I work as a computer programmer in a medium-sized, Russian IT company. I had a conflict with a colleague, Bob, where he physically attacked me.

A few months ago, the colleague returned from obligatory military service in the airborne forces. He became somewhat aggressive to put it mildly. Today, two of my colleagues and I talked about correct pronunciation. It turned into an argument. Bob and I exchanged some insulting words. He immediately approached me and began to strangle me. No way he was joking. I tapped the table begging him to stop and he released me. I was not injured except for barely noticeable scratches on my neck. There wasn't enough harm to call the police.

There was a witness - a colleague who saw everything. Although the colleague who attacked me has been slightly aggressive lately, it was very strange for him to act like that. I think it was a spike of uncontrolled anger. I did not correct his pronunciation. We just had different opinions on the topic. We argued. He threatened to beat me. I answered: "dare you!". That triggered him.

What is my action plan in this situation? Should I file some complaint to the manager or rather seek for some ways to resolve the conflict myself?

Update: Although everything described sounds like a terrible situation that should not have happened at all, it is not so dramatic. I don't condone physical assault and cannot imagine myself behaving like he did. Bob and I have worked with each other for several years. I wouldn't go filing complaints etc. He's not the person who deserves it, though all of us were shocked by what happened.

In the end, Bob and I talked and explained the reasons for our actions. We stayed with our opinions and shook hands.

I appreciate all of your answers. In other circumstances going through all the formal procedures would be a necessary measure.

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    I don't know where you are, but here in the USA he's way past the line of a criminal matter, although your conduct certainly didn't help. Jul 5, 2017 at 1:10
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    If you still have the scratches on your neck, it could be a good idea to let a doctor see them, to have a medical evidence of injuries, even if they are small. Basically in case this issue escalates badly and you end in a court. Also, document everything.
    – Purrrple
    Jul 5, 2017 at 8:13
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Jane S
    Jul 5, 2017 at 21:48
  • Are you all <16 years old?
    – minseong
    Jul 6, 2017 at 13:01
  • Your behaviour is admirable but what if he assaults someone else next time? Wouldn't you feel guilty that you didn't do something to prevent his actions? The reason to tell HR is not to land him trouble but to hopefully get him help with his anger issues.
    – camden_kid
    Jul 7, 2017 at 8:51

6 Answers 6


I would try and resolve it myself first by talking directly to the chap and telling him it is unacceptable. He already knows this.

I would quietly mention it to my manager so that he knows it happened but I wouldn't make a big formal deal out of it. Just inform the manager so if there ever is a next time I have prior evidence of bullying.

The manager should take it upon themselves to have a quiet word with the guy and probably it will all blow over. If it becomes a formal issue, then no one wins, you all become the drama of the moment. If I was the guy who lost his temper at you and you didn't throw me under the bus I'd tiptoe around you for a while and feel pretty ashamed of myself.

It's up to you though, if you feel this will be ongoing threatening behaviour then by all means throw him under the bus and reverse over him a few times. But unless you feel it's a constant threat then it's best to deal with this internally and calmly, everyone from your manager to the perpetrator will appreciate it.

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    Thank you! You are quite right. I took into account the advises to notify managers/HR. But I am not eager to make a big formal deal out of it.
    – Misha
    Jul 4, 2017 at 23:10
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    It may well be ongoing behavior. The description given sounds like a severe form of PTSD, and this is to a certain extent out of control for this person. That guy needs a doctor, this most probably won't go away by itself.
    – Thern
    Jul 6, 2017 at 10:01
  • @Misha have you considered the probability that Bob is developing a mental health problem?
    – minseong
    Jul 6, 2017 at 13:02
  • Ok, but I would still recommend that you send your informal request by email to the manager at the very least. In it, you can ask your manager not to make the complaint formal, not to make this part of his permanent record, and to handle the matter privately with him. The point is to get this recorded and to print out a copy that you keep at home for your personal records. Because if tomorrow, you find the tires of your car slashed because the manager spoke to him, or if you suddenly get fired for an "unrelated" reason never previously mentioned, you'll need a record of what came just before. Jul 6, 2017 at 22:06

It seems like a somewhat obvious answer here should be to notify your manager, as well as HR, immediately.

This kind of behavior is unacceptable in most workplaces, and of course if you're not okay with it, it's pertinent to bring it to your manager's attention.

Find out what policies your company may already have in writing on this kind of activity.

I'm not sure where you're from, but there's not a specific 'amount of harm' that you need to endure in order to call the police or file a complaint in many places. Assault is illegal, regardless of the extent.

Proving you've been assaulted may be difficult, so it would be easier to prove this if you had other coworkers around that saw this happen, or if it was caught on a video camera (if your work has these recording things in the workplace for example).

Also, if I were you, I'd send this coworker that's acting this way towards you an email (so you have it in writing), possibly even CC'ing your manager/HR, directly stating what happened and that you're not okay with it, and that you'd like for it to stop.

I've personally been in a situation similar to this, though not nearly as severe as yours, and after one (albeit awkward) email to the person in question as well as the manager, they more or less stopped all non-essential contact with me.

It's possible this person has no idea that what they're doing is offensive, so it's important to communicate this to him, but it's also important to bring these types of issues up to management. This is very likely not the type of behavior they want their employees subjected to.

