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I work in a busy warehouse and have been here for 3 years. Approximately 2 months ago we hired a 2nd person, let's call him Bob, to help out. During the first month of his employment, our new employee Bob (who is 55+ years old) threw a tantrum and began yelling and throwing stuff. I approached my boss and let him know that I actually got scared when this happened.

This happened several times and when I went to my boss again I was told to treat Bob as a child. We were then called into a meeting to come to a resolution. This meeting has done nothing, and Bob continues to have tantrums. Last week was the final straw.

I approached my boss again and said I will not deal with Bob any longer and if I need to find another job then so be it. I was then told in a round about way that I should treat him with kid gloves, I responded that I don't coddle, my boss proceeded to ask me what type of people can I work with as I don't know how to deal with people.

The end result was that I am doing more work and get the later shift (not happy about that). Yesterday when I tried to explain something to Bob he had another hissy fit and refused to talk to me. I sent my boss an email asking if he could have a discussion with Bob - from that I got an email back from my boss, with Bob invited to the conversation where he turned it around again to be my issue. With him doing that, it totally made me feel like I was being undermined.

This whole thing is stressing me out and I really can't afford to to quit my job. What should I do?

closed as off-topic by David K, paparazzo, gnat, Masked Man, Michael Grubey Jan 14 '17 at 8:17

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    "Should I get HR involved?" Yes, go talk to them. But be prepared that they may also tell you that you are the one with the problem. – David K Jan 12 '17 at 20:49
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    "I was then told ... that I should treat him with kid gloves." - Why don't you do this? – Brandin Jan 12 '17 at 20:50
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    Unless you are being harassed or can show you are in physical danger this is not an HR issue. So it is not comfortable for you. Your boss has told you to deal with it. VTC – paparazzo Jan 12 '17 at 21:15
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    Rereading this again, I would start looking for work anyway. You've complained repeatedly after your boss told you (also repeatedly) how to handle it. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if they're not getting ready to let you go already. In your boss' eyes, you're the one being difficult and as you were told (in their eyes) you can't work with people. I'd find a job and leave before you get fired yourself. – Chris E Jan 12 '17 at 22:00
  • Start looking elsewhere for employment. It sounds like this guy may require the police rather than human resources! I'm sorry, but he sounds like a possibly dangerous mental case. It seems you have a really lousy manager and management team. – Inquisitive Jan 13 '17 at 1:08
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Your boss is protecting Bob, and Bob is likely in a "protected class." If Bob is, then your boss is legally prohibited from telling you, even if you are confused. If he has a physical or mental disability, all you are going to do is get yourself fired.

Try the kid gloves method, you've got nothing to lose, aside from a place in the unemployment line.

From what you post, I think you may need to examine your own actions.

  • Are you the only one getting into conflicts with Bob? - Do you have a bad record in dealing with people?
  • Are you known to be difficult?
  • Do you have a reputation of being hard on people?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you need to change your own behavior or get out.

What makes me tend to think that the problem lies with you was your response "I don't coddle". That's a big red flag to me because it tells me, and probably told your boss that you are inflexible.

The fact that your boss told you to treat him like a child is more of an indication that he may have some sort of mental disability. You're not going to win this fight. Learn to deal with people who are different, or find someplace else to work.

  • Please explain why Len is protected or how you inferred that. – user42272 Jan 12 '17 at 22:56
  • Maybe I'm not understanding your first sentence. Is the first "protected" of different meaning than the second, or does it just mean some entity (the law, company, etc.) is automatically on his side? If so is that only because he likely belongs to a protected class? It's a good hunch but again I'm just not quite following the logic. – user42272 Jan 12 '17 at 22:59
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    Len is being protected by the boss, that much is obvious. Reread the OP, All complaints are being rebuffed. Richard then explains why he is probably in a protected class, because of how he was told to treat him like a child. If the person has a disorder, the boss is legally prohibited from sharing anything about it, even to the point to saying, "there's something about him I can't discuss". – Chris E Jan 12 '17 at 23:05
  • @ChristopherEstep thanks, I edited first sentence and added bit about the gag rule. – user42272 Jan 12 '17 at 23:09
  • If you want to keep your job (i.e. you like it in general), and feel that the company also wants to keep you, you can treat this as an additional responsibility you've been given, and ask if there's a chance of getting training to handle your new tasks better. Don't be surprised if this turns into a teambuilding training involving both you and Bob. – Michael Schumacher Jan 13 '17 at 8:30
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You can, but I wouldn't. I'd just find a new job and then leave. Your boss will feel betrayed because you went to HR after he told you to handle it and it will get worse from there. In other words, I don't think there's any positive way this can end for you.

I'm not a lawyer but creating a "hostile work environment" could leave them exposed legally and HR will do what it takes to prevent that. Unfortunately, the easiest way to do that would be to inform your boss who then finds a way to let you go. Let me share with you some thoughts on HR that I've used in other questions and it'll explain why I feel this way.

HR is not your friend

One of the main purposes of an HR department is to protect the company from its employees, not the other way around. I'm not suggesting that HR is necessarily adversarial with the employees or that they're against the employees at all. But they are going to be loyal only to the company. That's why they exist.

One common failing (and I used to have it as well) is that we believe that HR is somehow there to protect us. It's normal to think that because it's what we're always told during onboarding and in handbooks, etc. We're told repeatedly that we can always talk to HR if we have a problem with our supervisor. Sometimes it's even implied (though rarely actually stated) that talking to HR will be held as confidential. That's simply a lie.

