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Loose cannon colleague

Loose cannon colleague

Loose cannon colleague

Good Afternoon,

I have a problem at work, and yes it is personal, and thought I would share it with the rest of you.  Maybe you could shed some light on this situation and maybe some better handling techniques-->other than the ones I am using currently.

I work with an slightly older engineer.  We work on many projects together, I am the mechanical and he is the electrical engineer.  He tends to yell and raise his voice and swear when he is under stress and some of the time he is directing all of this anger at me.

I, on the other hand take pride that I can and will maintain a level of professionalism...even when under severe stess, ie working long hours, trying to ship product and so forth.  I actually choose to be happy, I know this sounds funny to all of you, but I always try to look at things in a positive light.  I crack jokes often and it helps me reduce the stress that I feel at times.

Anyway, if this guy yells at me in front of other co-workers again, I feel like I want to knock his block off...as my great uncle would say...

I don't feel I deserve this treatment at all.  And I would like to put a stop to it but I am not sure the best way to go about it.

Any suggestions?  Thanks in advance!

RE: Loose cannon colleague

"...I feel like I want to knock his block off..."

If he's at the same pay-level or title-level as you, pop him one.

RE: Loose cannon colleague

How long has this been going on.  At my first job my immediate boss told me to "leave him alone he was busy" (I can't recall if there was an expletive in there).

I sucked it up and eventually came to regard him very highly and learnt a lot from him.  He was cantankerous, as were a few other people there, but they were good at their jobs, I could learn a lot from them so I learned how to work around their deficiences.

Sometimes standing up to them now and then helps but other times it can be fuel on the fire.

KENAT, probably the least qualified checker you'll ever meet...

RE: Loose cannon colleague


My remedy to a situation like yours is to walk away and don't listen to him.  If he says something, tell him you not paid enough to tolerate assholes at work.
I guess I have lead a sheltered life as this has happened to me only once, years ago.  I was in a meeting with a group of engineers and the lead engineer from our contract prime started yelling at us about the schedule.  I stood up and made for the door and he asked me where I was going.  I answered that I didn't have to tolerate bad manners and he could call me back into the meeting when he could be civil.  To make a long story short, my boss came out to tell me that he wished he'd thought of my ploy, and the offender later apologized for yelling.


RE: Loose cannon colleague

I had a same situation years ago.
I put up with the guy, until one Monday I came to work and heard he died of a heart attack over the weekend.
Talk to your manager and have the three of you with a HR rep work it out.

SolidWorks 07 4.0/PDMWorks 07
AutoCAD 06
ctopher's home (updated 04-21-07)

RE: Loose cannon colleague

Dont bop him - that will only make matters worse.

passive aggression wins every time - walk away and then when he has calmed down talk to him and let him know you are concerned. if that dont work get HR and superiors involved - companies just hate any trouble with employye victimisation. looks bad for them.


RE: Loose cannon colleague

Getting HR involved is usually a career decision... for you.

They are NOT on YOUR side, and have no interest whatsoever in solving YOUR problems.  When you annoy them, e.g. by asking them to actually DO something, YOU become THEIR problem... and they have but one solution.

Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Loose cannon colleague

HR varies from place to place but generally I'd side with Mikes take on it.  Plus colleagues may not appreciate you 'squealing' to HR.

If you can sort it out between the 2 of you that's the best solution but may not be easy.

I've tried to walk out of meetings only to have the two senior guys from my department tell me to sit down.  I was junior at the time and did sit down, looking back I almost wish I'd walked.  I very nearly hit the guy doing the name throwing etc, he was a couple of months from retirement and I think wasn't holding back any more.

KENAT, probably the least qualified checker you'll ever meet...

RE: Loose cannon colleague

Use HR only if you don't mind a "can't handle conflicts" mention in your file!
Face it: some people externalise their stress, it's actually a great way to get rid of it.
Of course you don't deserve the treatment, but that doesn't mean you should take it seriously. It has nothing to do with you. You happen to be in the area, that's all. Don't spend a minute longer thinking about it.

RE: Loose cannon colleague

One word: Psychos.

The world is full of them (according to me anyhow):



In Australia with our skills shortage (I prefer the term “vacuum” in lieu of shortage) there are more and more in the workplace.

My advice would be to leave, though I can understand others wouldn’t agree.
My philosophy is, that I go to work to help (as much as possible as long as it is safe and ethical) and if they want to be jerks / don’t want my help, that is fine. I just pack my bags for somewhere else (I am there to help, not to put up with rot).

