should I tell my boss about my coworker’s temper tantrum?

A reader writes:

Today at work, something happened that I need some perspective on because I’m still rattled by the incident.

I work in retail-based sales with roughly 50 employees, but just three people at my location (my manager, my coworker, who has about four weeks more tenure in the position than I do, and me). Our boss has been away for a couple of weeks due to personal reasons, so most days lately are just me and my coworker, Pete. Pete is in his mid-30s, has known our boss for several years before this job, and has communicated to me more than once that he has significant amounts of respect for our boss. I had expected him to help out a bit more while she’s out but I don’t mind picking up extra hours and taking charge of routine tasks and projects, plus the overtime this week will be nice before the holidays. Pete is a bit of a slacker, but does always get the necessary things done.

So today, we had a slow but steady stream of clients coming in for service, and while I was doing my paperwork after making a sale, I was listening to Pete working with a new potential client out on the sales floor, and it wasn’t going well. Pete was speaking in a much more casual, low-toned, almost aggressive and definitely condescending voice to this client. The client had decided our prices were too high for his budget and he wanted to check out other options for his needs, and Pete just did not handle it well. He wasn’t overtly rude to the customer, but was very short with him. Then, when the client had left the building and it was just Pete and I in the store, he started yelling. Loudly. He moved to commission last pay period (we all do after our initial new-hire training probation has ended, but caveat: it’s not commission only, we do still receive an hourly compensation, just less hourly than the training pay) so I understood the frustration of feeling like someone just wasted your time, but his reaction went on for around 10 minutes off and on, yelling and swearing about “f@#$ers coming in here and wasting my time” and insulting the client’s weight (he was NOT overweight, but that is absolutely irrelevant).

I immediately shut down. Unexpected loud noises, particularly angry yelling and items being pushed or thrown around or tossed around make me seriously uncomfortable. Yes, it is based in past trauma that I have otherwise worked through and moved on from, but the lingering effect of hating loud noises and the fear of tall angry men screaming obscenities in the same room as me sends me panicking. I went to one of the back rooms as soon as he started yelling and just tried to focus on my own work, but there aren’t any doors between us and I could still hear him loudly yelling angry things at himself, or no one.

Some context: this is my first full-time job, and I’m only about three months in. Pete has a somewhat aggressive personality type. We’ve always gotten along pretty well prior to this and I usually enjoy working with him, and I know his anger wasn’t directed at me, but having him throw such a tantrum over a single client meeting not going well didn’t warrant such a big reaction, and frankly it made me feel unsafe and very uncomfortable in a place I couldn’t leave. I didn’t say anything to Pete about it today, simply stayed in another room for a while doing my own work and stayed busy with clients until I left.

Do I tell my boss? The whole outburst made me feel really really uneasy in a place that used to feel like a second home, around someone I spend 30+ hours with every week. I really think that he should’ve better managed his temper, and I probably should have told him then that he needed to cool it, but honestly, I was too uncomfortable and just trying to focus my mind on anything except my flight or fight reaction. My boss has been reachable by email while she’s out and I think that I should tell her, just at least so she’s aware, and maybe she would talk to him about not reacting so poorly. What do you recommend I do?

WTF, Pete.

Being short with a client who wants to check out other options that better fit his budget is bad enough — but then to lose it entirely once the guy left, and yell and swear and insult the person’s body? That is … not normal behavior and it’s not okay.

And it’s not just you! A lot of people would have been deeply uncomfortable around Pete’s explosion. Your history with trauma undoubtedly made it worse, but it’s not odd or sensitive or anything like that to have the reaction you did. It’s very normal not to feel safe when you’re trapped with a large, angry man who appears to be out of control. (Or with any size person who appears to be out of control, but large, angry men are physically more threatening and there’s a cultural context there that can’t be ignored.)

I do think you should speak to your boss. Unless you’ve continued to feel unsafe in Pete’s presence, it probably can wait until she’s back at work, but at that point you should let her know what happened and that he was so out of control that you had to retreat to a back room and stay there until you could leave for the day. If your boss is at all decent at her job, she’d want to know what happened, and she’d want to address it with Pete.

You can also address it with Pete yourself if you’d like to. You don’t have to, especially if you feel uncomfortable doing that and especially while your boss is away. This isn’t one of those things where fairness requires that you speak to the person first before you escalate it. That applies to things like “could you please turn down your music?” and “the way you’re naming files is messing up our system.” It does not apply to “you lost your temper and were terrifying.” You’re allowed to go straight to someone above him if you want.

But if you do feel comfortable speaking with him about it yourself and you’ve had good rapport in the past, you could say, “When you started yelling about that client last week, it was pretty frightening to be around. You were yelling, swearing, and insulting him. I can’t focus on work around that much anger. Could you not do that around me again?”

This would be in addition to your boss, not in place of it. Your boss needs to know Pete has the potential to explode like that, and needs to make it clear to him that it’s not acceptable.

{ 155 comments… read them below }

  1. BlackBelt Jones*

    Also, Pete needs to know that being condescending toward a potential customer is *not* going to make things go his way!

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Right? I think I would have decided that I wasn’t interested in paying that much to be treated badly by the sales guy, no matter what my budget was.

      1. Amaranth*

        He’s at least unlikely to come back when Pete is working if he decides its worth stretching the budget.

    2. cabbagepants*

      Exactly. Pete turned the potential customer from “not going to make a purchase today” into a “never considering doing any business, ever.”

          1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

            Nobody else HAD to be in the store for the news to spread like lightning! Remember that old saying that “A happy customer will tell five people, but an unhappy one will tell TEN people”? Not any more! All an unhappy customer has to do is get on the internet and tell an unlimited number of people about their godawful experience at ———– Company. Your colleague has quite possibly put off dozens or even scores of people from patronizing your store…and your manager will surely be well aware of that!

    3. Mel_05*

      Seriously. I had someone act this way towards me in one of my favorite stores. I spend a ton there, but even if I’d never bought anything, I don’t know what she thought was going to happen by chiding me for just trying things on two weeks in a row.

      What did happen was that I wrote corporate and told them I didn’t appreciate it.

      1. allathian*

        Looks like that store didn’t have too many customers, if an employee could remember what you did there last week. Sure, it’s nice to be recognized as a regular customer, but not this way.

    4. Lady Meyneth*

      My mom is not quite obese, but close, and we shopped together often in the before times. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve walked away from stores where I actively wanted something, due to workers being condescending or making obvious weight “jokes”, gestures included, in her general direction. It’s depressing, and I’m only grateful mom is pretty clueless and mostly doesn’t notice.

      1. WS*

        I am fat, and once I walked into a regular-size clothes shop to buy my little sister a bag she wanted for her birthday. They promptly said “We don’t have anything in your size here!” despite an entire wall of bags and a counter full of accessories. My sister was fine with getting something else once she heard about that.

        1. TTDH*

          Ugh, that is the worst, and so wrong and unnecessary. Back in the 90s when I spent more time at the mall there was a particular store with a name made up of three odd numbers that was the worst offender for that.

        2. Mr. Tyzik*

          I’m built like a farmgirl and went to a chi-chi store once for a gift for a friend – same thing. “We don’t have anything that will fit *you*.” I told her to f herself and left and never went back. I bought from somewhere else.

          That mall store has long since gone bankrupt. I laughed when I read about it in the news.

