Whether you are on the hunt for a new job or your first few weeks at a new company, one of the first things you would look for is how safe and comfortable your new work environment is. Some hallmarks of a pleasant office are having approachable managers, helpful co-workers, inclusive company rules, and one with a fair system in place.

Learning about your work environment only happens when you’ve got the job, where you may eventually realize that you are in a less favorable set-up. You could notice that you fear speaking up to your supervisors or are always receiving rude commentary from your colleagues. Gender or racial discrimination might even happen, causing you to generally feel uncomfortable and intimidated whenever you go to work.

Note that feeling dissatisfied with your career path or frustrated with some company policies do not always equate to a hostile work environment, as these things may come with any job. However, it would help if you were mindful of when things start to legally cross the line. Below is how to deal with a hostile working environment.

Establish a coping mechanism

The first part of your journey will begin trying to find a way to survive the next few days or weeks at work. For some, this may start as a form of quiet coping, as they try to make sense of whether they are or are not in a legally hostile work environment.

There will be a massive bout of discomfort as the realization hits that you are experiencing adverse treatment at work. If you choose to confide in someone, it may be best to approach a trusted non-coworker to protect your privacy. You could also choose to log the events in a personal diary before you begin speaking about your experiences, so you may accurately relay them to a friend or lawyer in the future. This practice can help you compartmentalize while strategizing in dealing with the situation.

Speak with the concerned employee

In some cases, you could talk to the employee/s that are causing friction in your work life. This is a tricky step since you are not sure how reasonable they will be if you choose to engage in a conversation. On the one hand, this could lessen and resolve the tension at work. However, things could also escalate—especially if racial or sexual harassment claims were thrown out.

Try to get a feel of the general vibe of your workplace. These toxic behaviors might be isolated in one or two departments, where it could be easy to talk things out with your co-worker and supervisor.

Bring it up to HR

A good HR manager should be impartial and open to hearing the grievances of any employee. If you are comfortable approaching them, you may share your experiences so you can consider what your next options are: reprimanding the people involved or taking legal action.

The HR department should be able to conduct a legal investigation to verify your claims and evidence, and in some cases, ask for the side of the other party. You may also ask for any support to be extended to you in the meantime, such as a remote working set-up or personal leaves, if available and necessary.

Seek advice from legal counsel

If things are severe and you want to conduct an independent investigation alongside your company’s HR department, you may approach a lawyer. This means being ready to take a huge step forward in resolving the issue. You will be asked to divulge information such as who the people involved are, how many times the offensive behavior took place, how this has affected your job, the presentation of evidence, and the current steps your HR department has taken, if any.

Be strong and try not to hold back. Remember that you were hired for your skills, and you should not have to tolerate a workplace that doesn’t respect that.

Choose to leave the company

This last step may read unfair, but there are times when the company itself has been thriving on a broken system for years, even before you joined. In the unfortunate event that you choose to exit your job, try to find the courage to raise the matter to your HR department still. Your voice should matter—and this could be the wake-up call the company needs if they realize that they cannot hold employees for long years.

Key Takeaways

Finding out that you are in a hostile work environment can be traumatic and distressing, but you don’t have to endure this on your own as there are effective ways to deal with it. Find a support system whom you can lean on during your experiences and the investigation. Try not to lose hope during this difficult time too. Remember that every workplace should strive to be inclusive, and you are never the problem.

About the Author

Viridiana Valdes

Viridiana Valdes

Experienced Marketing Specialist at Shegerian & Associates with a demonstrated history of working in the law practice industry. Skilled in Business Process, Negotiation, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Management, and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). Strong marketing professional with a Strategic Marketing focused in Marketing from Panamerican Consulting Group and Universidad Rafael Landivar.