Over the course of my roughly 25 years in the workforce, I've worked at some tremendous places and at a few that left a lot to be desired.
It's not always easy to spot a bad workplace before you take a job, but it should become evident pretty quickly once you are on board. That unfortunately means that you'll only realize your mistake after you have made it -- but all is not lost.
Think of a job in a bad workplace as a means to an end. It may not be the situation you want to work in, but the experience you gain still counts. It's also important to remember that just because many, if not most, employees have a bad experience at a company, that doesn't mean that you will too.
Still, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it's usually a duck. Below are five signs: When more than one is true at any workplace, that suggests that the company is not a great place to work.
The turnover is high
If a company runs through employees quickly, that's generally a sign that people don't want to work there. As a rule, if the average worker stays less than a year it should raise a red flag. In addition, when a business has few long-term employees below the upper levels, that's an important sign it's not a great place to work.
People are afraid of the boss
There's a difference between having a healthy fear of the boss simply because he or she is in charge, and actually being afraid. If employees are clearly worried that any little thing might set the boss off in a rage, that's a black mark against a company. You should also take note of coworkers worrying that they will be fired for minor transgressions or even for routine mistakes.
Everyone leaves exactly at quitting time
At a good company, workers arrive early and are not desperate to leave exactly at quitting time. Even in a situation where employees punch a clock and get paid hourly, if they like the job, they don't make a special effort to be present only the minimum amount of time required.
People working only their mandated hours is an even bigger red flag in an office situation where employees are paid an annual salary. At a happy office, salaried employees don't drop their pens or stop typing mid-word when the clock ticks to the hour that the workday technically ends.
Coworkers don't socialize
Happy people talk to each other. Even if work hours are mostly business, a pleasant office houses workers who chat during coffee breaks or over lunch. If employees keep mostly to themselves and barely exchange pleasantries, it's likely because they don't enjoy working there. Not everyone needs to be best friends or to hang out after work, but an office full of people who treat each other like strangers certainly hints at a bad workplace.
It's all take, no give
If a job regularly asks you to go above and beyond but offers nothing in return, you have probably picked a bad place to work. It's not a case of direct quid pro quo, but there should be reasonable give and take.
For example, if your boss regularly asks you to stay late to finish, but won't let you leave a little early every now and then for legitimate reasons, then you probably are in a bad workplace. The same is true when it comes to working weekends or being asked to be flexible, but not receiving any flexibility in return.