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There is a manager who has been at my company for a long time. Let's call him Dick. He's not my manager, but I frequently work with him, and I get along with him for the most part. Many other people have had a problem working with him though.

I have noticed Dick chastise coworkers in meetings for mistakes, giving estimates that he considers too large, or taking too much vacation time. For example, this year the 4th of July was on a Thursday, and during a meeting that week he asked if anyone was going to take Friday off. One coworker said he was going to, and then Dick said "No, you took 3 weeks off last month, that was too much time. You're not allowed to take any more time off." Perhaps Dick was justified in denying him the day off, but I thought it was unprofessional for him to make those comments in front of everyone.

Dick has also made some comments to me that I thought were inappropriate. On a couple occasions he said to me "So why aren't you married yet? Don't your parents want grandkids?" He'll always say this with a smile or laugh so maybe he thinks he's just joking around. I didn't think it was a big deal, so I just brushed it off. (Even if that type of comment is worth reporting, I would be very hesitant to do so. If HR talked to him about it, then he'd know I made a complaint. He submits 360 feedback for me every year that feeds into my performance review, so I wouldn't want to risk having him retaliate. He already ruined one coworker's performance review - see below.)

One of my coworkers (let's call him CoworkerA), who I was friends with, frequently told me about how Dick would give him and CoworkerB a hard time. Then one day CoworkerA and Dick got into a work-related argument, Dick reported him to HR for some reason, and that significantly and negatively impacted CoworkerA's subsequent performance review. That was the last straw for CoworkerA, and 2 months ago he left the company.

Two weeks ago, I found out CoworkerC was leaving our team and joining CoworkerD's team. CoworkerC is the guy Dick chastised for taking too much vacation time, so I'm not surprised he wanted to leave the team. CoworkerD used to be on our team 6 years ago before switching departments.

Around the same time, CoworkerE announced he was leaving the company. So that was 3 coworkers leaving in 2 months, and I started wondering who might be next. I thought CoworkerB might be, given what CoworkerA had told me.

Sure enough, last week I found out CoworkerB is leaving the company. I talked to him and he confirmed Dick is the reason he's leaving. He also said Dick was the reason for CoworkerD moving to a different department, Coworker E leaving (he's friends with him), and a sixth person (CoworkerF) who left the company 2 years ago.

So that's 6 people who have either left the company or moved to a different department, including 4 in the last 2 months, because they couldn't stand working with Dick. That's 40% of the team because we had 10 people 3 months ago. This isn't good for morale, especially since we have a ton of work to do and we are under a hiring freeze. I'm wondering again if anyone else is going to leave.

Is there any way to notify HR or upper management about what has been going on without risking damage to my career? Perhaps they could have Dick take some interpersonal skills training (training seems to be a big thing here). I could also submit some comments in one of the anonymous surveys they send out every once in a while, although I'd be afraid they could figure out the comments are mine based on my writing style and how few of us are left.

EDIT (Oct 22): We had a meeting the other day, including Dick and another manager, on how to better organize the team. During this meeting, Dick said multiple times that "nobody wants to work on XYZ", where XYZ is an application using outdated technology. It appears that Dick, and perhaps other managers as well, think that is the reason why so many people have left. They may not realize that Dick is the main reason.

  • "Can anything be done about Dick?" What exactly are you trying to accomplish? – sf02 Oct 15 '19 at 20:01
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    What do you think the odds are that you are the only person who is aware that this manager is why all these people are leaving? – Kate Gregory Oct 15 '19 at 20:15
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    Lets call him "Dick" - +1 for the descriptive choice of name – solarflare Oct 15 '19 at 21:41
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    The people who run your company are certainly aware of Dick's behavior. It's not on you to tell them. It is on them to deal with it. If they haven't, or they won't, deal with it, that's a good data point for you about the company's culture. – O. Jones Oct 15 '19 at 22:29
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    Surely the company could make an exception to the current hiring freeze when a team has lost 40% of its members. Of course, it would be up to the manager to make this push... – Shadowzee Oct 15 '19 at 23:42
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Is there any way to notify HR or upper management about what has been going on without risking damage to my career?

