Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Is Your Workplace Hurting You, Your People and Your Profits?
Expand Your Understanding of "Hostile Work Environment"

Image: Hostile Work Environment by Desolee
“A hostile work environment is created by a boss or coworker whose actions, communication, or behavior make doing your job impossible. This means that the behavior altered the terms, conditions, and/or reasonable expectations of a comfortable work environment for employees. Additionally, the behavior, actions or communication must be discriminatory in nature.”
~ Susan M. Heathfield
Source: About.com Human Resources: What Makes a Work Environment Hostile? Legal Guidelines Exist to Define a Hostile Workplace
Let’s be clear from the get-go: we are in no way shape or form belittling the gravity of the circumstances currently falling under the legal definition of hostile workplace environment. Far from it. Workplace hostility in all its forms is unfortunate, in many cases deplorable and in some cases may be avoidable.

A bold statement, we know; but please bear with us, we do have a rational case to make.

It should be pointed out that there has never been any causality established in hostile work environments. Like so many facets of human behavior it has been chalked up as “human nature” which has crossed the lines of acceptable moral codes of conduct in the workplace.

If there was such a thing as spectrum of hostility, it is reasonable to suggest people tend toward “more hostile behaviours” toward their subordinates when they are under greater stress, greater duress. It’s a kind of natural transference of negatively charged energy.

We’ve all experienced some form of being “dumped on” by another person. We are social creatures and sometimes we need to “let off some steam.” Mainstream media and the Internet is filled with so-called “rants” of people expressing a seemingly endless stream of negative—sometimes violent—emotions.

What are violent films, TV shows, sports and video games if not “socially acceptable outlets” of violent tendencies? Ways of “burning off” negative energy? Surely a boss, manager, supervisor, etc. may subconsciously perceive subordinates in the same category, where power over a subject/object signals a potential outlet for negative emotions (which, we can easily recognize as hostility).

Haven't we all let off steam at the expense of a partner, spouse, family member, friend, store clerk, waiter, or even complete stranger? 

Where does all this negative energy come from? We know from the laws of physics that matter and energy are neither created nor destroyed but endlessly transformed. Is it outrageous to suggest that the negative energy we accumulate within our psyche has its source, at least in part, in our environment?

Certainly someone who feels they are the victim of a hostile work environment will agree with this.

The hostile work environment can be a tremendous source of stress. Individuals in such circumstances may indeed find themselves going home and taking out their work frustrations on their children, spouse, pets, comfort food, sports…use your imagination and/or personal experience. We’ve all been there.

So why not the perpetrators of workplace hostility? Even CEO’s have superiors (i.e. Board of Directors, Government Regulators, in some cases the Media). They may not experience the same concentrated hostility as someone on the receiving end of their venting, but they are exposed to a great deal of constant pressure associated with their responsibilities; pressure which becomes STRESS.

Image: Possible Causes of Hostile Workplace Environments by GenesisEcoFund

The purpose of the above diagram is not to suggest the perpetrators of workplace hostility are not responsible for their actions. We're simply pointing out both the perpetrator and the victim are part of the same negatively charged environment and that what the victim experiences as a hostile work environment is a different experience of the same negatively charged environment: accumulated, focused and directed at them.

The ultimate negative impacts of such cumulative, focused and directed negative energy on a person are numerous, and include all manner of psychological and physical illness. This is both well documented and intuitive.

We should not discount the feedback mechanism and how such hostility compounds the negative environmental pressures of the workspace (at least in part “the source” of the problem).

So let us imagine the same dynamic with an indoor rainforest ecosystem:

Image: Ecosystem Causes of Productive Workplace Environments by GenesisEcoFund

A harmonious and productive environment is only the beginning. If nature has shown us anything,  it’s that the matrix of life, Ecosystems, holds within it the potential for infinite creativity, adaptability, beauty, ingenuity and resilience. Imagine the potential inspiration and problem solving should even a fraction of these qualities of ecosystems be transferred to the people working in the self-organized, positively charged microclimate.

This is simply intuitive. We look forward to conducting real-world research as part of our mandate to explore all the benefits of establishing symbiosis within workplace environments via ecosystems.

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