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My boss slapped me because My Excel file had a calculational error. I fixed the error and saved the file to the network. If I complain, I guess I will just get fired. But I don't want to work for someone like this. How should I talk to her about it?

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@User5115 Could you explain a little more the circumstance that brought about the slap to the face. I just can't picture what scenario would lead to an excel file resulting in a slap to the face. Were you both standing up, looking at each other, discussing this spreadsheet, and just out of nowhere she slapped you? Something seems to be missing from the picture. –  Ryan Oct 10 '13 at 18:01

6 Answers 6

Its a horrible position you find yourself in, and I'm afraid it might be a tough few days or even weeks while you work through it.

As with the other "slap" related question on here, I'd suggest the best thing to do always is to take immediate action at the time.

In this case, I would calmly but firmly tell them that I wasn't tolerating that kind of action, log off my computer, pack up my things and walk to either her immediate supervisor or the HR department to explain why I could no longer work with the individual concerned.

After the fact, it is always more difficult to resolve.

The most important thing to figure out is what you want to happen; this will be the first question any HR person or senior manager worth their salt will ask. Some ideas might be:

  • a formal apology
  • the manager to be reassigned
  • you to be reassigned
  • the manager to be fired
  • compensation and exit from the company

If you can manage to confront the individual in a calm way and simply state that their actions are unprofessonal and unacceptable, then you need to do this as soon as you can. I would avoid getting into any discussion - just meet with them one-on-one, say your piece, and leave.

If you don't want to meet with them, then go straight to someone you trust and respect in senior management, on a parallel mangement tier or in HR, and explain what has happened. If there was a witness whom you trust and respect, you might want to take them along for support.

It is unlikely that you are the first person to experience this kind of thing from this boss - if the feedback you get from the person you approach is unsupportive, then I'd suggest you are better off out of that organisation.

Remember, if you don't take any action to modify bad behaviour, then you are effectively condoning it.

Good luck.

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Excellent answer! However: 1. DO NOT meet one-on-one prior to resolution of the issue. Communication between involved parties should be observed or mediated by a third party for liability reasons. One-on-one, potential to solve conflict is small and potential to escalate with no objective proof is large. 2. You are NOT effectively condoning any behavior by a perceived failure to act, although this is a common and illegitimate defense of inappropriate action. 3. Yourself being reassigned from an otherwise acceptable position is not an acceptable outcome of others' inappropriate behavior. –  taz Apr 2 '13 at 0:53

Physical violence between fellow employees in the workplace is NOT OK. Particularly not with office work, as working with an Excel file would suggest. Perhaps if you are doing a physical sort of job (law enforcement?) or being engaged as a performing artist or pro wrestler - but these are cases that are usually exceptions under the law as consensual violent contact.

It doesn't matter if you are male and the offender is female, although I'll admit that the difference in gender causes a social perception difference. I can see a man getting more teasing about being slapped, while a woman would receive a lot of moral support. And my recollection of research is that men tend to underreport being the recipients of violence because of that stigma, and my not-stastically-representative personal experience has born that out. Men will take a lot more abuse from women because they are "just" women.

Speaking as a woman, I find that horrible. I don't care what your gender is, it's never OK to resort to violence, even if you think you are just joking around.

In any workplace issue where you are not OK with the behavior that another member of the work place has exhibited, you usually have several options that escalate the consequences for all involved:

  • talk to the offender

  • talk to your manager

  • talk to the offender's manager (if not the offender)

  • talk to a superior manager

  • talk to HR

  • talk a third party - in a big company there are often harassment contact points that offer anonymity

In many countries and/or companies, a complaintant in a harassment case (and slapping can be seen as harassment) is supposed to be free of retribution, regardless of the outcome of the case. It isn't a 100% guarantee - it's important to know both your company's policy and the laws in your place of work.

I agree with @GuyM that immediately raising the issue is the best policy. It makes the occurence very clear to the attacker what the case in point must be, it makes it far easier to point out to just about anyone, and everyone's recollections will be clearer. Waiting tends to de-escalate an issue. I also agree with @GuyM that you have the right to demand not to work with the individual, but you may expect some degree of arbitration, as not every company will directly fire the violent manager. I'd recommend a less radical approach than ceasing all work until the problem is resolved, simply because failure to do assigned work could reflect poorly on you, and that's never really a good thing.

If it happens again, I would be very, very clear right away that the slap was not OK. Obviously if things have turned violent, you have the right to block the punch, but I'd advise against hitting back. If possible, use words and point out clearly, with no humor at all that this was unacceptable behavior. "You hit me and that was uncalled for. Never do that." is a fine response. The important part is to be very, very clear that this ISN'T funny. I've seen a lot of guys try to laugh it off when a woman does something physical that the guy didn't appreciate, and this is misleading for the woman, who may think that the laughter meant it was OK, when it was really nervous laughter and discomfort.