Short answer: No, not by you.

Longer answer:

If he were your manager, and he was giving your or your teammates a hard time, I'd say document everything, then go to HR, who despite not being your friend, would at least be receptive.

However, since he is not your manager, and you do not deal with him directly, except on occasion, you have no idea what is REALLY going on, and you could be backing the wrong horse. You have only heard one side of the story and if you march into HR with mere accusations, you may just find out how much they are not your friend.

This is not a fight that will go well for you under any circumstances. You will most likely be viewed as disruptive, and as causing unnecessary trouble for another department, I would avoid getting involved. Nothing good will come of it, but some possible bad outcomes include:

  • Damage to your own career
  • Retaliation against you if he figures out you reported him
  • Retaliation against people on his team if he assumes it came from his team
  • Office conflict

Again, be careful. You could cause a great deal of unforeseen trouble.

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    "This is not a fight that will go well for you under any circumstances". All it takes for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing. – ChrisFNZ Oct 16 '19 at 3:39
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    There's a long way between "evil" and a co-worker who's an asshole. – Julia Hayward Oct 16 '19 at 6:27
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    @ChrisFNZ Edmund Burke quotes, and teen movies aside. The OP has only heard one side of the story and hasn't interacted with the manager in any serious capacity. And calling someone evil, who is at worsst rude, is hyperbole. If the manager is socially awkward, or has any sort of condition, and the OP stirs up trouble, that would be evil. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Oct 16 '19 at 12:40
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    @ChrisFNZ it's important to remember that we're getting a filtered version of a third party's view of some events that they're only indirectly involved in. For all we know, there are already a bunch of "good people" doing things. Your desire to solve the problem needs to be tempered with the reality that not all problems belong to all people, and sometimes we need to mind our own business and let established mechanisms have their due process (or not). – dwizum Oct 16 '19 at 13:41
  • @user70848 please feel free to provide a better answer that addresses the concerns that you brought up. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Oct 23 '19 at 14:15
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I think there is something you can do about your manager, but you shouldn't approach HR by relating your story like this. You will need to show specific examples, what you've tried, and the outcomes before you'll have a real complaint.

  • It's not clear from the story about the vacation that Dick refused the extra day due to an actual work issue or if it was some type of vacation policy; not just that he felt the guy was taking too many days off.

  • It's also not clear what your company policy is around harassment. I'm not sure I'd justify what you've stated as harassment, but that depends on your company.

  • Is it true that no one wants to work on XYZ outdated technology?

You have to show a certain level of unreasonableness on Dick's part, not just a series of unfortunate coincidences.

Also you say you work with Dick but he's not your manager. How do his actions affect you, other than low morale? Can you change the morale of your team, despite the negativity of Dick? Are you a manager too?

Overall, I suggest you have a conversation with Dick and the rest of the team about how to have conversations. Discuss what's appropriate to talk about, when, and how. Try to clarify what type of language or questions are off-limits -- and give examples.

  • For instance, Dick is complaining about a coworker's vacation after the vacation. Why didn't he speak up earlier?
  • Many people are sensitive about family; maybe jokes about family are off-limits.
  • Does Dick expect people to answer his emails/texts during off-hours?
  • What is Dick's policy about how people share bad news, to him and around others?

...and so forth.

Maybe you and the other managers/team need to get together and set ground rules about conversations. Expect it to be very awkward, but at least it will be on the record. Any time Dick violates this discussion, you can refer back to it: "Hey, Dick. We all agreed to not make jokes about family, remember?" If you need to modify it, you'll all need to get together for that and agree.

If he keeps violating the agreement, then you have evidence that Dick agreed to not do something and yet he keeps doing it. This is hard evidence that you can take to HR or another manager.

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