If you see these red flags during your interview, this may not be the company you want to work at.
Have you worked in a toxic workplace before? Trust me, you'd remember if you had. An oppressive work environment can affect more than just your daily morale – it can have a profound impact on every area of your life.
Last year, research published by the British Psychological Society suggested that toxic bosses – those with psychopathic or narcissistic traits – could be bad for both employees' health and workplace etiquette. Those who worked under these types of individuals were likely to be overly critical and aggressive, suggesting that this problem has a trickle-down effect.
When toxicity is rife, it affects every single staff member. Needless to say, the last thing you need is to end up working in a negative environment. So, how can you spot this problem early (and get away fast)? Here are some of the signs of a toxic workplace that you can spot during your interview.
It took ages to arrange the interview
You jumped through the usual hoops: You sent your CV to the right person and waited patiently. A few days later, the HR manager sent you a follow-up email with some questions about your availability and so on. You were quick to answer them and excited about landing the interview (and the prospect of landing the job!).
Days went by. Weeks went by. You heard nothing; it was radio silence. Then – a long time after you'd expected to hear something – the HR department got back in touch and suggested a time for the interview. 'Slow' isn't even the word to describe this situation. Keeping a candidate waiting for longer than usual is a telltale sign of a toxic workplace.
The team is confused when you arrive
You put the long wait behind you and start prepping for the interview itself. You arrive punctually for your allotted time only to find that the staff members seem to have no idea who you are or why you're there. When you say your name at reception, the employee greets you with a confused smile and tries frantically to get hold of the managers.
No matter how much the staff members try to hide it, it's clear that no one was expecting you, which shows a lack of organisation and communication. Without those two key things, how can a workplace run smoothly?
The workplace is too quiet for comfort
You walk through the main, open-plan office and you could hear a pin drop. Everyone has their eyes fixed to a computer screen and no one so much as looks up as you walk by. The atmosphere (or what there is of one) is dead. Whether the staff is too scared to talk or simply cannot stand each other's company, silence is a troubling sign.
While workplaces should be just that – places of work – that doesn't mean that the staff members should always be quiet. What you want to see is a communicative environment in which people are collaborating quickly and easily – not a group of people who won't look each other in the eyes.
The office hierarchy is completely unclear
You're shuffled into a room where a group of people greets you. You sit opposite them and try your best to force a smile. No introductions are given which means that you have zero clue who is in charge here, and it briefly crosses your mind that perhaps they don't know either.
Each member of the group takes a turn asking you a question, but it's never entirely clear who you're supposed to be talking to. No one tells you who your manager would be or who you would report to, and you're not certain who you need to follow up with here. It's a nightmare situation and does not bode well for the role or the company.
It all seems scatty and unorganised
Does it feel as though your interviewers are winging it? Perhaps they are. In a toxic workplace, everything is always up in the air. Results are expected at a moment's notice and few employees are given clear instructions or schedules. The working day is a haphazard affair at best, and everyone just tries to get by. If that about describes the scenario you've walked into, you should be concerned.
The interview was super snappy
Were they pushing you out the door? If the interview process lasted mere minutes before the interviewers were saying their goodbyes, there are two possible reasons: Either you weren't right for the job and they sniffed it out fast, or they are not concerned about who they hire. If it's the latter, your instincts should tell you to run.
Employing a new staff member is tricky business and the team should be eager to find a person with the unique blend of skills they're looking for. If your interviewers failed to take the time to get to know you and your talents, that's a serious red flag.
Should any of these signs pop up during your interview, you might want to think twice about taking the job. Nobody deserves to work in a toxic workplace, and recognising the signs early on could save you a whole lot of trouble along the way.
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