7 Warning Signs Your Potential Employer Has a Toxic Culture

Have you ever worked for a company that has a culture that is so toxic it made your work and personal life miserable? I certainly have, and if you’re like me, you could kick yourself for ignoring the warning signs during the interview process.

A couple of years ago, I published a blog on LinkedIn that went viral with over 600,000 page views and 5,000 comments. In the piece, I told the story of a toxic work environmentthat I endured that resulted in all of the employees in the regional office I worked at being fired by a narcissistic boss or quitting in just six months. I can’t imagine the cost of to the company to have that many employees churn in such a short period.

There were some signs throughout the interview process that should have thrown up major red flags and sent me packing. However, I chose to ignore them. If you ignore them too and enter into a company that has a negative culture, here are a few rather unpleasant side effects that I experienced that you might too:

  • High Stress
  • Anxiety Attacks
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of Professional Motivation
  • Pit in Your Stomach Feeling on Sunday Nights
  • Damaged Personal Relationships

This job took me to the low point in my career and as you can see it was bad for my health. I could have saved myself some major grief had I not ignored these seven warning signs during the interview process.

1) Your future boss speaks poorly about current staff in the interview.

In the interview with my prospective boss, he was very negative towards his current team in the way he talked about them. He used flattery towards me but at the same putting down the competency of his current team.

Consider this quote from Gregg Stocker, author of Avoiding the Corporate Death Spiral:

Ask what the company’s problems are and what their causes might be. If the answers to these questions consist of blaming others in the organization, especially those on his or her team, the person lacks trust in others.

2) Your future boss comes across as a narcissist.

If your boss keeps talking about how great he/she is during the interview they might be self-absorbed. Working for a self-absorbed boss ensures that your work will go largely unnoticed and he/she will use every opportunity to take credit for any of your success without giving you the credit deserved.

3) The interviewer is late.

The second interviewer was a senior manager. He showed up 15 minutes late for the interview. This individual appeared disorganized, and it seemed like he had not even reviewed my resume before the meeting. I was struck by just how unprofessional the interviewer was.

4) The company has a history of high turnover.

Make sure to do some research regarding the turnover rate for not only the company you are applying for but the specific position. A good starting point is Glassdoor.com. It will enable you to see what their current and former employees are saying anonymously.

If you want to take a step further, you could even do an advanced search on LinkedIn to find employees in your position and reach out to them for feedback.

Most people are happy to help out, and if you’re headed for a train wreck, they will gladly give you a heads up. To my credit, I did do research. However, once again I ignored the warning signs.

5) They put a lot of pressure on you to take the position.

In my case, my prospective employer put a lot of pressure on me to take the job. It was like they were trying too hard close a deal. I got emails and phone calls practically begging me to go to work there. Then they put an aggressive deadline on me that forced me to make a decision much faster than I was comfortable with.

6) You’re not sure if your values align with the company.

If after going through the interview process and doing research on the company, you are questioning the company’s values. Think long and hard about whether or not you will be able to be happy working at a company where your personal values may conflict the company’s way of doing business.

Weigh how much of a conflict it will be, and whether or not it is worth the compromise you would have to make. Trust your gut on this one. Initially, I got a bad feeling regarding this company’s culture. I talked myself into thinking otherwise by rationalizing their poor behavior.

7) The offer letter contains errors.

When I received my offer letter, it was $5,000 less than what had been offered to me over the phone. I quickly pointed out the discrepancy to their HR Coordinator and they fixed it. However, again this was a sign of things to come in regards to the way they did business, not only with their employees but their customers as well.

Money isn’t everything.

Yes, I ignored ALL of these warning signs.Well, that is a very valid question and one that my wife asked me several times since. There is one reason and one reason only I took the job, more money. We were remodeling our home and needed some extra cash. But that cash came at a very high cost to my health and happiness.

More money is always nice, but there are other things to contemplate when considering a job offer, like your peace of mind for one.