergus, and it’s not okay. Also, a LOT of people in the world are not aware of the dynamics of domestic violence. At all. They have no idea. In their mind, it’s no different than if one of their employees were a drug dealer with buyers showing up at the office waving guns around because they got shorted on their cocaine. They think it’s just unprofessional drama. And let me tell you, when I was on the receiving end of my ex’s behavior, I sure FELT like I was the source of unprofessional drama. I felt incredibly embarrassed and guilty. Humiliated. Stupid. It took a lot of therapy and support for me to see it differently. So it’s not shocking that there are managers out there who don’t get that it’s not just run-of-the-mill “personal conflict”.

    That’s not an excuse for him. And his boss need to tell him that he’s out of line for sure. The dynamics of domestic violence are twisted, complex, and hard to wrap your head around. For the sake of the DV victim in this situation and any future DV victims Fergus might encounter in his career, I don’t think it would hurt to try some education as well.

    1. a passerby*

      I don’t think Fergus is salvageable at this place. I’d have no confidence in his judgement or ability to empathize on any level after this.

  76. WoodswomanWrites*

    OP, I hope you will submit an update on how this all plays out. I wish all the best to Sansa.

  77. I can't remember my username*

    There are some states, like California and Washington, DC, where employers are not allowed to fire employees for being victims of domestic violence. The OP should look into whether their state has this protection. (These laws often say that the employer can’t discriminate against an employee or an applicant for being a victim of domestic violence.)

  78. ZarinC*

    Wouldn’t it be funny to have someone (do you know any actors?) come into your office and cause a huge scene, claiming to be a friend/ex of Fergus? See how professional he is when confronted by bizarre behavior he has no control over. Maybe then OP can even tell him he should be fired for being unprofessional.

    1. Avasarala*

      Even if that were a good idea (it’s not but I think you’re joking), Ferguses have an amazing ability to understand sympathy and kindness when the recipients are themselves, their families, or “their people”.

  79. Anon for this one*

    I feel like I’ve missed a memo here — as someone with domestic violence in my own past (though thankfully not being brought into the office) I’m pretty sure it would have been standard in all the places I’ve worked to at least have a stern talking to, if not fired outright, if my ex had showed up at the company and caused trouble like this.

    As much as I was a good employee I wasn’t so irreplaceable that they’d take special measures like extra security, rather than just get rid of the problem employee and hire someone else!

    1. Musereader(Lindsay)*

      That is very short sighted, as pointed out in a previous comment, firing you would not solve the problem if he did not know you were fired, and he may still turn up to the employer later and they would be in even more danger if they could not produce you when he comes, so firing you is counterintuitively actually increasing the risk for them.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        yes, and Anon for this one may not be the only person with a problematic personal life.

    2. Observer*

      Well, there are a lot of bad bosses out there. But you should know that any boss that would have fired you because your ex came into the office and made a scene etc. *IS* a bad boss. A very bad boss!

  80. Random IT person*

    My sarcasm would probably get me in hot water – but i`d be tempted to reply “Yo Fergus, YOU did not block this dude from entering – why not?”

    that is, if i were not so stunned that my brain refused to process this for a while…

    I agree with all comments that say Fergus should be investigated, in hiring/firing things etc. – to see if more issues like this pop up. To protect victims, AND the company as well.
    Funny that the interests of Sansa and the company are the same here – protection from Fergus` actions.

  81. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    I would say that even if OP finds that there are no laws protecting DV victims in the workplace, she should act as if there were, because none of the common protections Alison mentioned should ever be overlooked. It’s a matter of doing your moral duty for the sake of doing the right thing rather than being forced to do it by law.

    Thank you for rooting for Sansa, OP.

  82. Hlyssande*

    Firing an employee for being a victim of domestic violence sounds like something local media would be on like white cat fur on dark clothes. Even if OP’s state doesn’t have protections, it’s Not A Good Look for sure.

  83. Persephone Underground*

    Wow, what the hell??? I’m encouraged by the company’s response to this in general, so hope that Alison’s advice works out well. Fergus is suuuuch a d##$. How’d he feel about getting fired for being mugged? It’s just as fair as what he’s proposing! People like him remind me of how upset I get when media call a case of a rape accusation a “sex scandal”. No. This is not about sex, or about her personal life, this is about a crime.

    Aside from specific domestic violence protections, there may be applicable law protecting Sansa as a victim of a crime (the attempted assault, or any other crime her stalker may have committed, or the stalking itself). These seem to mostly protect them from employment consequences for missing work to attend court proceedings, but it seems relevant if you want more ammunition to prove Fergus is a legal risk in a state that has these laws but nothing for dv victims in particular.

  84. Lizzo*

    Maya Angelou had it right: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

    Fergus is a piece of garbage. If you give him a second chance, he will only express the remorse of someone who has been caught, and he’ll go the extra mile to hide his true colors, which will only perpetuate the problems.

    OP, remember that people are watching to see how this is handled. If “[t]his is not the first time he’s said something insensitive about our employees”, people know he’s garbage. If he’s not shown the door immediately, it will poison the entire team. Please encourage whomever has the power to fire him to do so swiftly and immediately. If they’re unwilling to do that, then both you and Sansa (and maybe the rest of your team) need to work together to get the hell out of there.

  85. Anonymous*

    I have some personal experience here, although the circumstances were not identical. I was singled out for redundancy rather than fired despite being the most experienced member of a specialist team, and my ex-partner wasn’t violent but an undiagnosed schizophrenic, although he did engage in substantial coercive control, which is now illegal in the UK.

    I did my best to be reliable and professional at work and not allow my ex’s behaviour to impact on my attendance or productivity, but he would be verbally abusive to me on the phone if I was asked to stay late and he would phone me up every day while I was on lunch to exert his control. The firm were not supportive of me at any point and even tried to get me to work late with no notice despite the fact that he was in hospital and I needed to go and visit him after his operations and knowing that constantly asking me to work late with no notice only made him shout at me on the phone. They knew he was difficult, but rather than let me deal with him in my own way they made sure that I was pushed out at the first opportunity.

    Frankly, I hated the job and not least because I felt so unsupported, but at least while I was there in the office it was a little bit of breathing space. Pushing me out was actually the worst thing they could do, because then I had nowhere else to go and was just under his control 24/7. He sabotaged every effort I made to apply for other jobs. There is a general ignorance around the dynamics of this kind of controlling behaviour and I’m distinctly unamused about the way the firm made it all about them.

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