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I've been getting pranked by coworkers for some time now. In the beginning I participated but it came to a halt when it got out of control for everyone. All pranks stopped for several months but they have started again and I feel like I receive the brunt of it for refusing to join in. The pranks have included dumping glitter everywhere in my work truck, powdered creamer everywhere in/on my desk, placing my work boots under a leak in the ceiling, hiding food in my desk drawers to rot, hiding my work uniforms, etc. I have taken pictures and reported it to my direct supervisor and the office manager but neither has made a big effort to stop the nonsense. We don't have HR on-site since we are a large corporation but I feel if my direct mangers are unwilling to stop this harassment, I may have to ostracize myself and go above them.

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6 Answers 6

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If you're not participating in the pranks, and you're being targeted by them, and you've expressed that you don't want to be a part of this, then this is harassment. Go to HR. Corporate HR will be very interested to hear about it.

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    And if HR isn't then a lawyer would love to hear about it as well as your bank account.
    – Pete B.
    Oct 3, 2023 at 16:22
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    This is straight up harassment, and destruction of property (work property and personal property).
    – Nelson
    Oct 5, 2023 at 0:32
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    This is the only way, your examples are not pranks, they sound mean and destructive. Lawyer up and go to corporate HR. Document what you can
    – Strader
    Oct 5, 2023 at 1:55
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If you are not that close with them, and judging by the way you feel I guess that you are not really close, report to HR. Provide evidence of the pranks and state how you feel about it. You should probably mention how this affects your performance at work as they might pay more attention to that.

If nothing comes of it, leave. That kind of toxic environment will wreak havoc on your mental health. Depending on your financial situation, you might want to secure a new job before leaving this one but if you feel the situation is taking a toll on you leave immediately. Your health comes before everything else!

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"I have taken pictures and reported it to my direct supervisor and the office manager but neither has made a big effort to stop the nonsense."

Did you work get done? Then why would they care? Now, if it takes you two hours to clean your desk, three hours to find your boots, and your work suffers, now they will care. "Task X could not be finished on time. I was busy drying out my boots that someone placed under a leak in the ceiling. These behaviors are very disruptive to producing good and timely output for this awesome company."

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    suggested edit: boots that were left... -> boots that someone else put... Oct 4, 2023 at 15:03
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    Perhaps do not look for workwear that has been moved - put in a purchase order for a new item and inform the manager that you can't work without PPE. Hit the company where it really hurts, in the financials. Oct 4, 2023 at 16:41
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    Management should care about more things then employees getting work done.
    – Joe W
    Oct 4, 2023 at 18:40
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    @JoeW They should, but that's unfortunately not always the reality.
    – Dnomyar96
    Oct 5, 2023 at 9:29
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    This is just an excuse for the manager's poor management. If you ignore the harassment and look for material impact, the coworkers will just come up with "pranks" that don't affect the bottom line but are just as personally harmful.
    – IMSoP
    Oct 5, 2023 at 12:07
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Just because you participated in the beginning, it does not forfeit your right to disengage from it in the future.

Consent is like Tea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQbei5JGiT8

Unfortunately, in the eyes of management, you've created your own problem. I'm not saying their judgement is acceptable, I'm merely observing the situation.

If you read your company's harassment policy then it should clearly state the order or reporting. Usually something like:

  1. If it's physically non-threatening, try talking to the harassers
  2. If that doesn't work, report to supervisor
  3. If that doesn't work, report directly to HR
  4. If that doesn't work, report to the owners/C-level people
  5. If that doesn't work, consider getting a lawyer involved because they would be very interested to know of an employer who allows harassment to continue

Overall, it sounds like you're at step #3 but if you didn't give step #1 a fair try then read below.

So, how do you proceed amicably?

You need to express consistent disapproval whenever something happens to you. If you see someone else not enjoying the hazing then stick up for them as well. You need the non-enjoyers to outnumber the a$$holes.

