top of page
  • marketing68650

10 Signs You Have a Hostile Work Environment

The hostile work environment used to be easier to identify when work wasn’t remote.

But now, given that the majority of employees are working remotely, identifying a hostile work environment is a little more difficult. Though it is still important to monitor in an office setting.

What is one sign that you work in a hostile work environment?

We asked this question to HR professionals, business leaders, and everyday employees. Here’s what they had to say about the signs that you have a hostile work environment.

Operating Without Employment Policies

One sign of a hostile work environment is when your employer is operating without clear, written employment policies — particularly those governing harassment, discrimination, a hostile work environment, or retaliation. These policies are meant to protect both the employer and the employee. A business operating without these policies in place is doing less than the minimum to mitigate the risk of the environment becoming hostile.

Robert Reder, Blythe Grace

Impeding Actions and Words

A hostile work environment is any space where the actions or words of your coworkers or management make it impossible to successfully do your job. The true sign of a hostile work environment is when the actions or behaviors that are making it hard to do your job are persistent and don’t stop even when you ask. This is when you know that extreme measures need to be taken.

Vicky Franko, Insura

Numbers Don’t Lie

Hostility within the workplace is largely invisible to employers today. To employees, hostility may be visible and can grow if undetected. Employers should consider issuing a regular, anonymous survey to employees to detect the pulse of the organization. By assigning a numerical measurement to important workplace categories like “Relationship With Manager” or “Relationship With Peers” or “Happiness,” employers can recognize weaknesses or trends that may indicate that a workplace is leaning toward “hostile.”

Brett Farmiloe, Markitors

Monitor the Office Mood

A great way to detect a hostile work environment is to monitor the mood of the office (if you are working at an office right now.) Look around, are people happy? Is there upbeat water cooler chatter throughout the day? Do employees rush out at 5 pm or mosey out to the parking lot with coworkers? Answering these questions and carefully examining the mood felt in the office can show signs that there might be more going on and the work environment is a hostile one.

Ryan Nouis, TruPath

Public Belittling

Since I own a law firm with my wife, I would never consider our work environment hostile. While we do have other employees that look to us to set the tone of the office, we are both very aware of how we make others feel and creating a workplace that people enjoy coming to every day. One sign that your work environment may be a hostile one is if your boss or even a coworker belittles or shames you in front of others. If I have a problem with an employee, we talk privately in my office, there is no need for anyone in a company to make a scene in front of other employees.

Court Will, Will & Will

Observe Early Warning Signs

I believe that a hostile environment will be revealed during the first working days. It will be visible by the style of communication, transparency, and the relationships in the team. Clearly, if everyone is afraid of their boss, then it’s a totally toxic environment. Things aren’t always that obvious though. You may have good relationships with your teammates, eat with them during breaks, and attend team-building events. However, you may notice that your employer may ask you to work overtime without compensation, doesn't listen to your suggestions, and doesn't give quality feedback. In short, they are trying to squeeze as much as possible from their employees. I consider this an adverse environment and suggest paying attention to how the company cares about people.


I am an advocate of building strong teams comprised of brilliant minds and humble hearts. Defensiveness and lack of personal responsibility are the two most dangerous characteristics of a work environment in my opinion. Nothing weighs a work environment down more than the blame game.

Lack of Assistance with Your Development

Sometimes it’s not as easy to spot a hostile work environment as you might think. In my opinion, hostility isn’t just about how you are treated by management or co-workers. It relates to company culture, progress opportunities, internal communication, and more. After all, you might have a great relationship with your manager but if they have zero intention of promoting you or assisting with development, then you’re in a hostile environment, it’s just less apparent. So, I would suggest that you think about your position in the company and whether or not you are getting the love, support, and opportunities that you feel that you deserve.

You Dread Going to the Office

The biggest sign for me personally is consistently dreading going into the office - this can also relate to the work being done but most often it's a reflection of who I will spend my time with. On a larger scale, you can usually tell a lot about an office based on how much interaction, laughter, and banter there is. If the entire floor is quiet with no back and forth or jokes, it's usually a bad sign!

Quincy Smith, ESL Authority

You Hear More Things Through the Grapevine Than From Your Boss

One sign that you may be in a hostile work environment is by finding out about your work "performance issues" through the grapevine rather than through your supervisor directly. This is a signal that your supervisor may not have your best interests at heart. It also shows a lack of self-awareness as leaders should understand how their words will impact the organization. Other employees may also start to see you differently through no fault of your own. If this happens to you as a leader this can undermine your ability to effectively inspire a team given how one’s bias has soured the rest of the grapevine.

Steven Brown, DP Electric Inc

Terkel creates community-driven content featuring expert insights. Sign up at to answer questions and get published.