Mandy Kloppers

A Hostile Work Environment: What is it and What Can You Do About it?

Running a business involves more than just dealing with finances and negotiating with suppliers. Taking good care of your employees is a major duty that needs to be handled, and neglecting this can have serious repercussions.

A good law firm like HKM will be able to protect your employees from any mistreatment in the workplace – but this could lead to trouble for you as a business owner if they need to seek legal assistance. Make sure to avoid creating a hostile work environment to keep your staff happy and stay safe in a legal sense. Here’s what you need to know about hostile work environments.

What Is It?

A hostile work environment is a legal term that refers to one where the words or actions of a worker’s employer, manager, supervisor or even a colleague can be considered as negatively impacting them or their work.

Discrimination, verbal and physical abuse are just some of the behaviours that can create a hostile work environment.

What Are The Requirements?

Keep in mind that colleagues who have differing opinions, an overly chatty person sharing someone’s office or constructive criticism coming from a supervisor do not constitute a hostile work environment.

As a legal term, a hostile work environment also needs to meet legal criteria. This involves unwelcome conduct in the form of harassment, discrimination, intimidation and/or abuse. The actions or behaviour should negatively impact the employee, harm them physically or psychologically or impact their work.

What Are The Results?

A hostile work environment can have serious repercussions for the victim of the harassment as well as for the rest of the staff, management, the owner and the business as a whole.

First of all, the victim’s work performance may suffer and they may be found to miss work more often or neglect certain responsibilities due to feeling intimidated or even fearful of being in their workspace. This can impact the whole team and lead to a decrease in productivity.

Furthermore, this kind of abuse in the workplace can have long-lasting effects on an employee’s mental state and contribute to burnout. If the issue is not resolved internally, your employee might seek legal advice and you might face serious legal consequences for not having the issue resolved.

How Can You Prevent It?

Creating a safe and positive work environment is extremely important, for your employees as individuals as well as for your business overall. Employees that feel safe, comfortable and happy, are more productive and you won’t need to worry about legal altercations.

Help your employees to feel safe and secure at work by keeping communication open and making yourself approachable. Make sure your staff will feel comfortable coming to you with potential issues and prove yourself as trustworthy by handling issues quickly if and when they do arise.

You can further create a better and happier work environment by encouraging fun and positivity in your workspace. While it’s important to maintain a level of professionalism, a little fun and excitement at work never killed anybody.

Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash