I am working in a small company. I met a man there and we started a relationship. We worked in the same position but in different teams. The relationship started smoothly but after three months he began to criticize me about work.


  • Your assignment is useless.
  • You and your boss should stop doing that project.
  • You cannot manage your time and workload.
  • You don't know, that's the right answer. (When he asked me to explain about the research I was doing. He repeatedly asked the same question until I snapped saying that I don't know and it's still an assumption.)
  • New assignment? Let her(me) do it. She likes hard work.
  • They (my bosses) are taking advantage of you.

And the most painful that causes me a C-PTSD;

  • Try harder. But you will fail.

There were other comments but they weren't work-related.

I hardly said anything back simply because I thought fighting was troublesome. I just ignored his comments, except sometimes I told him that a job was a job. I am hard-working and I am proud of my working ability. No one, including, my bosses ever criticize my work. I felt very depressed.

When I was fed up, I told him he shouldn't say those things to me, personal matters or work-related. He said he was just kidding and no one would get angry over these comments. He said I was too serious and too sensitive, too childish. He said I had no experience of a real world.

Of course, we broke up. But I was forced to believe that everything about being nice was wrong. That I had to endure bitter comments to be a grown-up. He never apologised and blamed me for not dropping my attitude.

I sought help from a HR manager. I told her the situation. She promised she would warn my ex but there was no punishment or anything. He still sat beside me, talked to me as if there was nothing happen except that he kept his comments to himself.

I had flashbacks and panic attacks at work but I endured. I just went for a walk if I couldn't sit there. I eventually sought professional help. When I asked the HR manager if I could tell my boss (about taking a break and going to hospital), she said she would tell my boss for me. But she never did.

I am confused. I'm sure what I experienced is workplace bullying. Or was it just my personal issue. Did the HR person stop me from reporting the incidents?

I knew she didn't want to lose an employee. But what should we do in this kind of situation, then? Would it be not so professional, if I just reported it to my boss.

Edit: I just want to update. Thanks everyone who suggested talking with the HR again. I talked to her that I'd tell my boss about the leave and work schedule. This time, I was surprised that she said I could tell him my situation.

So I talked to my boss. He's heard about the impolite remarks for sometimes. The managers are dealing with it. He didn't know that I had been targeted too. He told me I should report to him sooner because those comments weren't good things to throw around the office. Every team and every project is eqaully important. If someone else has any complaint about any project, tell them to talk directly to the managers. He apologised and said it's ok to take sick leave to go to the hospital. He didn't notice that my performance had dropped due to stress. And we discussed how I could work with no contact with my ex. I said I could handle work-related conversation. Finally he thanked me for not leaving.

I was lucky that my boss understood. My problem was gone now although I still have to go to the therapy. Maybe talking isn't an option for the other companies. It works for mine. If you encountered the same problem and you wanted to talk, please take many advices below that you need to do it calmly.

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  • did you go back to HR and inform him/her nothing has changed? – Keltari Jul 21 '16 at 2:27
  • @Keltari Something had changed. He couldn't talk badly to me anymore because the HR told him to stop. But he still teased everybody else. For example, telling his co-worker that they are fat. Even the HR was teased about her weight. I felt depressed every time I heard that because I knew the man who was sitting beside me hadn't changed. I talked to HR for a second time when I wanted to take a day-off so that I could go to a therapy. – lw29 Jul 21 '16 at 2:43
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    @lw29 Comments made to other employees can still be offensive even if they're not directed at you. Speak to HR about it if someone's behavior is affecting you; regardless of whether it's intended to offend. Perception is more important than intention. – Rawrskyes Jul 21 '16 at 4:05
  • The HR might have already given him some sort of warning that's why now everything is fine,it is not necessary they will tell you what action they took,but if Everything is fine now ,no need to take it to boss and again ignite the situation, If you face any problem in future you can go to boss or HR again. – Friendy Jul 21 '16 at 6:18
  • @Rawskyes Thank you. When someone uses obscence words, it could be offensive for the surrounding people as well. The problem is, not everybody feels offended and the ones who feel offended will likely be seen as too sensitive. – lw29 Jul 21 '16 at 7:06

One of ten thousand stories about why you shouldn't date who you work with.

If he's not teasing you, there's little HR can do. If you are having "flashbacks" because of things in the past, that's your issue. It's not his, and it's not HR's. From what you said, the behavior you wanted stopped has stopped.

I don't understand why you feel there should have been some sort of punishment. HR is not a court. They are there to manage the staff for the employer. You had a problem, they addressed it, and by your own admission, the problem stopped. They have done their job.

