I have to train an aggressive man when I have a trauma history

A reader writes:

I’m part of a project team creating and launching a new online system, which will mean significant changes in the way employees do their job. There’s some resistance to this change within the organization and one department in particular that is deeply opposed to the new system. We have been on a massive change management journey and this resistance unfortunately hasn’t gone away. It has gotten better as the project went along, but it hasn’t left altogether. The next step of the project is formal training on how to use the new system, which I am running.

One staff member, Derek, is especially anxious and combative regarding the new system. For example, he frequently complains he has not seen aspects of the system that relate to his job (he absolutely has) and that he disagrees with how the system is configured (even though he has been asked for and has given input along the way). I know his anxiety comes from not knowing how he will do his job and even that his job might become redundant (not likely but not impossible).

Recently he was part of a group testing the system and it didn’t go well. Aside from his general dislike of the system, he got frustrated and threw his mouse at another staff member. While I’ve never seen him do something like this, it isn’t really a surprise to me and tracks with his previous behavior. I wasn’t in the room when this happened, so I’m not sure why it wasn’t dealt with in the moment and I’m not sure how it has been managed since or if he has been spoken to about his behavior, although I know my manager was told. I’m not a manager in my team, nor is Derek part of my team or someone I work with day to day.

I’m now supposed to be training Derek. And I don’t think I can do it.

In one of my previous jobs, a man hit me in the face because I was “bossy” (his justification — I am a woman in my 20s) so I have some real trauma and fear of confrontation in the workplace. This doesn’t usually affect me because the people I work with now are sane, rational people who would never throw things or act violently at work. I handle confrontation and disagreements fine as long as no one is throwing fists. I have not felt unable to do my job or work with certain people because of this trauma until now. I’ve had therapy for this, but obviously being put in this situation is terrifying to me.

I don’t know how I will react if he acts like this in training (e.g. yelling, slamming his fists on the desk, or THROWING THINGS, even if it’s not directed at me). I don’t know what to do. Before training starts (in about a month) I need to speak to my manager to make a plan for if he does act like this but I don’t know what to say. Am I allowed to kick him out? If so, how? Will my manager step in to remove him? If so, when? Can I just leave? I don’t know how to communicate that if I can’t remove him, I will need to leave. I cannot and will not be in another room where a man is acting violently. I don’t know how to explain that to my manager. I also don’t know how to advocate for myself and be taken seriously and not be brushed off as overthinking when I’m trying to come up with a plan.

I’m also going to speak to my therapist about this but I would love and appreciate some advice about how to come at this from a work angle.

Sometimes when you know you have a really strong reaction to something due to trauma, it can be easy to forget that even people without that trauma might have a strong reaction to it too.

And that’s the case here. Many, many people without the history you have would be deeply alarmed by an employee who threw office equipment at a colleague in frustration, and would want to go into any training with him with a plan for how to handle any similar display of anger in case it happens again. That’s not to say that their alarm would be the same intensity or the same experience as yours, of course — just that it’s not odd or unusual for someone to hear what you heard and want a plan in place before working with Derek again.

So even if you didn’t have any history around this kind of thing, it would be reasonable and unremarkable to go to your manager and say, “I’m really concerned by what we heard about Derek throwing things at a coworker in that meeting, especially in light of how combative he’s been with us previously. I’d like a plan in place for how to handle it if he does that when I’m training him. Specifically, I’d like to know that I can choose to discontinue the training if he’s being aggressive, yelling, or throwing things, or seems headed to that point, and I want to talk with you about the logistics of what that would look like.” If your manager will be in the training (it sounds like maybe she will be?), you could say, “Can I rely on you to step in if he starts to go in that direction? As well as get your blessing to do it myself if I feel I need to?”

This isn’t you overthinking or being excessively cautious — it’s just smart business practice to have a plan in place for this kind of thing once you’ve seen signs it might be needed.

I think you might be thinking of it as “I need to disclose my unusually strong reaction to aggressive men in order to address this,” but I’d be encouraging you to do this even if you hadn’t mentioned your history or your responses in your letter to me! If you’d just described Derek’s behavior and nothing else, my advice would still be to use exactly the script above.

That said, you certainly can disclose it if you want to and feel like it would help. You just don’t need to, because this is a reasonable thing to address either way.

Read an update to this letter

{ 330 comments… read them below }

  1. Jane*

    Wait a minute. This guy ASSAULTED a co-worker and he wasn’t fired? What in the… I would be incredibly upset if my workplace kept someone like this onboard and THAT would be what I went to HR about. They are upholding an unsafe work environment.

      1. NAL-NYL*

        It’s definitely worth re-raising I think. I wonder if HR somehow processed the incident as “Derek threw his mouse [at the ground or something]” which while upsetting would not be the same level of frightening behavior as “Derek threw his mouse AT KELLY.” Reiterating the situation might rouse the powers that be to action in the interests of everyone’s safety.

        1. Princess Sparklepony*

          Derek’s story – the mouse “slipped” out of my hand and unfortunately glanced off of Kelly’s shoulder. I don’t know why they are making a big deal about this….

          It’s never the thrower’s fault, someone else or bizarre physics caused it to happen. (So possibly – Eric behind me clipped my elbow and my hand just shot forward and I lost control of the mouse. You should be talking to Eric, it was his fault….)

      2. Random Dice*

        I would definitely call HR.

        I’d ask for an Americans with Disabilities Act reasonable accommodation not to have to train a coworker who has a history of physical and verbal aggression.

        Please believe me that they will suddenly pay attention to this situation, once it pops into the ADA review board’s attention.

        Even if you don’t have a formal PTSD diagnosis, you can get medical documentation from your doctor that you shouldn’t have to train a violent man without specifying why. (Your doctor will not object.)

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Sadly, this doesn’t surprise me anymore. I had a former boss who routinely yelled, threw things, and slammed doors in people’s faces. He actually injured my coworker by slamming a door on her hand. A friend of mine worked for a woman who threw a phone headset at her.

      It is mind-boggling that this sort of BS is tolerated in workplaces, but it is.

      1. Maglev to Crazytown*

        I was the woman in the type of situation that the LW described… and when the known-aggressive man lunged at me and screamed in my face, I ended up being the one fired after I reported the incident to HR. The HR director, his buddy, laughed at me when firing me, and scolded me for being “inappropriate” because I had a startle response and slightly raised my voice in fear when I was physically charged at and terrified of being injured.

        This is major international company whose name is well known and prides themselves on being so progressive and socially conscious. This nonsense is rank and still accepted widely, I have met numerous women with nearly identical stories.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          This is f***ed up and I’m so sorry you had to deal with that garbage.

        2. RVA Cat*

          That sucks and I am so sorry you went through it. Somebody needs to sue.
          Allowing this is unsafe to *everyone* in the work environment.

          1. Maglev to Crazytown*

            The problem is that most of those cases, which are absurdly common, are very difficult to prove. Especially because in an environment like that, it is very “good old boys’ club” and “circle the wagons” against any action. I did have an interview with EEOC, and they said I could proceed with a complaint but likely nothing would come of it.

            I got flagged for an enhanced interview during my security background check for the new job because I had a termination on recent record. The background check interviewer was gobsmacked but also deeply amused in a “that is one of the most screwed up things I have ever heard — but sounds like standard ‘good old boys club.'”

            1. My Cabbages!*

              I’m so sad we live in a world where mistreatment of women is simultaneously utterly shocking and totally unsurprising.

        3. Sparkles McFadden*

          I had a male coworker lunge at me and say “I could kill you right now and no one could stop me in time.” HR called a meeting with me so they could lecture me about “harassing” my coworkers. The rep said “If someone gets angry enough to threaten you, you must be saying very abusive things” and she suggested that I watch myself in the future because I might need to be let go if I kept “antagonizing” my coworkers. I believe the only reason I wasn’t fired was because I kept saying “I’m not sure to what you are referring.” I did that because I knew I could not trust my boss or HR, but mostly because so very many crazy things happened so often that I really wasn’t sure which crazy thing she was talking about. I got a new job ASAP. I found out after I left that a male coworker reported this saying he was scared the guy really would hurt me. This poor guy couldn’t believe that I was the one warned.

          In case anyone was wondering what terrible thing I did to bring on a death threat: Another coworker asked a general question about a work procedure. Threatening coworker gave him an outdated answer and I stated “They changed that last week and now we do this.” The guy flipped out, cursing and saying I was trying to make him look stupid.

          This is the first time I’ve even told this story because I didn’t think anyone would ever believe me.

          1. Maglev to Crazytown*

            I absolutely believe you, having lived it. I spent the first few months shocked and also ashamed at being fired, after having a stellar first half of my career. At some point, I started telling the story to others, which helped alleviate the burden that “this isn’t a ME thing… this is really messed up, and was wrong.” I have been shocked how many women have nearly identical stories to share, and so many are similarly ashamed to admit what happened to them until they realize they aren’t alone.

            In hindsight, it was the best thing that ever happened to me (thought it sucked at the time), because I really took stock of what I wanted to be doing, focused my search that way… and then got my real actual dream job.

          2. Middle Aged Lady*

            I believe you. One of my jobs had an assistant dean who threw a stapler at someone’s head and narrowly missed her. Nothing was done.

            1. coffeespoons*

              Holy shit, I read this and thought “did you work at my office a decade+ ago?!” until I looked more closely. Our stapler-thrower was lower on the higher education administration ladder than assistant dean, and their would-be victim was not a woman, so I’m sorry to say, I don’t think we’ve worked at the same dysfunctional office. Sadly, in our case, nothing was done, either, and the stapler-happy staffer continued to work here for years. Is there something about academic administration that leads to higher rates of stapler-chucking among staff?

            2. COHikerGirl*

              Not in employment but as a high school student, my history teacher was upset at something a student did while we had a sub (it was on the ridiculous spectrum, not the bad spectrum). That student was absent that day but the teacher threw the stapler where the student usually sat. (Another year a clock in the room stopped working so the teacher grabbed it off the wall and threw it on the ground…with pieces scattering everywhere. He had some anger management issues…)

              It’s weirdly comforting that he’s not the only one and his issues weren’t so far out. Just mostly far out. And also terrifying that throwing staplers is not uncommon. We all sat stunned and basically no one talked after each incident. And he was never fired (and my class managed to get multiple teachers fired…).

          3. All Outrage, All The Time*

            omg Sparkles I am so sorry. I believe you. I gasped out loud and I feel like crying just reading this. I hope you’re ok. That is utterly terrifying. My god. And people witnessed it.

          4. Caroline*

            It doesn’t matter what you said, unless it was, say, ”I intend to murder you and your complete family” or similar. You are not to blame for this hateful, aggressive man’s bananacrackers response to feeling… what? A bit misinformed?

            It’s disgusting and I am very glad you aren’t there anymore.

            1. AA*

              Even then, the correct response would be to report it to the police as a death threat, not make a violent death threat in response

          5. The rafters*

            this is very similar to the response i received in a similar situation … by a union rep … 40 years ago.

          6. Bear Expert*

            I 100% believe you.

            Anger is seen as an acceptable male emotion in professional spaces and it absolutely boggles my mind.

            For the LW – I’d stress that you have observed that Derek has difficulty controlling his emotions to a professional level and that you are concerned that his emotional outbursts will disrupt training. You want your manager to be prepared to step in and redirect or remove Derek if he is having difficulty controlling his emotional outbursts to maintain a professional environment.

            Women get shit on for emotions all of the time when they show any emotion at 1/10th the intensity of a dude throwing things, and men get a pass for it. Its common and horrific. Anger, a man throwing an actual temper tantrum, or being violent, is not seen as being emotional, but I’ve had good success when I can calmly point out that it is… because “being overly emotional” is an unacceptable (female coded) behavior, and many people will reel it in if its pointed out in that frame.

