Post # 1
I work in a fairly large office setting with multiple different departments. I am 27 and have a masters degree and a relatively low-level job. I enjoy my job most days, but the department I work for often faces the brunt of employee complaints and there seems to be a culture of people complaining to get what they want, having very high expectations, and being rather demanding.
After several years of working there, today I received a series of emails that really shook me up. Someone demanded that I do something which is not possible as it includes waiting for an external company to provide something that I have no control over. I have told her multiple times that this is beyond our control and she wrote two very forceful and intimidating emails, and included my boss as well. I honestly think my boss (who was away today) would support me, because as I said, this is completely out of my control.
However it’s been several hours and I am still shaken up. Her emails weren’t necessarily rude, but I honestly think they were intended to intimidate me. Even if they weren’t, that was the result they had and I feel somewhat harassed. Not only is this a service that my department doesn’t provide, it is physically impossible to do this by Monday morning. I don’t feel as though she took my replies seriously as her emails seemed to suggest that I must do this for her. She did not acknowledge that this would be a huge favour (it’s definitely not in my job/department’s function), and that it was outside of an ordinary request. I feel as though she was forcefully demanding I do this, even though it is not possible.
It left off with me emailing back saying I can only do what I can to do by Monday, but experssing that it is not something we are able to do. I am worried now for Monday morning to see what she’ll reply back with! 🙁
I feel tempted to report this, because it’s not within my job function to perform the duty she’s asking of me. She’s not my supervisor or another superior within my department, she’s simply someone from another department asking me to do something way beyond the scope of my own department’s role. I feel as though my emails were professional and clear, and do not regret how I handled the situation.
Has anyone else felt like someone was intentionally indimidating them? What did you do?
Post # 2
frostfromfire: Can you elaborate on the “intimidation” and “harassment”? Was she physically threatening you?
Post # 3
Simply being demanding at work and trying to get a job done is hardly harassment or intimidation in my book. You said yourself she wasn’t “rude” (maybe just authoritative?) so I’m not sure how it could be considered intimitdating. Did she threaten your job or you physically or something?
Post # 4
HaaaveYouMetTed: Hi, good username!
Sorry – no, there was no physical intimidation. It felt more like a power struggle/bullying. As I said she wasn’t rude but I feel like there was just a goal to make me feel intimidated into jumping through hoops and doing something completely beyond my control. At my workplace people often include managers on emails as a way to escalate issues even when it is not necessary.
I just looked up harassment on Wikipedia and this is listed. it fits my situation exactly: Power harassment is harassment or unwelcome attention of a political nature, often occurring in the environment of a workplace including hospitals, schools and universities. It includes a range of behavior from mild irritation and annoyances to serious abuses which can even involve forced activity beyond the boundaries of the job description. Power harassment is considered a form of illegal discrimination and is a form of political and psychological abuse, and bullying.
Post # 5
frostfromfire: sounds like she messed up or dropped a ball and she’s trying to make it your problem. I would definitely tell your supervisor how sorry you were to be unable to complete her request, as it wasn’t possible, and ask how they would prefer you respond. Show them her email and your response and ask for feedback.
I have very powerful people who try to intimidate me on a reg basis at work. Stay calm, be reasonable, dont take them at face value and don’t let your emotions talk you into reacting. Stay firm, stay logical, and stay detached.
Post # 6
frostfromfire: Without knowing what she asked you to do or what she said, I can’t tell if this is harassment or not. You said the emails aren’t even “rude,” so I’m at a loss.
I will say that I’m a teacher and have learned through experience that people will easily and often believe you can do something that you can’t actually do. It’s not that they are trying to intimidate you – it’s that they legitimately believe you are capable of doing whatever thing. They don’t understand your job.
Post # 7
I suppose I should clarify. I don’t think this is necessarily illegal. But I think it’s worth bringing to her supervisor to point out that my department cannot by treated this way and I feel I was treated this way because I am in a lower position. I told her multiple times this is not something I can do but she forced it anyways.
Post # 8
frostfromfire: Is it possible that she’s just blunt and didn’t intend to intimidate you? You can declare her actions but you cannot decide for yourself what her motives or thoughts were when she emailed you.
