Advice column: my colleague can be pleasant to managers – but not to me
Dear Ash

A relatively new colleague at work seems to have two separate sides to his character. Although he normally acts fairly pleasantly in front of management, he can be quite the opposite when it is just him and I and has a tendency to lose his temper and behave quite erratically. He also speaks quite obnoxiously towards his domestic partner when she phones the office; unfortunately, I can’t help but overhear as he is not very quiet about it!

Because he is quite charming in front of senior managers, they obviously don’t see any issues; however, I feel constantly on edge about his behaviour. He also tends to snap frequently at the support staff, as he clearly doesn’t think they are important enough to treat with respect either. I’m unsure how to deal with the situation, as I don’t feel comfortable speaking to him directly because he is so unpredictable and I’m not sure how he would react.


Ash replies

You are effectively describing a bully! As in the school playground, certain bullies can be quite manipulative by bullying their peers while putting on the charm offensive for anyone in authority. Your colleague has therefore clearly not grown up.

Such behaviour is not acceptable and you are perfectly within your rights to raise concerns with your manager. I appreciate that you may be concerned about not being believed, but if your colleague is treating other peers in a similar fashion, you will not be alone in how you are feeling; and it is probably only a matter of time before someone else also looks to complain about such behaviour.

The recent COVID crisis has at least resulted in one silver lining, by helping to emphasise the importance of everyone’s mental wellbeing; you therefore should not feel reluctant about raising concerns about your colleague’s behaviour. He seems to have the ability to act appropriately where he considers it necessary, and therefore there is no excuse for his poor conduct. 

Hopefully, by you raising such concerns, he will be sufficiently embarrassed to at least control his behaviour in future. He is foolish for only treating senior managers with any degree of respect, as such behaviour is not easily forgotten and those peers he is insulting today are likely to be the management of tomorrow...

Send your queries to Ash

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and other legal professionals, which can be put to her via the editor. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.

Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Education, Training & Qualifications team. Email or phone 0131 226 7411 (select option 3).

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