a friend of my ex-boyfriend verbally attacked me at work

A reader writes:

I have been working for a large corporation for a few years now.

Recently, Joe started a new job here; he is a friend of an ex-boyfriend I recently broke up with (and who is still bitter about the breakup, although I’ve moved on).

I got a new office space today and our senior Manager asked Joe and another new team member to come help clean up my new office for me. As we were standing in the office cleaning, I asked Joe if he could wipe a corner I couldn’t reach.

He raised his voice at me, telling me that he refuses to speak with me and he only takes orders from our senior manager. He is apparently still angry about my breaking up with his friend and holds a grudge against me.

He made an embarrassing scene and I told him he was free to stop cleaning; that I could manage it myself, since I’m not a big fan of drama; and that frankly, I felt disrespected by him and his sudden anger toward me in a professional setting.

I feel this interaction is a bad sign of things to come between me and Joe. While I have no problem working with him in a professional setting, it seems he will be having an issue with anything and everything I say from now on.

How would you handle this situation? Even though I have been at the company longer and he is new, I am fearful to speak up to anyone else in case I am the one who is blamed for the bad blood between Joe and myself.

I also don’t want to be see as someone who is involved with drama. I’m an average performer but nothing special and don’t want this to ding my reputation.

Oh nooooo, you’ve got to fill your manager in. This isn’t something you should try to handle by yourself.

I get why you’re hesitant to — you don’t want to seem like you have any part of this drama, and you’re worried you won’t be able to avoid that.

But this guy raised his voice to you and said he refuses to speak to you. That’s unacceptable at work. And it’s because of his loyalty to your ex? He’s an ass who needs to be seriously slapped down by his manager, and that’s if he’s kept on at all. (If a new hire did this on my team, we’d almost certainly be parting ways over it. It’s such bad judgment and so over the line that’s hard to imagine a situation where I’d keep someone new who did this.)

Your boss needs to know exactly what happened. You’re not going to seem like you’re involved with drama, because you’ve worked there for years so presumably they already know you’re not a drama llama. You’re going to seem like a normal person who is recoiling in a very normal way after a brand new hire exploded with hostility at you.

Frame it as, “I don’t know how to handle this and it seems like a really serious thing, so I want to fill you in and let you take it from here.”

It’s not causing drama to let your boss know about a raging fire down the hall. You are not the fire. You are the person concerned that there is a fire.

I think the drama worry is coming up because this is about relationships and exes and angry friends, and that feels very dramatic … but it’s not really about any of that. It’s about a new hire who attacked you without any provocation and announced he won’t speak to you. That’s it.

That’s not to say you don’t need to explain to your boss why he said it — you do, because she needs to know he has a grudge over you ending things with his friend in order to understand how messed up this is — but your role in this isn’t “drama-causing ex.” Your role is “professional employee reporting something serious and unacceptable.” In fact, the whole point is that you have no interest in bringing your personal life into work; he’s the one who does.

Tell your boss today. It gets weirder the longer you wait, and there’s a risk of this assclown causing more problems.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 300 comments… read them below }

  1. Junior Assistant Peon*

    I thought “He’s an ass who needs to be seriously slapped down by his manager” was “he needs his ass slapped by his manager” at first glance!

  2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    You did nothing wrong.
    He did do something/many things wrong.

    You are not “starting drama” you are reporting a coworker for being unprofessional, unhelpful and threatening.*

    He yelled at you at work. He told you he would not talk to you at work. He refused to do a task he was assigned to do (help you) at work.
    Both your and his manager need to know.

    *if OP feels s/he can’t or shouldn’t say anything, because of repercussions in the office/making it worse, I think that is a level of threatened.

    Speak up.
    Good luck.

    1. MusicWithRocksIn*

      I am crossing my fingers we get a really good karma is real update out of this one pretty soon.

    2. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Definitely speak to your manager. If he’s willing to yell at you, God only knows what he is whispering to your co-workers about you. The good thing is that most people look with skepticism at anyone who starts a new job by denigrating a co-worker over something that happened in their personal life.

    3. Super Duper*

      Raising his voice and “sudden anger” definitely sounds threatening. I’m incredibly conflict-averse and this would leave me really shaken. It just has no place in a work relationship at all, and for a new employee to be acting this way is a giant red flag.

      LW, go straight to your manager! Don’t drop it until serious action is taken. There’s a lot of sexist baggage around women and “drama,” and I totally get LW’s reluctance to make an issue of this, but really, Joe is the only person creating drama here, and he’s so far over the line he can’t even see it with a telescope. If you can’t do it for yourself, think about the other new employee who was caught in Joe’s line of fire, and is probably freaked out and concerned about the work environment now! Stand up for them, and give your company the opportunity to do the right thing here.

      1. NYC Taxi*

        I don’t mind confrontation and a scenario like this would rattle me. Your first concern should be your personal safety then your job future. You aren’t being a drama by bringing this up to your boss. This is not a time to be quiet and polite. There is no situation, no scenario under which this behavior should be accepted or tolerated. Please bring this up to your boss today.

      2. aebhel*

        I’m not at all conflict averse and that would rattle me, because it’s SO out of line for a professional setting–especially since it’s not related to and has nothing to do with work at all.

    4. HotSauce*

      I can’t even begin to describe how mad it makes me when women are automatically labeled as “drama queens” when they’re not the ones behaving inappropriately at work. I don’t really care how bad LW’s break up was, it has absolutely nothing to do with work and Joe is a gigantic ass for acting this way. If he can’t handle a professional relationship with his coworker then he should quit.

    5. learnedthehardway*

      This guy needs to be slapped down by both his manager AND by HR. The OP should be connecting with HR immediately, as well as informing their own manager about the situation.

      The individual should be exited from the organization immediately. His behaviour is just astounding. There’s an element of refusing to respect that the OP has personal agency and freedom to make her own life choices that smacks of something VERY problematic wrt this person’s ability to manage relationships, and the OP shouldn’t be subjected to dealing with it.

      Plus, imagine how he’s going to behave once he gets comfortable in the company! Someone does something he doesn’t like – will he go off on co-workers or subordinates (who are more limited in what they can do about it) or customers (which would be bad for company reputation and could lose them clients)?

  3. Ruby + Rowdy*

    He’s totally out of line and I’m sorry this happened to you.

    Was the other new employee still present when he created a scene? I hope they would be willing to tell your manager what they saw.

      1. Cj*

        I’m a little confused about that. There were supposed to be two co-workers helping, yet she told Joe to stop cleaning, the she could do it herself. She didn’t say her and the other co-worker could handle it, so I wonder if they were still there or not.

        1. TrackingCookieMonster*

          I read it as OP was referencing the one specific cleaning task she had asked Joe to do.

        2. Myrin*

          Are you referring to this part?
          “He made an embarrassing scene and I told him he was free to stop cleaning; that I could manage it myself, since I’m not a big fan of drama”
          Because that was after he had already behaved like a huge baby towards OP and the above sentences were OP’s reaction to that; I can easily imagine OP simply forgetting to include the other coworker in the moment. Like this:

          OP: “Joe, could you help me wipe the far end of this cupboard? I’m not tall enough to reach it.”
          Joe: “How dare you, fiend? I won’t speak to you and I only answer to to our senior manager!!”
          OP: “Wow, okay, if that’s how you feel, you’re free to stop cleaning right now. I’m not a big fan of middle school drama and I can do it myself as well.”
          Cecil, the second coworker standing in the corner: :O

    1. The New Normal*

      I wonder about that second coworker… if I was that person and saw Joe freak out like that, there is no way I would keep my mouth shut and there’s no way I would want to work with Joe. That level of hostility for no obvious reason would have me worried about safety around Joe. But if that coworker says something and OP doesn’t, it could put coworker in a bad spot too.

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        I didn’t think of that – but you are right, the odds the second coworker has kept totally quite about this are low. Personally, I might not go to my manager right away with something like this (depending on the manager, some I would right away) but I would defiantly tell my coworker friends about how the new guy Joe lost it on the OP and was yelling and how awkward it was. There are probably already rumors running rampant about what happened.

      2. Me*

        They were also new. It’s actually pretty likely they didn’t say anything because they’re new and are leery of creating drama or uncomfortable speaking up so soon after hire.

        1. Redd*

          I’d say this is another reason to speak up quickly. There was a witness to this who is still trying to calibrate their sense of how things are done at this company, and someone needs to address this with them so they don’t think this kind of confrontation is normal there.

          1. Ally McBeal*

            Yep. At a former job we had an incredibly combative person near the top of our department org chart, and my boss, who was hired after the combative person, pulled me aside one morning after a late-night email confrontation and asked me if that behavior was normal. I wasn’t exactly sorry to tell her that it was normal, because she was actually able to make a little bit of difference in the end.

      3. AKchic*

        That is another consideration. What did that second coworker see? How did that second coworker react? What happened AFTER everything went down? We all know Joe is going to run his mouth about LW to all and sundry after that outburst, and try to ruin her reputation, all for the sake of a person who isn’t even there, in some misguided “loyalty” claim. But how did the other coworker feel about being a silent hostage/witness to sudden outburst of anger and disrespect? And how soon after did they get treated to Joe’s version of “why” they are so hostile (i.e., character assassination of LW)?

        The sooner LW speaks to her manager (and possibly HR), the sooner Joe is reined in or removed. Joe’s hostility in the workplace isn’t a good look for him.

    2. Bagpuss*

      Yes – the second co-worker saw what happened and I think it’s appropriate to report it to protect them, as well as because of Joe’s totally inappropriate behaviour towards you.

      That person is having to work with someone who is irrational, aggressive and profoundly unprofessional, and if they are new, they may well feel they are not in a position to speak up or that it’s not their place to do so because you, not they, were the target of Joe’s behaviour.

      The bit you focus on is “He raised his voice at me, telling me that he refuses to speak with me and he only takes orders from our senior manager.”
      regardless of what his reason was, that’s totally unacceptable.

      You can tell your boss / HR that you believe his motivation is that he is friendly with a former partner of yours, but that you have not had any direct personal or professional interactions with him.

