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This Week: Top 10 Warning Signs of a Toxic Company Culture
No one wants to end up working in a soul-crushing, dread-inducing, overtly negative company culture. Unfortunately, these environments are all too common in the world of work, and it can be very hard to spot a toxic company culture until you're in the thick of it.
With that in mind, we asked some of the experts about the red flags candidates should look out for when on the hunt for a new job. Below are 10 warning signs that suggest your potential employer may just be a toxic place:
1. The Job Posting Is Suspiciously Demanding
One sign that the culture at a company is suspect is the job posting. If a job is listed as "entry level" but requires far more than entry-level experience, then the company is potentially trying to get away with paying you less.
— Neel Somani, Founder, Apptic
2. Your Gut Says 'No'
How do you feel when you're there? Trust your gut; it's your greatest ally. Human beings actually have a "second brain" in their gut area. Unfortunately, too many people ignore the warning signs. If something feels off – even if you can't put your finger on it – it probably is. If you feel drained, exhausted, or leave with a splitting headache, I would not suggest going back.
– Jaime Pfeffer, Career Coach, JaimePfeffer.com
3. Customers Don't Feel So Great
While most people will recommend employee review sites such as Glassdoor, I actually tell people to look at customer satisfaction and reviews.
Regardless of who the customer or client is, your happiness and success at a company depend on customers' overall happiness and satisfaction. Check out consumer reviews of a company. If you find a pattern of customers not being happy, then you likely won't be either. Why? Customer dissatisfaction not only brings everyone down, but you're also likely going to be dealing with a lot of these unhappy customers.
Overall customer satisfaction is often an indicator of the organizational culture. If there is a pattern of low satisfaction, something is going wrong in the company, which is a strong sign of a toxic culture.
— Kris Fannin, CEO and Founder, Intelivate
4. People Keep Leaving
It's a bad sign if the job you're interviewing for has had several incumbents over the last five years. Ask the interviewer, "How many people have had this position over the last five years? Where are each of them now?"
If all or most of them have left the company, what else do you need to know?
— Donna Svei, Executive Resume Writer, Avid Careerist
5. Everyone Is Ambiguous
All candidates should ask questions about culture and advancement to validate whether or not those bad Glassdoor reviews have any merit. Any company with a culture conducive to growth and transparency should be able to answer these questions with confidence and provide examples of initiatives that further employee engagement.
— Nikki Winston, Founder and CEO, The Premier Elite Group
6. The Environment Gives Off Bad Vibes
Check out the environment. Be observant. Do people look happy? Check employee portals. Are they friendly or loaded with rules and regulations? Do bosses have great space while others sit in beige cubicles? You can always sense a good vibe!
— Dr. Linda Sharkey, Coauthor, The Future-Proof Workplace
7. No One Knows How Your Role Fits Into the Big Picture
One red flag to watch for is transparency about the role that you're interviewing for, the company's mission, and how your role ties into or supports that mission, along with the reporting structure for that role. If this cannot be clearly communicated, chances are there is not a solid internal structure in place, which is hallmark of a toxic corporate culture.
— Robert Basso, President and Founder, Advantage Payroll Services
8. You Haven't Met Your Colleagues Yet
If your new boss inconveniently and repeatedly does not include other colleagues in the interview process, that raises an enormous red flag, especially if one or more of them will report to you. One of my clients showed up for her first day at work and discovered that her assistant, whom she inherited, was none too pleased to have a new boss and believed that she deserved the job herself. The assistant did everything possible to undermine my client's performance.
When I was interviewing at law firms, I felt that a telltale sign is when the employees do not know the boss very well. When you ask questions about leadership and people really don't know much, that can be a significant warning sign.
10. The Teams Don't Like Each Other
How are other teams or departments talked about? In conversations, pay attention if and when teams talk about other teams or departments. Do they speak favorably, or do they seem to roll their eyes and comment on how that group operates? Especially if you're in the presence of two or more employees, take notice of how they interact on this topic. Do they give you one answer but look at each other and smile in a knowing way? This can be an indication that collaboration – at least between these specific groups – may not be as high as you want.
– Jane Scudder, Certified Coach and Workplace Consultant, JaneScudder.com