Bascaily, Reddit user u/imonvacaaation (or OP, for original poster), wants to know if she's wrong for how she's treating a male coworker who often has angry outbursts at work. Let's get into it:
"I'm an engineer, and I work on a team with seven decently chill guys and one guy with anger issues. Like, he can't just have a respectful disagreement. He'll raise his voice and yell and get up close to your face. I hate it."
"So, I started by just complaining to my boss about it. He brushed it under the rug, saying [my coworker]'s just like that, and if I think he's bad now I should've seen him 10 years ago before he 'mellowed out.' It makes me wonder what he was like 10 years ago, because he sure ain't mellow now. It's also a small enough company that there's no HR, only corporate management. Which doesn't help."
With no help from management, OP decided to take things into her own hands: "I stopped calling him 'angry' and what he was doing 'arguing' or 'yelling.' I just swapped in the words 'emotional,' or 'throwing a tantrum,' or 'having a fit.' I was kinda hoping I could shift his reputation from domineering (big man vibes) to emotional and tantrum-ing (weak, sad baby vibes)."
"I started making subtle comments; like if I had a meeting with him and he got a temper, I'd mention to the other people, 'Wow, it's crazy how emotional Jay got. I don't know how he has the energy to throw a hissy fit at 9 a.m. I'm barely awake.' Or, when my boss asked me to recap a meeting he missed, I told him, 'Dan, Jack, and James had some really great feedback on my report for [this client]. Jay kinda had trouble managing his emotions and had a temper tantrum again, but you know how he gets.'"
Eventually, some of OP coworker's started using her same language to describe this coworker, and it progressed even further. "I even got gutsy enough to start saying to his face: 'Hey, I can hardly understand what you're trying to explain when you're so emotional.'"
"After a while, he started to get a reputation as emotional and irrational. Which I could tell pissed him off, but he stopped yelling at me as much."
"Anyway, he slipped once this week, and I just said, 'I really can't talk to you when you're being this emotional.' He blew up at me, asking why I was always calling him that. I shrugged and said, 'Dude, you look like you're on the verge of tears; go look in the mirror before you ask me,' and he got really angry that I suggested he might start crying (that was kind of a flippant comment, he was red-faced angry, not tearful angry, and I could tell)."
Now OP is wondering whether or not she did something wrong: "I feel like a bit of a dick for being petty and trying to gaslight this guy into thinking everyone around him sees him as a crybaby, but it also mostly worked when the 'proper channels' didn't."
The comments section of the thread exploded with people giving their commentary on the situation. Plenty felt that OP wasn't in the wrong at all given that her coworker was...acting emotional at work.
"He is, in fact, overly emotional. Nothing you said (except maybe the tears bit) is in any way a lie or even exaggeration. Stick to the truth."
"Anger is an emotion. He was having hissy fits. OP just named them correctly, which pointed out that his behavior is unacceptable in a professional setting. It is subtle and frankly ingenious and definitely something I’m going to remember if I’m confronted by someone like that again!"
Others pointed out that OP was simply using a word that's almost exclusively used on women whenever they show emotion or get upset.
"Honesty is always best policy. What actually happened here is that you pushed the buttons of a macho man by using terms traditionally used to describe an emotional woman on the verge of tears. You could have made it a lot worse if you wanted to."
"More people should do this to men who act this way. Women can't have an opinion without being labeled 'emotional,' but men can get angry and rage? It's still emotion."
"If he was a woman or femme-presenting person, these are exactly the things people would say to him with a tenth of the display. I enjoy a good script flipping."
One person said that their boss and upper management are the ones at fault in this scenario:
"The HR department and your boss are the most [asshole] of all in this scenario. They need to stand up and be the leaders they're in the position of. Obviously, this has been a problem that's been ignored for 10-plus years. It shouldn't be a problem employees have to take into their own hands."
And finally, some even pointed out that this coworker sounds dangerous, and advised OP to be careful.
"I think you did a good job at de-escalating the situation, but I think your coworker is a walking time bomb and one day he is going to blow.
If there is a way for you to begin creating a paper trail without it looking like you are creating a paper trail, I encourage you to do so. My fear is that one day he will snap and someone will get hurt."
"With no HR, and senior management being less than useless, you seem to have found a way to rein him in somewhat. I do feel a little apprehensive that your coworker might 'blow' at some point, however. If your campaign to rename his anger just makes him 'swallow' it (rather than actually letting it go), there could be trouble ahead."