Our students often ask us, “what does a good company look like, so I can make the best career decision after I graduate?” The short answer is pretty simple: a company with solid leadership, excellent communication, and high employee morale.
But we understand that this description is far too vague if you’re thinking about changing careers and need to narrow down your choices. No matter how you examine it, judging company culture comes down to an educated guess until you actually start working for the company.
Without a doubt, no business wants a bad reputation for accepting or outright enabling a toxic workplace.
An employer may be financially successful, hitting revenue targets and expanding their market share, yet no one on the team enjoys their job. They merely go through the motions and do as little as possible to keep the business profitable.
Besides, many employers don’t realize that they have a “bad company culture” until they start to shed workers, and by that time, it’s usually too late to change it.
What qualifies as a bad company culture? And how do you deal with it? These are the things job seekers avoid when they are looking for in a place to work.
1 – Lack of leadership
In our experience, a lack of leadership is the most obvious sign that the company has a bad culture. Usually, you’ll get a sense of the company’s leadership right away during the interview process. Always pay attention to the hiring manager’s attitude and especially how they talk about the company. Once we teach you how to read people, it’s easy to determine when a company simply doesn’t feel right.
Without a clear strategic direction and clear goals, a company can’t succeed and exceed expectations; they barely become profitable and shed employees regularly. Honestly, it becomes a vicious cycle that gets harder and harder to change, especially if new employees come and go within a matter of months.
The solution to a lack of leadership is to ensure that the entire management team, from the C-suite down to the newly hired salespersons, believes in the same core values.
So, if you’re a hiring manager who can’t articulate what your employer believes, you’ll have a much harder time convincing applicants to accept your offer.
In today’s job market, job hunters have more leverage than ever since there are more open jobs in the U.S. than qualified workers to fill those positions. Nurturing a healthy workplace culture will help businesses attract and retain workers, but it’ll only be more challenging without a clearly defined set of core values and ideals.
2 – Weak or nonexistent communication
Along those lines, we’ve also seen weak or nonexistent communication derail a company’s hiring process. With technology literally in our hands throughout the day, there’s really no excuse for ineffective communication in today’s interconnected world.
But the problem could be with a leadership team that doesn’t care to communicate with ordinary workers. The idea is to dictate work ethic to employees, which isn’t an effective motivational strategy.
No matter which industry they serve, workers want to feel like their input is valid and that their opinions are respected. If no one is on the same page and constantly catches up or misses vital opportunities, those are bad company culture signs. Facilitating bad company culture habits like this, the company most likely won’t last much longer.
From a manager’s perspective, the solution is to develop more ways to gather the team and put an end to freelance communicating. As a quick fix, you might want to implement a CRM or another enterprise solution with built-in solid messaging capabilities.
Overall, employees need to feel reassured that they have access to multiple ways to coordinate tasks, especially since remote work appears to be here to stay since the pandemic is winding down.
If management restricts communication to only one medium like email, the inevitable result is that not every employee will feel comfortable using these tools. Ideally, you want to build a communications infrastructure that gives workers many ways to stay in touch other than back-and-forth emailing throughout the day.
3 – Inconsistent promises
In addition, inconsistent promises are another sign of toxic, counter-productive company culture. That’s really what it all boils down to, a business without a strong culture won’t be as productive. It’s far too easy to fall into the trap of seeing profits and becoming content with the results.
Besides, if a company can’t keep promises, employees will start to lose faith contributing to bad company culture practices. The simple fact is this: job hunters have more options available and don’t have to accept a toxic workplace. Honestly, the only thing worse than inconsistent promises is broken promises, which can lead to massive turn-off when employees start to walk away for better opportunities.
If your employer promises you something that sounds too good to be true, tread carefully! When commitments are verbal and not in writing, the business can do whatever they want. You may not want to believe that employers would willfully break promises and alienate workers, but we see it happen all the time.
When an employer makes promises with respect to bonuses and other perks, get them in writing until the company proves that they’re trustworthy and competent.
The best way to fix consistently broken promises is to make sure management doesn’t make false promises in the first place. This problem isn’t as pervasive in larger organizations, but when a company has few employees and desperately needs workers, they’ll promise the moon to qualified applicants – and never follow through!
4 – Bad review and poor reputation from previous employees
Inevitably, poor communication, weak leadership, and false promises lead to bad reviews from former employees and a ruined reputation. Nowadays, job hunters have many job search platforms that allow – and outright encourage – employee reviews, so if you see a bad review on one of those sites, be careful.
We’ve heard plenty of horror stories from newly graduated students about working for a lousy company. It’s incredibly tempting to accept the first job offer you receive, but a company with a toxic culture is counting on that.
For example, if you can find a way to contact former employees directly through LinkedIn, ask them a simple yes, or no question: would you recommend this employer to a friend?
The sales field is a thriving, active community with a presence on every social media platform and trade publication. Use that to your advantage and reach out to people! You may not get an answer from many people, but in the end, the insights you can glean will save you time and energy during a job hunt.
5 – Unfriendly, overly competitive workplace
The last sign of lousy company culture is only noticeable after you start working. When a company has no core values, and no one communicates, the natural outcome is for an employee to find workarounds and form cliques to keep the company profitable.
Sales organizations are notorious for breeding an unhealthy level of competition that spirals out of control into near sibling rivalry.
Everyone in the company should be working towards the same, clearly defined goal. The truth is that many businesses don’t appreciate the value of fostering a friendly workplace with a healthy level of competition. The takeaway for hiring managers is that you have to address counter-productive gossip and clique forming right away. The most effective method is to talk to the offending employees one by one in private.
Honestly, you have to make them understand how their behavior goes against the grain and makes it harder to build a strong team. After speaking with each individual, a team meeting is a must to make sure everyone knows the behaviors that the company won’t tolerate.
The problem is that an overly competitive environment starts at the top! If managers only rate your performance by financial metrics, it’s a red flag that the company values profits over people. Although the most successful companies avoid this trap, many believe such an environment is actually conducive to building a “strong team of rivals.”
So, if you’re in an interview and the interview keeps emphasizing sales targets, be careful about how the rest of the interview proceeds. You have the right to say no because job hunters have the leverage to inquire about benefits other than salary.
Recap: The 5 things job seekers avoid when they are looking for in a place to work
By any measure, bad company culture can ruin a new hire’s experience and affect job performance. The challenge for employers is encouraging the values that make workers feel like the company appreciates their hard work.