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My team was approached today by our manager.

Background: We have a hostile co worker. He's aggressive, sarcastic, rude to clients and managers. About 4 months ago he out of the blue stopped talking to the team. We asked our manager if everything was OK. She advised us that he was going through personal things and needed some space. We all gave him his space.

Fast forward to today: My entire team was dragged into a room minus the hostile co worker. We we're advised that hostile co worker was feeling isolated and if we didn't start incorporating into the fold he was calling HR. We all released our frustrations about the hostile co worker.

To sum it up, our manger stated if we don't incorporate him our team will not grow (we're a small unit looking to expand) and our head manager will not be happy if HR is involved.

This is in Rhode island. Any suggestions?

  • 2
    Have you tried to talk to this person calmly and with some compassion in mind? It's not always easy, but worth the try – tst Apr 19 at 0:31
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    Yes we've incoprorated him and we've tried to the pleasantries (good morning, how are you and good night.) When we've attempted the pleasantries he would not say a word, no response. Anytime we're bouncing ideas of each other he's mimicking/mocking us and this is an open discussion so its not like he cannot participate. Hes constantly pounding on his desk and when he was talking to the group he attempted multiple times to pit us against one another and creating unnecessary conflict. – A.C Apr 19 at 0:37
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    So you were asked to « give him space » for personal reasons and the manager is now blaming you for exculding him. Does the manager have any memory? – Solar Mike Apr 19 at 2:59
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    Did you ask your manager about her advising to keep him some space? – Abigail Apr 19 at 13:28
  • Sounds like depression. When you're depressed you think everyone hates you. It makes you defensive (which may be perceived as rude). Then of course you will try to reach out in an attempt to help yourself but find people are holding grudges and trying to get you out of the team (such as you are). Give the guy a break. – solarflare Apr 23 at 5:49
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If your coworker is indeed a social troglodyte and you have documented cases of his hostility alongside your team's support, then your manager can cry all they want;

Paraphrasing a 2015 Harvard Business School (HBS) paper:

[...] toxic workers are so damaging to the bottom line that avoiding them or rooting them out delivers twice the value to a company that hiring a superstar performer does.

They are not an asset, they are a hindrance to your productivity and your manager ignores this. Contacting HR would be shooting themselves in the foot. Threatening to do so is incredibly petty, and in no way assists their incorporation into the team.

This behavior by your manager is nonsensical. If you don't mind me being skeptical, your manager might as well be close friends with this person and is turning a blind eye.

If you have no evidence, attempt incorporation and document all instances of hindrance that happen; file a complaint as soon as you can alongside your teammates because this sort of fiasco is not cheap.

  • Excellent citation. I agree that it's critical to recognize and document toxicity. However, I don't know that banding together to root out a peer is really appropriate either. We're countering toxicity with toxicity, and that doesn't feel internally consistent. I'd suggest you be positive, make a genuine effort to incorporate this person into your team. It might be a waste of time, or it might be incredibly rewarding. Make sure you don't preclude the latter. – Rustler Apr 20 at 2:17
  • @Rustler I agree completely, and that's one of the reasons I've outlined "if they are a troglodyte", which seems to be the case; OP already commented they've been attempting incorporation since and all they respond with is passive aggression and interpersonal firestarting. Rooting them out is nothing personal, it is just a matter of professional standards to get your job done (and in this case, it is an act of defense as the manager has gone haywire). Don't sneer at them or anything, that's besides the point. – lucasgcb Apr 20 at 10:56
  • Yet so often toxic employees are left in the workplace to destroy the productivity of those around them. Even with reams of documentation that can be very difficult to remove. – Underverse Apr 22 at 13:59
  • What makes you think he is a toxic worker? To be a toxic worker would require hostile intent and from what I've read this guy sounds like he is dangerously depressed. Weeding him out is the equivilent of putting a gun to his head and pulling the trigger. – solarflare Apr 23 at 5:47
  • @solarflare My answer is on the basis they are indeed toxic and well, read the comment in OP's post. There is scorn, mockery, deliberate attempts at starting conflict between teammembers, disregard of etiquette, threatening with HR. You can ask anyone here with mental conditions and none of them will excuse this behavior: Whether they are high functioning, depressed or going through a phase doesn't justify disrupting the workplace and the lives of those within it; the tendency is for others to not only produce less but start acting toxic as well so it must be dealt with, and fast. – lucasgcb Apr 23 at 7:10
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To sum it up, our manger stated if we don't incorporate him out team will not grow (we're a small unit looking to expand) and our head manager will not be happy if HR is involved.

I think, for some reason, your manager is favoring the other colleague. According to you, your manager was the one who advised you (and team) to allow the space, and now once the colleague is back with a complainant of being isolated, instead of talking to him your manager is trying to hold the team accountable and expects the team to take corrective action - when there is nothing to be corrected from your side.

Given the state you describe, and assuming the team never stopped official communication (discussion, meeting, follow up, reviews etc) involving the problematic colleague, there's no problem for the team and you. No one can force you to socialize with someone in office.

Let it go to HR - I'd be highly surprised if your manager's statement

our head manager will not be happy if HR is involved

will hold true.

Any day, I'll chose having lack of resource in my team over having an arrogant and hostile resource as part of the team.

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    The manager isn't favoring the hostile coworker, she's covering her ass. She's afraid of this reflecting poorly on her, and that's all she cares about. – Jim Clay Apr 19 at 12:06
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    @JimClay Might be, could be, we don;t know for sure. But she's taking sides - for sure. – Sourav Ghosh Apr 19 at 12:08
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Based on everything you’ve said, personally I think the best course of action would be to ask your manager to set aside some time to observe these problematic team discussions. If the manager sees what’s going on, either she’ll have some suggestions for what to do, or perhaps understand that you’ve done what can be done and the fault lies with the coworker.

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    I think the manager knows exactly what is going on and is busy papering over the cracks and covering her ass... – Solar Mike Apr 19 at 12:18
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Incorporate him in the team and document the cases (including the corresponding witnesses) where he crosses lines and colleagues feel insulted. Give the sack of paper after 3 months to your manager, and if the manger doesn't react go to HR. Also worte down what has happened in the past.

(And yes, no manager likes HR to be involved, but that happens if you dont handle your unpleasant shit as a manager)

1

Tell this coworker to involve HR.

Tell him that if he doesn't, you will involve HR on his behalf to address the issue.

That will shut him up fast. That or he is stupid enough to shoot himself in the foot.

Either way it's win win for you.

1

Speaking from experience I can tell you this kind of mess terrifies managers.

Her request to you, the team, to try to work around the bad actor's behavior may be a response to that fear.

Or, it may be part of a planned attempt to fix the problem. The plan may come from your manager and her colleagues.

I suggest, in a private conversation with your manager, you ask her, "Hey boss, can you give me some advice about how to get this guy back on good terms with the team? I've tried some things and they haven't worked!"

This invites your manager to do her job--helping you do yours. It also makes her a partner in solving the problem.

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