What exactly is a hostile work environment? Employees tend to believe that a workplace with a bad boss, unfriendly colleagues, and lack of perks constitutes a hostile working environment. Well, they’re not wrong. All these things do contribute to hostility in a workplace but do not define it. In legal terms, for a workplace to be hostile, it needs a colleague or a boss who’s behavior makes it impossible for a person to do his job.
In other words, his/her behavior must alter the working conditions in a way that it no longer qualifies for a comfortable environment to work for its employees. Furthermore, the behavior must also be discriminatory in nature in the eyes of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), created by the Civil Rights Act, 1964.
So a boss who asks his employees to finish a task by the end of the evening, or a colleague who talks too loud does not demonstrate a hostile workplace. However, if an employee keeps asking another out on a date, share sexually explicit material in the workplace or tells offensive jokes, he’s guilty of making a workplace hostile. He’s essentially conducting acts of sexual harassment towards his fellow coworkers and they have a right to file a legal complaint against that person.
As a boss, it’s your job to make sure that doesn’t happen. You have a responsibility to protect your employees from any threat in the workplace. But how to detect a hostile working environment?
Here are a few examples of hostile working environment:
- Offensive comments about someone’s religion, gender, race, origin, sexuality, etc.
- Threatening someone to do something out of their job profile.
- Inappropriate touching without consent.
- Vandalism in the workplace.
- Unwanted sexually suggestive gestures or speech.
If you witness any of these things happening in your workplace, you need to deal with it immediately for the safety of your employees and your organization.
How to deal with hostility in the workplace?
- Communicate with your staff about the organizational and human values you want to encourage in the workplace and express that a hostile workplace can severely hinder these values.
- Implement and support training and awareness sessions in your organization.
- Clarify the consequences of any acts of hostility in the workplace.
Be up-to-date about the happenings in your workplace
- Watch out for offensive humor or disparaging jokes, even if they seem to be friendly teasing.
- Employees often fear persecution for voicing their concerns. Implement YourSafeHub in your organization, a special communication channel that protects such employees with the power of anonymity.
- Look into increased absenteeism and turnover.
Encourage communication and teamwork
- Encourage your employees to interact with each other and resolve problems with communication as they arise.
- Provide aid in easing upcoming communications and encourage employees to consult a resource person when preparing for a ‘sensitive conversation’.
- Set up meetings and discuss these issues head-on.
- Communicate with your employees about their problems and any issues they might be facing. Use your experience as a manager to help them out.