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How to Deal With a Hostile Work Environment

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

You quit! Nah, I’m just kidding. But at the end of the day, that might be something you may want to consider if all other efforts have proven futile. A lot of industries are known for being hostile when it comes to their workplace culture.

Industries like the entertainment industry or the oil and gas industry (especially those who work offshore) are notorious for making it difficult for people to feel welcome when they show up to work. Most times it is a gender issue, other times it might just be a thing of—this person is here to take my job! So I will make their life a living hell!

I have been blessed enough not to experience a hostile work environment in my few years of working. All my bosses have been kind, to say the least, and the co-workers have been pleasant as well. Before I started working, a hostile work environment was one of my biggest fears because of some of the horror stories I had become privy to.

I always prayed for a workplace where I could thrive not just in my work but also mentally.

Before I go ahead to give you tips on how to handle a hostile work environment, let us start off by defining what a hostile work environment is.

What a hostile work environment is

According to, “A hostile work environment is created by a boss or coworker whose actions, communication or behavior makes doing your job impossible. This means that the behavior altered the terms, conditions, and/or reasonable expectations of a comfortable work environment for employees. Additionally, the behavior, actions, or communication must be discriminatory in nature.”

If you are afraid when it’s time to head to work, like a child who is being bullied having anxiety when it is time to go to school, chances are you are in a hostile work environment. If you head to the bathroom to cry, after each criticism or feedback; chances are there is something not quite right in the space that you are in.

What it isn’t

Now, if your boss gets upset and screams at you (although I don’t support this) for something you failed to do, and this happens once in a while, that is not a hostile workplace. Maybe your boss was having a bad day and took out their frustration on you when you messed up. Or if your coworker keeps picking on you for no reason, you can be matured about it and have a conversation. Not everything has to be blown out of proportion, not everything is considered hostile.

So how do you handle a hostile environment? Below are 5 tips that can work effectively

1) Seek help internally: before you take action over perceived workplace hostility, make sure it’s behavior that has been occurring over a period of time. Your boss or employee can’t act a certain way towards you one time, and you conclude that the environment is hostile. Once it is established that the behavior has been recurrent over time, make use of your company’s internal complaint system, stating the facts of what you are experiencing.

2) Communicate with other employees: now let’s say most of the hostility you experience is from the management team or your boss, you have to find out from others if they are experiencing the same behavior. If they are not, then you should find a way to have an open and honest conversation with your boss about the way you are being treated. If others are experiencing the same heat, and everyone is complaining about how bad the place is, then the issue should be taken to human resources. That particular boss/manager might need to be replaced.


3) Research laws surrounding your unique situation in the workplace/seek legal advice: If your company shows no interest in helping you solve your problem, then it might be time to take legal action against them. But first, you must do your research, have evidence that the company is aware of the issues you are having, and also have witnesses. In order for you to make a strong case, you must have evidence. Also, seek legal advice from a lawyer who is well versed in such issues and they will advise you accordingly.

4) Pray: if you are a Christian in the workplace, you can never underestimate the essence of prayer. Because the going will get tough, and you will need God’s help to navigate through certain issues. Especially if you are in a hostile environment, ask God for help and the next steps you should take. Also, you have to show love throughout the process. Try as much as possible not to treat people the way they treat you.

5) Quit: no hostile environment is good for anyone; physically, mentally, or emotionally. If you feel fear each day when you go to work if you derive no joy from what you are doing any longer, if the environment is making it difficult for you to do your job effectively, then it might be time to consider other opportunities. Truth is, if you drop dead tomorrow, you will be replaced. That is the sad reality of what people face in the workplace.

For you to be productive, you need a space where you can effectively perform your duties. If communication and other forms of resolutions don’t solve your problem, then it is time to kiss that opportunity goodbye! You need your sanity to fulfill your obligations.

What do you think about this article? Have you experienced working in a hostile work environment? Please share your experiences with us by leaving your comments in the comments section below, and also remember to like, share and subscribe, never to miss an update.

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