Are you currently stuck in a hostile work environment? Here’s exactly what constitutes a hostile work environment, including the signs, causes, and how to get out.
Sometimes, people feel their job is unfriendly because their colleagues bother them or their office isn’t very comfortable. These situations can be irritating and affect your work, but they don’t really make your job place unfriendly.
If you suspect you’re in a hostile work environment, check out the entire article to see what a hostile work environment is, what the signs are, and how you can deal with it.
Just know that you don’t need to stay in a hostile work environment. You deserve more, and the company you currently work for should change its environment asap!
When you want to get another job, here’s exactly how to wow recruiters with your resume and avoid the mistakes 95% of people make:
What Is A Hostile Work Environment?
A hostile work environment is any employment environment where you feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, offended, or discriminated against. Whether it’s sexual harassment in the workplace, racial profiling, or just plain bullying, all of this can lead to a work environment turning hostile, and maybe it’s time for you to look for another job. Here are the 25 companies with the best benefits this year.
Unfortunately, harassment in the workplace has become a lot more common recently as people face discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, race, nationality, religion, or even age. And sometimes enough is enough, and you just need to take the step and move on and find something better for your mental health and stability!
Workplace hostility can be intimidating. It can impact your mental health and significantly impact the organization’s overall conduct and work performance. The people around them are sure to be affected by what is happening in front of them.
The worst part about a hostile work environment is that it can come from anywhere. It can be a janitor who is harassing you with racial comments, a lousy boss, no good teamwork, no promotion while you have the qualities, and more. And most of the time, people stay silent and put up with these actions because they feel like they need to keep their job.
What Are The Requirements For A Hostile Work Environment?
You may not realize it, but not having strict legal requirements for a hostile work environment can lead to many problems. As an employee, it’s essential to feel safe at work and do your job. As a business, it’s important to prevent false allegations and have systems in place to make your employees feel safe.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, formed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, set up harassment laws that state that for a work environment to be considered hostile, comments made against the accusing party should be discriminatory. The Harrassee should prove that they were discriminated against based on race, religion, color, gender, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, pregnancy, age, or disability. Also, the accusing party must prove that the actions conducted were pervasive or severe enough to be considered workplace harassment.
That’s a lot of words. If you’re a person in a hostile work environment and want to do something about it, you have to gather evidence to make your case.
Additionally, some conditions are set beforehand as to what constitutes a hostile work environment. Let’s have a look at those.
- The action or speech should be discriminatory or physically dangerous to you or the people around you.
- The behavior should be perverse and persistent. You can’t accuse someone of something that happened once, unfortunately.
- The behavior should be affecting you severely, meaning that it either causes direct harm to your ability to work or mental stability, or it may become a hurdle in your career progression. For example, you were losing a chance of promotion because your boss used to bully you.
- If an employee conducted the discrimination, it is safe to assume that the employer knew about the incidents but made little to no effort towards stopping it. The organization or the employer can be accused based on the actions of their employees, as they help create and maintain a hostile work environment.
- The report of a hostile work environment case should be handled with utmost anonymity, and even if the person who reported is not anonymous, retaliation is to be considered illegal. Meaning a person is not allowed to retaliate against the person who reported the behavior.
Although the last point seems obvious, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!
Hostile Work Environment Cases
Now that we know what can constitute a hostile work environment let’s look at some of the cases that could be considered hostile and some that may appear hostile but do not qualify as workplace hostility.
Suppose a colleague or a group of co-workers making sexual jokes or remarks around a specific employee. Even if they think they’re making jokes or just teasing, it is still unwanted and considered a hostile workplace. They are creating a hostile environment of intimidation, demeaning behavior, and harassment. It can be classified as harassment at work, where corrective action is needed.
Another example. Sometimes in the heat of a moment or an argument, people may say something that they don’t mean. A retroactive workplace means that there will be a lot of differences and disputes. And where there are arguments, people may lose their temper.
If they have made a comment or a suggestive remark under such circumstances or passing, this is not enough for the workplace to be considered hostile. For it to be considered discrimination and harassment, it should have occurred more than once. Even though it’s perfectly normal to let that person know you’re not accepting this type of behavior again.
