I have worked in this company for a few years and have changed managers a few times due to organizational change. My current manager is a really cool guy and it was great working for him. There is an event coming up in a few weeks and I found out today that I might have to work with someone that I prefer to avoid in that event.

I will not go into details but this person has a quick temper and this person has spread vicious rumours/gossips which caused me to be socially isolated/boycotted for 6-9 months when I first joined this company. Things are better now but mainly because I do make an effort to stay out of this person's way as much as I could and mostly keeping a low profile.

My current manager doesn't know what happened in the past because he works in another office all this time. I would to pull out from the event but it might send the wrong signal that I might lack team spirit or something. So is it safe or professional to tell your current manager about something that happened in the past or would it be better to keep mums about it and just go on with the event as though nothing happened?

Additional info:

I didn't want to go into details because this person is in a managerial position and has shown bouts of anger, yelling and even intimidating other employees in the presence of everyone in the office. The only difference is that I was not directly yelled at but was told by another person to keep to myself at work or risk having negative impact on my work which went on for almost 6-9 months.

8 Answers 8


A hostile work environment is not something anyone should have to work in. Any (good) boss is going to see that you don't enjoy working with this person, and that this person has made your time working at the company unpleasant. Now that's not to say they'll actually replace you or the other employee for this event, but hiding it only further hurts your case here.

You need to simply be up front and tell your boss about the incident, tell them you're uncomfortable working with that person, and would like to know if you or that person could be replaced for this work event. They will either replace you or this other person, or they'll have you do this together, and further look into the claims you are making and see if there's any way you can settle this matter between the two of you and make your working lives a little better to be around eachother.

Any true boss is going to take you seriously, and at least listen and possibly investigate your claim, but be prepared to confront this person and have a possibly sit down meeting with them to see if you can resolve it. This is something you have to decide if you want to deal with further.


Consider what do you want to have happen and what kinds of suggestions could you make after telling this story to your current manager. I see 3 likely options:

  1. The other person is replaced for that event. You'd still go and have someone else be the replacement for that person who you want to avoid.

  2. You get replaced for that event. Someone else and the person you want to avoid go to the event.

  3. Nothing changes and you get to see how it is working with this person now where things may or may not be different.

Which of these do you want and for the first 2, do you have people in mind that you'd propose go instead? Otherwise, I question what is the point of telling the story here as I could expect some managers to respond with a, "What do you want me to do about it?" and that is the big question you have to be prepared to answer here to my mind.

I'd also question whether or not you'd be prepared to support your story as your manager may ask for proof so that you aren't the one spreading gossip and rumours here which this could look like from the outside. There is a, "Why are you bringing this up now?" question where is the event a big enough deal that you'd have concerns about the other person representing the company? Why wouldn't you have come forward sooner? There are lots of questions that could be asked and thus this may seem like an interrogation if the can of worms is opened.

  • 5
    I would honestly question the leadership skills and qualifications of a boss who would dismiss someone who has brought the fact of a hostile work environment to their attention. I've never had a boss dismiss me, they haven't always been able to resolve the conflict, but they've never dismissed a complaint or assumed the person lodging the complaint was fabricating something or lying. You should always feel safe telling your boss about something that's happened at work.
    – New-To-IT
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 20:30
  • Even if the issue is at least a couple of years old? Don't forget that the issues happened when the OP first joined and has been there a few years now. I could be a bit paranoid here though I would wonder if there wouldn't be an attempt to cover it up as I could imagine various hazing rituals being an example here that could lead to isolating for a time.
    – JB King
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 20:34
  • Just because the initial and possibly worst part of it was a long time ago, doesn't mean everything's hunky dory now. Could still be hostility between the two people, and it all started back when they joined the company. Just going to my boss and saying "I don't like this person" might result in what you have posted in your answer, but showing a history of why you don't like that person, and subsequent actions thereafter, would show that maybe there is something here that needs to be taken care of.
    – New-To-IT
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 20:37
  • @New-To-IT, but "showing a history" is precisely providing proof that is my point there.
    – JB King
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 20:41
  • 2
    There are a lot of people who do not want to hear anything negative about anyone, and they will not think well of someone who says negative things. Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 21:43


Based on the additional information (that your manager is already aware of your event companion's outbursts, yelling, etc.) then you manager has made this decision knowing what you are likely to experience during the event.

You are right that asking to change your companion for the event or not attending would likely send the signal that you are not a team player, or something of that nature. The manager already knows you are subject to this person's unprofessional behavior, so "telling your manager" now is repeating it without adding substance to their perspective.

Unfortunately for you, you need to decide whether you can stomach the event in this person's presence or risk hurting your career with the company by not attending. The professional approach is to attend and handle it the best that you can and your manager should appreciate that.

My previous answer below is how to handle the situation in which your manager is not aware of a person's bullying tendencies or behaviors (IMHO, remote managers in most situations should be made aware of these things; in situations where this does not apply, there is not a question about whether to raise the issue or not):

Your manager's job is to manage not just you, but your group. A manager should consider it a part of their job to put people together that work effectively together, and avoid situations where internal conflict may not produce an optimal result for the company.

However, to be professional about it, you should do a few things. First, make your manager aware that you do not think that it will be optimal working with this person. Second, have a suggestion for another person that is willing and able to work the event effectively with you. Third, be prepared to reassure your manager that you will do all you can to perform well at the task, and you mention this because you want to focus on what is best for the company.

If pressed about details, you should tell your manage about your "speculation" regarding this person's character. You may have misunderstood the situation, that person may have been "hazing" you (picking on the new person), or maybe your manager knows this about the person already. Regardless, selecting the right people to work together is a management issue, regardless of "formal complaints" or grievances. Informal information is also valuable.

