How to Avoid Accepting an Offer With a Company That Has a Toxic Culture

We all know of companies that are rumored to have terrible cultures. Cultures with the type of negativity that ends up spilling over into your personal life and has you with a dreaded feeling in the pit of your stomach on Sunday night. A toxic culture can ruin what might otherwise be considered a dream opportunity. In fact, a few years back fortune published an article stating the detrimental impact a bad work culture could have on your health ( Fortune article on how work culture can impact health).

So, in some respects, when you take a new job, you are not just gambling with your career, you could be gambling with your health. Given those ramifications, what can you do to make sure you don’t accept a position and find yourself working for a company with an awful culture? You could ask them, or perhaps you could look on Glassdoor. Both of these options are better than nothing, but they can also fall short of giving you a complete picture.

One of the things my current company does (Check out our website –Titus Talent Strategies) in our interview process is we assign every candidate a writing assignment. They are required to reach out to 2 to 3 random people in our organization and have a conversation about our company values and then write a brief summary regarding that conversation.

I remember when I did this assignment. I knew that Titus had a great company culture if they were willing to let me reach out to anyone and ask them about the organization. To me, it demonstrated great confidence how the employees felt about the company. It also gave me a chance to ask questions about the organization and probe current employees to get an understanding of what I might be walking into.

What if I told you that you could also do this type of reconnaissance on a company that you are considering accepting a role with. You can! In fact, it is pretty easy. Find their company page on LinkedIn and see if you are connected with anyone who works there. If you aren’t, then send a few people connection requests.

Once they accept (or if you are already connected) send them a message like this:

“Hi, Bill. Recently someone from your organization reached out to me regarding a position within your organization. While I am happy at my current company, I have to admit I am a bit curious. I would really appreciate if you would have 5-10 minutes for the two of us to have a confidential chat about your organization and your thoughts on company culture.”

If you are uncomfortable with saying it is you who are considering a role you could always say that a former colleague was interested in applying for a role and asked you if you had any thoughts on the company. I personally prefer the straightforward approach but I understand the desire to keep your interests private.

Having this conversation with giving you a great glimpse into the culture and how this person feels about the company. Are they an advocate? Are they just going through the motions? Are they only talking with you because they are hopeful it could lead to a way out? The tone of the conversation should reveal a lot of you ask the right questions. Everyone has a different outlook, so it could also be worth doing this with a few people to make sure you are confident in moving forward.

So, while it’s aggressive, that is my suggestion on how you can avoid accepting an offer with a company that has a toxic culture. If you have ever been in an environment that is toxic, you understand that it is worth the effort to try and avoid.
Thanks for reading. If you have a few minutes, check out one of my popular recent posts on interviewing,  How to answer the interview question “What is your biggest weakness?”.