  4. Dust Bunny*

    Yeah, I’d want to know about Joe blowing up over something that didn’t even happen to him, because that is not a sign of great judgment in general. Yikes. Also, he shouldn’t be blowing up at coworkers, period.

    1. quill*

      The number of steps between professional behavior and this incident is greater than the degrees of remove between the LW and Kevin Bacon.

      To recap, LW was
      1) Yelled at
      2) about a breakup (something that happens in the normal course of dating)
      3) that does not seem to have had any unacceptable behavior on LW’s part
      4) that didn’t even happen to Joe, but to a friend of his
      5) at work, where we’re supposed to be at the very least professional to our bitter soap-opera enemies
      6) also he escalated by deciding not to do his job because LW is his bitter soap-opera enemy
      7) also he jumped to this tirade in response to a minor request just to rub in LW’s face that he’s rejecting all civility about this

      1. ecnaseener*

        I would add additional strikes for 8) refusing to speak to a coworker and 9) declaring that he only takes orders from the boss. Those two things are so ridiculous on their own even outside of the context of yelling.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          And 10) interpreting a basic and polite workplace request from a colleague as an order.

      2. Tuppence*

        I’d argue that 3) is both unclear and irrelevant – for all we know LW might have behaved unacceptably / cheated / been awful to the boyfriend, but whether she did or not is entirely beside the point in this context. The point is that relationship drama of any kind does not belong in the workplace, and Joe is the one bringing it into the office and behaving unacceptably as per points 1-2 and 4-7 (and 8-11 as added by other commenters!)

      3. EmbracesTrees*

        Honestly, even if OP had dumped her ex in the cruelest and most heartless of ways, the absolute most new-hire should appropriately do (when finding himself working with a friend’s “horrible ex”) is remain cool and distant and 100% professional.

        That he didn’t do so indicates he is, well, unprofessional — and doesn’t belong in that job.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, if he just didn’t *like* OP out of loyalty to his friend that would be fine–but he still has to be professional at work.

      But unless OP like actually murdered his friend, which is clearly not the case here, that level of anger seems really over the top.

  5. CrystalZelda*

    Someone raising their voice at you, especially at work, is always unacceptable. It’s not “dramatic” to tell your boss your new coworker thinks it’s appropriate to yell and to announce that he is refusing to speak to you. This isn’t high school! Any place that chides its employees for reporting this kind of behavior is not a place worth working for.

    1. Allie*

      THIS. No yelling in the workplace unless there’s a fire. No yelling bosses, no yelling coworkers, none of it.

  6. Meep*

    Don’t get me wrong, I would break knee caps for my best friend even if she was the one who broke up with him/her, but dang. Joe must feel really comfortable if he loses his job he will be fine if he is acting like that at a new place of employment.

    Adding onto what Alison said, document any conversation that you have with him alone. No matter how minor so there is your interpretation of it on file.

      1. Tupac Coachella*

        Yup. He almost definitely will. But it won’t be OP’s problem. As LifeBeforeCorona mentioned, if allowed to run amok, there’s a good chance Joe will take it upon himself to tell the whole office how terrible OP is every chance he gets, which easily *could* become OP’s problem. I’d much rather have Joe and his friends telling each other lies/half truths about how I’m the b who got Joe fired and broke Fergus’s heart from a distance.

    1. quill*

      I mean, kneecaps are reserved for someone who did actual damage, not “we stopped seeing each other even though I was still really into her.”

      1. anon for this*

        lol yeah. you would be violent with someone who broke up with a friend of yours? Ummmmmmmm.

        1. quill*

          In terms of friendships
          1) they broke up – no action is required on my part except coordinating that they don’t have awkward encounters and providing emotional support.
          2) they broke up and in the process this ex was a rude, insensitive jerk – ESCALATE the not having them in the same room coordination. Depending on the context, this may be cause to remove the party who was a rude, insensitive jerk from the friend group overall.
          3) they broke up and(or because of) damaging behavior occurred – the perpetrator is GONE from our social circles. And if they try to weasel their way back in, they will be excluded with extreme prejudice. They may even be shunned. The door will be shut in their face without any pretensions of not slamming it.
          4) Ex is committing stalking, harassment, etc: – kneecaps.

  7. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    Alison is right on the money. “Jane, I need to tell you that Joe was very inappropriate when interacting with me yesterday. There’s a reason for it, which has to do with events that took place outside of work, but it was not the sort of behavior I know you want to see from your employees.” Make it clear that Joe is free to dislike you, but he needs to be able to conduct himself professionally toward you in work settings.

    1. Emmie*

      I love the first two parts of your statement . . . he was inappropriate and there is a reason for it. That’s a good lead into the description of the problem,.

    2. anonymous 5*

      I wouldn’t even go so far as to give a reason. “Jane, Joe blew up at me when I asked him a favor and now refuses to speak to me” is absolutely adequate!

      1. I'm A Little Teapot*

        no, you have to explain it. Even in general terms. Because otherwise, I’m going to wonder what you did to cause him to blow up.

        1. Just Another Zebra*

          I agree. I think something like, “I had a relationship with a friend of his that didn’t work out. While it hasn’t effected my work at all, Joe seems to have taken it personally.” Or something similar. You don’t want HR or your manager to hear Joe’s story first.

          1. quill*

            YES. In interpersonal blame-shifting, the first accuser often gets believed about what happened more. This is 100% why bullies complain that “Wilhelmina is so meeeean to me! She doesn’t want me to play Pokemon with her! (Because I stole all her cards!)” Do not let Joe be the first accuser, especially because he will heap more dramatic accusations on you.

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            I like that–the only thing I might add is to say it as “Joe seems to have taken it oddly personally” and say it like you’re very confused about his overreaction (because it’s very confusing that he reacted so strongly!)

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              I’m not sure why but for some reason I feel like a baffled sort of tone would make me feel more like “this is an odd situation and I don’t think I can handle it on my own” and less like I was participating in office drama or whatever.

        2. nora*

          I also agree; it could be chalked up to Joe having a bad day or general anger issues. Not that it makes it more acceptable, but the fact that he is acting this way for this reason makes his actions *particularly* unacceptable and egregious, in my mind.

          1. Yorick*

            Right, the context shows that the hostility targeted at OP will be an ongoing problem. Otherwise, he might have just been rude that time.

        3. Amaranth*

          I agree, OP shouldn’t leave room for Joe to spin a story that makes him sympathetic. I’m for saying ‘I broke up with a friend of his x months ago and apparently he has some hard feelings.’ I just wouldn’t soft-pedal it that ‘he has reasons’ because it sounds like OP is shouldering blame and this should be a clear case of inappropriate behavior from Joe.

      2. NerdyKris*

        They’re going to want to know exactly what happened, nobody would act on a complaint as vague as that.

        1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

          Agreed — my sentences were meant as just the introduction to a whole conversation.

      3. Beth*

        I understand what you’re going for here, but I don’t agree. There’s no reason for OP not to give the manager all the information they have. The first thing any manager would ask when told “Joe blew up at me and now refuses to speak from me” is going to be “Did he say why?” It would be way more dramatic for OP to make the manager draw that info out of them than to just tell them the whole story the first time.

      4. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I do think OP needs to explain it. If all they say is “Joe yelled at me” with no context, they’re setting up a situation where the only context the boss is going to get is going to come from Joe.

        It doesn’t have to be super detailed. Something like “I knew Joe before he was hired here because I was in a relationship with one of his friends. That relationship ended recently and of course I understand that Joe wants to support his friend, but I was taken aback when he yelled at me and told me he would not talk to me in the workplace. I would like to interact with him politely and professionally just like I do with the rest of the team, but this most recent interaction makes me wonder if we can work together successfully.”

    3. Office sweater lady*

      I think she should tell the manager the reason. Otherwise the manager may think it is actually more dramatic than it is, and she may start speculating on all the terrible potential things the OP might have done to anger Joe. The truth is quite simple and doesn’t reflect badly on the OP at all.

      1. Ruby + Rowdy*

        I was thinking this as well! I’m worried that saying “there’s a reason for it” but not elaborating could lead to her manager jumping to conclusions, or going to Joe and asking what it’s about and getting some wild story from him.

        “Jane, I need to tell you that Joe was inappropriate and unprofessional when you asked him and Wakeen to help me clean my new office space. I recently broke up with a close friend of his and it seems as if he’s taken personal offense to it, but that’s no excuse for him to treat me or any employee the way he did.”

        1. Spencer Hastings*

          I agree. Either not saying anything about the reason, or giving a neutral and factual explanation, would make sense. Just saying “there’s a reason” without elaborating seems weird, to my ear. It makes it sound like a bigger deal, because ~mysterious~.

      2. Observer*

        I totally agree with this. Tell the manager the basic reason. You don’t even need to mention that ex-BF is bitter and you have moved on. Just “He’s apparently mad at me because of my breakup with his friend.” Enough context without a lot of unnecessary detail or drama.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Totally agree. The context helps the manager understand the situation and keeps it from seeming mysterious (which would be more dramatic, not less).

          1. Betty*

            Given that Joe’s behavior is related to the OP’s previous romantic/sexual relationships, if this kind of thing keeps happening over time (so that it would rise to the “hostile environment” standard), would it possibly open the employer to a sexual harassment complaint if they allow it to continue? The context seems especially important to include if there’s possible liability for the company because of that specific context (versus, say, Joe being mad because his friend was the OP’s former hairdresser/accountant/whatever).

            1. JB*

              This would neither fit the definition of a hostile work environment, nor sexual harassment, regardless of how long it persists or escalates. Unless that escalation somehow involves targeting OP for being a member of a protected class (hostile work environment) or sexually aggressive remarks (sexual harassment).

              1. Velawciraptor*

                Sexual harassment isn’t just sexually aggressive remarks. It’s also harassment on the basis of the recipient’s sexuality (real or perceived). There’s an argument to be made that harassing someone for declining to continue in a sexual relationship would fall in that category.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Yeah — this situation feels at least harassment-adjacent. And I have serious concerns about how this guy is going to react if someone at work rejects his advances or breaks up with him.

