If you’re early in your career and still learning what is and isn’t normal, it can be really hard to judge whether your employer is great, fine, or shockingly awful. New grads, for example, often put up with boundary violations, illegal practices, and terrible bosses because they don’t have enough of a frame of reference to realize what is and isn’t normal. And on the other end of the spectrum, they might end up thinking practice X is horrible and worth leaving over, without realizing that it’s normal and common.
Last week, a reader made this brilliant suggestion:
I wonder if we could have a post/discussion where we can get a “reality check” on whether things are awful or we’re just being picky. I’m also working at my first professional job after graduating from college and often wonder whether things really are dysfunctional/unhealthy here, or if I’m just being a sensitive snowflake and need to suck it up. I’d love to be able to ask people who have been working for longer “Is this normal?*”. I think a lot of us at our first job might not have a reference point to compare to.
* Note: Not so much wondering whether things are “legal”, especially since that’s something I can look up if I want to. I’m more curious as to whether certain things are normal and expected at most companies – if I were to switch jobs, should I expect to see something similar?
So, here it is: the reality check post. Here are the ground rules:
- If you’re wondering if something your employer or manager does is pretty normal and par for the course, describe it here.
- To make this as useful as possible to people, limit this to genuine requests for input — not stuff that you already know is horrible.
- If you feel you have a helpful perspective on someone else’s question, post your answer. (“All employers suck” is not a helpful answer. “That practice isn’t unheard of, but you’ll usually only encounter it at lower-tier firms” is helpful.)
- If you’re giving input on someone else’s situation, keep in mind that this post is to help people figure out if something is normal, not if it’s fantastic. The difference between “that sucks” and “that sucks but it’s pretty normal” matters here.