Keeping a long story short - me together with Coworker B made a meme about Coworker A and circulated it in our room, which is what I thought was a group a close friends both in and outside of work (5 people) who know each other well.

When I came back to the room after break, I jokingly said we should print it out and put it on Coworker A's desk (A was present in the room). He ran up to me and pushed my hot chocolate in my face, spilling it all over me and the desk.

I've never been in this kind of situation, what should I do?

EDIT: We had a talk and ironed out everything. I apologized for making the meme and he apologized for overreacting.

Not going to explain all the details and I still believe this was a massive overreaction no matter what all the comments are saying - the chocolate wasn't extremely hot so I'm not injured, but he had no way of knowing that at that moment.

One comment mentioned that I'm lucky that was the least of A's reaction, but if getting your face burned is an acceptable (and I should be counting my blessings for being a jerk) punishment for an image (no matter how malicious) then I don't even know what to reply to that kind of person.

In any case, thanks for all your replies and helpful comments! :)

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Jane S
    Feb 22, 2019 at 3:02

6 Answers 6


In my opinion, you can't judge how harmless a joke is just based on "It's just a meme". Some people react better than others and take themselves less serious than others.

Was his response excessive? Most likely, yes. Did you deserve it? We don't know. Maybe you overused the meme and it got old, maybe the guy didn't find it funny and you didn't read the situation properly and didn't get the clues he was sending you, maybe the guy is just a fool that doesn't know how to take a joke. I'm not accusing anyone, I'm just saying things can be different depending on each situation.

My opinion is that if you are friendly with the guy (apparently you are, since you made a meme in front of him), just talk to him about it in a friendly way, have a beer together and let it slide. Both of you apologize. Everybody move on.

Can you escalate it to management? Of course, you can say he pushed you on purpose, but remember that in that case they will also ask him about the incident, and he can talk about workplace bullying. You might get a warning. Nobody wins.

So I would say that since you guys are friendly, have a talk and let it slide. Don't be childish. You made a bad joke, he overreacted. Be adults, settle it and move on.

  • 4
    The fault is entirely and totally with the OP. The OP is extremely lucky that A's response was merely knocking a drink over.
    – Fattie
    Feb 21, 2019 at 16:11
  • 6
    @Fattie I don't think that is a fair assessment. Even if the OP was deliberately and knowingly bullying Coworker A it would not be acceptable for Coworker A to assault him. Feb 21, 2019 at 16:17
  • 2
    The question is how to manage the situation and this answer seems reasonable. Feb 21, 2019 at 16:18
  • 2
    @Fattie You can't say it is completely the OP's fault without seeing the situation. We all have seen people snap for no reason. I am assuming that they are friends, since it sounds crazy to me to make jokes about someone that is not your friend. Maybe the OP is a jerk. Maybe A doesn't know how to take a joke. Without being there, you cannot judge whether it was entirely one's fault or not. The most likely scenario is that it is a mix of a guy being a jerk and another one not having a good sense of humor.
    – A.T.
    Feb 21, 2019 at 16:19
  • 3
    @Fattie if your child in school writes a note "Bob you're gross" and hands it to Bob and Bob beats them up, will you tell your child to just take it on the chin? Don't be ridiculous.
    – user100290
    Feb 21, 2019 at 16:47

You both acted very unprofessionally here.

You should apologize for spreading the meme (and cease such behaviour in the future) - it was obviously hurtful enough for your coworker to snap.

Your coworker should similarly apologize (at the very least) for physically attacking you (optionally paying for cleaning your clothes). If you were really hurt (e.g. coffee was scaling hot) HR should be involved - be mindful though, that your behaviour should/will have consequences too - you were abusive / bullying / mobbing you coworker. STOP THAT

  • 1
    @HelloWorld I am not saying "be flawlessly professional" (nobody can be flawless). There is nothing wrong with being a bit casual at work - but being casual does not mean "doing things that upset coworkers enough to snap". Besides, being professional does not mean "no smiling. work. work. work" - being professional means you act like a responsible adult.
    – CharonX
    Feb 21, 2019 at 16:03
  • 1
    @HelloWorld - fools want to work in a "non-professional" environment.
    – Fattie
    Feb 21, 2019 at 16:08
  • @CharonX Agreed. I just weigh pouring a hot drink on someone as much more severe than mild workplace harassment so would put more emphasis on how out of order he was by doing that, regardless of what caused him to. I mean you can justify almost anything as a hate crime or workplace bullying if you try hard enough. Whereas assault is a more clear rigid line that's easier to avoid that accidentally taking a joke too far.
    – HelloWorld
    Feb 21, 2019 at 16:10
  • @Fattie - Ok then Wax on, wax off, balance
    – HelloWorld
    Feb 21, 2019 at 16:11
  • Nobody can "weigh" anything. The OP and B are totally at fault and should be fired. (The idea of not being able to "take" some coffee being spilled on you, after ripping someone, is pathetic.)
    – Fattie
    Feb 21, 2019 at 16:16

When I came back to the room after break, I jokingly said we should print it out and put it on Coworker A's desk (A was present in the room). He ran up to me and pushed my hot chocolate in my face, spilling it all over me and the desk.

