A hostile work environment is soul-sucking.
Because there’s that word again. And this time it wasn’t just ‘a slip of the tongue’, like the last time you confronted them about it. It’s been going on for weeks now, and every time you try to bring the issue up it only makes the situation worse.
You’re frustrated, angry, stressed and your patience is running out – you are this close to reaching over your desk and giving them a well-deserved punch in the face. But you can’t, so you grit your teeth and go back to your work.
Because you need this job. You have bills to pay, food to put on the table and debt that’s piling up. You can’t afford to do anything that may risk you losing your job.
But at the same time, you’re struggling to continue enduring this hostile work environment that’s not only taking a toll on your ability to get work done, but your personal life as well.
Remember when you would leave, look up at the sky and enjoy the sun shining down on you as you left the office? Nowadays it seems like the only thing you notice when you leave your desk is the quiet solitude you have to yourself and the peace that comes with it. And even at home, when you used to greet your spouse and loved ones with open arms and happy smiles, nowadays all you ever have are arguments and debates about problems that occur.
The worst part, is that it affects more than just your work life. Your emotions, happiness, peace of mind, relationships with other people and personal life are all at risk, because that environment affects YOU, which in turn affects everything around you as well.
More Than Just A Job – Its Now A Lifestyle
Anyone who’s ever been unfortunate enough to be in a hostile work environment knows just how detrimental the effects can be. You’re constantly thinking up scenarios of what else could go wrong, and even thinking about and stressing over work when you’re supposed to be relaxing in the comfort of your own home that’s far away from that toxic environment.
It’s almost like it follows you around everywhere you go, first occupying your space at work, to overtime occupying your thoughts and emotions until there’s absolutely no room left at all.
Now you may be wondering, how can you tell if you’re stuck in a hostile work environment? Contrary to belief, not every negative work environment is a hostile one.
An annoying work environment falls into the following:
- Your coworkers talking too loudly
- A coworker that frequently interrupts you to ask you questions
- Occasional swearing or one time off rude remarks
- Someone who plays loud music and annoys everyone in the workplace
- A certain gatekeeper with very specific requirements on how things must be formatted and enforces this regulation on every employee, not just you
Whereas a hostile work environment is more serious and violates certain legal criteria:
- Discrimination or racism is prevalent
- Individual employees are singled out based on their ethnicity, race, gender, religion or lifestyle choices
- Employee feels threatened and unsafe
- Sexual, physical or verbal abuse, harassment or threats are prevalent
- Employee’s work is seriously disrupted over a consistent period of time or interferes with their career (Ex. Employee is passed over for a promotion)
What You Can Do To Protect Yourself
In most cases, an annoying work environment is temporary or occasional, whereas a hostile work environment displays those traits or behaviors over a consistent and long period of time.
So how can you deal with a hostile work environment or office culture that’s negatively impacting your lifestyle, and take back the peace of mind you’re so desperately searching for? Here are a few things you can do to deal with a hostile work environment.
1. Stand up for yourself
If they are constantly being disrespectful towards you, let them know that you do not appreciate what they’re doing. Be calm but firm. Tell them what they’re doing is not acceptable, that you feel personally attacked and that you do not appreciate what they are saying or doing. In some situations, chances are that the offender does not realize they are being offensive towards others, and will stop once it is brought to their attention.
It’s just like when you were in elementary school. There are two types of people – the bullies and the victims. Bullies only pick on those who are weak and offer no resistance. Standing up for yourself means that you will not accept being pushed around like a victim, and once they see you are no longer an easy target, will stop targeting you and move on to someone else.
I know, because when I was in school. I remember being bullied by three bigger kids that would drag me to the front of the school and start beating me in front of everyone. When I got sick and tired of being treated that way, and enrolled myself into a martial arts school to learn Wing Chun and defend myself, those bullies NEVER touched me again.
If no one will stand up for you, then stand up for yourself.
2. Grow thick skin
If you’re being bothered and they know it, they may continue to do so simply because they are able to get a reaction from you. For example, if your coworker says something that insults you, and you get mad and display anger, they now know exactly how to push your buttons to get you to react. To them it’s just a game, and as long as you continue to react to their words, it’ll encourage them to continue. Instead of reacting to what they say or do, simply just ignore them and focus on the task at hand. Realize that if you refuse to play their game, they’ll get bored and will eventually stop.
Control your emotions or they’ll control you.
3. Report them to your boss or manager
Sometimes standing up for yourself won’t solve the problem, and they continue their offensive behavior. In situations like these, inform someone who has influence about their behavior – such as your boss or manager, and let them know what’s going on.
In many professional workplace environments, a hostile work environment is taken very seriously and any employee that is deemed to be intentionally causing this kind of behavior is terminated immediately. Successful businesses know that a company’s work environment is one of the biggest factors that influences success, and a positive work environment and company culture is one of the things that every company strives to achieve. If there’s a bad apple in a company and it’s brought to the attention of the right person, you can be sure that they’ll act quickly before it spoils the rest.
4. Change your mindset
You will be met with challenges in life whether or not you like it. What matters isn’t the actual experience itself, but how you think about it. Instead of thinking about how offensive their remarks may be and letting them get to you, change how you perceive their actions.
If they’re constantly insulting you, being rude or trying to disrupt your productivity, ask yourself why they are doing so. Are they jealous because you are a high performer? Are you next in line for a big promotion and they’re trying to prevent that from happening? Do you have something that they want?
