According to the Attitudes in America Workplace VII study, 15 percent of workers said that a coworker had made them so mad they felt like slapping them. If you’re experiencing threats of abuse or retaliation and are unable or unwilling to quit your job, use these tips to defuse the situation.
Understand the Angry Coworker Dynamic
An estimated 53.5 million Americans are bullied at work, reports the Workplace Bullying Institute. An angry coworker might feel entitled to yell at you in the office, either alone or in front of other people. Unfortunately, many bullied employees get little support from their boss or HR department, as most of the bullies’ actions are legal.
Making complaints may lead the workplace bully to retaliate or to employee privileges being taken away. If the workplace bully quits or gets fired, he may blame and try to retaliate against you. At this point, HR can refuse to take any action because the bully no longer works for the company.
Protect Yourself From Retaliation
If an ex-coworker makes physical threats against you, protect yourself. Park right by the door and ask a coworker to walk you out at night, so you aren’t left alone in the parking lot.
If you’re concerned about a coworker slandering you, read up on your legal rights. If that former coworker tells you off in the parking lot, you don’t have legal recourse. Yet if he tells you off in a client meeting, an email to the whole staff or online, and you can prove his actions damaged your ability to make a living, you can sue. Save any evidence of threatening communication or personal attacks, either by printing them off or taking a screen shot of an online attack.
Ask an attorney to write a cease and desist letter that acknowledges the potential for legal recourse and warns him to knock it off. This may get the ex-coworker to stop. In extreme cases, an order of protection may be necessary.
Monitor Your Online Reputation
Your social standing is vital to your reputation, and an ex-coworker who attacks your social profile can damage your credibility. A former coworker might upload questionable or compromising pictures of you, make disparaging statements or email your clients and lie about your performance.
Don’t give your coworker any fuel for the fire. Tweak your social settings to maximize privacy and remove your ex-coworker from your connections. Consider using areputation monitoring service to monitor what people say about you online and correct any lies. This gives you the upper hand when it comes to false information spread online.
Be honest with clients and colleagues about the situation. Simply say that so-and-so was very angry to be let go, blames you for it and has made disparaging remarks about you, and that you want them to know in case he comes to them. If you remain calm and stick to the facts, you’ll come off as mature and reasonable.