            … I wouldn’t quite go so far as saying “Derek, you should feel your feelings and then rejoin the group when you can focus” like I do with kindergarteners … most days. But I have shut down meetings with “I can see you’re very emotional about this right now, when you have collected yourself, we can reschedule.”

            1. Dainerra*

              I work in a place that is 98% female. people throwing fists, objects, Etc is a common occurrence. and once had a fight between a woman and her brother’s girlfriend who was cheating on him. involved her banging the girl’s head off the concrete floor. she was fired and then hired Back 2 weeks later.
              it’s definitely not a male-dominated thing

          7. Random Dice*

            I believe you.

            I’m so sorry you went through that. It sounds terrifying. That’s exactly the kind of person who does actually kill people.

            I got EMDR therapy for something similarly traumatic. I hesitated for a long time to call it trauma, thinking that was a term that should be reserved for combat vets or kids who were abused… But that’s not true.

            EMDR therapy has been such incredible freedom, finally putting down a burden and being able to relax, for me.

          8. coffeespoons*

            I believe you, and this is horrifying. You should never have had to deal with that.

          1. Princess Sparklepony*

            If you had caught the stapler and wanged it right back at him you would have also have gotten fired, but sometimes I would love to have such great hand eye coordination. Might make some of them think before they throw. But that is not the appropriate adult work related way to deal with aggression…

      2. She*

        Yep. Had a boss that was like this and no one believed me because he only did it to me. He was SO confused when I found another job because he thought he was “the perfect boss” – his words.

      3. The Great Machine*

        The current Chief Information Security Officer at the major academic medical center where I work once threw a chair at a subordinate and had several other violent, physical outbursts when he was rising up threw the ranks. Sadly this has all been swept under the rug and/or contributed to his reputation as being “passionate” about his work. It’s disheartening but not particularly surprising that such behavior is excused/ignored.

        1. JustaTech*

          When I worked for Big State U we had in-person harassment training that was specifically and explicitly not sexual harassment training (that was a separate session), but basically academic assault training.
          It started after a researcher (professor?) went to the office of sexual harassment to file a claim against another professor for leaning across the conference table, grabbing the guy by his coat lapels and shaking him (in a meeting room full of people). And the sexual harassment office was like “What?” and then “Crap, that’s not actually covered by our scope of responsibilities” – and then, unlike 90% of places, they fixed it, so that assaulting your coworkers was also a violation of workplace rules, just like grabbing your student’s butt.

          There were a couple of people in my session who were surprised/pleased that this behavior was Officially Frowned Upon – because in a lot of academic places it isn’t (as long as the assaulter is a Big Deal with big grants).

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      No wonder OP thinks this is a me problem, not a he problem. The guy is still there.

      1. Ex-prof*


        I just read something by Susan B. Anthony. Writing about 175 years ago, she remarked that when a little boy playing in the yard bullies his sister, _she_ is called inside and _he_ is left in full possession of the yard.

        In 2023 we can’t do much better, apparently. Women are expected to tiptoe around males who misbehave.

        1. Three Flowers*

          And it’s the second AAM letter today that prominently featured women having to work around or manage men’s emotional volatility.

          I want to move to Themyscira.

          1. Hot Flash Gordon*

            Seems to me that women should really be in power since men can’t be trusted to not act emotionally.

              1. Random Dice*

                Male hormones fluctuate by the minute and hour, rather than by the month.

                Male hormones are strongly impacted by the most random of external stimuli including pro sports performance.

                And somehow, unbelievably, men rule this planet despite being so wildly hormonal every day.

              2. Princess Sparklepony*

                That is my theory. Since men have no natural cycle, they are always “on the rag.” They get no release so it’s tippy top hormonal overload for them every day since puberty. And each day adds to the hormonal load.

                No, it’s not scientific but it’s my theory. (My theory by Anne Elk for those of you with long memories.)

            1. Boof*

              I think maybe you are trying to be tongue in cheek, but can we just stick to this behavior is messed up without trying to trot out sexist tropes (even jokey sexist tropes) like somehow all men are unable to control themselves? Because they can and many do, and being male does not mean this behavior is expected, muchless excused.

              1. Queer Earthling*

                Yeah the bioessentialism vibe is a little weird. Men can do better and should be expected to do better; writing it off as just being a thing men do because they’re inherently evil is the opposite of holding them accountable.

              2. Caryn*

                I think OP was being facetious because women are the ones accused of being too emotional to hold positions of responsibility and power. Not saying men are inherently able to control themselves, just making a frustrated joke that given the stereotype of the emotional woman, in these stories it’s mostly men lashing out due to emotional immaturity.

                1. Boof*

                  I figured, and I get this often comes from a place of frustration, but I still want to push back on these kind of sexist jokes/comments, as they still usually serve to reinforce gender stereotypes rather than combat them in my opinion.

              3. Dahlia*

                It’s also weirdly cissexist and like just ignores that trans and nonbinary people exist.

              4. Random Dice*

                It’s not a “sexist trope”, it’s institutional pervasive sexism that women have to deal with every day.

                Acknowledging the unpleasant reality of sexism maybe makes men uncomfortable, but you know who it really makes uncomfortable?


                1. Queer Earthling*

                  “The patriarchy enables men to behave in ways that harm women” and “acting like men just can’t do better only reinforces those sexist roles and is just as patriarchal” are both truths that can co-exist.

    3. lm*

      My aunt worked with a man (a few decades ago) who urinated on a female coworker’s sweater, which had been hanging on the back of her chair in her office, and he still wasn’t fired.

      It’s the wild, wild west in some workplaces, apparently.

      1. Heffalump*

        If this is the case I’m thinking of, it was in the Portland, Oregon, office of the Bonneville Power Administration. He was caught on a security camera. First the guy was kept on the payroll and paid his full salary to stay home for about a year, and then he was fired. And then someone decided that he hadn’t received sufficient due process, and he was rehired and brought back to the office. One of the women in the office, possibly the owner of the seater, immediately made plans to retire.

        1. Ex-prof*

          Paid to stay home for a year.
          Where can I buy some male privilege? I can see it would be a bargain at almost any price.

          1. Audiophile*

            Eh, not likely an instance of “male privilege.” It’s standard for state jobs (and federal jobs) to put an employee out on paid leave if they’re accused of something. Usually, this is required by the employees’ union.

            1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

              yeah, but women would have difficulty urinating on stuff hanging on chairs.

          2. Aggretsuko*

            I seriously want to be reborn as a dude for all other possible lifetimes so I can get me some of that male privilege. I’m tired of being treated like a lying whore.

    4. OhGee*

      ^^^^^ THIS

      Also, LW, you can absolutely kick him out if he shouts, throws things, etc. I’d rather deal with those consequences than have to deal with the aggression (I’ve also had a male coworker flip out on me and make several other women colleagues cry in a meeting. He was fired, but I had to insist.)

      1. zuzu*

        Kicking him out might lead to the kind of violent physical confrontation OP wants to avoid.

        Better that OP leaves and goes straight to HR and lets them deal with him.

        1. OhGee*

          Fair. My issue was in a tiny workplace with no HR, so handling the issue was left in the hands of staff.

        2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          Right. Remove yourself from the situation. You don’t have to “prove” he is wrong. You need to protect yourself.

        3. Ellie*

          What about the rest of the people in the training session? This guy’s a loose canon, OP needs to discuss all this and come up with a plan which doesn’t leave anyone in a vulnerable situation. Frankly, I think he’s forfeited the right to in-person training myself, he should get transferred out if its feasible, and if it’s not, then he gets trained online, but they need to brainstorm it and figure out what to do since HR has dropped the ball.

          1. zuzu*

            True. It’s not clear if it’s a one-on-one or group training. But in any event, the OP does not need to be the one dealing with a violent person by confronting him.

            She needs to ask her manager to help her deal with this pro-actively, which could mean he gets trained online, he gets a babysitter, he gets trained by himself with a babysitter in a glass-walled conference room with wired peripherals, or they take another hard look at what happened with that mouse-throwing incident.

    5. Peanut Hamper*

      I didn’t even think of it in those terms. My last job was pretty chaotic (to say the least) and it definitely warped how I see things.

      LW, it’s not you who is seeing things skewed; your company should have done something about Derek way back when the mouse flinging happened.

    6. ferrina*

      Throwing things in my office would get you fired or on extremely thin ice (like, you even raise your voice and you’re out). This is not acceptable behavior from an adult. (heck, it’s not even acceptable from a child!)

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        This. Even my toddler gets a time out and gets his toy taken away if he throws it at someone.

      2. AnonORama*

        I’ve worked in places where throwing things would get you fired — if you were a lower-level person. People in power threw stuff and apparently that was OK. My boss threw a book and a stapler at two of his other direct reports, and the other leaders (we didn’t have HR) shrugged and said “that’s just how he is, and he didn’t hurt anyone.” He didn’t hurt anyone because of BAD AIM, but whatever. I felt lucky that all he ever did to me was scream and curse, and sometimes throw a piece of my work on the ground and stomp up and down on it. (See: toxic workplaces that reset your expectations of what’s normal.)

        It will surprise absolutely no one that he’s now running the place, and the rest of us bailed years ago.

        That was 15 years ago. He’s still there — running the place. I left years ago, as did the people that had things thrown at them.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I was working a couple of customer-facing shifts, and I had to ask a coworker to intervene when a customer was getting really frustrated because I couldn’t figure out how to help them. I thanked my coworker profusely; she replied, “At least he didn’t throw a clipboard at my head!”

          Toxic workplaces really do warp your sense of normal.

    7. Anne Elliot*

      It doesn’t say he assaulted a coworker, it says he threw a mouse at them. It could have landed five feet away from them for all we know. I’m not excusing his behavior, which remains inexcusable, but there’s not enough information to infer an actual assault.

      1. Kara*

        Throwing an object at someone is assault. It doesn’t matter if he had shitty aim and it didn’t hit them. He attempted to assault them.

      2. Corporate Lawyer*

        Even if the mouse landed several feet away, his actions still meet the legal definition of assault in the United States: “Assault is generally defined as an intentional act that puts another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent harmful or offensive contact. No physical injury is required, but the actor must have intended to cause a harmful or offensive contact with the victim and the victim must have thereby been put in immediate apprehension of such a contact.”

        Intentionally throwing a mouse AT someone (as opposed to throwing the mouse at a wall or the floor or otherwise not intentionally aimed at a person(*)) is assault even if the mouse doesn’t come close to hitting the person. If the mouse makes contact with the throw-ee, it’s also battery. Assault and battery are of course related and often occur at the same time, but they are separate acts under the law.
        (*Just to be clear, I’m not saying that it’s even remotely okay to throw things in the workplace even if they aren’t aimed at another person. But it wouldn’t fit the legal definition of assault.)

        1. Michelle Smith*

          Former criminal lawyer here. Different jurisdictions have different statues. There is no one criminal law in the United States. Every state and even some localities have different laws.

          Where I live in the US, you are correct that it would not legally be assault to throw something that wasn’t aimed at another person, although assault can be used colloquially to mean a lot of things that don’t meet the statutory definition. But depending on the context, it could constitute second degree harassment, which is a charge punishable by up to 15 days in jail. Throwing things, whether directed at someone or not, can be threatening behavior that rises to the level of criminality. Just want to make sure that’s clear.

          1. Betty*

            This is the important part, with an update from me: “Throwing things, whether directed at someone or not, [is] can be threatening behavior…”

            1. JSPA*

              what’s the point of taking a legally, factually correct statement–on a point of law, from a lawyer–and turning it into an incorrect statement?

