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If You Find Yourself Biting a Co-worker, Maybe It’s Time to Find Another Job

biting co-worker

I’m sure some of you work in dreadful conditions. Sure, you still have access to running water and a toilet, but sometimes it’s the mental and emotional toll that makes for of a terrible work environment.

Now, before we let you all loose on your own personal stories of workplace horror, let’s enjoy the story that helped spur this post. It starts like this:

So I bit a coworker yesterday.

Isn’t that something? I’ve probably been in stressful situations where biting someone may have crossed my mind, but I don’t recall actually doing it. I did stab a college roommate with a fork once. Don’t worry, it was more of a scratch than a stab, and it was on his hand, nowhere near any vital organs. Plus, he totally deserved it.

Anyway! This biting story is harrowing and requires full context, so I’m blockquoting at length:

I work in an incredibly dysfunctional office. The tone is set by our office manager. He’s in his fifties, has always worked in an office setting, and is difficult. Things are right if it’s in his favor and wrong if anyone else does it. He once cursed at me and called me a child for asking him not to say I’m prettier if I smile. He then didn’t speak to me for a year — which was a relief.

Well, yesterday, I had a meeting with a coworker. (If it makes a difference, the office manager and I are on the same level, as is the person I was meeting with.) My hands were full of paperwork and a full mug. When I got to the coworker’s office, the office manager was in the doorway, braced with one arm stretched across the opening. I stopped, said, “Excuse me, I have a meeting.” Aaaaaand he refused to move. He replied that he didn’t give a s*** and it wasn’t his problem. The coworker grimaced but said nothing, as is usual for our office.

Normally, I’d sit and argue. Rarely, I’m able to convince him to move. In those cases, I’d put down my things in the office and wait for the colleague and him to finish speaking. They don’t work together or like each other, but they angry-gossip frequently.

This time — this time I bit him. I don’t know! His arm was in front of my face, my hands were full, I know from experience he almost never moves, and I’m reaaaaally busy right now.

In any case, I bit him, over his sleeve, pulled back, and we just sort of stared at each other for a second, because … wow. He finally got his feet under him, figuratively, and retaliated by stomping on my feet (I was in ballet flats and he had heeled dress shoes) and shoving me. As I’m regaining my balance and trying to save my feet, I dropped my mug, which shattered. At that point, he stopped and bent to pick up the shards. I ducked into the office and shut and locked the door. Not helping him pick up the shards angered him more.

I’ve since apologized. He accepted gracefully, while admitting no fault on his part.

Okay, there’s a lot to unpack here. First, can you imagine a co-worker not speaking to you for a year? Of course, since this woman was relieved when the office manager didn’t speak to her for a year, imagine how tense she must’ve been when he actually talked to her.

Second, if this account is even remotely accurate, the office manager is, at best, a sexist, condescending asshole, who also happens to be incredibly fucking rude and unwilling to accept personal responsibility.

Third, I thoroughly enjoyed this line: “They don’t work together or like each other, but they angry-gossip frequently.”

Fourth, biting anyone in a professional environment is not okay. But, as has been established, this guy isn’t the take-the-high-road type so naturally he stomped on his co-worker’s feet and shoved her like she’s one of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. How is any of this allowed? When the boss gathers everyone into the conference room for the weekly caning, does everyone just shrug and say, “It is what it is.”

I think most people would have the wherewithal to recognize that getting out of this hellscape might be the difference between life and death. And yet, this story ends up on the Internet as “Dear Abby” fodder, as if toughing it out is an option that needed a third party’s perspective.

If you find yourself in an abusive workplace and aren’t sure what to do, you should email us about it or share your horror story in the comments. But then again, maybe you should plot an escape plan first. You know, just in case.

[Ask a Manager]

Image: iStock/Peter_Nile