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    Thank you! The letter with CC to the manager/HR is a good idea. Actually there was a witness - a colleague who saw everything. He even rushed to help me but I'd been already released by that moment.
    – Misha
    Jul 4, 2017 at 22:22
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    Be prepared to involve the police, no matter what happens. When I was a teenager, working part time for a very large American company, I witnessed one employee sexually assaulting another, and immediately notified the on-duty manager. The eventual outcome was that the store owner decided that the attacker was a more valuable employee, and the victim was fired. I have spent nearly 30 years regretting that I didn't take matters further at the time. Jul 5, 2017 at 9:43
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    Big +1 to this answer, particularly in the value of having this in writing. Email has the extra benefit of having a built-in timestamp and distribution list, and (if your manager/coworker responds to the message) an easy way to show the message was read/acknowledged. This is also an avenue to take that is less formal than an official HR report but more trackable than an in-person conversation. Jul 6, 2017 at 4:08

As a Russian software engineer, I would like to comment from the perspective of a local.

This is unacceptable.
Laws don't always work the way they should in this country, so I wouldn't be surprised if the manager tries to resolve this situation let it slide. However, this does depend on the companies policies.

Personally, I would tell the manager that I expect him to fire your college, after which I would report the incident to the police. if the manager does not do anything - report it to the police or tell your manager that you will tell the cops.

Knowing that good developers are in insane demand here in Russia - the risk of having to change your workplace due to a conflict with management should not bother you

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    one problem is the manager might decide the other guy is a more valuable asset than the OP, or may have other connections, I'm not familiar with Russia, but I have seen people blatantly in the wrong get away with things while the guy in the right is shown the door in other countries.
    – Kilisi
    Jul 5, 2017 at 7:38
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    @Kilisi : welcome to the wonderful world of public administration, academics, and companies in many countries :) but great point, worth mentioning and that we should always keep in mind before taking any action +1
    – OldPadawan
    Jul 5, 2017 at 7:44
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    @Kilisi That's a concern to have but if the employee know he can get work elsewhere then that should not be an issue. One is better off anyway.
    – Jonast92
    Jul 5, 2017 at 13:54

A few months ago, the colleague returned from obligatory military service in the airborne forces.

Being in the military service might have affected him. There are 2 options as of what you can do right here:

  • Let authorities know and report the incidents to your manneger and HR.
  • There are (also in Russia) support groups who help people with aggressive behavior, from bad experiences with the military service. Let them help him, maybe you will have a thankful colleague afterwards.

In the end it's up to you. The solution given from @schizoid04 what states

I'd send this coworker that's acting this way towards you an email (so you have it in writing), possibly even CC'ing your manager/HR, directly stating what happened and that you're not okay with it, and that you'd like for it to stop.

Would in my opinion also work out.


Was there a witness to the strangling? Why would he strangle you? Were you correcting his pronunciation?

Personally, I would still have filed a police report (even retroactively).

Even if you started it by teasing him/criticizing him, that doesn't matter. He crossed the line. I would still file a police report. And if the policeman refused to take my report, I would escalate to the supervisor of the policeman.

By not calling/going to the police, you've shown this individual that it's ok to escalate to physical violence. Do it now. It doesn't matter. Do it anytime he does something to you.

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    Reporting the incident to the police accomplishes something else too: if this guy persists in assaulting his coworkers, either you or someone else, the police will have a history and an established pattern of behavior.
    – Dan C
    Jul 5, 2017 at 17:04

I personally experienced a situation similar to this, only I was being pushed to the ground while my arms were full of objects. I immediately got up and gave chase, but stopped and reported the behavior.

The other person wrote to corp that night and the next day we were both terminated. In the US the policy is to fire both and move on. It may not be fair but they don't want to deal with it and bullying is not illegal.

So you should think hard on how to react and what may or may not happen. Working out a solution and helping person is better approach in my opinion. Actually sounds like you have more resources for this than here.

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    I don't agree at all, even in at-will employment you can't fire someone for a reason which is absolutely bogus. Your logic works if you have two sociopathic drama queens on equal standing and locked in a longtime mutual feud. But if someone is innocent and is basically being assaulted by another, you can't compound their victimhood by firing them too. So it really does matter what their relationship is. Jul 5, 2017 at 20:13
  • In the state of Georgia you can be let go for any reason at any time. It is an at will state. ( as an example ) @Harper
    – Neo
    Jul 6, 2017 at 13:21
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    @MisterPositive you misunderstand "at will" and "any reason". You fire Joe the day after the Pride parade. You fire Adam when he asks for passover off. Jane gets married. Any reason, right? Also, claiming "we fired them for other reasons which are legal - pure coincidence it was the day after they were seen at a Trump rally" won't fly, because every employer pulls that stunt, every time. You bet a fired harassment victim would have a case. Jul 6, 2017 at 13:57
  • @Harper It's not that complicated sadly. In many states, a company does not need or have to provide a reason. The company can simply say "Your services are no longer required", and your out, end of story.
    – Neo
    Jul 6, 2017 at 14:07
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    @misterpositive perhaps my earlier message was too subtle. There are a variety of specific reasons you can never fire someone, race, color, creed, national origin, sexual orientation, marital status, the list goes on and on, and applies regardless of "for any reason, or no reason at all". If they are able to argue that the "any reason" firing was in fact connected to a disallowed reason, you are seriously boned. Jul 6, 2017 at 14:21

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