My personal thoughts of your meeting walk out is that is must have been one of the most admirable actions you could take – proved a point without resorting to their tactics.


RE: Loose cannon colleague

Thanks for the advice.  The truth is he can be a great co-worker, but at times not so great.  

I prefer (2) ways of dealing with these situations:

1.) Nip it in the bud
2.) One-on-one confrontation, I definitely do not like to involve anyone else.

As far as knocking his block off...that is my way of venting.  Of course I would never actually do this.  I like the "walk away" advice.  I will do that in the future.  Last night as I was driving to dinner I drove past a boat yard.  And you will never guess what I saw.  A boat called "Loose Cannon" and it was right on the main strip.  I almost peed my pants.   Anyway, thanks again and I will keep my chin up and let the negativity just roll off my shoulders.

Take care.

RE: Loose cannon colleague

Sounds like he needs medication.  I had a boss like that a real Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.....I finally got tired of it and quite.

Heckler   americanflag
Sr. Mechanical Engineer
SWx 2007 SP 4.0 & Pro/E 2001
(_)/ (_)

This post contains no political overtones or undertones for that matter and in no way represents the poster's political agenda.

RE: Loose cannon colleague

I think the biggest thing is to keep your cool.  You may not think anyone notices... but people can see and will respect my more for it.

I take the same approach to things where yelling doesnt get any issues solved faster, and its better to keep cool and keep moving forward.

RE: Loose cannon colleague


Since you expressed a desire to nip this in the bud, try telling Mr. Screamer something like, “Yes, I will see that this gets done properly/on-time/within budget and without humiliating you.  But please do not yell or swear at me.  I will hear you better if you talk to me calmly.  If you yell, I have to spend more time trying to calm myself down, time that is better spent on the project.  Can the two of us at least agree on this?”

My sense is that simply walking away from a screamer is going to inflame the situation.  This guy is most likely reacting to some internal fear of his own.  His past yelling has, in his mind, gotten the results he needed, so it reinforces that behavior.

If you talk to him calmly, without being judgmental about his behavior, you might be able to ease his own fears.  You get your point across without seeming to attack him (also likely to inflame).

If he is as smart as you say, he will alter his interaction with you.  If he doesn’t, at least this gives you a clue about this individual and a better understanding of your working conditions, and whether you need to take more drastic actions.

You might find that the smallest bit of sympathy on your part turns this lion into a lamb.

"If you are going to walk on thin ice, you might as well dance!"

RE: Loose cannon colleague

I honestly think the best solution is to get up and walk away.  There is no excuse for this behavior, and even by acknowledging him, you're reinforcing it.  Walk away and pretend he doesn't exist.

I had one boss who used to scream, yell, and throw phones.  We'd just walk away from him, and wonder why his behavior was tolerated.

RE: Loose cannon colleague

I'd tell him I'll be back when he get's some manners, and make let him know you aren't going to tolerate that.  Walking away is all well and good but you need to stand up and speak up for yourself as well.

RE: Loose cannon colleague


Have you tried laughing at him in front of everyone while he is yelling and screaming? A good belly laugh, while pointing, is a good response:
- it's not really rude
- it's not against any HR guidelines that I have seen
- it gets the point across
- and you could always claim that you were laughing at a mental image of something completely different when your laugh burst out, and you weren't laughing at him at all

"Do not worry about your problems with mathematics, I assure you mine are far greater."   
Albert Einstein
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RE: Loose cannon colleague

I tend to have little patience with people who are objectionable/difficult to work with.

However, I have come to believe that that learning to work around other peoples personality flaws (and hence inherently your own) is an essential skill if you're actually going to work with people.

Sure there are some people that aren't worth the effort or are so objectionable that it's not possible to put up with them but for the other 90+ % it's up to you to find a way.

If we all walked away or gave up when ever anyone was a bit awkward we'd never last long in the typical work place.

Trust me, if I can find a way to work with a 6'4" transsexual who's flirting/inappropriate behavior bordered on sexual harassment then you can probably make it work with this guy.  If he was this bad with everyone all the time he'd probably have been gone a while ago.

I'm tempted to say put your big girl panties on and get over it, but he does sound pretty annoying so something probably needs to change.

KENAT, probably the least qualified checker you'll ever meet...

RE: Loose cannon colleague

Walking away with a comment like, "we'll talk again when you grow up and can behave decently" is the way I would probably handle it.

