Any prolonged situation that makes it extremely difficult for an employee to do their work, or interferes with an employee’s career growth, creates a hostile work environment.
1. Sexual harassment
Workplace sexual harassment is any form of prejudice based on sex, gender or sexual orientation. It includes unwanted comments or behavior. Any sexual actions that make you feel uncomfortable or interfere with your ability to work, are considered sexual harassment.
Discrimination refers to unequal treatment of an individual based on age, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or any other protected classification. Even if your boss discriminates against you in an attempt to make a joke, it may create a hostile workplace environment.
Threats can create an extremely uncomfortable workplace environment. If your boss constantly berates you or threatens you in front of your coworkers, the workplace may be considered hostile.
In order for any of these situations to create a hostile workplace, they must be severe, pervasive and interfere with your ability to work effectively.
A hostile work environment may be emotionally traumatic or cause you to quit your job. Here are some tips on how to handle workplace hostility.
How to handle a hostile work environment
If you feel harassed, discriminated against or threatened, the first thing you should do is ask the employee to stop. Seek help and guidance from your Human Resources department or from your manager, if so desired. Involving a witness may be beneficial for reinforcement.
Often, this initial request is enough to make your coworker stop their behavior. Your coworker may not have been aware that their words or actions were offensive to you. Once you have reported the behavior to your manager or HR department, your coworker must quit their behavior. If they don’t, your company can take action against the employee.
If your company is aware of the workplace hostility and does not do anything to interfere, you may be able to bring a lawsuit against them. Many times, this behavior is not isolated or directed at only one employee. If you know others have been targeted by hostile behavior, talking to them can help establish a pattern, which may help you present a more robust case.
You may find that employers take workplace hostility very seriously. Generally, companies want to protect their employees and prevent incidents from happening again in the future.