We’re the largest online career community helping women achieve their career goals. Gain access to articles, jobs, events, and a supportive network of women and allies. Membership is free, always.
Toxic work environments, abusive bosses, cliquey coworkers — these are obvious signs that a job isn’t right for you. But sometimes, the red flags aren’t as clear.
That’s what one Fairygodboss member realized recently. “I’m experiencing a series of small things in my new job that [make me] know that my heart isn’t in it for the long run,” they wrote. “No one would ever suspect my ennui. To be fair, I took this new job very soon into my job hunt. I was hired basically immediately. I know that this is part of the reason why it’s not a fit. I dove in too soon. I’m curious to hear your stories and experiences where the smaller things added up to knowing a place isn’t right for you and how you gracefully left your current role to do something you love?”
Here are some small, sneaky, not-so-obvious signs a job might not be for you.
“The biggest flag for me: we aren’t allowed to have more than one personal item on our desks,” another Fairygodboss community member wrote. “If it’s a photo, has to be smaller than 5x7. And we can’t have anything on top of the cabinets next to us. Clean sightlines throughout the office.”
If you feel bothered by these kinds of arbitrary rules — ones that don’t seem to contribute to the workplace in a meaningful way — could be an indication that this is not the right workplace for you.
“Other subtle signs are the use of outdated language or a stale website,” added a Fairygodboss member. “The organization is likely slow to adapt and evolve, which will be evident in technology, procedures, etc. There's usually a general lack of initiative in these environments.”
Outdated systems, collateral and an overall environment suggest that the company isn’t keeping up with the times — and won’t be there for the long haul.
“No need to be best friends, but you should feel connected,” Beth Consugar said.
Another member agreed: “It just didn't feel right, and I didn't feel like I "fit" the organization….I have a lot of happiness and energy, and everyone just kept to themselves there. I was used to managing teams, and I was only managing myself and being managed. I felt almost claustrophobic.”
Even if you’re not in an outwardly toxic environment, if you don’t have strong connections with your coworkers, it can be difficult to find your footing and feel comfortable at your job.
“The organization would tell little lies repeatedly — numbers were being fudged, bad practices — and I jumped ship without a parachute,” a Fairygodboss member mentioned.
These “little lies” are bad enough, but they could be an indication that there are larger mistruths that you’re not privy to — and that this is an all-around toxic environment.
Are you experiencing difficulties with your physical health? This, too, can be an indication that your work is taking its toll.
“The small signs I usually notice first are physical things within me,” noted one Fairygodboss member. “I start feeling anxiety before work or certain meetings: Lack of sleep, delayed menstrual periods and not a healthy work/life balance.”
Ultimately, your guy just might be telling you something is off, and you need to take action.
“When I started my new job, I was eager to learn and thrilled to have been given the opportunity,” wrote Janet Parkhurst. “Fast forward... less than six months later, I have anxiety dreams almost nightly, feel a slice of fear when I see my boss's name on incoming calls and now experience the functions of the job as rote and mechanical….So, my point is, regardless of our real situations and how we deal with them on the outside, the REAL RED FLAGS are coming from within.”
“Listen, if it's not right, you know it,” agreed Chere Estrin.
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
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 Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.