How to Identify a Toxic Workplace Culture

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how to determine if a company has a toxic bad culture

Right now, the unemployment rate is low; meaning that if you’re looking for a new job, you have a big advantage. The world of employment is your oyster - but how do you pick the right company? Don’t be fooled into fully trusting every ‘Best Place to Work’ list, here are three tips on how to weed out the toxic cultures to choose the right job for you:


1) Ask these questions

Instead of thinking you need to stress about impressing during your interview, take some time to vet out the company. To every person interviewing you, you should ask at least one or all of these questions:

  • What’s your favorite part about working here?

  • What keeps you at this company?

  • How would you describe your company culture?

  • What is a story you have that exemplifies the culture here?

The answers to these questions are valuable, but the way the person responds is equally as important.

During one interview with a super trendy startup, I asked the question: what’s your favorite part about working here? 


The answer I got from three different interviewers was: the people.

All of that sounds great - but if I had been more observant, I would’ve realized that this answer should have told me that people DIDN’T LIKE working there, but they LIKED their colleagues. This hidden truth revealed itself more as I saw the lack of growth opportunities, low pay, and office politics come into view - all factors in creating unhappy employees.


Relevant: The Overlooked Impact of Your Company Culture [FREE WORKSHEET]



2) Look at online reviews [with a grain of salt]

Review websites like Glassdoor are fantastic when you’re looking up information on salary ranges, interview processes, and reviews about what it’s like to work at a specific company. Just like with Amazon product reviews, take the submissions with a grain of salt - everyone’s experience is different, and a company can’t please every person.


Here are some key things to look out for when skimming reviews:

  • Does the company seem to get a string of negative reviews and all of a sudden receive an influx of positive onesSometimes the company will take it into their own hands and have employees write pre-screened reviews to turn their reputation around. Check the dates; usually, you’ll be able to suspect when this internal initiative started.
  • What do they say about the leadershipAmazing company cultures are led by leaders who can be considered culture champions themselves. From our 15+ years of experience in the culture space, successful organizational cultures have buy-in from top levels of the business. If they don’t, then it becomes fragile and begins to adapt to the behaviors of toxic, influential leaders.


Relevant: Are You Living By Company Values or Just Sticking Them on a Wall?



3) Check out their social media

If a company is invested in their people, then they take the time to cultivate a sense of community both at work and outside of work. See how much attention they’re giving their social media channels. 


Are they highlighting their employees? Do their employees seem to follow their social media too, are they brand advocates?


Some of our favorite companies also have separate handles for their employee community like @contento_cultness and @starbuckspartners.




Discover how to change or prevent at toxic workplace with a webinar from our DH coach|sultants: 






About the Author

Briana Krueger

Bri is the Impact Storyteller on the Delivering Happiness team. Working previously as a freelancer, her goal has always been to work with passionate people who are focused on helping individuals and businesses find their purpose. As part of DH, she now gets to accomplish that every day. Bri resides in Arizona and is lucky enough to enjoy the sun all year round.


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