I am a young software developer working in a big french tech company. There is this toxic relationship between one of my colleague and our manager that I am really concerned about. There has been many hints of it, but today was the day that tears it.

I'll try to be concise : our team was taking a break this afternoon like we are used to for about half an hour. Suddenly, my colleague received a call on her phone from our product owner. He advised her to sit back to her desk as soon as possible because our remote manager just asked him what was she doing, since her Skype indicated she was absent for a while.

The problem here is that she was the only person that has been required to end her break while we were 4 out of 6 members taking it. Furthermore, he did not need anything from her : he just wanted to know why she wasn't at her desk. Does he even have the right to use Skype as a tool to survey our activity? One of the oddest part of this is that he just came back from vacation, which made me wondering why can't he find a better thing to do. I also can't figure out why our product owner has been implied in this since everyone knew that he was telecommuting.

Other than that, there has been this awkward moment when we were asked to identify a set of errors that kept occurring within our application. My colleague took the responsibility for the task, and she produced a high-grade report where every single error has been handily documented. She then orally presented it to our manager, who seemed pleased about it. However, it was only in appearance because he totally ignored her work and acted like he never knew about it by asking someone else to work on the exact same task a few days later.

One last example that drives me crazy the most: back in late 2018, the new version of the product we were working on had to be launched in production. Since we have a broad customer base, most of it had to be done during the night. My colleague thought of it as a nice opportunity to learn how such a large application could be deployed and thus participated to it. This point of view was not shared by everyone though : our manager then blame her to have taken advantage of the occasion to "have her next day off" (as required by the law) and "maybe do some shopping". I truly can't grasp the thought process behind this considering any reasonable human would be too tired to do anything productive the next day.

But I think the worse in all this is that our manager's opinion does not reflect the reality at all. Indeed, she does an incredible amount of work and we unanimously recognize that she is one of the most invested members of our team. For example, she wouldn't hesitate bringing her computer home if she estimates that her tasks should have been done by the end of the day. Moreover, my colleague is sincerely one of the most impressive people I know : unlike me, she does not have a background in software engineering and she is just as competent as I am for any given task of the project (even a bit more, but she'll always modestly disagree).

So, in what direction should I guide her to in order to get out this insane situation? I am also quite anxious since a while because she mentioned willing to resign several times. I think it would permanently affect my well-being at work if she does so. And each time we discuss about the problem I am never too sure about what advice I could give her, and simply acknowledge that her situation is unfair and perhaps discriminatory.

  • 3
    Not to say there couldn't be a romantic link here, but caring about a colleague doesn't necessarily mean that the OP is romantically interested the colleague. I would be anxious too if a high performing colleague is threatening to reassign over a toxic relationship.
    – jcmack
    Feb 11, 2019 at 23:42

1 Answer 1


It seems that there is a communication issue between your colleague and the manager. The first step would be to have some 1-1 meeting (on Skype?) to talk about what is expected of her. It should be a talk about what she wants to do (learn about deployment method, etc) and what the manager needs her to do (did the manager approved the night she spend deploying?).

She should absolutely log every remark like "maybe do some shopping" or when she is the only one asked to go back to work. If there is a pattern, it is basically a case of harassment, possibly sexual harrassment. Government site about sexual harassment (French)

If the meeting was not successful (the behavior did not change) and she can see a pattern of harrassment, she can then file a complaint to HR, using the log she made about all the little derogatory remark she received. HR in France is bound to protect the employees from harassment from other people. She also can ask the staff representative ("Représentant du personnel" ?), as they are here to help the employees when they have workplace related problems. It might be a better approach and they can help you build your case before presenting it to HR.

In France, you are supposed to be protected if you report harassment in the workplace, and even protected if you witness case of harassment and you report it. Government website about discrimination (French)

I would personnally prepare a way out of here, because after all, HR is not your friend and there is still chances that your case will be dismissed. You can't be fired if you reported harrassment and the case is dismissed, but it might be very uncomfortable to work in this kind of place after that. It seems that she is a great worker and can show some achievement on a CV, so her work would be better used somewhere else.

I think this case of harassment is not strong enough to seize the "prud'homme" (kind of workplace court) that help you to sue a company in France. But if there is a real case of sexual harassment and HR dismiss your case, this is the place to go.

  • 1
    Sexual harassment is a heavy accusation. Just because colleague is female and manager is male doesn't make it sexual harassment. I didn't see anything from OP that would lead me to believe it was sexual harassment. The manager is just being a *&%&(.
    – cdkMoose
    Feb 12, 2019 at 17:17
  • We don't have all the information, I'm juste stating possibility. As stated in the first website : "Une personne vous impose à plusieurs reprises des propos sexistes et/ou obscènes." (Roughly : "Someone telling you several sexist or obscene remark"). In France, repetitive sexist remark is considered sexual harassment, but it can be not considered as such by HR. OP's colleague have to decide based on her experience what kind of harassment it is.
    – Valrog
    Feb 13, 2019 at 7:43

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