What HR will hold confidential is whatever it benefits the company to hold confidential. These would include allegations of fraud or sexual harassment or other discrimination. But don't think they're keeping it confidential because of something they owe you. They do it to protect the company so they can deal with nasty situations quietly and without outside interference. The only reason they don't fire you for bringing stuff up like that is because they can't anymore. Notice I said "anymore" because that used to be standard until laws stopped them.

Which brings us to your particular situation. Unless you're telling HR something that your manager or someone else has done that's illegal or a massive violation of a written policy, you can count on HR to tell everyone involved. There is no expectation of privacy with HR because HR represents the company. HR IS the company.

I'm sorry if this seems like a cynical answer but it is not. It is based on decades of experience and while I'm certain there may be some company somewhere that has HR acting as advocates or true mediators, what I'm telling you here is 30 years of experience in 100% of the cases.

In most cases, going to HR with a complaint doesn't end well. All they will do is set up another meeting with your boss and this guy and your boss will be severely pissed and it'll hurt you in the long term and possibly short term.

As I said, the company (i.e. the boss) has told you what to do. You really can't do much else, so you need to deal with it or look for work and then leave.

It might not be how things are supposed to work, but it's how things work out here in Realville.

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    You should put that HR is not your friend part into the community wiki +1 – Retired Codger Jan 12 '17 at 21:45
  • @RichardU you really shouldn't, it's an obsessive truism on communities like this and I don't want to encourage any more groupthink than we already have. – user42272 Jan 12 '17 at 22:55
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    @djechlin obsessive truism? if it were a truism, I wouldn't have to keep saying it. And what is an obsessive truism anyway? Are you thinking of different words perhaps? – Chris E Jan 12 '17 at 23:02
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    @ChristopherEstep it's more like a truism beloved by the people who generally write answers in this community toward people who generally receive answers in this community. I've certainly witnessed situations where of course HR would help the employee constructively deal with a difficult situation. So I am fully in favor of people who would like to give that advice to have to think it about it and type out what they mean and why it applies. – user42272 Jan 12 '17 at 23:16
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    "Never go to HR", "Don't accept a counteroffer", "Don't quit until you already have another offer", "Don't have social relationships at work" are the commandments I have identified on workplace.SE so far. Usually if one of them is the answer, there will be 8 other answers repeating it. For reference here's my short writeup of non-nefarious things HR does for you workplace.stackexchange.com/a/81829/42272. (Obviously this is all sidetracked -- I did not vote on this answer but more or less agree HR has no positive use here as far as I see.) – user42272 Jan 12 '17 at 23:22
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You would go to HR if you feel your boss seriously mishandled the situation with you. But he has managed your situation with your coworker with command, and you stand nothing to benefit by involving HR as something like a third party to a problem you ought to be handling with your boss. From the information I personally see, the end result will be that they side with your boss, and you are right back where you started, only with a soured relationship with your boss.

As it stands, your boss told you to coddle your coworker and you are refusing to do that. Your job description now includes "coddling." You may not like to hear this but that is a totally reasonable expectation of your boss to give to you. If you don't like it, you can quit, but you will be quitting because you don't like how your boss told you to handle the situation; not because your boss didn't handle the situation.

You might feel like your boss is abetting a hostile work environment in which case you will have cause to go to HR, but at this point you are essentially relying on the law to protect you from your workplace, which is a situation employees generally do not want to be in. If you do need to escalate this far, sadly I will not have much advice for how best to proceed but I hope you keep researching and find a good answer :)

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If you have an acquaintance who needs a job, now is a good time to put their name forward to your boss as a replacement to Bob.

Having said that, HR does not get involved unless you can point to a violation of company policy or a violation of the law. Are Bob's tantrums creating a working environment that's threatening to you? Given how Bob turned the situation around the last time you had a meeting with him and your boss, I am not confident in your ability to make your case. His behavior should have sunk him. Why did it not sink him? It should have been an open and shut case. What did he say that allowed him to walk away from the incident he had created? Because he may very well say the same thing to HR, and get away with it. I am also troubled by your boss's opinion that you don't know how to work with people. It's not clear to me at this point what's triggering Bob's temper tantrums. it's not clear to me whether Bob started having tantrums on Day One on the job or whether his tantrums are a recent phenomenon. Or whether his tantrums are with you or with everyone?

You are not telling everything. I am getting a hunch that there is more to this story than your narrative.

  • How often is it a good idea to encourage your boss to fire your coworker? – user42272 Jan 13 '17 at 17:24
  • @djechlin - If you were my co-worker and you are giving me a headache, I'll be pretty sure to take care of my headache by having my boss get me rid of you. Don't give me a headache. – Vietnhi Phuvan Jan 13 '17 at 17:39
  • In bluntest terms you are confusing you with your boss. And you are about to give your boss a headache -- how well do you think that's going to work out for you? – user42272 Jan 14 '17 at 1:12
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I will try to put this as clearly as I can: If you cannot afford to quit your job, then do what your boss tells you.

My bigger question is, why can't you? If you found the job you have, chances are you can find another.

You also seem to contradict yourself since you say, "if I need to find another job then so be it." Well, do it. If "kid gloves" is not going to work for you, then find another job.

Should you go to HR? No, because chances are they will side with your boss and not you. It's your problem to solve and if you can't adapt or fight it, the only option is to escape. Which may not be a bad thing.

There is no such thing as not being able to afford to quit a job. There is such a thing as not being able to afford not having a job. So I recommend to update your CV, and start applying for same or higher level positions. The worst case is you won't get any interviews and will have to tough it out a while longer as you continue your search. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Good luck!

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