              You can say, “I’d feel threatened, no matter what.” But

              a) that doesn’t change the law

              b) that isn’t true for all of us (I’ve been in situations where someone was so weak, demented and/or powerless, and the object so harmless, that I felt only concern for them, not a sense of facing a threat)

              c) we should probably look askance at stating absolutes about what constitutes a threat, in a world (or anyway, a country) where “feeling threatened” can justify responding with lethal force.

      3. Qest*

        So it´s ok because he`s bad at throwing things, too?
        Maybe we should give him, say , 3 tries more, so that he has a chance to execute what his miserable self couldn`t?
        That`s where problems start: why not make it crystal clear from the very beginning that this behaviour ist not only not ok, but serious enough to get police involved.

        1. Boof*

          The comment you are replying to says “I’m not excusing his behavior, which remains inexcusable, but there’s not enough information to infer an actual assault.”
          So no, they are not saying it’s ok, they just thought it didn’t mean the definition of “assault”. (I’m not lawyer enough to know if it counts as assault legally, but please the comment said the opposite of what you seem to think it said! And I really think we shouldn’t get the police involved in things they don’t NEED to be involved in; for a whole heck of a lot of reasons! )

      4. Random Dice*


        You need to really stop and reassess the workplace(s) that have made you defend any part of throwing something at a coworker.

        That’s frog in a pot of hot water behavior.

    8. Jellyfish Catcher*

      I came here to say the same: isn’t assault a fireable offense?
      And it’s not the first indication that the employee has been acting volatile?

    9. Punkin*

      I wish I could say I was surprised but I once witnessed a boss break one of my coworker’s (also boss’ subordinate) ribs. Boss was not fired and neither I nor the victim were removed from boss’ supervision. When I continued to express my concerns to HR over the organization’s apparent non-response and requested that they at least provide mediation if they weren’t going to change the supervisory structure, the HR rep said that we should just “talk it out” on our own and suggested that I seek counseling through the EAP.

      1. Artemesia*

        My mother had her rib broken by a doctor whose office she worked in pushed her up against a wall to grope her. His partners told him if he did it again, he’d be out. This was 1939. You’d thing we’d be doing better by now.

    10. goddessoftransitory*

      This! Throwing something at all, let alone at a coworker, should be “you are being walked out by security” time.

    11. Michelle Smith*

      Yeah, this place is in desperate need of workplace violence training and policies immediately. I’m in shock.

    12. Tiger Snake*

      When I started reading the OP’s letter, I thought this was an issue that the OP’s trauma means she can’t deal with people being visibly angry; a little loud, clearly frustrated, them shutting down into the state of an obstinate 3yo. Because that’s a reasonable place where Derek is hard to deal with for the OP, but still something someone in her job should be expected to handle.

      This is not that. This is “behaviour that should never be permitted in the workplace under any circumstances”.

  2. RabbitRabbit*

    This absolutely. You are not planning for how to react to him as someone who’s been abused/attacked. You are planning on what your options are when dealing with a frequently hostile man who has physically assaulted a fellow employee.

    In addition, throwing/breaking things is still an act of violence and it is still (nearly always) a threat towards the person who is considered the source of the stress – the violent person is using it as a demonstration of what they could do. It’s not losing control as they almost never destroy anything that they themselves value.

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      Edit: Meant to say “throwing/breaking things even when not aimed at the other person in the room”

    2. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      Absolutely. In fact, OP, you wrote the words you need: “I cannot and will not be in {a} room with a {person} acting violently.” That’s completely reasonable for virtually any person, irrespective of their experiences.

      There’s also something to be said for your coworkers. You are being an exemplary professional to bring this up to HR and your manager not just for your own safety, but also the safety of the other people you’ll be training. That’s sound management. You are clearly very smart, and quite brave, to be putting your strategy together now.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        ^ This!

        As a trainer, you become the defacto leader/host of that room. So you’re raising the issue not just for yourself, but also for every other person who will be present.

        1. HonorBox*

          Absolutely right on that point. Presumably, the others in that room are all rational people who are interested in learning about this new system. Or at least people who are going to use the system and have put aside any negative personal feelings about the new system and can act professionally. They all deserve the opportunity to be in a safe, professional environment.

      2. Totally Minnie*

        I think a useful line to add to your script would be something like “I cannot teach in a room where someone is behaving violently, and the other trainees present will not be able to learn as much as they need to if they are afraid of their coworker’s violent behavior.”

      3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Not being in a room with someone who acts violently is ENTIRELY REASONABLE.

      4. MigraineMonth*

        You are clearly very smart, and quite brave, to be putting your strategy together now.

        This so much. OP, you and your coworkers deserve to feel physically safe at work, and Derek deserves to be fired.

    3. Festively Dressed Earl*

      Derek doesn’t seem like an employee who has some special rare skill that shields him from consequences. After OP speaks to her own manager about protecting herself and her trainees, she should speak to Derek’s manager about where to send him if he acts like a sleep deprived toddler again. Whose job is it to fire him?

      1. Certaintroublemaker*

        Yeah, I think the ask is not just talk to manager about day of training, but ask manager to meet with Derek’s manager and HR together. Tell them that at a minimum they must talk to Derek ahead of training and tell him he will not be permitted to act out with back talk, yelling, or physical aggression against objects or people.

    4. azvlr*

      I call BS on the whole “losing control” bit. It was in fact hyper-controlled in that they knew they line they could toe while still conveying a threat.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        I read the comment as saying it is NOT losing control, since they never break their own stuff. They also control themselves when someone with authority is around. It’s super calculated.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        Totally agree. People who “lose it” tend to know just how much can be lost without having to really face consequences.

      3. Anna*

        Bingo. People like this often know what they’re doing. (I know the book “Why Does He Do That?” has a powerful example along the lines of a guy whose fits of “losing control” always managed to involve breaking *other* people’s stuff and not his own).

        Honestly it’s kind of why a lot of gendered “guys just have no emotional control” takes bother me: men are absolutely capable of controlling their emotions, it’s just that some of them have figured out how much damage they can do without facing real consequences.

    1. New Senior Mgr*

      That’s what I was thinking!???

      Advocate for yourself LW by all means. I’d also bring in a close coworker who will also be in the training, or see if they can attend, just in case manager can’t make it for some reason or needs to step out of the meeting unexpectedly.

    2. Be Gneiss*

      I’ve worked someplace where that kind of behavior was tolerated to the point of being commonplace. “Oh, that’s just Wilson. Be sure not to get on his bad side.” It really messes up your view of how a workplace is supposed to function.

      1. Elitist Semicolon*

        Yeah, in my old job it was “if we discipline him, he’ll sue for age discrimination.” Fine. Let him. Then he has to answer for what he’s done in a courtroom. But nope, we just had to hope he didn’t randomly erupt.

      2. not a hippo*

        Yep. I was locked in a room and screamed at, threatened, and barred from leaving until someone else noticed that I was missing. When they went to the owner, I was pulled aside and berated for making a fuss. “That’s just how he is, you must learn how not to upset him.”

        I hope that place burns.

    3. Chairman of the Bored*

      I’ve definitely worked for/with people who would excuse it with “Yeah, but he missed so the mouse didn’t actually *hit* anybody”.

      1. Festively Dressed Earl*

        They’re nuts, because it’s still assault. Assault is putting making someone fear an imminent harmful or unwanted contact; battery is the actual unwanted contact. If you throw something at another person (or shoot at them or swing at them) and miss, you’ve committed assault but not battery. The people who excused that behavior were/are opening themselves up to lawsuits galore.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        Basically that kind of policy is saying “one of you has to actually be physically hurt before we care, and frankly we won’t care much then.”

        Because you know the next time, when the mouse connects, it’ll be “well, it was just a bruise” or “look, the concussion wasn’t THAT bad.”

    4. Sparkles McFadden*

      If you work in a place where the behavior of angry, aggressive people is explained away as “passion for the job” people who throw objects are not fired.

      1. Light Dancer*

        Remember the AAM letter about the ornithophobic man who panicked upon seeing a bird, pushed past a colleague thus pushing her under a moving car, and stood there doing nothing while she was hit by the car, thus breaking her arm in two places? HE wasn’t fired either (probably because the company feared bad publicity if he claimed that they’d discriminated against him on the basis of his disability). He practically had to be “dragged by the ear” to apologize to her, and it was she who left the company.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I don’t think the two situations compare. In that case, someone with a documented phobia of birds ran away from a bird; the rest was a horrible accident. Not firing someone due to an accident, even if it injured someone, is pretty reasonable. She decided she couldn’t work at a place that continued to employ him, which is also reasonable.

          Honestly, the company trying to arrange for him to apologize to her when she had made clear that she didn’t want any contact from him was the larger error. They should have worked through her lawyer to offer her generous severance and left her alone.

          1. Kat*

            I believe it was considered an assault (or something more than an accident, in any case) because the man didn’t just knock the woman out of his way as a result of his running, he actually drew back his arms and shoved her. In front of a moving car.

    5. Prospect Gone Bad*

      OP does say they weren’t there so we literally don’t know what exactly happened. I’m seeing a lot of speculation that no one went to HR and everyone assuming someone hurled something straight at someone’s head. We can’t “take OP at their word” here because they weren’t there, so therefore can’t give an account of what happened. All we know is something was thrown or tossed and someone was mad. Not sure why everyone has assumed nothing was discussed or done, yet OP magically heard about it, or that it was an Olympic strength shotput throw. That would mean OP was the only person this was reported to, which doesn’t make sense.

      1. Yorick*

        This is true. We (commenters + LW) don’t know what the incident looked like. Someone throwing something the size of a mouse could either look very violent or just look like a pathetic temper tantrum. I think firing is on the table regardless, but I can imagine a situation where it might be reasonable to give a very stern warning and another chance.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        You’re right that we don’t know what happened with HR/discipline. However, it sounds like someone informed both OP and their manager Derek became frustrated at training and threw a mouse at a coworker.

        I don’t care if it was a weak throw at their knee and missed by a mile; that’s still assault and attempted battery and has zero place in any functional workplace.

    6. Some words*

      Ever worked in a restaurant?

      It’s been a long time for me, but rage flare-ups were pretty accepted as normal behavior in that industry.

      1. Latetotheparty*


        After spending most of my career in an office setting, I never could get used to the yelling and throwing of things in a restaurant.

    7. Nina*

      It sounds like it may not apply to OP’s industry, but honestly? in reality it depends on the industry and on how hard a particular specialty may be to fill.

      I’ve had sidecutters thrown at me at work, the thrower and I worked together for about two more years after the first time.

    8. Quality Girl*

      At a former workplace, a coworker flung human poop at another coworker’s face and did not get fired. So. (Healthcare.)

      1. Jam on Toast*

        My spouse works in construction. It would curl your hair, honestly, the toxic, violent crap that spews out of some of the supervisors and crew leads on not just a daily basis, but an hourly basis. He has a lot of seniority now and is so in demand as a crane operator because of his skills that he can stipulate who he will and won’t work with now under any circumstances, but when he was just a journeyman…whew, it was rough couple of years, having to see him coming home under that cloud every day.

    9. Good Enough For Government Work*

      First CEO I worked for had thrown a mobile phone at a staff member just before I joined and was accompanied at all times by an anger management counsellor. He also made his Exec Support cry about once a week. But he “got results”, so OBVIOUSLY they couldn’t fire him!

  3. HonorBox*

    I agree with Alison that you shouldn’t HAVE to disclose your own trauma, OP. I think you have enough data points to open up the conversation with your own manager about how to handle Derek. Not for nothing but if you have to figure out how to “handle” a coworker’s behavior, there’s a larger issue at hand with that coworker, but I digress.

    You can start with the fact that Derek has been very resistant to the change and definitely mention that he threw a mouse at another coworker. And then ask how to best handle Derek’s resistance in general, and how your manager would suggest you handle the situation should it continue, and definitely should it escalate.

