I am the functional manager of a team with ten people. One of them, who is very highly skilled, has turned very hostile in the last few months towards colleagues and myself. We had a 1:1 three months ago which was very good, however just a week later her behavior didn't change. She's verbally abusive, sarcastic in her comments, aggressive in tone, creates conflicts where there's none and undermines my authority in front of others. A total nightmare. She also has expressed that she wants to quit the team.

I collected all the evidence from the past weeks (luckily she writes everything on a chat) and shared to my manager. He wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt and had meetings with her - but now she behaves the same (hostile) with him! Due to this, he scheduled a meeting with her to explain the situation and the consequences of her behavior, but she rejected the meeting and told him there's nothing she has to discuss with him (!!!)

I can only think that this behavior is the product of a serious mental disorder or something that's going on in her life that we are unaware of. My manager of course already involved HR who will start a disciplinary procedure which can led to dismissal. She is not aware of this because she refused to even talk to my manager.

Since she will be contacted by HR in the next days on this, I wonder how people who went through a similar situation dealt with that. My manager told me the situation will get very ugly for us and she will likely want to play victim and prolong the whole thing.


Clarifying a few points as some people are making too many assumptions:

  1. I brought a complaint on this employee's behavior to my manager -- and honestly he has been too nice because in retrospective he should have involved HR at least a month ago. My manager and this person have had regular weekly meetings. I don't think these meetings helped because she continued behaving the same towards me (and colleagues)

  2. Recently she started behaving the same with my manager. Declining meetings, telling him "she has no pending topics to discuss with him" (sic), in other words, ignoring him. My manager then setup a meeting because he wanted to warn her verbally of the consequences of such behavior (i.e. HR involvement). For him, HR was the last option. But she declined the meetings (2) he put with her to inform on this, so now HR will get in the picture.

  3. When my manager said that 'things could get ugly' for us he meant just that. We don't know how this person will react. And this person has clearly said she wants out of the team anyway, but once HR is involved she won't be able to rotate in the company (which is what she wants). She will take this very bad and may cause a big mess in our team -- not to mention she will probably want to try to turn things against us (luckily -- I have written evidence of how she behaves)

  4. Whatever you think of the situation, or what I did or did not, I have never seen in 20+ years experience someone refusing a meeting with a manager. In other companies this person would have been fired long time ago.

  5. I am not sure what problem this person has. But whatever problem she has, her behavior is simply unacceptable. She said she wants to leave the team (told us about this 3 months ago). The reason is that she wants to do different stuff than we currently do. Fair enough. We had a similar person in the past. He was happy with us doing XYZ but wanted to do also ABC which we couldn't offer. Now he is working in another team (same company) and happy. No issues. She could have gone the same path as him, but for whatever reason (now she will need to explain this to HR) she started behaving mad and now the situation is far from being salvable. And by the way, early when she started behaving like this, I had a 1:1, a very good one, and she seemed to understand and agree that she needs to improve. But one week later she continued with the same behavior and that point I took it with my manager.

  • The reason for her bad behaviors could be 1 of these 3 : (1) She is upset because she did not get a promotion. (2) Her mental health declines or she suffers too much stress at work. (3) She has some personal issue with her life outside work such as family or relationship. -- It's too bad that everything ends up this way with HR being involved. If your manager can find out exactly what the root cause for her bad behaviors is, perhaps, he can help your coworker out. Commented Apr 14, 2022 at 0:06
  • Was she always like this? There could be something very traumatic happening in her life. It could be a bit of temporary insanity. It might not be, but if it is there is a way to salvage this relationship.
    – Pete B.
    Commented Apr 14, 2022 at 17:39
  • Which country is this happening in?
    – Sascha
    Commented Apr 16, 2022 at 13:38
  • 4
    "She also has expressed that she wants to quit the team." - something has happened that has made her very unhappy about her current working conditions. If you do not know what this is, then you should strongly consider delegating to one who does. Commented Apr 17, 2022 at 17:22
  • 1
    @solarflare it's possible, but this is outside my domain. That's why HR needs to analyze the case and provide any help, if they think the situation can still be fixed.
    – ashler
    Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 20:19

4 Answers 4


Let HR deal with it

I would refrain from trying to guess the issues at play.

