How to Handle a Hostile Work Environment

Updated: Sep 16, 2019



A hostile work environment exists when a person’s behavior within a workplace creates an environment that is difficult or uncomfortable for another person to work in, due to discrimination. If this sounds like your work environment, you’re not alone.


Over the years of working in different 9-5 jobs, I’ve come across one too many hostile work environments. Before eventually switching to a different office or resigned from the company, I was able to figure out a few ways to deal with the hostility.


Are you working in a hostile work environment?


Sure, difficult bosses and colleagues exist everywhere. But there’s a difference between difficult people and hostile people.


According to the EEOC, harassment becomes unlawful where enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment. Or the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.


I was miserable when working with hostile bosses and colleagues. Sometimes, I took it as a sign to get the heck out of dodge city. So I up and quit. Other times, I saw it as an opportunity for character development.


My personal experience with hostile bosses and colleagues...


I once worked for a boss who took two hour lunch breaks after an hour at the gym each day. She also would take a lot of days off from work but not tell the rest of the team in advance.


In fact, for the entire year and a half that I worked for her, she did not work a full week at the office. She even claimed overtime work during boondoggle trips to exotic cities on the company’s dime. But that’s not made the work environment hostile.


When managing employees, she was rash and critical. Her micromanaging style would hinder our office’s ability to operate efficiently.


In our office of 20 people, 11 filed complaints to the Human Resource department against her. This led to an HR investigation in which I was called upon to provide a witness statement.


After the investigation, she was required to take leadership trainings. Yet, she still carried on her ways of treating employees in a passive aggressive manner.


Enough was enough.


One day she asked me to do a simple task for her. It wasn’t so much that she could look up whatever it was for herself.


But I just had so little respect for her that I did not want to help her in any shape or form. I couldn’t even stand holding a conversation with her even if it was not about work!


I watched as 7 employees left our office in a matter of months. Soon I realized I needed to do something about my work situation.


Otherwise, I would continue to be miserable working for her as my beloved colleagues, my support system, ran for the hills.


There’s no perfect way to handle a hostile manager or coworker, let alone difficult people in the workplace. But there certainly are better options that can lead to desirable results for you in the long run.


Here are a few ways I was able to deal with a hostile environment before leaving the office for good.



Recognize if you play in the part in the hostility.


I’m the first to admit I’m not always squeaky clean either. I’ve played a part in escalating the office tension whether it was through gossip or being passive aggressive back.


Trying to remain professional with a hostile boss or coworker in the corporate world is no easy task. I can say with first hand experience that the office setting is like a reality show gone bad.


At one point, a colleague jokingly nicknamed me The Pitbull. Sure, there was some truth behind it. I was friendly but if someone crossed a line, I did not hold back on sending nasty-grams. No doubt, the bcc line was put to use.


Not my proudest moments.


Over time, Eve the Pitbull learned to take the high road. Regardless, there’s no excuse for bad behavior.

We all have a lot going on in our personal life.


When under a lot of stress, sometimes it can seep into our professional life. Sometimes, it’s us but other times it’s the people we work with that are letting their personal life dramas interfere with their work life.


Even trying to understand their personal challenges does not excuse them for their toxic behavior. There are many ways to turn the negative vibes into positive fuel.


What’s the end goal?


Rather than striking back, there’s an easier and more effective way to deal with passive aggressive behavior. In order to stand up for yourself, first have a clear goal in mind.


Being reactive is normal. But before reacting to the situation, ask yourself what your goal is. Is your ultimate goal to get the heck out of the toxic work environment? Keep your job and try to survive the day to day office politics?


If so, there’s no need to win every battle.


Easier said than done? Nope. Standing up for yourself does not necessarily mean you have to fight back. No girl, that’s the hard way to go about it.


So keep the gloves on.



Be strategic about it. Trying to prove a point or win every single battle gets you caught up in the rat race. Instead, save yourself the time and energy by taking the high road. Here’s what I suggest when handling passive aggressive coworkers.


It’s easy to confuse taking the high road as being a doormat. But taking the high road does not entail being a pushover. Here are 3 ways I dealt with a hostile manager in the past.


The truth prevails much faster when you let crazy, be crazy.


One time, I worked with a difficult coworker who enjoyed pointing out other colleagues’ mistakes. It was a power trip for her.


She would point out various issues and bring it up to the boss. Unfortunately for her, the issues she brought up only showed how much she misunderstood the work.


Each time she pointed out an issue with me, I explained to her my point of view. In fact, I would let her have the last word in all the emails. Boy did she like that!


As she continued to have her power trip and cc the bosses in emails, I was reaching my breaking point. Fortunately, so did the bosses.


After having multiple coworkers complain about her behavior and with the emails to back it up, one of the senior managers spoke to her about harassment. As you can imagine, she was shocked.


She thought she was “winning” all the little battles but ultimately she lost the war. Her own war that she created in the first place.


Still finding it hard to keep it classy?


I hear you. I’m an Aries and an empath. Honestly, sometimes I thrive on being reactive.


If you’ve given it your all to remain professional and are still feeling heavy, take a step back. Perhaps you’ve reached your wits end. Then maybe it is time to move on.


After a decade of dabbling in different career paths, I realized a 9-5 job was simply not for me. It all started when I couldn’t stand one too many passive aggressive coworkers that I began thinking about a career with more job autonomy.


I used the toxic work environment as a motivator to get the heck out of the rat race. Specifically, I created multiple streams of income to speed up my journey to financial independence.


Don’t get me wrong, I still deal with passive aggressive behavior outside of an office setting. The point is, I’m living proof that achieving financial independence is possible at any age.


Even though I was able achieve financial independence in my 30’s, I knew that I would always want to be doing some sort of meaningful work. That’s what lead me to start Not A Bond Girl as a creative outlet.


Create a Plan B.


Focusing on a Plan B can help to detach from workplace drama. Even if you never fall back on Plan B, at least it can help ease the tension of feeling stuck. Here was my exit strategy that allowed me to quit my 9-5 job.


Besides applying for a new job, get creative. There are many ways to have a side hustle these days. I had fun trying out different side gigs. Eventually, I narrowed it down to focus on creating passive income to achieve financial freedom.


Need support with your Plan B? Then let's talk strategy.


Time to pivot your career to align with your ideal lifestyle.


Changing jobs within the same industry can be challenging. Pivoting to a new industry can be even tougher and take longer.


So what do you do to shorten the lengthy process of job searching?


Step aside, James Bond. Allow me to handle this question with a Pintastic solution.

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