        3. Ubi Caritas*

          I’m “large” but my daughters are quite petite. I can’t count the number of times a saleslady told me they didn’t have anything that would fit me. I would give them “The Look” and say “I have daughters,” then leave. Obviously I’m not going into stores now but there are some great places I shop online.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        After being told by a barista that they wouldn’t sell me a cupcake because I’m fat and obviously need healthier food (they said it was like selling booze to a visibly drunk person) I not only boycotted their place but also wrote a complaint to management. I’ve got a right to exist and be treated equally regardless of my weight.

        Much love and hugs to you and your mum.

        1. allathian*

          What? That’s insane. I’m so sorry this happened to you. I hope that barista got fired. Business is business and money isn’t worth less just because it came out of a fat person’s purse!

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            No idea to be honest mate. I got back a standard ‘thanks we will look into this’ response from the company and I’m not going anywhere near a coffee shop till Covid is over!

            (Given that all coffee shops are closed down here – UK lockdown 2.0 – I am pretty certain they’re not working there though!)

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      Yes, especially commission-based sales.

      I used to work in the back office of a financial services business that had a big commission-based sales force. Some of them seemed to have a really hard time with the inevitable ups and downs in their paychecks – calling us to beg to get a commission in for this month instead of next, etc. I wondered how fairly well-paid people with years of experience who were being trusted by their clients to give financial advice hadn’t adapted to deal with it, but I guess it’s just not the right fit for everyone.

      (The angst would be totally understandable in lower paid positions where it’s hard to develop a cushion, but some of these folks were doing fine financially and just couldn’t manage their cash flow.)

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

        “I wondered how fairly well-paid people with years of experience who were being trusted by their clients to give financial advice hadn’t adapted to deal with it” sometimes it’s because they are expected to look/act to a certain image. I had a friend that worked in an interior design office like this…she was told she needed to wear designer clothes, have her hair “done”, drive an appropriate car, have certain accessories (jewelry, phone etc.) and she wasn’t even a client rep… she was an assistant.

        1. staceyizme*

          “Yeah, boss. I’ll get right on that… as soon as I have a $1500 per month clothing allowance, an $800 per month car allowance and a $1000 per month mani/ pedi/ hair allowance… oh! and the trainer!! $400 should cover it because I don’t mind group classes… WHAT, NO? Okay. Then I have to work with my salary as it’s paid out currently and my humble hair, clothes and car will have to do…”

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

            “Okay, you’re fired.”

            This IS the way for businesses that rely on their image to bring in certain clients. If they want Prada/BMW/Rolex/iPhone clients to drop $200,000 on a new kitchen, all of the employees need to look like they speak the language of money, status and privilege. Even retail stores often require their associates to buy/wear the clothes they sell so customers identify with or trust them to make recommendations.

            1. Ariaflame*

              But it then should be a business expense, covered by the company if they are the ones mandating that image.

            2. Xenia*

              Retail stores that require expensive also usually provide an employee discount and/or some sort of payment assistance plan.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Annnnd this is how I got to be very anti-commission structure. Just pay the employees ffs.
        It’s extremely hard to tell if people can’t manage their cash flow when they have boom-bust cycles. During the boom, they have to dig out of all the problems that developed during the last bust. But by the time they almost cover the gaps, another bust cycle comes up. When you add in upkeep for “appearances” such as car and clothes, it’s just a bad set up.

  2. Kella*

    I hate to say it, but if this change in behavior shortly followed a change in the structure of his wages, there’s a good chance it will happen again. It could’ve been a random one-off thing but… unless he later apologizes for his behavior, it sounds like he saw nothing wrong with how he was acting, which means there’s nothing stopping him from acting that way again the next time he misses out on a sale.

    1. MusicWithRocksIn*

      That’s why I feel like OP should reach out to the boss right away. There was no indication that the boss would be back soon, and leaving it hanging in the air for a long time could make someone already hesitant even more hesitant to say anything. Email the boss now, that way if there is another outburst before the boss gets back the boss won’t be hearing that it has happened several times and is only now finding out about it.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        Right! My boss would want to know about something like this, and he would want to know right away. I’ve delayed telling him something in the past because he was dealing with some other stressful situations. Sometimes there’s not a great time to deliver bad news! But my boss told me afterward that he would prefer to hear about things sooner so that he can be on top of it. ESPECIALLY in a situation where someone made me or anyone else feel uncomfortable. If you don’t feel safe to go to work, the time to say something is NOW.

        1. Op here*

          Yeah, I ended up emailing my boss right after I sent this to Alison. She’s really involved with us, super caring and is really focused on making sure things are going well in every aspect of the business. I know she’d want to know, and she called me within half an hour of me sending the email to address it. I’m really lucky to have a manager like her.

          1. Hlyssande*

            I think we’re all super happy to hear that you contacted the boss and she was very responsive. <3

          2. Knope knope knope*

            I’m glad to hear this!! I rarely disagree with Alison but I was also going to suggest talking to your boss immediately. I was also nervous about boss talking to Pete and then you having to continue to work alone with him. Please keep us updated.

    2. Not A Girl Boss*

      I agree that if he doesn’t apologize, its a sign he didn’t realize it was wrong. We all have bad days but normal people feel sheepish about it afterward.

      This was something I had to coach my husband on. In his younger years, he just seemed to really… genuinely enjoy?… screaming swearing spells. Like, he delighted himself with the unique insults he came up with.
      Especially when driving. It was deeply unattractive.
      He said it made him feel better, and he wasn’t doing it *at* me so why did it upset me so much? It took a lot of explaining to get him to understand that it wasn’t a “victimless crime” and once he finally had that lightbulb moment, he stopped doing it. It had just genuinely never occurred to him that his behavior was problematic (I blame my mother-in-law but that’s another story).

      But… he was my significant other, and had a ton of other redeeming qualities, and it was my CHOICE to continue to live with it and work with him on it. And honestly, I believe that he had enough self-awareness, even then, not to vent out loud at work.
      This is not something that people should have to put up with at work. Maybe one time, followed by profuse apologizing, but not as a casual Tuesday. So someone (your boss) needs to promptly explain to him that this is not appropriate behavior.

  3. Interviewer*

    The way he spoke to the customer may need some review, and it’s possible that guy called in to complain later, but I would definitely alert the boss about his outburst,. Your boss needs to understand you did not feel safe at work with him in a tantrum.

  4. Calyx Teren*

    The incident might have been caught on security camera, which would provide a useful objective source of truth if it was audible and complete. However—I’m not a security person—don’t some security camera records get overwritten after X period of time? You might want to look into this (or tell your boss sooner so she can look into it) so that your boss can access the record if there is one before it is erased.

    1. High Score!*

      It seems everyone has missed the point that Pete has known Manager for several years. I suggest taking this to HR instead. Manager may will be biased toward Pete.

  5. WellRed*

    I’m shocked that two very new hires have been left without any supervision or access to the boss. Also, sounds like Pete isn’t cut out for sales.

    1. WellRed*

      Ahh, I just realized she is reachable by email. Not great, but OK. I’d wait till you can discuss with her (unless you feel unsafe).

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s pretty standard for retail. Especially after both have finished their training periods.

    3. Jayn*

      Suddenly having flashbacks to one terrible shift I had working security (I should never have taken the shift, but that wasn’t the only problem). It happens, unfortunately.

    4. Op here*

      Yeah it wasn’t ideal for sure, boss had planned one week of normal vacation, but had a family emergency and needed to leave the state and take an extra week, so things were very last-minute and murky, but we did have a nearby store for support and our grand boss is always responsive too. I think tensions and stress were just really high that days for us both.

      1. High Score!*

        As Manager has a past relationship with Pete, she may feel that she can trust him and is likely biased toward him. I suggest taking this to HR 1st bc my experience tells me that she’ll make you out to be in the wrong when you tell her.

