Hi everyone,

I'm a longtime listener of Manager and Career Tools, and just listened to this 'cast today. (Excellent one, by the way!) As a high D/I, I'm pretty good at maintaining healthy boundaries and using many of the expressions Wendii and Dani have suggested, but I've had a struggle with one coworker in particular and I'd like a bit of feedback on how to handle such a situation (although this particular point may be moot, since I've just been promoted to management level on another team - no direct reports).

Anyway, first I'll set some context: I work in marketing, and my company in particular is quite young; many folks are in their first job out of college and have some learning to do, which is just fine. However, the company has recently been downsized and as a result, the environment has become incredibly competitive. Everyone is looking for a way to move up in the ranks, and when you add to that a pervasive attitude of entitlement - as an example, one coworker announced loudly to us that she was asking for a 20% increase at review time, "because I know my self-worth" - and you have a hotbed of gossip and backstabbing behaviors which make the atmosphere tense and honestly, not much fun. I steer far clear of all of it as best I can.

However, we've got one teammate who takes misbehavior to an extreme: he openly sleeps at work. And I don't mean just one accidental nodding off - I'm talking about openly napping at his desk several times a day. Now, I've been told by a coworker that he's got a "condition" - so up until now I've mentally excused that behavior and if it were just that, I might not be so bothered. I've also had to draw clear boundaries with him regarding other behaviors - namely giving me too many compliments on my physical appearance (from, "you're a gorgeous woman" to "Wow, you look so hot today!") and attempting to chat me up repeatedly while I was clearly busy (with both situations, I let him firmly know that the behavior wasn't okay and that I wanted him to stop, which he finally did). Also, when he's not sleeping, he's watching anime at his desk or talking loudly about how he was "up all night last night chatting with new friends," which to me doesn't seem to belie a medical condition (but again - what do I know?).

Now, I did report his inappropriate comments to my manager, who then reported them to our senior director and supposedly he was spoken to, but as soon as a new girl arrived the other day I heard him chatting her up as well in the desk next to me. When he was sleeping at his desk repeatedly two days ago, I finally pinged his manager and let him know he might want to nudge him awake. Yes, I ratted him out; I was sick of it.

So I guess that other than venting, I'm hoping for some feedback on how others would handle this situation? I get that having a "medical excuse" makes it incredibly difficult for HR or management to really do anything, but a female coworker told me recently that she'd had to report him to HR earlier this year for stalking her. Anyone have any thoughts on this? Does HR really have to be completely hands-off in this type of situation? I'm not sure why I'm so bothered, except that his behavior just seems to continue to be tolerated and he's even being allowed to run coveted "special projects." I know this is probably a management problem and well out of my sphere of control; just thought I'd throw it on here to see what people think. Thanks in advance for your comments.

mrreliable's picture

Certainly you have the right and responsibility to defend yourself if you're the target of abusive behavior.

That having been said, IMO you should handle it by backing off. It sounds like this person's manager is aware of these issues. Make a separation between what's your business and what's not. Don't contribute to the hotbed of gossip and backstabbing by acting based on what you've been "told by a co-worker."

It is frustrating to work hard and watch people who seem to skate by with as little effort as possible. But it's not your job to discipline or otherwise deal with this person's work performance. To be honest, it sounds like you think this person is worthless and should be fired. That could very well be the case, but it's not your decision to make. You risk coming across like the workspace police which won't do you any good with your peers in such a competitive environment.

SeaGal2015's picture

I appreciate the advice. You're right; I'm spinning my wheels on something that is neither my business, nor in my sphere of control. I should clarify that the coworker I mentioned came to me not out of a desire to gossip, but because she was scared and wanted to ask me what to do about the harrassment, which had continued after she'd already complained (I advised her to speak to her manager).  

