Is it really a Hostile Work Environment? 5 Steps for Dealing with Difficult People
Sometimes terminology is used in our culture that gets adopted and used, but it isn’t being used correctly. “Hostile Work Environment” is one of those terms that you hear, but may or may not be true to the legal definition of it. That’s right when it comes to this term; we have laws about hostile work environments and with the law comes a legal definition. It’s good to know the difference, because depending on what you are really talking about, your potential actions could be very different.
To quote About.com: “A hostile work environment is created by a boss or coworker whose actions, communication or behavior makes doing your job impossible. This means that the behavior altered the terms, conditions, and/or reasonable expectations of a comfortable work environment…and must be discriminatory in nature. (Discriminatory would be about age, religion, gender, or race). The behavior must last over time and must be severe.” As you can see this is a very specific set of behaviors that protect our right to work. There can be legal ramifications because someone has made working and prospering at work impossible, if this issue is not handled properly by the employer.
Since we are clear about the true, legal term “Hostile Work Environment”, let’s look at what is taking place when your work situation may or may not be aligned to this technical term, but it’s bad nonetheless. What can you do in either situation?
Know the proper way to escalate an issue. You don’t want to go from your office to the local Bureau of Labor and Industry to talk to a lawyer. No matter which situation you are in, you are expected to work from the bottom up. Your steps should be:
- -Take the issue to a higher management level.
- -Leave. While it might seem unfair that you would have to be the one to leave, all too many people tend to be weenies when dealing with difficult personnel issues. You can either find a way to tolerate it, be miserable or leave.
Hopefully, you will never have to face this type of situation but if you do, learn the right way, the professional way of addressing this kind of issue. It will be more effective in the long run for everyone involved.
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