Complaints against employers are on the rise across different organizations with a significant number of the employees pointing fingers to hostility in their work environment. A study conducted for Bellingham an organization based in Washington in 2010 revealed that 37 percent of employees believe they have been at some point subjected to hostility (Namie, 2013). Some employees believe that poor management, unpleasant working conditions or rude colleagues or lack or recognition can create a hostile working environment in the organization. However, the truth of the matter is that for a working environment to be termed hostile, specific legal criteria need to be met. A hostile working environment is created by colleagues or a management whose actions, and communication modes make various operations in the organization impossible.
Work can be sometimes demanding and stressful to the employees thereby creating a hostile working environment. This influences the positive working relationship in the organization and provides some unsafe psychological environment to the employees to complete their duties and responsibilities. The negative behaviors portrayed by the supervisors for instance significantly jeopardize the overall working relationship within the organization. Furthermore, to the organization, there can be high turnover, low productivity, lost innovation and difficulty in hiring new employees to the organization (Okechukwu et al., 2014). In the event of a turnover, it is costly to the organization in hiring new employees and training them only to lose them due to a hostile environment to the competitors. A hostile environment demotivates the workforce to perform their duties better as a result of stress-related illness. An organization with hostile supervisors focuses on attacking and victimizing the employees rather than advancing the company hence less generation of ideas. When information gets out that the working environment is hostile, no employee will be willing to be hired.
Describe what makes up a hostile work environment.
There exist no law that explicitly categorizes a working environment as hostile, but there are Act and declarations that strictly prohibit discrimination and harassment of employees against sex, disability or race in a working environment. A supervisor in an organization who verbally criticizes an employee in the organization in regards to their age, religion or gender may be guilty of evoking a hostile working environment even if the comments are casual and said with a smile. Legally, there exist requirements which an organization or the management must undertake for the working environment to be hostile:
There must be discriminative actions against employees that focus on protected classification like age, religion, race of the employees or their disability
The communication must be persistent, last for a long time and annoying to the other party. These incidences need to be reported continuously to the human resource department for intervention.
The problem or behavior becomes persistent and is important in case it affects all workers, continues for a long time and is not investigated and addressed effectively by the human resource department to make the problem stop.
The action, communication or employee behavior becomes severe. This means that it becomes pervasive and disrupts other employees operations in the organization. The other nature of severity is when the hostile environment affects the employee's career growth such as failing to receive promotion due to a hostile behavior of a colleague.
When the management assumes the actions and behavior deemed hostile by other employees and fails to intervene. In this case, the employer is liable for the creation of this hostile working environment.
Explain the various ways employees are affected by hostile work environments.
A hostile work environment is the unstable or harmful work situation created when an employee undergoes repeated harassment when in an organization. This continuous harassment affects the employees work performance and creativity in the organization or establishes what would be found objectively hostile or offensive hence creating the hostility at the workplace (Malhotra et al., 2016). If these activities affect the performance and the wellbeing of the employee at the organization or their colleagues, the conduct may be illegal.
Hostility in the workplace may not directly lead to discipline or misuse of opportunities but make it hard for the victim involved to perform their functions in the organization due to the constant ridicule, boring comments by the supervisor, teasing or even sexual actions. This becomes devastating to the victim to the point that they fear going to work for oppressive, hostile and an intimidating environment in the organization created by the aggressors. Subsequently, this may lead to a point in the organization whereby the victim experience psychological trauma and result in stress-related issues and therefore low morale in the organization.
Provide at least three things that HR professionals can do to avoid having hostile work environments.
Keep an open mind:
Often the HR professionals have a hard time figuring situations that can lead to a hostile working environment for their employees. For this reason, they fail to investigate complaints raised by their employees and assume that some could not possibly be true. There is a need to investigate all complaints brought forward by the employees and involve both parties. It is also essential to complete the investigating before making a conclusive remark on the matter.
Approach the issue with compassion and respect it deserves:
Harassed employees may find it hard to air their grievances in case previous ones were not dealt with comprehensively. They feel more vulnerable and afraid in the organization as compared to those who feel comfortable. This can have a sustainable effect on their performance, morale and the ultimate satisfaction with the job (Bailey, Dollard & Tuckey, 2014). For this reason, they can seek help outside from a lawyer. As an HR professional, when approached with an issue related to discrimination and harassment, there is need to be understanding. This can avoid escalation of the issue to the government agency.
The management should not punish an employee who files a complaint related to harassment or discrimination in the organization. Some evident forms of retaliation include termination of a job contract, discipline, and demotion or even pay cut. The HR professional can use other forms of retaliation that may not affect the morale of the employee at the workplace and hence low work quality such as changing working shifts or work area of the accuser or isolating them from essential company meetings.
Look for contradiction or corroboration:
Hostility in the work environment often provides the classic example of "who said." The accuser and accused often tend to provide different versions of the situation leading to different stories altogether. There is a need for the HR to turn to other sources to acquire the precise information such as coworkers, customers or friends who may have been present at the incident.
Bailey, T. S., Dollard, M. F., & Tuckey, M. R. (2014). Prevalence, antecedents and implications of workplace bullying and harassment in Australia. The Australian Workplace Barometer: Psychosocial safety climate and working conditions in Australia. Australian Academic Press, Samford Valley, Queensland.
Malhotra, S., Malhotra, S., Srivastava, A., & Srivastava, A. (2016). Sexual harassment at the workplace: how organizations can pro-actively reduce its incidence. Human Resource Management International Digest, 24(7), 1-3.
Namie, G. (2013). US Hostile Workplace Survey 2000. The Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute, Bellingham, Washington.
Okechukwu, C. A., Souza, K., Davis, K. D., & de Castro, A. B. (2014). Discrimination, harassment, abuse, and bullying in the workplace: Contribution of workplace injustice to occupational health disparities. American journal of industrial medicine, 57(5), 573-586.
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