    If your manager is at all hesitant, you could provide the history and context, but I think raising the concern about Derek having thrown a mouse at someone should be enough for your manager to help you formalize a plan. I’d also hope that she is willing to let you hit pause and walk out of the room if things escalate beyond your comfort level, too. You have a right to do your job in a safe environment and if you feel threatened by a coworker, you shouldn’t have to stay in the room with him just because you’re the one conducting the training.

    1. Ann Onymous*

      A reasonable manager would be willing to help formulate a plan, but a manager at a place that hasn’t already fired Derek may not be reasonable or might have had their own sense of what’s normal warped by being in this workplace.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Honestly, this is a situation where I would TELL my manager how I am going to deal with any future situation.

      ie. Derek has been aggressive and combative when in testing the system, and threw a mouse at a co-worker. If he behaves this way while I am training him, I WILL stop the training and leave the room. If he throws objects at me, I WILL call the police and have him charged. If you have any suggestions about how I can deal with him when he is frustrated but being professional, I am happy to implement those, but I will not tolerate unprofessional or violent behaviour.

      1. FD*

        I tend to agree with this. I would probably also approach it using a tone of voice that implies “of course I’m going to do this because this is the only reasonable thing to do.”

      2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Agreed. If Derek starts getting physically aggressive, it’s entirely reasonable that the OP would not feel safe staying in the room.

      3. Caliente Papillon*

        This is what I was thinking. Why is it at work we have to wait for someone to allow us to do something.
        I was just not raised this way, to abdicate power over myself to someone else, in particular in a situation like this.
        I’ll do my job if you give me the tools, part of the tools are YOU handle Derek. If YOU cannot handle Derek then the onus is on me to decide what I’m gonna do about it and that means if he gets loud and threatening then I’m leaving the room. Your training isn’t worth more than me, sorry not sorry.

      4. ScruffyInternHerder*

        This is the script I was stewing around with. There’s literally nothing wrong with explaining to your boss that you will not be in the same room with a violent human being. I’ve done it. Your boss’s reaction to such a statement may be telling, because if its ANYTHING other than “of course”, there’s an issue.

    3. MissMeghan*

      100% I didn’t even get to the part about the trauma before thinking this was unacceptable. Derek’s behavior is unreasonable on its face, and no one should have to take that kind of aggression from a coworker.

      1. JustaTech*

        I used to have a coworker (older, smaller guy) who would get incredibly frustrated with some of our technology. And I get it, I’ve been frustrated to tears by Concur more than once.
        But Bruce, he would pound on his mouse, or his keyboard, or hit his desk. And it would be very unexpected because he was usually such a quiet guy.

        One afternoon when my boss (his peer) was gone Bruce got really, really upset about something and slammed his mouse, his keyboard and the desk, in rapid succession, and then started mutter-swearing in his office. I flinched very hard, and as it went on I realized that my shoulders were up by my ears I was so tense. And I don’t have any trauma about that – but I knew that several of my coworkers did.

        I wanted to ask him to stop, but I didn’t want to get yelled at (it seemed likely) and I couldn’t find one of his peers to ask him to stop so I ended up loudly announcing that we (my peers) were going for coffee *right now* and we just left.

        (I did tell my boss about it later and he spoke to their mutual boss about it, and after that Bruce kept his outbursts quieter.)

        So even someone with no trauma history, who is confident that the person having the outburst won’t actually hurt them, can still have a very hard time dealing with that kind of angry outburst. If you know an outburst is likely then it only makes sense to have a plan to deal with it.

    4. Ellie*

      I think there’s value in the OP telling their supervisor that due to their own history with violence (i.e. ‘someone punched me in the face at work, in a former role’) they may not be able to control their own reaction, should Derek do something similar in a training session with OP. It may push them to address it, or alternatively, to take OP out of the equation entirely and run the training themselves. Either could be a win for OP. Its worth considering.

  4. Lacey*

    Yeah. I’ve worked a lot of dysfunctional places, but no one has ever thrown things in frustration.
    I’d definitely be telling my boss I didn’t want to work with that person after that incident.

    1. TPS Reporter*

      Me too, it would not be a question or trying to come up with ways to cut the training short if he acts up. I would just say- I’m not training him.

    2. AnonForThis*

      I worked at a place that provided at-the-elbow support for hospitals going live with new Electronic Health Record systems, and some of the providers’ tantrums were… epic. Doctors throwing things at the help staff or writing on computer screens with permanent marker. One took a two-thousand-dollar computer monitor and smashed it on the floor.

      I considered myself fortunate to primarily work with nurses, who didn’t throw fits like that. The most dramatic nurse started out crying, and within three days had decided I was an angel.

  5. Safely Retired*

    I would ask that Derek be spoken to at least a day before the training starts and have it laid out in no uncertain terms that even a raised voice, not just yelling, is unacceptable. It would be a very good idea if someone also makes it clear to him that the system IS going in, and he does not have a choice but to learn to use it, and to live with it. Again, before the training.

    And good luck with the implementation!

    1. Hey o*

      This. I was going to say the same thing. A manager should proactively talk to him about expected behavior in training (or heck, at work in general) and the consequences of poor work behavior. This might have a desired effect for OP that Derek can whine to the manager before the training and sort of get it out of his system & the manager can let Derek know that behavior won’t be tolerated in training.

      1. Lizzo*

        But will there actually be consequences? Derek has already gotten away with having a violent temper tantrum, and he still has a job.

    2. Venus*

      I expect that everyone has heard about the incident, so if this is a group session then a statement at the start of training might be helpful so that everyone else knows the plan.

  6. Eldritch Office Worker*

    Seriously OP, do not write off how serious this is because of your trauma. Very matter of factly outline what happened, and say you have major concerns about the training and need an approved plan on how to deal with it.

    Honestly, as HR and a person who has managed a lot of women who try to put up with more than they have to, I also give you permission to say “given what happened in the group testing I will not be able to train Derek individually”. No elaboration, no justification. You have a project team – someone else can do it, his manager can do it, or he can be fired because that’s absolutely unacceptable behavior in the workplace.

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      I agree, I think it’s 1000% reasonable to refuse to train Derek. It is not on OP to “just deal” with someone who has been proven to be violent in previous situations.

      1. MsM*

        +2. The burden should be on the organization to make it clear this behavior is unacceptable and prioritize employees’ need to feel safe in the workplace, not on OP to try and work around a known risk.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        Yeah, LW should not have to train this person.
        Actually, no one should have to train this person with them physically present in the room.

        If this workplace hasn’t fired Derek, or significantly penalized him for his prior actions, I wouldn’t want to be leading a training with him in the room.
        His manager can do it (since that’s the person who hasn’t seen fit to fire him)

        Alternatively, he can attend the training virtually – that way no one else is at risk if he decides not to regulate his emotions or behavior. LW can mute him if he gets disruptive and boot him electronically if need be.

        If management insists it has to be in person is it possible to have HR in the room, or have a team do the training that day, strength in numbers?
        AND also record that training session, possibly under the guise of “we want to record the basic training so that new hires can watch that”. The recording may be a deterrent to Derek’s asshattery, and if not his words and actions will be on camera for evaluation and discipline, pressing charges.

        1. RunShaker*

          I was coming here to say say as Hannah Lee. If LW has the capital, refusing to train him is a possible option. I would take the chance and refuse. He has a track record of being aggressive verbally and physically. Also, LW can you check with HR to see if this incident was reported?

          1. Freya*

            Yes, I came down to the comments for the same reason.

            I don’t often disagree with Alison, but in this instance, I do. LW should not be doing training with this person, period. I understand we are operating on the assumption that LW doesn’t have the capital to just refuse, but I also think this is an instance to use any capital she has to say no. As others have stated, the employee can do the training virtually with another team member, or their boss can train them. LW doesn’t and shouldn’t have to put herself in harm’s way for a training.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      One of the things people forget to do when they have trauma is to value the wisdom of their experience. Do you get a lot more cautious if you’ve been traumatized? Sure. Too much sometimes? Yeah. OK, I don’t wish to minimise the negative effects of OP’s trauma on their life – I know it will have come at a cost, but there’s valuable experience packed in there too. OP is not just traumatized, they are experienced. They know what can happen and what it looks like beforehand. OP says it wasn’t “really a surprise” when this employee acted out violently, but I bet some people were surprised, and that’s because they aren’t as experienced or good at predicting. OP you just need to say you were not surprised and you’re expecting more outbursts, and you just want an in-case-of plan. If you end up not needing one? Great.

      1. Pippa K*

        “OP is not just traumatized, they are experienced.” Excellent, excellent point. I think I’m going to be quoting this.

  7. Judge Judy and Executioner*

    I once had a folder thrown at my feet. When I expressed confusion and disgust afterwards I was told I got off easy. The same old white dude had once thrown a PRINTER at someone years prior, but he was the owner’s friend so it was not a fireable offense.

    1. Quill*

      I know this is like a desktop model of printer but how. Does one lift. And throw. A printer.

      1. Troutwaxer*

        Using shot putting techniques. Put you hand on the bottom, get under it, and heave. (Note that I’ve never thrown a printer, but I did throw shot in HS.)

      2. SweetestCin*

        The fairly compact one I owned in college (late 90s) would have been an easy throw. I’m not sure that they’ve gotten any bulkier!

        And the visual of shot putting a printer…

      1. donut_eater*

        As a cop, I can attest that if we got a call of someone throwing a printer at someone else’s feet, if you’re lucky we might end up making it out sometime in the next 3 months to give you your goldenrod triplicate copy of the report that isn’t going to go anywhere.

        1. azvlr*

          This comment is not helpful. It’s actually part of the problem. Everyone just throwing their hands up going, “It’s just the way things are and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.”
          I get it that this assault might be low on your list of priorities and that there are so many other things to be emotionally invested in. You’re definitely not doing OP any favors by normalizing it, but in the big picture you’re also making it harder to do your own job with the mindset that a certain level of violence is to be expected.

          1. s.b.c.*

            I don’t think donut_eater’s intention was to normalize assault or imply that there’s nothing to be done. Some areas really lack police resources, and let’s keep in mind, many communities have a tense relationship with police right now.
            Rather, I read this as a suggestion to enforce a zero-tolerance policy right in the workplace. I think there’s a real gray area in when to call the cops and when not to, for example, if someone throws a mouse. So, instead of relying on police resources, I have a clear, actionable plan in case someone does something that doesn’t quite rise to calling police but that warrants dismissal. Make sure every staff member is comfortable speaking to HR, and that HR feels comfortable carrying out the plan if ever needed. This would have solved OP’s problem, if throwing a mouse was immediately reported and Derek was let go.

          2. MissElizaTudor*

            The comment itself may not be helpful, but the act of leaving the comment potentially is. Highlighting that going to the cops isn’t going to be a viable solution for a lot of less intense (but obviously still bad and upsetting) interpersonal violence seems useful. That’s not a big part of what it really means to be a police officer. You can still call and make a report and start something of a paper trail, but they aren’t likely to address the problem in timely manner.

            Maybe calling about the property destruction to the printer would bring them out faster. Protection of property and defending a certain type of order in society is more in their wheelhouse.

          3. donut_eater*

            Removed. You’re welcome to repost this without the part insulting people. – Alison

            1. Library geek*

              A simple ‘unfortunately, this is not the top of the urgency list for most departments due to a lack of funding and staffing’ would have sufficed. Most people would understand that, and probably drop it.

              And people wonder why cops have a bad reputation and the public wants to cut funding.

          4. Celeste*

            I think it’s helpful. There’s a lot of space between “this is normal” and “this is something that would get you dragged off to jail.”

            I think out of sympathy for the OP, people want to express that there should be consequences for the coworker (and there should be!), but sometimes it devolves into a fantasy of just desserts.

            I think it’s useful support the OP but also keep things in perspective.

