How to Survive in a Hostile Work Environment

Spending as much time at work as most of us do, life can become very difficult if we are forced to work in a hostile environment. If you don’t want to succumb to depression and a massive lack of self-confidence, then you will need to fight to keep your head above water. Here are some ways that you can survive in a hostile work environment.

Consider the reasons for the hostility

Think about why your work environment is so hostile. It may be something that is totally out of your control – if layoffs are in the offing, for example, there probably isn’t very much you can do about it except do your job and hope that you are not one of the employees headed for the chop. If there is something you can do about it, however, then work at it. If you are the reason for some of the hostility, for example, think about how you can change your behaviour. In the long run, you will be glad that you have done so.

Come to a compromise with hostile colleagues

If the reason for the hostility is down to your colleagues, then it is probably worth swallowing your pride and arranging a meeting with them, ideally with someone to mediate. The chances are that your colleagues dislike the situation as much as you do and will be prepared to meet in the middle. A little bit of mutual understanding can work wonders, even if you are convinced that you have done absolutely nothing wrong. At the very least, you can agree to keep to your own jobs and minimize conflict as much as possible.

Keep your head down

Try and concentrate on your work at all times. What you can do on your own, complete on your own. Becoming self-reliant is no bad thing, especially if you make yourself indispensable. The chances are that in a hostile work environment, the senior staff are looking for excuses to get rid of ‘bad elements’. If you can ensure that you are not one of these, then at least they will have no excuse to get rid of you – you may even find yourself in line for eventual promotion.

Stay away from gossip

There is bound to be a lot of bad feeling in a hostile work environment, and the temptation to gossip with like-minded members of staff can be enormous. Try to stay away from the gossipers. The chances are that they will fuel your fire and you will end up feeling even more disgruntled. If you must moan about work, try and keep it to outside work and with people who aren’t colleagues. If you do talk to a colleague, make sure it is one you can trust and won’t pass what you say on.

Concentrate on the good things in life

Try to remember that your job is not everything in your life. You probably have family and friends that make you happy, so try to forget about work once you have finished for the day and concentrate on them. Spend your free time doing things that you enjoy. If you don’t have hobbies, then find one – joining an exercise class can make you feel better about yourself and provide an opportunity to meet new people.

Consider taking the matter further

If the hostility is largely because you feel that you are being bullied and singled out for criticism, then it is worth seeking advice on how to take the matter further. If there is someone senior at work that you can talk to about it, then do. Human resources could also be useful; perhaps even more so as they should be completely neutral. If you need to seek legal help, then do so, but make sure that you have all your facts right first, and that you have exhausted all other avenues.

Look for another job

If you’re unhappy at work because of a hostile work environment, don’t wait until you are so desperately unhappy that you either have to leave or have a mental breakdown. Start looking for a new job as soon as possible. In the current economic downturn, it may take you quite some time to find a new job, so the sooner that you start looking, the better. It is also obviously preferable to have a job when you are looking for a job to prevent having to explain gaps in your resume.

Ultimately, your health, and that includes your mental health, must come first. If you are deeply unhappy and struggling to cope in other areas of your life, then you may be better off unemployed. Hopefully though, if you consider the points above, things won’t need to go that far.

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