While most offices have their share of petty grievances and co-worker annoyances, they are a far cry from a workplace that makes you feel threatened, scared or abused. If you're in a workplace that you consider hostile, it's probably best to make your exit. While it may be a place where you'll never want to set foot again, do what you can to keep your connections intact, as they may come in handy later.
Write It Down
Some hostile workplaces are made up of mean people who live to make others miserable; others may be considered the sources of downright discrimination. If you think you are being harassed based on your race, color, religion, sex or sexual orientation, national origin, or a disability, it may be worth talking to a lawyer about an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, lawsuit. Before you leave, document any sources of hostility or harassment. Write down the offenders' names, times and dates of the hostility, any witnesses and the circumstance. If you have the opportunity to take photos or record hostile remarks, do so and then keep them in a safe place -- which means not on your work computer. During this time of documentation, you can also start looking for a new job -- but do not use your work computer for the search.
Talk to Employers
In order for you to file a harassment claim, you'll first need to talk to your employer about the problem. When employers do not make a good-faith effort to fix the problem, the EEOC may be able to take action. Before you make any moves to leave your hostile workplace, talk to your human resources department, supervisor or other people in charge. Then, write down the content of the conversation and with whom you talked, so that you'll have documentation of your efforts. If your office communicates via e-mail, state your problem in an e-mail before meeting with the boss or HR, and then save a copy of that email for your records.
When it's really time to leave that hostile environment, draft a letter stating that you are leaving. Do not point fingers, get emotional or talk about specific incidents -- just state your departure date. You are not obligated to say why you're leaving, though if you feel compelled to say something, try to be as tactful as possible. While you may be boiling mad at the boss or other co-workers, you'll only burn bridges that you may need later if you use profanity or defame individuals in your letter. Once the letter is drafted, ask for a few minutes of the boss' time to hand in your resignation personally.
Meet with the Boss
Hand the boss your resignation letter at the beginning of the meeting, and then give him a few minutes to read it over. Try to remain calm; your boss may not be happy about your decision and may get angry or throw more hostility your way. Answer any direct questions he asks you with as much tact as you can muster -- the nightmare will soon be over. At some offices, you may be asked to do an exit interview in which you can share your experiences at the office. That is your chance to -- always tactfully and professionally -- explain once again why you are leaving. Stick to the facts and avoid finger-pointing or emotional statements. Following your resignation and exit interview, plan on leaving right away; the hostility is probably only going to continue or get worse if you stick around the office to say a long goodbye.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.