How to Spot a Shitty Workplace Before You Take the Job

A bad workplace with a crappy, overzealous boss and toxic culture can be professionally and emotionally damaging. Too often people get caught up in the excitement of a job offer, sign their life away on a 200-page contract and then realise, crap! The workplace is complete shit.

By this point for a lot of people, it’s too late. Cue panic and anxiety as you frantically try to get yourself out of a hot mess.

Thankfully, with a little research and reading between the lines before and during the interview process, you should be able to spot a crappy workplace before you get stuck in the middle of it!


Before the interview


Jump on Seek and check out their new ‘Company Reviews’ section. Although not all workplaces are listed, a large number of Australian current and ex-employees can now leave honest reviews about their employer.

Sure, there will be a few dud employees who worked somewhere great, but left a review that shares the same qualities of a steaming pile of shit, but these are usually pretty easy to spot. For the most part, the reviews are a genuine insight into the culture of a workplace. This new feature will give you a chance to learn about wage fairness, hours, culture, etc.

Another great option is to do some LinkedIn or Facebook stalking. You should really be doing this anyway to get an idea of who you’re meeting with and the skills and qualifications other employees hold. However, there’s also value in determining the type of people you would be surrounded by on a daily basis.

Profile pictures on Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as the way people describe themselves in their bio are a pretty good indicator to the type of person you’re dealing with. Sure, everyone wants to make themselves look good, but acting like the sun shines out of your ass is never an admirable quality. If your possible employer/boss is one of these people, proceed with caution.


During the interview


Scout your surroundings. Are upper management the only people with offices? Is the building messy/dirty? Is there noise, or is the space eerily quiet?

Each of these questions will help you determine the type of workplace you’re potentially entering into.

A quiet office, for example, is fine to an extent. Some people just work extremely hard and need silence to do this. If you’re in the building for an hour or more and in that time there’s no one moving around or no friendly chatter, the office could potentially be filled with robots.

This isn’t always an insult to their individual personalities, it’s often representative of the management or general work environment. The employees might feel like they have to keep quiet, or that their strict boss will lose his/her shit if people are going to and from the kitchen or coffee shop. That’s not the type of place you want to be.

Likewise, a messy/dirty office shows people don’t care, and a low care factor can be toxic to your own attitude, as well as disruptive to both your work and your potential to form happy relationships with those around you.

Finally, if only upper management have offices and everyone else is crammed into small cubicles, your potential employer may not respect their employees enough. This does depend on the type of workplace though. If space is at a premium, individual offices may not be possible. If there are empty offices, or overly large offices followed by an expanse of crowded desks, it could be time to subtly make your exit. 

READ NEXT: How to survive in an office riddled with bad culture.


The interviewer


Note the way your interviewer speaks to you and how they interact with other employees. Are they speaking down to you? Dismissive of your answers? Frown regularly?

Do they talk themselves up a lot and speak proudly of the company’s level of excellence? This could be a sign of unrealistic expectations.

I once had a job where my employer made a big deal of putting your hand up for extra work. Which was fine, until I realised he expected people to take on more than one person could possibly handle and pull a lot of overtime without any extra money. Their idea of a go-getter could really be a cover for their desire to hire the modern equivalence of a slave.

No one wants to get stuck in a shitty workplace. Which is why being extra vigilant before and during an interview is essential.

Make sure you can spot a workplace bully, too!