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15 Warning Signs to Identify a Toxic Work Environment Before Taking a Job

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According to Gallup, 85% of the world’s one billion full-time employees are unhappy at work.

While there are a number of reasons that contribute towards job dissatisfaction, a toxic work environment can have a significant impact on an employee’s performance, not to mention their physical and mental health.

But identifying red flags before accepting a job offer can be difficult; companies often sell themselves as a model workplace, when in reality, their inner workings are hugely problematic.

How to Identify a Toxic Work Environment

Today’s graphic comes to us from resume.io and it illustrates the 15 warning signs to look out for before, during, and after a job interview.

15 Warning Signs to Help Identify a Toxic Work Environment

Lifting the Corporate Veil

A toxic work environment diminishes productivity by breeding a culture of discrimination, disorganization, bullying, and may even be fueled by unethical or selfish motivations.

Luckily, prospective employees can avoid 40 hours of torment a week by probing the company’s culture before signing on the dotted line. Here is a list of things to look out for:

Before the Interview

For better or worse, first impressions matter. Although excitement levels may be high, it’s important to pay attention to potential missteps, even before the interview starts.

  1. Vague job description: There should be clarity around the roles and responsibilities associated with the job, even if it is a new role in the company.
  2. Negative reviews on Glassdoor: Company review platforms are quickly becoming an indispensable tool for jobseekers who are interested in learning more about previous and current employees’ experiences.
  3. It took a long time to arrange an interview: Companies should show respect for the interviewee by getting back to them in a timely manner.
  4. Forgetting interviews: This could suggest that either the company has serious communication issues, or they do not prioritize interviewing potential employees.
  5. The interview starts late: Punctuality is not only expected from the person being interviewed, the interviewer should also be on time.

During the Interview

Adrenaline may be pumping when the interviewee is in the hot seat, but it’s crucial that they take stock of how the interviewers are conducting themselves.

  1. Unprepared interviewers: If the interview lacks structure, this could signal a disorganized team and a lack of clear expectations for the role.
  2. No interest in listening: Both parties need to put their best foot forward in an interview, to make sure that the interviewee’s personality and skill set aligns with the company, and vice versa.
  3. Authoritarian interviewer: This may indicate a lack of respect for employees.
  4. Inability to communicate company values: If company values are embodied by employees, then they should be top of mind and easily communicated.
  5. Questions are skimmed over: Companies should be transparent and be willing to provide comprehensive answers to any questions an interviewee may have.

After the Interview

In addition to assessing their own performance, interviewees should give careful consideration to how the entire interview experience went.

  1. Short interview: Either the company has already chosen another candidate, or they are desperate to fill the role as quickly as possible.
  2. Quiet workspace: A lack of teamwork or fearful employees could be the culprit for a silent office.
  3. No office tour: Companies should always give prospective employees a glimpse into what their day-to-day could look like by showing them around and introducing them to the team.
  4. Job offer was given on the day of the interview: The company could be trying to restrict the interviewee doing further research into the company, or simply filling the role as quickly as possible.
  5. Delayed decision-making: Failing to get back to someone who has done an interview shows a lack of respect for their time or disorganization on the company’s end.

It’s also worth mentioning that mistakes can be made by anyone, so it is perhaps not helpful to scrutinize companies for small errors in judgement when most of the experience has been positive.

Regardless, if there are any looming uncertainties, it is up to the person being interviewed to ask.

Finding the Courage to Ask Questions

When it comes to interviews, questioning the culture of the company is just as important as questioning the interviewee on their knowledge and skills.

“He who asks a question may be a fool for five minutes. He who does not ask questions, remains a fool forever.”

—Ancient Chinese proverb

Switching jobs is rarely an easy process, especially when jobseekers have come up against unforeseen challenges as a result of COVID-19.

But it is more important than ever for people to do their due diligence, and be brave enough to ask tough questions. Otherwise, they may have to repeat the cycle all over again—much sooner than they would have thought.

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Leadership

How Accountable Teams Drive Performance in Challenging Times

Roughly 80% of teams are seen as mediocre or weak. This graphic explores the strategies leaders can use to create accountable teams.

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The future of work is changing, and new rules are being written before our very eyes.

Teams are more important now than ever before, but many of them are struggling to step up and drive high performance when it matters most.

Creating a Culture of Accountability

Today’s infographic from the bestselling author Dr. Vince Molinaro demonstrates how leaders can create an environment where truly accountable teams can flourish, and employees are inspired to do their best work.

accountable teams infographic

>> Download Dr.Vince Molinaro’s How to Build an Accountable Team

Accountable Leaders Build Accountable Teams

Weak, mediocre teams demonstrate behaviors that can breed a toxic work environment, such as working in isolation or not demonstrating trust among other team members.

In order to combat mediocre teams, leaders must create a culture of accountability in their organization where individuals can step up and be accountable.

“No group ever becomes a team until they can hold themselves accountable as a team.”

—The Discipline of Teams, Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith

When teams take full responsibility for their actions, they manage most issues themselves rather than looking to leadership to solve problems.

Overall, accountable teams demonstrate two critical dimensions: team clarity and team commitment.

1. Team Clarity

Accountable teams should have full clarity about the business they operate in by having the ability to:

  • Anticipate external trends both in and outside of their industry.
  • Have clarity on the strategy and purpose of their organization.
  • Understand the expectations of their stakeholders and the interdependencies that exist with other parts of the company.
  • Know what needs to get done and how it needs to be done.

