We’ve all had bad jobs before. If we’re lucky, that just meant bad hours or bad pay. The unlucky ones got bad co-workers, hazardous conditions, unethical or harassing environments, or bad managers. Not all bad job situations are the same, but they all negatively impact your life and your health. Sometimes we can’t understand how much until we finally free ourselves of the situation. You can’t tell something is going to be a bad situation before you get into it, right? Or can you?
Personally, I think there are signs that everybody needs to be looking for. A bad situation will often throw up red flags and you’ll see them if you pay attention, ask the right questions, or know where to look.
1. During the interview you get a bad vibe from the interviewer. I’m not one who often goes with “Trust your gut”, but your brain tends to notice a whole lot of things you don’t consciously process. It’s more efficient that way. If our brain stopped our thought process every second to make us acknowledge all the various elements in our environment we would never get anything done. So whenever you get a bad feeling, it’s because your brain picked up on something so fast that it didn’t bother you with processing it. Instead of brushing that off, take the time to explore it and figure out why you are bothered. Maybe they remind you of a teacher who was mean to you or maybe they remind you of that creepy guy who hit on you in the bar. It’s important to know what is setting off your alarms.
2. There are signs of disrespect and passive aggression. Are they bad about getting back to you when they say they will? Did they leave you to wait in the lobby for 30 minutes after your scheduled interview time? Do the interviewers act like they would rather be anywhere else but in the same room together? Do they start dishing dirt on the company during your interview? Do they make backhand comments about your experience/education/etc? All are signs that this is a dysfunctional workplace that you don’t want to be a part of.
3. After researching the company online you find more alarming reviews about their business practices or how they treat their employees than positives. Now, when reading reviews online you have to take them with a grain of salt, both bad and good. However, how the company responds to the reviews is important. If they are respectfully responding to those negative reviews, trying to engage or make things right, that is a huge plus! But if they lash out and make things worse, or don’t even seem aware of the reviews at all, that is a bad sign. And if all you are finding are negatives with few positives to counteract them; that is a bad sign. I hope I don’t even have to mention that a history of lawsuits/harassment claims isn’t good either.
4. They give you misleading information. You apply for an Office Manager job that is advertised as paying $18/hr. You get called in for an interview and suddenly it’s an Administrative Assistant position that pays $12. Or the job description online says no travel and then they say you’ll be on the road 50% of the time. Sure things can change quickly as business needs change and sometimes mistakes happen. But this is where I’d point you back to #1. Are you getting a shifty vibe from them? Or #3, Do they have negative reviews about their business practices? What claims might turn out to be different later as well?
Sometimes you can end up in a bad situation even if none of these red flags came up. You can even be working for a great company but get stuck with a new manager that doesn’t know what they are doing or placed on the team with that one bad employee. Or the job can start out great and then something happens, a restructure or a transfer, and suddenly you are in a bad situation. Finding a job is as much a crap shoot for a candidate as it is for an employer.
But you owe it to yourself to put in the time to feel out a situation before accepting a new job. Don’t make a decision as big as a new job out of desperation or willful ignorance. The impact it may have on you mentally, financially, and physically down the line will be hard to recover from. No one deserves to be in a bad job situation and it’s much easier to avoid it than it is to get out of it.