A former colleague of mine who I thought that I knew quite well has recently become verbally abusive towards me because I would not leave my current job to work with him in his lab on different project at another university.

Looking back on our interactions I now see that he was manipulating me much of the time and was angry that his latest effort was unsuccessful. I am concerned that because I have refused his request he will try and ruin my reputation (he made some veiled threats that I won't go into and implied I owed him because he "mentored" me).

To make matters worse, I had agreed to collaborate on some things with him before his behaviour became obvious to me.

Is it appropriate to simply avoid/ refuse all contact with this person or will this make things worse (especially with the collaboration dilemma)?

How would you deal with this? I do not feel that I have done anything wrong and that his reaction was very bizarre.

  • I am not sure I understand your question. That person is at another university working on a different project, right? What is the problem if you just leave him alone?
    – Nobody
    Nov 29, 2015 at 8:38
  • There is no problem with leaving him alone and this is what a family member suggested I do. However I am concerned that he will continue to harass me or do something completely outlandish as "revenge." .
    – user45175
    Nov 29, 2015 at 8:51
  • 10
    @user45175: Well, we hope he won't continue to harass you or do something completely outlandish as "revenge". But what could you possibly do to guarantee that -- inside of academia or out, we can only exert so much control over other people. Almost everyone I know would agree that the best response to someone else's abusive and manipulative behavior is lack of engagement if at all possible (which, happily for you, it is). So I think your family member has the best answer. Nov 29, 2015 at 8:58
  • Thanks - I guess I was just looking for moral support... I have seen this type of thing happening to other people but I didn't recognise it happening to me. It's difficult because I thought we were friends and he tried to use that card on me the other day to make me feel bad.
    – user45175
    Nov 29, 2015 at 9:04
  • 3
    You might, at least for a little while, keep a log of any contacts and interactions so if he does escalate, you'll already have a record.
    – mkennedy
    Nov 29, 2015 at 13:24

1 Answer 1


Threatening is always manipulation. Usually there is talk than walk behind it.

it is not option to conform to his threatening behavior, and you certainly do not want to work with such a person. You owe nothing to that person if verbally abused you. So you should minimize interaction with such a person. Can you pull out from those collaborations?

There might be anti-discrimination institutions that -could- be helpful, depending on circumstances.

  • What does "talk than walk" mean? Nov 30, 2015 at 0:44

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