        2. laser99*

          But that’s not universal. As I have mentioned before, I live in a very wealthy area. There are many disadvantages to this, but one of the advantages is that if you call the police, they show up asap. Even if the offender only gets a lecture, no business wants to be known for police activity.

  8. A Simple Narwhal*

    Man, I’ve been reprimanded in past jobs for not seeming friendly enough in my emails. How does this guy throw a temper tantrum, actually throw something, and still have a job??

    1. DameB*

      OP, I’m so sorry you were assaulted in your last job and that you’re dealing with feeling unsafe in this one.

      I would HOPE that Derek’s manage has had a serious conversation with him about his violent outburst. I’d ask for reassurances that has happened before even considering doing the training. I’d also ask what Derek and his manager are planning to do to make me feel safe given his past behaviors. At the very least, it puts it back in thier lap and makes them realize he’s a Problem Child.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      Because he’s a man. Period. They can do whatever they want, whenever they want, with impunity.

      Meanwhile I get written up for forgetting to put “Dear X” at the start of every damn email.

      1. Dahlia*

        I mean, white men. A Black man could not throw a stapler in the workplace and have it just brushed off.

  9. Kella*

    Speaking as a multiple trauma survivor: One of the defining aspects of trauma is the helplessness. You are harmed *and* you have no real recourse, no path to safety, no undo button.

    When you said, “I don’t know how I will react if he acts like this in training…. I don’t know what to do,” it reminded me of things I said when I was in my first healthy relationship after a deeply abusive one. “What if he turns into my ex? What will I do?” My therapist was brilliant and she just said, “If he starts acting abusive or like your ex, then you leave! You don’t have to stick around and take that!” It was so simple but so mind-blowing. Now that I had the tools to protect myself, I wasn’t obligated to tolerate abuse a second time.

    I think one of the most important things to get clear in your head about this situation is that if someone behaves aggressively or violently in your presence *you should not be expected to tolerate it*. The expected behavior *should* be to remove yourself from the interaction and pull in whoever has the power to fix the problem.

    So my big question for you is: Do you trust the company you work for and the relevant people in charge that they do not expect you to tolerate violent behavior? If you don’t, is that based on evidence? If you’re not sure, ask explicit questions that would help you get there. (I would honestly want to know more about how the previous incident was handled and why that didn’t result in him losing his job.) If your distrust *is* based in evidence, then your helplessness is not caused by Derek, it’s caused by the company you work for. And that’s a larger problem that will likely rear its head in multiple ways besides Derek.

    1. Jinni*

      Thank you so much for this nuanced response. It really points to the problem. OP’s not overreacting, her employer is underreacting. She has the absolute right to walk away from an unreasonable situation.

    2. another Hero*

      LW, if it would help you, I’d also make a basic plan for how to react if Derek behaves badly. Can you know that you’ll get your manager? Can you (to help everyone else in the room get a gut check and know you’re handling the situation) start by saying “You need to leave,” and then give everyone a break while you check in with your manager? Or, perhaps more comfortable since it doesn’t address Derek directly, just say “Let’s take five, everyone” and get a manager? (What you think would be ideal to do in this situation might not be realistic for you; prioritize realistic!) Having something that feels doable planned and ready to go if necessary might help you feel more secure if you have to train him.

    3. RVA Cat*

      This. Treat Derek’s combative behavior the same as if a venomous snake slithered into your office. You leave and report it.

  10. WithBellsOn*

    I’m very sorry you’re in this position, LW, and I hope you get all the support you need and deserve from your management. I just want to reiterate that the behavior you are afraid of from Derek, is behavior that nobody should *ever* be expected to tolerate from a coworker. There’s no reason you should feel self-conscious at all about your particular history; it may actually be helping you by making you more aware of what could happen and how you should prepare for it.

    What Alison said about past trauma skewing our perceptions of “normal” reactions is so true. I interact with a lot of people with relationship issues, and so many times, people will say something like, “Because I was previously in an abusive relationship, it really bothers me when my current partner screams at me and I have trouble forgiving him and moving past it, which is a flaw I’m working on.” It’s not a flaw, it’s being human.

    1. Junior Dev*

      That last paragraph articulates perfectly something I’ve been struggling with recently, thank you.

    2. Totally Minnie*

      This comment pairs perfectly with Ellis Bell’s comment above about how sometimes, having survived a trauma gives you information other people don’t have about how emotions and relationships work.

  11. El l*

    “Look, the MINIMUM I can do here is to have [Alison’s plan] in place, and [Supervisor’s] assurance that they’ll step in to close the meeting and support things. If this is not done and agreed, I can’t train him.

    “Because the fact is that I have zero assurance that anything was put in place to prevent this from happening again. Being put in this particular line of fire is not a reasonable ask for a trainer. If others with the power to discipline him had reacted more strongly, perhaps this would not be necessary – but they haven’t and now the rest of us have to look after our physical safety.”

    [OP, nobody should have to put up with this. Make it about that, not past history.]

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Just wanting to amplify this, because it’s so important:

      “ Because the fact is that I have zero assurance that anything was put in place to prevent this from happening again. Being put in this particular line of fire is not a reasonable ask for a trainer. If others with the power to discipline him had reacted more strongly, perhaps this would not be necessary – but they haven’t and now the rest of us have to look after our physical safety.”

      1. Anonynony*

        Critical question:

        “What steps are being taken to ensure my safety?”

        My boss sexually harassed my coworker. The CEO let the boss stay on because “he was very sorry and promised he wouldn’t do it again”. I was never informed about the incident. When I found out, I got a meeting with the CEO and asked this question. The CEO had never even thought about me.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Part of me really likes the idea of putting the onus on the organization by asking this question directly. Derek is volatile and threw something at a coworker, so what is the organization’s plan for ensuring everyone’s safety in the training? In my head, it seems like the way to try to force decision-makers to think about the effect of not dealing with Derek.

          But part of me likes the idea of just saying to the manager that if anyone starts yelling or throwing things, the LW will leave the room.

        2. laser99*

          I’ve got to know, what did the CEO say to you? “Well, it wasn’t you, so what are you worried about?”

    2. ferrina*

      I would ask my manager to sit in to that training session. You just say “oh, my manager is just observing a few trainings”. Let the manager deal with this guy.

      Frankly, I wouldn’t let my people train this guy. When my team deals with someone extra awful, I am either observing that meeting or leading that meeting (with or without my team, depending on their own preference).

      1. Ellie*

        Or have a security guard sit in the room with you, if you have one. Or Derek’s boss, if they respect them, who’s instructed to escort them out if they get belligerent. There are multiple ways they could handle this, but I wouldn’t go into that training session without some sort of backup.

  12. anon for this*

    Yeah, I’m sort of worried that you’re turning a workplace violence red flag situation into a personal trauma. That sounds victim-blamey, I’m trying to rethink how to say it. I guess I feel like our culture supports seeing this as a situation that comes down to interpersonal feelings and actions — something like “you need therapy to manage your feelings about possibly facing assault in the workplace” — rather than an external not-you problem to be managed. Ugh.

    Therapy can be really useful. In this instance, I would suggest your therapy/therapist support you in advocating for yourself and a safe workplace. To me it is perfectly legitimate to say to your manager, “If Derek becomes violent I will leave. My safety comes first. I will call building security, and I expect to be backed up by HR. We do not need a workplace violence incident here and his previous behavior is a red flag.” And I would practice saying this in the blandest possible way, emphasizing the liability to the company if they ignore these red flags.

    Your past makes you notice the danger in these situations more acutely than others. It doesn’t mean that you are hypersensitive to false danger, it means you’re appropriately attentive to real danger that others can more easily ignore. I just feel this undercurrent in what you wrote that you don’t feel like you’re a credible reporter here, in some sense, because of your past, and I want to directly push back on that. You are not irrational or taking things overly seriously or “oversensitive”. Alison said it, and I want to say it again.

    1. Prospect Gone Bad*

      Agreed. Put another way, you don’t need to disclose anything because Derek is being a fool.

      TBH when I saw he was frustrated with a new system, I tried to sympathize, but then I read further and he seems to hate the system and also want to put zero effort into fixing anything. Worst combination out there!

      I was going to say, I work with a few really passive people so would like a little “anxiety” or forwardness even ala Miranda Preistley to get some projects moving. But Derek’s energy aint it

      1. SweetestCin*

        I especially had sympathy with the “one department is very much against it”, though that went by the wayside once I got to Derek’s temper tantrums.

        I’ve been a part of “that department” who had to go through a systems change/change management year of chaos where we’d not been asked to review the new systems nor the software, and they were fundamentally incompatible with our job function. But we didn’t throw temper tantrums. We tried to make it work, we tried to fix it, we documented everything, including that we were now doing DOUBLE work in order to implement the software manufacturer’s cobbled work around…and got the software removed from our department. No throwing of anything.

    2. SereneScientist*

      Yes yes yes. Absolutely seconding this. LW, your trauma history makes it the most linear path to treat this as a situation in which *your feelings* are the problem because that’s the response you’ve gotten from others in the past despite whatever horrifying circumstances you were in. But that is not the case here. Trauma can make us second-guess our own reactions as extreme when the essence of them is absolutely not. Derek’s behavior is the problem here and you are not wrong for seeking out ways to keep yourself (and others!) safe from his violence.

  13. Sparkles McFadden*

    Derek’s behavior is problematic overall so it makes sense to raise it as soon as possible. You don’t have to explain past trauma or anything else. You just have to say “So what’s the plan for dealing with Derek?” because the problem is Derek, not you. Document your interactions thus far and state that you are concerned about his defensiveness disrupting the training. You’re concerned Derek may get physical as he has done so in the past. Any half-decent boss will work with you to come up with a plan. I wouldn’t mention your past trauma at all since Derek’s behavior is unacceptable and everyone should object to it. Just speak to your boss in a way where you’re essentially saying “I know you will want to have a plan for this situation.”

    Is there some way to have a trusted colleague at the training? I would sometimes have a second person (who just happened to be a gigantic guy) present when we expected a problem from someone in a training session. The Dereks of the world calm right down when a very large man is present.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Agree with all of this. I have no particular history of trauma, but nobody should put up with that kind of behavior from anyone, and especially not in a workplace.

      1. Ukdancer*

        This so much. I’ve no history of trauma and I would not want to teach Derek any thing because he doesn’t sound safe. It’s not a you problem OP it’s a him problem.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          This! Trauma isn’t some kind of horrible discount store where your past experience means your current ones count less. Derek’s behavior is objectively threatening and unacceptable, period.

    2. Catalin*

      Also, as a manager, it is 100% your manager’s job to step in and deal with the Derek issue. It is our obligation, it is mandatory that at a MINIMUM we ensure our workspaces are safe, sane and productive.

      Go to your manager today and say, “Derek has been aggressive and expressed frustration in a disruptive, unprofessional and dangerous way. He threw a mouse at (NAME) on (DATE) during a (SESSION NAME) and he’s lost his temper several times. I do not feel safe in a setting where violence is possible.”

      If your manager is even slightly decent, they will be compelled to step in and act in a way that secures your safety. If they suck x1000, you go to their manager and/or HR and say exactly what you said to Manager and tell them that you spoke to manager already on (DATE), said this, and you’ve seen no action.

      Your office is not in Fight Club. You have zero obligation to stay in the room or building with someone who endangers you.

      1. zuzu*

        It’s also OP’s manager’s job to bring this up with Derek’s manager. Because OP might not have standing to do it, but OP’s manager does.

    3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Agreed with all of this. I’d assume that a typical part of being a trainer is to figure out what the most likely issues will be and have a plan for what to do when they happen. As a former dance instructor for newbies, we totally knew what mistakes students were going to make and what we’d do when they did. It was a deliberate choice to give them a bit of information, then let them try, rather than doing information overload.

