Coping with a Hostile Work Environment

A hostile work environment can make an otherwise great job miserable. Hostility comes in many forms, from a workplace bully to sexist or racist company policies. It can be caused by one person or many. No matter what form it takes or what the cause, a bad work environment damages your physical and mental health. It also reduces productivity. So what do you do when you’re working in a hostile environment? Some tips of coping:


Avoid if Possible

If hostility is caused by a particular person, it’s best to just avoid the individual as much as possible. Keep interactions brief and completely professional. Try to communicate via email, so that any unprofessional behavior will be on record should you choose to take action. If a transfer to a different department might be an option, ask your manager or HR director. There will always be one or two people that are difficult to work with, so don’t let that stop you from enjoying your job.

Find a Work Friend or Mentor

Having a friend or mentor at work can go a long way to helping ease your anxiety and increase morale. Seek out someone with similar goals or someone in a position to which you aspire. Start by asking a few questions about their job (most people will be happy to talk about themselves) and if they respond positively ask if they want to meet over lunch or coffee. Don’t complain about your job or specific people while at work, but it is okay to speak about stress in general and ask for advice about situations without being too detailed.

Take Detailed Notes

Making notes of hostile behavior will give a record to show management. Note the time, date, what was said or done, and any potential witnesses. Keeping good records means you’ll be taken more seriously when you file a complaint. Store the records in a safe place (not at work) so that they won’t be stolen.

Speak to a Manager

If the situation is affecting your ability to work, it’s time to talk to a manager. If you like your direct manager, you can choose to approach him or her. If the hostility is coming from your manager or he or she is allowing it, move on to HR. Many managers tend to look the other way when problems are present, hoping they will resolve themselves. Whether you’re speaking to a direct manager or HR, be sure to take the records you’ve kept as proof. Also, remember that HR is representing the company, not you. Keep your presentation professional and fact-based, and work with your manager or HR to find a solution that works for you and the company.

Make Plans to Leave

When an entire company culture is hostile, it’s time to leave. It may change in the future, but it would require management leaving and being replaced with better people. Making the decision to leave can relieve some stress because you know that you’re getting out of a bad situation. It may take time to find the right position, so don’t rush when looking for another job. You don’t want to go from a bad situation to an even worse work environment. Research employers online, read reviews, and talk to your contacts in order to feel out company cultures. Stay as professional as possible at your current job and don’t burn any bridges.

For more information about work environment, read The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace

1 thought on “Coping with a Hostile Work Environment”

  1. A hostile work environment can 100% ruin a company and an employee’s ability to be productive. Like you said, the best thing to do is stay above the fray and look for greener pastures. Additionally, if you see someone else dealing with a hostile environment, be a beacon of light!

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