Nothing is going to annoy them more than them trying their best to make you mad, only for you to thank them for their humble opinion with a big smile on your face. Instead of listening to their words and thinking that it is an insult, perceive it as a compliment that you’re doing a good job and that they are acknowledging your efforts.
5. Know your rights, know the law
A hostile work environment is not only no fun to be in, it’s a violation that can warrant legal action. Employers that intentionally allow a hostile work environment to occur are held liable and are at fault if they do nothing to prevent it from occurring. In situations where the employee who is creating a hostile work environment is someone of higher rank, such as your boss or manager, the only option you have may be to take legal action if there is no one you can report it to.
Remember that a hostile work environment is only going to get worse as time goes on. If you do not do something about it, eventually it may turn into your worst nightmare.
6. Find an outlet to vent it all out
A hostile work environment has the greatest impact when that pent up negativity has nowhere to go. Studies show that employees who work in a hostile work environment and do not participate in any form of extracurricular activity are at higher risk of stress, heart failure and other health problems.
Find ways to let all that negativity go. Go to the gym, lift some weights, go swimming, jogging, enroll yourself in a martial arts class or even sit in a quiet place and meditate. You’ll not only feel better after you’ve done so, it’s also beneficial for your health in so many ways.
It’s why I regularly practice Wing Chun, not just as a hobby, but also a way for me to relieve stress after a busy day of work, meetings and team building exercises. As a high performer, every day is a challenge for me and rarely will I ever have the chance to just relax and hit the ‘off-switch’, so I prioritize ways to release that stress in order to keep myself at a peak performance level and ready to go. For days when I don’t feel like working up a sweat, meditation is what I turn to in order to keep myself focused and calm even in the face of stressful and high tension situations.
Find a way to vent all that frustration, anger, stress and negativity. Let it out and punch a boxing bag, before it turns inwards and starts hurting you.
7. Quit your job
As a last resort if things are really bad and you don’t think you can handle it any longer, quitting your job is always an option.
When I was a young teenager and decided to quit my job because I was underpaid and undervalued, I did it in a moment of frustration. Now I don’t recommend that you make that same decision, after all you may be in a financial situation that doesn’t allow you to walk away from your job even though you really want to.
However, if you are considering quitting your job, make sure you get very clear on what you are doing it for and why. It’s also good to have a backup plan in case anything goes wrong – this could be in the form of putting aside a few months of savings or looking for a new job before you decide to take the leap and resign from your current one.
Always remember that you have a choice – that you can quit anytime you want. You can always make the decision to walk away from a work environment that is toxic or unsafe. Put things into perspective, and ask yourself if your health, happiness and emotional state is worth the amount of abuse and negativity you have to trade for that paycheque. You never know what could happen if you make the decision to embrace something new.
If after just a few months you look in the mirror and it looks like you’ve aged 10 years since the last time you took your company photo, you may be at risk of working in a hostile work environment.
A hostile work environment is toxic, creates stress, unhappiness, and disharmony for everyone involved. As well as increasing costs and expenses for the company, it makes the workplace unbearable and turnover rate an all time high, with numerous studies examining the health problems that employees are at risk of while in such an environment.
If you feel as though you are being discriminated upon, if someone is constantly attacking you either verbally or physically on a daily basis, remember that you always have a choice. While you may not be able to control how others behave, you can always control your own actions.
3 Things You Can Do:
First, ask yourself why they may be acting in that way. Are they stressed out? Are they jealous? Or is it a simple reason that they are not aware of their own actions, and need someone to let them know what they are doing is offensive and unacceptable?
Bring it up and let the offender know how you feel and that their actions will not be tolerated. If that doesn’t work, remember that you are in control of yourself. You control how you feel and what you think, regardless of how hard others may try to make you feel another way.
Second, ask yourself who are the people responsible for creating a hostile work environment. Is it an employee? Is it someone who has authority, such as your boss or manager? Depending on who is creating that work environment, it is possible to stop it before it gets worse.
Many workplaces take their work environment very seriously, and if anyone is caught intentionally disrupting other people’s ability to produce work and results, it can have serious consequences for those who are involved. A hostile work environment not only harms the employees in that environment, but also the company in the form of delays, increased costs and high turnover rates, things every company dreads having to face.
Third, ask what can you do to solve this problem? Can you report their offensive behavior to anyone that will listen? Or is this person your boss who makes everyone’s life a living hell?
Know When Enough Is Enough
A hostile work environment violates labor laws, and if your employer insists on behaving in a toxic manner towards their employees, you can either report them to the proper legal authorities or simply ask yourself if it’s worth it and make the decision to quit your job.
If you’ve tried repeatedly to get your boss to act in a rational manner and they just don’t feel like listening, perhaps it’s time to find a new one that is more cooperative and willing to listen.
Perhaps after reading this article, you feel strongly about your work environment and want to make a change. That you no longer wish to tolerate a hostile work environment and the stress, problems, and negative emotions that come with working in that toxic workplace. That you think you’re capable of finding something better, somewhere that you feel you belong, where you’re happy, and you get along with everyone and most importantly, with yourself.
If you’re looking to make that shift but you’re not sure about where to go or what to do, maybe it’s time for a completely new shift. Instead of dealing with toxic work environments, lousy coworkers, or a boss from hell, what if there way a way you could bypass all of that while still earning a generous income?
If you want to get your life back, if you want to be your own boss, and be able to dictate your own income instead of being paid based on what your boss or manager thinks, you can apply for a free consultation session here with one of our High Income Advisors, who will help you get clarity on if this is right for you.