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It happened few weeks ago I was discussing with a colleague (name him Paul) about work, the conversation was about plans for a project we are both involved in. Paul was extremely confused and worried about the plan in order to ease him a bit I started joking around a bit. We have a very similar sense of humor, and I'm loud "unfortunately". The bantering involved swearing as well, but not insulting anyone, just using the F*** word a lot. Paul ended up laughing with me and we agreed to ask more information about the plan. It also worth saying quite few people around me were amused by the situation.

The next day my line manager talked to me in private, saying that few people around were annoyed by my behaviour because I was being aggressive towards Paul. A specific name (name him John) was mentioned during this discussion. Apparently John said my swearing was interpreted as being aggressive towards Paul, my line manager sort of threatend me by saying the next time something like this happens I might get dismissed.

As I mentioned and admitted I was both loud and I was swearing, but surely not aggressive towards him. But in any case I didn't argue and just said that it won't happen again. The strange thing is that my line manager said that he didn't ask Paul if he actually felt uncomfortable, he just relied on John's story. He said he wasn't there when this happened but I saw him looking at me while this was happening (because of the open plan office). Few colleagues also told me my line manager was actually there, and that despite my behaviour there was no doubt I wasn't aggressive.

I was suggested to let this go, and that is what I did.

Going back to John it is worth saying that he avoids always eye contact with me, he never says good morning, and when he speaks to me he's either trying to be bossy or simply talking to me in a way to imply that I'm not good, which I mentioned in the past but I've never officially complained, just mentioned. I was also told he's been saying around that I got an "official warning", in a way that sounded almost he had a certain authority.

Back to my line manager instead, few days ago a colleague left the company and he invited few of us for a leaving lunch. My line manager heard this invitation and he joined us anyway, he wasn't invited. I couldn't help to feel like being observed during the lunch time (not in the workplace and technically free time).

For example I said a sentence in greek to a greek colleague who was sitting next to me, my line manager doesn't speak greek but neverthanless he said "What kind of horrible things are saying now?" (The translation of the sentence was like "I want to be greek" and I was just trying to see if I could imitate the greek accent).

For the rest of the lunch I was really quiet until we finished eating and left. On our way back it was the three of us and we were joking around (again in the street not at work) and my manager was behind me and he said "This is fine because is not the workplace".

There are few other episodes I could mention... But you probably got the picture.

As I said if I'm told off because I did something wrong according to the company policy or common decency it's fine. However I cannot help thinking something a bit odd is happening and I feel really uncomfortable sometimes.

I'm not really sure this is a case of people not liking each other or there's something worse behind the scene happening.

Another strange thing that happened was a psychology test he gave to me and my team mates and he was expecting us to fill it. He has been working with us for three years and I've found this really strange and weird and I didn't do it. More specifically I told him "If this is not a task you're officially giving me I don't want to do it because it makes me uncomfortable".

What I want to know is if there's anything I can potentially point out to HR or to anyone else. I've never had this problems before.

I personally think John is after a promotion and he plays a bit dirty, while my line manager takes a bit advantage of his role.

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    Can you explain maybe why? – user8469759 Feb 15 at 21:57
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    "I was suggested to let this go, and that is what I did." Who suggested this to you? – A. I. Breveleri Feb 15 at 22:10
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"The next day my line manager talked to me in private, saying that few people around were annoyed by my behavior because I was being aggressive towards Paul."

At this point you must instantly ask "How does Paul feel about it? Have you talked to Paul? Why do you think Paul is offended?"

After you have had a few seconds to think about it, you would probably get around to asking "What do we have to do to satisfy John?"

"I was suggested to let this go, and that is what I did." Who suggested this to you?

You probably should not escalate this to higher management or to HR, but you need to get this kind of thing straight between you and your boss. Get out of the habit of apologizing for infractions that you did not commit.

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    He didn't ask Paul, he admitted it... That's actually what started me thinking about it... I didn't really know what to do. – user8469759 Feb 15 at 22:19
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    Then you put it like this: "Well, let's do that. Let's talk to Paul and see how he feels about it." – A. I. Breveleri Feb 15 at 22:23
  • For the "who suggested this to you": Few colleagues at lunch, maybe he had a point about the swearing part. The point of my question is to gather some info just in case something like this happens again. About the aggressive part I was puzzled, but just in case I apologized to Paul... He said it wasn't necessary at all and he was surprised no one asked him anything. – user8469759 Feb 15 at 22:36
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This isn't a strange behavior from the line manager, you were the one out of the line by swearing at your co-worker in a matter that clearly can be taken as aggressive by some.

The strange thing is that my line manager said that he didn't ask Paul if he actually felt uncomfortable, he just relied on John's story.