Having said that I just read "Leadership and Self Deception" and based on that reading I would also suggest that you take a hard look at yourself to determine if this behavior might be response to the way you are treating your colleage. Perhaps you are unconsiously provoking it. Does he think you are disrespecting him? Does he feel cornered by you and as a result drops into fight or flight mode?

"Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?" Oddball, "Kelly's Heros" 1970

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RE: Loose cannon colleague

i'm a hot head sometimes, so often i'll yell back.  especially if he's not your super.  

RE: Loose cannon colleague

maby your a wimp.  Work on becoming a stresser rather than a stressee.  It's lots more fun and you can get more done.

RE: Loose cannon colleague

Loose cannons eventually fire on the wrong target.  This tends to resolve issues quickly when they are escorted out the door.  Your problem is since you need to work closely with him, you tend to be in the range of the muzzle blast when he goes off.

One trick that sometimes works is to set someone like this off prematurely.  The "trigger" does not even have to be work related.  Get a series of small outbursts rather than a blowup.  If you are extraordinarily lucky, you can perhaps redirect this "energy" into him actually getting something accomplished.  Yes it can be manipulative or Machiavellian but you both might end up better off.


RE: Loose cannon colleague

Very interesting posts.  Thanks for all of your input.

If I sum these up the general consensus here, to ignore him gets the most votes.  I tend to think that this is best in the long term.  I love working at my company and would never think of leaving because one person is unpleasant...that would be silly.  Esp. if he is not my boss!

And as far as being a "wimp".  I don't think so.  I think it takes a lot more mental strength to control yourself in situations like this.  The easy road is to emulate his bad behavior, because in effect you are reinforcing it.  I have read a lot of material about bullies.  I certainly do not want to become one.  My real underlying question is can you maintain your professionalism and strike back without losing your dignity?  Still not sure here.  Thanks!!!

RE: Loose cannon colleague

Yes you can deal with it professionaly. If its really not jusitifed wait until he is calm and then have a chat about  it with him explaining how it is disruptive to your work.

As an alternative and one which I know has worked really well for a number of people is to walk away. that isn't to say you just turn your back and stalk out. But a calm, we'll discuss this later, or we'll discuss this when we 've both calmed down (that way you aren't directly making it all his fault in front of other people even if it is) is very professional and usually, the screamer will calm down pretty quickly. They've lost the focus of their anger at that moment and they generally quickly realise  that they're being OTT about the whole thing and will come back when they've calmed down.

RE: Loose cannon colleague

13, I was in a similar situation with a co-worker: Type A personality, moody, nice one day and verbally abusive the next (bi-polar??). Basically, I just put up with it until he left for a different job (and then I celebrated!).

Something that gets me through a bad day is the bulletin board in my cubicle, which is filled with pictures of my little kids and lots of "refrigerator art." I look at it and can't help but smile. In a way, it also lets people know that if they want to mess with me, they are messing with somebody's daddy.

You could try something similar. This might sound a little passive aggressive, but ... don't they say that living well is the best revenge? (Especially if he knows you're living well!) Just hope it doesn't irritate him more.

Perhaps you could work on befriending some of the senior staff in your group. They might sympathize and politely tell this guy to put a sock in it.

Good luck,


RE: Loose cannon colleague

Oh, yes - walk away, or reply in a excessivly mild and quiet voice, as talking to a child:

So, so, we do not use that tone here, we are all nice and kind polite and well-behaved people here!

This will either reach through or rise hell.

If the last is the result you really have a psycophat on hand. You do not get easily quit of that sort. The only solution is to remove yourself, if necessarily quit the company.

RE: Loose cannon colleague

Here are some ideas...

Get up and walk away if you are by his desk.

But if he is by your desk, ask him to leave.

If you are in meeting and need to talk to others, ask him to leave.

Keep in mind that someone who treats people the way he does, probably has low self esteem. In other words, he has some problems, and deserves some sympathy. But you should not put up with this behaviour.

RE: Loose cannon colleague

Wow, so many postings.

HR is there for a reason, and it's time you used the managerial structure of your company the way it was intended to be used.

Go to HR and ask for a copy (if you don't have it) of the company policy on "Abusive behavior and or language".

Read the policy, if it exists.

Then you have a choice, show him the policy and ask him to abide by it or take it to a manager and start a documentation folder.

No one should be subject to such abuse. If you don't like it, fix it.


RE: Loose cannon colleague

I think a passive idea would be to print this discussion out and staple it to his/her chair and stamp it FOR REVIEW.
  I am too having a similar problem with our drawing checker if you want to call her that. She is one of those bipolar people who draw you in with their kind gestures of snacks etc ensuing with verbal abuse for honest mistakes. So I've given the hag 2 chances already using the "walk-away" method but she continues to have these periodical swings.

