4 Sneaky Ways to Tell If an Employer Is Toxic Before Accepting a Job Offer

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
April 12, 2024 at 11:8PM UTC

Many of us have experienced a toxic workplace, and it can wreak havoc on our lives. But what if there were a way to suss out what the employer is really like before you accept the offer? You probably know the obvious red flags—employees seem disengaged, the hiring manager is rude to you, and so on—but what about the more subtle signs? Those are more difficult to spot (and you might not even know what they mean). That’s why we’ve rounded up four sneaky signals to find out if your employer is toxic before you say yes to the job.

1. There’s confusion surrounding the hiring process.

You’re not quite sure what time you’re supposed to come in for your interview. You’re not sure where you’re supposed to show up, either. You haven’t been able to find out much about the interviewer or next steps.

Communication is a critical part of the workplace, and confusion surrounding the hiring process could indicate that there is a distinct lack of it at the organization. If they’re not communicating well this early in, then that probably means communication will be a struggle if and when you work there, too.

2. No one seems to be talking in the office (or on the Zoom call).

You come into the office, and it’s deadly quiet. While lulls in conversation are certainly normal, perpetual silence is a little eerie. There should be some chatter, at least in the hallways or the kitchen. 

If you're interviewing virtually, an eerie quiet may be more difficult to suss out. However, awkwardness or tension between your interviewers can signal that there may be something bubbling beneath the surface.

Even if it’s a little quiet, there can still be positive energy you feel—or it can feel dismal and depressing. 

3. You get a job offer a little too quickly.

On the surface, this may seem like a positive thing. After all, getting an offer is great news! But if it all seems a little too fast, it could indicate that they haven’t been thorough in evaluating candidates—pretty much anyone with the minimum qualifications will do. 

Moreover, if the process is too quick, then it probably means you haven’t had enough time to assess the company and consider whether the organization is the right fit for you.

4. The toilet paper roll in the bathroom is empty.

This one comes from Piyush Patel. “If there's an empty toilet paper roll, that's a red flag. If someone didn't care enough about the next person to take a few seconds out of their day to change the roll, what does that say about how they work together?” says Patel. 

In other words, it’s about shared responsibility and respect for colleagues. Yes, all that from a roll of toilet paper.

Of course, there’s no greater indication that a place is not for you than your own intuition. If your gut is telling you something’s off, then you should listen to it—and pay close attention to these signs, too. 


Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket and The Haven.

What's your no. 1 piece of advice for identifying a company's culture before accepting an offer? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss'ers!

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