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How to Fix a Hostile Work Environment

20% of American employees experience a hostile workplace. Therefore, if you suspect that something is wrong at your workplace, you’re not alone. Chances are that your colleagues also feel the same way. However, you shouldn’t allow a hostile work environment to slow down your career progression.

A hostile workplace is created by coworkers or bosses whose behavior, actions, or communication make it impossible for you to do your job. This implies that the behavior/action altered the reasonable expectations and conditions of a comfortable workplace.

Before delving into ways of handling a hostile work environment, it’s best to know what makes the workplace hostile in the first place. It’s equally important to learn about the tell-tale signs of workplace hostility.

Causes of Workplace Hostility

Employees’ perception of what causes a hostile workplace differ. Some point out that overbearing bosses make the workplace environment hostile, while others mention rude colleagues, favoritism, lack of promotion, and lack of recognition, as the causes of hostility at the workplace. Workplace hostility is largely caused by a mismatch between what employees want and what they get.

How to Tell That Your Workplace is Hostile

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a workplace can only be deemed hostile if specific legal criteria are met. Also, you can cite workplace hostility as the reason behind a workplace discrimination claim.

Suppose you decide to take legal action against your employer or colleagues. In that case, you must prove that you got discriminated against based on your race, sexual orientation, age, disability, gender, national origin, and religion. The discriminative actions must also have been severe and pervasive enough to be considered abusive. Some of the tell-tale signs of workplace hostility include:

     Offensive jokes

     Name-calling, slurs, and insults

     Inappropriate touching, threats, and physical assault

     Mockery, ridicule, and intimidation

     Interference with work performance

Sometimes, bosses and coworkers create a hostile environment to force you to resign after filing a complaint. Nevertheless, it’s illegal to retaliate against employees who file discrimination charges or participate in a lawsuit or investigation that targets his/her coworkers and employer.

Fixing a Hostile Workplace

There’s so much that employers and employees can do to eliminate workplace hostility. Here’s how the situation can be fixed:

Notify the Offending Employee

This is the first step to take if you face hostility at the workplace. It would help if you asked the offending individuals to stop their hostile behavior or communication. Sometimes, the pressure of the workplace causes employees and bosses to become unintentionally hostile towards their colleagues. If this is the case, the unsuspecting offenders will undoubtedly realize their offense and make the necessary adjustments.

On the other hand, if the hostile action is malicious and intentional, chances are that the offensive individuals won’t change. If this happens, you should solicit help from either the HR department or your organization’s management team. When appropriate behavior comes from colleagues, the HR and management team are your best in-house choice. They will also serve as witnesses to the fact that you implored the offending colleague to stop the behavior.

Find an Escape

Every market has a madman, and the same applies to all workplaces. Not everyone will be friendly with you, and some colleagues will try giving you a hard time just for the sake of it. At times, hostility is part of some organizations’ DNA. If this is the case, you should shield yourself from the negativity that emanates from such workplaces. After reporting incidents of hostility, avoid the offensive colleagues and direct confrontation with them.

Find Allies

It’s possible to feel discriminated against and that everyone else is hostile towards you during the first few months of your employment at an organization. This is normal, but you can alleviate some of the hostility by finding allies who can help you settle in at the workplace.

The allies that you make will also come in handy if you experience hostility at a later stage. With these workplace allies, it will be easier for you to share the hostility burden, discuss it, and find possible solutions. As highlighted earlier, most workplaces have an element of hostility. Therefore, sharing your situation with colleagues can help you identify the way forward and possible solutions.

Familiarize Yourself With the Organization’s Culture

When you get employed at an organization, take time to familiarize yourself with the laid-down policies related to appropriate interactions and behavior. Keep a record of the policies to gauge whether future situations qualify to be regarded as workplace hostility. Accusations of workplaces tend to be stronger if they are supported by dated documentation of the incidents as they happened.

Final Words

Dealing with a toxic work environment is challenging. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to remediate the situation and improve the workplace atmosphere. If the situation is severe and seems to lack an internal solution, it’s best to take legal action against the offensive individuals.

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