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  • Step 3 and 4 can be combined as an either/or. If there is no HR, then you proceed to C-level/owner as you would HR. If HR doesn't help, there isn't a point to go C-suite before a lawyer. More or less, if HR doesn't resolve it, a lawyer will inform you if you have a case and how much of a case you have. Going above HR before speaking to a lawyer likely wont provide you or the lawyer any additional benefit to your case.
    – David S
    Oct 5, 2023 at 17:50
  • @DavidS Pragmatically, I agree. I was merely providing a sample harassment policy since I don't have OP's in front of me =)
    – MonkeyZeus
    Oct 5, 2023 at 17:54
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Ultimately your coworkers are bullying/harassing you. If you have already confronted your coworkers and it continues, you are within your rights to escalate the issue to your supervisor and office manager if you really want them to do anything about it.

But here's the thing:

we work to live, do not live to work

Even if you used to participate in these shenanigans, right now the values and culture of the workplace no longer align with you. Their inactions have already demonstrated that they are unwilling to change, is it even reasonable for you to ask for all of them to change their behaviour?

Do you really enjoy working there that much? If these people were nice, decent humans, they would respect your requests. If they were outstanding professionals, this type of behaviours wouldn't be happening at all.

I was brought up that with bullies you have two options, fight or flight. Be the bigger person and get out of there!

Do not leave yourself in an environment where your supervisor or managers do not have your back 100%. You need to be able to trust and respect your coworkers or you will burn out from all the stress and uncertainty.

If you really want to be there, then absolutely stand up for yourself and escalate this either up the chain of command or get them back so epically that they won't come back at you... Knowing full well that the most likely outcome of both these scenarios is that your coworkers will not want to work with you anymore, that will actually escalate their antics as they try to get rid of you...

  • Are you sure things have not already escalated to this level?

This is not a culture that you want to be a part of, you have made that clear to us and them, so start looking elsewhere. If it was worth putting up with all that, then you wouldn't have even posted on this forum in the first place.

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    My hesitation with this is that walking away lets the bullies get away with it, and if there are other victims who find it harder to leave, you're leaving them to suffer. If there's any chance of the company seeing sense and making sure it's persistent bullies who are forced to leave (if they don't reform), not their victims, it seems worth pursuing. But I do agree that at some point you have to decide that chance isn't there, and the whole company is broken.
    – IMSoP
    Oct 6, 2023 at 6:36
  • +1 for "Are you sure things have not already escalated to this level?" Oct 6, 2023 at 7:31
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In the beginning I participated

There's your problem.

You showed you were open to this particular workplace culture but now had a change of heart. It's going to be difficult to navigate this and not look like you never wanted to be a part of it.

Your options aren't going to be great. People accepted you as one of them, now you want to threaten their livelihoods by taking them to HR for something you admittedly participated in. HR is not your friend. Going to HR (or equivalent) will cause nothing but a big mess for everyone.

This workplace doesn't seem to be the right cultural fit for you.

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    I had a co-worker who was very social and played off abuse for a few years. Eventually one day, he called me in tears because he had finally had enough and didn't understand why he was being picked on. Showing any "weakness" and the potential that you'll accept abuse is like blood to a shark for some people. You need to make it clear that it won't pan out for the "joker". I'm a large, awkward introvert. Most "prank" and such attempts against me fall flat because I don't handle them well. This has the nice consequence of not making it fun for the perpetrator. Oct 4, 2023 at 2:18
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    It's one thing once or twice, minor things when you're new and others are also on the receiving end. That could just about be OK culture. When it escalates and becomes personal, that's very different, and knowing that's going to happen is the hard part
    – Chris H
    Oct 4, 2023 at 8:44
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    Just because it was accepted at one time doesn't mean it is allowed to continue after it is expressed that it is not liked.
    – Joe W
    Oct 4, 2023 at 18:39
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    "People accepted you as one of them, now you want to threaten their livelihoods by taking them to HR for something you admittedly participated in." This is rather victim blamey. OP isn't threatening their livelihoods, they are threatening their own livelihoods (and threatening OP's livelihood). You don't get to violate someone's rights, and then blame the person whose rights you violated for the consequences. Oct 5, 2023 at 0:17
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    Just because someone gave you permission for something doesn't mean you can ignore any later revocation of that. That's also true for legal reasons and "he used to participate in it" is not going to fly as an excuse for continued harrassment. Or for a different example that makes this more obvious: If someone allowed you to cross their property in the past, doesn't mean you have an irrevocable right to it. If you continue to do so, you will absolutely commit trespassing.
    – Voo
    Oct 5, 2023 at 10:07

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