I am glad you are seeing a therapist. It shows you understand you need some help in dealing with this situation. If you truly do have PTSD, then there was a lot more in your personal relationship than you've conveyed, here. If you are just throwing that term out there to make your plight seem more than it is, I'd encourage you to stop. I have several people in my family who have been diagnosed with PTSD: Soldiers and paramedics who have both seen people they knew as friends in more pieces than they were supposed to be. It's not anything to dismiss or to use flippantly.

The only other choice I see for you is to try to find another position in the company where you work separately from your ex.

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  • Thank you for the comment. I really need the others' POV. I never talk about this at work except to the HR. I even asked her if I could talk to my boss about it and that I would take a day-off. She told me not to. I was diagnosed having C-PTSD from verbal abuse. It's not the same thing as PTSD. I was lucky I noticed that I was abused and got out of the situation. When I told the HR, I told her only work-related issues. My problem with him stopped. But he didn't stop his behaviour just changing the target. No one reported on him yet, like I didn't before until I couldn't stand it anymore – lw29 Jul 21 '16 at 4:01
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    I think this is best handled between you and your therapist, now. There's little the company can do since 1) He has stopped this behavior towards you, and 2) This issue is significantly due to non-work interactions. I sympathize for your situation. It may still be worth trying to move positions within your company, if possible. You should discuss this with your therapist. Their advice is much more to be trusted than an Internet stranger's (me). – Wesley Long Jul 21 '16 at 4:07
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    I am suggesting that: 1) You distance yourself. Don't try to play "Social Justice Warrior" against him. It will come across as petty and vindictive. You may not like how he acts, but it's not your role in life to punish/challenge/fix him. 2) Focus on YOU getting better. Work with your therapist on this. Your therapist should be your compass, right now. – Wesley Long Jul 21 '16 at 4:12
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    That is specific to your company's policies and your locality's laws. That is a question for HR. I would hope your workplace would be sympathetic to this. You may have to share your diagnosis with HR, but not necessarily the cause of it. Your therapist may have experience here. You can ask your therapist about that? You could also ask about "flex-time" to make those hours up, depending on your job. – Wesley Long Jul 21 '16 at 4:26
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    I don't think you should expect HR to tell your boss about your need for sick leave (or flex time) to accommodate treatment. That is your responsibility. You can work with HR and your therapist on exactly what to say to the boss. – Patricia Shanahan Jul 21 '16 at 12:08

I'm sure what I experienced is work-place bullying.

So let me get this straight. You sought out a relationship at work. For predictable, dare I say textbook, reasons said relationship didn't work out. And now you want to report your ex for bullying when all he's doing is merely existing? I don't have to say this on here often, but you need to grow up. Part of being a professional adult is keeping your personal life and your work life separate. The reason why relationships at work are universally discouraged is that so few people actually know how to do that. Regardless, the only professional thing to do here is to set your feelings aside and treat your ex as you would any other colleague that you dislike: professionally. Keep your distance and don't interact with him unless it's necessary but don't ignore him either. It's fine to react coldly but you need to remain courteous.

But what should we do in this kind of situation, then?

I'm not sure who you think the "we" is in this situation, but you need to deal with it or find another job. You created this problem and it's on you to handle it.

Would it be not so professional if I just reported it to my boss.

It would signal your immaturity, your inability to deal with people professionally or handle interpersonal conflict, and your sense of entitlement and lack of understanding of social norms in the workplace. You can't expect your manager to solve a personal problem of this nature when you created it. If an abusive ex of yours was applying for a job in your company it would be entirely reasonable to mention that you'd be uncomfortable working with him and a correct management response would be to not hire that person. But this situation is entirely on you and your inability to handle a breakup. The only reasonable actions your manager could take here is:

  • shift your responsibilities/tasks so they overlap less with your ex
  • transition you to another team or department away from your ex
  • tell you that he expects you to deal with it
  • set up a plan to transition you out of the company

It doesn't sound like your work actually overlaps with your ex to begin with so that's not even an option. And in many companies it also wouldn't be reasonable or possible to do either of the first two options. That basically leaves: deal with it or leave.

And that's simply the risk you take when you start a relationship at work. If the relationship breaks down you need to be prepared to deal with the fallout professionally (i.e. invisibly) or one of you needs to leave.