The close proximity of our desks just makes it difficult to escape - four women have asked to be moved away from him already - and no, I don't believe he's worthless, just blatantly making a mockery of company time, money and policies to an extent that I've rarely seen. Luckily I'm moving departments soon; you're right that the last thing I want to do is come across like workspace police. Anyway, he's visibly scared of me since I put up a boundary after his comments - better that than hearing how my sweater matches the blue in my eyes today, and "oh, did you change your nail color again?" Those of you without coworkers like this should consider yourselves lucky. Thanks again for reminding me to blow it off and keep on moving forward.

scm2423's picture

Two things stick out for me:

1) Whether its time theft or an actual medical condition really is not your issue. Your right, it is outside your sphere of control.  Try not to burn calories on it, there is more important stuff to focus on.  Its tough to see everyday.  My advice is to believe that karma will address this in some way.  Believe it wil get noticed at some point and will be dealt with.  Sorry that's not really actionable is it. 

2) Harrasment - This needs to be addressed, its not something you can turn you back on as it can go from creepy to dangerous.  Talk to the coworker being harrassed and offer your support. Say you noticed that things do not look alright.  Let them know that they can go to HR, tell them to document things, etc.  Offer your help,  but be cautious about bringing up your issues with this person.  You want to support the person here. You do not want to be seen as building a case against the harasser.  You do not want them to say they are the victim of your harrasment.


SeaGal2015's picture

Thanks, appreciate the feedback. And I like your point about karma! Well said.

About the coworker: that was a bit ago and I did have that type of conversation with her, just telling her it was well within her rights to talk to her manager and that in my opinion, yes, she should speak up if she felt uncomfortable. Which she did, and he was once again reminded not to cross paths with her and to keep his distance. The thing with this guy is - okay, I'll just say that I've long suspected it may be something like Asperger's. I've known Aspies before and it's obviously not a matter of evil intent, more a question of struggling with social norms and filters. The guy comes across as affable and nice as all get-up; he simply cannot seem to grasp that you can't walk up to any female and tell her that you greatly admire her physical appearance in detail. And God forbid you are friendly to him - he'll follow you around endlessly until you clearly tell him it's not okay to do that, and even then he doesn't always get it. So anyway, that adds another layer to the story that may explain things; explanation aside, the issues that I mentioned above still affect everyone's morale and obviously certain behaviors do classify as harrassment and can't be tolerated. I guess the rest of the stuff is just me, letting myself be bothered by someone else's behavior. 

Complicated situation here to be sure. Thanks, everyone, for your two cents. 

pucciot's picture
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I would second all of these reccomendations, above.


To further the idea started with Karma ...

I would reccomend that you (if you are religious) pray for him and that good things will happen for him in his life.

If you are not religious, then simply wish him well, in your heart.

And even speak it outloud when he is mentioned around the water cooler.

Don't participate in any further negative talk that goes beyond a simple addressing of his poor behavior.

End any discussion about him with a verbal epression that you wish him well, and that you would love to see any improvement in his behavior to benefit co-workers, the organization, and himself (and family).


* My mother-in-law prays that the people she hates "win the lottery and move away".

I have seen this in action.  And it has worked many times.

When we are having trouble with a co-worker we need to address those behaviors that affect us directly in a clear and cool manner.


Beyond that, we need to wish them well, pray for them, and show positive energy towards them and in the future.

It may take a little time, but, it does work.

I wish you well.





SeaGal2015's picture

Thanks, TJPuccio! That's always excellent advice. Positive energy always being preferable to negative. Thanks again for the reminder, I'll do that! :) 

tabitharizzio's picture
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Agree w/folks who responded, lots of these things are out of our personal control.

I worked in a similiar situation where there was a manager who had very similiar behaviors as you described.

It seemed to be common knowledge and evey talked about from senior management, apparently he had different "rules" to go by than the rest of us as he was supposedly "smarter" than all of us.

After awhile I figured out if this is the type of behavior management and the company accepts than it isn't a place I want to work for or even with.  

Perhaps it is a sign that this company isn't a good fit for you and change might provide a better opportunity w/more professional behaviors.  


SeaGal2015's picture

As a follow-up: I've discovered that it is, indeed, a verifiable medical condition. In other words, difficult situation for management to handle but my understanding is they are doing it to the best of their ability. An ex-colleague or two will complain now and then, but I steer clear of it by any means necessary. This is an HR issue now and completely out of my sphere of control - thankfully! Thanks for all the feedback and advice, everyone.