      2. Hazel*

        Tensions and stress may have been high for both of you, but only one of you opted for a frightening temper tantrum/extended rant!

        1. Malarkey01*

          Agree! Please don’t downplay his behavior OP. I’ve been stressed at work, I have let a curse word or two fly, or a “well that sucked” at a louder voice while commiserating with a coworker, I’ve even said “I need a minute” and took a quick walk around the block. I have never gone on a screaming rant, that’s just so far outside of normal behavior. It’s also such an outsized reaction to a normal small annoyance at work, it’s a customer declining a sale.

  6. TimeTravlR*

    I am older and wiser and, having been in a similar position, I felt very comfortable giving the person a WTF look and saying, Dial it back, dude!

    1. I'm just here for the cats.*

      But if you’ve had past trauma, such as domestic abuse, then that may not think to do that, or could be scared to. From my experience when things like this happen to domestic abuse survivors you freeze and try to make yourself invisible, because you don’t want the rage directed at you.
      Depending when the boss will come in again I would not wait and I would send an email now. This is very scary and traumatic.

      1. Hlyssande*

        This this this.

        Trauma makes people react in different ways, but the ‘freeze/become invisible/submit to avoid getting the rage/harm directed at you’ reaction is hella common. I honestly think it’s one of the hardest things for people who haven’t experienced that kind of trauma to imagine/empathize with.

    2. Batgirl*

      It’s only wise if you have some clue it is a safe situation; they aren’t always. I’ve been in ‘similar situations’ where my instincts told me I could safely glare the person down and others which told me to leave for my safety.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Unfortunately to survive retail, one should learn this skill. I do understand and am very concerned about people with History. My best thought there is to stay out of retail. There are some arenas where anything goes and it’s okay.

  7. Pyjamas*

    Pete’s been at the job for 4 months (he has four weeks seniority to OP who’s been there 3 months) and has recently finished the training probation. He’s in his thirties. Yeah, manager should definitely know and OP should document any further incidents.

    Also, can clients (existing or prospective) drop by the office? Even if OP was not intimidated by the outburst, a customer would see major red flags. OP might usefully point out the business angle as well as HR issues

    1. AnonEMoose*

      That’s what I was thinking? What if another potential customer had walked in and heard part of Pete’s ranting? I’d have turned around and walked right back out again!

  8. Daffy Duck*

    Commission sales, really any sales, you need to be personable to customers no matter if they buy from you or not. Especially in big-ticket items, where customers may browse for weeks before buying, and come back to a specific salesperson on another day.
    As a customer, if I saw an employee acting like that I would leave and not come back. It is not only hard on OP, but likely to scare off future business.

    1. EPLawyer*

      My husband was looking to buy a new car. He checked each dealer’s stock online. We test drove A LOT of cars. I mean this was a major undertaking (I bought my last car in one afternoon). He finally narrowed in on the one he wanted. the dealership I had bought my last car at had exactly what he wanted. He goes in, tells the guy he wants to put a hold on the car with a token payment then finish up the paperwork. He wanted to pay cash for the deposit. Guy said his sales manager wouldn’t let them accept cash. Okay, so we walk.

      Hubby really wanted THAT car. So we go back. Hubby had talked to them on the phone. This was literally signing the papers. He had told them he had an hour then he had to leave to go to work. He also said he was not sitting in anyone’s office to go over financing, etc. He had a time limit. Everything going well. Until the guy says, well know you have to meet with our finance manager. Husband says nope, not doing that. I just want to sign the papers and get out of here. Finance manager comes out and starts BERATING my husband for sticking to his time limit on the deal and not wanting to sit down for a heart to heart with the manager. He even says “You got a good deal on this car, why are you behaving this way.” yeah really. At that point, Husband says “Okay we’re done here” and starts to leave. I smarted at the Finance Manager, “I have never had so much trouble trying to give people money.” The Finance Manager LOST it at that point and literally starting coming at me yelling. Husband was pulling at me because he did not want to see me get into it any further with the Manager (he feared for the Manager, I was not happy). There were other customers in the show room, their heads WHIPPED around when the Finance Manager lost it at me. His people got between him and me and were literally pushing him back.

      I often wonder how many other customers just walked out after that scene.

      Husband bought the car with fewer features at a another dealership. All paperwork done online. When he showed up to sign everything, they were all smiles. When he objected to electronic signing, they said “No problem” and printed off hard copies. It was all done within his time limit.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I would love to know what was going through Finance Manager’s head. I know that car dealerships make more off of the car loan than the actual car so they really, really, really want you to finance with them. But some money is better than no money and now they have none from this sale. Does the technique ever work? Or is it just so rare that they run into someone paying up front?

      2. Mel_05*

        Ugh. So smart to not want to sit down with their finance person. I had an otherwise lovely car buying experience absolutely torched by the finance guy. He was super aggressive and messed up our paperwork in three different ways that we only discovered later because of legal stuff we had to deal with.

        1. CowWhisperer*

          When we purchased my car, the finance person attempted to show us why we “needed” to buy an extended warranty plan using a graph that someone somewhere thought was a good idea.

          After watching him get lost in the middle of the graph, I looked at him and said “I come from a science/math background. Your axes are backward, the way you are measuring repair instances is faulty, and the line should be a normal curve rather than a logistic one because eventually all of the cars will be junked and therefore not incur any more repairs after 30-40 years or like 400,000 miles. More practically for this conversation, we’ve assumed that the van will need some fairly large repairs in the 5 year range and the price we paid reflects that. What’s next in the packet of papers?”

      3. voluptuousfire*

        Sounds like when I bought my car two years ago. I had both a potential car loan via a credit union and money I borrowed from my dad for the car and once the salespeople found I was either paying cash or had my own loan, the service went down 50%. I left since they were so uninterested in me since I wasn’t going to finance through them. Why pay 12% when I went through the credit union and my percentage was 4%? A strongly worded review was left online for this dealership.

        I went to another dealership and they were fantastic. A sweet, friendly younger guy who stayed with me the whole time and helped me find another car when the car I inquired about turned out to be a lemon. Everything went swimmingly and I was done in 3 hours.

        1. Solana*

          I bought a car at the place where my brother worked, and we both brought in our birth certificates to prove we were siblings for the family discount. The seller was great, I found my dream car quickly, and was ready to write them a check. I sat down with someone else to do the paperwork while he tried to talk me into a warranty, sees my birth certificate, and starts trashing the city I was born in. (Tiny city in my neighboring state.)
          The ONLY reason I didn’t say anything is that I didn’t want to make work difficult for my brother, but it’s not wise to insult someone ready to write you a check for a nice car.

      4. SnappinTerrapin*

        All the car dealers I worked for, the “finance manager” or “business manager” handled the paperwork or “spun the paper,” whether it was a cash sale or financed. The dealers I worked for were happy to accept cash, although the “back of the house” sales were also good sources of revenue.

        I always told my customers that every financial product they would hear about in the office was designed to meet some customer’s needs, but that didn’t mean every product met every customer’s needs. I suggested they listen and ask questions, and make the decision that met their needs.

        I generally worked with good, reasonable people (there are a few in the industry) and this worked for us.

        On the other hand, I worked for a few people who could never have sold to me or my family, because we have a low tolerance for bullying. I have heard salesmen brag about staging tantrums to pressure customers. That may have worked for them at other dealerships, but wouldn’t have been tolerated at the dealership we were working for.

        Our clientele were too sophisticated for those games. The soft sell was far more effective than a hard sell for people interested in that niche brand of car. Most of my sales took months to close, a few took over a year, although I had several repeat customers in the couple of years I was at that dealership.