      Unfortunately, in this situation, Derek being somewhere between unpleasant and threatening is an issue that’s likely to come up, so it makes total sense to have a plan for that. And the plan definitely needs to include not being subject to threats or violence.

    4. City Planner*

      Agreeing with this – I’m in a role where we often host community meetings and events, sometimes around pretty contentious issues. (For context, I’ve been walked to my car by a police officer after an event.) It’s relatively common to include planning for disruptive or angry people in our plan for an event. Sometimes that takes the form of having a police officer hanging out nearby, sometimes it’s having someone who is “on-call” for dealing specifically with the disruptive people, sometimes it’s about the room set-up to keep them from derailing the event. There can be a variety of strategies for dealing with whatever we think might happen – and sometimes we need to use our contingency plans and sometimes we don’t.

      In this case, you might want to not only have a plan for Derek, but also a plan for anyone else who is having a hard time managing the change – people who want to keep going over and over issues that have already been resolved, people who are fault-finding to a ridiculous degree, etc. Making a plan for all of these contingencies is just being a professional who is good at her job.

      1. Watry*

        Do you have suggestions? We may be about to change several of our major software programs and I’m going to be running the training classes. I seriously doubt I’ll have an issue like OP’s given my employer’s attitude towards violence, but I do expect a lot of change resistance and I think it’d be smart to have ideas in my back pocket.

  14. Elizabeth West*

    Derek throws a mouse at me, I’ll make him eat it.

    But seriously, OP, there is no need to disclose anything. His behavior is more than enough to warrant a talk with your boss. As for consequences, he may have been given a warning you don’t know about, but I’d definitely ask for a backup plan to be put in place.

    1. Tute83*

      Actually, I was thinking of throwing a mouse right back at him. Computer or otherwise, doesn’t really matter. But I have a feeling he will do the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time and he’ll be gone.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        But even that would be an awful experience for anyone else who happens to be present.

      2. Catalin*

        IDK, based on reading Ask A Manager, throwing the mouse back feels like biting the bully.

      3. Aggretsuko*

        Reading this thread, I’m thinking the person he harms will be the one that gets fired, not Derek.

    2. bamcheeks*

      This is actually my problem with violence! I grew up in a family where there was a fair amount of violence— no serious injuries, but a lot of smacking and shouting from my parents, and physical fights with my siblings. I know a lot of people hate violence because it makes them freeze and unable to react, but my reaction is simply to fight back and escalate, and that’s not great either!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Exactly, which is why my real reaction would probably be to get up and walk out of the room straight to HR.

        But making Derek eat the mouse is a nice fantasy. >:) Because Derek is an ass.

  15. GreyjoyGardens*

    It is not, repeat NOT, normal behavior to throw a mouse (or anything else) at a coworker out of anger or frustration. It’s not a “trauma reaction” to not want that, it is normal! I wonder why they put up with it from Derek – I presume he’s a white guy who offers some kind of valuable skill and would be “so hard to replace!”

    Nevertheless, I think it’s fine to say that you’ve heard about the mouse-throwing incident, and you are not going to train Derek if he starts getting belligerent or angry. The company should have your back on this.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > who offers some kind of valuable skill

      I feel like his skills are about to become less valuable (if not downright obsolete) as a result of the new system. If he hasn’t been fired before because of being irreplaceable- that might no longer apply…

      1. GreyjoyGardens*

        Usually people are not as irreplaceable as they (or those who fawn over them) think they are, unless it’s something unusual (like Joey Chestnut and his ability to eat lots of hot dogs) or the person is truly out of this world skilled (like the late Prince who could get away with being a jerk to everyone because he was Prince, and was that talented).

        I somehow doubt Derek falls into these categories. I know that many bosses and companies would rather not do the hard work of replacing someone, but if they are toxic, surely there is someone who is pleasant to be around and can still Do The Thing?

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      Man, I am so sick of hearing about how people who can’t behave with minimum decency are somehow some kind of human Ming vase who must be tolerated due to their skill at X. (Not you specifically, GreyjoyGardens, just in general!)

      I’ve quoted it before: The cemeteries are full of irreplaceable men. Unless Derek is actively steering a ballistics missile he can be replaced by somebody who doesn’t throw things at coworkers.

      1. Caliente Papillon*

        Yes, even since I was child when ppl would say, omg you can’t expect them to act normally because they’re so smart they’re a genius. I’d always think, how can you be a genius if you don’t know how to/ can’t figure out how to behave? I don’t buy that crap at all.

  16. Pumpkin215*

    I have worked with a Derek so I will point out how difficult/near impossible it is.

    My past job was very similar to your situation. I was doing user testing on a new system for a lot of people. There was one VP (aka Derek) that did NOT want to use the new system. He was vocal about this at every turn.

    The company did nothing They allowed him to bully our vendor, attempt to bully me, yell, curse and throw insult after insult. No actual objects were thrown to my knowledge, but it would not have surprised me.

    The best advice I have is it ignore it. That may not sound or be very helpful to you but it was my only defense at the time. When Derek acted like a child, I treated him like one. The class continued without him. I booted him from meetings/calls, putting him in a basic “time out” if he was rude. I never raised my voice or yelled back at him. I didn’t react to his comments and removed him from the situation when I could.

    The company did not care to correct this behavior so my tools were limited. I no longer work there. I have no idea if he is using the new system or not and I do not care.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I actually wouldn’t recommend ignoring it because of the actual risk of violence which he has already displayed.

      Making this kind of safety plan is really important for OP’s physical safety as well as mental health. Going in to a potentially unsafe situation where you know a violent person is likely to be violent because they were violent in the exact same situation previously is pretty scary. Past behavior (with no intervention). is a great predictor of future behavior.

      Knowing you have options and autonomy and will be backed up (or that you won’t be and having a plan for that) is critical.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Pumpkin215 said ‘ignore it’, but it sounds like they meant ‘don’t express an emotional reaction to it’. Because they actually did something–dropped him from the call, kicked him out of meetings, put him into a ‘time out’–removed him from the trainings.

        I like this, if OP can manage it. Instead of her leaving the room, kick Derek out. Make that plan with her manager and HR.

        1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

          Oh! I see what you mean. I re read it and that makes sense. I agree, but that doesn’t sound like ignoring it, it sounds like addressing it. Kicking him out or whatever.

            1. Yoyoyo*

              She was so amazing in that interview, wasn’t she? I remember being so impressed when I saw it.

        2. Ellie*

          Yes, but what if he doesn’t leave? Derek has shown he will ignore a pretty basic office norm by throwing a mouse at a co-worker, I have to wonder how many other office norms he’s prepared to ignore on top of that.

          I also thing that, ‘show no reaction’ is easier said than done, normal people get upset, or angry, when they feel powerless.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            Oh, yes, it’s definitely tough to do, especially with a trauma history! And maybe OP won’t be able to manage it in the moment. But possibly they can try, with a little role-playing with their therapist to practice.

            If she ends up having to train Derek, plan ahead with her manager. Say that if he acts up, she will ask him to leave, and what will that look like? If he refuses, how should OP proceed? Maybe there’s security she can call, or have her manager or Derek’s manager on tap to handle it. But yeah, game this out ahead of time.

  17. BellyButton*

    I had someone in a training class get so upset that they were being asked to learn something new and change the way they were doing something they threw their binder towards me. I looked them dead in the eye, picked up their binder, and said “please take your things down to HR and I will be there at the next break.” they began throwing a temper tantrum at a level I have never seen in anyone above the age of 3. She was yelling, literally stomping her feet, and crying. I stood there with my arms crossed staring at them and didn’t say another word. While looking at them I walked to the door and stood holding it open.

    When se didn’t get any more from me she finally stormed out. DO NOT ENGAGE WITH CRAZY, VIOLENT, OR IRRATIONAL BEHAVIOR. The more you speak to them, the more you try to be rational the more they think they have a right to behave that way. Stand firm and silent.

    Good luck!

    1. Nicki Name*

      Good lord. Please tell me this person experienced some kind of official consequences.

    2. Salsa Verde*

      You handled this like a champ!!
      I hope you were supported by HR – did she actually go there? Or what happened?

  18. Meep*

    Unfortunately, 2 in 3 women will be assaulted by a man in their lifetime. It is a sad statistic. But it also means that you do not have to disclose your own assault, BECAUSE it is normal. Kind of like in the way, Derek wasn’t fired for his outburst, I imagine.

    I agree with Alison, focus on a game plan to protect you rather than bringing up your trauma. If your manager is a woman or has ever met a woman, they already know and should be focused on getting it to work for you.

  19. Capt. Liam Shaw*

    I had a former manager (female/white/40s) act the same way as Derek… only she slung a laptop at a subordinate. She didn’t get fired. Laptop luckily missed him. Again she was not fired just “counseled.” Only job I left in less than a year.

  20. Dust Bunny*

    For the record, I don’t have any particular history of trauma but if you throw a mouse at me I will a) throw you out of the training session, b) report that to HR, and c) start looking for another job immediately if you’re not fired.

    You don’t have to have a history of trauma to 110% not want to deal with this.

  21. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    As a trainer, I make sure to do Ground Rules at the beginning, and start with civility.

    I might also introduce the topic as — “This training has been approved by management and is the process that they expect everyone to follow. If you have questions about how to proceed with the new process, I am happy to answer them. If you disagree with some portion of it, I ask that you wait until the full training is complete because subsequent information may put the process into better perspective. ”

    If Disruptive Derek challenges something, redirect to the rules. On the second challenge, stand firm, take space, and say “If you are unable to hold your concerns until the full training is complete, I need to ask you to step out so the rest of the group can continue with the rest of the material.” Maintain eye contact like a boss until he either leaves or stops talking. If he kicks up again later, then say “This is not the time to argue the process. Please write down your objections and they can be reviewed later.” And then if there’s muttering or side talk, or even continued challenges, “Derek, we need to move forward. Side conversations are distracting to the group. If you need to take a break, feel free to step out.”

    No apologies, no softening language, firm eye contact, and root your feet strong enough to withstand a small hurricane.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Also, put a small token in your pocket which you has been fed with all of the shiny backbones and encouragement that you are reading here. I believe in magic in the face of the impossible.

      1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        I love this idea and would like to gleefully (and with reverence, it does seem magical) take it for myself.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      I like this approach. I used to teach middle school, and working with kids was not much of a problem, but sometimes I had to coach adults and that was a problem. “Hold your questions/thoughts/comments until the end” is a useful standard, because a lot of times those questions will get answered, and all those other things will fade away.

    3. SnappinTerrapin*

      This is a good, viable strategy.

      Coupled with a preliminary meeting with management to ensure their support, it has the potential to reduce the risk of the disruption occurring, and it lays a proper predicate for management to intervene if necessary.

      Frankly, the training session is not the right forum to relitigate Derek’s objections to the changes. He needs to take that up with the people who decided to make the change. The training session should focus on HOW to implement the decision that has already been directed.

      Management should clear up Derek’s confusion about that point before he has an opportunity to derail the training that is needed for the folks who choose to remain employed.

  22. Dances with Flax*

    Why on earth is Derek still at that job after chucking a computer mouse at a colleague? What is HR waiting for – for him to throw a chair at someone next time?! Between his attitude and his behavior, what could he possibly be contributing to the company that outweighs recalcitrance and violence?

    1. RVA Cat*

      I honestly wonder if they’re too chicken to fire him for fear of him attacking his manager and HR.
      This is one of the very few cases where the security export is warranted.

      1. laser99*

        I have a theory that the reason these types keep their jobs is because the brass is afraid they will come back and shoot up the place if fired. It would certainly explain the astounding levels of employee incompetence in this country.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      I would guess they are waiting for exactly that. I’ve seen way too many instances of outrageous behavior normalized in astoundingly swift amounts of time to doubt it, unfortunately.