              2. KHB*

                Wouldn’t the more relevant form of sexual harassment by “quid pro quo” harassment? Joe is punishing OP at work because OP chose not to continue a sexual relationship with his friend. That’s a pretty clear “quid” and “quo.”

                I’m not a lawyer, and many of the layman’s definitions I can find online suggest that quid pro quo harassment has to be carried out by a supervisor or someone in position of authority. I’d be curious to know if the laws also apply to cases like this, where one employee is harassing another, and the supervisor knows about it and allows it to continue.

                1. Yorick*

                  I’m pretty sure quid pro quo doesn’t have to be carried out by a supervisor. Threatening to report your manager for something if they don’t sleep with you would be quid pro quo sexual harassment.

                2. HR & Cats*

                  To qualify as quid pro quo it has to be carried out by someone who has the ability, generally due to title, to impact job benefits like salary, promotion, etc. which it doesn’t sound like this person does.

      3. KHB*

        Agreed. OP did absolutely nothing wrong – you’re allowed to break up with people! – and is now being harassed at work for a boundary she asserted in her personal life. If I was the manager, I’d want to know what was going on, so I could put a stop to it.

        Sometimes this fear of “stirring up drama” is really just about shaming women (and other victims of harassment) into silence.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          And behaving like OP is the ex-BF’s property rather than a sentient, free human being.
          They say abusive partners are worst when the woman tries to leave, apparently it’s the same with friends of partners!

          It doesn’t matter how the breakup went down, even if OP cheated or did something unforgiveable to the BF, she has the right to break up and she has the right not to be attacked over the breakup while at work. This stuff should stay outside the workplace.

      4. Excel Jedi*


        “There’s a reason for it” can really easily be misinterpreted as “there’s a legitimate, reasonable reason for it,” which this certainly is not!

        1. ronda*

          yes I really don’t like the idea of saying there is a “reason” for this. Just say what he did and why you think he did it ………

          we can’t really know other peoples reasons and saying there is a reason does make it seem legitimate, but it is not.

          1. Chris*

            Totally agree. It’s the word “reason” that doesn’t sit right with me. It feels like speculation. I think it is completely appropriate to share w/ the manager what happened and the context that the OP knows Joe and the nature of the relationship. I’d stick with the facts without making assumptions about someone else’s reason for bad behavior.

      5. MistOrMister*

        Yes, I agree with this. Just saying there is a reason makes it seem like OP wronged Joe in some way and could be seen as wanting to get him in trouble when they are both to blame. Especially when you assume the manager has no knowledge of Joe and OP knowing each other. The manager would HAVE to think something happened to cause bad blood between them in the short time since Joe started working there. It’s not oversharing to say Joe is friends with a recent ex and has taken the breakup badly.

      6. Katrinka*

        Giving a brief explanation without going into details as to why you broke up is necessary. Both because it shows that you didn’t do anything to Joe to spark his anger and because it shows how ridiculous his behavior was. Even if Joe were the ex-boyfriend, his behavior would be inexcusable; the fact that he’s just a friend makes it a whole other level of inappropriate.

    4. Artemesia*

      I disagree about not saying why. It is so high school and immature that the boss needs to know that. I think the correct stance is that you are ‘bewildered’ by this raging hostility over a personal issue. i.e. I recently broke up with a friend of his and that is why he yelled at me and announced he would refuse to speak with me here at work. And yes, he should be fired. I would also tell the boss that you don’t feel safe working around someone with such anger management issues who thinks it is reasonable to behave like this in the workplace over something so trivial.

    5. Curious*

      I agree with the sentiment, but I would change the framing: I wouldn’t say
      “there’s a reason for it,” because a “reason” sounds like a justification — and there is none! Rather, I would say “There’s some background here, which has to do with events outside of work.” I think that would get the job done.

    6. Lexie*

      To me “there’s a reason for it” comes across as almost validating his behavior. Maybe something along the lines of “We knew each other prior to him being employed here and I believe his behavior may be related to the fact that I was previously in a relationship with a friend of his.” Since it doesn’t seem that Joe stated his behavior was due to the breakup that allows some leeway for there to be another cause.

      1. Artemesia*

        This and the obvious interpretation is that the OP DID something to hurt Joe and so Joe is ‘understandably’ having difficulty working with her. SHE did NOTHING to him and his behavior is outrageous and not ‘understandable’ at all. He has rage management issues and is not safe to be around and she needs to make that clear. This guy is dangerous.

  8. Lora*

    The sooner you tell them that this guy cannot be a civil human being to his colleagues, the sooner they can call back their second choice from their interview pool. The boss’s lives will be easier if they can get rid of a-holes sooner, while there’s still a possibility of getting their next choice, than later when they for sure have to start hiring all over again.

  9. Essess*

    What Alison said! No matter what the relationship is outside the office, any behavior that occurs inside the office MUST be professional. You need to address this unprofessional behavior that occurred in the office. You need to treat him like any other new coworker.
    He stated that he will not do his job properly (which includes working with you and taking direction when cleaning your office) and had an angry outburst at a normal request. This is completely not your problem to deal with or to work around. Refusing to ever speak to a coworker is inappropriate in any office. If any other new coworker informed you that they will never take direction from you, and will only speak to you angrily then you would of course go directly to their manager.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Yes! Not reporting this is supporting the idea that any drama that starts outside the office is okay to bring into the office. That would be a nightmare policy!

  10. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

    That is so upsetting and beyond the pale, OP. I am so upset on your behalf! I really hope you take Alison’s advice, because if that’s how he’s acting at a new job there is no telling how he might escalate his behavior. You shouldn’t be made to walk on eggshells at work by some weird dude who can’t regulate his own emotional response to you PREVIOUSLY BREAKING UP WITH HIS FRIEND or control his apparently ample temper at work. His bizarre outburst is need to know info for your manager, truly.

    1. Lizzo*

      It’s also worth mentioning that if he’s this much of a hothead when the issue at hand (i.e. the breakup) doesn’t even really involve him (it’s between OP and the ex), I don’t think he’s going to take things well if he’s fired for this outburst. **I am not saying this to deter OP from reporting the whole situation, but OP should be prepared for additional backlash if that’s how things sort themselves out.**

  11. StoneColdJaneAusten*

    One of my weirdest days at work ever was when, unbeknownst to anyone, my company hired the catering company my brother worked for. My brother is a dick, he was a dick to me in front of his bosses and my bosses. I had nothing to do with his immediate firing.

    My parents were annoyed, but, well, what was I going to do?

    Anyway, I hope that happens to Joe

    1. somanyquestions*

      That’s awesome & I also hope it happens here!

      Immediate smackdown of ridiculous jerks doesn’t happen enough but it’s lovely when it does.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        I’ve seen commenters on AAM discover that they are, in fact, the same person in two bodies, so your situation is not that much of a stretch…

        (Insert laughing emoji)

    2. CountryLass*

      Is that “I had nothing to do with his firing” or ” I had *cough cough* nothing to do with his firing *wink*”?

  12. Jennifer*

    Geez! He is oddly invested in his friend’s breakup. Lord only knows what this guy has told him. Even when my friends tell me how horrible their exes are and I let them vent without comment, I know there are two sides to the story. Joe sounds seriously unbalanced.

    I agree with the advice given. Clue your manager in on what happened, maybe saying something like, “Joe dislikes me because of a private matter that took place outside of work and has been behaving unprofessionally as a result.” You definitely want to get ahead of this before he tries to damage your professional reputation.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      I think LW should explain that it’s because of a breakup with a friend of Joe’s. A “private matter that took place outside of work” sounds like it is between LW and Joe and is vague and invites speculation.

      Joe is so outrageously unprofessional that the explanation that he is holding a grudge on behalf of someone else is who upset about a breakup is important to understand that he’s way out of line.

      1. Slipping The Leash*

        I wouldn’t be quite that vague — it’s worthwhile to let manager know that LW didn’t have any negative interaction with Joe, but that Joe is acting like a wingnut because LW split up with Joe’s friend. Makes it very clear that this is out of left field.

      2. Junior Assistant Peon*

        Agreed! “He’s upset with me because I broke up with a friend of his” makes him (correctly) sound like a nut; being vague makes it sound like he may have a reason to be legitimately upset with you. Management could misinterpret the situation as drama between the two of you rather than an unambiguous case of him behaving unprofessionally.

      3. Jennifer*

        Good point. Sometimes being too vague can make things work. She doesn’t have to get into the reasons why the breakup happened, that’s no one’s business, but telling the boss it was due to a breakup with Joe’s friend shows how weird his behavior is.

        Not that it would be okay if Joe were the ex instead of the friend, but it might be 5% more understandable.

        1. quill*

          Being too vague makes people fill in their own script based on what very little they know of you, so in this case it’s going to invite speculation that, assuming LW is a woman, is unwinnable. Don’t let anyone write their own mental soap opera into your report of the incident.

          “I broke up with Joe’s friend. Joe is screaming at me about it” invites much less speculation that can devolve into sexist interpretations and speculation than “It’s a private matter between Joe and I” (Oh, so you broke up with Joe! It must have been awful for his poor feelings to see you again! I can’t imagine why he would be so angry – you must have left him for another man!)

      4. Bagpuss*

        I agree. I don’t think that there is any reason not to give the basic facts, OP has done nothing wrong and I think if you are too vague then the risk is that it comes over as there having been something which Joe might have a legitimate reason to be upset about (although of course his behaviour still wouldn’t be appropriate) or that OP is embarrassed about .

    2. meyer lemon*

      If the LW is a woman, I would suspect there is some sexism embedded in there somewhere. The idea that she “owes” the ex a relationship, coupled with Joe’s reluctance to take her seriously at work.

      1. Ray Gillette*

        I’ll bet money the LW is a woman. It’s not that gay men can’t also be awful to exes/about breakups, but it doesn’t usually look like this. This story smacks of LW’s ex telling Joe a tale of woe about how LW “screwed him over” or “ruined his life” when really she just broke up with him when he didn’t want to break up.

