Don't Forget to Download Our Global Industry Report on : Boosting Retention Through Employee Recognition

7 Reasons That Lead to a Hostile Work Environment

6 min read   |  
Last Updated on

What comes to your mind when you think of a hostile work environment?

Most probably, you’ll think of a workplace where one is prone to

  • Offensive conduct and verbal abuse.
  • Sexism and gender inequality.
  • Discrimination based on race and ethnicity.
  • Poor human resource management.
  • Sexual harassment and so on.

Employees and job seekers have many aspirations regarding their workplaces. Most of them want an environment where they can work, learn, and socialize with their peers.

A healthy workplace is not a luxury, but it’s the basic requirement of every professional. It is a crucial point that helps you achieve your business goals, and you cannot afford to overlook it.

But, sometimes, the fact is far from the truth.

Many employers either fail to recognize conditions leading to a hostile workplace or often unsee it in their pursuit of profit. Sometimes, even legal claims are straight away neglected due to sub-standard employment laws.

But the question is, how would you know if a hostile work environment is created in your organization?

Here’s your answer then,

The 7 Reasons Behind a Hostile Work Environment

1. Poor Communication Practices


One of the many reasons that could lead to a hostile working condition is poor communication.

Managers often fail to establish strong and healthy communication with their employees.

For example, imagine a boss who does not like to share information with his or her employees.

Not only it disrupts the flow of information, but it also adversely impacts the work culture. The same goes for the employees where one doesn’t communicate with their peers and vice-versa.

Acts like these often drive the employees into taking drastic actions that are neither in their favor nor the employers. And thus, the true face of the prevailing hostile work environment comes into the picture.

2. Workplace Inequality


There are several cases around the world where employees faced gender-race discrimination. They were often deprived of participating in important aspects of business just because of their

  • Caste
  • Creed
  • Race
  • Color
  • Sexual orientation

In short, this is referred to as workplace inequality.

Such acts are often observed in big corporations where employees with different national origins face some aggressive approach from the natives. This may be in the form of denied access to certain rights or blocking their involvement in important matters.

Another concern here is the misuse of power by the higher-ups favoring certain employees. Such acts by an employer contribute to employee dissatisfaction.

Furthermore, the issue of gender inequality still prevails widely across various industries. Women are still left underestimated and underpaid compared to their male counterparts. Such a biased approach naturally contributes to stress and conflict in the workplace.

3. Unfair Appraisal System


Another notable employer act that leads to a hostile work environment is an unfair appraisal system.

For example-

When a manager gives more preference to an employee having good relations with him/her rather than someone delivering excellent work performance. You can view it as an indicator that could create problems in the workplace.

Such unfair practices completely break down employee morale. Further, it hampers their will to put in some extra effort to excel in their job.

Employees who are constantly deprived of their due recognition often become anxious regarding their own work and ruin their productivity. Thus, leading the employees into taking certain drastic decisions which might not be in their best interest.

Therefore, it is always advisable for employers to maintain a fair and transparent employee appraisal process. At the same time, they must also discourage any action that supports favoritism at work.

Learn more: How To Avoid Favoritism In The Workplace While Rewarding Employees

4. Dubious In-House Discrimination Laws


Most of the present-day companies have their own in-house discrimination laws. These laws are either proactive or reactive.

Proactive because they might have some terms and conditions aimed to prevent race color discrimination. And reactive signifies the applicable laws and actions against anyone involved in racial activities.

However, in most cases, such in-house laws fail to resolve the issues related to racial discrimination in the workplace. One of the primary reasons behind this is that these in-house laws are totally at the employer's disposal. And here, the risk of the complainant falling prey to the protected class is very high. If the accused is more influential in the decision-making process, then proper justice is seldom delivered.

Thus, giving a free hand to anyone supporting discriminatory practices within the organization.

Also, in most cases, these laws may not clearly define discrimination and its forms. The accused employees often manage to get away, citing the loopholes leaving the sufferer helpless and alone.

However, there are certain provisions or agencies to keep these things in check. One such agency is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the US established under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This commission has clearly laid down the scope of discrimination and constantly monitors and solves any racial alarms raised by employees.

5. Lack of Grievance Cells


Another reason for a healthy work environment turned hostile is the absence of grievance cells.

Grievance cells ease the process of receiving complaints and settling issues in the workplace. It protects employee rights for delivering a great workplace experience.

However, the lack of such cells results in unfavorable workplace conditions for employees. The absence of grievance cells makes it easier for the wrongdoers to continue with their illicit activities.

And it contributes towards a bitter employee experience that could give rise to the issue of employee attrition.

Learn more: 8 Steps To Handle Employee Grievances At The Workplace

6. Unequal Distribution of Employee Perks and Benefits


Employee perks and benefits are a great way to foster employee engagement.

And every employee is equal when it comes to disbursing such benefits.

Treating your workers unequally while giving out employee benefits may indicate discrimination.

Disbursing biased perks and benefits only promotes division in the workforce, and employees might find it unjust. This uneven distribution of employee perks also widens prevailing differences within the workforce.

7. Ignoring Employee Burnout


Employees nowadays stay under a lot of work pressure. The blame for this goes to the growing workload, forcing employees to spend most of their time at desks. As such, their own wellness has fallen into jeopardy. Sedentary lifestyle, occupational burnout have become norms of the corporate culture.

Even substance abuse in the workplace has increased exponentially in recent times. Employees now heavily rely on medications to cope with the stress, which, in turn, is adversely affecting their health.

This ultimately results in a disengaged workforce which is not good for business.

Therefore, it’s up to the employers to give importance to this matter and take adequate measures to mitigate it.

Learn more: Employee Burnout: Understanding and Tackling It

Wrap up

It's up to the employers to decide if they want to give their a bitter or a better experience. Hostile working conditions can bring down businesses and negatively impact the employees for a long time.

The 7 reasons listed above were some of the causes for a hostile work environment that I could think of.

But, if you know some more points equally responsible for hazardous working conditions. We would love to hear them from you in the comments below

Working as a SEO Analyst and Content Marketer at Vantage Circle, Angshuman always stays curious and is passionate about learning new things. Got any question? Drop a mail at