What to Do in a Hostile Work Environment

A hostile work environment can be described as an environment where one’s workplace is toxic and unwelcoming to the point where it’s almost impossible for them to get their job done. This also includes being repeatedly singled out from the group, constantly being berated for minuscule things, or always being the subject of a cruel joke. The harasser can be a supervisor, a fellow colleague, or even a visitor who doesn’t work for the company.

Being in a hostile work environment can be detrimental to one’s health. According to a 2017 Study from the Workplace Bullying Institute, 60.4 Million Americans are affected by workplace bullying. Those who are or have been bullied can experience high levels of stress, anxiety, inability to concentrate, and trouble sleeping – just to name a few. If there have been attempts made to confront the harasser about their offending actions and the behavior persists, here are some options to choose from so that one doesn’t feel completely stuck.

  • Consider your allies. If you have a trusted friend in the workplace, talk to them. There is a chance that your fellow colleague could be experiencing the same thing that you are. Not only is it important to know that you are not completely alone, but it’s also good to know that someone else has been made aware of what’s going on, in the case that the situation escalates.
  • Keep yourself safe. Along with having an ally, it’s also important to be conscious of the circumstances. If the harasser is your immediate supervisor or even a colleague, try to avoid situations where you might be alone with them. If they invite you out to lunch, politely decline. If they keep persisting, tell them that you brought lunch from home, or that you’re just not hungry. Even though there’s a chance that nothing will happen, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Steer clear of situations where you’re not completely comfortable.
  • If you’ve followed all three previous steps and nothing has changed, the only thing left to do is to possibly look for an escape. If you have a human resources department in your company or organization, you might want to utilize that and make them aware of the situation. However, if you simply cannot tolerate the behavior anymore, you can consider resigning. Perhaps start looking for positions elsewhere. If the opportunity arises and you do get another job somewhere else, give your supervisor your 2 weeks’ notice. Explain to them that you found another position elsewhere and that you are leaving. It is important to note that you should make a peaceful exit. You never know when you’ll need a recommendation letter, or there is a chance you could end up working for the company again in the future.
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