A hostile work environment is a cancer to the workplace. Just about the only people who expect a hostile work environment are members of the military serving on the front lines of conflict. Even then, they take precautions to minimize the hostile nature of their jobs.
Unfortunately, more than just soldiers face a hostile work environment every day. The hostility they experience thankfully is not physical in nature. However, workplace harassment is prevalent through society.
Three examples of a hostile work environment are as follows:
It is NEVER acceptable to yell at a co-worker, boss or subordinate. Besides a physically hostile work environment, yelling is the worst example of workplace harassment.
Nothing can be more demeaning to an employee than receiving a tongue lashing from a boss. It should NEVER occur. It does though and there are actions to take if it does.
Another prevalent example of workplace harassment that causes a hostile work environment is verbal ridicule. The ridicule is not in the form of yelling but instead in inconsiderate, degrading comments.
Healthy and constructive criticism is necessary. It’s even desired by most employees. On the other hand, being torn down emotionally and intellectually is considered harassment. People who take this approach should not be allowed to stay in the workplace.
A popular form of workplace harassment is to make an employee feel unwanted or unneeded by not talking to or not giving work to that employee. In essence, that employee is left to feeling forgotten and unwanted.
We do this because we feel like it’s the easiest, non-confrontational way to deal with an employee. Isn’t that sad? What happened to talking with a person constructively?
Have you experienced workplace harassment to the point you feel like you’re working in a hostile work environment? Have you witnessed it? If you have experienced or witnessed workplace harassment, follow these tips:
1. Confront the harasser – Confrontation is never easy or enjoyable. However, it is necessary. In some cases, the guilty party may not realize how their actions have been perceived. Confronting a harasser (gently and with kindness) may be the first indication to this person of how detrimental his/her actions have been.
In other cases, confronting the harassing co-worker or boss will help portray you more as an equal, rather than as a subordinate. The harassment may just cease altogether after just one instance of you standing up for yourself.
2. Confront again – If you are truly being harassed by someone who is intentionally creating a hostile work environment, the initial confrontation will not stop him. If the harassment continues, you need to confront the accused again.
Just as the first time, be as kind as you can. But, use more forceful words to demonstrate your sincerity.
3. Document – As with anything related to a potential legal issue, documentation is the key. If the workplace harassment continues after the second confrontation, start documenting every instance of experiencing a hostile work environment.
Documentation should be as detailed as possible. Write dates, times, witnesses, etc. Witnesses will be the most influential and important cog in this harassment wheel.
Hopefully, you never will have to use this documentation but you need it none the less.
4. Go above – If you continue to suffer from the hostile work environment because the harassment doesn’t stop, you’ve got to go up the ranks. You will need to either tell your boss or your harasser’s boss about the issue.
Workplace bullying can simply (but not all the time) be a power play. Those who have power sometimes like to abuse that power. If you go above that person in the chain of command, the power play is reversed.
5. Human resources – Depending on how large your company is, the Human Resources department may need to be your next stop. HR departments in large companies wield a lot of power and can emphasize issues when warranted.
If you go to HR, be aware that you will likely be asked to file a formal complaint and a formal investigation should occur.
Don’t be afraid about the investigation if you are not at fault. You have the right to work in a non-hostile work environment so an investigation will just help solve the issue.
6. Seek legal action – Hopefully legal action is your last resort. If you get to this stage, someone else in your workplace has neglected his/her duty to provide a safe and non-threatening place of work.
You will need to provide all of your documentation, including each step you took to help resolve the workplace harassment issue.
A hostile work environment should not be feared. We have rights to not be harassed, to be free of fear of physical, emotional or spiritual harm.
You can keep a hostile work environment from having a life-long impact on you. You deserve to enjoy your job and be the shining light others need so they can enjoy theirs.
While these steps should not be considered legal advice, the six steps above are a good place to start. If we all work together, workplace harassment and bullying can be stopped.