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I recently transferred to a different location within my company, which caused changes to my title and duties.

The role in question is a programmer role that involves communicating with the end users the changes he has made.

The team member who was promoted into the position is extremely difficult to talk to due to his negative attitude and racist comments to others in the workplace. In the past, he has had several complaints lodged against him, however he is essentially exempt from discipline as he babysits for our direct manager.

The programmer recently made a large change to our system and many users do not understand the change. They've been reaching out to me for answers to avoid working with this programmer.

I can now be disciplined for answering their questions (this has happened already), even though I still have visibility to the coding changes.

Unfortunately, I'm unable to go to my manager due to their special relationship. Note that my relationship is strained with my manager due to ethical issues outside of this situation.

How do I go about getting the end users to communicate directly with the programmer?

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    After reading comments, can you tell us where this all is happening? I would really like to know in which country an employee can make racist insults to customers and not be fired. – gnasher729 Jul 19 '17 at 16:36
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    Not related to the question you're asking, but do these complaints always go to the direct manager? Do you have an HR person you can involve, or complain to the manager's boss? – David K Jul 19 '17 at 17:07
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    HR are not going to do anything until you tell them there's a problem – HorusKol Jul 19 '17 at 21:31
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    @gnasher729 It really depends on the comment. We have a problem in the U.S. where even expressing an opinion contrary to a minority person's is called racist, sexist, what have you. E.g., opponents of Obama are not infrequently categorized as racist without much consideration of their actual reasons. – jpmc26 Jul 20 '17 at 0:54
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    -1 Since tis very unclear who has what role. I just realized(still guessing) That the there is another person that took over your position, you are refering to. Just got that after reading answers but not from your question. – Zaibis Jul 20 '17 at 5:56
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How do I go about getting the end users to communicate directly with the programmer?

Subject: RE: Question

Hi End User,

Mr. X is in charge of the product now. Please contact him directly.

Best Regards

My Name


It's not your problem that they don't want to talk to Mr. X. Your boss told you in no uncertain terms that he does not want you to talk to them. Keep it simple. Don't talk to them.

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    Thanks for your input on this! This is actually something I tried with a couple of the users. Those users told me that they will not talk to him specifically due to the derogatory language he used towards their race (this was likely over the phone, I'm not sure if he even knows they are of that particular ethnicity). I've asked them to go to my manager directly, but he has not responded to them as far as I'm aware. – HazyKingdom Jul 19 '17 at 14:29
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    @HazyKingdom I sympathize with your users, I really do. And I get wanting to help them avoid racist comments from your employee. But if you want to keep your job (I hope you're job hunting, quite frankly) you have to keep telling them that you can't help them. – BSMP Jul 19 '17 at 14:30
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    @HazyKingdom Then give them the phone number of your boss if they want to complain. Even customers don't get to pick an employee of their choice to communicate with. Either they go through proper channels... or they don't. But you have to make sure that they don't go though you. – nvoigt Jul 19 '17 at 14:32
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    ^^^^ This. Boss protects him from having to change how he deals with end users. Boss says you don't answer their questions. Boss supervises the programmer and makes the rules about who can talk to end users. End users go to the boss if they have concerns or complaints. Plus, part of the issue is that you can't raise the topic with boss. This way, you don't have to - the boss has to deal with it. – PoloHoleSet Jul 19 '17 at 14:35
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    If someone is unusually persistent after you tell them that, then tell them your boss has specifically forbidden you to do this work. – HLGEM Jul 19 '17 at 14:38
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From one of your comments:

Those users told me that they will not talk to him specifically due to the derogatory language he used towards their race. I've asked them to go to my manager directly, but he has not responded to them as far as I'm aware.

You have a responsibility to the company to raise the flag high and loud.

This co-worker has made racist remarks to a customer! You absolutely need to escalate that to your manager (get it in an email from the customer and forward it to your manager), the special relationship be damned.

If your manager doesn't actually handle the situation (preferably by firing the customer-insulting programmer), forward the email you sent to your manager to his manager. Continue until action has been taken or you've sent it to the CEO.


In the meantime, start looking for another job. Life is too short to put up with unethical, dysfunctional management. (If the company responds appropriately/professionally to the issue, e.g. fires the programmer, you can cancel the job search).


This will likely ruffle feathers and could lead to discipline for you. It is my firm opinion that it is better to get in trouble for doing the right thing than to do the wrong thing and/or allow others to continue doing the wrong thing.

  • Thanks for your feedback! I've already made HR aware of this situation on several occasions in years past. The HR Department recently underwent a complete rebuild and after filing my last complaint I was essentially disciplined for the complaint (not providing evidence, not going to my manager initially). This was probably a factor in my request to transfer (not the main one though). While I don't mind the punishment, I can't be fired from this job due to personal obligations. Additionally, my salary package is unobtainable outside of this position. – HazyKingdom Jul 19 '17 at 15:00
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    @HazyKingdom When forwarding the email to your manager (as recommended in this answer), I'd just opt for something along the lines of "Please advise on how you'd like me to handle this". Do not bring in your own opinion or thoughts into it. Your manager doesn't want you to help them and they don't want to go to the other employee, this is something your manager needs to sort out. This is a delicate issue that you really don't want to be in the middle of. – Dukeling Jul 19 '17 at 15:21
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    @HazyKingdom If your previous complaints were ignored because you didn't provide evidence, then get some evidence. Next time an end user tells you that they don't want to talk to Bob because he makes racist comments, ask that they email you or your boss with those complaints so that you have it in writing. If this person is bad enough that your customers are trying to avoid him, then he is harming the company and needs to be dealt with. – David K Jul 19 '17 at 17:31
  • @DavidK This is a really good tip! I wish I had thought of this while I was on the phone ... – HazyKingdom Jul 19 '17 at 19:38
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    @HazyKingdom at this point I would stay out of it. Don't get involved at all, you won't get anything out of it. Just keep referring the users to the route they should take and maybe guide them. – Pieter B Jul 20 '17 at 8:49

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