        The most effective way to deal with a bullying salesperson is to just say no and walk away. Ironically, if you just say no and sit there, the bully is likely to weaken. The longer you can wait quietly, the more afraid they become that you will take your business elsewhere.

        Even so, decide where your boundary is, and stick to it. They can’t make you spend your money. The same car is available at another dealership. Heck, I have worked deals where I went to the other dealer to get the car for the customer. We just swap cars between dealers and make the deal. Depending on circumstances, it might cost a little more, but sometimes it’s worth it to know the commission and profit go to someone willing to actually “earn your business.”

      5. Barb*

        “he had a time limit” but was test driving cars all day? This doesn’t sound as reasonable as you think it does, for anyone with customer service experience.

        1. mlem*

          He had a time limit TO GET TO WORK and told them that GOING INTO THE SIGNING. Even if the test drives were the same day (which it doesn’t sound like), if that was a problem for them, they should have said it then, not tried to bait-and-switch him into being strong-armed by finance. EPLawyer’s story sounds entirely reasonable to me, and I have customer service experience.

          1. staceyizme*

            Never mess with a client. You might think that the power is on your side, but you’d be wrong. Clients are generally very focused on what they want and will put up with a little bit of inconvenience or even attempts to upsell. But if you cost them time, money or dignity, it will impact your sales, reputation and any prospect of future business with whoever is bombarded by their tale of woe whether it’s a bad review or “OMG, you CAN”T go with that company… let me tell you what they did to ME…!”.

            1. Mr. Tyzik*

              I was car shopping a few years ago, had my Costco price, and called my fave dealership to see if they would honor. No, they have “one price” and “don’t haggle” for my “convenience”. So I called another dealership, made the arrangements, and bought from there.

              A week later the sales guy I had talked to at the first dealership called and asked, “Are you still interested in the car?” I told him I’d already bought it. His voice deflated. I told him he’d had his chance and hung up.

              It felt good.

              1. Middle Aged Lady*

                My nephew was buying his first car and my spouse was cosigning. He decided on a car on a day I could not be there. When he said we will be back next Saturday with my aunt to close the deal, the salesman told the guys they should buy and just tell the little lady later. Guess what? He lost the sale and they told him why.

  9. Mystery Bookworm*

    OP, I may be way off-base here, but just in case: while your past experiences may have made you extra-sensitive to some triggers, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being over sensitive.

    Your instincts in this scenario are right on.

    1. hayling*


      I had a coworker with a temper problem who was good friends with the person I shared an office with. He would come into our office and explode with rage and I had to leave every time because it made me so uncomfortable.

  10. Observer*

    OP, PLEASE tell your manager. And if Manager just blows it off let headquarters know. Of course, management may be inept and not do anything, but you’ll never know till you try.

    This behavior is NOT ok, and it would be NOT OK even if you didn’t have a history of trauma. In fact, it’s so not ok, that I wouldn’t even bring up the history, because if your management is lazy, they will try to focus on that rather than on the misbehavior.

    1. Totally Minnie*

      I was going to suggest the same thing. I’m a trauma survivor myself, and I’ve found that in some cases, telling people I reacted to a bad thing because of my history of trauma makes the person focus on how the bad thing was a problem *for me* and not how the bad thing was a problem in general. Pete’s behavior is not a problem *for you.* Pete’s behavior is a problem, full stop. Tell your boss what you overheard from his conversation with the customer, and then tell her about how he spoke and acted when the conversation was over. A person without a history of trauma will still be able to look at that and know that Pete is not behaving appropriately.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I completely agree.
      His behavior was wrong, unfair, and scary. Period. To anybody.

      Don’t bring up your past; it’s not germane. Anyone would find that inappropriate and incredibly unpleasant.

      I would actually also make a point of the fact that he was getting snotty with the customer, and that it may have been a factor in the customer’s leaving without a purchase, and might influence the customer to not come back at all. It is affecting productivity objectively, not just in you.

      1. Mr. Tyzik*

        Agreed. Take your background out of it and stick to the tantrum and behavior you witnessed. It’s enough to stand on its own without additional justification.

  11. OkapiFeels*

    OP, you absolutely have to tell your boss. I recently went through a similar dilemma–the incident where my coworker screamed and threw things occurred while our direct manager’s position was vacant. We have a new manager now, and I went in circles with myself about whether I should tell my new manager about it. In my case, I knew the incident had been addressed by a senior administrator who overheard the incident, so I worried that making a point of telling the new manager would be gossipy, or out of line.

    I am glad I told my manager, and I think she had a good point: knowing about these things is crucial for her in order to help her make decisions relevant to that employee. And if it’s going to actively impact your relationship with that coworker, then that’s helpful to know. I have a similar trauma-based reaction to anger in other people, and this incident really impacted a formerly close relationship. My manager may have encouraged or assigned close, collaborative work for us to do together that I’d no longer be comfortable doing.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      Also, the person who addressed it ought to have clued in your new boss as relevant management context as part of their onboarding (no, when your manager leaves, you don’t start with a completely blank slate with a new manager, or at least not usually!). It was right to bring it up with your new manager but I’m raising my eyebrows that this wasn’t discussed already – also what else wasn’t handed over?

      1. OkapiFeels*

        My new manager was actually told about it–but the version she’d been given was very light on details; she said the impression she’d been given was just that my coworker had said something inappropriate to X person, and had been talked to. She didn’t even know that I had been there, or how severe it had been. Which was definitely part of what pushed me to err on the side of saying something–I had a feeling that it had been buried under the rug, which….well, it’s not under the rug, not for those of us that were there. New manager is also an internal promotion, so fortunately she doesn’t need to be caught up on much else.

        (As you intuited, my workplace is wildly dysfunctional. My new manager is someone I worked with previously and trust, though, so I’m looking forward to her instilling some sanity in my life.)

  12. learnedthehardway*

    Another vote for expressing your concern to your manager. Pete is going to drive away customers, quite on top of all of the other legitimate concerns that you have. If you could hear him from the back room, I guarantee you anyone passing by the store could as well.

  13. I'm just here for the cats.*

    But if you’ve had past trauma, such as domestic abuse, then that may not think to do that, or could be scared to. From my experience when things like this happen to domestic abuse survivors you freeze and try to make yourself invisible, because you don’t want the rage directed at you.
    Depending when the boss will come in again I would not wait and I would send an email now. This is very scary and traumatic.

  14. EPLawyer*

    OP 1 — You handled this exactly right in the moment. ANYONE would have wanted out of there. You did so well just separating yourself from him and staying there until it was safe.

  15. Jellissimo*

    I’m going to have an unpopular opinion here, I believe. I think you should talk to Pete. For so many reasons, there are so many additional stressors going on in people’s lives right now, and we could all do with a little more empathy and emotional generosity. If this reaction is out of the ordinary for him, if it surprised you, you may want to ask him if he was okay, or if he has a lot going on right now. Consider the possibility Pete may have a family member in the hospital, may be having trouble navigating the change in how we are all considering the holidays this year, perhaps Pete had a fight with his partner that morning, perhaps it was the anniversary of a trauma and he was already on edge, maybe he is at risk of losing his housing situation, even food precarity. The possibilities are endless. If you feel physically safe around Pete, perhaps you could speak directly to him, tell him you found his reaction disproportionate to the disappointment of not making a sale, triggering to your own sensitivities, and is there some way in which you can help support him. You may find he is embarrassed by his behavior in retrospect and very apologetic to you. Give him the opportunity to explain his actions before you look to categorize him as volatile and potentially jeopardize his employment.

