Can a Company’s Toxic Culture Negatively Affect Your Career, Your Success – Your Life?

Company cultures are as different as pebbles on a beach. Each one distinctly representative of that particular group. Technically – a company’s culture is the personality of the company.

A culture can define the environment in which a company works (think Google and Virgin). It can include not only the work environment, the way employees dress, the way they actually work but the way the employees communicate with each other and socially interact to a company’s mission, values, ethics, and goals.

While some companies have a team-based atmosphere – which includes all employees from rank and file to the ‘C Suite’ – others include only the rank and file.

For example at Google –When Sergey Brin and Larry Page both worked there, employees could walk right up to them and ask questions. On breaks, employees (and or Sergey or Larry) could be seen hanging out at the Google Café where you can sit anywhere there’s room and connect with individuals from other company groups.

Prior to the ‘new normal’, employees could stop working, take a break and sink a few hoops any time during the workday at Google – as long as their work was completed or, at least, progressing. After hours – in normal work economies – employees often headed out to a local watering hole, café, or restaurant to socialize.

This culture is unique to this particular company. In the past, if you interviewed with them, you should have discovered – beforehand – what the usual workday was like on campus.

It’s safe to say company culture is often overlooked during job searching. Yet it revolves around you, daily, once you’re hired. Affecting everything from interactions with company execs, clients, and co-workers to your career advancement and mental health.

A company’s culture is reflected in dozens of ways. For example –

* Goals
* Attitudes
* Workplace practices such as the way employees are treated;
* How employees behave and interact with co-workers, bosses, and clients.
* How work is performed, decisions made.

Not only can the workplace culture affect your career but your mood, happiness – and very importantly – your mental health.  A year-long Australian population study, released in June 2021, found full-time workers employed by organizations who failed to prioritize their employees’ mental health had a threefold increased risk of employees being diagnosed with depression.

Companies can have toxic cultures.  In many cases, you can begin to recognize this toxicity when you see few smiles, minimal employee communication or engagement. Perhaps stress headaches are the norm as are disinterested attitudes. The tone of voices can point to frayed tempers, unhappiness, anger.

All that said, consider the following 7 issues before applying:

1) If possible, visit a company, first. Notice facial expressions, the sound of voices – are they happy, sulky, angry? This can tip you off to a potentially toxic atmosphere.

2) If you’ve applied and done a Zoom interview, notice the interviewer’s body language. Is it friendly or putting you off. Does it suggest they are less than honest? Also, notice overall body language as in Tip 1.

3) Check out a company’s blog or website; you’ll find a wealth of info there. Check their About Us page. Discover goals, mission, environmental stance; it may also make statements re culture.

4)  Google them. Look for press releases, company announcements made public, links to white papers. Check out legal pages – have they been sued, are they regularly in court; have client or other legal issues? (Note – companies now consider legal issues your previous employer has had when deciding to interview you.)

5) Check your LinkedIn connections to discover people you know who may work there. Email them and ask for info. Check out the company’s LinkedIn Showcase Page for info. Discover whether a company has their own ‘open’ LinkedIn open Group membership; look there for culture info.

6) Google the company and the word culture – place the name in quotes. For example – “XYZ Company culture”. Placing something in quotes will force the search engine to narrow down info, providing only specific information requested.

7) During an interview ask questions about the culture.  Not to worry; interviewers expect this.  If you’ve discovered culture info, write down specific questions for the interviewer.

Bottom line – checking out the company’s culture, before applying, should be one of the first actions you perform.

Employees in positive work atmospheres are not only happier, but research also shows they enjoy their work more. Are willing to work longer hours, and harder, because their needs are more than met. Response to a recent Glassdoor survey shows 61% said they found aspects of a job different than expected based upon the interview process. Company culture was cited as one of the factors which differed most.

No question why positive company cultures are the major reason why they are visionary and inventive; not to mention highly profitable; developing new products; growing and flourishing.

As an employee, you want to be part of an organization whose culture aligns with your values and/or ethics. A recent Harvard Biz Review article ‘How to Find Out if a Company’s Culture is Right for You’ tells us  “As a job applicant, you want to find a culture that aligns with your values, or the ethics that guide you, fulfill you, and make you feel a sense of purpose.

That said, do your due diligence and find a company whose culture is one that not only aligns with your values but is one of diversity and inclusion; where everyone – including you – is encouraged to thrive and succeed. Plus know, beforehand, where you’ll be spending the majority of your waking hours.


Jean L. Serio
Jean L. Serio
JEAN is a certified Human Resources professional with more than twenty-five years of experience in recruitment, interviewing, job training and development, resume, and LinkedIn Profile writing and review. The last 5 as a Certified Interview Success Coach, CEIC. With a passion for training, she guides others in first understanding their skills and strengths and how to best present themselves during an interview to help them secure the job. Her skills and expertise are also utilized to optimally prepare clients for confidently engaging with HR, hiring pros and decision-makers, and guiding them in how to enthusiastically and professionally respond during an interview rather than fearing the process. Her solid experience, coupled with expertise in the unspoken workings of the interview and hiring process, helps individuals prepare to present their achievements, skills, and expertise not only in a professional but compelling, way using stories of achievements which help the interviewee engage the interviewer or hiring a pro to effectively respond to questions to help raise their get-hired opportunities. Jean has been featured in Forbes;; BLR-Daily HR Advisor; ERE’s Daily HR Advisor; Next Ave. division of PBS; Medium; Entrepreneur HQ Magazine; Self Growth; beBee International, CBS, and NBC online and more. Her past has also included workshop trainings for HR, hosting hiring forums, speaking at job conferences for both job seekers and hiring pros, and more.

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  1. Thank you for this battle cry for people to do their homework. It shows in interviews if the candidate has taken the time to look at the company website – or not! And getting into the right environment for YOU is more important than almost anything else.

    I was at an interview early in my career and they asked about references so naturally I asked the same, who should I talk to who didn’t work at the company any longer to get some idea of whether I wanted to work for them. They mentioned a couple of names – I had already talked to both of them. Their verdicts was very similar: “This place is absolutely dysfunctional and you will learn a lot.” I did. But I entered it with my eyes open, and that makes a difference.

  2. Thank you for the read and your insightful reply, Farooq Omar. And, you are so right, at the end of the day we need to know we achieved something, and our confidence is still in tact; our desire to return to work strong. Plus our mental health is strong, as well. I’m hopeful now this situation has been exposed, companies will begin to take heed and begin determining a way to best deal with the toxic culture created over the years. If not, you can be assured top candidates will stay in job search mode until they find a company who actually meets their needs.

  3. Dear Jean, execcent post and well thought…..Sounds incredible, correct? Since toward the day’s end, we as a whole need to feel that our work matters and leave the workplace feeling satisfied, not pushed and depleted. It may not be feasible to track down the ideal association. You might need to think twice about certain regards, yet ideally, the lone concessions you need to make are moderately immaterial. Since it’s undeniably true’s that working in a poisonous climate won’t just negatively affect your wellbeing however can even harm your confidence and your drawn out profession potential.

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