I know I’ve already commented, but sometimes there are people who literally do not believe you or understand why you cannot do x or y for them. They think you have access to things you don’t, that you have more authority than you do, or even that you’ve done it for others before.
Before you say something to her supervisor or report her, I would say something to her in person. “Hey, I’m so sorry we can’t do x for you. I just don’t have the authority / access to the materials / whatever. I wish I could! But it’s beyond my control. I do recommend talking to blahblah about it though!”
Done. If she continues to bug you, then MAYBE it’s harassment.
Post # 9
Ok I’ll expand on the situation. She wants me to get a package to her that has not been delivered yet. I can’t control the mail and that’s exactly what she’s asking me to do. I don’t work for the post office. This is physically outside of my control.
KitSnicket: I agree that sometimes people simply don’t understand but I told her several times it was out of my control and her emails only got more forceful. Thamk you for your advice though. I do agree she is a rather blunt person as she did make a rude comment about me at a meeting only a few weeks ago.
Post # 10
People don’t need to be rude to intimidate someone. Repeated demands that are not within the scope of work and are impossible to be accomplished CAN BE ( depending on how it’s done) a form of workplace harassment.
in my work, the people will scream and swear and try to humiliate people. You have to stand up for yourself and prove you won’t be bullied. I realize this is different, but that doesn’t make feeling set up to fail any less problematic.
Post # 11
frostfromfire: Thanks! As for your situation, it’s difficult to really make a determination without knowing what was said (but understand if you can’t say it here). Maybe on Monday approach your boss with your concerns to see how they would handle it.
Honestly, though, I think you should just brush it off (assuming there weren’t any threats made toward you). Some people are just difficult to deal with, whether it be their personality or they’re just having a bad day. I wouldn’t jump to harassment or intimidation as those are pretty serious allegations to throw around and often come with serious consequences.
Post # 12
I’m sorry you feel shaken up by this e-mail. Can I take a guess that people around you are fairly nice? That’s great!
In my job, I work stressful, 13 hour-days and harassment-like e-mails are actually quite normal. It’s tough when you first see it, but it gets really easier to handle once you get a hang of it LOL. I usually do this approach:
(1) Take my time to draft the perfect response. When I just started, emails like this create a ‘panic’ mode in me. I write stupidly without thinking and fire off a response hoping she would go away. OH man, I was so young. Now, I take my time to read her e-mail without paying attention to the harshness and I write down possible response.
(2) I would copy my manager/senior to the e-mail. If I’ve received something that is not in my capacity to do, and my boss is copied in that e-mail, I would reply back in a very smart manner. This is an OPPORTUNITY in disguise because not only can I show my boss that I am calm amidst chaos, but I can also show her that I am smart enough to provide a solution to this problem that is not required by my work. I show initiative, grace, and smarts. Win-win-win all around!
(3) Keep calm. I would avoid conflict at all costs–you don’t want to burn bridges that doesn’t absolutely need to be burnt. I would also provide her with a solution and a reasonable timeline.
“Like I mentioned in my previous e-mail, the request is beyond our departmental scope. I am willing to learn to provide you with this help, and I would realistically complete it before Tuesday next week. If this is of no consequence, I would gladly provide you with help.”
That’s usually what I do with stressor clients.
Post # 13
Well… just don’t do it, it’s not your duty. Nevermind her, if she says something on monday, report her.
Post # 14
HaaaveYouMetTed: “I wouldn’t jump to harassment or intimidation as those are pretty serious allegations to throw around and often come with serious consequences.”
OP feels harrassed/intimidated and i feel like the quoted statement is trying to negate her feelings.
Post # 15
I just don’t understand what the harassment was. Can you post her emails (or sections of her emails) with company info redacted? I just don’t feel like we can give you advice if we don’t really know what she said or really even how she said it.
It sucks when people are rude at work and try to make their problems your problems. For now I’d just send the whole email thread to your boss and ask how they’d like you to proceed, but it’s hard to say without knowing what she said to you. Sorry, OP!