It’s not enough that you get a great job with high wages in a successful company for many prospective employees these days. The company culture is crucial as well, and this covers the actual work environment as well as the prevailing principles by which the company and its employees operate. Some cultures are decidedly formal and rigid, such as what you see in conservative banks and law firms. Others are more casual. There are companies that value long hours and hard work, while others place a higher premium on results.
However, what you don’t want is “toxic” company culture. It’s when the people there are backstabbing one another to get ahead, and ethics always take a back seat to profits and advancement. Employees are often unhappy, but no one rocks the boat by talking about it. In fact, usually, no one speaks up and the sense of fear is quite prevalent.
Lots of new employees and recent graduates are understandably leery of toxic company cultures, and they’re even willing to take lower wages if they can join a great company culture instead. Many workers admit that a higher pay just doesn’t seem worth all that aggravation.
But the question remains: How do you identify a toxic company culture before you join a company? Actually, it’s not impossible. You can find out all you need to know about the company culture of your prospective employers by using these simple methods:
Look Deeper Than the Perks
Some companies tout lots of so-called perks to extol the virtues of their company culture. Maybe they offer free lunches to employees, cots for short afternoon naps, or even game rooms to relax.
But what you have to realize is that perks in themselves have very little to do with the true company culture you’re joining. You have to look deeper. If you’re content to see just the perks, then you may end up with a rude surprise when you discover how the company really operates.
Check Your Surroundings During Your Interview
Often, your interview gives you the first chance to see where you’re going to work. You can do yourself a favor by being a bit more observant about how things are done there. Is the workplace layout open, or do people have their own offices? You should check that the layout fits your preferences.
Then you can also take note of how the workers there deal with one another. Are they formal, or are things a bit more casual? Again, the style of the interactions should match your preferences. It does help a lot when you notice that lots of people excited when they talk. It’s not so good when you can hear the palpable fear in their voices.
You may also want to check out how many people are eating at their desks. You can even smell the food. This isn’t good, as the people are obviously overworked and scrambling to catch up.
Inspect the Bathroom
This is the same piece of advice people hear about good restaurants, and it applies to good companies too. Companies need to take care of their people, and a clean and neat bathroom is a must for all employees.
You also want to check out the graffiti—these defacements are a dead giveaway to how people regard their company. It also tells a lot about the people who work there. Pay special attention to whether people have changed out the toilet paper. If they haven’t it’s a good sign that the people there are accustomed to passing the buck.
See If the Recruitment Process is Rushed
Most people who want to find work usually appreciate it if they find get hired quickly. Lots of people hate it when they have to go through numerous meetings to see if the company will tender a job offer.
But it’s not really good for you as a prospective employee if you’re hired too quickly. This may mean that they’re rushing the hiring process simply because they need workers fast. They don’t necessarily have to be the right employees.
Usually, this happens when a new company experiences exponential growth. They’ve become too successful and they now have too many clients and projects, so they need more workers. This reflects badly on the company because often they don’t do their due diligence in hiring the other people working with you. Also, you become one of the faceless crowd they hire just because they need people and not the right ones.
Ask Them Insightful Questions
When you go through an interview, usually the people from the company ask you questions. At some point, they will ask if you have questions, and you should take this opportunity to know more about their company culture and values. This can offer you some insight as to whether how the company works will fit with your own values.
So perhaps you can inquire about how the company has evolved through the years, and how they implemented the changes they wanted. You can ask them to tell you about a recent example of a dramatically new idea that the company pursued and implemented. Maybe they can also talk about how the company weathered the storms in its history, such as layoffs or losing major clients.
You should also ask questions about how the company workflow works, so you have a sense of when the rules apply rigidly and when there’s room for innovation and creativity. You should also clear as to which of your tasks will be up to you, and which req1uire a superior’s approval.
All the answers to these questions can paint a clear picture of how the company works, and whether you can fit in nicely.
Listen to Your Instincts
After all, that’s said and done, your instincts can still be a major indicator of how toxic the culture is in a company. If something in you tells you that there’s something wrong with a company, you need to listen to it. Sometimes, when you feel something’s wrong there really is something wrong!