    1. The Morríghan*

      Hard disagree. If OP doesn’t feel safe around Pete or they don’t know how Pete will react being spoken to about his temper, they have every right to not speak to Pete about it at all. Pete needs better self control. So what if Pete had a bad morning? See a therapist, not take it out on clients or any other person.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      That isn’t something the more junior (by 4 weeks but still) staff person should have to take on. This is a conversation a manager can have with an employee, but is way above the pay grade of the newer sales person. We all have a lot of stressors right now, including the LW. Why does Pete get to add to their stressors and make them do the emotional heavy lifting?

    3. Colette*

      None of that makes his outburst OK – nor does it obligate the OP to put herself in a situation where the verbally aggressive person may become physically aggressive.

      And someone who is rude and condescending to a customer, then yells after the customer leaves is jeopardizing his one employment.

    4. Totally Minnie*

      If Pete is in fact in any of those situations, OP’s boss is certainly in a much better position to handle it than OP is.

      It is not wrong for OP to feel uncomfortable around Pete now. Pressuring a trauma survivor to ignore all their warning bells and give a potentially dangerous person another chance is not okay, and feels a lot like victim blaming.

      1. Observer*

        Pressuring ANYONE to ignore alarm bells is not ok.

        I find it interesting that Pete, who did something objective frightening needs to be given the benefit of “emotional generosity” and the emotional labor of his coworker, even as he was unable to muster the most basic emotional regulation while the OP on the other hand is not only not entitled to take generosity, they are not even entitled to act reasonably and rationally on the information they have in hand, nor to take measures to keep themselves safe. Not, THEY are supposed to subordinate their emotional (and possibly physical safety) and not only not not do anything to protect themselves but actually take on the burden of dealing with Pete’s problems.

    5. Observer*

      Are you serious? Even in the case of having a family member in the hospital, his behavior was TOTALLY inappropriate, and there is absolutely no reason that the OP needs to make allowances for it. As for any of the other reasons? To be honest, by the time a person is in their late teens they should have enough emotional regulation to not let their stress out on others.

      “Maybe he had a fight with his SO, so cut his some slack” for this kind of behavior is an appalling thing to expect from people. No one gets to make people feel unsafe because they are having a bad day. And no one has an obligation to try to find excuses for someone who is making them feel legitimately scared.

        1. Quoth the Raven*

          Even if she felt physically safe. Feeling emotionally unsafe, with or without any history of trauma, is a reason just as valid. OP doesn’t need to put herself in harms way in any manner and disregard her own safety, physical or emotional, just to cut someone some slack.

          Being at physical risk should never be the only aspect used to measure whether or not someone, or something, or some place, is safe for someone or not.

        2. Batgirl*

          Your message is so confusing though. First, you say “if you feel safe” but then you say she’s not allowed “to categorize him as volatile and potentially jeopardize his employment”. So just cross fingers and automatically feel safe then? Nope! A good workplace can assess his wellbeing and needs after making sure everyone’s safety is assessed FIRST. I really recommend you read the Gift of Fear. It’s very common for people to feel misplaced guilt when they correctly and intuitively assess someone in the workplace as violent. What if they’re miserable? I mean, that’s a hell of a red herring to delay safety for! Violent people usually are miserable. Oh, and OP is not the one who is endangering his employment. His totally unjustified anger is.

        3. Brusque*

          Pete may or may not have had a bad day, but he definitely made sure OP had a bad day! Why should the person whose day has been made bad be obliged to pay respect of any kind to the person who made their day bad and the person who did a bad thing we know about be entitled to any consideration just because they might have had a bad day?
          This is so silly I really can’t follow!

        4. Observer*

          The others are right.

          Your expectations here make no sense. Even if the OP is fairly confident that Pete won’t actually attack them, it still doesn’t put them under any moral obligation to “cut him some slack” or make any allowances. “He didn’t threaten to beat someone up” is NOT the bar for reasonable or acceptable behavior in an adult.

      1. Batgirl*

        I’m really glad I am not a man whenever someone implies they don’t have any emotional regulation tools whatevs, and their behaving in a terrifying violent way is just no biggie and is probably due to his partner or holiday plans. It’s a serious swipe at the entire gender. This is seriously concerning, non healthy behaviour which needs proper help (help more along the lines of treatment, not ’empathy’) and it needs all eyes and authority on the situation to make sure that the help actually happens.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Just because life is unfair to Pete, does not give Pete free license to be unfair to other people. “No. You can’t pass it on, Pete. OP has had unfair things in life also, and I do not see OP making YOUR work day miserable.”

    6. Not Australian*

      Why are you making excuses for Pete? The simple fact is that as a big man he has a considerable physical advantage over the OP, and he’s demonstrating that by shouting and swearing and throwing a tantrum; those of us who have been on the receiving end of physical violence from angry men are very aware of what comes next – especially if you try to stand up to someone in that sort of mood.

      Pete has a choice. It doesn’t matter what mitigating circumstances there might be in his personal life, he *makes the decision* here to behave obnoxiously to both a client and a co-worker. I wouldn’t be wasting even a split-second of sympathy on a man who behaved like that. The ability to behave in a non-violent manner in the workplace, towards those whose co-operation we need for our business to be successful and for us all to prosper, is a bottom-line minimal requirement as basic and almost as obvious as the general need to wear clothes.

      Personal safety is the least OP should be able to expect here, and with Pete around and in such a volatile condition that is very far from guaranteed at the moment. It’s definitely time for management to be involved.

    7. tamarack and fireweed*

      I think Alison struck exactly the right balance on that. Sure, I would probably talk to the co-worker myself, but I’m also a hard-nosed busybody with no acute trauma of this kind. So that’s on me, not an example for others to follow.

      All you’re saying about “Pete” is true – he may have an off-day, he may be reacting to stressors we know nothing about, he may be feeling sheepish, or he may not realize the effect loud ranting can have, and may be a fast learner who feels mortified. But none of this is the LW’s job to manage – it’s the manager’s. The manager is entitled to make the determination, and a good manager would take all those things into account. The LW has no particular duty to take over the task of approaching Pete about his behavior.

    8. Absurda*

      I’d disagree with this. As others have noted, that’s really the manager’s job and Pete’s behavior (regardless of cause) should not be hand waved away as “probably just a bad day”. And it’s certainly not the OP’s responsibility to “save his job” when he’s behaving this badly.

      I should also note, the OP doesn’t know this guy; they’ve only worked together for 3 months. It’s not like she’s been working with him 10 years and this was the first outburst. She doesn’t know if this is unusual or common behavior for him. It’s the manager that has the prior history with him.

      For all any of us (including OP) knows this could be something he has a history of doing in all his jobs. The manager really needs to be informed of this regardless of whether or not OP wants to bring it up.

    9. D3*

      Oh HELL NO.
      Even if things are rough in his life, this was inappropriate. And if things in this life are so bad that a minor disappointment creates that kind of rage, it is NOT SAFE for OP to confront him.