  13. NewYork*

    I agree what he did was inappropriate, but why is manager asking him to help clean up an office. That is demeaning. Offices should have office staff, and if prior occupant did not get rid of files, they should do that (or if no longer with company, manager should). This was very poor planning.

    1. RinaBeana*

      There’s no indication of what Joe’s job is, so this may well be part of his responsibilities. I don’t think we can jump to the conclusion that he felt demeaned by the task when his outburst was directed specifically at OP, not the work.

    2. Allypopx*

      Not all offices have specific staff for this kind of thing and having to clean or set up your own office is certainly not “demeaning” jfc

        1. Allypopx*

          No, it’s just not. It sounds like they planned fine and it was getting taken care of. A couple of people pitching in for an hour is not a big deal.

      1. Mockingjay*

        Yep. Pre-COVID, we’d all pitch in to clean a cube or ready an office for a new teammate, or when we moved to other spaces. It’s pretty normal.

    3. Dr. Rebecca*

      That’s…really not feasible in all settings. I’ve worked in a bunch of tiny offices, and some larger ones too, where anything that needs tidying/sorting/clearing/scrubbing is an all hands on deck situation, and not participating would mark you as *very* out of touch with the office culture.

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        Also going to second the other coworkers: cleaning, whether part of your job description or not, is not demeaning.

        I can see a scenario where it would be–if there WERE a staff to handle cleaning and the boss was using cleaning as a punishment, that’s pretty demeaning. But just being asked to pitch in on something that needed to be done? Nope.

      1. PT*

        If he’s a facilities guy, this behavior would be even more concerning, given that he’d have keys and unquestioned access to LW’s office in a way that another employee would not.

    4. Asenath*

      That depends on where you work. In my last long-term job, there were people who would be brought in to empty the office, people who could, if needed, be brought it to do maintenance like painting, and people who would clean it. But they all had specific duties – most importantly, the movers did NOT move any furniture (file cabinets or desks) that still had items in them. The owner of the office was be expected to pack files etc up in boxes that could be moved – and if it was a big job, or if a previous owner had resigned or retired without emptying the office of the files etc. (which happened, believe me), workers on the same level as the new office occupant would volunteer or be assigned to help. We even sometimes did a bit of extra cleaning, as described, if we didn’t want to wait for the official cleaners. More senior staff like managers did not do this. They were very busy and very highly paid, and they delegated this sort of thing to other staff members – even when they were moving into, or out of, the office that needed to be cleared properly.

    5. Lexie*

      I worked at a place where the cleaning service only came 2 or 3 days a week (until they were let go due to budget cuts) so if people were moving offices it was on them to deal with whatever needed done.

    6. Observer*

      I agree what he did was inappropriate, but why is manager asking him to help clean up an office. That is demeaning.

      No, cleaning up an office is not necessarily demeaning. I certainly hope you treat your cleaning staff with basic respect!

      In any case, it’s utterly not relevant. Joe didn’t blow up at the OP because the OP demeaned him. He blew up at them because he’s mad over his FRIEND’S breakup. The blowup is bad enough. The reason is flat out insanity. And nothing about the task he was asked to do changes that.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I’m willing to put decent money on Joe being one of those ‘women love drama’ and/or ‘women are so emotional’ types as well as a ‘I’m free to state my own opinion anywhere I want and you can’t stop me’ and ‘I’m too important to deal with menial things’.

        He sounds rather akin to one of my exes.

    7. Rainy*

      My director climbs on desks to dust and clean the tops of windows, like the rest of us. Maybe more often actually, because she’s the tallest one in the office.

      In my office, we have an office manager and a receptionist and the building has facilities staff that does very little (not their fault, their department was cut to the bone several years ago so they don’t have time–we have two facilities staff per shift for a huge building). We have an annual cleaning day when we all show up in ratty clothes and tennies and scrub the whole office top to bottom. We are all professionals and most of us have advanced degrees and multiple professional certifications. We are not too proud to maintain the space where we work. It’s not demeaning at all.

    8. londonedit*

      When we moved offices a few years ago we absolutely all pitched in to pack things up and clear out any rubbish from our old building. We were given a basic set of cleaning stuff and gloves to wear so that we could clean anything that needed to be cleaned or dusted before it was packed for the move. It’s been perfectly normal for staff to do that in every company I’ve worked in.

    9. SheLooksFamiliar*

      The CEO of my former employer would walk around the building, saying hello and such. I saw him answer ringing phones if the office/cubicle was empty, and he took messages for the occupant. His philosophy was pretty simple: we were all there to work, and make life easier for our customers and each other.

      If the CEO of a $5B company didn’t find answering phones demeaning – and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t in his job description – then being told to help a co-worker clean and organize a workspace isn’t, either.

    10. Well...*

      I have Thoughts about this. It’s classist to assume cleaning in beneath a certain job. I’ve also found that some shared offices can get extremely gross and women tend to carry the burden of volunteering to clean them for their own sanity (these are grad student offices I’m remembering specifically… One dude graduated and left a ton of food behind for example, discovered weeks later).

      Anyways the fact that her boss specifically assigned people to do this and isn’t letting the woman moving into the office deal with it on her own is pretty encourage tbh. But my bar is low.

      1. Well...*

        I also would note that the kind of cooperative environment where everyone works to uphold the physical space takes time away from productivity in other arenas. That time needs to be accounted for if making a more egalitarian workplace is the goal. Expecting grad students to clean without it taking time away from their research (just come in on the weekend after working 12hrs/day all week to clean the office!) is NOT fair and isn’t providing adequate working conditions.

    11. Nanani*

      I don’t see what’s demeaning about it.
      FWIW I flashed back to when well meaning managers would direct (male coworker) to move desks/printers/etc for me because surely as a woman I can’t do it myself
      (I could and did and sheepishly apologized to (male colleague) for how managers wasted his time whenever it happened, which was more than once but not frequent)

  14. Asenath*

    Yeah, as awkward as it might feel, you aren’t being overly dramatic by reporting to the senior manager that Joe refused to work with you on cleaning your office (which senior manager had directed him to do) and that he has stated he will not speak to you (and whatever other specific job-related statements he made) and that you need senior manager to be aware of the situation (and, of course, handle it). You may need to add the context (that Joe is a friend of your ex), especially because this is crossing the borders between personal life and work life, which if possible makes Joe’s outbreak worse. No need to add all the details of your breakup – and I don’t think I’d say Joe made me feel disrespected, and not just because that’s a neologism I dislike. The point isn’t how Joe made you feel, but how Joe behaved in the workplace. It’s his behaviour that is unacceptable and deserves discipline, possibly right up to firing.

  15. Policy Wonk*

    Key rule of business: never let the boss be blindsided. If this guy was willing to make a scene when he is new, and over something so small, this will escalate. You need to fill your boss in now, to make sure this is on the record and the boss has context when the next incident happens. Because, unfortunately, there will be a next incident. I am sorry.

    1. Observer*

      Exactly this.

      When you bring this to the your boss, you’re not going to say “Boo hoo, Joe was MEAN to me! Make him stop! Waaah!” That’s drama and childishness.

      But you are going to say “Joe yelled at me, said that he’s not going to talk to me, and would not do anything I asked even if part of a job he is assigned unless Senior Manager explicitly tells him too. I thought you should know about this. I’m pretty sure he’s acting this way because he’s mad at me over my breakup with his friend. I have no interest in bringing all that into the office, but I wanted to give you the context that I know of so you have all the information.” That’s providing your boss with relevant information.

    2. Sara without an H*

      Yes, definitely. I always made sure that my staff understood that I really, really hate surprises, and that they should bring me bad news while we could still act on it and not wait until it turned into a steaming swamp of dysfunction.

    3. Elenna*

      This. If Joe reacts like this now to a friend’s breakup, how will he react when he, say, gets a bad review, or is handed any criticism? Keeping your mouth shut now won’t prevent further incidents, it’ll just ensure that your boss won’t know what to expect.

    4. Luke G*

      Exactly! The boss just accidentally hired a trench coat full of bees, disguised as a job candidate. Let him know NOW before the bees infest the entire office…

  16. I'm just here for the cats*

    LW I would say that you should tell your boss as soon as possible because who knows what Joe will say in the meantime. Especially if other people heard his outburst someone might start gossiping.

    By coming forward to your manager you will look less dramatic than ignoring it.

  17. CarCarJabar*

    If this is the way he acts to someone who broke up with his friend in the past- imagine how he’s going to act when a female colleague rebuffs his advances, or when he’s passed up for a promotion in favor of a female colleague, or when a female client has to have a serious conversation about their business relationship.

    This guy is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Don’t blow this over. Raise the red flag now.

    1. RitaRelates*

      I agree that he shouldn’t have blown up at the OP like that but I don’t see any indication that this has to do with sexism. He just seems loyal to his best friend, which is good, but does not give him any excuse to act unprofessionally at work.

      1. Observer*

        but I don’t see any indication that this has to do with sexism.

        That’s true.

        Having said that, I really think you are off base on He just seems loyal to his best friend, This is utterly ridiculous. It totally does not fly. CarCar Jabar is correct in this respect – if he’s flying off the handle at work over a past situation that didn’t even directly affect him, what is he going to do when something doesn’t go his way at work? That’s a real and significant question. And it’s one that the OP’s boss should have a chance to think about.

        1. Allie*

          Loyal to best friend =/= yelling at someone. My husband’s best friend just went through a divorce. He would never yell at his ex wife though and has said he sees where they both went wrong.

          1. Observer*

            Loyal to best friend =/= yelling at someone.

            Exactly! It’s just such bizarre behavior, especially in the office.

        2. Luke G*

          There’s a line between “loyalty” and “blind loyalty.” You can be deeply loyal to a friend while still recognizing they are sometimes unreasonable or at fault for things, or you can be “loyal” in a way where you assume your friend is always in the right and anyone involved with their unhappiness is wrong and should be treated as a pariah or a threat. It’s not always easy to tell when one is turning into the other- but in this case the line has been blown way past.

          1. JimmyJab*

            Even if LW did something horrible to her ex (not law-breaking) her ex’s friend still doesn’t get to yell at her at work. He doesn’t get that personal stuff, especially serious grudges, don’t belong at work.

