There are plenty of problems that arise at work each day for one reason or another. Some of those problems could lead to a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment is a problem for all involved, including the victim of the hostility. You should never accept working in a hostile environment, which is why you need to know how to spot the signs of such a problem.
For the most part, a workplace becomes hostile when a supervisor or a co-worker makes it impossible for you to effectively perform your job duties. This happens when their actions, inactions, words or other communication cause problems. This results in the terms of your employment being altered because of the actions of another person.
The behavior, actions or communication of the co-worker or supervisor must also be deemed as discriminatory under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
If a supervisor berates or mocks you due to your religious beliefs, gender, age, disability or other protected status, they have created a hostile work environment. The situation cannot be ignored if the supervisor or co-worker tries to mask the comments with a smile, laugh or by claiming that they were joking with you.
Make sure you understand that a co-worker or supervisor who talks too loudly, chews gum obnoxiously, has body odor or does other things that are not socially acceptable is not creating a hostile work environment.
When you can spot a hostile work environment, you can file complaints with a supervisor or with members of the human resources department. Stopping the hostility can make it much easier to go to work each day and not dread seeing your co-workers.