Signs of a toxic workplace


A toxic workplace is a professional setup that’s dysfunctional, stressful, and unproductive. It’s a place where the boss may be a bully, or the company culture’s only focus is its success. Or, perhaps the coworkers are abusive, inconsiderate, or downright mean.

Like a good first date that transforms slowly into a long-term nightmare relationship, problematic employers can also put up a good game initially. If one isn’t looking for the right signs, they might miss the issues until they have already started working. Here are a few signs of a toxic workplace:

  • Peculiar Buzzwords in Job Postings and its Description

Learning to decode the job advertisements is essential for reasons other than impressing the hiring manager with your resume and cover letter. Once you decipher what various buzzwords mean, it gives an insight into the company’s culture, values, and expectations. They help in figuring out whether to work there or not.

Ages ago, Textio, a software company specialized in augmented writing, used its predictive search engine to analyze common buzzwords in job advertisements of key tech employers. The results helped to get a perception of the corporate culture in these companies. For example, the buzz words most commonly phrased in Amazon’s included fast-paced environment and maniacal, whereas Slack’s included lasting relationships and care deeply

Defining toxicity from the buzzwords is not a perfect science. But paying attention to the company’s talk, job listings, job descriptions, and marketing strategies help. It’s worth knowing how they view themselves because that could affect how the organization will treat you.

  • Free Stuff

As goes the adage, there is no such thing as a free lunch. If a company offers perks to your benefit, then it’s a trap. Free food, subsidized car transfers, games in the break room are exciting to hear. But in reality, these perks are given to keep their staff in the office. 

If the companies wanted to make your life better, they’d pay you enough to buy your food and entertainment as perks, so you go home to enjoy them. 

  • Workforce with many freshers.

Have you ever been interviewed at a company where almost everyone seems to be a fresher or the equivalent? If even you’re relatively at the beginning of your career, this might seem fun and exciting. 

But the real downside to a staff that is skewed young lacks diversity. For one thing, a company that hires primarily young staff may be looking for cost cuttings. Workers with less experience are primarily low-paid. That could be bad news when one wants to negotiate a hike. 

A younger team can also signify that an employer is looking for workers who don’t have many other competing priorities like extra family obligations. That’s bad enough if you have those priorities. After all, not all the young are unencumbered with responsibilities. But even if you don’t have one now, you might like to have one later. 

A company that looks for employees who are always available to work might not be the right one for you if you’d like to pursue your other goals, hobbies in your free time. 

  • Employees seem Tired, Depressed, or frustrated. 

If possible, it’s always practical to ask if you can take an office tour when you’re interviewing in person. But if you’re interviewing remotely, it’s best to gauge the demeanor of the people you talk to.

While doing so, pay attention to the vibe you get from the staff. Do people seem somewhat discomposed? They may be weary from working in a toxic office space as it’s hard to be sunny and engaging when you’re on the verge of burnout. 

  • Lots of Turnovers 

When you’re on your pre-interview research, it’s good to read recent news about the organization and be mindful of signs of management turnover. Check sites such as job boards and social media websites that provide employer reviews to get feedback on the company’s positive factors. It’s advisable to look into LinkedIn profiles of your connections who’ve worked for the company to see if they serve for a long time or dart at the next opportunity as soon as possible. Many turnovers can be a red flag for a toxic workplace.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average employee tenure is 4.1 years. Suppose you see many people leaving in significantly less time than that. In that case, that might mean something about the environment at the organization. 

  • A Prospective Executive Who Takes Pride in Being Difficult

Sometimes, hiring managers flat out tell you that they’re hard to work for during an interview. They might use the phrases such as “I have high standards” or “I only expect the best from my team.”

That does sound great. Because everyone wants to work for a leader with high ideals and big ambitions, consider that it’s not necessarily a reliable narrator when someone tells you about their style of leadership. Remember that principled and compassionate leaders do not expect the best, but they’d assume that was a given. 

Elusive behavior is also a bad sign. If hiring managers don’t answer your questions, think twice before accepting an offer.

  • Your Instincts say No.

It is no rocket science to tell for sure what works for you. Part of interviewing is learning to turning to your gut and listening to it. But when you feel one thing, and your instinct says another, listen to your inner voice. Weigh the possibilities with a quick SWOT analysis if that helps. They might be warning you to stay away from a toxic workplace.