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Signs of a Hostile Work Environment All Therapists Should Know

hostile work environment

By Kimberly Dixon

Whether you're considering accepting a new position or you're already on the job, it's important to keep an eye out for the signs of a hostile work environment.

Difficult patients aren't the problem; instead, a hostile environment refers to a workplace where employees feel uncomfortable or harassed by their peers or employer. Often, employees find their day-to-day routines disrupted, and, as a result, career advancement may be compromised.

If you're working in a hostile environment and want to get your career on a better path, try searching our current job listings at Med Travelers.


5 signs of a hostile work environment

1. The interview questions

When you're interviewing for a new position, pay close attention to the interview questions.

According to Lauren Elliot, RN, MSN, FNP, "Almost without exception, I find the interview questions herald the impending danger of walking into a hostile environment." Employers who are focusing their interview questions on how you'd deal with drama may be raising a red flag.

"Every time I have been asked how I would handle difficult co-workers or to give an example of how I interact with gossip or petty actions, the facility has a massive problem with those issues," Elliot says.

2. Bullying

Bullying is one of the telltale signs of a hostile work environment. Bullying can come from co-workers or employers and often presents as:

  • Gossip
  • Teasing or berating
  • Sabotage
  • Physical and verbal abuse

Michelle Weihman, RN, writer of the popular nurse blog Michelle on Your Side has first-hand experience with bullying in the workplace and offers advice for medical professionals who are experiencing workplace bullying.

When dealing with a bully at work, Weihman advises clinicians of all types to "keep a log of inappropriate behavior [and] report their behavior with your documentation."

3. Facilities in disrepair

One of the signs of a hostile work environment is poorly-maintained facilities or equipment in disrepair. According to a 2017 study published in Oxford Academic's International Journal of Epidemiology, it's not only hostile interactions in the workplace that contribute to low employee morale but also facilities that have poor lighting, outdated equipment or are generally unclean.

4. Performance issues and poor attendance records

Sometimes co-workers put in minimal effort or don't show up for work at all. These are also signs of a hostile work environment. Sandra Harris, a Toronto-based consultant working with healthcare facilities to build positive team environments, says a poor corporate culture leads to "disengaged employees, which is very damaging for any work culture."

5. High employee turnover

According to Forbes, high turnover is the number-one sign of a toxic workplace environment. Whether employees are leaving of their own accord or being asked to turn in their resignation by management, high employee turnover is a sign that the organization lacks strategic planning and competent leadership.


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