General Question

drdoombot's avatar

How would you handle a co-worker that doesn't get along with you and makes work uncomfortable?

Asked by drdoombot (8095 points ) December 22nd, 2009

My friend, let’s call him Jerry, is having trouble with another guy, let’s call him Tom, at his workplace. Tom is much older than Jerry (in his mid-50’s) and has ridiculed Jerry to his face repeatedly. One incident I heard about concerned some scarf of Jerry’s that Tom made a few derogatory remarks about.

Today, another co-worker asked Tom why he gives Jerry such a hard time, to which Tom replied, “eh, he’s a loser.” He said this within earshot of Jerry.

Needless to say, Jerry is furious. He believes some of the ill feelings come from the fact that he happens to be a very good friend of the family that owns the company they both work for. Perhaps Tom thinks Jerry only got the job because of his connections? I’m just speculating here.

Anyways, Jerry doesn’t know what to do. He wants to tell Tom off and get him to stop being an asshole. He would kick his ass (he’s almost a black belt), but he doesn’t want to beat up someone 25 years older than him. Another option he has is to “tattle” on Tom to the higher-ups (who happen to be his friends).

This is a difficult situation and I wasn’t sure how to advise my friend. On the one hand, I can understand the feeling of wanting to stand up for yourself. On the other hand, shouldn’t we just learn to let things slide off our back? Are employers expected to be like elementary school teachers and break up fighting coworkers? Discipline them when they don’t get along? Is it worth working out at all, with or without bosses, when it’s just work and you only spend 8 hours a day there?

If anyone’s experienced or heard of a similar situation, please share.

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15 Answers

Silhouette's avatar

I’d tell my friend to summon all the indiffrence he could muster and ignore Tom. Tom will hang himself if Jerry can give Tom enough rope.

Fluthermucker's avatar

Patience is the Queen of battle. Bide your time…they will eventually do something you can use to bring them down. Do not as much as do battle with your enemy, let him mare war with himself.

Read Sun Tsu’s “The Art of War”

Shemarq's avatar

Oh, I have seen this plenty of times – not only as an employee, but as a supervisor. First of all, Jerry needs to be documenting this—times, dates, and what was said. He needs to talk to his supervisor about this and ask for a meeting with the two of them as well as a neutral third party. During this meeting, he should explain to Tom that he is not going to put up with his verbal abuse anymore. Jerry is old enough to know better and he’s just being a bully. He gets away with it because noone calls him out on it. Hopefully the supervisor will write him up and back Jerry up (that’s what I’d do). Tell Jerry to keep his cool. Don’t give Tom any ammo to use against him. That kind of BS should not be tolerated.

dpworkin's avatar

I think bad behavior will out. He has already made the mistake of allowing a third party or parties hear him use the word “loser”. At least for now, I think your friend is better allowing his nemesis to hoist himself by his own petard. If it doesn’t happen within a reasonable amount of time he can always escalate.

HighShaman's avatar

Can he go to a BOSS and ask for a transfer… rhen when the boss ask WHY; tell hiom about this bully etc…

woodcutter's avatar

he could try to kill him with kindness. It’s the one thing a bully won’t know how to handle

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

I suggest that Jerry speak to Tom privately and tell him that he does not appreciate his inappropriate comments. Jerry can say, “Tom, since we work in the same area, it would be best if we could avoid any conflict here at work. We don’t have to be buddies, but I will not put up with any more abusive comments from you about me. If this conversation doesn’t solve the problem immediately, I would have to take this problem further to get it resolved. I would rather not have to do that, but do not make the mistake of believing I won’t get it resolve through other means. If there is something I’m doing that is bothering you, tell me and I will work with you to resolve it.”

Jerry should document the time and dates of incidents that have occurred so far and who else was present. If the problem persists, he should make an appointment with the manager or boss and see if perhaps one of them can be transferred to another department. Leave it in the hands of management to resolve.

Fluthermucker's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence …or he could take that bitch to a cheap motel, pay cash, and beat him with a bat. Just sayin’.

FishGutsDale's avatar

I am in the same predicament currently. I have held my tongue because i am on the bottom rung of the organisational hierarchy, hoping that someone would over hear the verbal abuse. It started getting physical where he would shove me, elbow me whatever he could to try and antagonize me. So i took matters into my own hands and poured fishguts into his gumboots, as well as a few terse words. Problem solved. Lowly Kitchenhand 1 – Asshole Apprentice Chef 0.

Pandora's avatar

Yes I have. Told my boss I needed to talk to her and I wanted to go to lunch so we could speak in private. These were the points I made with her.
1. If I treat you with respect I expect the same in return.
2. Whether she likes me or not is her own problem. I’m just their to work.
3. If she has issues at home, again it is her own problem. I act like a professional at work at all times. We all have problems from time to time but work is work.
4. I’m not their to make friends. Just to do my job and do it well. And if she has any concerns it is unprofessional to do chastize me in public. She should pull me aside and speak with me privately in a professional tone.
5. I told her I will continue to treat her with respect but its a two way street.
6. Do not mistake me being quit with being a coward. I just don’t like public scenes. Especially because if I lose control of my composure that she will find it extremely uncomfortable and embarrassing. I will belittle her in ways she would not think possible.
7. I’m being curtious by going to her first. I do not wish anything but a comfortable working enviroment but I will file a suite for hostility in the work place and there are witnesses to that effect who would testify on my behalf.
8. I also told her that gossip in the work place was disrespectful and that I expected if she has some real work related stuff to talk to me about that she pull me aside and talk to me.
9. The ball is in her court. I told her all she has to be respectful. She doesn’t have to be my friend. I don’t work to make friends. I work to earn a paycheck the same as she does. And she had nothing to fault me about my work habits.

She said she appreciated what I had to say and would treat me with the respect I deserved. It gave her a new found respect for me because she saw I was very serious and wasn’t going to back down. She still treated everyone else like crap but not me.

j_ninja's avatar

Ignore them

citizenearth's avatar

If Tom is that bad, Jerry should confront him and tell it to his face. If that’s not working, bring up this issue to the higher management which happens to be Jerry’s friend. Even if it seems a not-so-gracious thing to do, Jerry has no better choice. Tom should face the music for all that he has done to Jerry. No two way about it.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Was Tom like this before with other people, or is it just working with Jerry? It could be possible, if this is a behavior change, that Tom has some sort of medical condition developing. Because of the age difference, it sounds like it could be the grounds for ageism discrimination. I wonder if Tom has a son, and what that relationship is like? There’s more going on here than a poke in the nose could fix, and it’s best to take the high ground. If there’s an office manager, or someone that is a human resources person, I would suggest Jerry talks to that person, and make them aware of what’s going on, in the event that Tom flips out at work. He should approach it from the perspective of “I’m concerned about Tom’s erratic behavior” and downplay any personal anger directed towards Tom as a result of his behavior.

SarasWhimsy's avatar

He should go to HR and talk to someone there. Bullying is a form of harassment. It may seem inconsequential, but if Tom plants enough seeds into others minds about Jerry being a loser, it could effect Jerry’s future growth at the company. Also, Jerry and Tom are both entitled to a comfortable work environment. If they can’t work together, perhaps HR can find a way to separate their environments.

chinchin31's avatar

Yup kill him with kindness. Or go into a meeting room with him and tell him exactly how you feel. Let it all out

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