Stand Up Against Bullying: A blog to help stop workplace bullying
Organizations Targets

Recognizing Signs of Workplace Bullying During Interviews

a page from the dictionary with a green highlighter over the word recognize
Published: July 5, 2021; Edited and Republished on July 10, 2023

Throughout my career, I have encountered several workplaces characterized by a culture of persistent aggression. In hindsight, I realized that there were clear signs indicating such environments, but my desperation to escape my current abusive workplace often blinded me to these warning signals. It is crucial for individuals seeking to leave their jobs to remain hyper-vigilant and attentive to the signs exhibited during interviews, as they can provide valuable insights into the potential for workplace aggression.

Firstly, it's important to acknowledge that certain types of organizations are more prone to workplace bullying. For instance, higher education institutions often foster an environment of rigid competition with limited supervision, zero accountability, and lack of professional standards making them susceptible to such issues. Job seekers should exercise caution when exploring opportunities in these settings and be aware that workplace bullying is a high risk.

Moreover, paying attention to the people within an organization can offer valuable clues about its culture. Observing the interactions between individuals during an interview is particularly insightful. Take note of who is present and absent from the interview and assess whether the interactions appear genuine or distant. Do power dynamics influence how people treat each other? For instance, is the administrative assistant treated differently from others? Additionally, be mindful of any instances where workers engage in negative gossip or speak poorly about their colleagues. Such behaviors often indicate an environment conducive to workplace bullying or, at the very least, one that is at risk of it.

In my personal experience, problematic workplaces were often characterized by interviews where one or more employees engaged in gossip or spoke negatively about others. This observation should raise concerns regarding the likelihood of persistent aggression within that particular organization.

Another telltale sign of a problematic workplace that may become evident during an interview is the organization's adherence to the law and its own policies. Pay attention to whether they ask intrusive questions about your personal life or discuss other candidates inappropriately. Be wary of hearing statements like, "Although the policy states we should do A, let's do B instead." Such behavior indicates a culture that is willing to disregard policies, which can lead to further problems.

It is vital for targets of workplace bullying to seek employment in organizations where policies and procedures are taken seriously and, most importantly, followed. Proper implementation of policies and procedures serves as a safeguard against persistent workplace aggression, providing protection to employees.

Recognizing signs of bullying and toxicity during interviews is crucial for individuals seeking to avoid abusive work environments. By being attentive to organizational dynamics, observing interactions, and evaluating the adherence to policies, job seekers can make more informed decisions about potential workplaces, safeguarding their well-being and professional growth.

Call to Action:

If you are currently seeking new job opportunities or considering a career change, it is essential to prioritize your well-being and avoid falling into a cycle of workplace aggression.

Here are some actionable steps you can take:

  1. Research and due diligence: Before attending an interview, thoroughly research the organization and its culture. Look for reviews, testimonials, or employee experiences online to gain insights into their work environment.
  2. Observe during interviews: Pay close attention to the interactions and behaviors of employees during your interview. Notice any signs of negativity, gossip, or mistreatment. Trust your instincts and consider these red flags seriously.
  3. Ask the right questions: Take advantage of the interview process to ask relevant questions about the organization's policies on workplace aggression, employee well-being, and conflict resolution. Seek clarification on their commitment to creating a healthy work environment.
  4. Network and gather information: Utilize your professional network to gather information about potential employers. Reach out to contacts who work or have worked at the organization you're considering and ask about their experiences with workplace aggression or any other concerns you may have.
  5. Trust your judgment: If something feels off or raises concerns during the interview process, trust your instincts. It's better to decline an opportunity that shows signs of workplace aggression than to risk your mental and emotional well-being.

Remember, your work environment plays a significant role in your overall happiness and success. By being proactive and vigilant during the job search process, you can increase your chances of finding an organization that values a positive and supportive workplace culture.