Refusal to have a meeting with their manager is not a performance issue. It's blatant insubordination, which is often grounds for summary dismissal.

It potentially could get messy. Which is why both you and your manager should follow the directions of HR carefully.

I don't think it's that useful to solicit opinions about what the outcome is going to be or what to expect. It's really impossible for us to know. There are so many factors at play.

  • 1
    It’s not just insubordination, it’s plain stupid. Like not going to court means you will get convicted.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Apr 14, 2022 at 6:28
  • 1
    And in case if her manager did something stupid or offensive to get it all started HR is much better equipped to fix the problem than the manager themselves :) Commented Apr 15, 2022 at 0:02

It's very unlikely this person will have a miraculous change of heart when confronted by HR.

The writing is on the wall and this person will and should eventually be fired by your company.

As the manager, you are now officially in damage control mode.

What systems and access does this employee have?

Don't wait until they decide to sabotage the company!

Your manager has already warned you it's going to get messy. Do everything you can right now to limit her access. Backup everything somewhere she can't reach. Don't be held hostage by an insubordinate soon-to-be ex-employee.


I wonder how people who went through a similar situation dealt with that.

You work them out of the system. My first stop would be HR and making them answer why this person is still drawing apaycheck.


Here's the question nobody's asking: You mentioned that this person has only been a pain in the ass for the last few months. What happened a few months ago that made them change their tune? Perhaps, rather than trying to figure out what to do about this employee who is acting badly, you may want to figure out what you did to make this employee hate you so much and fix that. It's highly unlikely that an employee goes from reasonable to batshit insane, and stays that way, overnight for no reason. Causing a problem yourself, knowing you're causing a problem, then perpetuating the problem by firing the person for retaliatory activity over the problem you caused, is at the least unprofessional and may, in fact, be illegal.

  • 2
    @GregoryCurrie Nowhere in the question does OP even address that the employee may even have a problem, nevermind addressing what the problem may be or how the employee has tried to resolve it. It is entirely my supposition that such a problem exists, because logic dictates it to be so; a reasonable person would not act this way, and most people are reasonable, so the likelihood is high that there is something else going on. The fact that OP did not address anything about what they may have done wrong in this case is extremely fishy.
    – Ertai87
    Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 15:19
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    Additionally, the fact that OP's manager "told me the situation will get very ugly for us" lends credibility to my supposition. If OP did nothing wrong, then what is to get ugly about? If the employee is simply batshit crazy, then P has nothing to worry about; OP only has something to worry about if OP did something wrong, which seems to have happened and OP isn't owning up the their responsibility in this situation.
    – Ertai87
    Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 15:22
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    Unfortunately the employee has neither filed a complaint (at least as far as the OP is aware), or decided to cooperate with management to get to the bottom of this issue. Even if the OP suspects maybe somehow they are to blame for this, the last thing they want to be doing is trying to insert themselves in between HR and the employee. You're making a lot of assumptions that the OP is lying, and there is really no need for it. There are many many reasons why people can go "batshit insane". Best course of action is to simply act as professional as possible and let HR deal with it. Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 16:17
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    @GregoryCurrie Do you have an assertive statement that says this? All I can see from reading the various comments is that OP has neglected to investigate what the root of the problem is, and, as this person's manager, it's literally the most important part of his job to be able to investigate and resolve issues in his team before they spiral out of control and explode like this. If OP didn't even try to investigate the issue and instead jumped to "let's get HR involved and fire this person", that's a key sign of someone who should not be in a managerial positon.
    – Ertai87
    Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 16:23
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    There is nothing "obvious" about the chain of assumptions that you've made. What we do know is there is a employee with some sort of issue, either personal, workplace, or a mix. We know they will be meeting with HR. While it can be fun to play the guessing game, and attempt to paint the OP in a bad light, it probably best to present the best course of action according to the facts presented by the OP. After HR have investigated, the OP can always assess their behaviour against the findings of HR, but it's a bit pointless to get involved now. Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 16:56

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