To feel scared/intimidated by autistic staff member

(292 Posts)
orangemum92 Fri 22-Oct-21 00:20:51

I work part time in an office of a large organisation and I also manage some staff, though most of them are remote. One of my direct reports in the office has quite severe Aspergers and was recently moved to my team from his previous team due to harassing a young female colleague (who happens to be of a similar age and appearance as me). He is fairly older.

I am not sure whether management told him the reason he was being moved. I also do not believe the woman's complaint was formalised; it was dealt with "off the books" basically as there is nothing on his file. The limited info I have is that he would follow her from work to her car every night, asked her out several times despite her saying no, and eventually attempted to coerce her by telling her to meet him at [place] on [date] at [time] as he had arranged a team night out. When she mentioned it to other colleagues, she learned there was no such thing planned and he had lied. Prior to this he was also separated from another female colleague of similar age and appearance though I have none of the details and again it was dealt with off the books.

He hasn't done anything that bold with me, but these are some of the things he does:

- waits until there is no one around my desk, then approaches & asks personal questions. When I try to end the conversation by turning to my computer and typing, he tends to just stand at the side and stare at me for a minute or so before walking away.

- he sits diagonally in front of me in the row of desks in front, facing away from me. at a rate of, I would say, 2-3 times per 10 minutes he turns his head around just to look directly at me - I don't think he's aware that I can see him doing this as I'm behind a screen but I see him peripherally. If I make eye contact he quickly turns back as if he's been caught doing something wrong.

- often at the end of the work day when it's just me and him left, he will turn around completely in his chair and just sits and stares at me while I work. I think in his head, he's trying to think of a conversation starter but can't think of one so just resorts to sitting and staring

- other colleagues have said that as soon as I leave my desk he looks around for me incessantly, sometimes standing up and walking around to see where I've gone.

- has approached me several times while I've been walking around the city after work, always acting shocked to have bumped into me, saying "oh, hi [name]!" not sure if he follows me, but he has also showed up in the same shop I've gone into and seemed to be following me around the aisles.

To note, there is a colleague I work directly with who sits next to me (I'll refer to them as T). When T is present, he tends not to do these things (though T has seen it a couple of times from afar). Essentially he waits for T to leave the room and then approaches almost immediately.

This may make me sound like a terrible person but his entire behaviour around me just makes me entirely uncomfortable. There is the staring, but also his general demeanour when speaking to me - shaking vigorously, stuttering etc which he does not do around others. To make matters worse, I was abused as a child by someone with the exact same first name, disorder and mannerisms as him so it brings back awful memories. He is also extremely tall and built and I am tiny which again just adds to the intimidation.

I explained all of this to my manager (minus the childhood background) and she said she had also noticed his behaviour around me, but that he can't help it, she feels sorry for him and that I am not allowed to tell him that he makes me feel uncomfortable. I don't buy the fact that he doesn't know what he's doing/can't help it because if that was the case, he wouldn't be waiting until no one else is present to do it. He is also very intelligent and can be very manipulative when he wants to be. Also when given any kind of negative feedback he snaps and become extremely angry so even if I did address it I would be worried about the consequences. I'm also not allowed to take anyone in the room with me when I have meetings with him as it is deemed as bullying.

Anyway, in an attempt at resolving it indirectly, a few weeks ago I tried to rearrange the seating plan for our department, and I used the excuse of new people returning to the office. Everyone else moved as planned but he refused (quite aggressively) to move and got the union involved. The union then told me I'm not allowed to move him due to his Aspergers as it causes him distress.

The reason I'm asking this question now is because T (who is a great deterrent for his behaviour) is on annual leave for 2 weeks from Monday. I am extremely anxious about this as I know the colleague will be staring and harassing me constantly. In the past when T has been off, I struggle to focus on my work as I spend most of the shift on edge and aware of him constantly staring at me.

I'm contemplating having a meeting tomorrow and kindly asking him to move again but I don't know if that will be futile as he will most likely involve the union again. I want to know if there's anything else I can actually do other than request to be moved teams which I really would prefer not to do. I have an anxiety disorder and have worked on the team for ages, I am comfortable and happy there and moving would mean being away from T who has been the most amazing support for me for years and helps me with my anxiety brilliantly.

