Coworker in my department has been through a divorce last year and unfortunately it changed his personality so much that he started acting like a complete a**hole (for the lack of a better word, sorry) towards pretty much everyone in the office.

He's been here for at least 5 years and he always used to be strongly opinionated and never shy to push his views hard. But ever since the divorce this reached a whole new level - he's terribly sarcastic, ironic, refuses to train up junior staff members, gets into arguments with anyone who dares to disagree with him, and so on. More often than not he comments and is highly critical on personal level (think of "you are stupid" rather than "what you propose is stupid").

Last year the team was quite ready to put up with that and cut him some slack as we knew he was going through a rough patch. But here we are a year later and he's not getting any better. Quite the opposite.

I am one of few people over here who he kind of respects to some extent because we've known each other for years since we used to work together in one of our previous jobs. And I can see over the last year how it all goes downhill for him. I know that most people over here try to avoid him, and quite understandably so. Our manager tends to give him one-man jobs where he doesn't have to team up with others to avoid conflicts, and so on.

I told him not to be so verbally aggressive towards others, or try to be a little less sarcastic for start. I told him he's not helping himself when acting like this. And I'm afraid that after his marriage fell apart he's ruining his career too - the next time someone will have to go I bet he'll be on the top of the list. And with this attitude and in his age (early 50s) it will be hard to find a new job. He may just as well be ruining the rest of his life now.

He may need a professional help but his ego will never accept that it's him who's got the problem, not everyone around. I would like to gently help him get back on track but don't know how. Also it's hard when the rest of the team over here have given up and simply avoids him.

Any ideas?

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    @Brandin "he started acting like a complete a**hole... towards pretty much everyone in the office", "refuses to train up junior staff members", "rest of the team... simply avoids him" - seems perfectly clear to me Dec 7, 2018 at 7:12
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    This question might be better suited for Interpersonal Skills, provided that you reword it according to the help center. If you really want to help your colleague, talking to him about his behavior is the first step. How to effectively talk to him is a question well suited for IPS.
    – Elmy
    Dec 7, 2018 at 7:44
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    @Elmy except that what to do is really not an IPS question. People there tend to be very strict on what can and can't be asked.
    – DaveG
    Dec 7, 2018 at 12:50
  • @DaveG That's why I told him to rephrase the question from "what should I do?" (whick will be put on hold within minutes) to "how do I effectively talk to my colleague?"
    – Elmy
    Dec 7, 2018 at 14:47
  • This seems likely to be culture-dependent. A mention of which country you're in may be beneficial.
    – user
    Dec 7, 2018 at 21:13

6 Answers 6


As a colleague
Do your job, should he interfere with that, let him know.
If he keeps on messing with your ability to work involve superiors.

As a friend
continue what you did so far, offer a helping hand and ear.
Remind him of his inappropriate behaviour at work and his demeanor harmful to himself.
Offer solutions if you can.

Whether or not he will completely self destruct is out of your hands and you're in no official position to do anything about his behaviour at work.

  • Just saying: "Wether" does not mean what you think it means. I admit I had to look it up in the dictionary. You might want to do so as well.
    – gnasher729
    Dec 7, 2018 at 21:13
  • @gnasher729 cheers for spotting the typo 8D Dec 7, 2018 at 21:44

Do not invest more time into this. It's his personal life affecting his work. That's not your place. You can try and be a supportive coworker, but don't overstep you boundaries. He could be drinking too much, or he may just be super depressed. If your superiors have noticed and he's been given more than adequate time, you should let him know you're there to lean on but don't get dragged down with him. Sometimes doing the "right thing" doesn't line up with work. So, don't let your niceness fall into his self-destruction.

As a coworker the furthest I'd personally go would be mentioning that I noticed a behavior shift and when I noticed it. Maybe point out some of the work programs that he may be able to use. That's about it.

Besides, for all you know, this started way outside of work and way before the divorce. Again, it's not your business. Not between "9 and 5" anyway.

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    Indeed what the OP is seeing might well be behaviours that were the cause of the divorce. Dec 7, 2018 at 7:33

He is misbehaving badly, and everyone has run out of sympathy about his divorce. If you want to help him, the only way to do this is a hard confrontation with the truth.

Tell him that he is misbehaving badly, and that one year after his divorce nobody has any sympathy for his case anymore. Tell him that he is damaging not just his career, but his position and his welcome in the company. Tell him that if anything happens where the company wants to get rid of an employee, it will be him. Unless he changes his behaviour immediately.

The more brutal you say this, the better. Because if you don't get through to him, he will be gone soon. But after this speech, your duty is done. What comes next is up to him and only to him.


Unfortunately, this is an issue that this coworker is going to need to resolve.

If you feel like you must do something, I would recommend having a personal (outside of work), stern talk with him telling him that he needs to get his stuff together (also of course that you're mentioning this because you care).

It's going hard for him, but if he keeps it up, it will likely cost him this job. Others very likely are taking notice and it won't be taken lightly for very long.

Regardless of what's going on in his personal life, he needs to come to work, do his job, and treat others nicely. It's called being professional.

This reminds me of a very important quote, see this video link for context.

Frank: Decide to be fine until the end of the week.

Frank: Make yourself smile, because you're alive and that's your job.

Frank: And do it again the next week.

Dean: So fake it?

Frank: I call it being professional. Do it right, with a smile, or don't do it.


In my opinion you should bring this up to superiors regardless if he is impeding your work or not. My thought on this is you should be thinking of protecting your company and co-workers from an individual who is exhibiting sudden aggressive behavior and it should not be ignored or "mind your own business." In the government sector, this is a strong red flag sign that is to be immediately brought to a supervisor's attention. In civilian sector, not so much. The behavior pattern is almost a textbook example in most corporate insider training.

A divorce is tough especially if unexpected, but you shouldn't try to rationalize his actions or that it will be over soon. Talk to your supervisor to explain the sudden aggressiveness and perhaps they can help. If after you informed your supervisor and nothing happens, then mind your own business and carry on.

  • If wind ever got around, this opens OP to personal retaliation from a depressed guy who just went through a divorce. Not smart, better to not stir the pot, let the supervisors figure it out themselves at least.
    – RandomUs1r
    Dec 7, 2018 at 22:36
  • If you function is to work with him in a project, raise your concerns to your boss (about him crossing lines) and the PM (about him not delivering). They should talk to his line manager

  • If your function is his line manager, explain to him that on the current course he will get fired, and offer him some form of time-out/encourage to seek professional help.

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