In today’s job market, you may be inclined to snatch up any job offer that comes your way. In the end, that offer may end up costing more than you realize. If you want to spot a bad boss and avoid a toxic work environment, your best option is to look for some common red flags during the interview. Think of your interview as a chance to counter-interview your potential employer: ask as many questions as needed to get a perspective on what it will be like working for that company. With a little luck, you’ll be able to spot a toxic boss before it’s too late.
High Employee Turnover
While not specifically tied to just one boss in a company, there is almost no situation in which a high turnover rate is considered good. High turnover points toward potential issues within a company that you would be wise to avoid. One of the most common reasons is a low rate of pay and/or poor benefits. A company that doesn’t invest in their employees via an appropriate salary or benefit options will likely lose good employees quickly. Another common cause of high turnover is poor management.
An employer may not always be truthful about the turnover rate, or you may not be comfortable asking outright. One way to find out more is to ask about the history of the specific position you are applying for: why did the last employee leave? How often has this position been re-filled? The best source for this type of information comes from potential co-workers. Employees are more likely to provide truthful information about a company and highlight any flaws that they’ve noticed.
Your interview is off to a great start, your interviewer is extremely enthusiastic, and you’re offered a job right on the spot. Perfect, right? It might be time to take a step back and examine the situation. In most cases, if you feel that an interviewer is coming on too strong, there’s probably an underlying reason. Many companies with high turnover or high quotas that lead to burnout simply need a warm body to fill a position until the next person can come in and take your place.
Consider the interview process. Were you asked relevant questions about your skills and experience, or did the interview seem more conversational than professional? That can be a red flag. Does the interviewer seem anxious to have you start as soon as possible? Another potential red flag. In this situation, especially if there’s a job offer sitting on the table, the best solution is to ask for a day or two to consider. This will allow you space and time to think critically about the position and possibly do more research.
You may be wondering how to spot an unprofessional or disrespectful boss before you even gain employment. First, look at the communication trail. Do your emails go unanswered or ignored? Have you been waiting for a callback after leaving a voicemail? Whether an organizational problem or something else entirely, this type of behavior can hint toward a bad boss. Next, be observant during the interview. Does the boss arrive on time or are you kept waiting? Remember that your time is valuable as well, and a long wait for a pre-scheduled interview can be a bad sign of a disrespectful boss.
Ideally, you want a boss that asks critical questions about the position and actually listens to your answers. They will want to talk about your relevant experience and how you feel you will fit in with the company. If the boss seems bored during the interview, checks emails, takes phone calls, etc.—you may want to just cut your losses. If a boss can’t remain attentive with you during the interview process, you aren’t likely to see much of a change when employed by him.
Work Hard, Play Hard
This is a commonly heard phrase in many fast-paced industries, but it almost always counts as a red flag. In this situation, the boss is trying to convey in a skewed way that you are expected or even required to work more than your scheduled hours. Like the phrase suggests, you may assume a company nicely rewards their busy employees. However, play-time becomes almost non-existent and your work-life balance will soon take a shift for the worse. Companies like this tend to attract employees who become burnt out very quickly, leading to a high turnover rate or uninterested employees.
In this situation, it’s best to completely skip the boss and talk directly to employees. They will have the first-hand experience on what the work environment looks like on a day-to-day basis. You’ll want to ask about both the position and the general work environment. Are you expected to perform additional duties outside of your position without an increase in pay? Are you required to be reachable by phone or email when off work? These questions are all crucial to making sure you avoid a toxic boss and work environment.
Some job offers are simply worth saying no to. If red flags such as the ones listed above present themselves during an interview, it may be time to take a closer look at both the boss and the company. In the end, it could save you a headache by simply turning down that offer and looking elsewhere.