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What Are the Signs of a Hostile Work Environment?


Dealing with a hostile work environment can be difficult and stressful. In many cases, employees who are exposed to poor working conditions or negative treatment can develop mental health issues and need to take time away from the workplace to recover.

According to The Rand Corp at Harvard Medical School and the University of California, almost one in five employees have to deal with hostility or even threatening behavior in the workplace. This behavior may include bullying, sexual harassment, and unfair treatment.

Knowing the signs of a hostile work environment makes it easier for employees to recognize when their work conditions are not up to legal or ethical standards. When an employee notices unfair treatment or inadequate work conditions, they can raise the issue with their employer.

Employers must always identify those who are engaging in workplace harassment or bullying and take the necessary action to resolve the issue. Similarly, they should also improve the conditions of their workplace to ensure staff safety and satisfaction at all times.

Here is a detailed look at the signs of a hostile work environment.


Discrimination based on a person’s protected characteristics is illegal, and employers must deal with this issue immediately. Protected characteristics include age, race, ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs, pregnancy, and marriage status.


Harassment can come in many forms, but sexual harassment is often the most common within the workplace. Harassment can be verbal, physical, or a combination of the two and contributes to an uncomfortable, unsafe, and toxic work environment.


Ongoing bullying and intimidating or threatening behavior are serious problems in the workplace and contribute significantly to poor employee mental health and absences from the workplace.

If a member of staff or multiple employees are bullying another staff member, this may be seen as discrimination or harassment. Persistent bullying can lead to legal repercussions, such as action against the employer if they don’t tackle the issue or the perpetrators being fired.

Lack of Inclusion

Inclusivity is essential for a positive work environment. Bringing together employees from all backgrounds and with a range of beliefs ensures diversity, acceptance, and teamwork.

A lack of inclusivity can breed hostility, causing certain employees to feel uncomfortable and unaccepted in the workplace. A company culture that doesn’t foster teamwork among all employees, regardless of their background or beliefs, can contribute to an unsafe and unwelcoming atmosphere.

Overworked Employees

Many employers are guilty of expecting too much from their employees and overloading them with tasks and deadlines. While it’s great to encourage hard work within any company, overworked employees can get burnt out, potentially causing mental health decline.

Burnout can disrupt teamwork, delay task completion, and negatively impact employee satisfaction. Dissatisfied employees are more likely to leave their roles within a workplace to search for an easier and less stressful job. This leads to high employee turnover, which can further contribute to a hostile and unenjoyable workplace.

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