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    Thank you for the comment. But he criticised me at work, about work, challenged me about the project I was assigned to, told me that me and my boss (who was also his boss) both were doing something useless and his project was more important to the company. I didn't understand why these kind of comments shouldn't be categorised as workplace bullying. Because we were in relationship so he could talk badly to me about work at work? A grown-up won't be rude to others regardless of whom they are. We broke up since I told him he was bullying and it wasn't good. I didn't use the word only after that. – lw29 Jul 21 '16 at 11:00
  • If he was cheating on me, yes, that would be my personal issue which he didn't do. He should have treated me professionally too by not talking badly about other people's work. I asked him to stop, he said why, because saying that "you and the boss are both idiots" was just a teasing. Who wants to work in this kind of environment? – lw29 Jul 21 '16 at 11:15
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    "Because we were in relationship so he could talk badly to me about work at work" And there you have another reason why relationships complicate "he said / she said" matters. No one will take your complaints seriously if they suspect they're simply the product of a bad breakup that you're visibly not handling well. And note that critical remarks aren't the same as bullying. You'd do well to look up the definition for your country/state before you throw those terms around. Finally, by your own admission he completely stopped any form of criticism so that matter can be considered closed. – Lilienthal Jul 21 '16 at 13:25
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    What is it you want to happen? He was kind of a jerk, and made some hurtful comments that devalued your work. That doesn't make him a "workplace bully", just a lousy boyfriend and an unpleasant coworker. But, both halves of the relationship are resolved. You are no longer dating, and you complained to HR, they asked him to stop, and he stopped. End of story. Your profound reaction ("PTSD" and inability to function at work) are personal issues, and fortunately you are getting help. But from an HR standpoint, there is nothing else required. To continue to reprimand him would be harassment. – MealyPotatoes Jul 21 '16 at 16:57
  • @Lilienthal Critical remarks are ok. I got it from my ex-boss from time to time. It never offended me and it was useful. Repeatedly being called 'useless' from a co-worker who isn't even working with me is offensive. I silently tried to think other ways for three months before I talked to him. He said the comments were fine so I had to ask the HR to intervene. Until now, I've talked to the HR twice. No one else knows. I am dealing with it very quietly. There is an opening issue whice is I need to tell my boss about the leave I will take once a month. She told me not to. – lw29 Jul 21 '16 at 17:10

Lilienthal's answer is great. One additional thing: you complained that you still have to sit by him at work. If sitting by him is causing you distress, then it is probably fine to respectfully ask that your desk be moved. Don't use emotionally charged words like "bully" or "PTSD". Just tell your boss, "[Coworker] and I dated briefly, and had an unpleasant breakup. Our desks are still side by side. Although I will, of course, keep working with him professionally as my job requires, I'd prefer not to sit by him if possible. Would it be possible for him or me to relocate to a different desk?"

If boss says "no", then that sucks, but it's time to move on. Either start looking for a new job, or find a way to make it work.

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  • Thank you for the advice. I haven't said anything about that before. I still work with him if needed but I feel depressed thinking about what he said about my project. I would ask my boss for his consideration – lw29 Jul 21 '16 at 17:33
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    I missed that they were still sitting near each other, this is a good way to bring this up and at the same time assuage some of the possible concerns the manager may have. I'd only recommend against doing this if the manager were unaware of the relationship. – Lilienthal Jul 22 '16 at 10:00

If he's a bully to other people, that's something management will evaluate and deal with. It's not your responsibility, especially since you are admittedly not an unbiased judge. Leave it alone unless and until he is doing something actionable against you.

Beyond that: Calm down. He has only the power over you that you give him. Reread Lillienthal's answer. Living well is the best revenge, if you feel you need revenge. Counselling may help you get a grip on this; it's worth considering.

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  • Thank you for the advice. I leave him alone. I am seeing a therapist. That's why I will take time-offs to see her once a month. I told the HR I'd tell my boss that I have to go to the hospital. She told me not to and she'd tell my boss for me. She hasn't though. So I guess I shouldn't tell my boss but just requesting for sick leave seems not to be ok for a long run. I know what it would look like, that I am ranting, so I haven't talked about it to anyone else. How should I explain to the boss for my monthly leave? Or just tell him I have a health-related problem? – lw29 Jul 21 '16 at 17:27
  • Find out what your company's process is for handling short-term disability. Get doctor's signature and evaluation on the form saying you need that time off. Submit form to manager and HR. Exactly as if you'd had a stroke or some other medical condition that required rehab before returning to work. They will either accept it or not, but it's up to you to start the process. – keshlam Jul 21 '16 at 17:50
  • However, this is starting to drift pretty far from your original question – keshlam Jul 21 '16 at 17:51

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