my coworker got drunk and punched another coworker in the parking lot

A reader writes:

I’ve been ruminating about a situation that happened at a previous workplace, and I’m wondering if I behaved appropriately or if there’s anything else I should have done.

This job started as an internship, but I was eventually offered a permanent role at a higher salary. This company was in the retail industry and I worked at their corporate office. Every summer, they would put on a large event that employees from across the country were welcomed to. It’s an after-hours event at a bar near the corporate headquarters. My team was tasked with setup for the event. The day of the event, a few colleagues and I bounced back and forth between this bar and corporate headquarters — dropping off stuff, putting decorations up, etc. Eventually, some of my team went to a different location for lunch since the bar’s kitchen was closed. The people at this lunch were me, an intern who on her last day of work (Sally), a contractor (Joe), and a full-time employee who was technically the same seniority as me (Bob), but had been at the company for three years so he was very trusted. All of us were similar ages, between 21 and 25.

We celebrated and wished Sally well, provided her with our contact info if she ever needed a reference, etc. Since it was a celebratory lunch, Bob decided to drink. Besides, he didn’t drive and wouldn’t have to be at his desk that day. With his first drink, we shrugged it off. Second drink, we’re questioning Bob if this is a good idea. Third drink, we are actively trying to get him to stop drinking. By this point, Bob is clearly drunk. He’s being excessively loud and can’t follow the conversation. He argues that since drinking is encouraged at this after hours event, it’s not a huge deal if he does it before. At this point, Joe suggests we get our check and leave.

However, instead of taking us back to the bar to work on event setup, Joe says he has to go to the corporate office to pick up something related to a medical condition. (Joe told me he actually didn’t need it as urgently as he made it seem, he just thought Bob wouldn’t be helpful with setup and wanted him to talk to our boss.) Joe drives us all together in one vehicle. While Joe is driving, Bob gets upset and wants to go back to set up. Bob and Joe argue for a few seconds. Then, Bob grabs the wheel and nearly causes us to hit a tree. In response, Joe backhands Bob and tells him to immediately stop or he will get us killed. Bob says that he was just trying to get us back on track and that he was joking.

At this point, Sally and I (in the backseat) are extremely on edge, but Joe is able to get us to the corporate parking lot. Bob asks if we can go to the corner of the parking lot near a designated smoking area so he can smoke a cigarette before going inside. Joe agrees and parks near there. It’s worth noting that the entrance near the smoking area does not have cameras on it. Immediately after we all got out of the car, Bob punches Joe in the face for “slapping the shit out of him for no reason.” Joe gets mad and starts to yell at Bob.

At this moment, my priority was making sure Sally and I got back into the corporate headquarters safely. I heard the two men yelling and cursing one another, but I did not see if they continued to get physical.

Immediately upon going inside, I found our boss, who was conveniently talking to a member of the HR team at her cubicle. I told my boss, “Bob and Joe are fighting outside. They’re yelling and Bob punched Joe. Bob was drinking at lunch and I think he may have drank too much.” I left out the detail about Joe slapping Bob in the car because honestly, I was so shaken up that I forgot, although I’ll admit it may have been unconscious favoritism.

Apparently, by the time HR and security got outside, Bob was smoking a cigarette like he said he would. Joe was gone. He was in a bathroom cleaning himself up.

I’m not sure of everything that happened behind the scenes, but here’s what I do know:

1. Bob paid for everyone’s lunch with a corporate card with permission from our boss. However, we are not allowed to put alcoholic drinks on the corporate card. Bob got a separate check for his alcohol and paid with his own money. I didn’t realize this at the time, but this rule was put in place to prevent employees from drinking on the clock.

2. Bob was our boss’s golden child. He had a rough upbringing and had a kid in his teens. As a result, my boss tended to give him more leniency in general, since “none of us knew what it was like to be a parent that young.”

3. Joe was not well-liked by our boss for being “weird.” However, I was much closer with Joe (not BFFs by any means, but we had similar personal interests like video games).

Although Bob got in trouble for drinking on the clock, his punishment was much lighter than Joe’s. Apparently, because there weren’t any cameras to show the fight, there wasn’t any way to confirm what happened. However, I was never asked for further details on what happened after my initial warning to my boss and HR. Sally wasn’t questioned either, since it was her last day.

Apparently, the company decided that because Joe slapped Bob (in response to Bob trying to take the wheel of the car), they would end Joe’s contract early. They argued he started it. Joe was permitted to stay the rest of the week to wrap some stuff up, which he did. When Joe told me about this, I apologized and asked if he wanted me to go to bat for him. He said no, that he didn’t want me to risk my job, and that he was happy to get out of the hellhole.

Bob talked to me at the after-hours event and asked why I told our boss and HR about the situation. I didn’t want to get on Bob’s bad side, but felt he was wrong in this situation. “I was worried it would escalate to be unsafe,” is all I said. Apparently, Bob took this as me apologizing to him (he was semi-afraid of Joe because of the “weirdness” and the fact Joe is much bigger than him).

I know I’m in the right for informing my boss and HR, since the punch and yelling occurred on the company’s parking lot. But I’m wondering if I should have stood up for Joe better, tried to stop the two, record what was going on, called the cops, or what. What do you do when your coworkers get into a physical altercation in your company’s parking lot?

It’s ridiculous that Joe got fired while Bob only got a light punishment. Bob got drunk on the clock, almost caused an accident with four employees in the car, and deliberately punched someone in the face. Those are all serious things! Joe shouldn’t have slapped Bob — but it sounds like it was a heat-of-the-moment reaction to keep all of you from getting killed, whereas Bob’s punch was just revenge.

If anyone was getting fired, it should have been Bob.

If your management felt what Joe did warranted firing, I can’t imagine why Bob’s actions didn’t too. How is deliberately punching someone in the face somehow less serious than Joe’s slap, even if we agree that Joe’s slap was unacceptable? Your company was basically saying “violent revenge is fine.”

As for what you should have done … it’s not your job to break up a fight, and you could have gotten hurt or escalated things further if you tried. Recording it might have been helpful after the fact but isn’t the kind of thing most people would think about in the few seconds when something shocking like this is going down (and really, you’d assume your company would believe eyewitness accounts rather than requiring video). You went inside and got help; that was appropriate.

If you could go back in time and do things differently, ideally I think you would volunteered your eyewitness account to your boss and HR after the immediate situation was over. They should have spoken with you about what happened as part of their investigation, especially if Bob and Joe’s accounts differed, but you didn’t need to wait to be invited to do that — it would have been fine to initiate that conversation yourself and say, “I want to share with you what I saw that day.” But it sounds like Joe discouraged you from doing that, so I can understand why you didn’t.