Also for the record in case anyone thinks I could be biased - I have managed several staff over the years who have had Aspergers, autism and various other disorders and they've all been brilliant. I've had one or two who have overstepped boundaries either with myself or other staff but were completely receptive to the feedback and stopped the behaviour. This situation is different as I'm being told I'm not allowed to address it with him.

AIBU here? Am I just being an insensitive paranoid b** or should I/my manager/ work be doing more to curtail his behaviour?

OP’s posts: |
Pantsomime Fri 22-Oct-21 00:28:56

Gosh this sounds awful, I have no experience of this but wonder instead of moving him, if you can move seats?

user1473878824 Fri 22-Oct-21 00:34:02

This isn’t a dig at you mentioning it, OP, but I don’t think being autistic has anything to do with it - his behaviour is absolutely not okay and I don’t think management using his autism as a way to tell you not to say anything to him is right at all.

AbbieLexie Fri 22-Oct-21 00:34:40

I hope you are a fully paid up member of a union. HR and your union need to be involved.

NoYOUbekind Fri 22-Oct-21 00:34:42

I would absolutely move your seat (and some other people's) and leave his alone. That's as a first step.

Are you in a union? If not, join. You cannot be in a situation where you have to have 121 meetings in a closed room with someone whom you feel so uncomfortable with and so you need support for this.

Keep a diary. The 'bumping into' is provable and odd. I don't think you'll be able to keep a diary of him looking at you though, which is why you need to move your seat out of your eye line.

What's HR saying?

Remember his protected characteristic does not trump your protected characteristic and it is not right for your place of employment to brush this under the carpet time and time again. You may have to raise a grievance, unfortunately.

NoYOUbekind Fri 22-Oct-21 00:36:04

Also the next time your manager says she 'feels sorry for him' you need to politely and firmly tell her that is not an appropriate response to the situation. FFS. (Not at you!)

Porcupineintherough Fri 22-Oct-21 00:36:40

Do you have an HR department? I'd suggest you involve them sooner rather than later and do everything officially.

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Strangevipers Fri 22-Oct-21 00:38:15

Your manager has an obligation to ensure he is comfortable in work and EQUALLY that you are comfortable.

Contact HR , union rep and manager asap and get this nipped in the bid. He has form for it and previous.

You should feel safe inside work and the fact that you don't and that he is bumping into you outside of work os a massive red flag.

orangemum92 Fri 22-Oct-21 00:38:16

@Pantsomime Sorry I forgot to add. He has performance issues (avoids doing work) so my manager has stipulated he must always be in my line of sight. The seat I want to move him to is still in my line of view but several rows of desks in front which would eliminate the harassment but would still keep my manager happy.

I have occ health people involved btw as his performance issues relate to the condition but they aren't much help.

OP’s posts: |
HeyDugeesCakeBadge Fri 22-Oct-21 00:38:17

Please contact your HR department as this is NOT okay. You are scared by his behaviour, he has previous allegations of sexual harassment and you should not have to put up with this at work. Having autism does not mean that you can intimidate people without recourse. Plenty of autistic people can and do work brilliantly in teams, even severe autism can be managed in the workplace with the right adjustments. This is not that. Your employer needs to step up here.

HeyDugeesCakeBadge Fri 22-Oct-21 00:38:44

And contact your union if you are a member!

Strangevipers Fri 22-Oct-21 00:40:33

Can he go In the line of sight of the manager rather than you , it's not acceptable for you to be dealing with agreement in work

Strangevipers Fri 22-Oct-21 00:40:48

*harassment not agreement

DoucheCanoe Fri 22-Oct-21 00:44:10

This is absolutely not ok and you do not need to keep quiet about this!

Arrange another meeting with your supervisor via email detailing the reason for requesting the meeting so that there is written record. Tell them that they are effectively discriminating against this man - using positive discrimination by excusing behaviours and/or ignoring them due to a medical diagnosis.

If they won't let you file a complaint go to HR and formalise it yourself in writing and refuse to have it dealt with "off the books". He has form for this, it's not Autism - he's a dick!

