When working in an office, factory, shop or wherever you find yourself, there is bound to be fights, quarrels, and strife as human beings of different characters, opinions, backgrounds and understanding. These are inevitable where two or three humans are together but overtime, we learn to tolerate each other, to adapt to our individual differences. However, sometimes, the rancor and intimidation become too unbearable and intolerable.

A working environment is hostile when there is
 Harassment
 Bullying
 Discrimination

This occurs when there is repeated offensive and harmful conducts against another in the workplace. Such conducts tend to frighten, intimidate, pressure or incapacitate the other person. The boss who shouts at you at the slightest provocation, the colleague who would not let you drink and keep cup in peace, the director who is interested in your female colleague and thinking that you as a guy has something to do with her, frustrates your life; they harass you at every opportunity, making you lose focus or even interest on the job
Harassment is peculiar because the actions are persistent over time. One time occurrence hardly qualifies except if that action is severe and therefore harmful.

Bullying is said to occur in a workplace when an employee faces derogatory/belittling comments, persistent criticism, public humiliation, and even physical abuse. It also involves yelling, repeatedly reminding the victim of past mistakes, spreading lies and gossip against the person, ignoring or excluding such person(s). However, they are hard to detect by others because they are more subtle, less obvious to others. These bullying tactics most often than not lead to decreased productivity in the workplace, because the victims often suffer from anger, anxiety, loss of confidence, depression, and general malaise which undoubtedly affect their production and attitude to work and may even lead to their quitting the job.

Employment discrimination is an unwanted behavior which occurs when an employee is treated unfavorably because of his or her race, skin color, nationality, gender, disability, religion, marriage, pregnancy, age and so on. It is illegal to discriminate in any facet of employment. Most of us have experienced discrimination in one form or the other in employment. You did not get the job or you are sacked because you are not from a certain geopolitical zone, or you are single/married, you are male/female. Whichever form it takes, it can be disheartening.

Put together, these practices are actions or inaction of the superior or the ‘favoured’ that leaves the victims feeling intimidated, offended, unappreciated and sometimes harmed. If this situation occurs, the employee also suffers some loss because the output of the victims, their attitudes are affected which is why a workplace strife should not be allowed to deteriorate.

The best solution is to avoid hostility of any form in the workplace not only by putting in house laws and enforcing such laws against workplace hassles, but also ensuring that the communication link is smooth and strong, that the employees are treated equally and with respect.
However, since this cannot be entirely avoided, the victim should not hesitate to report to the management if the hostility continues. The management can then wade in and find ways of settling the matter going by the organisation’s laws if there are any on that. Otherwise, the usual arbitration and communication between the parties involved can be employed.

What if the hostility is from the highest echelon of management? That is where the issue becomes dicey. Yet, speaking up should not be neglected. Report it to the management even though it might yield no fruit and may land you in deeper waters. But I think it is better to try than to die in silence. You never know, the boss might have a change of heart and show remorse.

The trade unions and Labour Congress are avenues that can also be pursued to seek redress. There are Human Rights Commission, Public Complains Commission and so on, if the situation goes beyond the organization where you work.

In all, it is important to speak up, to not die in silence, hoping that things will get better, they may not, in fact they can get worse. You may be surprised that when you decide to speak up, many other victims will be encouraged to join you.