            1. Luke G*

              Didn’t say it was appropriate for work and didn’t mean to imply that. I just meant that we think of “loyalty” as a good thing so if he was being “loyal” he must have been justified- but there’s also a bad/destructive way to do loyalty, and that’s the way he’s doing it.

      2. New Jack Karyn*

        Some of the language he used is very similar to language used by sexist–that he won’t speak with her, only takes orders from the Big Boss, etc. Maybe he’s totally normal with other women in the workplace, but I’d yellow-flag this.

      3. Well Then*

        Um, no. Women are humans with agency who are allowed to decide the terms of their romantic partnerships, including if and when to end them. This isn’t “loyalty”; this is a toxic dude who screams at women who make personal decisions he disagrees with. There’s no “but” here, and it’s BS to try and create reasons why he’s actually a good guy when his behavior indicates the exact opposite.

        1. RitaRelates*

          giving or showing firm and constant support or allegiance to a person or institution.
          Loyalty and toxicity are not mutually exclusive. He was being a loyal friend but also completely in the wrong with the way he treated the OP. I agree with what you’re said about women having agency. Not sure where it came from though, as I said nothing of the opposite. He might be sexist but I don’t see anything that supports that, which was the point of my post.

          1. Well Then*

            Loyalty is generally regarded as a positive thing, though, so it does sound like excusing or justifying his behavior to say, “He’s just being loyal to his friend!” No, he didn’t say, “I am behaving this way to due to sexist and misogynistic beliefs about women” but that red flag is certainly waving. I also just don’t see a reason to say try and find a gentler explanation for the behavior, when all the information we have about him indicates that he’s an aggressive, inappropriate a-hole.

            1. Observer*

              I really don’t think it’s necessarily sexist. It could just as easily be utter entitlement. That’s just as toxic in a different way. That’s why, when approaching Boss, I wouldn’t get into whether it’s sexist. It’s just totally not clear that sexism is the issue at play. But the toxicity of the behavior is glaring, regardless of the reason. If it is “loyalty” to someone who thinks that he’s entitled to what and who he wants when and how he wants it, that “loyalty” is toxic.

              I would say that it’s early enough in this guy’s employment that the employer shouldn’t waste time on WHY he’s doing this but should recognize that this guy is exhibiting some TERRIBLE behavior and let him go. Because there simply isn’t a motive that makes it ok or even “not so bad”. None.

            2. Observer*

              when all the information we have about him indicates that he’s an aggressive, inappropriate a-hole.

              The short version of my first comment is this – You are totally correct. And it doesn’t matter WHY. No motivation is going to change this fact, no matter how noble sounding.

              1. Well Then*

                Agreed. LW doesn’t need to get into the sexism question at all; Joe’s behavior is a fireable offense on its own, regardless of his motivation. But I don’t think it’s out of line for management (or the commenters here) to speculate – based on his behavior – that Joe may hold disturbing attitudes towards women, and thus could present a liability to the company that won’t be solved by addressing this outburst as an isolated incident. If management says, “Joe is not allowed to talk to LW anymore, problem solved” and then he behaved inappropriately towards another woman in the office…I would be very un-shocked.

            3. RitaRelates*

              He is aggressive and inappropriate. If you read my whole comment I am definitely not justifying his behavior. I think the OP should talk to the boss about this.
              We don’t need to find a gentler explanation. The explanation is already there. We also don’t need to assign things that we don’t see are there, i.e. sexism. He already made himself the bad guy without even us needing to assume he’s sexist on top of that.

      4. quill*

        The venn diagram of “men who lose their absolute shit at a woman in public because she is no longer having sex with their best friend” and “men who hold sexist beliefs” is a circle precisely because yelling at a woman because she no longer wants to be in a sexual or romantic relationship but the guy she was once involved with does is sexist.

        1. RitaRelates*

          Being upset at someone who hurt your friend does not mean you have an issue with all people of that gender. Again, you do not let that ire show in a professional setting nor is it ever really ok to yell at someone for that in any setting. The OP should definitely take this to their boss because the yeller was completely in the wrong. I just wouldn’t assume he’s sexist.

          1. Artemesia*

            ‘hurt your friend’ and ‘broke up with your friend’ are not legitimately the same thing. A man who thinks a woman is not entitled to break up with anyone she pleases for any reason (just as a man of course is) is a sexist. This is the assumption that she was ‘owned’ by that friend and had no right to move on. Stealing his bike, trashing his apartment, conspiring to get him fired — all legitimate ‘hurting my friend’ things. Breaking up? yeah. no. You can be sympathetic to your friend while still realizing that women are actual humans entitled to decide with whom they have a romantic relationship.

            1. Observer*

              That assumes that 1. the OP is a woman and 2. that he only has a problem with a woman breaking up with his friend, but wouldn’t have a problem with someone ending a friendship or someone not giving his a job / promotion / other good thing.

            2. RitaRelates*

              The OP said the ex is bitter about the break up. He is hurt. Breakups hurt unless they’re mutual. Joe is sympathetic to the ex/his friend. We all do things that hurt people, we don’t get to decide that people aren’t hurt by what we did but that does not make us in the wrong. The OP is not wrong for breaking up nor she she feel bad about it. And she should definitely go to the boss about this incident. Joe’s reaction is colored by his relationship with the ex. To him, the OP is a person that hurt his friend and that’s where the negativity is coming from, not that she is a woman and women should not be able to make their own decisions. Joe needs to get over it or at least pretend to be over it while at work.

              1. AskJeeves*

                “To him, the OP is a person that hurt his friend and that’s where the negativity is coming from, not that she is a woman and women should not be able to make their own decisions.”

                We don’t know that, though. All we know is his behavior, which is aggressive and threatening and goes way beyond “negativity.”

          2. quill*

            Sexism isn’t really “an issue with all people of a gender” it’s “a system of actions and beliefs that impact people BECAUSE of their gender.”

            In this case, the issue is gendered because 1) in our current society everyone’s assumptions about romantic relationships, including whether it’s ‘fair’ to dump someone are very divided along gendered lines, 2) women disproportionately receive harassment, from men and women, from aquaintances and strangers, about their sexual and romantic history.

            Add that to a pattern of Men as a demographic becoming aggressive towards women in the workplace and you’ve got three strikes for this being sexist. But also, I don’t understand why we’re spending so much time defending the person perpetrating bad behavior, or why we’re treating “is he sexist? No, you can’t SAY that!” as more important than what he actually did. All persons who are willing to make a screaming scene at someone are statistically more likely to do the same thing again to someone else, whatever their justification was.

            1. Anon Supervisor*

              Agree. People should ask themselves if this guy would have behaved the same way if his friend was a woman and the OP was a man (the answer is…doubtful). The fact that this guy felt that behaving aggressively toward a woman at work tells me that he’s thinking there will be no repercussions for yelling at a woman…because there usually isn’t (usually because women don’t want to be perceived as a tattler, gossip, or a drama queen, so they just sit there and take it). That’s the Patriarchy at work and a man benefiting from it, even if he doesn’t think he’s sexist in general.

      5. learnedthehardway*

        This kind of “loyalty” is not good. full stop.

        Also, it’s “hateful” behaviour – regardless of who it was aimed at. The employee was insubordinate, contemptuous, rude, and hostile.

    2. ecnaseener*

      I do just want to note that the LW doesn’t mention whether they’re a woman or not. You totally could be right about the sexism angle but it’s not directly supported.

        1. ecnaseener*

          The sandwiches example in the commenting rules is about not knocking advice that could work in some cases just because it doesn’t work for everyone. That’s not at all what I was doing, please don’t willfully misinterpret.

    3. RitaRelates*

      I agree that OP should definitely take this to the boss and have them decide how to handle him. My “he just seems loyal to his best friend” comment was about assigning his actions to that reason instead of because has sexist intentions like CarCarJabar was saying. From this letter I wouldn’t assume he is sexist or that he would blow up at anything that doesn’t go his way. It seems to me like he was letting his personal life interfere with work as his friend probably talked with him about how hurt he felt from the break up and colored his opinion on the OP. Something he should not have done and should be held responsible for.

      1. Observer*

        From this letter I wouldn’t assume he is sexist or that he would blow up at anything that doesn’t go his way.

        From this letter any reasonable employer NEEDS to be concerned about at least one of these choices, and possibly both.

        The odds that this guy is hateful and outrageous ONLY about this ONE thing, and is neither sexist nor unable to deal with not getting his way as just way too low.

        1. RitaRelates*

          I don’t think the odds are low. I think this is just a weird circumstance. The situation is awkward. We don’t usually work with our ex’s friends. And we especially usually don’t have to prepare and clean the person’s office that our friend feels hurt them. In any case, I personally don’t see sexism at play. I wonder if when the OP and the ex were dating did they ever all hangout with Joe and he showed sexist traits? That could have been mentioned to show if he has a tendency, but it’s just that to me, this letter doesn’t show any evidence of sexism.

          1. Ice and Indigo*

            It’s not that weird a circumstance. Awkward, yes, but it’s not exactly a case of, ‘Gee, I have NO IDEA HOW TO HANDLE THIS, WHAT DO I DO???’ The appropriate course of action for him was clear and obvious, and he chose not to take it.

            As to whether it’s sexist or not … I’d put it this way. There is no definite proof that he was acting out of sexism. However, if it later emerged that he IS sexist, it would not be surprising. Nobody is going to say, ‘Gee, after he yelled at OP for ditching his BFF, I thought he was totally well-adjusted about gender!’

            He hasn’t definitively proved that he’s sexist, but if he wants people to think he isn’t, he’s done himself no favours. And that’s the sort of thing a boss needs to be alert to, because if he is, it’s a predictor of a future pattern of negative behaviour with other employees. It should at least be on the table as ‘something to consider.’

    4. Great Grey Owl*

      My concern is that he might be dangerous because his reaction is so over-the-top, so I agree that she should tell her manager ASAP.

  18. EmmaPoet*

    Please let your boss know ASAP. If Joe feels comfortable verbally abusing you this early on, it’s going to get worse. If I were your manager I’d want to be aware so I could get rid of him before he causes more trouble.

