I recently changed jobs (and even continent) and believe I'm now at liberty to asking this question.

About two tears ago, I received a proposition from a former colleague (lets call him Albert) to quit my current job and join him in the company he had just joined as well. The salary offer was three times higher that what I made at the time and the job seemed exciting (better tools, interesting product, international environment and so on) so I jumped on that opportunity even though I was proposed a lead position in my then-current company.

From the moment I joined, Albert who I barely knew (we only used to work 2 months at the same place and barely talked then) had a very non-professional behavior with me. The kind of behavior you would expect from old high-school friends: familiarity, personal questions, gross jokes and remarks. As he was the one who gave me the opportunity and as we were the only two french speaking people in a company otherwise speaking English, it didn't felt that weird at the time: people with similarities often become friend in a "foreign" environment. Truth be told I was happy to have someone to talk to in my mother tongue in this new scary adventure.

We were driving together (a 3 hours ride) to the central place every week so this gave us time to talk, sometimes about more or less personal matter. Albert would often complain about some other employees, telling me how they "were terrible" and how he'd like them fired.

After a few months the jokes and remarks became more and more frequent, often about personal things, both in private and public (including meetings with the CEO and/or CTO). "Remarks" like: "By the way, you are fired !" (joking, 15 times a day), "Shut up you are fat", "Your girlfriend must be cheating on you with a hobo", "Such fancy clothes. Did you stole them from a queer ?". This would especially happen whenever we had a technical disagreement, specifically when I knew more than him on some topic. Everybody would laugh in the room, including myself, at some point mainly trying to avoid some kind of Streisand Effect.

Another annoying thing was when, during meetings he would pick on me because of my way of pronouncing things in English which is not my native language. Often to the point where I would stop participating to avoid the remarks altogether. He would later complain because I don't participate enough in meetings, pretending it proved my lack of interest in my job.

Worst was, other people in the company that had a professional behavior in the past started acting like him because it was the "fun" thing to do. They would only do so in his presence, but it still bothered me.

I managed to work there a year and a half, working on topics he did not master so to limit social interaction with him to its minimum but in the end felt like I needed to leave as my stress was growing day after day. This was especially frustrating as I don't consider myself a victim, at all: a lot of my former colleagues from other jobs still say they miss me and some even say I was a team-binding-agent. The CEO of the company gave me a recommendation and a company mail was sent to everybody, to inform them I was leaving, that my work was really appreciated and that I would be missed. I did not make any fuss nor mentioned explicitly the problems I had with that person, and still believe that was wise.

I obviously wouldn't go back there with him for the world, but my question is today: is there another way of dealing with such situations ? I felt like I took the easy path by leaving but I couldn't complain to anyone and don't really knew what other choice there was. Talking to the CEO or CTO would be ineffective as they were witness of the thing but deemed it reasonable. It was a really small company so I suspect their state of mind was "this is the dev. team culture, they pick on each other". By complaining about that I know it would have been perceived as "look at this guy that can't handle jokes". Truth is, I can do so, very well, but when they come from friends only. Joking back to the guy seemed to work for a while but it was against my usual behavior (that's not my education, at all and don't want to become an a**hole).

So, how do you deal with an officially accepted bullying culture in a job that you otherwise like ?

For some additional context, the bullying even continued recently when the guy contacted me on Skype to complain because he was assigned the task to pick up the projects I was working on and didn't knew the technology. He blamed me for his situation and insulted me. I ended the conversation quickly.