The other thing I’d change if we could is the impression Bob got from you — that you were apologizing to him! — because ideally he’d hear from someone other than Joe how out of line he was. I don’t know if you chose not to do that out of fear of Bob or from more of a general discomfort with conflict. If it’s the latter, that might be the strongest lesson to take away from all this — that you want to resolve in the future to speak up when you think someone is so much in the wrong. (Well, and also that your company sucked).

Really, though, a drunk coworker punching another is so outside the realm of what we expect when we go to work that it’s understandable if you didn’t react perfectly in the moment (how many people would?) and you shouldn’t second-guess yourself too much now.

{ 206 comments… read them below }

  1. Silver Robin*

    100% agree with Allison. There might have been “more right” options (like recording the fight or proactively going to HR with what you saw) but you absolutely did nothing wrong. Joe was treated incredibly unfairly, Bob is dangerous to be around, and I am glad this is a “previous workplace”.

    1. Random Dice*

      The idea that someone is the golden child because he fathered a child as a teenager is so bizarre.

      Just bananapuddingcrackers.

      1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

        “All of us were similar ages, between 21 and 25.”

        And he has a teenage child? And he’s at most 25? WHAT? If we’re taking teenager to mean 13 and Bob’s at most 25, that means he had a child at TWELVE? I mean, yes, that would be an impossible situation to be in, and kudos to him for…handling it the best he can? But yeah, this is a really weird situation to have glossed right over or for the company to have given him preferential treatment for.

        1. Flossie Bobbsey*

          He “had a kid in his teens” I think is meant as “during his teens” – i.e., Bob had a child when Bob was in his teens, not that Bob’s child was already in his own teens.

        2. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

          Ha! Fair! I read it differently, clearly, and was boggled. Not that it isn’t possible, just…improbable and more scandalous than if BOB was a teenager himself when he became a parent.

      2. L'étrangère*

        Someone was irresponsible enough to father a child as a teenager and HE had it rough?? I could see the OP being afraid to get in an argument with Bob, who’s so used to getting away with everything. But the Banana Prize goes to the boss here, who’s unable to even distinguish the most basic standard of work behavior much less enforce any. I’m afraid I’d be sending out the resume like my life depended on it, because it might, literally

  2. EPLawyer*

    OP — geting you AND Sally out of there safely was the best thing you could have done in the moment. Your safety and Sally’s was more important that dealing with the fight.

    How many stories do we have of interns being injured on the job because someone didn’t think of their safety? Also, I can just imagine Sally’s view of the company after what happened on her last day.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      If I’m Sally – I’m not using Bob or that company as a reference…..they’ve shown me who they are.

    2. HB*

      Ditto. OP, I think you’re focusing on how the company screwed Joe and thinking of what you could have done to stop *that*… but in the moment you kept your head, protected yourself and Sally, and did your best to intervene in the safest way possible (by alerting your boss and HR). You obviously didn’t realize the company was going to favor Bob so much as to ignore such atrocious behavior from him. And it also sounds like the company wasn’t a fan of Joe and may not have renewed his contract even without this incident. Therefore it’s possible that the only thing that could have changed with the benefit of hindsight is getting Bob fired. Which he should have been, but since you’re already out of this workplace it’s not the worst thing in the world for the company to face the consequences of its own bad decisions.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        If getting drunk on the job and starting a retaliatory fist fight in the parking lot aren’t enough to get Bob fired, I don’t think that OP could have gotten them fired. A recording of the parking lot fight or telling HR about Bob grabbing the wheel would definitely get the guy fired in a normal workplace, but this clearly isn’t a normal workplace and Bob was teflon.

        1. JustaTech*

          Agreed. There were some people at my company like this: got wasted on a work trip, got in a fight with each other bad enough that one of them needed medical care, seriously disrupted the actual work they were supposed to do and the consequences were … nothing.
          They were even kept on when more reliable people got laid off and were only let go when the whole department was shut down.

          Everyone assumed they had some kind of blackmail or something.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          Whenever I hear stories like this my first thought is “what on earth would Bob have to do to actually get fired?”

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Same – and then thinking that I’m glad I don’t work for one of those places.

            (Sadly I know because we had a teammate at my current job who was fired for drinking while still clocked in.)

  3. Hills to Die on*

    I don’t feel that Joe was wrong for slapping Bob at all. That was urgent, life-threatening, self-defense and defense of others.
    I can also understand not saying anything in defense of Joe – it was moot by that point and nothing you said was going to change the boss’s mind. You can’t have a rational conversation with rational people. OP would have only risked their own standing at the company.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      ^^ This. While violence is not the answer most of the time, IMHO it is the answer if it’s in response to trying to stop someone steering a carful of people directly into a tree.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            …’lucky that that’s all they got.’

            If somebody tried to steer a car I was in into a tree he would be WALKING the rest of the way, at the very least.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Robert Sapolsky made a point about how all voluntary human behavior depends on context–something can be right in one context and wrong in another.

        If I were driving a car and my drunk passenger tried to grab the wheel and drive us somewhere else, then mild-mannered me would go straight to violence (wacking them with the arm on that side) as the way to get them off the wheel before they finished steering us into a tree.

      2. Dawn*

        Yeah, in this case, I’d have to agree that slapping Bob (really, pushing him away in a confined space which resulted in him being slapped, which is different again,) was absolutely the appropriate action when he has already seized the wheel and is attempting to run the vehicle off the road.

      3. Random Dice*

        Agreed! He stopped a drunk guy from murdering multiple people. I’m ok with a slap.

    2. Phony Genius*

      The fact that Joe said the LW would be risking his job if he told management what really happened suggests that he Joe knows that management would not take the LW’s account positively. Especially if Bob was the boss’s “golden child.”

      1. Melicious*

        Especially since they didn’t even bother to ask LW and Sally what happened when Joe and Bob’s accounts of the story differed??? Yeah… I don’t think it would have changed anything.

        1. The Rules are Made Up*

          Honestly their accounts of what happened probably didn’t differ that much. If Joe is a reasonable normal person (seems so) he probably told them the truth. So both stories probably boiled down to Joe slapped Bob in the car and then Bob punched Joe later. But because management treats Bob like a special little pet, they probably didn’t think the “stopping him from steering the car into a tree” part was important enough to salvage Joe’s job. Reasonable people would have that discernment; unreasonable people who wanted it to be Joe’s fault regardless, because that’s easier, wouldn’t. Way easier to rely on “Well Joe started it” and ignore everything else.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I like to think that Joe was intending to quit this shitshow, and this incident was just “… and I guess that’ll be this week.”

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Very real possibility. The place sounds good on the surface but beyond toxic once you get below the surface.

          1. Mister_L*

            Joe literally said he was “glad to get out of the hellhole”, so I guess you’re spot on.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        Excellent point. As a rule of thumb, any place you can get in trouble with management for reporting a coworker *potentially killing you* is not a good place to work.

    3. Anna Badger*

      fully agree – if you are driving a car that a drunk person is trying to gain control of, your first duty is to do literally whatever you have to do to neutralise that threat to your safety and that of your passengers and whoever else is in the vicinity.