It doesn't matter how Paul feels, your action caused another person to not feel comfortable, and as you do not deny said actions, Paul's feelings do not matter. The take away from here is to not just let it go, but actually understand that you were the one in the wrong here, no matter how Paul feels, and hopefully, you won't do that again.

For example I said a sentence in greek to a greek colleague who was sitting next to me, my line manager doesn't speak greek but neverthanless he said "What kind of horrible things are saying now?" (The translation of the sentence was like "I want to be greek" and I was just trying to see if I could imitate the greek accent).

For the rest of the lunch I was really quiet until we finished eating and left. On our way back it was the three of us and we were joking around (again in the street not at work) and my manager was behind me and he said "This is fine because is not the workplace".

To me, it sounds like he spotted that you've taken the talk his given you a lot harder than he expected, so he tried to turn it into a joke to maybe ease the tension. And then as that backfired, he wanted to make clear that all the jokes, even if not up to par by workplace standards, are fine as right now you are not in the workplace, and he doesn't have personal issues with them. At least that's my take on it, but with such limited and full of gaps recap, that's the best I can do.

As I said if I'm told off because I did something wrong according to the company policy or common decency it's fine. However I cannot help thinking something a bit odd is happening and I feel really uncomfortable sometimes.

You were 100% in the wrong in the cursing incident.

So far the only consequence of it was the stern talking to, and likely a re-iteration of policy that the company has against aggressive behavior in the workplace so I wouldn't make more of it. Learn your lesson, keep those type of joke rants to after-hours, and truly move on, closing doors on this chapter, rather than hoping to make an HR complaint out of it - a clear sign that you have not moved on.

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  • You're missing one point here...I don't really think my line manager should point out what I'm allowed to do outside the workplace, and not in my free time which I'm supposed to enjoy and not to feel uncomfortable. Outside the workplace everyone should go their separate ways... That's where the uncomfortable comes from. I wasn't 100% wrong because I wasn't aggressive, probably 50%, because of the swearing. – user8469759 Feb 16 at 0:28
  • @user8469759 so who do you think owns the other 50% of the blame? Paul by not stopping you? Or the other employee who you've made feel uncomfortable enough that he felt compelled to make a complaint about it? If you don't own it all, someone else must be there to share the blame. And seems that you did not enjoy the Managers after-work-hours joke, and yet, you were also making jokes there too. But somehow your humor should be protected, as it's on non-work time, but someone else is "wrong" because it made you feel uneasy? That's a nice double standard to have, as you were both off the clock. – Tymoteusz Paul Feb 16 at 0:37
  • I was accused of both swearing and being aggressive, 50% is true the other isn't...it's simple... There's a big difference between me and my line manager... I don't evaluate him even if I have something against him I can only keep it for myself.. On the on the other hand if he's biased he can use whatever he wants against me... Even in that case is very simple... There's no sense of humor to be protected here, according to company policy is simply not acceptable outside though it's a different story, also as I mentioned he self invited himself for that specific lunch... – user8469759 Feb 16 at 0:52
  • @user8469759 I've been on your spot of being accused of aggression and swearing btw, I am speaking from experience. And the fact that you've made someone feel uncomfortable and they've seen you as aggressive is all it takes, and you should really rethink the way you act. If you will keep going "I am only partially to blame" or with other explanations/excuses, it will happen again. Own it and adjust. And the manager's jokes were outside of hours, if you didn't want him there, tell him to shove off like you would a rando. The idea that he will use off-hours against you is far fetched. – Tymoteusz Paul Feb 16 at 0:57
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    @user8469759 you can blame it on a misunderstanding, but those misunderstandings happen. That is why company etiquette rules exist. The one who broke those rules is you, so you are 100% responsible for causing the misunderstanding. You can choose not to accept that, but here you have your boss and random internet strangers telling you you're wrong. You can claim as much innocence as you want, you can hold your views of how the world should be, but the end result is the same. That said, you're blowing things out of proportion. You made an etiquette blunder and work--learn from it and move on! – Mars Feb 17 at 5:21
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I wouldn't worry about the other untruths told, this is standard behaviour whenever a complaint is made. When people have an opportunity to kick you, they don't just get you in the shins, they make sure to stomp on your head as well, wether you deserve it or not. What you know now is there is someone in the office who will lie to get ahead or who will backstab you at the first opportunity and even if you have to lie to counter this behaviour you should do so. So for example, never admit to anything unless there is more than one witness. These kind of people exist everywhere and your only defense is to keep everything 100% professional and make sure your boss loves the work you do

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    I might have misunderstood, but to defend myself I don't really wanna lie... I'd rather quit my company for a better place, that's what probably most people would do. – user8469759 Feb 16 at 1:24

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