A hostile work environment is one where staff members feel harassed in a way by other employees or the management. In such an environment, an employee’s work is usually disrupted and their career progress compromised. However, a workplace cannot be classified as hostile just because a colleague talks loudly or because you were denied one benefit. There are some seriously toxic workplaces where hostile communication, actions and behavior are severe and last over a significant period of time.
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Here are some of the signs of a hostile work environment:
One of the major signs of a hostile work environment is when employers and workmates discriminate each other. This could be on the basis of sexual orientation, age, sex, race, marital status, religion, disability or even personal appearance. When you are discriminated against, you might find yourself being deprived of benefits which are rightfully yours. For instance, you could be passed over for a pay raise or promotion in favor of someone else who is less qualified.
2. Sexual harassment
This refers to any form of inappropriate behavior which has sexual connotations. This could be anything from using sexual innuendoes when talking to someone or touching their body inappropriately. This could also involve workmates who send sexually explicit images of nude people on email. However, one of the most common forms of sexual harassment is bosses asking for sexual favors in return for job related benefits such as salary increments and promotions. Employees who fail to comply with such unwanted advances are likely to be victimized.
Intimidation can be physical or verbal. For instance, a boss can intimidate an employee with a continual threat of job loss or salary reduction. Some employees are also subjected to physical violence from their colleagues, clients or bosses. Facing intimidation on a continual basis can be very detrimental not only to your self-esteem but also to your health.
4. Poor facilities
Failing to provide the right equipment can also result in a hostile work environment. For example, some employees are forced to work in spaces which have poor lighting, furniture, ventilation and poor sanitary facilities. Factory or farm workers might find themselves handling dangerous chemicals without any protective gear. Working in such environments is not only frustrating but could also result in serious health implications.
If you find yourself in a hostile work environment, you need to address the situation before it gets out of hand. The first step should be to have a meeting with the offender where possible. Let them know that their behavior is inappropriate and that you will not tolerate it. If the situation persists, you can forward the matter to human resources or a manager. In many cases, the management might not even be aware of the situation. Informing them could therefore provide an opportunity for the problem to be addressed. However, if the hostility involves the management, you could consider making a complaint to the labor authorities in your country. If nothing changes, the best option would be to look for another job altogether.