We can all have a bad day at work, and there are times when we won't get along with our boss or coworkers, but there is a difference between having the occasional bad day and working in a hostile work environment.
A hostile work environment is characterized by persistent abuses of power, unfair and antagonistic behaviour, and bullying and harassment. Any one of these factors can undermine how we feel at work, cause us to feel stress and anxiety, and give us reason to quit our jobs.
Surviving a hostile work environment isn't easy, but there are solutions.
The first is to quit your job
We hinted at this a moment ago, but if you are genuinely miserable at work because of the behaviour around you, whether it is directed at you or not, then getting out of there may be the answer. Considering this isn't always the practical choice, however, especially when you are dependent on the income you receive, then you might consider the following ideas before you hand in your notice.
You don't want to lose your job by adding to the hostility in your workplace, so be the person who does the right thing. When possible, keep your head down and do your job. Wear earphones if you need to drown out the gossip, slander, and general bad talk around you, and carry on with your work. Should you feel threatened in any way, stand up for yourself, but do it in a way that is level-headed, rather than retaliating with anger. Letting others know that you aren't to be stepped on may cause them to back off. And follow correct protocol when dealing with others, such as checking work policies, and speaking to your line manager or somebody else in a position of authority if you can't manage your workload because of the environment you are in.
Don't suffer alone. If you are struggling to survive in your workplace, chances are some of your coworkers may be having the same problem. Find those people you can trust, spend time with them away from anybody causing negativity, and if need be, think of an action plan together to improve the workplace. You might all agree to document the bad behaviour happening around you, for example, before speaking to a union rep or your manager with the evidence you have accumulated. Or you might band together as a group and speak to the people causing problems, letting them know in a respectful way as possible that you will no longer stand for the bad behaviour taking place in the workplace.
Seek legal help
If your employer doesn't take steps to resolve the situation, or if they are responsible for the hostile work environment in the first place, then you have the right to seek legal counsel. This is especially true if you are being threatened or harassed in any way, and/or your health is suffering because of the workplace you are in. Your attorney may send a letter regards your grievances to your employer in the first instance, and this may spur your employer on to make changes where necessary. But if the letter doesn't work, then you have the right to file a hostile work environment claim. You will need to have some proof of the incidents at work to back up your claim although this isn't always the case in a harassment claim, particularly when it comes to sexual harassment. Attorneys such as Winer, McKenna & Burritt, LLP lawyers can help you when it comes to this serious legal matter.
We hope you found this advice useful, especially if you are currently suffering in a hostile work environment, so let us know what you think. And if you have first-hand experience, you may be able to offer advice of your own, so please share your survival strategies with us.
Take care, and thanks for reading.