    10. Brusque*

      Me again. This comment really made my gears turn.
      This line of thinking is so askew I feel the need tocomment on that again.
      Lets talk about fairness.
      How come there are so many people who think it is fair to shift responsibility to people on the receiving end of bad behaviour?
      In this case: here is what we know:
      Pete threw a temper tantrum. This is highly inappropriate and something I’ve never seen a sane man do around me. He didn’t think about the consequences this might have despite those being quite obvious. He didn’t consider the feelings of his coworker even one bit. Even afterwards, as we can see in OP’s response below, he still doesn’t understand how he upset them.
      OP has already told us in their letter that they had bad experiences and feel threatened. So they already had to bear an impact from the bad behaviour of Pete.
      So that’s the situation: person A did something bad, this triggered bad things for person B on top of being highly inappropriate on itself. How on earth is it fair to expect from person B to go up and about to make sure not to hurt person A back and take responsibility for their behaviour by protecting them from the consequences of their own wrongdoing even at the cost of their own wellbeing?
      Why do you shift the responsibility for the consequences from the one earning them themselves to the one already suffering from the bad behaviour? It seems as if the feelings and needs of LW are somewhat less than Pete’s maybe-feelings in your mind.
      If people do wrong its on them. Even if they have suffered before it’s still on them. Other people are not responsible for whatever has befallen them. Why should they still be somehow responsible to take on the burden? Two wrongs don’t make one right.
      If Pete had a bad day that’s tough. But it’s their responsibility to deal with it properly and at least own up if they can’t. LW wasn’t involved in whatever it was IF there even was something. It’s their right to care for themselves and their own wellbeing. Pete isn’t entitled to expect their leniency if he fcuks up at cost of their wellbeing. Pete’s wellbeing isn’t somehow more important than LW’s just because he might have suffered first. They are equals. Which means: if this incident has consequences for Pete, its his fault and his fault alone. Even if LW has reported it simply because the reason of the consequences is still Pete’s bad behaviour in the first place. You seem to think: if they not report it nothing bad would happen. But something bad has already happened to LW in form of Pete’s behaviour and LW is entitled to care for themselves. So LW reporting that bad thing is quite the logical consequence Pete should expect if he behaves badly and something he has to endure if he still does something bad.
      In the end its a question of reason:
      LW’s expectation of Pete to behave like a sane adult and own up if they don’t is reasonable.
      If Pete has the expectation to be able to trow tantrums and for others to just suck it up and find excuses that’s unreasonable.
      Expecting a manager to manage such things fairly isn’t just reasonable but part of their job.
      So no, there is no slack to cut.

    11. YaAuntie*

      Honestly I’m inclined to agree, if OP knows this is something likely to get Pete fired. I work in a stressful job field and venting keeps us sane. If we weren’t able to let off a little steam verbally we’d snap. Thinking Pete will suddenly start beating OP for approaching him about this is way off base.

  16. The Morríghan*

    Wow is there something in the air or are Pete and Carrie (last letter) from the same hideous charm school of ‘ignoring people’s boundaries completely’?

  17. Ray Gillette*

    I have yelled exactly one time in an office setting – it was a single yell to blow off steam after an exceptionally bad call with a really difficult client (that I had stayed behind to handle while everyone else went out to lunch, to boot). I even looked around before yelling to make sure I was alone, but I missed the presence of one coworker who had also stayed behind to catch up on some things instead of going out with everyone else. I was mortified and immediately apologized for my outburst, explaining that I’d thought I was alone and would absolutely not have done that if I’d realized there was another person in the building.

    That was embarrassing enough for me to never, ever yell in the office again, even if I think I’m alone. My coworker and I still get along fine, because she knew it was out of character for me to begin with and my subsequent actions backed that up. Pete carried on for 10 minutes and never apologized. He doesn’t see anything wrong with what he did.

    1. CircleBack*

      I’m a big believer that if you’re yelling it work, it better be because someone’s life is in danger or you have to be heard over heavy machinery. I’d make an exception for “only person in the room,” but as you point out, that’s not always a guarantee! And imagine if someone heard you through the walls from another room/office…
      I could see giving Pete a pass if it was an extremely brief outburst followed by an apology… but it wasn’t, and Pete’s treatment of the OP as if she’s part of an empty room he can yell in is pretty messed up.

  18. Rooting for You*

    This behavior is absolutely not tolerable. Anytime you do not feel safe in the presence of a coworker due to his/her actions, you should bring this up with your boss and if needed, HR.

    Take time to breathe, collect your thoughts and decide how you want to tell your boss about what happened. You can schedule time to talk to your boss or if you are more comfortable, write an email to her. Take time to sort out your thoughts and ask her for what you need. Do you need to not be alone with Pete? Do you need him to demonstrate a different behavior that you can see going forward?

    While your boss is out, you might be able to ask a friend/boyfriend/male relative to come to the store and just check to that you are OK every once in a while (so you’re not alone).

  19. Vic Vinegar*

    I used to work as a real estate agent & my coworkers would go OFF about clients once they left the room. One person would start venting loudly and others would join in.

    I had 0 sales experience at the time, so I thought it was a normal team building activity.

    I would recommend Pete go work there, but they are very, very much out of business.

  20. Anon because I've alluded to this before*

    Following the answer and comments with interest, as I have a similar situation with a “tantrum-throwing” colleague (although we aren’t in sales or dealing with customers; it’s more of a “back office” position), and a history with being on the receiving end of violent and traumatic incidents.

    My colleague doesn’t really complain about other people particularly, but more just seems on the edge of an outburst of frustration most of the time, about things like software malfunctioning when he is trying to upload a document, why is it so difficult to carry out ‘x task’, why is nothing ever easy, I’ve lost 3 ****ing days due to this *** ***ing ***, etc. I wouldn’t say it is yelling but is a raised voice, often accompanied by keyboard bashing or bashing hands on desk etc. (it’s been alleviated a bit by WFH but he still does it, and we have been back into the office a few days here and there, and I was noticeably more on edge because of this).

    Rationally I don’t feel actually threatened by this guy – I know in general there’s a chance of escalation and so on, but I don’t think so in this case – but it does cause my anxiety (that I’ve spent years getting under control) to spike with every one of these incidents, and just throws off your concentration anyway when focusing on something.

    I have been subject to rages and frustration myself, and have to admit I didn’t always keep a lid on it in the past (although I don’t think anyone actually felt intimidated, probably more like an eye roll) but nowadays I try to step away and/or let it out privately, and then express it more indirectly by saying something like “Ugh! I feel very frustrated about situation x, people are so frickin stupid” etc.

    1. Anon because I've alluded to this before*

      Oh, and these outbursts generally happen at least once a day, and the unsettling thing is that he goes from 0 to 60 in a seeming insta-rage, like talking normally one minute about “yep, yep that’s fine I’ll write this into the document, ok I’ve just added a bullet point and I’ll send it back and hopefully that’s the end of it OH YOU’RE **ING KIDDING ME HOW HARD CAN IT BE TO ATTACH A ***ING DOCUMENT TO AN EMAIL!!!!!!! FOR ****s SAKE!!!!” etc. (Sorry for the all-caps!)

    2. Generic Name*

      Honestly, I think it’s completely rational to feel threatened by this guy. He’s behaving violently, so why wouldn’t you feel wary of him?

      1. Anon because I've alluded to this before*

        I’m (out of necessity, I suppose) a good judge of people and have great situational awareness to be able to pick up on signs of when something is likely to escalate further and when it isn’t, so I clearly differentiate “I’m in actual/potential danger” from “my anxiety response has been activated and it’s uncomfortable but won’t result in any further escalation”.

        I won’t go into details here but let’s just say I’ve been finely attuned to “situations that are likely to escalate” from the age of about 7 or 8 before I even really had the language about it (and probably subconsciously before that) and the little signals that go with that.

        1. Roci*

          Maybe you are skilled enough to detect it, but I think most people would be very frightened and wary of a coworker who is constantly blowing up and smashing things and yelling and swearing. I would definitely have reported it to the boss/HR, maybe even the police if he was hitting his surroundings! He sounds like he’s about to melt down and bring a gun to work.