You have the right to feel safe. He does not have the right to intimidate you.

HermioneKipper Fri 22-Oct-21 00:45:14

This is awful and terrifying. This behaviour could so easily escalate and god knows what could happen.

Your manager is behaving disgracefully.

I would raise this with HR immediately and certainly do not have 1-2-1 meetings with him or end up alone in the office with him.

Can you ask to work from home for the next week or two? I’d make up some covid symptoms

Catflapkitkat Fri 22-Oct-21 00:46:11

I agree, can you move seats temporarily.
I do think your manager is not taking this seriously. I imagine his behaviour has a big impact on your working day.

Why is there no record on his file regarding the last woman? Constantly asking her out, following her, trying to trick her into lone meetings - that is stalking territory. You need to make a note of times and comments he has made you feel uncomfortable. Have you had a chat with your union rep?

Askmeafterchristmas Fri 22-Oct-21 00:49:13

I think his autism will have something to do with his behaviour, it sounds like he's struggling to recognise your discomfort and perspective related to his behaviour. It is still deliberate behaviour nonetheless and not ok. flowers

Your leadership have let you and him down. It's not ok to move him and not expect a reoccurance. I also think it's unfair to him that an allegation of harrassment has been made about him and he's not been told.

I think you need to be clear that you feel bullied and harrassed by him, both in and out of work. It is compromising your work and you feel unsafe, and action does need to be taken. In these circumstances it's also very inappropriate for you to be expected to meet him individually alone.

miltonj Fri 22-Oct-21 00:51:25

It's nothing to do with his autism. Autism doesn't make people creepy sex pests. He's making you feel uncomfortable because he's a dickhead weirdo peice of shit. You absolutely need to kick up a fuss about this with your manager and if they don't take you seriously, you go to HR and don't back down. Women have died in similar circumstances. Not trying to alarm you. But women are often times encouraged to be nice and accommodating to men and their 'quirky ways' which can turn out to be much more sinister. You have every right to feel safe at work and every where else.

RobertaTheBuilder Fri 22-Oct-21 00:54:42

You are not being paranoid or insensitive, talk to HR and nip this in the bud. It doesn't matter that you're his manager, he is stalking or harassing you and it won't go away without you making a complaint.

JudyGemstone Fri 22-Oct-21 00:55:44

He doesn’t sound as though he’s able to cope with managing professional relationships with female colleagues appropriately.

I think you need to go over your direct manager if they won’t take this seriously. You deserve to feel safe at your workplace.

Aquamarine1029 Fri 22-Oct-21 00:57:29

Asperger's my arse. His behaviour is calculating and totally unacceptable. You need to do whatever it takes to make management protect you from this man.

Askmeafterchristmas Fri 22-Oct-21 00:59:07

It's nothing to do with his autism. Autism doesn't make people creepy sex pests. He's making you feel uncomfortable because he's a dickhead weirdo peice of shit.

Agree he's a dickhead weirdo piece if shit, and that people with ASD aren't creepy sex pests, but autism it is likely making it harder for him to perceive OP's feelings and recognise badly how he's coming across.

AppleButter Fri 22-Oct-21 00:59:16

He is predatory and manipulative. Please get everything in writing and possibly ally with the first colleague who was stalked. They hushed things up if they didn’t formally record her complaint.
Also please watch out at the car park etc. you shouldn’t have to but you have a problem here.

PigeonLittle Fri 22-Oct-21 01:01:39

I think due to his aspergers you need to be very direct about your needs in a way he comprehends. Absolutely no extra fluff on the following sentences. Said loudly, sharply. No not follow up with any other explaination. If there is follow up, repeat your sentence.

Stop staring at me please, I need to work.

I've answered your question now, I need to go back to my work.

Do not follow me, this is inappropriate. I do not like being followed.

This is in addition to following up with union, management, enforced distancing at work by desk changes etc.

I would try and move my desk position, out of sight out of mind.

AppleButter Fri 22-Oct-21 01:01:50

Does he use (in)(ce1) terminology in casual conversation with other people?

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