Hostile Work Environment: A Guide To Employers

Jeffrey Cassells, Shegerian & Associates
February 25, 2022

In many parts of the world, not everyone is lucky enough to work in a good company culture environment where their co-workers are always kind and courteous to one another. When an employee experiences harsh working circumstances, it can be difficult to stay happy and motivated enough to complete their tasks under the expected quality output. 

Because of this, many people end up leaving a company and finding better opportunities elsewhere. For business owners and employers, this can be a sign that their staff members are working in a hostile workplace

What makes a hostile work environment?

A hostile work environment is classified as a workplace where either supervisors or fellow employees regularly create or conduct discriminatory behavior against others. In most cases, the recipient of this misconduct portrays this act as abusive or intimidating, affecting their regular performance later on. 

For some countries, failure to address this type of domain can put management at risk with legal consequences if an effort is not shown to reduce these acts. Apart from that, hiring managers can also experience a drastic increase in their turnover rates, which can negatively impact your organization as a whole.

Despite the advantages of maintaining a pleasing work environment, many modern workplaces still experience hostile domains due to several reasons. When its effects come into play, productivity can significantly decrease, and employee job satisfaction can decline. 

Here are some of the most common causes that lead to a hostile work environment. 

Discrimination 

In the workplace, discrimination is referred to as any type of exclusion or preference by a party that results in unequal treatment or opportunity towards others. Examples of these situations include treating another employee less favorably over others due to age, gender, or personal bias. 

Offensive conduct 

The use of offensive language or gestures towards an employee can often provoke them to retaliate unpleasantly. When this happens, arguments can begin and disrupt the workplace. In some cases, it can also lead to violent outbursts that can put the rest of the employees in an uncomfortable situation.

Mental or physical abuse

Mental abuse in the workplace can be factored in by using foul words towards an employee, yelling, and angry outbursts in the presence of their co-workers. Other examples also include making belittling comments, saying rude and unnecessary remarks, or starting false rumors about someone. 

On the other hand, physical abuse can be categorized as any form of harassment or violence towards an employee. This includes verbal or written threats, physical attacks, or any other type of threatening behavior that can put the employee in harm’s way. Both management and its employees can be guilty of conducting both forms of abuse.

Poor management 

Lack of proper management can lead to a hostile work environment if employers do not check in on their employees. In some cases, a supervisor may acknowledge a complaint by an employee and do nothing to resolve the situation. 

Lack of proper communication practices

Misunderstandings between two parties are a cause that ignites a hostile work environment. When employees and employers do not properly communicate, it can lead to a lack of understanding, which can often be taken as an offense for some. 

Ignoring an employee’s needs

Another common factor that can lead to the development of a hostile work environment is when supervisors fail to acknowledge their employee’s needs and force them to spend all of their time working. 

When this happens, many employees experience burnouts which can harm their health in the process. In many instances, overworking an employee can also go against labor laws in several different countries. 

Finding signs of a hostile work environment is not always as simple as it seems, especially if it is embedded into the culture of the domain. Luckily, once the management or an employee does speak up against these acts, the proper measures can be taken to prevent known issues from escalating. 

Ways to Prevent a Hostile Work Environment

Below are some of the most common yet simple ways employers can use to prevent the development of a hostile work environment. 

Acknowledge your employees equally 

Treating your employees equally is good practice to ensure that everyone feels comfortable with their working conditions. This can be attained by removing all forms of discrimination or bias from the workplace and only making decisions based on professional capabilities. 

With a fair system like this in place, the importance of inclusivity can also be understood better.

Encourage communication

Practicing good communication skills in the workplace can benefit both employees and their employers by boosting teamwork and trust.  Apart from that, you can also improve the overall productivity of your teams. 

When you practice effective communication, you can reduce the risk of misinformation and misunderstandings between parties, allowing them to become more motivated.

Create fair in-house discrimination laws

Each company has a unique work culture where many often establish a few house rules for all of its employees and management to adhere to. Employers can benefit from this example by creating a set of rules that can help employees feel more protected and comfortable with their work environment and the people they are working with. 

Accept grievance calls 

A grievance call is a formal procedure that allows employees to approach their employers with a problem or complaint. During these times, the employee can take the initiative to raise the complaint if their first informal report has yet to be resolved. 


Allowing this type of system encourages employees to speak up about their issues rather than bottling it all up. As a result, issues or misunderstandings can be resolved more quickly, preventing an outburst of hostile behavior in the workplace.

Be open to being open

Everyone wants to perform well at their jobs and accomplish their tasks with confidence. However, achieving this simple feat may prove to be more challenging for employees when they find themselves stuck in a hostile work environment. 

As a means of preventing this outcome, hiring managers and business owners should always take the initiative and ensure that their employees are well taken care of. By doing so, they not only benefit from having a better output, but they also experience lower turnover rates and other complications. 

About the Author

Jeffrey Cassells is a writer by profession and an artist at heart. He is currently a content strategist and consultant for Shegerian & Associates and aims to make employee rights information more accessible. When he's not writing, Jeff can be found working on abstract pieces in his art room.

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