5 ways to identify a toxic work environment

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*Speak to people who have worked at the company | *Critically observe the recruitment process | *Look out for growth and development plans | *Look out for the company’s retention rate
How to identify a toxic work environment
How to identify a toxic work environment. Imager Source: iStock

Social media was lit on fire barely hours after TechCabal published an article about working at Bento Africa, the payroll management company. With the headline “Tyranny in the workplace: The chaotic culture of Bento Africa,” the story details the experiences of staff who had worked at the company and how the CEO and co-founder, Ebun Okubanjo, created a toxic work environment.

A Twitter Space was immediately set on by Ized Uanikhehi and journalist, Kiki Mordi with the tagline “#HorribleBosses – Exposing Toxic Bosses and Toxic Companies,” which went on for over seven hours. Nigerians by the number told tales of toxicity that they have endured over the years.

How then does one discern a company that will be healthy to work for? Below, we’ve put together useful tips to look out for.

Ask for people who have worked there

A good way to know if a company is going to be a good fit for you is to reach out to current and former employees of the company, to get a feel of what the working culture is like. This way, you have a working knowledge of what to expect when you start working at the company. It also gives you an edge in the interview process, as you will be armed with more information on how the company operates going into the interview.

Critically observe the recruitment process

The work of figuring out if a workplace is going to be a healthy one starts from the recruitment process. As much as the company is interviewing you for the role, you are also interviewing the company as well. You could ask questions that put recruiters in the position to tell you what to expect working in the company. What are working hours like? What does it mean to be a team player at your company? These are a few questions that help you get a feel of working at the company.

What is the company’s retention rate

The company’s retention rate is something you most definitely should be on the lookout for. On platforms like LinkedIn and Glassdoor, you can track how long staff stay at the company. A company that has staff leaving after only a month or some weeks most likely will not be a healthy environment.

People love to stay where they are comfortable and are at peace.

Amarachi Chinedu, a human resource manager in Lagos told Technext.

But this can just be a coincidence sometimes. In which case it is fine to reach out to the staff and ask if the company culture was why they left so quickly.

Respect and value

Respect and value are key markers of a healthy work environment. Amarachi Chinedu said, “people love to stay where they are comfortable and are at peace.” don’t misplace this with “comfort zone.” When people don’t feel respected and valued at the company, they begin to look for ways out. You can go ahead and ask former employees if they felt valued at the company and if they were respected.

To know this during the interview stage, focus on how the recruiter reacts to your responses. Are they condescending to your responses, or are they indifferent? This is one way to know if you will be respected when you accept the offer.

Chinedu added that this is the core of a healthy work environment.

A healthy workspace is a workspace where there’s respect from the top to the least staff and vice versa. Everyone can express themselves respectfully and politely.

Amarachi Chinedu
How to identify a toxic work environment
How to identify a toxic work environment. Image Source: iStock

Growth and Development

This is very important in deciphering if a company is going to be good for you in the long run. “They [founders] should create a growth system for their staff, appraisals, training and promotions should occur when due,” Chinedu said.

A company that hasn’t created a space for staff to grow in the company is a huge red flag. One will most likely experience burnout very quickly or get frustrated on the job.

Being in the right job can be fun, but will most likely not be fun all the time. Asides from growth and promotion being good for one’s career and finance, it’s also great for one’s mental health. How your growth will happen is definitely something to look out for in a company, especially at a startup.

Advice for founders

Sometimes founders say that they are “pushing” team members to be their best. But, Chinedu said that is never the reality, adding that staff should not be pushed. Team members have KPIs and job descriptions and in companies, that is what they should be made to do.

“Pushing and abusing a staff seems to me like jungle justice, and it screams the level of lawlessness in that workspace,” Chinedu says.

“Creating the best possible environment where people can work and thrive in. it’s just the basic decent thing,” Adewale Adetula, a co-founder of The Naked Convos adds.

“I think it’s a no brainer forcing people to stay longer in the office. You shouldn’t even have to get to that point.”

He adds that founders should aspire to create “an open culture where people stand upon and talk.”


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