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A female friend of mine has been a victim of verbal abuse and yelling in the workplace today. The aggressor is the partner of my friend in a 2-men software development team. While I don't have the exact details of start of incident (nor do I think it would effect the outcome), I do know that first aggressive behavior came from him and he started yelling loudly and even invited her to outside of company premises in an attitude like bar-brawling (I also don't think he would physically harm a 5'1" female but nonetheless it was a frightening scene and she started to cry out of fear afterwards)

The thing is; company policy requires you to contact your supervisor first before going to HR. Although it is not written in anywhere, when you contact the HR, they simply redirect you to your supervisor first.

Now her direct supervisor is on sick leave and she can't contact him until Monday. Past incidents like this resolved by supervisor in direct meetings where both parties are present where they kinda forced to apologize and not to make it a big deal (It's common in middle eastern cultures to handle conflicts like a 'man') And I'm not sure she could arrange a meeting with the boss of her supervisor.

What actions should she take, should she start out with email exchange with HR and supervisor in order to have documents afterwards? Also she fears this may come up negatively on her next job interview and she simply wants to quit this job.

Note: The company is one of the biggest banks of my country which employs 20k+ employees. While I can not give out my country name I can safely say it is located in Middle East.

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    "While I can not give out my country name I can safely say it is located in Middle East." I'm not sure we can provide useful answers without that information. I know of a few countries in that region where HR or management won't bat an eye at this kind of medieval behaviour which drastically limits this woman's options. – Lilienthal Nov 27 '15 at 9:30
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She has (and should have) serious concerns about this person's behavior. Unfortunately, management doesn't seem to have done anything about this in the past, and thus it's unlikely that any real fallout will affect this bully now. There's 2 things that could be done:

1. Confrontation

If she really does want to try taking action this is how it might be done:

  • Email the manager and very strongly/clearly state that this person has gone way too far. That she feels threatened, and that she demands immediate HR action against this person.
  • She must put her foot down and demand action or the whole thing is simply going to be swept under the rug again. CC-ing the HR manager might be a good way to attract attention, although that basically constitutes a declaration of war.

Unfortunately this is one of those situations where you can't have your cake and eat it too. In other words, you can't act against this person, however not make political waves, or avoid any risk of consequences against yourself.

She has to be ready to rock the boat and stand up for herself, which, from what you've told us, hasn't really happened in the past.

2. Abandon Ship

She can choose to hold her tongue, and not make any complaint whatsoever. At that point she can start looking for a new job, and hopefully get a decent reference from her boss. Parting with the company on amicable terms may suit her better in the long run than rocking the boat.

I don't know if she could request a transfer to a different office/branch, but she could potentially try that as well.

Unfortunately this is one of those situations where you either stand up for yourself and make a ruckus, or you bow your head and make your way to the exit. Good luck to her!

  • Thank you for your valuable input. I guess she'll just part her way with the company, but it's frustrating to let event like these go unnoticed just to have your reputation untarnished until next job. – Developer Nov 26 '15 at 20:45
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My country is much the same in that complaints are usually dealt with by sitting both parties down together and forcing them to apologise to each other. Even escalating is often a wasted effort. Particularly when it is a women against a man scenario. So I'm going to answer from that perspective although I know I'll get a lot of downvotes, it does work.

There are two ways to deal with this

One is to escalate immediately and go through the whole HR, make a fuss routine and perhaps get something more than an apology accomplished.

Secondly, explain what happened to a male relative and let them deal with it. I'm unsure on the Middle East, but in my culture this is an acceptable way of dealing with the issue and we have a traditional formal apology system that has to be gone through to mean anything, rather than just a insincere verbal one in a supervisors office. Failure to apologise 'properly' justifies pretty much anything short of homicide.

The sort of men who do this are cowards at heart, the mere mention of a husband or brother at the front desk asking to see them will usually ensure it never happens again.

  • Unexpected answer, but interesting. Just out of curiosity: What culture is the "my culture" you refer to? – sleske Nov 27 '15 at 7:46
  • @sleske he mentions Ukraine in his profile, so I'm guessing in or near there. – Móż Nov 27 '15 at 8:58
  • @sleske if you're asking me, I'm Polynesian, from an independent country in the Pacific, I've never been anywhere near Eastern Europe. We tend to be direct in protecting our women and our laws/protocols reflect this. – Kilisi Nov 27 '15 at 9:30
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    @Kilisi: Yes, of course. However, personally I would be hesitant to intervene directly if my wife had a conflict at work, both because I would be an outsider there (and thus not know the details of the conflict), and because it might undermine her position, by suggesting she cannot stand up for herself. Still, I would try helping any way I could. Anyway, getting off-topic. Thanks for the insight. – sleske Nov 27 '15 at 12:42
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    I actually wrote that exact suggestion at the bottom of my answer, then edited it out because I didn't feel it would be well received on this forum. Good on you for saying what some of us were thinking. I'm Romanian, originally, and I can tell you that back home if you dare threaten someone's sister/girlfriend like that the thug would probably regret it very soon. – AndreiROM Nov 27 '15 at 23:59
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The problem of your friend is not the bully. The problem of your friend are the supervisors. I would wait till Monday and complain about my direct supervisor that he seems to be unable to create a stable peaceful working environment which the latest incident merely proves.

Putting the focus on the bully will not solve the problem. Put the focus on your direct supervisor and his duty as supervisor and man to protect you.

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