What are the Subtle Signs of a Hostile Work Environment?
A hostile work environment is a workplace environment where employees feel uncomfortable and even victimized because of the actions of their colleagues and supervisors. Actions present in hostile work environments can include bullying, harassment, unfair treatment, and supervisors “playing favorites” with particular employees.
A hostile work environment is not always obvious. Although it can be easy to recognize overt acts of harassment and discrimination, it as easy to miss smaller, more subtle behaviors that nonetheless inhibit employee productivity, sometimes to the point of resulting in financial losses for the victims. Below are a few of the more subtle ways a workplace can be a hostile environment. If you notice this type of behavior occurring in your workplace, speak up. Do this even if you are not the intended victim – a hostile work environment hurts all employees.
Behaviors Present in Hostile Work Environments
Teams grow strong when individual members provide each other with constructive criticism and brainstorm ways to correct past mistakes. In a hostile work environment, employees tear each other down, mock each other, and blame each other for problems instead of trying to develop solutions together.
If you feel afraid to voice an opinion because you think you will be shamed, mocked, or derided for it, you are in a hostile work environment. If there are cliques in your workplace or a culture of excluding or “ganging up” on others, it is a hostile work environment.
Language Used in Hostile Work Environments
Racial epithets, swear words, and crude language are all generally part of a hostile work environment. Language is more than words, though. Implications, word choice, and tones used play into our understanding of each other. It is possible to never hear a swear word in a hostile work environment or to hear rough language throughout the day in a healthy work environment. Pay attention to how language is used and where it is directed. In a hostile work environment, an individual or group of employees is the target of negative, demeaning language.
Management Behaviors in Hostile Work Environments
Perhaps the most damaging aspect of a hostile work environment is how management handles the above issues. If your workplace has a culture of hands-off management, bullying and harassment can go unchecked. Do not confuse an engaged management team with micro-management. You should be able to feel like you can approach your supervisory team with your concerns without fear of reprimand or your concern falling on deaf ears.
Work with Our Team of Experienced Hostile Work Environment Lawyers
You should not feel afraid of being victimized at work. If you are in a hostile work environment and discussing your concerns with Human Resources has not yielded any aid, consider working with an employment lawyer to pursue a hostile work environment claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Contact our team at Ricotta & Marks, P.C. today to set up your initial consultation with a member of our firm.