  19. Persephone Mongoose*

    “In fact, the whole point is that you have no interest in bringing your personal life into work; he’s the one who does.”

    This, this, a thousand times this!!! LW, I really hope you see this and are able to reframe the situation accordingly. You are NOT the problem and you are NOT causing drama by bringing this up to your manager!

  20. I should really pick a name*

    Wow. He’s behaving like an 8-year-old who doesn’t want to listen to their older sibling.
    How does he expect this to go well for him?

    1. PT*

      This is pretty standard “I won’t take orders from a WOMAN” behavior that goes on in workplaces. Lots of men pull it and based on my experience as a female boss, they get away with it quite frequently.

      I refuse to be the boss ever again.

    2. Chairman of the Bored*

      Unfortunately it might go well for him, depending on the overall vibe of the office and how seriously they take it.

      Experience indicates that if he sticks to behaving like a spoiled 8-year-old who doesn’t want to listen he might even end up as President someday.

  21. TiredMama*

    Definitely let your manager know. I am so sorry you have to deal with this ass. But it’s great that he showed you who he is and did it in front of another person and isn’t quietly spreading rumors. The fact that he told everyone how he feels hopefully makes it clear that he is untrustworthy when it comes to anything he says about you.

  22. Sue Wilson*

    If there’s one thing I learned from the last 5 years, and my mother’s whole aura, it’s that if you don’t want people to think you’re the problem, you have to come into situation with confidence that you’re not the problem. OP what I noticed from your post is that you took a situation in which you were the target and are now afraid someone’s going to believe you were the arrow. You should talk to your manager, but your fears are much more likely to come to pass if you do so carrying signals that someone’s going to point fingers at you. I know and you know that people are irrational, and prejudiced, but most of the time people are irrationally reacting to signals that they’ve predetermined mean something. Don’t give them guilt signals. Act like no one could possibly believe you’re the issue and it’s far less likely that people will.

    1. Murfle*

      “If you don’t want people to think you’re the problem, you have to come into situation with confidence that you’re not the problem.”

      That is such a clear distillation of so much of the advice that AAM has given over the years. What a way to put it!

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yup. Go to your manager and state the facts. Don’t hedge. Be specific. Give the background of “He’s a friend of someone I used to date, but I cannot understand this unprofessional attack.” Be as dispassionate as you can but there’s nothing wrong with saying something such as: “He seemed unhinged. I’m concerned about the behavior escalating.”

    3. Artemesia*

      very good observation. If she apologizes etc SHE becomes the problem. Her stance needs to be angry about it and bewildered at how completely weird it is. She is the aggrieved and she needs to frame it that way.

  23. Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii*

    Joe’s behaviour will certainly make you want to get back together with your ex… [rolleyes]

      1. Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii*

        It can be both.
        I didn’t address any of the other major issues as the other commenters had already done it.

  24. Yvette*

    Don’t forget, you have been there a few years, you are a proven commodity. He is a recent hire. As others have said, document, document. Keep a separate file as well as a hard copy. Seriously, go old school and keep a journal in addition to anything digital, even if it is a small note-pad. Keep it with you. If your place is like OldJob, personal (as in personal work files) files are not on the physical hard drive of your device, but on a company shared drive which could be accessed by others.

    He sounds incredibly childish, unprofessional and irrational. A worrying combination.

    Please update. I hope your outcome is similar to this one:

  25. EPLawyer*

    Oh this is so key: I think the drama worry is coming up because this is about relationships and exes and angry friends, and that feels very dramatic … but it’s not really about any of that. It’s about a new hire who attacked you without any provocation and announced he won’t speak to you. That’s it.

    The REASON he acted this way doesn’t matter. The fact that he did is the problem. Refusing to speak to someone at work and having that attitude is unprofessional. there is no reason to parse whether he had a “good” reason for doing it or not.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Very much this. The reason doesn’t matter. The intent doesn’t matter.

      The impact *does*

      And after all, if he’s not told that this behaviour is bang out of order regardless of his friend’s feelings who knows how much he’ll escalate to?

      (Long time ago there was a guy dating someone at work, she dumped him, so he let down her tyres in the car park. Really petty)

  26. Cherie*

    Feel free to delete if this is off-topic, but what’s the deal with people getting yelled at once and saying they were ‘verbally attacked?’ I understand that perhaps this wasn’t the OP’s phrasing and that being yelled at can certainly raise your adrenaline, but as a DV survivor it really rubs me the wrong way when I see conflicts like this described in the same terms as my abuse. It’s wrong to yell at someone unless they’re about to get hit by a bus, and I guess ‘attack’ can mean a lot of things, but the usage here is pulling in some connotations that I don’t think are appropriate unless there is more to the story. Why qualify it with ‘verbally’ if it doesn’t carry those connotations? And surely if verbal attacks are a thing–language changes so why not?–is there a threshold above someone yelling that they’re about to give you the silent treatment? I don’t think we need the emotionally-charged language to understand that what happened here was wrong.

    1. Observer*

      Something doesn’t need to be a repeated pattern for it to be an attack, whether it’s physical or verbal. I think that the connotations here are exactly correct – and the specification of “verbal” is to indicate exactly that.

      Yes, ONE incident of yelling can easily be an attack – and in this case it clearly was. He didn’t just “yell that they’re about to give you the silent treatment“. He yelled at the OP that he was refusing to work with them and that he’s refusing to cooperate with them, and overall “created an embarrassing scene.”

      Being a DV survivor doesn’t give you carte blanch do dismiss everyone else’s experiences.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Am a survivor of both DV and assault by a stranger and..yeah, I’ve described people screaming at me as ‘verbally attacking’ because that is the term that fits. ‘Verbally disagreeing’ doesn’t fit when someone is yelling some unprovoked nonsense at you.

        1. Cherie*

          Isn’t ‘yelling’ bad enough? Although I guess if enough people don’t take issue with the phrase then I’m probably being too rigid in my view of the word ‘attack.’ Language changes over time, after all, and with context.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            Not for me, because there’s a difference between yelling in general and yelling *at* me. One is annoying, the other hurts.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              This. It can be frightening. When people yell directly at me, I flee. I do not care if it’s appropriate at the moment; that’s my knee-jerk reaction.

            2. OhNo*

              There is also a big difference in perception – yelling, even yelling at someone, usually isn’t seen as being as serious as a verbal attack. As this discussion proves, since Cherie’s argument is that this example doesn’t rise to the level of being a “verbal attack”.

              This might be one of those things where each person categorizes it differently based on their own past experiences. In this case, I agree with Alison that this rises to the level of a verbal attack, because of the impact it had on the OP if nothing else. But if we’re picturing it as a rating on a scale of severity from 1 to 10, what each person pictures as a ten on the scale might be different.

              1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

                To use a horrible analogy from my own life: there are a lot of people who’ve told me straight up that I was never ‘actually r*ped’ because they’ve got their own scale of what constitutes a ‘real’ assault and mine doesn’t fit into it. This is why it’s really important to believe someone when they say they felt attacked, because bringing other people’s gradients of harm into it can obscure the actual problem and make it a lot harder to get it resolved.

                1. Cherie*

                  The OP didn’t use the term ‘verbal attack.’ It was an editorial decision. Contrary to what people are saying I am not dismissing the OP, saying something has to happen a certain number of times to be an attack, or saying I get to decide what an attack is. I’m asking if the usage of the word attack is different from what I understood it to be, which apparently is the case. If someone tells me they’ve been attacked, my mind goes to physical violence. If they say verbal attack which is something I don’t hear very often, I think harassment or abuse. Apparently that is not the case and I was conflating ‘attack’ with ‘abuse.’ Verbal abuse is by definition repeated; an attack can be a single incident where someone yells at or insults you if I’m understanding correctly.

          2. JimmyJab*

            Also, just for a bit of added context, if it helps, “verbally attacking” someone can escalate to criminal assault – so while this LW’s situation probably isn’t that (but we don’t know what was actually said), verbal attacks can indeed be assaults, even when no hands are laid (US Criminal law).

            1. Cherie*

              Everything I’ve read says the opposite. Again, not saying what happened wasn’t bad as so many people are implying, but from what I’ve read only threats of physical violence rise to the level you’re describing, and other verbal altercations are taken up in civil court (not a lawyer but I did some googling of the term because I hadn’t seen it before).

        2. quill*

          If someone randomly throws a rock at you, they don’t need to do it more than once for it to be an attack, and calling it one is not being ridiculous.

          Same with someone screaming at you in the office.

      2. Yvette*

        It is also the content and meaning of what is said. I if I ran up to someone at work and yelled “HOLY CRAP!! a truck just drove through the front of the building!” I doubt that person would feel attacked.

      3. Cherie*

        I didn’t dismiss anything, just disagree with how it’s being framed. Just because something isn’t DV doesn’t make it acceptable or healthy, which I noted.

    2. GarlicMicrowaver*

      I’m truly sorry for your experience, and no one deserves to withstand any kind of abuse, DV included. But for what it’s worth, your response comes across as incredibly entitled and dismissive of anyone else’s experience. If you don’t like the “emotionally charged language,” scroll down. Allison’s headline was far from inappropriate.

    3. Boof*

      I see what you are saying; I agree there’s a gray area to what is clearly inappropriate behavior, to aggressive/hostile, to abuse and/or attacks. And there’s a lot in the exact phrasing, tone, body language and overall history that may make the difference.
      That being said I don’t think there’s a better brief way to sum up what happened; he didn’t yell, he didn’t swear, but he was inappropriate, sounded hostile, and it was verbal and I think the title delivers that as concisely as possible.

    4. GothicBee*

      I think “yelling” and “verbal attack” are different though. Yelling doesn’t inherently mean the person is saying anything wrong, just that they’re using an aggressive and disrespectful tone. Verbal attack implies that the person is actually using their words to attack the other person. Also, “verbal abuse” should certainly be reserved only for actual ongoing abusive situations (IMO) but “verbal attack” doesn’t in any way imply that it needs to be repeated behavior.

