First, let’s identify what can make a workplace toxic: unreasonable deadlines, abusive colleagues, overworking employees, lack of communication, no movement(promotions), a technology holding back progress.
Some people can spot the red flags during the interview process, but most don’t see them until hired. So before you apply and end up working in a negative environment that sucks all your energy and you have none left to escape, look for the warning signs.
Here are a few research tips to help identify the red flags before applying:
Use your network of people you may know, who might know company employees, or search LinkedIn. Let them know you are considering applying and are interested in their insights into the company culture, or view posts to see what current and past employees are saying about the company.
If you can connect with a resource, ask about typical work hours, was/is leadership supportive, were people happy to work there, etc., keeping in mind how you work best. Be sure to ask if there’s anyone else, they’d suggest who may also provide insight.
Pay attention to any red flags in their answers; if the culture will prevent you from being yourself while at work, that’s a red flag. Another giant red flag is people’s willingness to badmouth leadership flaws rather than pointing out shortcomings of the organization as a whole.
Do a little digging on Glassdoor, or similar job review sites, to see what precipitates people’s exits from the company.
Do so with a discerning eye. Don’t just look at one review; look for recurring patterns. Omit reviews about being overworked and flag reviews that speak of verbal abuse. Notice any patterns?
But again, it’s about the recurring themes of reviews. For example, one review out of 200 that speaks of a terrible boss may just be a disgruntled employee after being let go, or that boss may no longer work there because they were let go.
Is there video proof?
Search the internet for any live or video interviews. If the CEO is impolite to the interviewer, what does that say about the company culture?
People are often on their best behavior in these settings. If they act poorly during an interview, what does their behavior look like day-to-day? A video may not frame the CEO in the right light, so watch a few and look for patterns. If there are no video interviews, look for comments on social media accounts. Are they denying allegations or talking negatively about employees?
Is it a well-structured organization?
Check LinkedIn staff bios to establish the structure. Consider the company’s size; are there important roles missing or are there not enough people filling those roles? If so, you may not have the support to properly do your job, signaling a potential burn-out. If they do not see value in your role, you will never succeed in it.
Any lawsuits, discrimination allegations, or unfair labor practices?
Check local court records for the prospective company’s name. This will tell you how they treat people behind closed doors.
If there are lawsuits between the company and any ex-employees, it may be worth the expense to pull the records. If you’d rather spare the cost, consider looking for any lawsuit coverage or fillings in the news. They won’t be in-depth, but they will give you an idea of what the company is like.
Longevity is valued by employers and most people want security and don’t want to job hop so utilizing all the tools available, to secure the right position where you are set up for long-term success, is critical. Not every job fits everyone but if you see no red flags or only a few potential ones at the close of your research that don’t seem like a deal-breaker, it may be worth submitting that application. But do stay alert for any flags during the interview process, and decline the offer of employment, if things look toxic.