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How to Spot Toxic Culture Warning Signs

Posted by Insightlink on 10/02/15

 Before you accept the job offer 

When I read stories about people dying at their desks , Sweden’s move to adopt a 6 hour work week seems like an impossible yet hugely desirable dream. Working insane hours for many of us is often the result of unreasonable expectations and it really is killing us. To keep our jobs we are often under pressure to work longer and longer hours to prove ourselves. We no longer work for our families, we work for companies that don’t seem to care about their employees. The experiences of former Apple and Amazon employees make us wonder where senior management is learning how to treat people and why this behavior is tolerated.

Since 6 hour workdays are a long, long way off perhaps the best we can for now is be extremely careful about accepting job offers in the first place. Instead of accepting the first job offer to come along we need to look closer at potential employers and watch for warning signs that tell us we should say thanks but no thanks.

5 Red flags to watch out for:


  1. They leave you hanging: Some interviewers will wait a long time after your initial interview before making a decision. If they are respectful of you, chances are they are respectful of their current employees too. If they leave you hanging for weeks after an interview that is a clue as to how that company thinks about its employees.
  2.  It’s dudsville: Take a good look around when you go in for your interview. Do you see people talking to each other? Do they seem to know each other and are they friendly? You want to make sure you are joining a team that gets along. If people look sad and miserable, watch out! Work environments can also be a clue. Can you see yourself working in a cubicle or do you need more private work space? Make sure you can actually see yourself working there.
  3. The commute: What is the real drive time into the office going to be like? Chances are you are going for your interview at an off time, not rush hour. You need to be realistic about the time it takes to get that job so there aren’t any surprises. You should also take a look at what is around you. If you bring your lunch to work that is fine but if you like to go out and there are no restaurants or shops nearby you might not last long. Where a company chooses to locate says something about its values and you will do well to be aware of that before you say yes to the job.
  4. Short Interviews: If you get offered a job so fast you can’t believe it, then you probably shouldn’t believe it. You should be wary of being hired too quickly. It could be a sign of high turnover rates and an unpleasant work environment. It could also be because they are growing in which case you need to do some research and find out if they have been expanding and what their reputation is. Look them up on Glassdoor.
  5. Your interview is hush hush: You could be hired for a role where the person you are replacing doesn’t know they are being replaced. If they get the axe on Friday and you walk in on Monday, you could be met with resentment from your new team instead of being made to feel welcome. If you aren’t given the chance to meet anyone, it begs the question why and you should be suspicious. Both these scenarios imply you won’t have the opportunity to see if people appear happy and relaxed at work and you won’t get any insight about the work environment. Plus, if this is indicative of how they treat their people, they could be lining up your replacement behind the scenes at some point too.

It is important to work and have a job but if it will take a toll on your mental and physical health then the quality of your work and your life will suffer and that should not be acceptable. Avoid these toxic workplaces and put yourself ahead of the pay check. If you don’t know one else will. Choose a company that cares about you and one you can care about.


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