Toxic workplace: ‘We are a family’ and other clear red flags

BD Burnout

If you want to resign or are at risk of being let go, make sure you do it [resign] and don't look back no matter where you are.

Diving into a new job often comes with the shimmer of new beginnings, but the shadows of past workplaces frequently hold the juiciest, hard-learned lessons on spotting workplace red flags.

Whether it's the silent screams of creativity crushed under the weight of micromanagement, or personal lives whittled away by endless overtime, previous jobs can school us in the art of detecting toxic environments.

These experiences turn savvy employees into workplace detectives, keen to sniff out trouble before it grows into a crisis.

That is the case for Zablon Tbagwel, a corporate communications officer. The red flags that keep him at arm's length are companies that prioritise quantity over quality. Drawing from his own experience, Mr Tbagwel, who resigned, says, "I did quality work and lagged on the quantity. Those with good quantity got awarded, the quality was never questioned."

"Where the company wants numbers and the supervisor insists on quality the two will always conflict in the customer service industry," he adds.

Consequently, Mr Tbagwel admits that while he is still in search of employment, he recommends maintaining a healthy work-life balance and doing one's best in any work environment, especially when there is a conflict between targets and tasks.

"If you want to resign or are at risk of being let go, make sure you do it [resign] and don't look back no matter where you are. Remember your quality and dignity will always remain the same," he advises.

Mercy Njeri, a sales representative in the beauty industry, unlike Mr Tbagwel, can tolerate the unrelentless push for quantity but says her biggest red flag is when she hears 'we are a family' at work. Based on her own experience a few years ago, Ms Njeri says that more often than not, what followed were long hours at work, which in turn made her miss time with her actual family.

"Sometimes we would close at 10pm and the next day we need to be there by 7am. This family thing meant that I work weekends, pick extra shifts with little or no notice. They insisted that I should care more about being at work than the amount of money I was being paid."

Ms Njeri says this job sucked the life out of her. Luckily, she got another job and left the company for another.

Like Ms Njeri, Elius Simon, a General Manager in an agency that supports studying abroad tendered his resignation four months after serving in the position to start his own business. He ended his tenure with the company because there was no room for growth.

"There was no room to become something better in terms of income, career development. When you are in that position, you want something that challenges you, a pattern that if you follow you will grow all rounded," he explains.

From his experience, Mr Simon shares that he had thoroughly thought about how he would sustain himself even before the thought of resignation crossed his mind.

"Have a bit of savings because you will need to figure out how to pay your bills when you are without a job. Also, while at your workplace, build connections as those can be very instrumental during your transition period," he adds.

Acknowledging that being on the brink of being laid off or resigning can be a tumultuous experience, Mr Simon shares that focusing on his skills helped him navigate to stable grounds.

"Like David in the Bible when he was asked how he would fight Goliath, he said, 'I have fought a lion, bear…what is this Philistine?' Focus on your strength and what you have done in your past," he advises.

He started seeing the red flags three months into employment when his suggestions for growth were being shot down making him question whether his time was done. Nonetheless, he tried having talks with the management to address his concerns but they fell on deaf ears.

"It was not easy to get permission so I felt that we had reached the end of the road."

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