      1. Myrin*

        Right? I was wondering whether I might be more violently-inclined than the average AAM reader so I’m glad there is a thread like that here.

        1. NotBatman*

          I’m normally a “violence is never acceptable” person, but. I agree that there’s most certainly an exception for the guy trying to kill you and your coworkers as ‘a joke’. Slapping that guy is more reasonable than not.

      2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Yeah, obviously the slap enough to get the job done, but honestly, if more violence was necessary, I’d have no problem with it.

    4. CityMouse*

      I agree. At that moment Bob risked the lives, not just of everyone in the car, but people outside of the car too. Joe’s slap was defending his own and the lives of others.

    5. MauvaisePomme*

      Absolutely. Joe’s slap wasn’t a senseless attack. He was physically preventing a very drunk Bob from taking control of the wheel and getting everyone in that car killed. Joe did nothing wrong.

    6. Nobby Nobbs*

      This. Obviously we can’t really know how we’d react in the moment to something like this, but I can vividly imagine a good, panicked smack feeling like the minimum amount at necessary force. And it clearly worked, since everyone left the car alive.

    7. Adereterial*

      1000% agree.

      It is not an overreaction to use whatever force is necessary to protect your life and the life of others. Someone actively trying to take the wheel of a car in motion is a significant risk to themselves and everyone around them. A slap was absolutely warranted in this situation and I’m a little baffled by Alison’s take on it.

    8. Event coordinator*

      Totally agree. Here in the US self-defense is protected and honored both legally and culturally, so it says a lot about management that the narrative is “Joe started it first” versus “Joe protected himself and his colleagues from a dangerous situation.”

      Glad to hear this is a precious workplace, OP. Bob has shown he has terrible judgement so the next time he gets drunk it could end worse.

    9. Morgan Proctor*

      Yeah, Joe should ABSOLUTELY have slapped Bob. What on earth is this take that Bob putting 4 people’s lives in danger doesn’t warrant an immediate physical intervention?

      1. MigraineMonth*

        At least 4 lives; there may have also been pedestrians or people in other vehicles who were at risk as well.

      2. Anonymous*

        Not only do I think Joe’s slap was justified, I think Joe’s next move should have been pulling the car over and yelling at Bob to get out at the top of his lungs.

        1. Olive*

          I’d have been fine if Joe had pulled Bob out of the car after that. Using physical force to remove someone who almost killed a car full of people is a reasonable reaction.

    10. Cadbury Purple*

      Yup – the only time I have ever properly yelled at someone is when my ex-boyfriend decided it was a good idea to put on the handbrake of the car I was driving (thankfully very slowly and with no one around) because he was drunk and we were driving past a pub he wanted to stop at. We had some friends in the back of the car so I hated to shout at him in front of them, but I needed to get him to understand now that he could not make me lose control of my car because it would put everyone around us in danger. Not to give anyone carte blanche for in-car violence or yelling, but there are times when it’s unfortunately necessary.

    11. Jessica*


      It’s like, okay, then, which forms of physical resistance to someone actively trying to crash your car into a tree *are* acceptable?

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        It’s like when, according to testimony, Trump tried to grab the steering wheel to go to the Jan. 6 insurrection, and the Secret Service guy had to shove him back. He did what was necessary, period.

    12. chibiusa*

      Yeah this is one of the first times in a while I didn’t agree with Allison’s take on something. Slapping him was completely appropriate, and probably was a reflex in response to a drunk person trying to crash the car he was driving.

      1. tangerineRose*

        When I read it, I assumed that Joe slapped Bob after correcting the car, but on re-reading it, Joe could have delivered the slap during trying to get control. Either way, I can’t really blame Joe. I can’t imagine the adrenaline that must have been going through his system, when Bob almost killed them.

    13. learnedthehardway*

      Totally agree – the slap was entirely warranted to protect the people in the vehicle from an out-of-control drunk who was acting dangerously.

      It was also completely understandable as an instinctive response to a threat – ie. a fight, flight or freeze response. Flight wasn’t a possibility. Freeze would have resulted in an accident.

      Good for Joe for protecting his passengers (including Bob). Bob sucks. So did company management.

    14. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed. I’m not a fan of violence at all – but that slap was an in the moment reaction to Bob nearly wrecking the car. That Bob faced no real consequences for his actions is proof that it was a toxic place.

      Sounds like you, Sally, and Joe are all well off to be gone from there.

    15. MEH Squared*

      Completely agree that Joe did the right thing by slapping Bob in this situation. He did what he needed to do to keep Bob from driving them into a tree!

      OP, you did the best you could under the very trying circumstances. This is completely on Bob and your boss/company for how the latter reacted.

    16. Polly Hedron*

      Yes, Joe was right, as in an incident when a passenger said “Sir, you need to take your hand off the steering wheel. We’re going back to the West Wing, we’re not going to the Capitol,” and those words weren’t enough, so that crew then had to use physical restraint.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I just mentioned that above and have had it running through my brain this entire thread.

    17. Elio*

      Same. I’d probably reflex slap or shove away anyone trying to grab the wheel of the car I’m driving too. It’s self-defense and self-preservation. This workplace just has a boss that weirdly worships Bob for being a teen father.

      1. Francie Foxglove*

        If I’ve got it right, there is a long history of promoting men over women because men are supposed to be the breadwinners, supporting their families, while women are supposed to depend on their husbands, or *find* husbands to support them. Bob being a teen father is an even higher priority — his child will starve if Bob doesn’t get every opportunity available!

    18. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think it depends on if it was like a retaliatory slap, or if it was literally slapping him *away* so he couldn’t grab the wheel. The fact that it was described as backhanded which I feel like is what I use when I’m like shooing bugs away makes me feel the latter is likely in which case I agree that would not only not be wrong but honestly would probably be the most appropriate response to a drunk person trying to take the wheel imo.

  4. UKgreen*

    As a British person, all I can do is comment on the fact that Bob was drunk enough to be this violent and argumentative after three drinks, and express shock that his behaviour was not considered ‘gross misconduct’ warranting instant dismissal.

      1. Random Dice*

        Drinking is much less a thing in the US than in the UK, except in certain subcultures. It’s always interesting to compare!

        If I have 2 glasses of wine, I’m pretty drunk, for sure. (Though not fistfight and kill people in car wreck drunk, apparently. Maybe that’s 3 glasses?)

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      I suspect that Bob ran to “violent and argumentative” by nature and it didn’t take much to loosen his inhibitions.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Bob was fight looking to happen. He was not drunk enough that he didn’t plan this out of camera retaliation…

        1. EPLawyer*

          THIS. He was in control enough to make sure he was at the spot with no cameras before deliberately punching Joe. If he had done it in the car after Joe smacked him, that would be one thing.

          Bob knew what he was doing even if his inhibitions were a bit lowered by the alcohol.

