Three ways to fix your company's hostile work environment

Hostility in the workplace can be difficult to recognize for business owners. Many in management are too busy thinking about big picture, like expanding their business or what shareholders are thinking. Many ignore such “trivial” things as a psychologically unsafe workspace.

But what about your company’s workplace culture? This type of neglect can allow your company’s bullies to spread hostility and fear throughout your workplace.

This is a huge mistake. A hostile work environment can bring down a company through lawsuits, bad press and, in more cases than you might expect, workplace violence.

Developing and maintain a positive workplace culture is like tending a garden; with regular attention and a bit of love you can create something spectacular. But, if neglected, hostility will spread like a bad weed.

With that in mind here is a simple three-step guide to recognizing and dealing with hostility in your workplace:

1. You are a role model

Workplace culture starts at the top; and that means you. If employees see their superiors being hostile, petty or acting above the rules they set out for everyone else; employees will take note.

In fact someone looking to move up in your company is very likely to take their cues from you. If they see you being hostile by belittling employees, breaking rules or just being an old fashioned bully –they will believe that that is how you succeed within the organization and emulate you.

Just remember, when you are in a leadership position that “role model” is automatically part of your job description.

2. Examine your workplace culture first-hand

The day-to-day reality for a boss can be very different from the reality of a rank and file worker, especially those that are targets of hostility and bullying.

The solution isn’t rocket science; talk to these people. If you only ever talk to middle management or supervisors to get a feel for workplace culture, at best you will be given incomplete information and at worst you will be given falsified information to cover-up hostility.

Information is power but getting the right information about workplace culture, as well as hostile elements in your workplace, is difficult.

Go straight to the source when getting a feeling of your workplace culture – that means your employees. How are they treated by their superiors and co-workers? Are they happy in the workplace? Are there any problems that need to be addressed? Don’t shy away from topics or people who may make you uncomfortable.

A simple conversation could save your company from a terrible outcome.

3. Get expert help and learn best practices

Business owners are busy and workplace culture isn’t everyone’s cup of tea –that’s okay, you can’t be an expert of all parts of your company. But this doesn’t mean you can ignore hostility in your workplace; that is why Human Resources departments were created.

It’s not recommended that you give HR a blank cheque to deal with workplace issues. You need to make sure smart, capable people are in the department and that they are doing a good job of resolving workplace problems, preventing hostility and making comprehensive, common sense rules for your business to follow.

But developing policies internally is only half the battle. HR departments should be looking externally to find out industry best practices and should be up-to-date on the quickly growing amount of literature on workplace culture and hostility.

This means taking a hard look at other companies’ hiring practices, performance measurement procedures and bullying polices.

A capable and modern HR department, coupled with sufficient oversight from management, is absolutely vital in the today’s business climate.

Do not allow your HR department to fall victim to atrophy or a cover-up mentality when it comes to workplace culture.

What do you think? Have you had an experience similar to what I’ve described above? How did you solve it?