How To Recognize A Toxic Workplace

The job search can be a fairly difficult process. From the application, multiple interview stages, receiving an offer, negotiating a salary, and finally, accepting said offer the multi-step process can take a toll. Given that the average worker will change a job every two years or so, this is a process that you might become very familiar with throughout your career.

The reasons for changing jobs may vary; you could be looking for a change of pace, a new challenge, or changing careers all together. Maybe your dream job has opened up and you were selected for an interview. As we’ve said before, an interview is not only a company’s chance to see if you are a fit for the company, but it is also your chance to see if you can envision yourself working there.

Often times we get caught up in the emotions of getting the opportunity to interview at a company, not to mention for your potentially dream job. We tend to view the opportunity and company as a whole through a lens that we have dreamt it would be, only to realize that it is not what we expected. In fact, it might be the complete opposite and actually a toxic work environment.

Working in a toxic environment can not only be detrimental to your career development, but have a negative effect on your personal life as well. According to Robert Glazer, author of Performance Partnerships, “No matter how great the title, the pay, or the role, if a company’s culture is toxic, you will regret taking the job.” If only you knew the warning signs of a toxic environment before taking the job, right?

Thanks to these tips from our friends over at TopResume you will be able to look deeper into a company’s culture both before and during your interview to determine whether or not it is a toxic environment.

Before The Interview

Just like you wouldn’t play in a big game without practicing first, you shouldn’t go to an interview without preparing. In the age of the Internet, information is seemingly limitless, so you should gather as much as you can about the role and organization before the big day. You can use sites like Glassdoor and Indeed to read reviews about the company and what previous interviews have been like.

If you see a consistent theme of negativity in the comments, that should be a red flag about the culture. Additionally, you can see if the company has been in the news for anything recently, both positive and negative. Depending on the story, you can get a good idea of what others in the industry are saying about the company and where they stand. In your communication leading up to the interview, you may get a good sense of how things are handled internally.

While email and other forms of digital communication may not be the best ways to determine meaning or emphasis behind messages, this is the primary form of communication in setting up interviews, so it is important to have an open mind. However, if there is a lack of timeliness in responses and even ignoring messages, this could also be a red flag.

Now that you’ve done the pre-interview prep, it is time for the interview. There are also some ways you can determine if the workplace is toxic during the interview.

During The Interview

After researching the company, you should have some sort of idea as to what you could expect during the interview and in terms of culture. Now is the time to get down to the nitty gritty and get some information to help determine whether or not the company is toxic. One way to do this is by asking questions about the company’s core values and mission. Can the interviewer answer these questions without hesitation? Does he or she deflect? Does he or she even know them? Some examples of questions you can ask, according to Lisa Tynan, are:

  • 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?

Taking your “investigation” into whether or not the company is toxic a step further, if you still can’t tell after asking questions, pay attention to how people treat you. As they say, first impressions are hard to break, so if you get a bad feeling or don’t like your potential manager, this should be a red flag.

Learn By Walking Around

Yes, you can get some baseline information about the company’s culture from your research, but to get more of an understanding, pay attention to the current employees when you get there. Piyush Patel, founder of the online training company Digital-Tours offers two things to keep an eye on when you walk around the company:

  • Watch how people are communicating, both verbally and non-verbally.
  • Use the bathroom. According to Patel, “If there’s an empty toilet paper roll, that’s a red flag. 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.”

Getting a job offer to work at a new company is an exciting time in your career and a decision that should not be taken lightly. When considering your options, being aware of a potentially toxic workplace needs to be a priority for both your professional and personal lives. With these tips, you are provided guidelines on how to recognize a toxic workplace and can take action to avoid it. After all, life is too short to be unhappy in a toxic environment at work. Especially considering we spend more time at work than with family and friends.

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