          The company screwed this up MASSIVELY by only giving Bob a slap on the wrist. This WILL happen again. Because Bob knows he is protected from actual consequences.

          Yes, most rational places this would be an immediate escort off the premises.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          THIS HERE. He was impaired, but not so much so that he didn’t know what he was doing.

      2. RVA Cat*

        This. Plus if Bob acts like this *at work* I worry how he is at home. His kid would be elementary school age.

    2. Siren of Sleep*

      Not just violent and argumentative, but he planned the attack. He specifically asked to go to an area without cameras, most likely cause he knew the boss would be on his side. Bob is dangerous.

      1. yala*

        That’s the part that really scares me. Bob’s not just out of control. He knows he can get away with truly egregious (and illegal) behavior. He knows how to plan to do bad things. I think if Bob *hadn’t* thought LW was apologizing to him, that he’d be planning something unpleasant for LW.

    3. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      in the US you can get fired for anything so fighting a coworker is usually a firable offense

      1. Phony Genius*

        Also in the US, you can be not fired for anything. An employer is allowed to keep you on the payroll no matter how much of a liability you are to them.

        1. metadata minion*

          Oh, now I’m curious — are there laws on the books in other places that you *have* to fire someone after certain kinds of misconduct?

          1. Random Dice*

            You can file a labor department* complaint about pretty much anything. It has a hefty fine if true, so most companies take them seriously.

            *OSHA – there’s a federal dept and state depts, with California’s being the most labor-friendly of all

          2. New Jack Karyn*

            I think no? If a company is willing to pay whatever fines and/or civil judgments an employee might incur, they are probably legally allowed to keep them employed.

            Caveats for government employees & contractors, especially those with any kind of security clearance–I don’t know anything about that, so I ought not speculate.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          Hmm, I think this actually depends. I believe there are sectors like finance that have laws requiring that a bank fire anyone convicted of financial crimes. I believe that a judge could also order an employer to fire someone as part of a harassment lawsuit.

          1. Phony Genius*

            You are probably right about that specific industry (finance). However, my understanding is that a judge can’t order a given employee be fired as part of a settlement unless that employee was named as a defendant in the suit, thereby giving them a chance to defend themselves. (At least in my state.)

            1. JustaTech*

              I know you can be kicked out of some industries entirely for really really egregious business misconduct (faking results in drug trials/ drug manufacturing). But it’s super rare, and only when the person has been a threat to the public at large.

    4. Jane Bingley*

      Something that may add context is that in North America, a lunch is typically 45 minutes to an hour, so those three drinks were likely consumed in a very short period of time (especially if, as is implied by Joe asking for the check, they cut the lunch shorter than originally planned).

      I know in many parts of the world, a shared team meal can be 2 hours or more, and 3 drinks over two hours is very different than 3 drinks in 45 minutes.

      1. Ann Onymous*

        Aside from whether or not a person gets intoxicated, a lot of people would question the judgement of someone choosing to have multiple drinks at lunch when they’re planning to return to work afterwards.

      2. Nobby Nobbs*

        It also depends on the strength of the drinks, Bob’s alcohol tolerance, and whether he actually ate much lunch or just drank it. IME restaurant drinks don’t tend to be that strong, but if it was on a semi-empty stomach…

      3. Daisy Daisy*

        Exactly, this lunch was probably an hour at the absolute max and since he ordered multiples, it’s pretty clear that he was drinking to get drunk, not just failing to notice his level.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          That’s my feelings here. There is a difference between having a Beverage because you like the taste as part of a team lunch if it’s acceptable to your industry standards/culture And drinking to drink/get drunk.

          Bob was seems to have headed straight for the drinking to get drunk, and then proceeded to throw dangerous tantrums because he could when the others ruined his fun. Glad everyone was safe, and that they all have new jobs now.

    5. TurnedMeIntoANewt*

      At any place I worked (even the dysfunctional ones) it would have been. The sequence of events in the letter is shocking here too.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        The only place where I could see this going down was maaaaybe at the company run by a functioning drunk. And that’s a very questionable maybe because even that character had his limits. Typically anything that had potential to embarrass him OR put him at risk of being sued was that limit.

        1. ferrina*

          I worked at a company that was big on the Golden Boy model (and yes, it was all men who were the golden ones). If you were in with the CEO, you could do no wrong (waste tons of company money, blatant religious harassment, one time even SA- though in that case everyone else found out what happened and refused to work with the offender, so eventually the CEO had to fire him because he couldn’t do his job because no one would talk to him).

          1. Random Dice*


            That’s basically just a person-shaped bundle of bees walking around!

            /sorry bees for the calumny, you’re actually wonderful, please keep pollinating my apple trees

    6. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Fun fact: in the US, a standard shot of alcohol is twice the amount of a standard UK shot. Or more. Three drinks here is a much stronger serving.

      1. UKgreen*

        You’re assuming Bob drank what the US calls liquor and what the UK calls spirits – he could have had three beers!

        Even so: In the UK, three single shots would be 75ml. In the US it would be 4.5oz (133ml). Significantly more, yes. But not enough to be this violently drunk.

        Bob clearly premeditated this act of violence.

        1. Nobby Nobbs*

          Since plenty of people are capable of getting falling-down drunk without punching anybody, I don’t think Bob’s level of drunkenness is all that important here, really. It doesn’t explain his actions absent other factors (like him being a violent jerk), let alone absolve him.

        2. Lacey*

          Yeah, 3 drinks could cover a wide range.
          It could be 3 beers, it could be 3 long island ice teas.

        3. Fuel Injector*

          “You’re assuming Bob drank what the US calls liquor and what the UK calls spirits – he could have had three beers!”

          In the US, a standard serving of beer has the same amount of alcohol as a standard shot. Three beers = three shots.

          I’m with Nobby Nobbs, though. Lots of people get drunk without grabbing a wheel or throwing a punch. Bob is a violent jerk.

    7. Cat Tree*

      How is that a British thing? In most US companies this would also result in firing.

    8. bamcheeks*

      “Three drinks” doesn’t mean anything, though. Three 330ml bottles of beer is 4.5 units. Three 250ml glasses of wine is 9.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I was taught that one drink is 14 grams pure alcohol. That works out to about 12 oz beer, 5 oz wine, and 1.5 oz hard liquor.

        Which got me in trouble later when I ordered one Long Island iced tea.

    9. Ellis Bell*

      It’s easier to fire people in the US so they didn’t even have to establish this as gross misconduct (which it absolutely was).

    10. goddessoftransitory*

      How drunk Bob got on three drinks depended a lot on the drinks (Long Island Iced Teas or beers?) his tolerance, how much he ate, etc. But yeah, the fact that he ordered three alcoholic beverages in a row on the clock, during the day, would in most functional US companies have raised an eyebrow on its own even if he acted totally normally.

