Workplaces should be spaces of growth, camaraderie, and productivity. However, at times, they can transform into zones of stress and discomfort. When negative behaviour and toxic culture prevail in a work setting, we term it as a hostile work environment. It’s a reality that too many employees face, often without knowing how to identify it or respond effectively.
Recognising a hostile work environment is the first critical step in tackling it. Knowing the signs can help you address issues early, avoid further harm, and take the necessary steps to protect your rights and wellbeing. In this article, we will cover some of the basics to deal with a hostile workplace before you call a lawyer like HKM.com.
Bullying or Harassment is Prevalent
Workplaces should be safe havens, free from acts of bullying and harassment. When one or more employees engage in repetitive, unwanted behaviour directed at a specific individual, it can create a hostile environment. It’s crucial to remember that this behaviour isn’t always physical. It can also be verbal, psychological, or even digital.
Harassment, on the other hand, typically involves unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic such as race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. It creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment. Remember, harassment is illegal under many laws globally.
Some examples of harassment can include offensive jokes, slurs, name-calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule, insults, offensive pictures, and more.
In either case, it is important to document any instances for when you eventually need to escalate the situation.
Work can be demanding, and there’s no problem with an occasional busy period. But when long hours, high stress, and unrealistic expectations become the norm rather than the exception, you might be in a hostile work environment.
Overworking often looks like consistent extra hours with no extra pay or time off. You might feel pressured to stay late, come in early, or work through your breaks to meet impossible deadlines. Sometimes, it can even extend into your personal time, with you feeling obligated to check emails or complete tasks outside of work hours.
Being committed to your job is one thing, but if you’re constantly feeling overwhelmed and stressed due to the excessive workload and unrealistic goals, it’s not healthy. Talk to your bosses about the issue and see how it can be resolved without needing to move on from this job.
Lack of Feedback or Communication
In a thriving and healthy workplace, effective communication and constructive feedback are key. They ensure that everyone is on the same page, working towards common goals. However, when communication becomes scarce or one-sided, and feedback is either non-existent or consistently negative, it may indicate a hostile work environment.
One of the most prevalent communication issues in a hostile workplace is the hoarding of key information. This occurs when critical information about projects, changes, or decisions is purposely withheld, preventing others from performing their job effectively.