          Being able to know when the situation will escalate is helpful for you, as a potential victim, in securing your own safety. But it doesn’t mean the behavior is acceptable!

    3. Uranus Wars*

      I have a friend like this and it is exhausting, because I never know when a simple statement “I got stuck in the craziest traffic” might turn into a 25 minute angry rant about her car/construction/bill recently passed to approve funding/coworker who was late because of traffic and it is EXHAUSTING. I couldn’t imagine being on pins and needle like that 40 hours a week!

  21. I Love Llamas*

    I spent over 18 years in high stakes, high commission only work. Some people cannot handle the pressure. It is common. That’s why I am now finally out of it. However, you don’t need to be subjected to his angst. You did exactly the right thing when he surprised you with his outburst. You needed time to regroup. Good job. Now that things have calmed down, you have two options and only you can decide what is best for you. Option 1) Address it calmly with Pete now that he has settled down. Tell him that it made you feel uncomfortable and ask him to refrain from another outburst. If you go with this Option, I would still mention it to your manager just so you have documentation. Option 2) Bypass Pete and talk to your manager. I would suggest only discussing the outburst and not his lousy sales approach. I am not a fan of some of Pete’s other behavior of not shouldering the equal amount of the workload, however, you don’t need to address it yet, but you should be documenting it somewhere just in case.. Four weeks is not that much seniority, but I could be wrong. Good luck, stay strong!

  22. Op here*

    Thank you all for weighing in! As soon as I hit ‘send’ to Alison, I fired off a similar email to boss, figuring that she would address when/if she was able to. Well…about 20 minutes later, my boss called me to talk about it. In the midst of a family funeral on the opposite end of the country, it bothered her enough to talk to me about it right away. (No, she never fully disconnects from work, and yes, she’s an incredibly caring and wonderful manager). She talked to both of us that night (a friday) and touched base that she understood her absence was causing lots of pressure and stress on us, and that she would definitely be back to work the following Monday. Pete came in Saturday afternoon to relieve me of my shift, and I was cordial, talking only about work to debrief him on sales for the day, and he just asked “I didn’t know that bothered you so badly yesterday”. He didn’t exactly apologize, but we did briefly talk about keeping tempers in check at work and avoid overreactions and he did seem to understand. We have several days of not working together between the incident and the next day we were both on the schedule, and my boss is back too.

    1. Mel_05*

      Thanks for the update! I hope he keeps himself in check from here on out and that you’re able to feel safe at work again.

    2. MerBearStare*

      Thanks for the update, OP. I’m glad your boss took it seriously and that Pete seems to understand he needs to keep his temper in check.

    3. Totally Minnie*

      This seems really encouraging, and I’m glad your boss jumped in so quickly to help you. I hope that Pete can stick to strictly professional behavior from here on out.

    4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      A good update! I just wanted to touch on something, which may be nothing and you can dismiss it :-)

      It seems from your OP that Pete is the kind of person who does the bare minimum to get by, although you note that he is meeting all the “necessary” things it seems that he isn’t doing much more than that.

      Just consider, and I may be wrong, whether he has “not exactly apologized” etc in order to smooth things over and deal with this incident, and agreed about keeping tempers in check etc just to see off your manager’s immediate concerns rather than being truly more conscious about his behaviour going forward.

      Btw, there will no doubt be other occasions when your boss is out of the office (I note that she was ‘only’ away for a couple of weeks, so it’s not like it’s been months..) – what happens next time she goes on vacation or is out sick with flu or whatever?

      Are there other sales people besides you and Pete who report to this boss / are part of the same function? (since you said there were a few days before you were next scheduled to work together, so do you work alongside someone else at other times?)

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        Ah, I just realized it is just the 3 of you at this location, with other sales people in other locations. In that case I’m curious about when both of you + boss are working (in normal events), when one or other of you are working and so on — I suppose that depends on the ebb and flow of business in your company so that some periods (e.g. weekends) are more busy than others.

      2. Batgirl*

        Yeah, you’ve put your finger on what bugs me about this guy: “does the bare minimum to get by”.
        It’s not a total indictment of him, but it’s not reassuring either. It’s not out and out badness, but it does imply an untrustworthy weakness. I’d feel judgement was still in limbo if I was the OP. If he was all mortification and concrete actions: signing up for anger management or taking responsibility, I’d feel a lot better about the guy. As it is, OP feels she can talk to him somewhat on the one hand; on the other she’s counting the days she doesn’t have to see him.

    5. BelleMorte*

      That was such a non apology. In fact, he was actually blaming you for the situation with his “didn’t know that bothered YOU” rather than “MY behaviour was inappropriate, I apologize”. Honestly, beware. He does not see this as his fault, he sees this as YOUR fault for “being bothered”. This, frustratingly, isn’t likely going to be the end of this.

      1. LTL*

        It wasn’t an apology, but it didn’t seem like blame or redirection either. Based on the context, it sounds more like acknowledgement.

        I don’t think this guy has fully realized why his behavior was worrying. But I do doubt that he’ll do it again. Sometimes people don’t understand their wrongs but are still receptive to changing their behavior. He sounds like one of those guys.

      2. YaAuntie*

        Overanalyzing interactions turns everyone into an enemy. Suddenly “I didn’t know I was bothering you” turns into a mental jiu-jitsu move. It’s how the average person apologizes. Take it at face value.

        1. Vaguely Sauntering*

          It’s really not how the average person makes an apology.

          Not in my family, not in my friendship circle, and definitely not in my workplace.

  23. JSPA*

    OP, don’t make it about being large or male. Every person, male or female, starts out little, easily frustrated, and with nearly no built-in coping skills. We all have to learn them. And if we screw up, we need to notice ASAP, and apologize, make amends, and commit to doing better (and then, do better).

    I’m shortish and female (if not feminine). I still had to learn that blowing off steam by slamming down books, grumbling swears under my breath, loud sighs, out-loud swears if I thought I was alone, or making theatrical rude gestures at the empty space in front of me were all terribly unprofessional ways of dealing with stress. And furthermore, that they were distressing to esteemed, friendly, normally sympathetic co-workers.

    His freely-expressed bad attitude doesn’t have to be a legitimate threat of violence towards you to be a problem. Your history makes the experience rougher on you, but that’s very nearly beside the point, as you’re not asking for an unusual accommodation. (Though I suppose you could, if boss feels that it’s healthy to blow off steam between customers.)

    He’s stinking up the place, and transferring his stress not to the greater universe (which doesn’t care) but to his very real, present, co-worker. He apparently has enough control not to do it in front of the boss, whom he respects. So what does it say, if he does it in front of you?

    “I have baseline sympathy for your situation because I’m in the same boat, but you lose every shred of it when you take it out on customers, objects, and my nerves” is a completely reasonable stance.

    “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me” is another.

    1. not owen wilson*

      It’s true that it can be distressing when anyone rages regardless of gender, but I don’t think you can ignore that there’s a cultural context for scary, angry men that isn’t as prevalent when you change the gender. A lot of women have had bad encounters with men who get angry when things don’t go their way, whereas women tend to be socialized not to express anger like that. This isn’t a hard and fast rule (otherwise the Karen stereotype wouldn’t exist!) but even personally I tend to get scared when I’m around angry men in a way that I don’t with angry women.

      1. JSPA*

        For sure!

        But if you can avoid making an argument based on gender and body size in the workplace–and make an equally strong argument based on universals–it’s excellent practice to do so.

        Not because sex differences and gender roles have no baggage, no implications, no history and no biological reality. Assuredly, they do. But it’s broadly not appropriate to insist that people of different genders or body shapes should intrinsically conform to different standards.