  5. Danish*

    Wow, well, hate Bob hate your Boss. I’d be looking to get out ASAP since it seems like the odds of you sustaining a grievous injury at this job are significantly higher than most, and management doesn’t gaf about it.

    1. MauvaisePomme*

      It sounds like OP is long gone from this job, and is just reflecting now on what they could have done differently at the time.

    2. EPLawyer*


      Bob WILL do this again. He found out there are little to no consequences, so why should he change?

    3. Venus*

      I think that’s why Joe decided not to pursue anything. Before the fight he might have been planning to leave at the end of his contract but then decided that he couldn’t work in a place that was so dysfunctional that they wouldn’t fire or even really punish Bob. I think the best choice for OP was exactly what happened, specifically to check with Joe and do what he wanted.

  6. Siren of Sleep*

    Holy guacamole. That is a messed up situation and honestly I don’t blame Joe one bit for wanting to get out of there.

    I think what you’re feeling is a bit of survivor’s guilt there OP, so you should give yourself permission to let it go. None of this was your fault and you did everything in the situation correctly. You got yourself and Sally out of there, you reported the situation and you let the victim have agency in the outcome (even if it wasn’t the most just of decisions.) Everything else is the fault of that boss/HR/company who allowed a violent drunk to remain on premises and employed.

    1. Kyrielle*

      This. All of this. OP, thank you for making sure Sally got to safety as well as yourself. She did not need to be in the middle of that either. There was nothing that remaining at the scene of the fight would have been likely to help, and you had no reason to expect they’d end Joe’s contract and keep Bob over it until it was already a done deal and Joe asked you not to intervene further.

      I do hope you were able to get out of that company shortly after that, because that’s horrifying on several levels. But for an unexpected mess of that level – you handled it pretty well in the moment. You got everyone not involved in the fight out, and you reported it as fast as possible to people who could hopefully handle it.

      (Had you called 911, you would have been justified in doing so, IMO. But you weren’t in any way obligated to, and I don’t think it would have been “better” in any way than what you did. I think you might have gotten yourself in trouble at work if you’d called 911 after going in and finding your boss (or even just after going in), and calling it from where the fight was happening might have added you to Bob’s target list, which wouldn’t have helped anything.)

    2. ferrina*

      OP did a great job, especially for how young she was. It sounds like this company had a few things out of whack- Joe seemed to recognize that, and the way they treated the situation confirms it. It sounds like he wasn’t treated fairly in a lot of ways, not just in this situation.
      If OP had gone to bat for Joe, it likely would have just caused the manager to turn against her as well. It was very, very unlikely to save Joe’s job, and even if she had pulled off that miracle, odds are that Joe would have been treated horribly until he decided to quit.

    3. Random Dice*

      Agreed! Not at all OP’s fault, this was nuts.

      An employer that responds to workplace violence (especially pre-planned workplace violence!) with a shrug is a terrifying employer.

      That might be the one action to take, going back and writing a Glassdoor account to give people a heads up. Keep it factual and unemotional to increase believability.

  7. Bilateralrope*

    Bob grabbing the steering wheel means I would never get in any car with him unless he is in the back seat. The one not directly behind the driver. While looking for a new job, because it’s clear that management don’t care about Bob assaulting other employees.

    As for what the letter writer could have done differently, the only thing I can think of is talking to Joe and letting him know that the LW will be a witness if Joe wants to report this to the police.

      1. Bob-White of the Glen*

        I wouldn’t allow anyone with that history of violence (likes to sucker punch people!?!?) in my car. I’d also leave any work function where I saw him drinking.

    1. PlainJane*

      That was my takeaway, too. In fact, the thing has me thinking that if I’m transporting someone drunk, he’s going in the back seat no matter how his temper seems when he first gets in the car. That behavior hadn’t even occurred to me. Ugh.

  8. Dust Bunny*

    Bob is a problem and your boss is a tool. At some point, Bob became a grown-up and his earlier hardships are his and his alone to untangle, not your boss’ to kid-glove indefinitely.

  9. Hiring Mgr*

    These two sentences explain why nothing you would have done would likely made any difference:

    “Bob was our boss’s golden child”

    “Joe was not well-liked by our boss for being “weird.” “

    1. Ama*

      Why do I have a feeling that a big chunk of Joe’s “weirdness” even before this incident was him refusing to hang out with Bob and boss like buddies because he saw how toxic that relationship was?

      1. Random Dice*

        Right? Joe did everything right.
        1) He spoke up when a fellow young worker was making a poor alcohol – work choice, instead of sitting silent
        2) He called off the lunch that was getting out of control on Bob’s side
        3) He made up an urgent task as a ploy to try to manage Bob’s increasingly aggressive behavior
        4) He protected the lives of 3 people by slapping the murderous drunk
        5) He still negotiated peacefully with the aggressive drunk and agreed to park in the requested spot

        Poor Joe. He’s solid gold, he is.

    2. Feotakahari*

      This makes me think of that letter where Employee#1 was well-liked and Employee#2 wasn’t, and Employee#1 demanded that Employee#2’s salary be lowered to match hers. It’s easy to get into a position where whoever’s well-liked seems like the reasonable one, even when their actions would be unreasonable from a more neutral perspective. I’m not sure how to guard against this on an institutional level.

      1. Beacon of Nope*

        My search-fu is failing me – do you have a link to this one? That sounds awful.

        1. Feotakahari*

          Found it! “a pay disparity in my office is causing a drama-filled crisis”

  10. LawBee*

    OP, you did amazingly well in a stressful situation, and especially to be that young and new to the workforce.

    That company’s HR sucks.

  11. CityMouse*

    Your boss is so clearly unreasonable I don’t think you could have saved Joe. Your boss sucks, Bob sucks, none of this is your fault.

    In any reasonable workplace, Bob would be fired three times over.

  12. Ace*

    This seems to have been overlooked, but I think Joe was let go only because he was a contractor and it was easy to do so whereas Bob was an actual employee.

    1. Michelle Smith*

      An actual employee who assaulted someone on the clock in front of his coworkers. Everyone including HR needs immediate training on workplace violence. It should have been just as easy to fire Bob for misconduct as it was to fire Joe for defending himself and others.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, this is a lot more about management protecting Bob no matter what, employee or not.

      2. Yoyoyo*

        Exactly; in a functional workplace that would be an immediate escort off the premises and firing, regardless of being a W2 employee.

    2. Random Dice*

      In a billion years I would never protect an FTE Drunk Violent Bob over a contractor Did Everything Right Joe. I’d ride that Nope train like a cowgirl on a bucking bronco.

  13. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

    I appreciate the LW’s concern for Joe and if I were her, in addition, I’d be livid that management did not care that Bob endangered me with his rash drunken wheel-grabbing.