2. Team Commitment

Accountable teams also demonstrate a high degree of commitment needed to deliver results. They do so in the following ways:

  • Have a deep sense of commitment to driving success.
  • Invest time in working across the organization.
  • Work to make their team as strong as it can be.
  • Show a deep commitment to one another.

As a leader, these two dimensions are invaluable as a way of thinking about driving mutual accountability and sustaining high performance for their organization over the long-term.

Accountable Teams Drive Extraordinary Performance

Leaders who invest in leveling up their team and promote a culture of accountability can experience transformational benefits, such as:

  • Everyone is clear and aligned on what needs to get done.
  • Each team member is accountable, pulls their weight, and goes to great lengths to support one another.
  • Everyone feels safe challenging one another and confronting issues head-on without fear.
  • Team members leverage the unique capabilities of others.
  • Everyone works hard but also manages to have fun and celebrate success.

These benefits translate to strong results within organizations. In fact, research shows that high- performing companies have more accountable teams compared to average or poorly performing companies.

The Whole is Greater Than the Sum of its Parts

Whether it’s an executive team, a departmental team, a cross-functional team, or even a team made up of external partners, organizations have become increasingly reliant on teams to achieve success and guide them through uncertainty.

Given the importance of teams in today’s ever-changing world, it is clear we need to increase our efforts when it comes to building truly accountable teams.

As a leader, you are being counted on to demonstrate accountability and create high-performing teams. Are you stepping up?

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Business

Flowchart: Are You Working for a Toxic Boss?

Most people have had bad bosses, but is your boss toxic? This flowchart helps you discover if you have a toxic boss and what to do about it.

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toxic boss

Flowchart: Are You Working for a Toxic Boss?

The experience of less-than-ideal work situations are common, and the global pandemic has likely heightened challenges for bosses and employees alike. How can mediocre or outright hostile leadership impact your ability to work well?

This flowchart from Resume.io helps you figure out if you’ve got a toxic boss weighing you down. It covers seven archetypes of toxic bosses, and how to respond to each one.

The 7 Types of Toxic Bosses

Barbara Kellerman, a professor of public leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School identifies seven types of toxic bosses that can exist.

NumberToxic Boss TypeDescription
#1Incompetent BossUnable or unwilling to do their job well
#2Rigid BossConfuses inflexibility with strength
#3Intemperate BossLacks self-knowledge and self-control
#4Callous BossLacks empathy and kindness
#5Corrupt BossSteals or cheats to promote their own interests
#6Insular BossIs cliquish or unreachable
#7Evil BossCauses pain to further their sense of power and dominance

Some bosses simply don’t have the capacity to do their jobs, which makes it more difficult for their employees. Others can be corrupt or callous, creating a highly unmotivating work environment.

But how many people are in this situation?

To give a few quick examples, around 13% of all employees in Europe work under a toxic boss. In the U.S., a whopping 75% say they have left a job primarily because of a bad boss.

What’s so Bad about a Bad Boss?

Bosses can make or break your job experience. Having a toxic boss can cause your quality of work to suffer, which can then trickle down to impact your overall career.

In fact, Harvard Business Review found that a toxic work environment can lead to decreased motivation and employee disengagement. This has significant knock-on effects such as:

  • 37% higher absenteeism
  • 60% more errors in their work
  • 18% lower productivity

According to the same study, this can cause companies to have 16% lower profitability and a 65% lower share price over time.

The physical side effects are not to be underestimated, either. One Swedish study found that a bad boss who increases your job strain can, in tandem, increase your chance of cardiac arrest by 50%. Additionally, a study out of Stanford found that mismanagement in the American workplace and subsequent stress could potentially be responsible for 120,000 deaths per year.

Tips to Deal with a Toxic Boss

Bad bosses can hurt the company, the overall work environment, and can impact your professional growth and personal health.

So, what can you do about it?

NumberToxic Boss TypeSolution
#1Incompetent BossUse initiative
#2Rigid BossUse the power of persuasion
#3Intemperate BossLook for opportunities
#4Callous BossAsk for a 1-on-1 meeting
#5Corrupt BossFind co-workers who share your concerns
#6Insular BossOffer them opportunities to open up
#7Evil BossTake a stand

Different kinds of bosses require different approaches, and some simply aren’t worth putting up with. For instance, taking initiative with an incompetent boss is one relatively easy solution, but having a 1-on-1 with a callous boss takes more effort. An evil boss requires intervention from HR.

If you don’t have a toxic boss, consider yourself lucky. Here are two ways to keep your working relationship strong:

  • Take initiative
  • Keep up open communication
  • Ask for constant feedback so you know where you stand
  • Under-promise and over-deliver

What Can Bosses Do?

Toxic bosses can have disastrous consequences on employees and companies. According to one Gallup survey, at minimum, 75% of the reasons for voluntary turnover can be influenced by managers.

After looking at some of the ways employees can address toxic bosses, how can bosses ensure their work environment is healthy? Harvard Business Review recommends four main things:

  • Encourage social connections
  • Show empathy
  • Go out of your way to help
  • Encourage employees to talk to you—especially about their problems

The future of work may be changing, with remote work becoming more popular and feasible. This can pose problems in creating a strong work culture.

However, if bosses and employees can work together to foster a positive and healthy work environment, everyone, including the bottom line, will benefit.

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