Q: One of my co-workers makes me very nervous. I was hired four years ago after “Dennis” convinced management that he needed additional help. Dennis has worked here for 18 years and is responsible for tracking complex projects.
From the beginning, people warned me that Dennis was obsessive, withdrawn, and hard to communicate with. Nevertheless, we worked well together for three years. He helped me learn the job, and I was patient with his communication issues. However, the problems began when our boss decided to expand my responsibilities.
After learning I would no longer be assisting him, Dennis became angry and passive-aggressive. He refuses to share project information I need to do my job. When I pass him in the hall, he usually ignores me. But if he says good morning and I fail to respond, he will turn around and follow me, yelling “good morning” over and over.
Whenever Dennis leaves the building, he goes out of his way to pass through my area, even though the exit is in the opposite direction. He always peers into my cubicle to see what I’m doing. Because I feel like I’m being stalked, I have begun taking videos of him.
I try to avoid Dennis as much as possible and only communicate with him through email. He complains about this, but being around him scares me. I’m afraid to go to my boss or human resources because I’m terrified of how Dennis might react. I love my job and don’t want to leave, so what should I do?
A: There’s a big difference between a difficult person and a dangerous one. Unfortunately, based on this description alone, it’s not easy to categorize your intimidating co-worker. Dennis may just be an immature chap who doesn’t know how to control his emotions. On the other hand, your intuition could be picking up subtle clues to something more sinister.
Either way, you need to share these concerns with a helpful person in management. If this is simply a childish reaction to losing an assistant, then someone should help Dennis adjust. But if he has developed an unhealthy or harmful obsession, then you must protect yourself by giving this information to the proper people.
Q: After applying for a job with another company, I learned through LinkedIn that two former colleagues are already working there. If these people find out that I’m interviewing, I’m afraid they will tell someone at my current employer. Since I don’t want my boss to know I might be leaving, how should I handle this situation?
A: Simply explain your concerns to everyone involved in the interview process and ask them to keep your application confidential.
It is generally understood that job applicants prefer not to advertise their potential departure, so this will seem perfectly reasonable.
Should you happen to encounter a familiar face, just make the same request. If you can’t do so on the spot, send a message through LinkedIn later in the day.
And if you have a positive history with these folks, perhaps they will put in a good word with the hiring manager.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.”