  14. Coconutty*

    I completely disagree that Joe shouldn’t have slapped Bob. If a belligerent passenger is trying to crash a car and kill you, and a slap will get them to lay off long enough for you to get to safety, then it is absolutely acceptable and appropriate. Just like it would be in any situation where someone is trying to put another person in physical danger.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Same. If you grab the wheel while I’m driving I will elbow you in the face. We’re not gonna die because Bob is a drunk fool.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      Yeah, you want to use minimal force to resolve the situation. Would yelling at Bob have worked? Seems unlikely (and I’d be surprised if no one yelled when he tried it). Would shoving Bob away have worked? Maybe, but that would have required the driver to regain control of the car using one hand while wrestling with Bob with the other hand.

      In this case, backhanding Bob to get him to release the wheel was almost certainly the minimal amount of force required to stop the threat to everyone’s lives.

    3. Res*

      Yes…..and how is dying after your car’s wrapped around a tree better than a slap???

  15. Trek*

    The only thing I would do differently is told Joe to pull over after Bob almost killed us and forced him out of the car. No way would I continue riding in that car with Bob acting that way and no way would I let him stay in the car. He can walk. It would also have been acceptable for you to refuse to ride with Bob ever again and to escalate the fact that Bob almost killed you.

    1. Daisy Daisy*

      I was thinking that, too, dump him off at a Starbucks or something and then go get Boss and come back. Either way, pull over immediately and his front seat privileges permanently ended

    2. Coverage Associate*

      Definitely pull over. While I agree that morally, it should be Bob who gets out, that’s Joe’s call as the driver and presumably the owner of the car. But if Joe wants to continue to drive Bob, then OP and the intern could take a taxi or Uber or call someone else at the business to pick them up.

      While I wouldn’t agree with Joe choosing to continue driving Bob, I can see that 1 drunk person might be more vulnerable than 2 sober people, so it could be considered safer to keep driving Bob.

  16. I should really pick a name*

    There weren’t any cameras showing Joe slapping Bob either, so they’re not applying this bullshit excuse consistently.

    Please get away from this company, for your own good.

  17. Reality Check*

    Why is it ALWAYS the golden child? And how did they get to be golden children in the first place? I’ve been wondering this my entire adult life.

      1. Random Dice*

        Apparently because he didn’t wear condoms as a teenager?

        Ok yeah that’s so bizarre that I’m gonna go with knowing where the bodies are buried, or that he and the CEO were sleeping together and Bob was blackmailing him? Something like that.

    1. Good Luck*

      I hate the Golden Child at work. There is always someone at every job that gets away with everything. It drives me nuts.

      I worked with someone that fell asleep almost everyday at the their desk (and actually snored…loudly). They did not have a medical condition “they were just tired”. HR talked to them so many times. She was the only one that could do what she did at the company so she got away with it.

    2. Phony Genius*

      One thing I’ve learned about the golden child is that whenever the person who has gilded them leaves the company, the gold quickly turns to lead with the new boss.

    3. Mf*

      People like this are very good at ingratiating themselves with the right people in the workplace. They do this on purpose so that they can misbehave but still remain untouchable.

    4. Petty Betty*

      In this case, I am wondering if Bob is the father of the boss’s grandchild or if the boss is somehow related to Bob’s child in some other way (perhaps the mother is a favorite niece?).

      It would explain why he’s so favored and can do no wrong. Can’t let him get fired and be jobless, he has a child to support that my (potentially favorite) family member shouldn’t be supporting on her own…

  18. Daisy Daisy*

    Always skeptical of “well there’s no video evidence so I guess we’ll have to disregard all physical evidence and WITNESSES and just decide things in the direction our favoritism already lies.”

    1. Siren of Sleep*

      “Well, except where the witnesses (which is probably just Bob with Joe taking ownership of his error hopefully) say that Joe totally slapped Bob first. THEN WE GOTTA ACT”

  19. Qwerty*

    OP, I think you behaved logically at the time given your age, experience, and info that was available to you. Sometimes when we look back on events from our youth we rethink them through today’s lens and power structures. You were scared and protected your intern. You trusted HR and the boss to handle a violent drunk coworker. You took a soft approach when confronted by Bob to protect yourself.

    Even the suggestion to film it probably wouldn’t have helped – unless you captured Bob’s premediated punch, it likely would have been used as an example of the fight being “mutual” or as evidence against Joe.

    1. Antilles*

      Even the suggestion to film it probably wouldn’t have helped
      I’m pretty sure OP could have had a TV camera crew following the entire chain of events, start to finish, and the company still would have found a way to let Bob off the hook.
      Oh look here in the video, Joe drifted 0.2 millimeters to the right while arguing with Bob, so clearly Bob had a good reason to grab the steering wheel, Bob’s innocent, case closed!

    2. metadata minion*

      I don’t even think there’s all that much an older, wiser OP should have done differently unless maybe they had enough seniority/clout to make being more assertive with HR worth it. Sure, I agree with Alison that it would have been good to be more proactive about going to HR as a general rule, but in this case it seems pretty clear that it wouldn’t have helped.

  20. e.y.w.*

    Oh my goodness, LW. That is insane. Judging by the outcome, I don’t think you could have done/said anything to effectively change it. You were right to prioritize your safety and Sally’s, and immediately report it.
    At my college job, the manager’s *golden child* YELLED at a supervisor, in front of outside guests. Somehow, she got away with no consequence, and the supervisor was asked “to be more understanding.” Turnover in that department was high, shockingly.

  21. Jessica*

    I agree in the macro, but I disagree that Joe slapping Bob is “unacceptable.”

    I think slapping a drunk person to get them to stop *grabbing the wheel and crashing you into a tree* is absolutely acceptable. It’s literally self-defense against someone who’s actively putting your life and the lives of your passengers at risk.

    1. NeedRain47*

      Yep. If someone is grabbing at the steering wheel while I am driving, whatever I do to make that situation less dangerous is completely justified. It’s the same principle as you don’t hit kids, but if you slapped your child’s hand away from a hot burner or grab them as they’re about to run in the street, b/c there wasn’t time to calmly explain. It’s a safety issue. WTF are you supposed to do, climb into the back seat and let the drunk guy take over? Too bad Joe
      didn’t knock Bob out entirely so he would stop making terrible drunken decisions.

  22. morethantired*

    I would have been on the phone with 911 the moment Bob punched Joe. That’s assault and I wouldn’t want anyone, including my boss, to possibly be put in danger by trying to break up a fight.

  23. MackM*

    I feel calling the police after Bob punched Joe would have been completely appropriate. I don’t know if a police report would have helped Joe’s position, but it couldn’t have hurt.

    1. Zzz*

      I’d say it would have been appropriate “just” for the attempted manslaughter, or whatever “trying to force a car with four occupants off the road/into a ditch” is supposed to be.

  24. Michelle Smith*

    My only disagreement with this answer is whether it was appropriate for Joe to slap Bob. I think it was absolutely appropriate. You grab the wheel of someone’s car while they’re driving? Slapping someone to get them to stop is a measured, appropriate response given that the alternative could be multiple fatalities.

