There have been moments in our lives when our jobs got the better of us. Some particular days or situations made us uncomfortable or angry. But if the prospect of going back to work makes you feel ill and disrupts your overall private life, then you are dealing with a hostile work environment. This means that a superior or co-worker repeatedly engages in damaging behavior that comes into conflict with your doing your job.
These actions last over time and any expectations of a comfortable work environment are altered. This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. So, in this article, we’re going to look at some of the best ways to protect yourself from a hostile work environment.
6 Ways to Bring Peace in a Hostile Work Environment
1. Take Breaks
It is important to disconnect from work when you feel you are surrounded by too much negativity. Take a walk around the block or put your headphones in and listen to relaxing music. You can also decorate your desk or office to make the environment more comfortable and bright.
Try to avoid those who have inappropriate or abusive behavior and keep away from gossip. Stepping away from the desk will help you cool down. It also distracts you from a potentially damaging reaction to a situation that you might come to regret later.
2. Like-Minded Coworkers Are Key
Another step is to discuss your issues with trusted coworkers. This is a way to share your burden and come up with possible solutions. This way, you will feel less alone. Also, you can provide group statements to upper management that are going to bear more weight in a potentially difficult situation.
Make sure to help one another in the case of a managerial change that could affect the department and protect yourselves.
3. Know the Company Policy Before Taking Action
Consult with the company policies on appropriate behavior at the workplace. Write down what policy you feel has been breached. Also, write down the time and date of the incidents for a clear log of what happened.
A work diary is a good way to document the happenings in your environment and it stands as proof in case you need to defend yourself.
4. Make Sure to Address the Issue
A difficult but necessary step is to take action when you feel someone has been hostile to you and it escalated too much. This is the very last step to try and stop the offender from continuing. Tell the offender you are going to take it to upper management.
Make sure you have a detailed account of the situation to present to your superiors and provide clear examples. Keep a cool head when speaking to the manager to maintain a professional environment. Request a follow up to see if action was indeed taken.
5. Taking Legal Action
If the situation you are in is the very definition of a hostile work environment, you may have ground to take legal action against the offender. Proving that the conduct of a colleague or manager has been completely offensive and breached the terms and conditions of your contract gives you legal claim.
The United States Supreme Court does not consider isolated incidents to qualify as part of a hostile work environment. Also, having a hostile work environment is not an independent claim. As such, you have to prove that the harassment happened because of a protective trait. Discrimination is at the basis of such a claim.
6. Alternative Solution: Leaving
- If the hostile work environment persists and severely damages your ability to perform at work, consider leaving. Make sure you look for job openings in due time. This way you will have something lined up for you when the time comes. This is a good preventive step because it is better to draft your resignation letter on the spot with the help of your boss or an HR representative.
- This is where you have to cite your reasons for leaving. Also, make sure you use any sick days or bonuses you have left. Don’t forget to ask the HR representative to transfer your health insurance coverage or retirement plan to your next job.
- Before leaving, make sure you complete your projects, as a token of professionalism. A detailed account of your work is going to help the person taking over your position.
- And if HR suggests an exit interview, it is good to take it. Explaining the reasons for your resignation might be helpful for the company to look out for other similar situations and prevent them. Calmly provide a detailed account of what happened and you might help future employees to have a better work experience.
Being in a hostile work environment is an awful situation but it is important to take all the preventive steps to not get caught in all the negativity. Also, it is important to remind yourself that it is not reflective of who you are, no matter how demoralizing it is and that you cannot control what other people do or say.
You should not own to the behavior of others but rather focus on yourself. Personal growth will inevitably happen. However, it is important to recognize it so you can apply your knowledge to future challenges. It is good noting mistakes so you’ll know to avoid them, keep your integrity intact and be an example for others.