Watch Out for These 6 Warning Signs That Indicate a Toxic Work Culture

By Chelsea Babin

When you’re hunting for the perfect new job you may get fatigued or even fed up with how long the process is taking. While these feelings are understandable and incredibly common, they can lead you to take the first position you’re offered even if there are warning signs of a toxic work culture flashing right before your eyes. When you’re looking for a new job, watch out for these 6 warning signs that indicate a toxic work culture.

1. The Interviewer Arrives Late: Though this warning sign can sometimes be excused, an interviewer arriving late is the first indication that this organization may have a toxic work culture. In the majority of toxic work cultures people are so overworked that they’re missing deadlines and constantly find they don’t have enough time to get their work done each day or upper management simply doesn’t respect the time of others. It’s considered just as unprofessional for an interviewer to show up late as it is for an interviewee to show up late and, if you’re the kind of person who always arrives on time to make a great impression, this particular warning sign may be enough to send you searching elsewhere.

2. Belittling or Speaking Poorly About Current and Former Staff: Blaming others, portraying their current or former team in a negative way, and suggesting the people that work there now are not competent is a huge warning sign that should flash big, bold, and bright red in front of your face. Even if they’re flattering you and passively putting down others who either currently work there or used to work there, chances are this manager is the kind of person to assign blame to others and completely ignore their own mistakes. After all, they were probably the one who hired those people they’re now insulting left and right!

3. History of High Turnover in This Position: When you’re interviewing you should feel free to ask whether the position you’re applying for is a new position or one that someone recently vacated. If it was an existing position, feel free to ask why that person left or how often that position has been vacant in the last 5 years. This should tell you all you need to know about the high turnover or low turnover rate of your current role but you can also check on Glassdoor to see if the general turnover rate seems to be high or low, though this isn’t always an accurate assessment. Finally, if you know someone who currently works there or who used to work there, you can ask them if people frequently quit voluntarily or were fired often.

4. The Office Has Bad Vibes: Whether you spot employees frantically scarfing down lunch at their desk, an office full of people running around like chickens with their heads cut off, or a general sense of quiet, tense negativity when the boss walks in the room you’ll be able to tell when an office has bad vibes. This isn’t about feng shui or the fact that people are working instead of constantly using the pool tables and gaming systems provided in the break rooms, it’s about how employees react to each other, their boss, and their workload. If those elements of the office give you a bad vibe it’s probably because of a toxic work culture.

5. You’re Pressured to Accept: If a company has to beg you to work there, there’s probably a good reason. You may be incredibly talented and have a rare skill set but don’t ignore the fact that this company may have a hard time finding someone to stick around or fill the position in the first place because of their toxic work culture.

6. Salary Discrepancy in the Offer Letter: So you were promised one salary and then, when the offer letter arrives, there’s a salary discrepancy and they’ve offered you less on paper than what they offered you in person. Money isn’t everything but a mistake like this—assuming you’ve verified that it’s not a clerical error—could indicate the way they do business with their customers and the way they treat their employees and that’s probably not something you want to be a part of.

Toxic work cultures can lead to a lack of productivity, anxiety, high stress levels, insomnia, and complete loss of professional motivation. The best way to avoid a toxic work culture is to spot the warning signs during the interview and hiring process and steer clear of those companies. Look out for these 6 warning sings that indicate a toxic work culture during all of your future interviews!