I have a situation at work for which I need some advice. As I normally post under my own name, and the parties involved in this story would otherwise be identifiable, I need to post this from a throwaway account. Please excuse the subterfuge.
After my last venture at sea proved unprofitable, I have taken permanent employment as mechanic at a small yard, going on my third month now. Life is extremely comfortable. Both the office and the boys on the floor fear and respect me to the point that it’s actually kinda lonely, and I find myself in a strange place between the two. I mean, they don’t even make fun of me when I forget to take off my protective eye wear for lunch, for fuck’s sake. Meanwhile, I have free reign of the place, don’t get no shit from nobody, and can order any tool that I want. Nice.
Now for the problem. We have a mechanic’s apprentice, let’s call him Ahmed, who immigrated from Tunisia a few years ago. He is everybody’s favorite victim, and has taken to the role like a duck to water. Then there’s this Latvian yard hand, named… Radovan. He’s a body builder of simple tastes, whose favorite subject is how much he wants to beat all gays to death. Radovan is especially hard on Ahmed. This ranges from verbal abuse of the loudest and foulest sort, through literally pushing him around.
There is of course an air of good natured ribbing going on, but this goes well and truly above and beyond. Ahmed pretends that he’s cool with it all, but I can tell that it eats him. The other day, after he received a particularly vicious shove to the back, so that tools and engine parts went flying everywhere, I caught a look on his face when he thought I wasn’t looking that broke my heart. I feel a strong need to do something, not just because the situation makes me acutely uncomfortable, but also because someone needs to do right by the boy. Management is plainly disinterested, but they both desperately want to buddy up to me, which leaves me with a bit of leverage.
Confronting the situations directly as they develop in front of me has had limited success; Radovan laughs raucously and fires off a few more insults, while Ahmed scrapes his foot and scampers. Confronting Radovan privately only elicits such vile bad mouthing that I’m lost for words, and leaves me thinking that he honestly detests Ahmed with his whole being. I also need to be careful not to act as Ahmed’s protector, because that will simply make the problem invisible to me while it persists when I’m not looking.
Coaching Ahmed on dealing with the situation comes with its own bouquet of issues. For one, he refuses to acknowledge the problem, because he doesn’t want to appear weak to me. Furthermore, I believe that the most effective way of dealing with a persistent bully is an unrestrained dose of life changing violence, which requires a victim capable and willing to harm his fellow man. Not only would bringing Ahmed up to speed be a prohibitively time consuming exercise in frustration, but I’ve had the empathy most thoroughly beat out of me at a tender age, and don’t consider it much of a gift. It’s certainly not something I would bestow on someone without careful consideration.
So far, I’ve had some success with telling Radovan to go to Ahmed when he needs help with something, thinking that being forced to acknowledge his usefulness should force some respect. However, I’m afraid of deepening his hatred.
Management’s picking on Ahmed needs to stop, and that is something I’ve got covered, it’ll just take some time. I have the final word in technical matters, and the guy is learning from me, so they will learn to appreciate his skill in due course.
Finally, I need to somehow convince Ahmed to say “your mom” a lot more often, I just don’t know how. Of course, I could just grow a pair and kick up a shit storm, but I’m just that little bit too selfish to give up my easy life for a kid who can’t stand up for himself. Any advice on how to untangle this mess without burning too much social capital would be greatly appreciated.