businesswomenWhat constitutes a hostile work environment? Is it the short-tempered boss, or the foul-mouthed coworker? Is it a lack of equality, support, or teamwork? Not every hostile work environment looks exactly the same and can be showcased in different ways.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, hostility is defined as a conflict, opposition, or resistance in thought or principle. Hostility in a work atmosphere can be described as a situation where reasonable expectations of mental/emotional well-being cannot be met, due to the crude behavior or language of another person. It is important to recognize when a work environment becomes hostile and be mindful of other coworkers that may be suffering in this sorrowful situation. Knowing how to identify and resolve a hostile work environment is crucial to establish and maintain an uplifting work environment.

Identifying a Hostile Work Environment

Rude and obnoxious behavior or language, discrimination of another employee, and personal offenses are all things that can make an employee feel uncomfortable. Some of these actions carry lawful reparations.

Victims of work-place hostility can find support in the legal system, given certain requirements are met. One of the most common legal requirements is proof of discrimination against a protected class. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provides leadership and direction in regard to what constitutes discrimination, and how it can be proved. If one chooses to pursue legal action against their offender, it is necessary to understand how to go about doing so.

Having a proper understanding of appropriate work behavior is helpful in identifying when others may be placed in an uncomfortable situation.It is essential to remain aware of one’s surroundings and the behaviors of others while at work.A hostile work environment often prohibits the person’s ability to effectively complete their work. Being mindful and observing work quality and pace can be helpful in determining if that coworker is facing troubles from external circumstances. As an employer or manager, it is important to have regular one-on-one meetings with employees. This will help in identifying any issues or hostility that the employer may not have noticed on their own.

Solving Hostility

As stated before, victims of work-place hostility can often find support in the legal system. However, not every instance of a hostile work environment can be solved by legal reparations, and not everyone wants to take that path. There are other courses of action that can be taken if the employee cannot or wishes not to pursue legal action.

Quitting a job because of someone else’s actions is something that no one should have to do, and if the offender is harming one employee, it is likely they may be currently doing the same thing to other coworkers or will repeat the offense in the future. Figure out the best approach, and then talk to them. There is no single sound solution to bring an end to a hostile work environment, resolutions are something that must be catered to each individual situation.

For some dealing with offending coworkers or even bosses, it may be helpful to seek assistance and confide in a trusted superior or a human resource professional. Allow these individuals to intervene in the situation, as there may be separate contractual reparations for rude and obnoxious behavior or crude language.

Others may simply choose to remedy the situation one-on-one. Before doing so, it is recommended to plan out how to address the concerns. Research problem solving techniques and different forms of resolution. Then when ready, address the offender. Tell them what the problem is, and how it feels. Ask them to stop. If the intervention is successful, they should become aware of how their actions are affecting others and stop the harassment. However, if the problem was not remedied, and an uncomfortable situation reoccurs, or if they begin to act a similar way towards someone else, please talk to a superior or HR about the situation.

Unfortunately, it is likely that during any career path, situations will occur where employees may feel uncomfortable. Be mindful of the environment, and do not be afraid to speak up. Knowing what constitutes a hostile work environment and being able to identify the signs of one can help reestablish a productive and enjoyable workplace. If all else fails, begin looking for a new employer or career. It is important to ensure the new employer provides a pleasant workplace. Find the comfortable, friendly choice here, and start a worthwhile career.

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