  Today she pointed out a drawing I missed in my final print package. She had the drawing present on her screen so I said "Oops, why don't you print that out for me." and that sparked the fuel. With a nastier than usual look on her face she claimed "Thats not my job you are the engineer,you print it up!" She actually wanted me to walk 10 yards away to my cube to print the document to the printer that is sitting few steps from her cube instead of her just pressing the print icon.

  With her audacious semi-surprising remark I walked away before she could finish her disrespectful comment. But this time I didn't feel it was enough because I had the feeling she'd be around next week offering pretzels to everyone.

  What miffs me the most is I have shown her the errors she has produced in a kind discrete and helpful manner countless times. Yet she still doesn't have the civility,ethic,morale whichever applies, to fulfill the golden rule.

By the way does anyone know what the deal is with these office personalities that thoroughly enjoy shows such as Office Space, and The Office, but don't have the sense to realize they are the real-life version of the characters they laugh and mock at?

That feels better.

Failure is a prerequisite of successful design

RE: Loose cannon colleague

Make her come to you. Reverse the play. If it works for her it will work for you. There are lots of ways to go without giving grounds for an HR bloodfest with you as dinner.

Don't let her use the doggie treats training method. What it is you are being polite and going to her desk when she wants something. There, nice doggy.

If she finds a problem with one of your drawings and wants to talk say "Sure, bring it over here when you like."
Next level is to say, "I'm kind of busy right now. Can you bring it over at 1 o'clock?" and cut into her lunch time.
Keep some cat treats in the drawer, chocolates, heh! It worked for her didn't it and how better to fend of the HR bloodsuckers who are paranoid about sexual harrasment... she set a precedent....

Be difficult but make it look like you're being as helpful as you can be.
Besides, she's right, you are the engineer and she is the checker.
Make her do the walking and come to you when it is convenient to you.

She can hardly complain at her own tactics being used against her.
Remember to smile and then when it all hits the fan non-one will be able to say a thing against you...


RE: Loose cannon colleague


From my experience, in any competant organization normally what the checker says goes.  It's typically up to you to fit in around the checker.  (That's not to say checkers don't make mistakes but if it's a 50/50 call benefit of doubt goes to checker.)

If the written procedure is that you print off a hard copy and you didn't, then you were in the wrong.  If there isn't a written procecure however, then it's a clash of wills.

She may have perceived your comment about printing it off as being smart A$$ed and not appreciated it.

I routinely get sent links to drawing or vague hints of where drawings are etc and have to try and work out which to print, which is the latest version, or even better the link doesn't work and the engineer isn't around.  

My favourite one is that I have several supposed checking tasks which I haven't been given but that I'm getting slammed for holding up!

As a checker I get sick and tired of being blamed for holding things up when a big part of the problem is that I'm not given all the information I need and since many designers/engineers resent having their drawings checked in the first place it's already a difficult situation without me hounding them for more information.

So while you may not deserve the treatment you get, she may have learnt to expect the worst from engineers and responds accordingly.

Also a lot of Checkers have personality defects, I'm currently honing minewinky smile

jmw, you obviously come from a completely different school than I.  Some of the Designers try and play those games around here.  So far I've tried to be proffesional/nice as pie but it's wearing thin

KENAT, probably the least qualified checker you'll ever meet...

RE: Loose cannon colleague

I'll bow to your experience in this Kenat.


RE: Loose cannon colleague


I think you're on the right track.  In my experience, HR is for very serious situations, not to deal with rude people.  If he crosses the line and makes personal insults to you or your family, etc. then HR is fair game.  But having dealt with these office bullies in the past, they normally go right up to this line without crossing it.  Yelling and cussing is unfortunatly tolerated at most companies without repercussions.

I am fortunate in that rude people amuse me.  I see their rudeness as a personality fault, and I often find myself smirking at them as they berade me, which is a great offense.  It's like saying "you're a freakshow" whithout having to say it.  However, it sounds like he's under your skin which probably makes it hard to smirk.

