No Work-Life Balance
If you begin noticing that your workplace’s upper management does not respect you and your co-workers’ needs to “turn off” after-hours or on the weekends, this is a potential indicator that something is rotten in Denmark. Frequently, companies on the smaller side with minimal to no human resources personnel operate “on the fly,” leaving many areas gray and blurring the boundaries between their employees’ work and personal lives. For example, if your boss expects you to pick up the phone whenever he/she calls in the evenings or on Sunday afternoons because you are salaried and not hourly, this is inconsiderate (and borderline exploitative) behavior that does not happen in every business environment. Attempting to establish work-life boundaries with management can be challenging, as managers who are lower in empathy might interpret your hesitancy to answer their phone call on a Sunday as not taking your job duties seriously. The occasional weekend emergency is one thing, but when this becomes a pattern, it might be time to sharpen your interview skills and polish your resume. There are plenty of workplaces with open positions where managers respect their employees’ time outside of work and understand that a rested, refreshed employee is a productive employee.
Out of Control Gossip
If you’ve ever worked in an office environment where you felt like you were back in high school, you are very familiar with how toxic a workplace culture based upon gossip and favoritism can be. What’s even more alarming, however, is when members of upper management openly gossip about their subordinates’ work performance to employees. With the absence of a human resources department, totalitarian management is able to play favorites and ostracize employees with whom they don’t get along or feel contempt towards. This can quickly escalate into a case for workplace bullying, if the gossip goes unchecked. If you witness a gross display of unprofessionalism by members of management at your workplace, find a healthier company to work for. Prolonging your employment and surrounding yourself with negativity on a daily basis will eventually drag you down, too, and potentially impact your ability to trust others in the future when the environment is right for you. As the saying goes, if you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.
Always Trust Your Gut
Although it’s easy to doubt yourself and your gut instincts, it’s imperative to listen to your intuition when it tugs at you. If you’re a female employee and one of your male supervisors begins speaking to you or other female employees in ways that makes you uncomfortable, it’s tempting to shrug it off or chalk it up to a “one-time” thing. Many times, people who behave or speak in off-putting ways are testing the waters, which might lead to an escalation of the behavior in the future if it goes unchecked. If your company has an HR department, it might be worthwhile to bring up your concerns. In smaller companies, however, employees frequently feel trapped without the option of third-party intervention. In this scenario, confronting your supervisor directly or reporting your supervisor’s behavior to others whose hands are tied will likely do more harm than good. Take your knowledge and job skills elsewhere and find a supervisor who won’t creep you out as soon as possible.
Final Thoughts: Read the Room
If you’re interviewing for a position at a company, or are brand new to a job, do the other employees seem exceptionally on-edge? Is there a high turnover rate in your department? Do lower-level employees feel comfortable confronting their managers about issues, or are issues generally swept under the rug? If you get a sense that the company “mood” is off early on in your employment (or prospective employment), don’t ignore your instincts. While it might be tempting to jump at a great salary offer, if you have any doubts that this isn’t the right workplace for you, take some time to mull over the offer before accepting. Money can’t buy happiness overall, and quality of life is much more important for your health and personal relationships than an extra $10K per year.