What are the Best Ways to Deal with a Hostile Work Environment?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2019
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Dealing with a hostile work environment (HWE) isn't easy, but any type of workplace harassment or bullying should be dealt with professionally, yet assertively. HWEs are legally defined as those in which a worker is so victimized and stressed by hostile, harassing or bullying behaviors that he or she cannot work. If the employee being harassed or bullied ends up filing a lawsuit over a HWE matter, every action the employee took will be examined, not just the actions taken or not taken by the company. Hostile work environment cases are often difficult to prove because the victim of office bullying or workplace harassment has to have concrete proof as to exactly why he or she couldn't do the job as required.

It's important for a victim of any type of workplace bullying to respond immediately to any co-worker, boss or employee of the company who engages in degrading, humiliating or bullying behavior toward him or her. The victim should, in no uncertain terms, point out that the behavior is unacceptable and tell the offending person not to do it again. If there is more than one offender beginning to create a HWE, then the victim should speak with each person and tell each one exactly the same thing.


The victim should then report the incident and his or her actions taken to the company's human resources (HR) department as well as its upper management and ask for a copy of the report along with the firm's HWE policy. If the company has no HR department or hostile work environment policy or seems unresponsive, the employee should contact the United States Department of Labor, or similar government body in his or her country, to find out how to handle the possible start of a HWE situation. It's important to get written and signed acknowledgments from the government agency and other personnel with whom the victimized employee speaks along with the date and other details clearly noted.

Hopefully, the initial incident of sexual harassment, discrimination, humiliation or other incidence of workplace hostility won't be repeated, but if it is, the victim will have already started handling the situation and collecting as much evidence of the HWE as possible. A detailed log of everything that happens from the very first incident should be kept by the person experiencing a hostile work environment. It is important for a victim of workplace bullying or harassment to try to get as many witnesses and people in authority to sign statements as to what happened. The degree of the abuse is important if a lawsuit is filed, as the case may be dismissed if there is not enough proof or the judge finds that the hostility was minimal. In case of any physical harm or serious threat, the victim should always get the police involved in the hostile work environment matter immediately.


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Post 3

I am relatively new to my position and to this company. I am a full-time student and applied for the job to supplement my income. As soon as I got the position, I began hearing all sorts of rumors about the company and, in particular, about the Machiavellian ways of my supervisor. It took about a month for me to see what everyone was referring to. My supervisor has a habit of "playing dumb" with his employees by asking them to do tasks (small ones) that he is perfectly capable of doing himself and then pointing out everything they have done wrong once the task is completed.

At first, I thought he did this to help me get better acquainted

with the work environment, but I have since learned that he goes through my computer at night to see exactly what I do during the day and how I do it. He then compliments my co-worker on her "genius and goody-good job" (she's on Facebook all day) while leaving me to staple and sort cables.

I am a good worker and was always considered to be thorough by past employers, but this guy makes me doubt myself constantly. I can't even write emails anymore without messing up because I know he thinks I'm less than everyone else in the office.

He laughs at me when I don't do exactly what he wants and undoes my work, even though I check three times to make sure I am doing exactly what I am told. My co-worker will do a job exactly as I do, and she's a genius. What do I do? I can't quit in this economic climate, but I feel such a huge amount of self-doubt. I tried to confront him about it once, and he turned it around to make me seem like the problem. I feel like I'm regressing. Please help!

Post 2

We have a supervisor is the extremely abusive to employees, vendors and contractors. He bullies, threatens and intimidates always in front of others and racial slurs (saying over radio "speak english" to a PR employee, etc). Several complaints have been made to the director to no avail, with the response "of you know how he is". Is there any recourse for this type of behavior?

Post 1

We have a Service Manager that is pretty aggressive, in that "what he says, goes". He is extremely hard-of-hearing and wears only one hearing aid instead of two. He's very hard nosed.

He is work smart, safety smart, customer liked, but he is hard on his staff of technicians. His suggestions to the employees are more like direct orders: "we will not do that!" He has had run-ins with each technician, including other employees in other departments.

The employees say he "yells at them". Everyone knows he is hard-of-hearing and doesn't take that into consideration. However, his personal demeanor and attitude are more of a "know it all", over-confident, which is displayed on a regular basis.

He takes complete ownership

of his department as if it were his own. He is only an employee. He's been discharged from at least one other company, maybe more, for the same type of attitude and behaviors. Away from the work environment, he's really a nice guy -- quite mild.

Many employees have commented about his behavior and he has been verbally counseled regarding this, but continues to be abrasive to the technicians. Any ideas?

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