What Is A Hostile Workplace – 7 Reasons Behind It

Written By Assma Riaz

Before going into the detail of a hostile workplace, let’s define what it is. A work environment that makes people uncomfortable in any way is a hostile workplace.

What Is A Hostile Workplace – 6 Signs Of Hostility

A hostile workplace has many characteristics. There’ll be people arguing with each other, overloaded complaints, and employees ranting.

Moreover, in a hostile work environment, you’ll experience fear, apprehension, or bullying.

Some of the close signs of hostile workplace practices are:

1. Discrimination Of Any Kind

Have you ever seen a hiring manager rejecting applications based on age, gender, or race? Well, if yes, then that’s discrimination. And it’s one of the expected behaviors of a hostile workplace.

What Is A Hostile Workplace
Discrimination Of Any Kind

Your workplace is biased against certain groups. There’s a possibility that they behave wrong with existing people from those groups.

Biasness produces a hostile work environment. Even in some countries, this practice gets considered illegal.

2. What Is A Hostile Workplace – Sexual Or Racial Harassment

These two behaviors are always on the top for creating hostile workplaces.

If there are people who comment on gender and religion, then your workplace is beyond toxic.

A healthy workplace doesn’t have people who pass ridiculing comments on race or sex.

So if you’re receiving complaints about this behavior or you saw abuse yourself. Then get ready because your workplace is going to see increased hostility.

3. Victimization Or Ridiculing

It’s pretty normal for coworkers to joke or tease each other. But it doesn’t stay normal if it goes beyond the limits.

A serious prank leaving someone embarrassed is a sign of a hostile workplace.

Victimization Is A Great Sign Of Hostility
Victimization Or Ridiculing

Some people even set up a Facebook group to ridicule a specific person. That’s the craziest sign that you’re working in a hostile workplace.

It’s unacceptable to target someone for public humiliation. And it’s been seen in the increased focus on cyberbullying.

4. What Is A Hostile Workplace – Constant Aggressiveness

If your manager yells at you or shoves off his boss, then that’s a hostile workplace.

When teams at a workplace are often victimized, they must be experiencing hostility.

If a person continuously shows passive-aggressive behavior, that’s a red flag. Such people push others towards unhealthy competition.

Although such behavior is not illegal, that’s not acceptable as well.

5. Complaints And Threats For Punishment

If a workplace observes complaints filed by employees and managers punish the employees. Then there’s something seriously wrong.

Frequent Complaints Regarding Harassment Is Also A Sign
Complaints And Threats For Punishment

And if you aren’t seeing any official complaints, then keep your eyes open. You might overhear some employees’ talking about their personal experiences.

That’s a gradual sign of a hostile workplace. But if it remains untreated, it can have serious consequences.

6. What Is A Hostile Workplace – Your Gut Feeling

If you’re working in a bad place, your gut will be the first one to tell you. If you feel that you’re often scared or seem to be miserable, then that’s a sign.

There must be some people in your company who love to slander or sabotage others.

They are either disrespectful or reject the ideas of other people. They serve as the primary reason for creating a hostile workplace.

You can observe these signs if you’re working from inside the company. Working closely with such people will make a clear picture of what’s wrong.

Being a manager, you recognize such behaviors better because you’ll interact with the team.

What Creates A Hostile Workplace – 7 Reasons Behind It

A healthy workplace isn’t a luxury. Instead, it’s an essential requirement of every workplace. But what makes a workplace environment turn hostile?

Here are some reasons that potentially create a hostile workplace.

1. Workplace Inequality

Several cases around the world exist where people faced gender or race discrimination. Depriving someone of the right to participate in a business is workplace inequality. Its basis on:

– Sexual orientation

– Race

– Color

– Creed

– Caste

Such acts are more likely to occur in larger companies. Because people working there have different origins, they suffer from a hostile approach.

Showing Actions That Cause Inequality Is Hostility
Workplace Inequality

They don’t get to be too involved in important matters or can’t have access to certain rights.

Also, the higher management misuses their power in favor of specific employees. It leads to increased employee dissatisfaction and ultimately results in a turnover.

Gender inequality still exists in various industries. Underestimating or not paying enough to women as compared to men is a practice still in use.

Such unequal approaches lead to creating a hostile workplace.

2. What Is A Hostile Workplace – Poor Communication

Poor communication is enough for creating hostile working conditions. Most of the time, there’s a lack of healthy communication and understanding.

Employees can’t understand what managers are expecting and vice versa.

A boss who doesn’t like to pass the information to employees is a major hurdle. He damages the flow of information.

It badly affects the workplace culture. The same goes for the employees who don’t use open communication with each other.

As a result, employees take such actions that are neither good for them nor the company.

And thus, a true face of a hostile workplace environment comes into the picture.

3. Unequal Distribution Of Employee Benefits

Giving perks to employees is a good way of enhancing employee engagement.

In terms of perks and benefits, every employee should get treated equally. However, if employees get treated unequally during the distribution of benefits, that’s discrimination.

What Is A Hostile Workplace
Unequal Distribution Of Employee Benefits

Biased perks and benefits promote inequality, and employees find it unjust.

It also causes increased differences within the workforce.

4. Unfair Appraisal And Performance Review

Unfair performance review is another act that creates hostile workplaces.

Your manager gives a positive appraisal to another employee based on their good relations. And you get a negative review despite your good performance; then it’s a reason.

Such unfair practices cause many problems in the workplace. It also decreases the employees’ will to put their 100% in a job.