If it's a case of after the fact, I'd be tempted to look for an out of band channel that will give you an assurance of privacy. In a perfect world, you should be able to take it to your boss's boss and have her fired immediately (as I would suspect a woman could do in most offices in the US), but because of the stigma of being slapped by a woman, you may find it preferable to to go HR or a complaint phone line where your privacy can be somewhat protected.

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I'm going to keep this simple. Report it to HR. This is harassment borderline physical abuse.

If you get fired over reporting this you would have a potential lawsuit any good lawyer would take up if you are telling the truth.

If HR responds correctly you probably will be getting either a written apology, a verbal one, or she just may get sacked for a zero tolerance clause in the hiring documentation.

Good luck either way, keep us informed on how this turns out.

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It is she who is in the wrong. You, on the other hand, should keep things professional and resolve conflict without losing your dignity.

You should talk to her (but do it correctly). The aim of this conversation is to figure out if:

  1. she is sorry and wants to apologize OR
  2. she doesn't feel she needs to apologize

I suggest the following:

  1. prepare for the conversation with her (even write down clearly your position and what you want to state).
  2. calm down and talk to her.

I'd suggest leading a normal conversation. Just ask her a few simple questions about what she thinks about the situation in a non-emotional way:

  • why did she let herself slap you?
  • does she really think slapping you is acceptable?
  • does she think it might ever happen again?

Don't argue, don't be nervous, you just need to receive the answers - positive or negative. Clearly state that you are serious about the situation and that it's unacceptable so you won't leave it as is. Remember to keep things professional.

I think, there are a few likely outcomes:

  • she'll apologize (and the conflict will be resolved)
  • she won't understand you are serious or won't accept it. In this case it needs to be handled formally (I really like @GuyM's suggestions about how to do it).
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You don't say if there were witnesses. If you go to HR it is better if you have witnesses; otherwise it will be a case of he said, she said. However a boss that would do such a thing wil probably have done other things over the line to other people and by coming forward they may also do so or the boss may already have a several complaints which would make yours seem more credible.

So what do you do if you report her and the person is not removed as your boss or while you are waiting for action or if you choose not to report her? First you need to protect yourself. Having a labor lawyer will help this as that person should be able to give you specifi advice about what will help you legally. There are times when the cost of a lawyer's consultation is worth every penny and this is one of them. Next you need to document all actions in writing that might be retaliation or also over the line. Further, you should refuse to meet with this person alone, ever. (Easier to get the organization to agree to this is you have a lawyer at your side.) Since you are of opposite sexes and she is female, it might be easy for her to retaliate by claiming that you sexually harrassed or molested her. Do not be in a room with this person alone.

Next, your best choice is to start looking for a new job immediately before this goes any further whether you choose to report it or not. Know that by reporting it, your job becomes at risk, but frankly it is at risk right now because she knows she went over the line and she may try to get rid of you to protect herself. So reporting it may help (If HR believes you and you have witnesses) or it may hurt by having her make counterclaims if there are no witnesses. But in any event, you justifiably no longer want to work for her, so you need to take steps to protect yourself and look for another position. If HR belives you and they move you to another supervisor or fire her, then you have lost nothing by looking for another job, but if they don't believe you or you choose not to report it, then finding another job may be critical and you can't afford to waste any time.

In reporting it, make sure that you tell them it was becasue you made a mistake in an Excel spreadsheet and that you agree that you made a mistake andd that you subsequently fixed it. This is important because it shows that you are concerned about your work and that you do recognize when you make a mistake and that you aren't just doing this to try to get out of a bad performance review.

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Did she slap you in the face or below the neck?

Whilst not a big difference in action there is a slight difference in percieved intention. A light slap to the chest area could be dismissed as playfulness whereas a slap to the face is obviously intended solely as intent to harm.

Taking this into account if it was in the face, you should probably report it to HR. If it was below the neck, then you should use your discretion, did it appear to be playful and jokey or was it a serious attempt to cause bodily harm? How hard was the slap, etc.?

The gender of the participants may play a role here too, depending on culture a man assaulting a woman would be seen as much worse (culturally, not legally) than the reverse happening. Legally they are of course equally as bad as each other.

The force of the slap should be taken into account too. A hard slap might not cause any physical damage but the resulting mental damage would still have an affect, no one should be afraid of their workplace.

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protected by Rarity Nov 26 '12 at 20:53

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