A few other suggestions:
1)  Don't react to the rudeness, react to the facts.  If he finds a mistake you made, admit it, apologize briefly, and then do what you can to fix it.  You still have to own your mistakes, even if he is rude.  That is a professional reaction to an unprofessional person.
2)  Namecalling is not allowed, by either party.  If he calls you something, it is now up to him to apologize, and it's perfectly acceptable to let hime know.  "I din't know that yadda yadda yadda, but that doesn't make me a moron".  This might not change his behavior one bit, but again it is the high road.
3)  If he is good at his job, give him his props.  That might be the source of much of his anger.  If he points out a better way, a good idea, etc. you need to acknowlege it.  This could ease his anger considerably.  You don't get to pretend he is bad at his job just becuase he is rude.  A rude person that is good at their job doesn't get invited out for a beer, but they do get asked to be on important projects, and often promoted (unfortunately).
4)  It sounds like you like your job which makes this situation more challenging.  You can't quit, but many people do change jobs/project within a company to avoid people they don't like.  I'd suggest finding a better reason than "I don't like so-and-so" before you request the change.  That might be the main reason, but you don't have to tell that to management.
5)  You can talk to his boss (not yours).  Even if the boss tells you that "I can't do anything", it still might have an impact, perhaps on his performance evaluation.  You might not be the first person to complain, which will increase the impact.  Again, keep it professional, and come in well prepared.  Try to spin it that his behavior is hurting the company, etc..  Be sure to thank his boss for listening and for his time, again this shows you are a professional that is concerned about the company, which will heighten the affect.

I hope some of this helps ...

RE: Loose cannon colleague

I would recomend a pill of anti-histaminic or benzodiazepine in his cofee.. You'll see him calm down in 20 minutes...

RE: Loose cannon colleague

You might try reading "The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense at Work", I think the author is Susan Elgin.  As I recall, her method for dealing with a shouter is to vary your speaking volume in inverse proportion to theirs.  The louder they talk, the quieter you talk.  At some point, they will be shouting and you will be whispering, and hopefully they will get the hint.

Or maybe shout at you some more for not talking loud enough. :)


RE: Loose cannon colleague

Pardonwinky smile

KENAT, probably the least qualified checker you'll ever meet...

RE: Loose cannon colleague

The best way to handle it is to tell him alone in person straight out to his face that you don't like his verbal actions and do not appreciate his disrespect to you.  Call him by his first name and tell him if he wants to work together in the future he better stop this crap with you.
He will have to be dense to not get message.  If he gets mad or defensive then go to your boss and explain the problem this employee is causing. Most companies at some point realize that this kind of behavior cannot be tolerated.  Example....Very high executive once brought all us engineers into a large auditorium and cursed and threatened all of us with our jobs if we did not work longer and harder.  I was so offended I went home and wrote letter same night to CEO of this very large company that this kind of abuse would not be tolerated by me and named names.  About a week later security escorted Mr. Exec out of the plant. Felt sorry for the employees at the company he went to in MI.  Goodby Mr. Bully.    

RE: Loose cannon colleague

Probably a lot of good advice given above. Sorry I skipped thru most of it.  I would assume your primary goal is to reduce your own stress / irritation level while preserving a good working relationship with this guy (sounds like you need to work together).  Exactly as Helicopterjunky said, the first step is to calmly let him know that you don't appreciate him venting his frustrations on you.  You guys probably have many frustrations you can commiserate (SP?) about.  Spend some time talking about that as a point of common ground.  But get your message accross that he is making your life more difficult than necessary.

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RE: Loose cannon colleague

Buy a battery powered megaphone and keep it in plain sight at your desk.  He'll get the hint.

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering

RE: Loose cannon colleague

We tolerate bad behavior from people that have value (i.e. beautiful, powerful, useful, etc.)

If it's any consolation, know that they loose their power when leaving the four walls of the office and go back to their pathetic little lives with no friends, no wife or girlfriend.  That lack of appreciation makes them want to compensate at work with an uber-ego.

I know what I'm talking about. During my last 2 internships, I had assholes as supervisors, and this one isn't any different!

Take care

RE: Loose cannon colleague

"During my last 2 internships, I had assholes as supervisors, and this one isn't any different!"

mmm... do I detect a trend?

RE: Loose cannon colleague

We have a very strong character in work, who is not exactly abusive but who is just vocal all day; it's like having a radio switched on in the background and it really annoys most of the office. He has a "transmit" button permanently engaged but the "receive" is never available. Most of the guys adopt the same attitude, in that we understand that there are different characters in this world, and within the work environment you just have to deal with it in the same you would out of work.

I have had a few run-ins with this guy and the thing that I do is to politely and quietly tell him some home truths - that we are all shacked up in the same office for eight hours everyday and we have a job to do; we have to work together; but our job is not made any easier by him being a dipstick.

Works every time.

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RE: Loose cannon colleague

But obviously, not for long.....


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