Employees even fell victim to anxiety because they aren’t recognized for their work. They end up ruining their productivity.

That’s why employers should maintain a fair and transparent employee appraisal system.

5. What Is A Hostile Workplace – Ignoring The Employee Burnout

In today’s era, employees are always under work pressure. The toll for workload never comes down, and employees blame the organization for this.

They think that it’s the company that forces them to spend most of their time at their desks.

Ignoring Employee Burnout Creates Hostile Workplace
What Is A Hostile Workplace – Ignoring The Employee Burnout

Employee wellness after this seems to be in danger. Occupational burnout is now a normal thing in most workplaces.

There’s a rise in even substantial abuse at the workplace. To cope up with the everyday workload, employees take medications. That’s very dangerous for their health.

The ultimate result is in the form of a disengaged workforce. The culture of the company becomes prone to collapse, and the turnover might increase.

6. Not Enough Grievance Cells

Another reason is there aren’t enough grievance cells, which’s turning more workplaces hostile.

Grievance cells are the systems that ensure settling issues and receiving complaints. These exist to protect employee rights.

However, not enough grievance cells cause unfavorable conditions for employees at work.

Also, it encourages wrongdoers to continue their false activities because of no fear.

It can result in a rise in problems to a detrimental extent. So a company should make sure to have plenty of grievance cells.

7. Uncertain Discrimination Laws Inside The Company

Companies prefer to have their own discrimination laws now. But the problem is these laws are either proactive or reactive.

These are proactive when they have terms and conditions to prevent discrimination. Or reactive when they have strict laws against ones involved in racial activities.

Discrimination Laws When Not Clear Causes Hostility
Uncertain Discrimination Laws Inside The Company

Sometimes, these laws can’t resolve the respective issues and don’t seem as applicable.

These laws are actually towards the disposal of the lawyer. So there’s a risk that the person complaining might fall victim to the employer.

If the person who gets accused has more power, then there are no chances of justice being delivered.

It gives a free hand to everyone in the company to support discriminatory practices.

These laws don’t define discrimination in a proper way. So wrongdoers cite the loopholes of these laws in their favor causing the other person to suffer.

How To Fix A Hostile Workplace – 3 Steps

There’s not an absolute way to fix a hostile workplace. Every company deals with such an environment according to their situation.

Hostility at the workplace caused by a single person has a clear solution; to fire that person. But even then there are some concerns; what if that person is the CEO. And you have no authority or control over him.

In such a case, talking directly to that person is the only solution. If they are not willing to change, you can explain the situation to their supervisor.

It’s even better if you are the supervisor, you can force them to listen to you and correct their ways.

The most difficult cases are those where the company itself involves in hostility.

If your company suffers from hostile conditions because of cultural issues. Then you have your work cut out for you.

You can make a start by taking the following steps:

1. Draft A Company Policy According To Your Problem

For instance, the main issue is sexual harassment, and it happens frequently. You should prepare a clear policy that defines the different forms of harassment.

A Policy Should Be Made To Lessen Hostility
Draft A Company Policy According To Your Problem

Mention those actions that will get taken against someone who’ll involve in harassment.

Make a separate policy for which behaviors are acceptable or unacceptable in general.

2. Get Buy-In From Executives

Some of the senior managers may be actively involved in promoting toxic culture. But others may be totally unaware of what’s wrong as they aren’t involved in daily tasks.

You need to communicate with those managers and ask them to take the situation seriously.

You have to work beside senior management and help them form a plan. Make sure that the message gets conveyed to everyone on the team.

3. Open Paths For Communication And Act Properly

According to some statistics, many cases of sexual harassment go unreported. The reason is that employers react harshly to such complaints. They either threaten to fire the employee or ask him to stay quiet.

It doesn’t suit a reputable company, and it’s also illegal, which opens up ways to more lawsuits.

Straighten Ways For Communication
Open Paths For Communication And Act Properly

So you should make sure that the employees can report without any fear of punishment.

However, if you find any compelling evidence, be ready to investigate and take action. Advise employees so that they can face a hostile work environment.

While you do all this process, be patient. Immediately stop the unwelcomed conduct before it turns to violence or harassment.

It’s normal to feel hesitant to rock the boat, divide or antagonize your team. You might lose some of your good employees. But you are obliged anyways, and you need to pull through.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Behaviors Get Considered Criteria For A Hostile Work Environment?

Behaviors that discriminate against a protected classification like age or disability are hostile. Such behaviors cause physical or mental harm to people working at that workplace.

What Is An Example Of A Hostile Work Environment?

A hostile work environment involves comments on sex acts or using sexually suggestive language. Offensive comments against protected categories of people is also a hostile work character.

What Is Hostility In The Workplace?

A hostile work environment involves unwelcome or offensive behavior at the workplace. It causes people to feel scared, or uncomfortable in the place of their employment.

What Are The Signs Of A Toxic Workplace?

A toxic workplace usually doesn't have clear instructions about projects. Failure to listen is also a strong sign. There are passive-aggressive communication and a variation in messages which people receive.


In the end, it’s the employer who decides to give a bitter or better work experience to people. Hostile work environments have caused many great businesses to fall.

It leaves a negative impact on the company as well as society. We talked about the signs of a hostile workplace and why these signs occur in the first place.

Fixing a hostile workplace is easy with some steps taken in the right way.

If you have something to share regarding a hostile workplace, we’d love to listen to you. Drop a comment in the section below.

Last Updated on 3 years by Shahzaib Arshad

Assma Riaz

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