Warning signs to watch out for in new employer


Much of the world saw a substantial post-Covid economic surge. Labour markets in many nations became a job seekers' dream. Quick action by numerous governments and central banks prevented a large-scale economic collapse. However, the Russian invasion of neighbouring Ukraine and world-wide inflation have dampened growth projections.

While Kenya’s economy has doubled in size over the past 10 years in terms of gross domestic product, growth during the Covid period faltered.

Now post-pandemic, World Bank data shows that our Kenyan service sector is leading the advance in job creation.

Even though the labour shortages have hit some sectors, job recruitment procedures largely continue unchanged.

Despite research showing that interview panels routinely fail to select the most appropriate candidate, companies around the world still proceed with interviews as part of the candidate selection process that causes them to hire the person they connect the most with emotionally in that short-term temporary setting.

But when labour markets swing in favour of job seekers, workers become far more precise with their requirements for new employers.

However, job candidates still often proceed as usual and fear asking robust questions of their would-be prospective employers. Instead, those searching for a job should also come up with interview questions of their own to ask interview panels and investigate through their professional networks about the culture in organisations in which they desire to work.

Ivy league organisational psychologist Adam Grant highlights four big warning signs that job seekers should watch out for in their interactions with prospective employers.

First, be on the lookout for toxicity. How does the organisation treat their employees? If the employer shows complete disregard for staff work-life balance or low organisational justice — also called low fairness levels, then run for the hills. A toxic culture that permeates across an entity proves exceedingly hard to fix and may not improve during your tenure with the firm.

Second, avoid firms that place hurdles upon hurdles on employees that prevent them from succeeding. Sectors that famously infuse mountains of bureaucracy include parastatals, government and NGOs.

However, even problematic sectors have shining stars with low bureaucracy organisations within their ranks. Select to work for those. But keep in mind, even in lower red tape industries such as information technology, some negative outliers exist. Avoid what Adam Grant calls “all rules, no risks”.

Third, on the flip side of too many insane rules lies the exact opposite: anarchy. Sometimes within firms, order, process, and rules breakdown and a freefall exists in that vacuum. Avoid chaotic organisations in your career.

New entrepreneurship start-ups often thrive in what appears like anarchy. But start-ups usually have highly cohesive teams working towards a clear common purpose that will eventually coalesce around structures, systems, and processes and do not continue with chaos indefinitely.

Instead, the organisations that you should avoid in this category involve entities that were previously performing but then fell into disrepair by disrespectful staff-management relations, little to no staff accountability, and complaints mixed with gossip taking the place of really top-down and bottom-up information flows.

Anarchy in these already established firms rarely improves without high magnitude high-cost organisational development interventions.

Fourth, stay out of firms that subside with low standards expected of their employees. Mediocrity harms your reputation if you become associated with the firm.

Remember, even as a job seeker, you still have counter-power and the power of choice.

Ask educated questions to ascertain whether a firm holds any of the above four red flags. If you already work in such a toxic culture organisation, then actively seek alternative employment with urgency.

[email protected] Twitter: @ScottProfessor

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