Moving Away From a Hostile Work Environment: Pivot Using Defense and Performance

por Davis Delgado (2018-11-23)


A hostile work environment arises from the structure of relationships with an imbalance of power and responsibility, and usually the job places you in a position of high responsibility and low power.

You can recognize a hostile environment when you have: lost support and feel unappreciated, are blamed for events outside of your control or responsibility, have lost control of your time and someone else has started dictating when to work on tasks, experience intrusive, stressful thoughts about work that interfere with your relaxation, express anger that in hindsight was more intense than the situation called for, think many situations are no winners-you are damned if you, damned if you don't, feel abused with little option for a satisfying response, and are confused about what is going wrong or what to do next.

No one can remain in a hostile environment for long. You need to move or the environment needs to change. When we feel attacked, our anxiety increases, and if we do not reduce the anxiety first, we will make reactive decisions clouded by the anxiety rather than pro-active decisions based on our needs. It is often unrealistic to expect the environment, so you need to prepare for a transition.

We cope with a hostile environment in one of three ways.


We ignore it, numbing ourselves in various ways with entertainment and distractions. It works for a while but eventually the stress effects health and family.

We leave angry and hurt.

We develop a transition plan that provides the space and opportunity to make crucial decisions about next steps.


Often we leave a situation without intention, but it's better to know your tools and your purpose. If you don't then you will likely find yourself in a similar power-responsibility dynamic.

The beginning of planning starts with other people. Talk with other people who can help with advice and insight. You don't want the solution dictated to you from just one person. The actual plan should be organized around what you need to defend yourself and what you need to perform at your best.

Defensive behaviors include:


take thorough notes,

increase interaction with people who are supportive,

build space from people who are not supportive,

define your expectations for yourself and others,

collect data supporting when you met or exceeded expectations, and finally

don't provoke attacks or act threatening.


Active performance behaviors include:


take steps to reduce your anxiety for making better decisions,

care for yourself (sleep, exercise, and diet),

list what you need for your job, and

identify common goals between you and your superiors, and communicate ways for you to help achieve those goals.


Throughout a transition, the big picture is important. Your purpose is to regain power and move yourself into a more balanced environment where you can perform at a higher level.



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