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I'm working for a large research firm in Germany in a technical role. For the last year, it has been my dream job. Unfortunately, starting about two months ago, one of my primary coworkers has begun behaving in an extremely toxic manner. He's made a couple of very angry and inappropriate attacks on my competence (via text, so I have then documented.) In our daily work life he has become increasingly passive aggressive (as well as classically aggressive), argumentative, obstructionist, and hostile. Simply put, he feels (and has told me directly) that even though I'm 10 years his senior in experience and qualifications, I'm incompetent compared to him, and I should be deferring to him in all ways. He has begun actively pursuing a takeover of all my tasks. We are considered to be in a "flat hierarchy." Neither of us has any official authority over the other, and the project is small - meaning there is no legitimate way to avoid working with him. I have (today) sent an email to our managers asking for intervention. My questions are these: I am American. He is Russian. I know that - in the U.S. - there are certain standards of professional behavior, including how you interact personally with employees. For the most part, I have found the German workplace in agreement with this. But, I'm a stranger in a strange land. In the U.S., his comments to me would be considered insanely inappropriate and aggressive - I believe such much so that (if we were in the U.S.) sending the text copies of our conversations to HR would result in immediate reprimand, if not dismissal. Q1. However, this is not the U.S. - and he comes from a different culture. Am I misunderstand, or mishandling the situation? I have tried all the conflict management techniques I know - FROM THE U.S. - and they all have failed. Should I be responding directly to him in a different way? Q2. In the U.S., as I mentioned, I fully believe his actions would result in immediate reprimand or dismissal. I suspect him being dismissed is nearly impossible under these German employment laws, and that's not what I'm seeking anyway. But do German HR departments involve themselves in these types of things? The impression I get is German HR departments are less about "managing employees" and more about handling hiring and firing paperwork. Q3. If not HR, whom else, or how else, should I be asking for help with this? Q4. I'm not sure this can be solved while we remain in a flat hierarchy. While I honestly do not seek to be in a formal leadership role, I also suspect life will be intolerable working with him were he to be placed in a formal leadership role. I know that Germany is highly dependent on certifications and years work for determining position. If the only solution is appointing a "team leader", is it reasonable to insist that I'm appointed the position based on my senior credentials and experience? Thanks!