Managing Hostile Work Environment & Harassment
- 1. What Is Hostile Work Environment?
- 1. What Is Hostile Work Environment?
- 2. What Is Harassment?
- 3. Harassment Laws
- 4. Managing Hostile Work Environments
- 5. The Affect of Harassment on Mental Health
- 6. Is Discrimination the Same as Harassment?
- 7. What to Do if You Are Harassed at Work?
- 8. How to Resolve Hostile Work Environment
- 9. What Employers Can Do to Prevent Harassment
- 10. How to Prove a Hostile Work Environment?
- 11. Possible Health Effects From Harassment
- 12. Turning Hostile Work Environments Into Peaceful Work Environments
Working in and managing a hostile work environment and harassment isn’t a walk in the park. It can be challenging to learn how to handle the situation without offending bosses, ruining team productivity, and emotionally burning out. Learning how to report harassment at work is an important keeping employees safe and the company environment smooth sailing. But with clear and respectful communication, along with the tips in this article, you will be able to manage a hostile work environment effectively.
What Is Hostile Work Environment?
Examples include jokes, emails, crude pictures, inappropriate touching, pranking, stalking, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. It is any colleague that makes your work unbearable or uncomfortable.
What Is Harassment?
In today’s world of modern technology, harassment can extend to social media, email, text messages, and phone calls. So, keep reading to understand it and learn how to report harassment at work.
Undervalued or UnappreciatedA sign of a hostile work environment is if your employer or team doesn’t appreciate the work you put in on a regular basis.
Constant ConflictRegular arguments or physical fights is a sign of a hostile work environment
Even if the conflict is subtle, like teasing someone based on their age, this still creates a sense of hostility towards someone.
Being IgnoredIf you’ve spoken to your boss about feeling harassed and then your shifts change, and you’re no longer involved in big meetings, this creates a sense of a hostile work environment.
It can also be when a colleague ignores your presence in meetings or around the office.
BurnoutsBurnout is a sign that you are emotionally, mentally, or physically overworked. If your workload keeps piling higher than everyone else’s and you’re working overtime without being asked, this could be a sign of a hostile work environment.
BullyingWhen a bully at work tries to intimidate and humiliate individuals or groups of people, this is usually a sign that this needs to be resolved.
Offensive Messages or ImagesSharing any offensive images or messages in any format at work could lead to a hostile work environment.
DiscriminationDiscrimination is when someone is underpaid, let go, or other employment actions because of their protected characteristic.
Sexual HarassmentLastly, sexual harassment is when unwanted sexual advances make someone feel uncomfortable.
Usually, the laws on harassment change from place to place. Also, learning how to file a harassment report at work will change from company to company. But in general, a court will assess whether each incident creates a hostile work environment. Some examples of the incidents of harassment are:
- Verbal comment
- A text
- Answer message
- An email
- Stalking behaviours
- Damage to your property
- Acts of violence
- False accusations
Managing Hostile Work Environments
- Address the issue
- Involve the correct people – HR, Line Manager, etc
- Train Employees
- Create Healthier Policies
The Affect of Harassment on Mental Health
When someone is being harassed, it triggers the fight or flight response in our brain, which releases stress into the body.
When harassment affects our self-esteem or our self-worth, it can trigger depression. Employees can begin to feel hopeless when they see no way out of a hostile work environment. They can start to lose the joy of doing their job and feel tired and low spirited.
It’s important to note that victims of harassment tend to think it is their fault, that there is something wrong with them. Know that that is not the truth of the situation. It’s that those harassing you are exerting some kind of control over you.
Other effects seen in employees is those that express irritation and anger. Sometimes victims of harassment bottle the feelings, and it is expressed in anger or becoming passive-aggressive. This anger, if it continues over time, can lead to high blood pressure and increases anxiety.
Is Discrimination the Same as Harassment?
Harassment is general bullying, like verbally or physically mistreating someone because of their protected characteristic.
What to Do if You Are Harassed at Work?
4 Examples of What You Can Do:
- Politely tell the person, “the way you say this makes me feel very uncomfortable”, explaining how you feel in detail.
- If the behaviour continues, then seek advice from those you trust around you. If they notice the same behaviours, then you can take that information to HR.
- Sometimes you can tell a line manager or HR, they want to see their teams thrive, and they will want to help.
- If none of the previous steps are possible or they don’t work, you should consider looking at the law, what evidence you need, and how to get it.
How to Resolve Hostile Work Environment
You Can Control Your ActionsWe can discuss things with others, but we can’t change the behaviours of others. We can control our reaction to it though, remaining calm and separating the person from their hostile behaviour.
Learning is a ToolUse this opportunity as a tool to learn about yourself and how to manage in a hostile work environment. Instead of letting it consume you, learn how to deal with it with the points below.
Research Company PolicyWhat is the company policy on harassment and bullying? What don’t they tolerate? And what actions do they advise you to take if you do suffer from any hostility? What do they say on how to report harassment at work?
Follow Procedures for ComplaintsYou can also find their procedure for filing a complaint in the policies. If you’re suffering, the best thing to do is discuss it with the person first, and then file a complaint if their behaviour towards you hasn’t stopped.
Document, Document, Document EverythingIt’s wise to keep the unsolicited emails, messages, or other proof to hand. Keeping documentation could help down the road if you need to file a claim.
Assistance & AlliesSeek out the help of HR. Although the process can be long when HR is involved, and HR doesn’t always feel comfortable enough. HR is there to help you. You can also discuss the issue with others on your team who feel the same, if you’re all being mistreated. Together your voice will more likely be heard.
DiscussWorking together with your allies and with those we conflict with can sometimes be resolved with communication. But, if it can’t, then the next option might be for you.
File a ClaimArmed with documentation that you filed a complaint, spoke to HR, and tried to resolve the situation – and yet you are still working in a hostile environment – time to contact a lawyer and see whether the proof you have is enough to make a claim.
What Employers Can Do to Prevent Harassment
If a company has money to invest, the best idea is to get a third party coach to help get to the heart of what is creating a toxic work environment. The reason is, although many employees are safe in human resources departments, many don’t trust HR. For example, one survey across technology companies discovered that 70% of workers don’t trust HR. So, a third party could be the bridge between the company and its employees.
Then work on creating a policy that furthers the aim to create a safe workspace for all. The policy should include everything in detail. For example, it should explain how workers can file a complaint. It should have different reporting channels to make it easy.
A good policy will also include different approaches to dealing with a hostile work environment. There should be clearly stated that harassment is not tolerated, that victimization isn’t tolerated either. Victimisation being when someone speaks up about harassment, they will be shamed or punished for doing so.
There should also be advice and services that will help victims of harassment in the policy. Creating a culture where people feel able to come forward and resolve these issues is incredibly worthwhile.
How to Prove a Hostile Work Environment?
Gather the evidence you need to bring to a lawyer is step number one. Sometimes it can be difficult to prove a hostile work environment, especially if it is verbal. But having witnesses write statements can help prove to a lawyer and court that it’s happening.
A jury will believe your claim if you can back that up with the formal complaints to human resources and proof that they were aware of their behaviour. So it’s all about making the people and company involved aware of the situation in advance and allowing them the opportunity to fix it.
Possible Health Effects From Harassment
Examples of Harassment Effecting Health:
- Poor sleep
- Problems Concentrating
- Stomach aches