  23. LookingGlass*

    I figure if nothing else, Derek’s behavior should be framed as a liability to the company. Sometimes, you have to talk in terms of the bottom line, not conscience, and Derek is bound to affect work morale and productivity if he stays on, especially if he hurts someone else.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      And even if he doesn’t physically hurt anyone, his terrible attitude and behavior isn’t going to do one good thing for the morale of the rest of the trainees or implementing the new system as a whole.

  24. mlem*

    I want to believe Alison, but I have a sad suspicion that the reaction will be along the lines of “but it was *just* a mouse! It wasn’t so bad! It wouldn’t even hurt! Why are you making such a big deal out of it?” — minimizing the violence of Derek’s actions.

  25. CatCat*

    Derek should be fired like yesterday.

    But since he’s not, I agree with the advice on making a game plan with your supervisor.

    And I want to note that you don’t need anyone’s permission to leave the situation if Derek is being inappropriate and making you feel unsafe. Like even if the game plan is to ask him to leave, if that feels like it will escalate things, you don’t need to adhere to the plan.
    You can just go. Don’t need to excuse yourself or say anything in their moment. Just go. I’d head straight to your supervisor or HR at that point.

    I’m seriously side-eyeing an organization that lets workplace violence slide though. No one there should have to deal with Derek because he should be long gone.

    1. Greige*

      “And I want to note that you don’t need anyone’s permission to leave the situation if Derek is being inappropriate and making you feel unsafe.”

      So much this! You get to walk out when you feel unsafe, whether or not you get explicit permission ahead of time. If your boss has any sense, they’ll understand.

  26. Purely Allegorical*

    Some good suggestions here for what the plan can actually look like… I would also add, have an HR rep in the room.

  27. hiptobesquare*

    I worked for a dysfunctional org and had small items thrown at me in meetings – it made me hate it and cause more ptsd symptoms. Not worth it!
    If your org doesn’t address it properly, I would start looking for a new gig. Not worth the stress.

  28. Boolie*

    I was also in a job where I was incredulous to have to train the AI software that has a very good likelihood of replacing me. Do you know what I did? I left the freaking job, and didn’t throw things like a child. Derek is beyond wrong and not very bright.

  29. Baron*

    I think this is some of Alison’s best advice ever. Some people may be more inclined to tolerate this kind of behaviour than others, or more powerless to do anything about it, but absolutely no one likes or deserves this kind of treatment at work. Not wanting to be subject to anger and aggression at work is not a you problem – it’s how most people would feel.

  30. MediumEd*

    OP, I know what you mean about aggressiveness in the workplace. I have a co-worker who has a history of yelling and screaming at people over trivial matters. No throwing things (yet), but he is bigger than most of us, and as a woman I never felt safe discussing work alone in a room with him, mostly due to his propensity to start yelling. We did not have HR at the time and had weak leadership that wanted to pretend that this never happened with him. People will pretend this behavior does not exist, or excuse it away until it is too late.

    The fact that Derek has already thrown something AT a colleague over this basic training is more than enough for you to flag it and bring up your concerns without having to disclose that you have already once been physically assaulted at work and are afraid of the real possibility of it happening again. Stand your ground and don’t budge on this.

  31. bamcheeks*

    I don’t know how to communicate that if I can’t remove him, I will need to leave

    I read this and thought, you’ve framed it like it’s, “how do I communicate that I must be fed a roast chicken at precisely 11am every day?” when it’s actually more like, “how do I communicate that I need to eat lunch?” That is, this is not really something you should have to “communicate” like it’s a big deal or a difficult ask: it’s a completely normal, standard boundary that pretty much everyone should expect to be honoured in the workplace. It should go without saying that you will leave the training if anyone is behaving violently!

    That doesn’t mean to say it’s not a good idea to have a game plan and make sure you understand what the consequences will be for Derek and who you should speak to. But you absolutely don’t have to frame this as an unusual ask or any kind of failing on your part. It’s not!

    1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

      “I must be fed a roast chicken at precisely 11am every day?” That made my day!

  32. Risha*

    If a coworker throws something and it hits you, why wouldn’t calling the police be a possibility? If some random person (or even your partner) started throwing things at you, I’m sure most people would view that as assault and call the police. Why is this not being done at work? Personally, I would not tolerate being assaulted at work (or anywhere for that matter). If my coworker hit me with something, I would proceed the same way I would if someone did that to me at a store, or on the street, or anywhere. People who physically hurt others need to face actual consequences for their actions, that go beyond firing.

    I know a man whose eye was put out because someone threw something at him. It wasn’t in anger, they were tossing something to him from across the room because they didn’t feel like walking over and handing it to him. It hit him square in the eye, I think it was a book but I’m not sure. He now has a glass eye.

    I work in a professional where it’s not uncommon to be assaulted, either by having things thrown at us or by the person hitting/kicking us. We’re told to call the police right away. It does not matter why they did it. If someone cannot control their anger, then maybe the cops can help them learn.

    If someone threw something at me but it missed-that would be the day I was fired because I would throw it right back at them. IMO, sometimes 2 wrongs do in fact make a right. OP, I’m not suggesting for you to do this. The only advice I would give you is don’t tolerate any crap from him, and if he hits you with something, call the police.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Calling the police is not a possibility because in most jurisdictions, the police are not going to take any notice if somebody throws a mouse at you. They are going to wait until somebody is actually physically injured before they even consider going out on that call. They simply don’t have the resources to deal with something like this.

      1. assault survivor*

        Many cops pick & choose what calls they take. How do I know this? Friends in 6 diff agencies.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          Same. “Flung mouse” vs “dead hooker” could go either way, depending on what the rest of the day/week has been like.

      2. metadata minion*

        Yeah, I don’t want to have to deal with police who are now annoyed with me because I reported something that they don’t think is important. Unless I’m in immediate risk of serious injury or death, adding police is just going to add bureaucratic hassle and now the hassle also has guns if they show up.

    2. bunniferous*

      I had a stranger throw a cigarrette lighter at me once and the police told me that was considered assault. Something to consider.

  33. My Useless 2 Cents*

    Ideally, I would go a little stronger than what Alison is suggesting. Start with Alison’s script but when you get to the “I’d like to talk about a plan” wording I would say something more like “If Derek starts acting physically aggressive in any manner, I will stop the training and leave the room immediately.” No ifs, ands, or buts about how you are going to handle the situation. It gets a little more grey when it comes to verbally aggressive and how much you can handle but make it clear that in that situation, too much aggressiveness of any kind and you will immediately stop the training and leave the room. If Derek cannot be trained because of this, than that is on Derek’s unprofessionalism and his manager can deal with that situation as needed.

    1. Jade*

      No verbal plans. She can’t be in the training with him alone. This has gone beyond verbal plans.

  34. Chilipepper Attitude*

    OP, I would definitely get clear with your boss how this will be handled in the training if it happens again, and I think it is ok to mention that something similar happened at a previous employer, and you want to be sure you know the plan moving forward. At a former job, my coworkers and I did not do that and it was an issue.

    At my former workplace, one coworker grabbed another roughly and spun her around. Everyone was shocked, but nothing appeared to be done to address it. HR took forever with things and I think there were things we did not know about.

    Anyway, I had to work with him alone the next Saturday. I said a sentence to him, not realizing he was with a customer, and he slammed the keyboard and various items on the desk around and was visibly angry. It was scary! I had to go to mediation with him and our boss. He refused to go and gave notice. But in the mediation, we had it without him; I was told I was the problem for talking to him while he had a customer!

    That supervisor was a problem for another time!

  35. anywhere but here*

    LW, I think you should be able to opt out of training this person entirely. I don’t know what the norms are in your workplace (as evidenced by the fact that this man still has a job), but I think, “I am unwilling to directly work with someone who has shown aggression and physical violence,” is a supremely reasonable avenue to take. Best wishes with however the situation shakes out!

    1. Hey o*

      Yes. I’m changing my answer to this. Tell your manager you will absolutely not train a person who has been violent in the workplace.

  36. Jade*

    No no no. Derek already committed battery on a coworker. You tell your manager that due to Derek’s history of extremely aggressive behavior, a male chaperone must be in the training area with you and Derek at all times. You don’t need to bring up your trauma.

  37. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

    I’m wondering, could the OP just refuse to do the training? I’m not sure if it’s one on one training or in a room. But could the OP go to their boss and say “After the incident where Derek through a mouse at Cheryl I am extremely concerned and do not feel comfortable training Derek.” Especially if the other person was someone who was trying to help or training Derek. Its showing an unusual aggression to people and should be shut down.

    If this is going to be a group training, where several people will be there besides Derek, I would follow Alison’s advice, but maybe add “what is the plan for when Derek gets disruptive?” It sounds to me that besides the throwing the mouse he is generally disruptive to everything. And this behavior can be problematic for the others attending the training.

    I would also ask what the consequences are for Derek, after he hit someone with a mouse. Even if you were not training him I think it would be fair to talk to your boss or someone in HR about the situation.

  38. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

    I’m wondering a few things.

    OP could you just decline the training with Derek? Explain that you are not comfortable training him after the last incident where he threw a mouse. Even if he hadn’t thrown something he sounds very disruptive. I’m not sure if this is a 1 on 1 training or a group training. If it’s a one on one I think you have a lot of leverage to refuse. He is so combative and negative that he has escalated to violence. If it is a group training I think you could still push back and say that you don’t want him in the room. Or you could follow what alison said and ask specifically what steps will be taken when Derek gets combative. Because it will be WHEN and not IF. I’d say the moment he starts to yell or complain, etc he should be marched out.

    Also, even if you were not training him I think you would have the right to go to HR or to the boss and ask what steps are being addressed about the throwing incident. What consequences does Derek have because of it and what the company is doing to make sure it never happens again?
    I Would also document this so that if you do walk out of the room or stop training that you can show why you did this.

  39. Right there with you*

    Wait, what? You should not, and do not, have to wait until he does it again. He needs to be dealt with NOW. Even if you were not worried about this (which is totally natural), even if you had nothing to do with him. He has already done something unacceptable, and his manager should deal with it now. He needs to be told in no uncertain terms that throwing things (and raising his voice, etc) is completely inappropriate and will not be tolerated. You definitely can and should plan ahead, of course, but this should happen first. Ask for it now. You don’t have to mention your trauma at all. Just that you heard he did this thing, it is inappropriate, and you want to know if and how (if they will tell you) it was dealt with, and how they plan to prevent it happening again. And then the rest of what you had in mind, re how to deal with it if it happens again. You are completely within your rights to do all of this, and it will be good for your fellow coworkers too. Best wishes to you.

  40. Cat's Paw for Cats*

    I would fire an employee who threw something at another employee. Period. OP should not have to work with this ma because he shouldn’t be there at all.

  41. Once in a Blue Moon*

    So, if the OP wasn’t in the room, and doesn’t say who told her, and Derek was not fired, how does she know this is what happened for sure and wasn’t exaggerated? I’m not saying this to excuse it, or anything of the sort- this is an absolute immediate termination offense, but I’m not seeing in the letter that she witnessed it or who told her this did happen. Trying to train a combative and resistant co-worker is hard enough, especially with trauma in your background and OP should know what the boundaries are and what kind of managerial back up she has regardless.

    1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      She’s “part of the project team” and learned about the incident from a colleague who was there. (I’m inferring this, but I’ve been part of training projects like this we absolutely shared stories of what happened in our separate groups, both to chat and to share tactics/ideas.) Because she wasn’t in the room herself, she doesn’t know why it wasn’t dealt with in the moment, but I think we can trust her report that it did actually happen.

