July 9, 2013 9:03 pm

Not okay, Part Three

Last November, I arrived at work one morning to find that my desk had been moved in my absence. (I only worked Mon/Tues/Wed, so if any changes were made to the office, they were usually done on a Friday and I was surprised with them the next Monday.)

After discovering my desk’s new location and settling in, I observed that I wasn’t able to connect to the internet. I asked my co-worker, T, if it was possible that I was not given an ethernet cable when my desk was moved and he agreed that was probably the case, and then found a cable for me. Intending to plug it in inside the server(?) closet, he rounded the corner by my desk and encountered a bike blocking the door to the closet.

After throwing his hands out and angrily saying “What’s this? Is this a COAT RACK or a BIKE RACK? Whose bike is this? K’s?” he proceeded to turn and look at K, and then he threw the coiled-up ethernet cable in his hands at K.

Let me say this again.

After observing a bicycle parked in a place he considered “wrong,” he used the coiled cable in his hands to physically assault the co-worker whose bike he believed it to be.

The cable hit K in the head and knocked his headphones off. He had no idea what hit him, and immediately spun around and saw T walking toward him with his hand out, asking for the cable back. T mumbled something about “not meaning to hit him” and there was a short physical scuffle (pushing) and then K said “get the fuck out of my office.” T turned around and returned to his desk without uttering a word.

At that point, I was still without internet for my computer and as such, was unable to do my job. Because we had no IT person and I did not want to further provoke T, I was at a loss for who else I should talk to about this problem. I busied myself with writing documentation until my manager was out of a meeting and able to address the issue.

There were MANY things wrong with this situation, but allow me to list some of the main ones:

  1. T’s physical assault on K
  2. T’s reaction to seeing the bike in front of the closet was completely out of proportion with the actual hindrance the bike may have caused
  3. I was left with my problem unsolved for another full hour due to the outburst and T not following through
  4. They failed to equip my workstation with a critical component of my day-to-day work after moving my desk (this was not the first time something like this had happened)
  5. Being made to feel unsafe in the workplace – what if I do something (park my bike incorrectly?) that sets T off?

The fifth one was what prompted me to call a short meeting with my manager at the end of the day. I described what happened. My manager was sympathetic and agreed that it was inappropriate, and assured me he would discuss it with T’s manager who would then give T a warning.

I would bet cash money T was never talked to.

There’s a small chance that T’s manager was told about the incident, but I find that kind of hard to believe. And you know why? The company needed T. They would never get rid of him, especially not for something like this. They did not care that T injured K or that I felt unsafe working with T.

I never got an update on the incident; I had the audacity to expect a “Hey, just so you know, T’s manager has talked to T and if anything like this ever happens again, he is gone” or the like. Something that would indicate to me that they actually took the incident seriously.

Also: am I wrong in thinking something like this is usually a fire-able offense?

Not okay.

I am angry that I debated even talking to my manager about it. I really, really didn’t want to be seen as the timid, sensitive, lone female developer so I very nearly considered not bringing it up at all.

HOW MESSED UP IS THAT?

In a “normal” office, I believe T would have been fired, or at least given a very severe warning. As it stood, I doubt he was even talked to.

I simply did my best to steer clear of him.

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2 Comments

  • Katherine says:

    In almost every office that I have worked in, T would have gotten a first and final warning, but probably not fired out of hand unless he had previously battered another office worker.

    I hate to say it, but if T is in a position where he knows that the company won’t fire him, this is the type of behavior that will most likely continue, because he knows that he will not be reprimanded for his actions, unless they get so horrible that the other workers as a whole feel that he is more trouble than he is worth.

    You are right in your opinion that this was not okay, this type of behavior has no place in a work environment, but I’ve found that work environments are largely unfair and unethical. :/

  • Elea says:

    I’m with Katherine. T obviously wasn’t engaging in appropriate workplace behavior, but unfortunately, a lot of workplaces don’t seem to have a very good gauge of what should and shouldn’t be acceptable.

    At a previous job, the female president came over to me one day and literally said, “Oh, how cute – you have ethics!”

    So, I’ve started looking at companies like relationships. All of them have problems, and you just have to find the one with problems you’re willing to deal with.