Before You Say Yes… Identifying a Toxic Employee Culture

by | Mar 11, 2024 | After the Offer

We all know that money and benefits are critical core factors for employment. If we are not going to be paid or provided with benefits, then we are doing voluntary charity work and not employment.

There is, however, so much more to consider when seeking a new position than those base items. The type of work that you will be doing and how much you will enjoy it is also important. As is your supervisor and your work relationship with this person. Also essential is the workplace culture, which is a broad term that brings together many variables, such as your co-workers, management, and its core values.

Working in a positive employee culture should be the goal, but avoiding a toxic environment is even more important. It would be great if we could be a fly on the wall and observe the company in action. That way there can be no confusion regarding its culture. While no one has a crystal ball that can tell them exactly what the future beholds, there are some things you can do, observe, or ask in order to make as close of a definitive judgment as possible on the subject.

Let’s now examine some of the items you can do or observe that will help you determine if the culture of the prospective employer is right for you.

• Determine What Is Right for You: One of the wonderful things about humans is not everyone is the same. We have different personalities and desires, and what is a preferred culture by one person may even reach the level of “toxic” to another person. For example, an environment that is policy-driven and hierarchical may give someone who craves structure exactly what they need. This same culture, however, may be extremely toxic to someone who craves openness and work freedom.

• Watch for Clues During the Hiring Process: The type of culture that exists starts right from the beginning of your interactions with the company. You can draw significant conclusions about the culture from how you are managed during this process. Are you spoken to warmly and treated individually, rather than a mass applicant? Are people genuinely pleased to interact with you, or do you seem to be an additional burden placed upon them?

• Is Omission Telling: If you are not given a company tour of the facility, then you might wonder what they might not want you to see. If you are given a tour, then observe how individuals interact with each other. Do people greet you as you are walking by, is PPE being worn, are the common areas clean and orderly? There are so many underappreciated items that can be a sign of how the culture is at a location and how important employees are to the company. Also, look to see what is written on the company website, or see what managers post on social media. If truly little to nothing is written positively about their employees and the culture of the organization, then you may be able to draw a simple conclusion regarding its importance.

• Ask About It: The company culture should be important enough that you should ask about it if it is not immediately addressed by the company. If the organization lacks a clear vision of their culture or stumbles and fumbles to talk to you about it, then take that as an appropriate warning sign. Similarly, if the Recruiter or Hiring Manager makes light of the concept of culture, then their attitude is very telling. Finally, if you are in-person or on video, then check out the body language when you ask the question. If the person is engaged and excited to answer the question, then you can assume that they have bought into the positive story that they will be telling you.

• Do Your Own Research: There is now so much information out there that you should have some idea about the culture of a company of decent size. There are websites devoted to providing information regarding an organization and how it is run. Likewise, you can get a sense by following some posts on social media. Finally, networking with people who work there (or used to) can provide you with needed details regarding the culture.

It is important to be in a work situation that is not damaging to your overall life. A toxic work culture not only impacts you during your time on the job but will likely be carried with you and impact your time at home, also. While maximizing compensation and benefits is important, it should not be prioritized at the expense of a workable culture. Even better is to find an environment that you truly enjoy. You will find yourself not only happier, but more productive as well.

As always, best of luck in your job search.

The following has been prepared for the general information of WNYJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.

Joe Stein
WNY Human Resources Professional

Feel free to contact Joe Stein regarding questions or comments at:
Joe Stein

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