        NOBODY should be expressing this level of anger at work, whether or not the other people present are smaller, larger, same gender, different genders, same race or different race, same creed or different creed, muscular or waif-like, etc. That’s an eminently reasonable ask.

    2. Batgirl*

      I mean.. it would be nice to disregard gender. To live in that kind of world. But I don’t think anyone who is up on workplace violence would. Its a significant risk factor for spotting if there is any chance of it. Women do things that are wrong and do not regulate their inner toddler sometimes, but they usually operate in a different category. There’s a huge difference between being theatrical and having a frightening loss of control and it makes sense to believe OP as to which it was, since she was there.

  24. LKW*

    Do not wait until your boss is back to give her a heads up. Use your letter to write up your account and email it to her. She needs to have this information sooner rather than later. One client has already walked out the door, and is not likely to return. If at any point another client walked in or was there but out of the line of sight, you would have lost a second customer. And remember, those customers have networks with whom they communicate their experiences.

    Additionally, a 10 minute tantrum (hell even a 2 minute tantrum) is simply not cool. A tantrum that frightens my other employees and makes them anxious, nervous and may result in them leaving if I don’t get a handle on this is something I need to keep an eye out for. You can ask your boss to not mention it to your co-worker because you’re the only person who could be responsible for “tattling” (and again – there is no tattling at work). If your manager is smart, she’ll reference a customer complaint and see if his emotions get the better of him. But ultimately he knows how to control his emotions, he chooses not to do so.

  25. staceyizme*

    OP- people who throw fits will always find an excuse. Pete might be a few french fries short of a happy meal or he might have been checking to see how much he could get away with around you. Either way- in your shoes I’d start looking for another job. It’s just not the type of insanity that you need. And yes, in your “Here’s my notice. Nice to have known you!” conversation, you can detail the debacle that Pete’s behavior presented. It’s not that your manager wouldn’t believe you. Or that Pete might not be reined in. But the combination of willful stupidity in his action and the prior connection with your manager makes me think that this is going to be rug-swept. Even if it isn’t- do y0u want to deal with the Wrath of Pete the next time that your boss has to take a day for “personal reasons”? He sounds like a jerk and an unbalanced one at that.

    1. JSPA*

      Do we know that the connection is significant, according to the manager? Pete says so, but Pete is quite possibly not a reliable narrator of his own life. Conspicuous in the letter is the statement that Pete claims great respect for the manager. Conspicuous by its absence is any equivalent endorsement of Pete, by the manager.

      Plenty of us have people in our extended friend group who we miiiiight consider for a job, but with few-to-no illusions about their weak points.

      There are Pete types who will tell a possible employer from their friend group, that sure, they used to get in fights at clubs…or get aggressively argumentative over board games or relationships or politics when drinking with friends…but “I’m totally different at work, you’ll see, it’s literally night and day!”

    2. LTL*

      “people who throw fits will always find an excuse”

      This isn’t true. You would be amazed by how much someone’s behavior changes depending on their environment (normally it’s related to the consequences of said behavior).

  26. Not So NewReader*

    OP kind off off topic but maybe not really. I see you describe your workplace as feeling like home. It could just be me, but sometimes these workplaces that feel like home can be the LARGEST disappointments in life. In your example here, I would feel twice as upset because this happened in “my home”. The let down seems greater somehow.

    While many people have had lives much more difficult than mine, I think I fell into a bit of a pit about how workplaces should be or should feel. It was all misconceptions on my part, but I had no basis to really relate and there was no Alison back then.

    Please keep reading here. We can’t help what we did not learn growing up, but as adults we can decide to learn it. So maybe you never stand up to a person like this, that is OKAY. You don’t have to . But there will be many other things that you will pick up and use.

  27. Dancing Otter*

    I’ve been thinking about this today, and I propose a list of acceptable things to yell.
    — Call 911!
    — Help!
    — Fire!
    — Duck! (Not the euphemism)
    — Incoming! (limited circumstances)
    — Watch out!
    — Evacuate!
    — Call Security!
    Maybe something about CPR or fetching a defibrillator or cutting the main power switch?
    Not a whole lot else.

    1. 'Tis Me*

      Yep, when my then-just turned 3 year old reached for a chip on a tray at the cafe at a local event and flipped a scalding hot mug of fruit tea over herself I felt utterly justified in screaming for help and water at the top of my voice, even as I responded by whipping off her wet tops to assess the damage, and recalling I had just bought a bottle of water too and starting to douse her. Other people also sprang into action to get cool items to help cool her skin down. Somebody got the St John’s team on site (next building to the cafe where this happened) so we could go get her properly looked at, etc.

      A year later, we popped back in to thank the St John’s team again, and let them know that she healed without any scars. But the difference between cooling a burn/scald and not? She mainly splashed one arm (the one that had been closest to the tray and thus received the hottest water too) and that instablistered and needed a dressing over it, with a few patches just below her neck, and those bits were cooled immediately and extensively, and we didn’t realise until maybe 20 minutes later that a small patch on her other arm had also been splashed. It took about 2 months longer for the little patch on the other arm to fully heal than the bit which needed a dressing over it for a few weeks.

      I needed people to react, immediately. It wasn’t time for a polite “Excuse me please?” It was urgent and important. The upheaval I caused to a business, alarm, etc, were completely justified. Somebody who had been there recognised us later that day; they were glad that my kiddy was OK and expressed judgement towards the cafe staff who reacted considerably later than many customers did, rather than towards me (the person screaming and causing chaos).

      I think that’s the only time as an adult I caused a huge scene and deliberately made myself the centre of attention.

      Oh, I have also stood up in the office and called out “I have the local fire service on the phone. Is anybody able to actually give directions to the fire over there?” but I’m rubbish at directions. And there was a fire. (We couldn’t work out if it was a bonfire or not, but it was nearish a few things like hedges that shouldn’t really go up in flames, and a railway line, and when the fire engine arrived the flames were as tall as the engine, so looking up the local station’s number and asking if they were aware of it (rather than calling emergency services) seemed reasonable…)


    Escalate it to your manager.

    #1) He is in a public-facing role and could do damage to the company image if he were to lose it in front of a customer.
    #2) You do not need to be exposed to or tolerate that behavior in your presence while you are at work. You cannot walk away. You cannot leave the building. You are trapped inside the box with him. You cannot yell at him to shut up (exhibiting the same behavior towards him that he is towards you and it escalates it).

    He does not need to know your traumatic past. it is yours and yours alone. He does need to be self-aware, to be aware that he is creating a traumatic environment on his co-workers for no reason other than he is having a bad day.

    Tell him if he doesnt stop this behavior you will do everything in your power to see he is fired. Make him understand his job is on the line.

    I say this with absolute conviction because…I am him. I did this to my co-workers years ago and they didnt deserve it. I found out recently that one of my co-workers had an abusive past and as I look back on my behavior 10 years ago, I cringe. She was so good about it. She was a strong woman. She counseled me. She taught me the effects I was having on my co-workers, my job and my career. My bosses (not her) laid it on the line for me. You know what got me? Watching a HR Resources behavioral video and seeing my exact behaviors replicated on the screen before me. I couldn’t finish watching it. I had to the stop the video and get up from my desk and walk away. It was me. It was my dad. It was traumatic.

  29. Emma*

    I’ve been there. My coworker threw a tantrum at me. I told my manager and he didn’t do anything. Now my coworker thinks that his behaviour is acceptable. He keeps throwing tantrum at me whenever he disagreed.

Comments are closed.