Warning Signs to Avoid Taking a Job in a Toxic Workplace (infographic)

When you’re applying for a job or getting ready for an interview, it’s natural to feel some butterflies in your stomach. This could be your dream job, after all. However, don’t let your eagerness to make a good impression distract you from the warning signs of a toxic workplace.

A toxic work environment is one in which a combination of the work, the people, and the workplace atmosphere make the job stressful, unpleasant, or difficult to perform. It can include disorganised and demotivating working dynamics, as well as cliquiness, bullying, and discrimination. It contributes to unproductive and inefficient working practises, and can have a detrimental effect on your career, your physical health, and your mental health.

It might be disappointing to acknowledge that a job prospect isn’t right, but a toxic situation is more difficult to escape later on. To help you check whether that sinking feeling in your gut is telling you to steer clear, Resume.io have put together an infographic of things to look out for before, during, and after a job interview. If you know how to spot the warning signs before you take the job, you could save yourself a lot of wasted time and trouble in the long run.

Before an interview

Some early red flags are enough to make you question whether a job is worth going for in the first place. If the job description is vague or not clearly worded, for example, you might feel confused and anxious about the exact nature of the job on offer. It’s reasonable for you to ask what the job looks like in practice, and have a clear idea of how you can be successful in the role. You should be wary of a job prospect that seems unfocused or lacking in structured goals.

If you are thinking of applying for a job, it’s worth doing some research into the company to get an idea of the workplace culture and how current and former employees feel about it. Watch out for consistently negative reviews on Glassdoor, for example. You have a right to ask why past employees have left the company, and if your interviewer is cagy about the answer, this should be a major red flag. Either they are completely out of touch with their team, or they are trying to hide something.

Once you have applied for a job, be aware of warning signs leading up to an interview that the employer is unprofessional or disrespectful in any way. Making you wait around, whether for an interview to be confirmed in the first place, or for the interview itself to start, shows poor organization and time management, and suggests a lack of respect for your time. Similarly, if people are surprised or flustered when you arrive for the interview, it reveals a failure of communication and organization that doesn’t bode well.

During the interview

When you get to the interview stage, remember that this isn’t just your opportunity to demonstrate why you are the best person for the job. It’s also your chance to assess your potential new employer and workplace, and see whether the job is worth pursuing further. Interviews can be a little stressful at the best of times, but watch out for a poorly-managed interview, as it may be a sign of a dysfunctional workplace.

You can learn a lot about your prospective workplace from your interviewer. If they seem flustered or unprepared, or like they are making things up as they go along, there’s a good chance that this workplace struggles with unclear tasks and expectations, poor organization, and lack of support for employees. If your interviewer seems disinterested, and doesn’t ask relevant questions about your skills and experience, this could also show that employees are not valued highly or treated well.

If you are in a panel interview, it pays to observe how people interact with each other. If a lead interviewer or manager is rude or authoritarian, or there is a suggestion of discomfort or tension between panel members, it could reflect poor relationships and lack of support in the wider working culture. A manager should encourage a panel to get involved in the discussion, and never badmouth or undermine employees, and you should feel free to ask questions from the panel to find out what they have to say.

Think about what information you need to determine whether a company’s culture is a good fit for you. If you ask about the company values and your interviewer struggles to give a clear response, this is a warning sign that the values aren’t well-integrated into the workplace. If they avoid other relevant questions about the job, or give too generalised answers, you will see that either the workplace suffers from poorly defined roles, or a lack of transparency that raises suspicion.

After the interview

You might also pick up on some warning signs of a toxic workplace after you leave the interview room. Some things you might notice on the day of the interview, and others may become apparent after a little time has passed. The timing of the recruitment process itself can tell you something, as well.

You might initially feel relieved if the interview ends very quickly, or if you are offered the job on the spot. However, this could also indicate a lack of thoughtfulness in the recruitment procedure, or that a high staff turnover means the company is desperate to fill the position. If an employer isn’t doing their due diligence to find the right candidate, this is a major red flag. On the other hand, it’s also a bad sign if they leave you waiting weeks for a call back, as this lacks respect for your time.

A good employer will feel proud of their workplace, and offer you a tour on the way out of your interview. This can give you a sense of the working culture, and you might notice if people don’t seem to be communicating as a team, or if the atmosphere seems fearful or tense. If you don’t get offered a tour in the first place, there’s a chance that there isn’t much pleasant to observe, so when you walk out of the interview you can close the door behind you with confidence.

Check out this infographic to learn more about the warning signs of a toxic workplace:

How to spot a toxic workplace BEFORE taking the job (infographic)

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