It seems like workplaces all over the country are becoming less and less civilized. Fox News reported today that the National Football League (NFL) is being investigated by the attorney generals of New York and California over hostile workplace allegations.1 Interestingly, Fox itself is a defendant in a hostile workplace lawsuit stemming from its former superstar Tucker Carlson’s behavior at work.2 And you don’t have to be one of the biggest sports organizations or news companies to find yourself entangled in hostile workplace allegations. Take for example the Paterson Museum in New Jersey, where a female exhibit artist recently accused her male coworkers of using “derogatory sexual jokes” and vulgar language toward her (the city ultimately settled for $95,000).

The Numbers 

All in all, too many workplaces continue to be uncivilized. A 2021 survey of 822 Americans who are employed full-time found that 44% have experienced some sort of harassment in either the in-person or online work environment. A third of the respondents actually left the organization due to unresolved harassment issues.4 The Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) conducted another survey focused on bullying in 2021 and found that an estimated 48.6 million Americans were bullied at work. Most importantly, the prevalence of bullying was actually up 57% from 2017.5 

If you’re thinking that these incidents only involve a male employee bullying a female colleague, you’d be mistaken. In fact, WBI found that “Women bullies bully women at twice the rate they bully men.”6 Moreover, research has found that a higher proportion of men than women (21% vs. 14%) could be labeled as bullied based on negative acts that they’ve been victims of. No matter the gender, though, exposure to these negative acts was tied to subsequent mental health problems for victims.

Bringing Civility to the Workplace 

Employers have an incentive to reduce workplace incivility. For starters, it costs them a lot in legal fees, especially if they are forced to settle or are found guilty. One California law firm that specializes in labor law actually estimates the value of hostile work environment cases to be between $150,000 to $1 million each.8  Recent research also confirms that toxic work environments directly impact employee engagement in a negative way.9 Finally, ensuring that employees work in a physically and mentally safe environment should be the priority of all employers! 

Now that we know how significant of a problem this is, and what the consequences are, let’s think about how we can prevent hostile work environments. First, there should be a zero-tolerance policy for incivility in the workplace. Senior leadership should clearly define what hostile behavior is, and hold all employees responsible for adhering to those expectations. Any violation should be dealt with immediately. Second, employees should be frequently educated on what workplace civility is and the importance of maintaining it. This training shouldn’t just be done for new employees; rather, it should be something that is required of everyone, and required often. Finally, employers need to accept accountability when something happens. This shows that the company is taking the matter seriously and understands its role in ensuring a safe workplace. In turn, this will build trust with the workforce.10 

Everyone deserves a safe environment to work in. With this in mind, we should all do our part in reducing, and ultimately eliminating hostile work environments.  


1 R. Gaydos, “NFL faces investigation over hostile workplace allegations,” Fox News, May 4,  


2 K. Robertson, “In a Lawsuit, Tucker Carlson Is Accused of Promoting a Hostile Work Environment,” The New York Times, April 24, 2023, 

3 J. Malinconico, “Paterson will pay $95K to settle lawsuit over hostile work environment,” North Jersey, April 20, 2023,  

4 “The State Of Workplace Harassment 2021,” AllVoices, September 1, 2021, 

5 “Workplace bullying takes an emotional, physical toll; support is in place to help,” Purdue Today, January 12, 2022,,-physical-toll-support-is-in-place-to-help.html. 

6 Ibid. 

7 M. Rosander, D. Salin, L. Viita, and S. Blomberg, “Gender Matters: Workplace Bullying, Gender, and Mental Health,” Frontiers in Psychology, October 6, 2020, 

8 “What Is the Average Case Value of a Hostile Work Environment?,” California Labor Law, (accessed May 4, 2023). 

9 S.F. Rasool, M. Wang, M. Tang, A. Saeed, and J. Iqbal, “How Toxic Workplace Environment Effects the Employee Engagement: The Mediating Role of Organizational Support and Employee Wellbeing,” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, February 26, 2021,  

10 C. Labitoria, “How to improve a hostile work environment,” Human Resources Director, February 4, 2022,; M. Miles, “4 ways to prevent a hostile work environment,” BetterUp, February 7, 2022,