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Prior to my current job, I worked in a place that is best likened to the 8th layer of hell. That job was one that burned out many people within a matter of months, and while the company seemed to be marginally profitable, it was one that was quickly circling the drain.
During that time, I got a firsthand example of the kind of emotional, psychological, and financial damage that having a toxic workplace can have. The company's culture was so foul, it'll be nothing short of miraculous if it's still in existence within the next five years.
While I was there, I learned how to spot all the signs that could indicate that your corporate culture isn't working. Here are some dead giveaways that you might want to find a new job sooner rather than later.
You hear screaming matches on a daily basis.
Here's a hint: in a normal office, screaming will not happen. It's not professional, not constructive, and moreover, kills any sort of morale that could help improve employee performance.
Screaming is a huge red flag for any business, and I strongly advise anyone who hears it during their interview to avoid taking a job there. One of the most obvious signs your corporate culture isn't working is when screaming becomes so normal that you barely even notice it.
At my last workplace, we would hear the CEO scream at the finance guy and the IT guy at least three times a day. We also would hear editors screaming in the hallway from the sheer stress of their position, or hear them shouting at the CEO.
The management doesn't listen to employee concerns.
Though there are exceptions to this rule, a boss who refuses to listen to the concerns of his employees tends to cause serious problems with the workforce. Employees on the "ground levels" often see things that a higher up won't—and that also tends to mean they see signs of trouble before executives will.
Your corporate culture isn't working if managers aren't acting as a team. In my last company, our CEO kept having us write shock material despite lagging readership and poor comments from fans. When we'd beg him to let us try something else, it'd fall on deaf ears.
No one but the CEO was shocked when the company started to go underwater. I need not explain why.
There's an "in crowd" that you need to be a part of in order to keep your job.
I've worked in a lot of different places, and to date, I have yet to see any corporate cultures that encouraged cliquishness succeed. In fact, the more office politics plays into the way that work goes, the worse the company tends to perform.
It makes sense since drama never leads to good efficiency. It's a waste of time, inevitably becomes emotionally toxic to the people who are involved in it, and also tends to cause the hardest workers to get thrown under the bus.
Companies that emphasize "the in crowd" and "the cool factor" of employees don't fare well in the long run, because it shows that your corporate culture's focus isn't on work. That's a serious priority mistake.
Serious companies that emphasize teamwork, operating as a unit, and quality of output are the ones that last; not the ones that grade based on who gets along with who. From experience, this attitude tends to make the most talented people quit pretty fast.
If you feel like you'll lose your job if you don't make friends with the ringleaders of the company, your corporate culture isn't working.
Top talent doesn't get rewarded or incentivized.
This is one of the most obvious signs that your company will end up losing in the long run. No rewards for your best workers means that they will inevitably get burnt out or just leave the company as soon as they find something better.
Having seen this in my last job, I can honestly say that it's a very good way to be stuck with a bunch of mediocre employees who stopped caring about their jobs within months of getting hired. Many people who had all the signs of being promotable ended up dropping or getting fired because they weren't in. Financial woes were the norm, no matter who you were.
It doesn't matter what industry you're in, either. Your corporate culture isn't working if there's no reason for people to work hard and show their mettle.
Your company has a very serious employee retention issue.
Even if you're not working as part of the company, it's pretty easy to see when your corporate culture isn't working. Generally speaking, if you have to hire talent on a monthly basis because your team members keep quitting, something's seriously wrong.
Happy employees don't up and quit their jobs for no reason. If your company culture is toxic enough to cause a ridiculously high employee turnover rate, that's a bad sign.
On a tangential note, if your company hires anyone with a pulse or refuses to tell potential hires where they're interviewing for, that's a very bad indicator. That's not only a sign that your corporate culture sucks; it's a sign that your company's reputation is that awful.
Employees are regular insulted or threatened by management or coworkers.
This is something that I saw a lot of during my tenure at the last place I worked. At times, our boss would even just call us in to tell us how much he hated us. Coworkers often ended up making sniping comments about one another, and at one point, there was an entire Skype chat that half the company had devoted to insulting the other half.
I need not explain what part of this is a clue that your corporate culture isn't working for you, right? If it's this toxic, productivity will probably grind to a halt and any decent talent will leave the moment they get a new job offer.
The worst part was that everyone, regardless of how long they were there, would often get threatened with being fired just because the CEO was in a bad mood. This didn't incentivize anyone to do anything even remotely productive. All it did was freak us all out.
When things are calm, it often feels like a funeral home at work.
With all the toxic slime that was going on at my last job, it's not surprising that the mood of the office was perennially tense. When your corporate culture isn't working to do anything but bring you down, it's not that surprising that people will eventually get tense.
At work, you literally could feel the anxiety everyone felt emanating from every room. It was a very gloomy, neurotic place that tended to bring out the very worst in every person who entered into it.
In there, nobody smiled or made jokes. It was not a happy place to be.
Titles and power mean everything.
One of the more subtle aspects of what happened with work was the emphasis on titles, power, and to a point, who you knew. In a normal, happy workplace, this might still be a little bit of the case—but it's nowhere near the level of extreme attention to that as it is in a toxic workplace.
If things always boil down to "I'm the boss and you're not," it's no longer a team and the workplace is undeniably toxic.
Communication isn't really done at all.
Communication is everything when it comes to relationships of any sort—dating or otherwise. When there's no communication and constant secret-keeping around every corner, nothing will get done. That kind of behavior tends to lead to paranoia, fear, and of course, major mistakes that destroy profits.
Usually, what happens in places where your corporate culture isn't working well is that communication is fractured between two or more groups. In most cases, this means that management doesn't communicate plans or ask opinions of employees. Or, in some cases, it could end up being bands of coworkers that just don't talk to one another.
If you find that the informal grapevine is more likely to get you information on what's really going on, then you need to get a new job sooner rather than later.
Speaking up or offering suggestions is not welcomed—at all.
At my old job, telling the CEO that his ideas weren't popular was an excellent way to get fired quickly. Speaking up meant that you were guilty of insubordination, no matter what the comment was.
Needless to say, a lot of problems arose from this and the business fared poorly as a result.
Lastly, it's just assumed by everyone that the company will end up in the toilet.
The most visible sign that your corporate culture isn't working is the way employees discuss the company off-hours. Having been in multiple toxic places, I can tell you that the places where the corporate culture is the worst tend to have employees who openly admit that the company's dying.
Whether it's them saying that they are "one sexual harassment suit away from bankruptcy," or that the company is "circling the drain," if workers are that pessimistic, it's safe to say that the company's too toxic to actually function.