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Susan M. Heathfield

Deal With Coworker's Harassing Behavior

By November 10, 2011

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Reader Question:

"I'm sorry to write to your email, but I am very desperate for advice. One of my co-workers dictates to me what to do. She's been timing my breaks, counts how many times I've been out to have a cigarette, and I feel like she's setting me up to fail.

"She always has her eyes glued to my computer screen while I'm working on paper work. She is not any more superior than I am when it comes to ranks. She talks bad things about me behind my back and she's condescending. I haven't said anything to my boss only because I think it will back fire on me, but my boss has made me aware that this co-worker's after my hours at work because she works a later shift, and she's also told me that the same woman is trying to complain about me taking breaks all the time.

"Currently, we are on a flex break schedule, but my boss is thinking about throwing all of us on a set schedule only because of what this co-worker has said. I haven't had any input but I can't keep quiet for too much longer. Are my co-worker's actions considered harassment? I've worked with HR before but it's been about 6 months since I've had any contact with them because I quit my job. I want to make sure I'm in "the right" about this. Could you give me any tips if it is..."

My Response:

I'm going to post this on my blog and see what my readers say. Each work situation, such as you describe, is different but you have to be able to talk about it with your boss and Human Resources. You may have a formal complaint process in place in your company, too. But, you would need to tell the coworker to stop; that's the first step. Tell the coworker that if the actions don't stop, you plan to go to HR.

I'm sorry your boss doesn't appear to be all that interested in helping. That is troubling to me. I hope my readers have additional advice for you. In many ways your coworker qualifies as a bully and should be treated that way in your efforts to deal with the situation.

Your assistance with this reader's question is appreciated, as always.

Image Dieter Spears

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