This is a follow up of a post I made a few weeks ago because unfortunately things have escalated.

So the summary of what has occured; I was in a job for a week when my manager suffered a close personal loss which resulted in him being off work for four weeks. During this time I assumed his responsibilities and found that many things had not been completed to industry standard.

He returned to work three weeks ago for half-days.

During this time he has been very emotional, a typical day would include greeting him in the morning where he would describe how he had night horrors the night before, when doing tasks for him he would bring up the death and if you said the wrong thing he would latch on and make you feel awful, then when he would leave for the day he would say he was going home to cry. Pretty sad stuff.

Due to our close working (but not personal) relationship I dealt with most of this emotional baggage day to day whilst also trying to do my job. To make matters worse it was becoming more obvious that he couldn't do his role either and was heavily relying on me teaching him. I suspect he has been a career manager and now that the team is so small he told the business he could do the skilled work but he can't.

After two weeks of this I requested to be moved away from him, I thought this would be best as he could sit with people he knew better and who could emotionally support him. It would also mean I could focus on my work and not have to teach him (something I was never hired to do).

Yesterday comes around and I've been in my new spot for 2 days. Manager waits for my team to leave and approaches me saying "when I heard you wanted to move seats I went home and cried my eyes out, after everything I've done for you it's really hard and you abandon me after everything I've been through.... Anyway you know I'm kidding right? Well I'm off to kill myself some more" and leaves for a cigarette.

I was left shaking. I immediately emailed his boss and other managers and they're talking to him.

My question is, is this harassment? Is there a way I can protect myself? He is clearly having a mental breakdown and during his time off was arrested for harassing police following up on the death of his loved one, he is also on strong medication. I worry that this will just escalate further.

A few things to note: we don't have HR and I would like to keep this job if possible.

  • 1
    Does it feel like harassment? Then it probably is...
    – DarkCygnus
    Jun 19, 2019 at 20:03
  • Can you add a location tag? In the US, harassment is well defined. Check what the EEOC has to say about it: eeoc.gov/laws/types/harassment.cfm
    – dwizum
    Jun 19, 2019 at 20:04
  • @darkcygnus good point. The fact that he waited for the team to leave makes me suspect that he knew what he was staying was wrong. If this is harassment, then what are the next steps?
    – Pippin
    Jun 19, 2019 at 20:05
  • Sorry, on mobile, this is in Australia.
    – Pippin
    Jun 19, 2019 at 20:06
  • 2
    @o. Jones unfortunately no. It's a relatively small company that owned by a larger group. The group has external HR which they've thankfully now contacted. He was pretty bad again but I got pulled into a bunch of management meetings and they're taking it very seriously.
    – Pippin
    Jun 20, 2019 at 20:14

3 Answers 3


It sounds like he needs some grief counseling. Does your work have any kind of Employee Assistance Program? Any kind of help to get him? Can you refer him to a counselor? A pastor/clergy?

He's already used the phrase of killing himself. Maybe it was a joke, maybe there is a slight bit of truth. You need to help him. If you don't know what to do go talk to your boss. You can't just leave him the way he is.

I know you may feel like he's harassing you but this is a cry for help. Please talk to someone about it.

  • 3
    You're 100% correct and he is getting help and management is aware. The last couple of weeks people have been trying to help him however this does not seem to be working. He is picking fights as a coping mechanism and this latest incident I think is park of that. Because I'm more senior he's trying to justify his role by belittling mine all of which is being dealt with. While he is getting the help he needs I also need to ensure that I have in place protections against this behaviour.
    – Pippin
    Jun 19, 2019 at 20:35
  • My biggest concern is that he has made me a project, while I was helping him before I was God's gift but now that I have set some boundaries he has become nasty. Please be assured that he is getting help though.
    – Pippin
    Jun 19, 2019 at 20:39
  • Honestly...at this point my advice is to give him some grace. At some point he will be expected to be productive, and not hamper others, but for the time being my advice is to just be there to give him support. Maybe talk to your superior...maybe he needs to take some more time off to grieve.
    – Keith
    Jun 19, 2019 at 20:40
  • I suspect you're right and thank you for your response. Yesterday just left me shaken as I was trying to handle everything by the book which I guess only works when the person being managed isnt so emotional. I get very nervous when someone is in an "I've got nothing to lose" mentality. He has lost a family member and could lose his job and I just don't want to be the target in case he goes off the rails.
    – Pippin
    Jun 19, 2019 at 20:45
  • 1
    @Keith I agree the that his boss sounds in pain and is grieving, and to extend some kindness, but it doesn't mean that Pippin (OP) just has to endure it and/or provide more support. Yes the "jokes" about suicide are worrisome, but in the end the manager's wellbeing is not OP's responsibility. And just because the manager is grieving doesn't mean it's ok for OP to endure emotional stress at work (and worry about physical harm). So yes, try to be kind to this manager, but also continue to inform his superior when something worrisome happens and let them handle this.
    – MlleMei
    Jun 20, 2019 at 14:57

You need to bring this up with whoever is in charge of him. He is clearly not ready to return to work and seems like he has a bit of stuff to work through. He doesn't have to be completely better to return to work, obviously, but has to be at the point where he can separate his private and personal life and put his grief aside 8 hours a day. Empathy for him doesn't change the fact that you were harassed because of his personal reasons. You still have a right to a harassment free workplace. Unless you're good friends (which it sounds like you aren't) it isn't your job to tell this guy to sort himself out. Its up to HR or higher up management. If/how you report all this is up to you.

If he owns the business you can either stick it out see where it goes or move on.

  • 1
    Yeah I think this post was more me sounding out that this situation goes beyond my control and he really shouldn't be at work.
    – Pippin
    Jun 20, 2019 at 0:15

My question is, is this harassment? Is there a way I can protect myself?

If it is, it's doubtful that it's intentional.

I'm guessing that prior to this loss your manager didn't exhibit this behavior. Grief is deep, powerful, and profound. None of us really know how we would act and behave under the stress and duress that grief imparts unless and until we experience a similar loss. There isn't much you can do but to bring attention to your management of his behavior when you think it's warranted, and remove yourself from the situation when you think his behavior is inappropriate.

If you want to be supportive, empathy is something you can offer in the sense of trying to understand where he's at emotionally and mentally and treating him accordingly, where and when it's appropriate and needed.

  • 1
    I think his intention with the latest incident was to make me feel responsible for his situation. The fact that he waited for everyone to be away illustrates to me that he knew his actions were wrong.
    – Pippin
    Jun 20, 2019 at 0:17
  • 2
    @jack he is closer with my team than with me, the tone of his voice was anger not despair. I realise there is a lot of nuance to this situation which I cant get into and is lost online but at the end of the day this is a work environment, I don't know him. I have been understanding of his situation but he is pushing it further than I feel is appropriate.
    – Pippin
    Jun 20, 2019 at 2:38

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