a coworker is harassing my neighbor (who is having chemo) — Ask a Manager


A reader writes:

I live in a high-rise condo complex and work for a prominent and large (10,000+ employee) healthcare system.

My condo complex has a listserv that gets sent to the 1,000 or so residents — unfortunately with very little moderation. Over the past few months, but particularly today, somebody who works at my organization and happens to live in my building has been sending listserv messages that I consider increasingly harassing in nature over occasional barking from a neighbor’s dog. For context, we’re a pet-friendly building with a vet’s office renting commercial space on the ground floor. Today, I found out they have also taken to periodically standing on their balcony and screaming at the neighbor through the neighbor’s window.

The neighbor is undergoing treatment for breast cancer, and their rescue dog is diabetic and needs insulin shots every 12 hours (and barks at the needles). The neighbor and their spouse have, apparently, done everything from changing start times at work to changing the times of chemotherapy treatments to try and alleviate barking at odd hours.

Normally, I don’t believe in going to HR unless it’s about something that happened at work and directly involves me. The person doing the harassing does not work in my division, and I’ve never met them. But I’m wondering if I should talk to HR anyway because:
a) The harassment of a cancer patient
b) The screaming off the balcony
c) The airing of grievances to 1,000 people over email

They haven’t named our employer, but they have stated they work in healthcare as a justification for their complaint and they state their full name. It’s not difficult to track them back to our employer. Also, they work as an office administrator–it’s not like they’re working odd shifts as a clinical practitioner. This seems like a reputational risk for the organization.

I’m really thinking I should bring this to HR, but is this even something within their purview?

It’s really not, I’m sorry. If your neighbor were throwing around the name of your employer, then maybe — but otherwise this is a jerk being a jerk who happens to have a job somewhere.

However, you certainly can — and should — complain to your condo management! Your coworker/neighbor shouldn’t be using the building email list to harass another resident. If they have a problem with the noise, it’s time for them to take it up with the building management directly, not harangue a sick neighbor over and over. (This would be true even if she weren’t sick, of course, but it’s particularly egregious to hound someone who’s sick and probably exhausted and who has clearly tried to resolve the problem.)

And the irony of complaining about noise while screaming through a sick neighbor’s window is … well, I hate your coworker.

In addition to reporting his behavior to the building management, ideally you or another resident would also respond on the email list directly with something like, “Please stop harassing this resident. If you have a noise complaint, you should speak with the building management, not harangue them and the rest of us over this email list.” I realize you might not want to do that since you work together but it would be a kindness to the targeted neighbor if you were willing to. If not, are any of your other neighbors willing to speak up? It sucks that this is going to 1,000 people and no one else is pushing back (at least not publicly).



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