  25. Zarniwoop*

    “Bob was our boss’s golden child.”
    Which is why there’s probably nothing you could have done differently that would have had any effect on the outcome.

  26. JustMe*

    Slightly off topic, but it’s kind of surprising to me that Bob was so drunk after three drinks. Everyone’s body is different and it depends on the speed at which you consume and what you consume but…this still seems like an extreme reaction for someone who only had three drinks. That makes me wonder if Bob was secretly drinking more than he let on (maybe sneaking off to drink during set up), was taking medications or other substances that caused an adverse reaction, or whether the drinking is a pretext to behave badly or to do other things he later did not want to take responsibility for. (Ex. Someone I met from Turkey once said, “I have discovered why American youths drink so much–it is so they can do whatever they want and then say they do not remember.”)

    1. Good Luck*

      Well 3 beers are different than 3 margarita’s or 3 Long Island Iced Teas. I am a female and 3 long islands would have me dancing on the tables and puking in the bushes. However I agree there def could be some drug interaction (perscription or not) or he was drinking prior.

    2. Jessica*

      A friend of mine who’s a lawyer who handles DUIs once said that as a rule of thumb, 3 shots in an hour will put you over the legal limit.

      So assuming Bob was drinking something harder than beer, it’s plausible that he got drunk from the three drinks he had during lunch.

      Obviously, there’s the question of why anyone would have three drinks at a work lunch, so I’m not arguing there’s not a drinking problem there.

      1. Fuel Injector*

        “A friend of mine who’s a lawyer who handles DUIs once said that as a rule of thumb, 3 shots in an hour will put you over the legal limit.”

        The legal limit is a really low bar. Most people aren’t discernably impaired when they are at the legal limit.

        Three drinks, even three beers, in an hour is enough to make most people discernably impaired. I think Bob has issues in addition to how much he drinks, though, bc even 3 drinks in an hour is not enough to make most people grab the wheel while someone else is driving or punch someone.

      2. Old Admin*

        FWIW, back in the 1950s, there was the concept of a “three martini lunch” being a pretty normal thing to do.

        1. Old Admin*

          I’m not defending Bob’s actions, but pointing out quite a few people in the US think booze at lunch is OK. I don’t see it that way.

    3. Zzz*

      I know little about alcohol, but don’t some cocktails have multiple small glasses in them?

      Like normally you drink beer from a big glass and Jagermeister from a tiny glass and they’re roughly equal in terms of pure alcohol, but a cocktail is half a beer glass of Jagermeister mixed with half a beer glass of lemonade.

      I remember my parents warning me about that, at least.

      1. Fuel Injector*

        Yes, cocktails have a mixture of types of booze, and the strength depends on the cocktail. A Long Island Iced Tea, which has come up a lot in this thread, has like 1.5-2 shots worth of booze in it. It’s one of the strongest cocktails. A margarita has like 1 shot of booze.

        But even three beers over a typical 1 hour lunch is a lot.

        1. Random Dice*

          Oh that’s why a Long Island Iced Tea hit me so hard in college! All makes sense now.

      2. different seudonym*

        Oh god, the face I just made. on alcohol content you’re not wrong, but please believe me that most cocktail recipes are better than that.

    4. metadata minion*

      I’m a little bit surprised Bob was this sensitive to alcohol given how readily he drank it at lunchtime (3 drinks would definitely have me on the floor, but I drink half a glass of cider once or twice a year and so have the alcohol tolerance of a gerbil), but bodies are weird. I do think it’s not unlikely that he wasn’t *quite* as drunk as he might have seemed, and that in reality it was a combination of genuine intoxication and not being particularly inhibited to start with.

    5. Res*

      This stuck out to me too, just because if you can’t keep yourself from drinking multiple drinks during the workday with colleagues, not friends – and then punch someone – you may well be drinking a lot in general and in other inappropriate situations. So I would’ve guessed he’d have a higher tolerance as well, and pre-drinking or who knows pills or something is a plausible thought. Who knows maybe it’s just his body. But I did think that was interesting

  27. Cochrane*

    Hindsight is 20/20, I think you did the best you could in the situation. I was reminded of an incident from several jobs ago where a jealous husband of one of the service reps came knocking to call out an employee who he claimed made a drunken pass at his wife during the company holiday party the previous week. Apparently, they got loud in the parking garage, but didn’t come to blows. The management didn’t seem to take it seriously at all, with the GM remarking offhand during our staff meeting “it’s the holidays, folks. Deck the halls, not each other”.

    I guess you can laugh it off when it didn’t amount to anything, but management would have a serious problem on their hands if this guy cleaned his clock on company property.

  28. Anonymouse*

    I have been in a similar situation—turd coworker tried to grab the wheel while I was driving, so I punched him.

    My boss tried to get me fired over it, but given all of the other things turd coworker did (assaulted and harassed another employee, tried to follow me into the bathrooms, yelled “bomb” on the plane, flooded the hotel bathrooms), in the end I was just shunned for six months (because I reported it) and turd coworker given the choice of retiring or being fired.

    1. Francie Foxglove*

      Okay, you gotta expand on some of those. Sorry for your troubles, but I guess either you got out of there or the toxic people did.

      (Yelled “bomb” on a plane? Why was that not the end of his employment, due to his arrest and imprisonment?)

      1. Anonymouse*

        LOL I’ll try. I have multiple stories about that workplace—and I don’t think I care about being doxxed because what are they gonna do?

        Here’s one to whet your appetite—the time my ex-boss told me to create a “… suppository for everyone to use.”
        I asked her, if she meant “depository” or “repository.” She screamed at me she knew what she said and she meant what she said, and she didn’t need someone like me correcting her.

        At the staff meeting the following Thursday, she brought up again that I was tasked with creating suppositories for everyone to use. My coworkers and I were frantically texting each other: “she said it!” Two more coworkers bravely stood up and asked if ex-boss meant depository, and she tore both of them to shreds for questioning her.

        The next six weeks were… legendary. Never before in my career have I been tasked with creating suppositories (for everyone to use). And certainly, no one has asked me since to do it. I didn’t like ex-boss, nor she me, so I made sure everyone in the entire organization knew of this verbal gaffe. (I still get fart jokes to this day from former acquaintances.)

        As a 40-something, you’d think poop jokes aren’t funny… but when your boss is announcing your task (to build suppositories for everyone to use) for weeks on end to all kinds of internal and external stakeholders—poop and fart jokes are HILARIOUS.

        (There are a ton of stories about ex-boss.)

  29. yala*

    “Apparently, the company decided that because Joe slapped Bob ”

    Wait, how’d they prove he slapped Bob? If they didn’t believe Bob punched Joe because there were no cameras, then why believe Joe slapped Bob?

    Yikes, this company sounds like a friggen nightmare. I’d be constantly on edge worrying about what Bob would do next.