This sounds incrediabily unprofessional on your part to print a meme about your coworker. Unless he's in on the joke, I don't see how this is appropiate or even surprising given his reaction.

If you were burnt by the hot coffee, I would call the police and ask to submit a police report. However, if you were unharmed, I would go apologize to the coworker but at the same time a physical assault should be reported to HR. Be ready to explain about the meme.

  • We would 200% not print out the meme, and I said it directly toward Coworker A after coming back to the room if he wanted it on his desk.
    – user100290
    Feb 21, 2019 at 15:50
  • 2
    @user100290 Just because you told him doesn't mean he agrees with it. Obviously it angered him to the point of assaulting you with hot coffee. So obviously somewhere communication broke down.
    – Dan
    Feb 21, 2019 at 15:58

What should you do? Apologize to your co-worker and stop with the childish behavior at work. Concentrate on completing your assigned tasks and leave the games for outside of work.

  • 3
    Apologize after being assaulted? No way. Maybe OP should've avoided this in the beginning, since there are so sensitive plants in the office, but words dont justify violence.
    – user94342
    Feb 21, 2019 at 15:45
  • @sbo OP can go the route of reporting this to whatever authority he likes (HR or police ) but it will likely result in his dismissal from this company due to his actions leading up to the incident. It is up to OP if this incident is worth losing his job over.
    – sf02
    Feb 21, 2019 at 15:50
  • 2
    YES APOLOGIZE for the demeaning and bullying behavior you displayed in creating and sharing the meme. You are a workplace bully and your co-worker put you in your place. GOOD FOR THEM!!!! Oh, and unlike what @sf02 said, don't create and share mean spirited things outside of work too, it's not nice and makes you a bad person too. Feb 21, 2019 at 15:51
  • At the very least that co-worker should pay for cleaning - lucky the Op was not scalded... Does not mean I condone the meme though... But violence like that is never justified...
    – Solar Mike
    Feb 21, 2019 at 15:51

Just bury the hatchet with your coworker, and move on. This sort of childish behavior befits more a primary-school classroom than a serious workplace atmosphere. Most organizations would prefer if their employees share some sort of camaraderie, but this episode is too silly to fit that description. No matter how strong the argument in favor of a convivial working environment may be, your employers would still prefer to employ adults, not schoolkids!

If you escalate the issue any further, maybe even to the HR, both of you will end up looking silly in this process, so better resolve it between yourselves, preferably behind closed doors. Someone in the upper echelons, who may not share your great sense of humor, may totally fail to see anything humorous in this episode, and may deem your conduct inappropriate, or unprofessional. That may seem an overkill, but better safe than sorry. Don't spread the word about your adventure in the office.


This probably constitutes assault so you're in a position of power now.

You can report him to HR and report him to the police. Personally, I would report him to HR and leave it at that. Unless HR don't do anything at all, in which case I would try to escalate the matter before getting the police involved. If you tell HR that if they don't discipline him you will be involving the police then they will probably act on it.

Report him to HR: Assaulting someone at work isn't acceptable and shouldn't be forgotten. It's probably a sackable offence. The key thing is he actually assaulted you AT WORK!

Ask your manager for a HR contact to report an incident or find the contacts on your intranet.

Report him to the police: You may want to consider this option more carefully because the consequences are more severe. Personally, I wouldn't, but you can if you like.

Just remember that you might have to give an interview or possibly fight it in court if he denies the charges.

WARNING: I don't know what this meme was but be very careful that it didn't constitute harassment or work-place bullying.

Harmless office "banter" could be spun into bullying and harassment by a lawyer or by HR.

So before you proceed, you may want to get some advice from a solicitor if you intend to fight it, or post a question in https://law.stackexchange.com/

EDIT: Assault > potential harassment. You can't compare OP actions and the other persons actions as equally bad. Taking the situation to a physical domain is an unacceptable escalation in a workplace and, in my opinion, you're misguided to think otherwise.

  • "you're in a position of power now"... oh dear, while I am happy that user100290 was able to resolve the issue well, you just told a potential bully (again, glad that user100290 is not) that they are in a position of power now. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can make me think I deserved it" - we don't need to argue how devastating mobbing / bullying can be - your answer seems to both encourage the poster to escalate things, while getting him into trouble in the process (If the company ignores potential mobbing they become liable. HR hates being liable...)
    – CharonX
    Jun 21, 2019 at 13:45

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