Make sure you recognize these signs before joining a toxic workplace.
You got the call, and the company with your dream job opening wants to interview you.
As you do your research and prep your interview questions, there’s a specific cultural factor to check out that many people ignore: Is it a toxic workplace?
As Robert Glazer, author of “Performance Partnerships,” writes, “No matter how great the title, the pay, or the role, if a company's culture is toxic, you will regret taking the job.” Thankfully, there are ways to look deeper into a company’s culture both before and during your interview to discover whether it’s toxic on some level.
Signs of a toxic workplace: before the interview
As part of your pre-interview research, go to sites like Glassdoor or Indeed and read reviews of the company by present and past employees. Pay more attention to the negative comments, particularly around the CEO and upper management. If you consistently see comments such as “If you speak up, they’ll show you the door,” you might want to reconsider a role with that company. You can also check where the company ranks with other organizations based on its culture.
According to Liz Ryan, author of “Reinvention Roadmap: Break the Rules to Get the Job You Want and Career You Deserve,” something as simple as your interview time could be a sign of a toxic workplace.
“If they inform you of your scheduled interview time versus asking you what date and time would be convenient for you,” she writes, “you've been warned!”
Once you arrive for your interview, there are more ways to spot a toxic environment before you’re working in it.
Signs of a toxic workplace: during the interview
You can get some great information about a potentially toxic work environment by asking questions about the company’s core values and mission during your interview. Make sure to ask tough questions about the company’s culture and values. Some examples include:
Describe the last bold new idea you went after as an organization.
Tell me the last time something bad occurred, such as a layoff. How did your management group handle this?
How have your practices evolved over time and how did you execute the changes?
Piyush Patel, founder of Oklahoma-based online training company Digital-Tutors, believes that “Sometimes you can get an idea of how strong a company’s culture is by how much they try to guard it during the interview.” Are the interviewers helping you to discover whether you’re a good cultural fit, or are they just hiring a warm body? This is a critical question.
However, along with asking questions, you can learn a great deal about the company’s culture by how you’re treated while on site. Here are some clear red flags to help you see that a workplace is toxic before you join the company.
People are rude and dismissive with you throughout the hiring process.
They ask you questions but don’t give you time to ask questions about them in return.
Your potential co-workers are “too busy” to spend time with you during the interview.
You meet the hiring manager — and don’t like him or her. (That’s often your gut telling you what your brain hasn’t figured out yet.)
And there are still more ways to discover if you’re walking into a dysfunctional organization.
Learn by walking around
Piyush Patel offers some interesting ways to discover whether you’ll be joining a toxic workplace simply by walking around.
Watch how people are communicating. What are they saying with their body language and voice during your tour? “Is there a sense of fear or panic in their body language or tone of voice?” says Patel, “Or is there a genuine excitement and passion?”
Use the bathroom. Patel firmly believes you can get a good sense of a company’s culture by how well they maintain their bathrooms. “If there’s an empty toilet paper roll, that’s a red flag,” states Patel. “If someone didn’t care enough about the next person to take a few seconds out of their day to change the roll, what does that say about how they work together? This can be the sign of a culture where not taking the responsibility for each other’s well-being is commonplace.”
Above all, listen to your gut. If you don’t have a good feeling before, during, or after your interview or if you’re spending sleepless nights trying to make your decision, you should probably consider passing on this job. Life is too short to work in a toxic environment.
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