  30. Moose*

    I am floored that they didn’t punish Bob for the punch (or for almost causing a car accident) because there was no camera footage…but got rid of Joe for a slap that also had no camera footage?? The favoritism is so glaringly obvious here.

    Your company sucked, your boss sucked, Bob sucked. You did the best you could in the moment of a shocking situation.

  31. OhNoYouDidn't*

    “Joe shouldn’t have slapped Bob.” This is one of the few times I disagree with AAM. Bob could have killed or caused serious injury to everyone in the car by grabbing the wheel and almost causing a collision with a tree. That slap may very well have stopped Bob from acting so recklessly. The slap was definitely provoked and probably necessary in this situation. I salute Joe for that slap.

    1. Kay*

      Yup! As I was reading her answer I was thinking – right, violence is never the answer – then went, wait – the guy could have killed them all!! Self-defense in the way of a slap certainly seems to be tame considering the drunk @$$hat was a danger to all their safety.

  32. Emily*

    LW, I think you handled this situation wonderfully, especially considering how unexpected and upsetting it must have been to be a part of. I think Alison’s advice about proactively offering your eyewitness account was a good idea, but I can totally see why you would not think to do that in the moment, plus Joe telling you not to get involved.

    I hope your current workplace is much better than this one, as both Bob and that boss sound absolutely horrible.

    As an aside, I don’t think Joe was in the wrong at all for slapping Bob when he tried to grab the wheel. What Bob did was incredibly dangerous and could have gotten you hurt or killed.

  33. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    I cannot even begin to imagine how I would react in this situation! I think you responded pretty well, all things considered. Certainly it could have been worse.

  34. Inkognyto*

    I’m not sure I could have trusted Bob to keep his hands off the wheel.

    I’d probably have stopped or asked the drive to stop and asked him to get out and find his own way back.

    He nearly killed 4 people. He wasn’t rational. The fact the boss blows his off shows they care less about everyone else than Bob.

    1. Ms. Coffee*

      I really want someone in the company concerned to print this whole thread- two copies – one for the CEO and one for the employee bulletin board.

      Bob is a train wreck.
      Not reining him in does him no favors.

  35. Toni M*

    As an HR professional, you did the right thing. I am appalled at your HR person, but not totally surprised.

    I worked for a company, many years ago, as a department manager. One of our employees hit a customer in the head with a clipboard. The president of the company would not allow her to be fired. She had a forced one week, paid, vacation, and was then back at her desk. She was not allowed to interact with customers, thankfully. Unfortunately, if the person at the top refuses to do the right thing, HR’s hands are tied.

    You don’t say if the boss was a manager or the CEO/President. If they were just the head of the department, HR should have followed through much more thoroughly and, either fired both of them or just Bob. I know Joe was defending himself, but if there is zero tolerance for fighting, then there is no choice.

    If the boss was the CEO or President, there may not have been anything that HR could do. Just be glad you don’t work there anymore.

    1. tangerineRose*

      Wow, that’s insane! A week’s paid vacation after she hit a customer! Glad you don’t work for that company now.

  36. Anonymous*

    Survivor of a dysfunctional alcoholic family here. I have a firm policy of not being in a vehicle with someone really inebriated just because of how many times I’ve seen them try to grab the wheel, or open a door going down the highway. I won’t drive a car with someone like that in it, and I won’t ride in a car with someone like that. Especially if they are riding shot gun or directly behind the driver. Its also why 95% of the time I insist on driving instead of riding with coworkers or friends.

    1. But why???*

      What is it with drunk people that makes them want to exit a moving vehicle on a whim? I have never reached a level of inebriation that made me think “hmmm, yes, this is where I want to get out” & just yeeted myself from a moving vehicle.

  37. Anonymous*

    Joe’s slap was, legally, self-defense. It was not wrong or unacceptable. He’s not trained how to handle an erratic drunk grabbing the steering wheel, he reacted in the moment, he did not continue to strike at Bob after successfully creating the safety required for himself and the passengers of the vehicle he was responsible for.

    Personally I would say:
    In the carpark I would have told Joe me and Sally and him are all going inside now, and to lock his car. And if he didn’t, I’d’ve left with Sally if she’d felt unsafe.
    I would not have interfered with Bob because he’d already proven himself to be an erratic drunk and i’m not a bloody bouncer.

    Inside I think what you said was fine.

    I would have emailed a detailed timeline of events – including that Bob was told to stop drinking at lunch – to that specific HR person and our boss.
    I would include a statement of how I’m grateful Joe regained control of the vehicle, and a statement that Bob putting us all in danger is entirely unacceptable behaviour and I know the business cares about the safety of their staff so they’d want to know.
    For this entire time Bob was ‘at work’ and as such I would send a separate written complaint about his behaviour, to make it clear the first one was me being responsible, this is me specifically going to my manager for support in making a serious complaint about a co-worker.

    And after they’d decided to fire Joe and go soft on Bob, I’d’ve set up a meeting with my boss to ‘clarify’ that the business’ position is: If we like you, you can get drunk and try to kill three of your co-workers, but if you defend yourself from such an attempt, we’ll fire you – is this an accurate summary of what the message is that staff should take away from this? Has Legal been involved, and is Joe leaving feeling pretty good about the company, maybe a bonus on his way out? Because this story writes itself from a business reputational risk perspective.

    I can’t control my boss, but I can make them see the cold, logical, business-focussed risks associated with someone for protecting themselves from a member of our staff being punished for it. Joe wouldn’t come back, but boss man can feel that unsureness creep up his damned spine.

    Oh, and I *expect* that Bob is directed to never drink until after hours ever again, and Bob is directed that violent or dangerous behaviour while intoxicated at work events will not go smoothly in the future.

    would this sound like I’m telling my boss how to do their job? yeah, and if they want to give a slap on the wrist to the fckwit that could have killed or crippled me, clearly they do not deserve my respect to hold back on these extremely serious, and workplace health and safety associated issues. They are incompetent, they are playing favourites, they do not hold my safety in as high a regard as drunky-mc-drunk’s employment.

  38. Johannes Bols*

    I would’ve contacted a lawyer and seen if you could sue for second degree assault due to the grabbing of the steering wheel. The lawyer would have been able to advise you if you had a case.

  39. Bob is a lightweight*

    How big were those three drinks? I am assuming Yard Glasses if it took only three drinks for Bob to get punchy.

    Also, glad you chose to remove yourself & the other employee not involved in the altercation from the vicinity & report the incident. Safety first.

  40. Pip*

    OP – You prioritized safety and did exactly the right thing. Please don’t spend another minute second-guessing your actions. I’m so glad you’re not with that company any longer and I hope your current workplace is a functional, happy one. I do feel for Joe who clearly got an incredibly raw deal. If I were him I would have brought in the police, but that was his call. Bob is a walking lawsuit waiting to happen. Yikes.

  41. BaskingInMyWindowlessOffice*


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