I'm one of three members of a rather small German startup (online shop with around 100.000 sales per year). My partners and me met during our IS studies and decided to start a business together (while still studying). It went quite well, me and one of the others started working on it full time after getting our degree. The third one couldn't keep up and worked "part time" until he decided to cancel university and get a degree with an apprenticeship.
In the meantime, we had grown so much that it was not possible anymore to manage the amount of work by just working part-time on it. But he still wanted to stay a part of the company. So we came up with a temporary solution, that he would pay somebody to do his job for him for the half of his salary. The other half he would keep for himself.
The logic behind that was: As long as the job gets done, it shouldn't actually matter who does it and for how much. But soon we noticed, that the substitue person did the job faster, better and more reliable. We started communicating with that person directly to assign tasks and get feedback instead of putting our third member in the middle. He is completely focused on the apprenticeship right now, so assigning him the tasks first and then let him delegate would actually cause delays and would make the communication unneccessarily complicated, because he can only take care of it after he comes home from work. It simply wouldn't make any sense.
So now we essentially got a team member whose function is... well... non-existent. That means he gets money for doing absolutely nothing company-related.
In during Christmas time the workload (and the sales) usually increases drastically. So we used to pay ourselves bonuses in January. But this time we brought it up during a meeting that it wouldn't be quite fair to pay everyone the same amount. The third member didn't actually do more than usually, he didn't even realize how much the workload had increased. He agreed to getting paid 1/3 of what me and the other one got. He also agreed to the fact that the work balance is quite off since he had started the apprenticeship. He then also anounced, that he would like to stay at the company where he's serving his apprenticeship and therefore would like to leave ours. The meeting went peacefully, we talked about old times and how sad it is that he's leaving, but we also agreed that this is the best solution reviewing on how things were going lately. We scheduled the official resignation for April.
Now, 3 weeks after the meeting, he sent us an email, very formally, quite aggressively and intimidatingly demanding to pay him the whole 100% of the January bonus and to provide him all company figures for all (!) business years (including things like amount of customers etc.) as well as copies of all existing contracts. According to him the sales and profit don't fit together and he's suspecting that we're not being honest with him. He even set a deadline for his demands and explicitly declared the demands as not negotiable. If we decline, we will hear from his lawyer. [¹]
Further he demands that from now on we put him back in the middle of the communication between us and the person currently doing his job, because he is a relevant part of the company and thus not to be bypassed.
So, basically he revoked every verbal agreement we had made at the last meeting and now claims the exact opposite. Even on the phone he only repeated his arguments from the email over and over without even admitting any counter arguments. He just hinted once again that we can either do it as he told us or else his lawyer would take care of it.
It really stresses me to a point where I'm completely clueless and afraid to make a move. I have no idea what's going on whatsoever - I actually always considered him as a close friend. I never knew this side of him, so it's like talking to a complete stranger. I can't think of any reason why he would reproach me / us for not being honest with him. Our whole company was built on trust and honesty, we didn't even make any contracts concerning company internal issues.
So, what would be the best way to deal with someone who is aggressively and out of nowhere demanding something we did not agree on? What could be an approach to discuss something when the other person just smashes every counter argument by permanently repeating his own? Should we just give in to prevent damage, even though he also could cause damage if we do? Could it be helpful to explain my / our point of view via email? How to tell somebody who sees himself as a victim that he's actually victimizing himself?
I'm not even sure if I'm asking the right questions here. Maybe someon has encountered a similar situation and could share her experience.
[¹] We're suspecting that there is another person involved on his side giving him some kind of "advice" based on his side of the story. We don't want sensitive company information to be seen by an uninvolved party, but he stubbornly refuses to tell us what he's about to do with all these documents. Technically it is his right to get a copy, but he seems to be out of control and we're not sure about how much harm he could / would cause. There wouldn't have been a problem whatsoever if he just had asked for it "normally".