  • 1
    Ummmmm...where exactly was the bullying? I can agree with inappropriate, I can agree with uncomfortable, but bullying? Where?
    – Dunk
    Dec 5, 2014 at 22:19
  • 4
    @Dunk... you don't... see bullying here? In the quotes he gives from Albert? I think it is pretty clear, this isn't even subtle.
    – bharal
    May 14, 2017 at 22:33
  • @bharal - bullying is behavior that is intended to intimidate someone usually to get them to do something they don't want to do. I see none of that in the OP's description. I see descriptions of a person who doesn't understand social norms at all and says inappropriate things but that does not make it bullying.
    – Dunk
    May 15, 2017 at 21:40
  • 2
    @Dunk mate you read it how you want, and you live a good happy life. go around telling people that saying "Shut up you are fat" isn't bullying, but that it well-intentioned behaviour. You've obviously got a handle on what social norms are.
    – bharal
    May 16, 2017 at 22:21
  • 2
    @Dunk Well... you could argue that telling a person he/she is fat on the workplace repeatedly has a clear goal (diminishing one's importance/influence/confidence as a way to "rise on top" so to say). I don't think that's something someone does without intent. Also, this is not in the question but Albert has later admitted his strategy to a common acquaintance and I can assure you, pretty much all of this was intentional. Anyway, this is all in the past now and looking back, I know I did the right choice.
    – ereOn
    May 17, 2017 at 12:37

2 Answers 2


It is unlikely anything you could do will change someone else's personality. You can let him know you don't appreciate such comments, but that would have soured the relationship. An even riskier strategy is to counter his insults with even better ones, but entering into such a duel does not sound like your style.

The best policy in such situations is simply to put up with it until you leave, which is what you did.

Personality conflicts are an inevitable part of work environments. The thicker your skin, the better you will be at surviving the turmoil. If someone is angering a lot of people usually the problem "solves itself" eventually, but if the whole environment is toxic, it may be better to engineer an escape.

  • +1. If it's REALLY the company culture, and you can't find a way to ignore it, the first thing to do is to get yourself out of there before someone gets hurt and/or the company self-destructs. Cue the old joke about how many psychiatrists it takes to change a light bulb: Only one, but the light bulb has to want to be changed.
    – keshlam
    Dec 5, 2014 at 2:43
  • it is helpful ..
    – Hitesh
    Dec 5, 2014 at 5:55

After reading entire story I understand the other way of dealing the situation. I understand your situation and the painful journey that you had. It is really tough for any one to deal with such things especially in foreign place. Below are the things that you could have done

1. Make more trusted friends: Since Albert is the only one from your only trustful buddy is Albert at initial days. That could be fine. But later you could have developed friendship and trustful relationship with your other colleagues. It could have helped you deal with the situation or at least lent you empathetic year to your problems. And also when he is saying stories and rumors you could have just checked informally with other senior person/your another trust buddy in the team and listen to their version of the stories and compare how much the information that you received from Albert is accurate and reliable.

2. Keeping silent and keep problem with you doesn't solve the problem: When you have a problem with environment and if you can not resolve the problem by best of your efforts you should take the help who have the control over it. Usually this is problem with people, then you should talk who is managing it. Did you try to discuss about this problem with your manager. If I am in your position I would do that. Ultimately if a person quits a company that is loss to the company any way. Managers main job is to control and avoid such losses to the Company.

3. Discussion problem with blogs or in WPSE: You are posted this question after incident occurred. You should have done this while you are facing this problem. And at least discuss in WP SE chat room(Water cooler) of if you think it doesn't qualify to post.

4. Talk with Albert: Yes, You could have openly talk with Albert and convey him what is the pain you are going and make some amicable deal with both. Some times we feel other person is bad. Actually might not. They simply don't know they are hurting you. When we carefully talk and listen we will know and we can come to amicable solutions.

  • 1. I was working from home most of the time like every other developer: we only met once every two weeks in person. 2. The manager was well aware and did not seem to care sadly. 3. People from the company were actually following my StackExchange account. I try to limit information leak (If I intend for something to be know I usually speak about it directly indeed). 4. He was very well aware of the situation but Albert has kind-of a God complex and can't imagine for one second he is to blame for anything so he would just not care.
    – ereOn
    Dec 5, 2014 at 3:06
  • @ereOn I learned long ago to never allow anyone at work to know what my SE username is. Or any other site either including FB. If things go sour it can get rotten very quickly.
    – Underverse
    Jan 6, 2019 at 11:50

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