The last example. If your supervisor demands sexual favors in exchange for career progression or to get out of a bad situation, it’s even worse. It is only is a hostile work environment. It can also be considered workplace sexual harassment, and the harasser may be facing serious prison time. This violates a gazillion of laws and is enough to sue and start a lawsuit based on inappropriate and sexually explicit behavior.
These are a couple of examples of acts of harassment that are considered unlawful, rude, unfair, and can cause distress to employees. These cases occur more frequently than we’d like to believe. Nonetheless, they exist, and you need to protect yourself from them.
Dealing With A Hostile Work Environment
Everyone deserves a chance to work in a healthy and comfortable work environment. A place that would help you grow as an individual and in your career rather than holding you back. But not all of us are lucky enough to have that kind of working opportunity.
That does not mean that you can’t work on your circumstances and make them better for you and the people around you when experiencing a hostile work environment.
For this reason, we decided to provide you with the best possible ways to counter a hostile work environment and allow you to improve your working conditions. So, here are a few resources that you can use to address workplace hostility.
The first step to take when you face workplace hostility is to communicate with the offending party and find out what the problem is or if it is just a misunderstanding. This is usually done in case of crude jokes that may seem inappropriate to you.
Sometimes what you consider offensive might not be that big of a deal for the other person, and they might be doing it as a light-hearted joke. It is always better to address the problem before taking any legal action.
When you talk to them and address the issue, they might realize how big an issue they have been creating for you, and you might even get a heartfelt apology.
2. Retaliation Clause
According to the laws set up by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “Any retaliation against the person reporting a hostile work environment case is considered illegal and will be met with severe consequences.”
Although many forces that tackle these problems try to keep the anonymity of the reporting party, this situation can sometimes not be achieved. In such a case, EEOC has made it a rule to protect the reporting party by setting up this clause as a countermeasure to any possible aftermath.
This may not be the perfect case scenario, but it is still better than being in constant fear of retaliation, whether in the form of career hurdles or other harm. This clause allows you to be a lot freer with your decisions to report illegal activities at a workplace.
3. Seek Out Help
When faced with workplace hostility, you must seek out any possible help you can find. You are not alone in this. There are always people who have suffered from a similar problem, came out on top, and are willing to help.
That’s not all. In a hostile work environment, you always have the opportunity to take the issue up to your supervisor or the human resource manager to get them to help you in seeking a possible solution. It may seem obvious as most people think that managers and supervisors are aware of these incidents. That is not the case at all.
If you take the time to seek help and want to get things sorted out, human resources is a good place for that.
Most of the time, supervisors are too caught up in their work to be aware of the problems faced by their employees. This is the sad truth of most businesses that are centralized and can be bureaucratic. And even if they were aware of the problem and disregarded it, bringing it to their attention means affecting your work environment. It is more than likely that they will help you out.
This is why we strongly advise you to seek out help because you never know who might be able to turn your situation around.
Some other modes that aren’t very comprehensive but can help you out in dealing with such problems are that you can join a harassment training program that constitutes methods and procedures for dealing with discrimination in a workplace. Even though I don’t believe you are the problem, they may shield you from future jerks.
All In All – Hostile Work Environment
These are some of the tools and resources you can use to help you tackle a hostile work environment, such as federal laws and anti-discrimination laws specifically for this purpose. There are many other methods in your trials against workplace bullying and hostility, as mentioned here. And we believe with all this information. You will be able to take care of all the toxicity in your workplace and turn your professional life around!
Founder of Spark Nomad, Radical FIRE, Journalist
- Expertise: Personal finance and travel content
- Education: Bachelor of Economics at Radboud University, Master in Finance at Radboud University, Minor in Economics at Chapman University.
- Over 200 articles, essays, and short stories published across the web.
Experience: Marjolein Dilven is a journalist and founder of Spark Nomad, a travel platform, and Radical FIRE, a personal finance platform. Marjolein has a finance and economics background with a master’s in Finance. She has quit her job to travel the world, documenting her travels on Spark Nomad to help people plan their travels. Marjolein Dilven has written for publications like MSN, Associated Press, CNBC, Town News syndicate, and more.