    5. Koala dreams*

      Usually I see “verbally attacked” in the meaning yelled/said aggressively. (Attack has the aggressive connotations.) This is the first time I heard of the domestic violence connotation. If I would have guessed, I would have thought it was a sports or military metaphor.

    6. ecnaseener*

      My understanding is that the word “abuse” carries specific connotations of being repeated, cyclical, power dynamics, all of that – and that “attack” is used to describe an event of aggression/hurtfulness that *may or may not be* one event in a cycle of abuse.

      That’s just how I’ve heard it used – maybe in some circles it’s used differently, but this is how I’m guessing it was meant.

  27. Sara without an H*

    OP, your really, really need to fill your manager in on this ASAP. If you deliver the information in a calm, professional manner, you won’t be blamed for “causing drama.”

    Just a suggestion — I don’t know if your manager will decide that Joe’s behavior is grounds for immediate firing (although I think that would save them trouble in the long run). IF Joe gets off with a warning, you’ll need to document any interaction with him in which he’s anything less than perfectly professional. Be sure to brief your manager and, possibly, HR if he gets out of line again.

    I know I keep harping on this in the comments, but I’ve seen enough cases in real life where it was essential. It’s ALWAYS better to have documentation and not need it, than to need it and not have it.

    And keep it some place where Joe can’t find it.

    1. Allypopx*

      100%. He clearly has no intention of acting professional toward you and I doubt a warning will warm his demeanor (though hopefully will prevent future outbursts). Document everything.

    1. Heffalump*

      If I’m going to learn a new word today, “assclown” is as good as any.

      Urban Dictionary defines it as “someone who doesn’t know what the hell they are talking about, makes stupid BS comments, pisses people off, and has no idea that everyone thinks this about them.”

  28. Allie*

    Honestly a new employee doing this? Show him the door. That’s massively inappropriate and no way I’d keep on a new employee who did this. He should be on his best behavior right now and this is what he does before he knows anyone?

    Out the door.

    1. MistOrMister*

      I worked in an office where we had a new guy that didn’t even last two weeks. He would yell at his computer. A lot. They ended up letting him go because it was making people too uncomfortable. I can’t imagine anyone brand new being kept around that yelled at another employee. No one should have to deal with coworkers (or bosses) that raise their voice to them. Unless you’re yelling to be heard over some loud machinery or warning the person that the ceiling is caving in, there’s no reason to be raising your voice.

  29. Nadia in NY*

    Ohh, yeah this is so not cool. Good luck OP – and please let us know what happens (really hoping he gets fired )

  30. Jennifer*

    Good point. Sometimes being too vague can make things work. She doesn’t have to get into the reasons why the breakup happened, that’s no one’s business, but telling the boss it was due to a breakup with Joe’s friend shows how weird his behavior is.

    Not that it would be okay if Joe were the ex instead of the friend, but it might be 5% more understandable.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      My teenager points out that 5% of zero is still zero. There’s nothing understandable to us in Joe’s behavior.
      Can’t work with an ex? Tell the manager you have bad history and ask if you can be recused/reassigned.

  31. Elenna*

    OP, you’re not causing drama by reporting Joe. Joe is causing drama by being an asshole. The drama already exists, and was entirely caused by Joe, you’re just letting your boss know it exists.
    (Basically the same comment as I made on yesterday’s poking post, really…)

  32. Mandi*

    Does Joe think he accepted a new job in a middle school classroom? Because seriously, that’s how he’s acting. He needs to grow the hell up.

  33. Lana Kane*

    I understand that the nature of his reasons for being mad are personal and seem drama-related. One thing to remember is that disrespect or aggression in the workplace are never ok, and should never be considered never drama (even if the root cause maybe is related to it).

    Whatever your performance level, basic human respect and dignity shouldn’t depend on that.

  34. RunShaker*

    by not going to your manager to advise, this could create more drama & aggression from Joe. Please follow Alison’s advice. She is spot on. Sending hugs.

  35. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    Go Joe! No, seriously, go – out the door and don’t return.

    Definitely let management know that this guy is outright refusing to work just because he’s developed some kind of personal dislike to you. I manage a team and I’d much rather have someone tell me upfront that another member of staff is behaving like they got a personal vendetta – rather than several months down the line have people refusing to be in the same room as each other or throwing insults around like confetti.

    None of this is your fault. At all. Joe is just a petty, immature and unprofessional arsebiscuit.

  36. Choggy*

    I think the way you handle this, in a professional manner, will speak volumes about you that you are removing yourself from any drama around a personal relationship. All the (unnecessary) drama is on Joe, make sure it remains there by speaking up.

  37. Akcipitrokulo*

    Your manager will WANT to know.

    This is not your fault, not your drama and not your responsibility to fix.

    It’s ok.

    Tell your boss.

  38. ShakenNotStirred*

    I cannot imagine being an adult and bringing such a dumb, juvenile grudge into the workplace. I’m mortified even thinking about it. I hope OP sends an update, I’m invested in knowing how this turns out.

  39. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    So here’s a thought experiment.

    How do you analyze Joe’s behavior according to the “bring your whole self to work” philosophy?

    1. Luke G*

      Behavior like this is exactly why I hate that philosophy. Everyone has parts of their “whole selves” that just aren’t appropriate for work, Joe’s whole self is just a particularly distasteful self. I like to know about my team’s hobbies and hear about their partners’ successes! I don’t need to know their blow-by-blow relationship drama, sexual proclivities, or gooey medical problems.

    2. LDN Layabout*

      If this is an actual question and not just snarking on modern workplaces practices:

      As I understand it ‘bring your whole self to work’ is not ‘let it all hang out’, it’s where minorities, vulnerable populations and other such groups feel that they can be at work without having to mask or cover in a number of ways, physically, mentally or emotionally.

      This incident has nothing to do with bringing your whole self to work.

      1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        It’s an honest question. I’ve not seen consistent explanations of the idea in the first place. Your definition doesn’t comport with the ‘vulnerability’ thing that people write about when they use the phrase.

        1. LDN Layabout*

          It depends on how you define vulnerability I suppose. Personally it doesn’t mean you spew out your entire life story, but I’m currently in a workplace where I can be more open about certain aspects without feeling like a) I’m going to be attacked for it and b) that it’s going to affect me going forward and it does honestly make me feel like I do a better job and makes me want to stay.

          1. UKDancer*

            This definitely. Bringing your whole self to work means that my colleague Joe doesn’t have to pretend he’s straight and my other colleague Aisha can ask for adjusted work patterns for Ramadan. It doesn’t mean you can behave like a total bellend or shout at people. It means you can be more open about who you are but doesn’t stop you from being professional.

            1. LDN Layabout*

              Honestly it’s really telling the kind of responses this is getting and it’s quite frankly upsetting. I’m sure a lot of people have the luxury of walking into work and not thinking a fundamental part of themselves could get them fired/overlooked etc. but that’s not everyone’s reality.

              1. Wisteria*

                I am not sure where you are coming from with this. Do you see Joe’s behavior as fitting into the picture of him being part of a marginalized minority where having to hide a fundamental part of himself is in play? I don’t see anything in OP’s description of his behavior that would indicate that he is displaying something essential about himself. Being a dick is a choice, not a demographic.

                1. LDN Layabout*

                  That’s literally my point. People in this thread are overwhelming equating bring your whole self to work as ‘do whatever you want’ vs. what I’ve always seen it as a really valuable D&I point.

        2. Wisteria*

          Can you tell me more about what you see people writing with respect to vulnerability?

          I have only seen “bring your whole self to work” mean “you don’t have to code switch at work,” meaning, you don’t have to pretend you are not Native or you don’t have to “act straight” or whatever.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          ‘I have a right to state my opinions and feelings!’

          And, being a manager, I’ve got the right to tell him to shut up – or go find somewhere else to work. I’ve encountered a few of these ‘my whole self is opinionated and forthright and honest about my feelings!’ types and generally…

          …yeah, their whole self is just a git.

    3. quill*

      Philosophically the “whole self” is kind of a stupid context because your whole self is very context-dependent. Nobody needs you to bring every thought you have ever had regarding your biological functions, your resentment of what someone said to you 2 years ago, or your thought that your friend’s ex is actually not at all attractive to work.

      I’ve seen “whole self” used as code for “the full extent of your attention” as well as for “cultural or personal knowledge” and in that case it’s often used well!

    4. nothing rhymes with purple*

      Oh come ON. Joe’s behavior is not remotely comparable to a Black woman wanting to not be fired for wearing her hair natural instead of chemically straightened. Oh PLEASE.

      1. nothing rhymes with purple*

        Having now read the thread, I apologize for replying so brusquely.

        However, I really don’t think that Joe deciding to castigate LW over a breakup is the same kind of expression of culture as those that would be welcomed in a workplace “where minorities, vulnerable populations and other such groups feel that they can be at work without having to mask or cover in a number of ways, physically, mentally or emotionally,” to quote LDN Layabout.

        I used Black hair as an example because that’s a tangible example of what being able to bring my whole self to work means to me, having a workplace where my hair doesn’t need to be straightened to imitate non-Black hair to be “acceptable” and where the culture is such that no one will tell me I need to straighten my hair. Another example would be my Jewish friends being comfortable mentioning at work that they’re taking time off for holidays without people saying ignorant things to them or starting a campaign to convert them to Christianity. Whenever people say they hate “bring your whole self to work” I wonder what their opinion would be on these examples.

        1. Observer*

          If this were primarily how I saw the phrase used, I would be TOTALLY on board. But so often that’s not what is meant in practice, and sometime even in theory.

    5. James*

      There are ways to handle such a situation gracefully. For example, Joe could go to his manager and explain “X and I have a pre-existing relationship that could make it difficult for me to work with X. Is there a way to structure my role so that we can avoid each other?” He could also have taken the LW aside and said that he wanted to clear the air, he resented how the break up went down, and while he’d try to be professional it would be difficult for him.

      Or he can grow up, suck it up, and do the job. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that approach. Jobs require us to do things we don’t like and work with people we don’t like sometimes. It happens. We’re not twelve; we can act with a sense of decorum.

