10 survival tips for a hostile work environment

  | 5 min read

You can’t control how other people act in the workplace

It’s not uncommon to hate your job. However, sometimes your dislike for your work has nothing to do with the work itself, but the people that surround you and the work environment overall.  Moreover, quitting immediately may not be an option for everybody as living expenses are high in Tanzania, and the job market is competitive. As a result, you may end up feeling stuck in a job that makes you miserable for longer than you like. So, whether you have a bullying boss or rude co-workers, how exactly do you cope with a hostile work environment?


1.Document everything


If you are dealing with a difficult supervisor or coworker, make sure that most of your interactions are done through email or any other communication software you use at work. Always ensure that you sound reasonable and professional in the documents. This is especially useful if you are being sexually harassed and propositioned by a coworker.

2.Don’t participate in gossip


Don’t fuel the flames by gossiping about your coworker or boss to other people in the office, even if they are in the wrong. As once you start participating in the drama, then you become part of the problem. Plus, you don’t want to polarise your other coworkers into picking sides in the conflict, as all of you have to work to together.

3. Consult HR


If the issue escalates and you feel absolutely uncomfortable at work (especially if it’s a harassment matter) then you should contact your HR officer. Don’t feel nervous to report the matter, even if it does involve your boss. It’s the HR’s responsibility to ensure that you feel reasonably comfortable in your work environment. Moreover, this is another way to document the problem and protect yourself if any legal issues arise.

4.Talk to the person


It may all just be a misunderstanding or miscommunication. So it’s worth the effort to sit down with the person and express your feelings and listen to theirs. Though, don’t attack them and place all the blame on them, as this will make them defensive. Instead, phrase your sentences like “ this is how I interpreted what you said…..”

5.Stay focused on your goal


A hostile work environment may lead you to lose sight of why you accepted the job in the first place. If you enjoy the work you do, but can’t stand the people you work with then make sure to keep your goals in mind. Your determination will help you overcome all hurdles.

6.Find a hobby


Sometimes having something that you are passionate about outside work, can make your work-life more tolerable and give you perspective. It can also distract you from the problems you are facing at work.

7.Find an ally outside of the office


It’s always beneficial to talk about your problems with someone who cares about you, but can also give you an objective view on the matter. However, you should try to keep it outside of work to avoid potential gossiping and drama.

8.Leave your problems at work


Don’t read work related emails and messages outside of work to minimise thinking about the problem.

9.  Do some self-reflection


If you are consistently having problems with different people at work, then it may be time to take a look at yourself and figure out if you are the issue. Analyse some of the scenarios where conflict arose, and how you acted. If you can’t seem to see your faults, then consult a third party to see if they have a different perspective

10. Create an exit strategy


If all of the above fail and you can’t see a resolution for the conflict, then it’s best to plan an exit strategy. For instance, give yourself a time frame to find a new job and resign. Maybe even decide to save more of your money, so that you have a safety net if you quit and still don’t have another job lined up. Usually, once you plan your exit strategy, you will feel a sense of relief as you know you are leaving soon – that there is an end date to your misery.

Control what you can, and let go of the rest

While working with toxic personalities and policies may make you feel helpless, you need to determine what you can control about the situation. For instance, you can get HR involved and document the hostile scenarios so that you have evidence if things ever get legal. You can try and control your outlook by having exciting hobbies and friends to talk to. You can control how you react to the confrontations. However, what you can’t control is the attitudes of those around you. You can’t make them nicer or more reasonable, so you should let go of trying to do so and focus on why you are there in the first place – to get the job done.

Iman Lipumba
A digital storyteller, experienced in creating content that improves website visibility on search engines, enhances the user experience, and nurtures brand loyalty. With a background in the social sciences, an expert in researching complex ideas, and communicating them in engaging language to multiple audiences.