  42. Spicy Tuna*

    I don’t have a history of trauma and when it comes to work-related stuff, I have a pretty thick skin, but there was a situation once with a consulting client where a senior level employee was harassing me. He wanted me to make an accounting change to something because it would impact his bonus. Doing this was so far above my pay grade, I have no idea why he kept pestering me about it (over email only, thankfully). I kept looping in the CFO and she kept shutting him down. Every time he would send just me an harassing, abusive email, I would reply and loop in the CFO. The next time I had a job with the client, this guy was gone.

    OP, don’t be afraid to loop in HR, your manager, or this guy’s manager. In a non-toxic workplace, they will have your back!

  43. Samwise*

    When I was a 20-something college instructor, a large male student stood up and cursed me when I directed him to get on task with a group activity.

    I loudly announced “class is over, everyone please gather your things and leave the room; I will contact you later about today’s material “. I gathered my stuff, stood at the door until all the students had exited (except the bully, who stood there, astonished), walked out, and immediately went to the dept chair.

    The student was trespassed from campus.

    My first thought was for the safety of the other students. After I talked to the dept chair I went to the restroom and fell apart.

      1. Samwise*

        Don’t know how I managed to keep my cool! I just knew instinctively that I had to protect the other students.

        I learned from a very seasoned teacher, don’t do discipline with your mouth, and, if you’re arguing with the student you’ve lost. So I did know not to confront the bully directly.

  44. Hello*

    Between Derek and Bob posts today, a huge part of the issue is that have accommodated bad behavior when it comes to taking feedback, so the Dereks and Bobs have learned that they can put some easy roadblocks and have no consequences. The Bobs are worse because it seems like this one is more about the message than the deliverer of the message.

    Something I’ve read with implementing new systems is that they have to be convinced that the inefficiencies/workarounds they do with the current system will be improved with the new system.

  45. Dana*

    Not mentioning the trauma history, as Alison suggests, seems like the most sensible option, but if you *did* want to mention it (say, because you tried the sensible course of action but got pushback from a manager who didn’t see what the big deal was), I’d probably try to do it without framing it in terms of “trauma.”

    I’m not defending this stance by any means, but there are people who will roll their eyes if you say you’re having trouble with this because of some past trauma, but would be *totally* sympathetic if you said basically the same thing without using that word, e.g.:

    “I once had a male coworker who was sometimes kind of aggressive, usually to a lesser degree, but he once punched me in the face because he thought I was being bossy. So I’m really not okay with going into this without a specific plan and an assurance that I won’t have to work with someone who is behaving aggressively.”

    This framing gets across basically the same information, but it explains what happened in a purely factual, non-emotional way. It’s describing hard facts, not your feelings (even though the hearer will immediately imagine how they’d feel if that fact had happened to them). Because it’s not being framed as a matter of some psychological issue on your part, it’s less likely to result in a negative reaction.

    Again, I’m not justifying the attitudes that would make this approach more desirable: I for one would see nothing to scoff at in someone just saying they had some past trauma around this. But I think steering clear of the word “trauma” might be safer unless you know your manager is super supportive about that kind of thing.

  46. Office Drone*

    I was told during onboarding with my job at a global organization that company policy is “Lose your temper, even once; lose your job.” In this day and age, this needs to be universal policy in all workplaces.

  47. slowingaging*

    I appreciate your thoughtfulness about his issues. It shows your skill as a trainer.
    This is not a ‘you’ issue. This is a management issue. Please go immediately to whomever you report to and ask them. “What are you going to do about Derek? How do you plan to handle his training process? And then wait. Example, as a teacher many years ago, we had a plan on what to do to break up a fight.
    If their plan is not satisfactory, I suggest the following. Practice calm and matter of fact tone. Be specific for each step, with using verbal, visual and hands on training. If he gets combative, then speak to the specific technical issue calmly and ignore his anxiety (easier said than done) If at any time it crosses your predetermined line (volume, language, physical behavior). Ask him to take a moment. If he doesn’t then walk out of the room. You are not paid to handle the company’s HR/management issues. Please update, if and when you can.

  48. Marie*

    I once worked reception and there was a high counter in front of my desk that came about eye level to me when I sat behind it, and a male coworker shoved a clipboard off the counter and hit me in the face with it. It was played off as a “joke” and when I reported it, my boss told me “We talked to him, and it’s handled. Now don’t be weird about it and don’t bring it up again.” Coworker was then given A PROMOTION. I resigned within a couple of weeks without giving notice.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Holy crap. “Don’t make me face my uncomfy feelings about my own avoidance and take it all on yourself mmkay?”

      I’m so glad you left.

  49. Pip*

    OP, I am so sorry you have to interact with this Derek cretin. Honestly if it’s at all possible, and it seems like it would be, I’d ask your boss to find someone else to train Derek and just give whatever explanation you feel comfortable with. It’s not worth possible harm to your mental or emotional health to train Derek. Let your manager manage and tell them they need to find someone else to do it. Take care.

  50. TG*

    I’d say sorry I can’t train someone who is aggressive for my own mental well being. This guy should’ve been fired when he threw something at someone at work. That’s violence.

  51. SnappinTerrapin*

    If I were Derek’s manager, I don’t know whether I would have terminated him over the prior incident, but I would have considered that option and there would have been serious consequences. If I didn’t terminate him, he probably would have been on final warning / last chance status.

    There would definitely be a serious conversation before this training session to underscore this for him, and I would ensure that the trainer (LW) knows that she is supported.

    I don’t have enough information to definitively say that the manager was wrong to give a final warning instead of termination, but I agree with earlier comments that this was a serious misconduct and warranted serious consequences. I hope that our lack of knowledge about the consequences merely reflects the exercise of sound discretion about privacy, but I also recognize the possibility that management completely dropped the ball.

    1. SnappinTerrapin*

      In any event, it is entirely reasonable for LW to raise her concerns with management before the training session, and to have a plan in place to handle the foreseeable problem in case it occurs. If management doesn’t see this as reasonable, and they fail to support her in developing (and, if necessary, implementing) a contingency plan, then there is a real failure in management.

  52. Ariane*

    Insist that the training be recorded for reference and new hires. Occasionally knowing there is a recording puts people on their best behavior. Ensure that you have a LITERAL exit strategy (e.g. a way to safely remove yourself from harms way if need be). DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. Keep a diary, take notes with dates and times.
    I had a similar situation where a coworker widely known for sexually harassing women made incessant comments about my appearance and petite frame. My boss was livid, his was apathetic. HR told me to give my harasser “feedback” and when I did my male cubicle next door neighbor and a male director in a nearby office were frightened for me (as well as several female colleagues who were aware of both his previous and current abuse of myself and others in addition to his racist comments about coworkers, partners and clients) so stayed close as my harasser was twice my size and theirs … so not all men tolerate threatening and abusive behavior.
    Unfortunately I was terminated against my supervisor’s wishes. I sued successfully. The sad part was how many coworkers weren’t willing to call out how inappropriate the behavior was, including the director of HR.
    Physically threatening or violent behavior is NEVER acceptable and should never be tolerated. You can always get another position but you can never get a new you. Unfortunately you may be presented with an NDA to settle, which may feel like the equivalent of a professional scarlet letter, but thanks to recent events in an interview saying something like “unfortunately legal circumstances prevent me from commenting” is now more understood. Any employer worth working for knows what that really means.
    I am so sorry this is happening to you and wish you strength and success.

  53. Exhausted*

    I’m so tired to my bones of this story. Woman reports male aggression. Nothing is done about it. Other women are apprehensive about particular male’s aggressive behavior (which, from all we know, he has not suffered consequences for or at the very least not suffered the appropriate consequences for i.e. termination of employment). Women in the comments here report similar violent behaviors amongst men in their own workplaces — it’s a DISTURBINGLY FREQUENT OCCURANCE. Still, STILL, there are folks lining up to say “WELL. Do We AcTuAlLy KnOw ThIs HaPpEnEd.” “It DoEsN’T sAy It AcTuAlLy HiT hEr.”

    Most folks are disgusted that this happened and this guy still has a job, and yet for some the draw of excusing or disbelieving this type of behavior is still there. We would rather debate ANY little detail about the story to avoid confronting the continued prevalence of violence against women. That kind of attitude is exactly why the Dereks of the world don’t get immediately canned when they exhibit this kind of behavior.

    1. InsufficentlySubordinate*

      No kidding. At least two minimizing attempts in this thread, and, in general, the commenters on this site are pretty sensible/aware. So, I’m saying, this creeps in Everywhere because it is pervasive in society. The reason we have to keep bringing it up is so it becomes a conscious awareness. Sigh.

    2. Random Dice*

      And the commenter who said that women calling out sexism BY men is actually being sexist AGAINST men, because #notallmen.

      I’m gonna walk away from this thread.

  54. yala*

    “he got frustrated and threw his mouse at another staff member”




    And he’s…still there?? Like, sometimes folks lose their temper and raise their voice or swear, and that’s a reprimand, but physically THROWING things? AT people? (and those things are electronic equipment)



  55. Delphine*

    Boggles the mind that he wasn’t fired immediately. It’s appalling that we (society) allow men to get away with this kind of behavior.

  56. yala*

    There is, however, some petty part of me that would want to respond to him like a Pre-K teacher (say, Mrs. Frazzle on Tik-Tok)

    “It looks like Derek is having some Big Feelings right now. Derek, why don’t you go outside to the Cool-Down Corner for twooooo minutes and practice your breating.”

  57. M*

    Wow. Most employers, including mine, would probably fire someone on the spot for not just throwing equipment but AT ANOTHER PERSON.

    A similar situation happened last year at my workplace. Someone threw a piece of equipment on the floor and was fired. He’d been warned multiple times about his behavior and that was the final straw.

    Definitely talk to your manager and Express concerns that the complaint has chosen not to take real action after the threw a mouse at a co-worker. You absolutely need to have a plan in place should he have another outburst.
    It’s bad for business all around to allow that kind of thing to go on, trauma history or not.

  58. JustMe*

    Yeah–I think OP is more concerned about the “How will I deal with this” when the issue seems to be “This person is obviously a problem and may get in the way of actual work being done.” Even without your history, it’s 100% reasonable to expect your peers to behave like adults and to communicate that to your managers. Saying, “This employee has a track record of behaving this way and if they cannot stop then they will either have to be removed or I will leave” is very reasonable to me–you are not a preschool teacher, prison guard, mental health professional, social worker, or anyone else whose job includes taking care of children or people with diminished capacities or issues with aggression. Good luck!

  59. Raida*

    I know you want to figure out what what what what to do and how how how how, here’s what I’d do (no trauma)

    “Manager, just want to be clear, if StaffMember yells, slams fists or throws anything I’m kicking him out of training. I need to you communicate that to his boss, alright?”
    and then also “Wanna be clear on this – I’ll just leave the room and nobody will get training. That’s what will happen if nobody takes responsibility for StaffMember. If that’s not acceptable, put him in training with someone else or put someone else in charge of all the training.”

    Clear, simple, direct – I am *telling* my manager they *need* to tell the other manager to deal with *their* staff member, and here’s the consequences to communicate.

    1. Raida*

      and to be very very clear here, I’d be using language (here in Aus) like “If you reckon I’m going to put up with a d*ckhead chucking a tantrum in the office, no fckn chance, hahaaaa”

  60. Dog momma*

    That would be the day a co worker or boss threw something at me ( it happened at times in the OR). I’d walk out of the room, not leave the hospital.. that’s abandonment and they can pull your license.. unless there was a patient safety issue, call my supervisor, and then call my lawyer. That’s assault.

  61. His Grace*

    He threw a mouse at a co-worker and wasn’t fired on the spot? I’ve had coworkers fired on the spot for less!

    HR needs to address this. Like, last year. This is wildly inappropriate and promoting an unsafe work environment. Derek needs to go.

  62. george*

    Consider taking a digital recorder into the training with you and record audio of your ENTIRE interaction with co-worker.

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