Your willingness to work with the person is a mature response to a bad situation. Your manager should at least be aware of what is coming, in order to be effective in managing you and your team. Also, it may be that the other person is better to have at the event, so you will be asked to not go. That is a risk, so if it is not worth that risk to you, then you clearly value attendance at the event over the discomfort of doing it with this other person.

Good luck!

  • 1
    Huh? Your new manager will just let you manage the group how you want and you don't need to give them details? You may have "misunderstood"? Either something happened or not - I wouldn't bring up things you are unclear about or unwilling to back up. If the OP took your advice and I was her manager I would think she was a kook.
    – blankip
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 20:51
  • 1
    I didn't state that the OP would "get their way" with the request. And not all managers will ask for details - I sometimes don't want to know about reasons for personal requests like this. And the OP has a clear personal yet informal position on the matter. Regardless, by raising the issue the manager has the opportunity to manage the situation or ask about details. By not doing so the OP takes on many risks in working with this "bully." People don't always work well together, and remote managers have little insight into personal interactions.
    – Jim
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 21:06
  • But you are raising something with the manager - which according to the details we have in the question has no real weight and was a while back. What if the manager makes her go and the "bully" acts perfect towards her? Double kook? I would think so.
    – blankip
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 21:21
  • 1
    @Jim - My manager found out about this person's outburst tendencies a few months back from another colleague. It's not really a speculation when everyone can hear from the other end of the office.
    – Cryssie
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 23:36
  • @Cryssie - I changed my answer completely based on the additional information. I hope that helps.
    – Jim
    Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 16:26

Every so often it happens that you end up working with a person liked that. Some things to keep in mind:

  1. Those sort of complaints might end up showing you in a poor light.

If you say "I just can't work with X", then it may make you look like you just don't know how to deal with people, especially is "X" does well in workplace politics.

  1. Avoidance is not dealing with the problem

One day you're going to need to work with this person again. If you keep refusing to work with him, eventually you're going to be seen as being the problem employee, not the bully. You would be better off in showing this person that they can't back you into a corner, and then they may simply lose interest and leave you alone, even if you have to deal with him every once in a while.

  1. If you absolutely, positively can't work with him

Simply tell the truth:

Hey boss, I know we have this event coming up, and I'm super excited to take part in it, however I must tell you that I have misgivings working alongside X. I don't want to cause you headaches, however him and I have had some unfortunate incidents between us, and I'd rather simply not deal with him.

Your boss may not be too happy hearing that, and (worse?) may actually seat the two of you down and discuss the problem. Or (worser :P) he might think you're the one over-reacting and who can't deal with the situation.

It might simply be easier to deal with this person for a day, than to mark yourself as a troublemaker by your boss. If anything, be prepared to document this person's rude/bullying behavior (is it legal for you to make a recording of your interaction?), and then present that as evidence for an HR complaint.

  • This chimes with my experience. If the other guy is a manager they either know he is a problem and don't care, or they have blinders on. Usually going to your boss and saying you can't work with someone makes YOU look like the one with the problem. Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 2:54

It's definitely not unprofessional to tell your manager about an issue that affects your ability to be effective at work. And since the problem for your perspective is mostly in the past and only comes up now because of this company event, it should be relatively easy for your boss to help you find a solution for this short period, whether that means skipping the event or just avoiding the problem person.

On the contrary, it would be quite unprofessional for your boss to ignore your concern and put you in a situation which makes you uncomfortable. But he can't do the right thing if you don't talk to him.


Its sounds like you get along well with your current manager. You can ask to have a short meeting together (go grab coffee, short walk, etc.) with you so you can talk to her/him about your concerns. A good manager will listen to you and give you some advice and support.

Make sure to keep your ego in check. Chances are you still end up working with this person you don't get along with. It's not the end of the world. Enjoy the event and don't take anything personal. People have different ways of expressing themselves and some people simply lack social skills.

If you feel like you are being bullied, the best thing you can do is to talk to your manager about it.


I would think it depends a lot on the event.

It would be ironic if this was a team building event.

If this is more of a feel good event that is considered a perk then for sure I would think it is OK to ask not to attend.

If this was enough for you to feel socially isolated/boycotted for 6-9 month and lay low even today then that is a big deal.

You don't have to name names. Just tell your boss someone is there that had bullied you in the past and you would prefer not to attend.

If this is more direct work thing like a project management exercise then maybe you need to suck it up and attend. If you are cool with your boss then maybe tell him / her that person X had bullied you in the past. I known that may not come off good for you but worse case let's say that person uses this event to bully you again. You need your boss to be aware so he / she can observe first hand and hopefully take appropriate action.

  • Down vote care to comment?
    – paparazzo
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 20:54

If it is your job you really must work with the person.

Since you never really acted on the issue before (no management or HR record), since you have a new manager, and since there has been a decent amount of time between the incidents I don't see that you have a choice.

Now you can ask not to and your manager can grant this but they can also think that you are full of drama and that you start rumors and have issues working with people.

Time to buck up and do the thing that you don't want to. Act professional, limit your time working directly with this person, limit any conversation, and keep the mood light. If this person is still a bully then you can have that conversation with your boss.

[Also you gave no indications of this person bullying you. Starting rumors are bad and unprofessional but not necessarily or even hardly ever bullying. And unless you have proof over email or abundance of coworkers vetting for you these past events are hearsay and just two coworkers squabbling.]

  • 3
    Spread vicious rumors / gossips which caused me to be socially isolated/boycotted for 6-9 months when I first joined this company is not bullying? You don't know OP never really acted on the issue. "My current manager doesn't know" to me implies there are other managers that are aware.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 20:17

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