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host to navigate a hostile work environment

How to Navigate A Hostile Work Environment

Most Nigerians have experienced a hostile work environment. If you haven’t,  big congratulations to you.         

No matter the type of job you do, stress is inevitable. It is a natural response to continuous work and improper rest. However, when an employee is unmotivated to be at their job due to reasons such as unpleasant coworkers, a bully coworker or employer, sexual harassment, distressing work environment, among other things, then we can say this is a hostile work environment.   

Everyone deserves to feel safe in their workplace. It can have both short-term and long-term effects on your career. If going to work starts to evoke a negative emotional response, you might be working in a toxic work environment. If you or someone you know feels unsafe or uncomfortable on the job, there are ways to handle such situations and make your workplace better for you.

Below, we’re going to discuss hostile workplaces; how to know you’re in one, and what you can do about it.

What are Hostile Workplaces?

The workplace is a melting pot of different personalities with different backgrounds, education levels, and cultural orientations. Clashes and misunderstandings are inevitable. While this is true, having to deal with a hostile boss/coworker on a continuous basis can make work-life very miserable and frustrating. 

A hostile workplace is simply a work environment that harbors unwelcome and offensive behavior that makes one’s productivity at work impossible. 

Several studies have raised concern about the high level of hostile behavior employees experience at their workplaces. Impoliteness, physical violence, sexual harassment, sabotage, gossip, and spreading lies are examples of workplace hostilities.

Most hostility is minor, but it can still negatively affect employee productivity and the company’s wellbeing. It could be a boss or coworker whose actions, behavior, verbal or nonverbal communication makes your job more challenging.

Being in one of these situations can have a negative impact on your mental health and work-life balance. In this case, it is clear that the work atmosphere has affected your right to work in a comfortable and safe work environment. 

To curtail the adverse effects of a hostile work environment on employees, organizations must find ways of reaching out to employees at all levels while looking for ways to fix current issues of hostility before they get out of hand.

Now we know what a hostile work environment is, let’s take a look at the signs you’re in one.

What makes a situation at work hostile?

Work can be rewarding when you’re doing what you love and working with people you are okay with. However, a hostile work environment can turn even your dream job into a nightmare. While signs of hostile workplaces are obvious, some are more subtle to notice. Here are 4 signs to know your workplace is hostile and isn’t safe anymore.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a prevalent sign of a hostile workplace. However, it is dependent on the degree of harassment and your sensitivity to it. Many people take various levels of sexual harassment lightly, while some don’t.

The criminal law of Lagos state has a provision against harassment in the workplace. It focuses on sexual harassment, describing it as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors to which when submitted to or rejected may affect the individual’s employment opportunities, interfere with an employee’s performance, etc.

Some harassment is obvious, such as promising a raise for a sexual favor. But there are other subtle types. Giving unwanted touching as it may be hard to determine if they are harassing you or just being overly friendly.

Being Discriminated Against

Discrimination in the workplace may include treating employees differently because of their age, sex, disability, race, etc. This could include discrimination in hiring or giving raises on the basis of gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation. If you notice any of these too, and around you, chances are that you are in a hostile work environment. 

Unhealthy Competition and Shaming

In an organization, it’s good to have healthy competition among coworkers, but that competition shouldn’t be used against each other. Unhealthy competition creates factions within the company. And these factions may shame or compete with other factions for any reason they feel is valid. Instead of fostering a good working environment, this promotes judgment, resentment, and hate.

If you work in a hostile workplace, you may dread going to work, which makes it easy to consider quitting. But quitting most times is a quick fix that doesn’t really solve the problem. 

If you’re struggling in a hostile working place, you don’t need to quit, especially if it’s a job you love doing. Here are 5 things you can do to make your workplace less hostile. 

What to do in a hostile work environment

Put the colleague and your superiors on notice

You should let the aggressor know-how about the particular hostile behavior. If you are not comfortable with speaking to the aggressor directly, request assistance from your superior or HR. Getting them involved means they are witnesses that you’ve tried to make the colleague stop the offensive act. This is a great first step in confronting such hostility.

Try to resolve the issues

The second step is to try and find possible solutions to whatever may be causing, creating, or enabling the hostility. Like we said, a manager or HR can be brought in to find a lasting solution to the problem.

Be polite and firm

In all hostile situations, refuse to use aggressive, vulgar, and insulting words that may escalate the conflict. One of the worst things a victim of animosity can do is respond with hostility. This is why you need to firmly take a stand so that everyone involved knows you won’t tolerate such.

Try to make a peace offering

Sometimes hostilities from colleagues could be indicators of personal issues at home or in other parts of their lives. It always helps to try to understand the root if you can. A kind, the friendly gesture could go a really long way. You could help out the colleague with a task or give a much-needed listening ear. You could build a good relationship from there on out.

Seek legal advice

If your employer fails to resolve the issues internally, or they’re the culprit, it may be time to prosecute them. But before you do that, find credible lawyers who specialize in discrimination or employment law and even wrongful termination. Doing this helps you explore your options while seeking professional advice on what to do next.

No one should have to endure the repeated discomfort of jumping from one workplace to another due to hostility. We recommend that you exhaust options at resolving the conflict before quitting. As always, we’ll be here all day, working to ensure that you land that job in a suitable workplace. 

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