Top Tips to Handle a Hostile Work Environment

In an ideal world, we would all work in an environment we feel at ease. Still, this is not always the case. Whether it is just a co-worker or an entire group, a hostile work environment can affect both your mental well-being and your performance. 

Around one-fifth of employees say that they deal with hostile work environments frequently. By understanding how this works, you may learn how to protect yourself. Here are some tips that can help you deal with such an environment, regardless of what you are being harassed for.

Understand the Meaning of a Hostile Work Environment

We’ve all had days when we heard an inappropriate joke coming from a corner of the office or received an email leading to overtime. While annoying, this may not always count as harassment – not unless it is done frequently, abusively, and in bad faith. Recognizing a hostile work environment may help you deal with matters better.

A hostile work environment involves intimidating, abusive, or discriminatory behavior from your colleagues or superiors. This type of conduct will affect your ability to work productively. The actions are continuous and may be caused deliberately by negative co-workers.

Speak with the Offender

Sometimes, the person doing all the offenses may not even realize that they are doing something wrong in the first place. For them, this may be natural “getting along” behavior, and they may not know it makes others feel uncomfortable.

Around 38% of women say that they have experienced sexual harassment at work. Most of the time, the behavior does not even involve touching; just inappropriate comments and innuendos. The other party may not realize you are not interested and may continue with the behavior.

You may be able to put a stop to it by talking to the perp. Once they realize their actions make you feel uncomfortable, they might stop doing it.

Keep Records

If you spoke to the offender and they keep going at it, you should start gathering records. When you file a complaint, most circumstances require you to address the issue directly. When that does not work, you need to show HR that you tried to solve the problem but were not listened to. 

Along with your complaint, you need to provide a detailed record of when the incident took place and any other details that may feel relevant. Try to be aware of your surroundings and the situation itself. If it escalates into a lawsuit, you need all the data you can get.

Get Allies

If you are working in a hostile work environment, chances are that you are not the only one. Other co-workers may also be suffering from the same thing that you are. It is important to use all the support you can get. 

Remember that simply venting may not be such a good thing. Venting to the wrong person may lead to gossip and even more harassment. Find people that are walking in your shoes or understand your ordeal and try to find a solution to your problem.

Take a Break

Sometimes, it may not even be a hostile work environment. You may be feeling stressed or overworked, and even the smallest jokes can set you off. That being said, if the hostile work environment issues are legit, you may end up doing something you regret. Imagine being verbally harassed by a co-worker and slapping them, only to find out THEY filed a complaint against you.

Take a break now and again. Practice some yoga to improve your willpower and self-discipline. Drink a cup of tea or just take a walk. This can help remove the tension and clear your mind, putting things into perspective for you. 

Look for Legal Counsel

As sad as it may seem, harassment is not always taken seriously. Unless there is actual touching involved or punches were thrown, complaints will be dismissed. Things become even more difficult if you file a complaint against the one receiving the said document. If it’s your boss or the HR manager, such a document could easily be disregarded. 

This is why you may want to seek legal counsel. Make sure that you go for a lawyer from your area, as they will be familiar with specific employment laws. For example, if you live in California, you should look into California employment lawyers. This way, you will not have to worry about any loopholes.

The Bottom Line

A hostile work environment can significantly affect how we perform. This is why we need to handle it as soon as it appears. Remember to always be professional and to take proactive measures for your problem.

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