      I will also say that tact and etiquette are not about always saying what people want to hear. Tact is the ability to tell you where to stick your opinion in such a way that the boss doesn’t fire us both. There are ways to tactfully tell someone that you can’t stand to be in the same room as them, much less do them any favors. Anyone who thinks that the use of tact and etiquette prohibit “bringing your whole self to work” does not understand either. And anyone who’s “whole self” requires them to explode at colleagues doesn’t deserve to work in a professional setting. Plenty of room in the fast food industry, day laborer roles, and other menial jobs for such people.

      Secondly, I detest this idea of bringing your “whole self” to work. What does that even mean? Part of my self is that I compartmentalize, for example–am I supposed to be my whole self by violating one of the things that makes up my self? And what about the advice to “fake it ’til you make it”? Obviously acting more confident than you are is violating your “whole self”!

    6. Observer*

      How do you analyze Joe’s behavior according to the “bring your whole self to work” philosophy?

      You don’t. You analyze that stupid philosophy according to this and realize that actual adults do NOT always bring their “whole selves” to work.

    7. Tinker*

      That Joe’s whole self is evidently inclusive of significant vices that my whole self doesn’t want around at work.

      It’s a similar sort of problem to the situation where Joe’s whole self is unambiguously incompetent at his job — the fact that I accept him as a person who exists and has understandable human characteristics, and I endeavor to take a broad view regarding what sorts of people can do work and how they go about it, does not mean that there are no limits on workplace behavior or that legitimately deal-killing problems that remain unresolved despite my best efforts to accommodate must be shrugged at.

      Also, as a person who has been Very Online for many years, the words “here’s a thought experiment” in the context where a dude has behaved badly in an area related to dating make me start off wanting to scream.

    8. aebhel*

      The ‘bring your whole self to work’ philosophy is absurd, destructive garbage that encourages unprofessional behavior and discourages appropriate work/life boundaries.

      This is an example of why.

  40. Luke G*

    OP: I agree with everyone saying “the drama isn’t you, it’s him.” Are you just worried in general, or have you seen a pattern in your workplace that anyone who complains (no matter how justified) as seen as “causing drama?”

    IF that’s the case, making sure you’re thorougly calm and professional when complaining might help. Don’t give a manager any excuse to dismiss it as “everyone’s clearly upset, so they must all be equally at fault.” Emphasize how petty and bizarre his “reasoning” was, and how one-sided the incident was, without using self-deprecating or self-blaming language that could feed into a perception that the two of you mutually were to blame for it.

    (Not trying to victim blame here at all, I think it’s super clear he’s entirely in the wrong, but I know some managers find it easiest to assume every issue has two sides and look for any possible reason to dismiss one party from being clearly in the wrong).

  41. voyager1*

    I would like to know what the other person in the room saw and felt about all of this. A witness to this incident would be valuable in reporting it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      While it could be helpful, I want to stress that the OP shouldn’t feel that’s necessary. There’s no reason she should expect she will need proof or that she won’t be believed without it; she’s a long-time employee who’s presumably trusted and this is a brand new hire. It’s useful to have a witness if she needs one and she can mention there is one when she talks to her manager, but I don’t want the OP or anyone else to worry about speaking to a manager in a situation that this if they don’t have a witness.

      1. voyager1*

        I guess? I don’t understand your response.

        If I was reporting someone for what went down as the LW described, having a witness turns this from he said/she said to here is someone else who saw it to. Just seems like common sense to go at this with everything, nothing gained withholding it.

        1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

          I mean, a witness is certainly helpful, but I would certainly hope that any manager would believe a person who came to them saying “Joe screamed and yelled at me and said he will not speak to me.” The person subjected to abuse should always be able to come forward and get help.

        2. Me*

          I think Alison’s point is the OP should be taken at their word without any need to bring in backup. The manager knows who was present. If they for some reason would like to know if there is a corroborating witness to strengthen the case for disciplianry action, the manager can ask.

          But OP’s experience on its own is valid and actionable without need “backup”.

            1. Wisteria*

              She is not less able to report this, but a witness is helpful if the co-worker denies what happened or tells a different narrative.

  42. Eether, Either*

    Wow, this brings me back…similar situation…years ago a co-worker set me up on a blind date. Several months later, I broke up with him. She tried to get me fired by telling outright lies to HR about my work, and it didn’t dawn on me until later (I was not fired) that was why she tried to get me fired. Yes, PLEASE tell someone.

  43. V. Anon*

    This quote: “It’s not causing drama to let your boss know about a raging fire down the hall. You are not the fire. You are the person concerned that there is a fire.” Is the greatest.

    I am tired of reading letters from people who don’t want to say anything, make waves, endure conflict, or “be seen as dramatic” when the fact is someone just set fire to something, and it wasn’t the letter writer. I worry about you all. I worry I will die in an office fire because I was concentrating and you didn’t want to disturb me. Or I didn’t say hi one day and you think I don’t like you.

    1. Well...*

      One could also worry about the system that gives people reason for this avoidance of conflict. Blaming the messenger for bad news is ubiquitous enough to merit a saying. And women in particular have endured a long history of being blamed when other people’s actions are out of line / emotions are out of control.

      1. V. Anon*

        Entirely true. Still worried that we’re still being conditioned to respond to assclownery by a) fearing that this jerk’s behavior reflects on US (the what-did-I-do-to-provoke-this response) or b) the commentariat finding ways to minimize what happened (lovely that there’s very little of that this go round, but there’s always someone who needs to see it from the perp’s perspective and explain how maybe he didn’t mean it).

      2. JimmyJab*

        +1 People write letters like that because people DO suffer consequences for what seems like totally appropriate responses to things like this. Especially women.

        1. quill*

          Yes. LW’s work problem is straightforward (new hire refuses to do their job because they are angry with me about a thing which is not reasonable to be angry about) but their social problem is complicated by society’s reactions to the intersection between men’s tempers and women’s sexuality.

          So advice to the LW about how to make this so socially boring that it becomes only a work problem is likely to be useful.

      3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        We’re supposed to take on the emotional labour for others and feel bad for anyone who gets into trouble – even if we weren’t in any way to blame for it.

        ‘But think about what’ll happen to *him* if you report that? He might lose his job, he might have a family to support!’ – words heard far too many times. It’s often more stress that you don’t need to know you’re going to have to justify that actually, no, you can’t just ‘get over it’.

        1. Observer*

          ‘But think about what’ll happen to *him* if you report that? He might lose his job, he might have a family to support!’

          Yes, in fact someone is making exactly this argument in a discussion on a different post today. They are claiming that it’s only about reference checks, not in the workplace, but what’s the real difference?

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            I’ve been fired from a job in my distant past and they did give a pretty scathing but accurate reference afterwards. It’s not ruined my career, my husband and I still have a home and a car, etc. so, yeah, I don’t get that ‘one bad word can end your existence’ thing.

            Kinda like a response on that post that had someone’s coworker out delivering prescriptions while they were quarantined – people arguing that nothing should be done because what if she became homeless and destitute after she was reported for breaching quarantine.

  44. NotRealAnonForThis*

    Can I hope that the Poker Queen from yesterday finds her way to Loudmouth Belligerent Joe?

  45. inaudible*

    OP mentions that Joe and another new coworker were asked to help clean out the office… that person is a witness OP should mention when reporting this to the boss.

  46. Bookworm*

    This is not “drama” at all: this is completely inappropriate behavior in any setting and yes, please speak to your manager. “Joe” should not be anywhere near you if he’s like this–heck, I’d be concerned for other co-workers, too.

    I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. Good luck.

  47. Wisteria*

    When you talk to your manager, make sure you mention the names of any of your coworkers who saw the interaction.

  48. ronda*

    if you are at all worried about what to say because you waited to report this….
    you can always use the I was so surprised / needed time to process etc ….

    or It was such strange/angry behavior that I thought he would realize and apologize, but he has not so I am worried about future interactions.

  49. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

    Dude, you could have cheated on him with his brother or his mortal enemy, and it STILL is no reason for friend of ex-bf to bring this issue to the office. As one of my old bosses said, ‘you don’t have to like everybody, but you have to respect everybody.’

    That is straight disrespect and should not be tolerated, especially when it has to do with an outside relationship! As others have said, imagine how he’s going to react when someone internal to the company does something that upsets him directly instead of just ‘you hurt my friend’s feelings.’

  50. Me*

    We had a new hire that thought they knew everything and did not respond well to senior staff (me) providing him information. He thought he’d be cute and show up to work in a t shirt that said “straight outta f*cks”. Foulness aside, this isn’t even a job that its acceptable to wear to shirts.

    He was summarily fired. New employees who behave aggressively, childishly and bizarrely in any way will be dealt with swiftly by any decent company. And as a longer term trusted employee any decent company will take you at your word over weird new guys.

    Loop your manager in stat. This guy needs to go.

  51. Marthooh*

    Blazing red flags:
    1. Dude raised his voice at a reasonable request.
    2. Dude says he refuses to speak to a coworker.
    3. Alison used the word assclown.

  52. JessicaTate*

    Agree with all of Alison’s suggestions, including giving the context to your boss. But I wanted to note that, based on your word choice, he hasn’t stated explicitly that this is due to the breakup. You said, “He is APPARENTLY still angry about my breaking up with his friend and holds a grudge against me.” That sounds like you might be inferring (reasonably), but that he didn’t actually say, “I don’t speak to man-hating jerk-faces who break my bro’s heart!” (If he did say that clearly, then ignore this.)

    So, give the manager context, but you might even be able to be more clear you are not part of this drama — you’re not assuming it’s his rationale if he didn’t say it was: “I wondered if this behavior might be related to the fact that I recently ended a relationship with his best friend? He didn’t say that outright, but I wanted to give you the full context of how he knows me.”

    1. Old Admin*

      That’s actually a very good script, because it puts out relevant context without making you look paranoid.

  53. Thomas Merton*

    Dude needs to be fired, and hopefully learn a valuable lesson about workplace norms, but more importantly to reprogram whatever fratboy “bros before hoes” idiocy has infected his brain.

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