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Should you refuse to participate in weekly meetings, because of a toxic member? I have a person who keep harassing me and insulting me. The individual has been warned multiple times for his disruptive behavior, but he keeps doing it and the person leading these weekly meetings just remind the same thing over and over again for three days even though he keeps doing the same thing. Is this ground to refuse to attend a weekly meeting? Four people have complained about his toxic behavior, and he wasn't fired yet, which makes him think this is completely acceptable.

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    Could you add some information about why he hasn't been fired yet? Apr 22 at 16:15
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    Have you ever figured why he insults many coworkers ? Is it because he is upset that he did not get a promotion ? Or is it because he has a bad personality and enjoys insulting others intentionally ? Or is it because he just have bad social skills and does not know how to communicate with others ? Or is it because he just wants to think that he is better than all coworkers ? Apr 23 at 7:21
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    Did your manager personally have a 1:1 meeting with him and warned him about his behaviors ? Apr 23 at 7:22
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    It could be important to know (A) the country you are working in; (B) a more detailed description of the type of harassment/insults he targets at you. In some countries some workplace misbehavior could also be a crime. Moreover, if your employer doesn't act promptly to stop that behavior it could be held responsible before both civil and criminal court (this is highly country-specific and depends on the specific kind of harassment). Apr 23 at 22:59
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    Whose meeting is it? Is it your meeting? Is it their meeting?. Apr 24 at 5:44

5 Answers 5

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It's time for action, but refusal is the wrong way to go.

You all have the right to work without harassment. If he has continued to behave offensively despite multiple warnings, and many people are in agreement, then it's time to exclude him from the meeting. All of you who feel this way should go to the organizer of the meeting and demand he is excluded so you can work in a safe environment. The more people you can get to join on on this the better. If the organizer doesn't do this, all of you go to HR and make the same demand. If the argument is "he can't do his work without being at the meeting" - well he should have thought of that before making it a hostile environment. The organizer can email him the notes after the meeting.

These demands may take a few days to be processed. Only if nothing at all is done after that should you refuse to attend, and you will need to get a lot of you to all refuse.

By the way, if your company is even half decent this guy's firing is probably in process. Sometimes these things take time, no matter how clear cut the case is. Don't despair - the end may be in sight.

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    Very good answer which puts the focus on the problematic coworker (he should be excluded, the meeting noted can be send to him if he doesn't behave and so on).
    – some_coder
    Apr 22 at 6:30
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I agree with the accepted answer, but I would like to add - document, document, document. A paper trail is necessary to terminate a problematic employee. Also, it is easy for managers/HR to ignore a few "Hey, this person is being rude" comments. It is much harder to ignore documented, repeated harassment from multiple employees. I am not a lawyer (IANAL), but depending on the country you may have a case for a lawsuit if they do. Harassment doesn't have to be sexist or racist to be a crime.

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    IANAL is an abbreviation for "I am not a lawyer", for those unfamiliar. Please demarcate acronyms.
    – Galen
    Apr 22 at 16:47
  • @AgnesianOperator fair point, done.
    – tilde
    Apr 22 at 17:44
  • I would have put this in my answer, but it looks as if there is no doubt about has actions or the warnings he's been given. Multiple witnesses will do as well as documentation. Apr 23 at 17:31
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    This is almost certainly not a criminal matter, but the employer can be liable civilly for a hostile environment. Apr 23 at 23:14
  • @AgnesianOperator Thank you for the clarification. It puts to rest any possible speculation of iAnal being some new Apple device.
    – Mentalist
    Apr 25 at 2:53
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If the abuse and harassment is significant enough for you to be concerned about your mental well-being, sure. Obviously you should let you manager know that you can't attend due to the impact it's having on you.

But generally no, you should not stop doing your job because someone else is acting unprofessional.

If someone is acting in an unprofessional manner, you should follow whatever the complaints procedure is at your company.

After following the complaints procedure, if there is no improvement, you could consider escalating.

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    I am the team lead and I have already talked about it to my boss. He didn't do anything.
    – sergeva
    Apr 22 at 2:05
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    You should reiterate your concerns with your boss. If nothing is done, you would then escalate to HR. Apr 22 at 2:09
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    And if you have told your boss, that is some useful information you should include in the question. Apr 22 at 2:10
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    @JoeStrazzere If the OP is close to a mental breakdown, I agree. But there are degrees of mental well-being. A mental breakdown is pretty severe. If you're anywhere near running the risk of a mental breakdown, you probably shouldn't be at work at all, regardless of this issue. Apr 22 at 12:12
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    @JoeStrazzere Mental health is rather important to me, and while I understand that some people may not be bothered by harassment at all, for others it's going to a significant mental toll. I'll happily wear the down-votes if that's what telling somebody to look after their mental health is going to cost. Apr 22 at 17:31
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I don't think you should refuse going to the weekly meetings. The reason is that your boss may misunderstand that the reason you do not attend the meeting could be that you are not a team player, or do not show enough respect for him or the team lead, or are no longer interested in the projects.

I understand you are in a tough situation because of that toxic member. It is horrible to be in this environment.

But, if you can try to ignore that member long enough, the managers will eventually get tired of the toxic member and let him/her go.

Maybe, you should start notifying your manager or HR about this disruptive behavior when someone is insulting or bullying coworkers.

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    I am the team lead and I have already talked about it to my boss. He didn't do anything.
    – sergeva
    Apr 22 at 2:05
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    Then, can you ask your boss if he is OK with you going to HR and ask HR to take care of the situation. If your boss agrees, then you should go right ahead. If your boss says no, then you should convince him that the disruptive behavior negatively affects the whole team to the point that people are thinking of skipping the meeting. Apr 22 at 2:08
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    Any company that treats being a "team player" or "showing respect" as meaning putting up with abuse is a toxic workplace. Apr 23 at 23:15
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    @sergeva If you're the team lead, you definitely can't ditch the meetings. If a team member takes abuse while you're not there, that reflects extremely badly.
    – Kaz
    Apr 25 at 0:55
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Unless this person is preventing you from doing your job, you have to do your job, however unpleasant (so long as it's not dangerous). You will have to either trust management, HR, and the company to restore the environment back to a pleasurable state, or look for a different environment.

Taking your own actions towards making the environment better is always a good idea, but I'm guessing you already tried this without success.

That said, joining a meeting is very rarely your job. Your actual job is coordinating with your teammates to achieve the goals that you need to achieve, and achieve them. If you feel that coordinating with your teammates would be better done through a meeting where this person is not present, then by all means schedule a separate meeting.

If you need to coordinate with this person, try to do so over email, where it's much easier to ignore the unwanted comments (plus, paper trail!). But all in all, get clear (with management if necessary) on what your job is, and do your job.

By the way, this is not malicious compliance. This is understanding what value you bring to the company and the reason they're paying you. If some activities prevent you from bringing that value, modify those activities in a way that allows you to bring that value. This is as true for an abusive colleague as it is for a tool like Google Meet not working. Sure, Google Meet won't complain to HR that you're not involving it, but if this person's complaints affect you in any way, then you don't want to be in that company.

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