I received an email warning me not to take the job I was just offered

A reader writes:

I’ve been reading your website for a few months now, and it’s been very helpful during my job search. Just yesterday I got an offer from a company — and a pretty nice one to boot!

Then I got this anonymous email from a person who, as far as I can tell, doesn’t and has never worked for the company:

“If you need the job, take it. If you are looking to advance your career, look at Glassdoor. Good luck and don’t waste your time. Glassdoor is the truth and everyone here has one foot out the door.”

I really don’t know what to make of this. There are some negative reviews of the CEO on Glassdoor, but when I interviewed I didn’t get the impression they were accurate and another employee said he read the same review and hasn’t found it to be the case.

I’m not sure what to make of this. Any advice would be appreciated!


I wouldn’t assume it’s someone who doesn’t work for the company — if a current employee sent a message like that, they’d probably use an anonymous email address (for obvious reasons). And since current employees are the most likely to know that you’ve received an offer, I think there’s a decent chance that it did come from one of them.

But this is tricky because it’s hard to know how seriously to take it. You can find disgruntled people even at healthy organizations — for example, someone who’s disgruntled because she’s rightly being performance-managed out, or someone who’s having a personality clash with a manager. So it’s possible that you could take the job and have a very different experience than this person has had.

One the other hand, this is the kind of warning that people in really dysfunctional companies fantasize about giving to job candidates, and you ignore it at your own peril.

So I think you’ve got to look really hard at what you do know. Are the negative reviews on Glassdoor just a few in a sea of more positive ones? (And if so, do the positive ones sound credible, or do they sound like they were manufactured to make the company look better?) If the preponderance of reviews there are negative, I’d weight that pretty heavily. And what, specifically, did you see/hear that made you discount those? Is there any chance you had rose-colored glasses on, or do you think you were pretty clear-eyed in your assessment? Did you see enough to be truly confident in that assessment, or do you feel like you’re you’re guessing?

One possibility is to be up-front with the person who would be your manager at the job and say something like, “I feel like I need to ask you about something. I received an anonymous email warning me about taking the job, saying that people are pretty unhappy there and that most people have one foot out the door. I don’t put a lot of stock in anonymous emails, but it was such an unusual thing to receive that I wanted to mention it to you and see if you have any insight.”

That person’s reaction might tell you a lot. If she takes it seriously and it feels like she’s approaching it in an honest way with you, that’s a good sign. If she brushes it off or seems more focused on being annoyed or outraged about the email itself than about talking to you about what might have prompted it, that would worry me.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 228 comments… read them below }

  1. StartupLifeLisa*

    “One the other hand, this is the kind of warning that people in really dysfunctional companies fantasize about giving to job candidates, and you ignore it at your own peril.”

    Yep. There was an era at my company where I considered this seriously (but never did it). The girl I wanted to warn due to who she’d be reporting to? She ended up with work-related anxiety requiring therapy and medication, and resigned as a result of the negative effects on her health.

    (The good news is, the evil manager is finally gone and the anxious direct report is coming back, having accepted an apology from exec-staff for her experiences here.)

    1. Collie*

      I tried to send brain waves (well, you know) to a candidate who ended up taking the job. She quit without notice via a scheduled email to be sent after she “left for the day” six months later.

      1. StartupLifeLisa*

        I completely relate to this feeling. Looking at them across the office all excited about their interview and trying to beam them a warning… :x

        1. INTP*

          I wanted to vomit a few times as a startup recruiter. I got accolades from my boss a few times for getting someone to relocate from another, lower cost-of-living area for the job and felt positively disgusted with myself knowing I had coaxed someone into making a life decision that might turn out to be disastrous for them.

          1. Taylor Swift*

            That’s true, but it also might have turned out really well for some of those folks and even if that job was crappy maybe they got other opportunities because of it! You never know!

          2. Moonsaults*

            When I relocated, I did so because I wanted to live in that other city and needed a job first to get a lease on an apartment.

            So even if I had ended up in a cruddy job that I’d need to replace quickly, I’d be where I wanted to be regardless.

            Also it’s easier to find work in this high cost of living location than my podunk town where I was comfortable professional wise but struggling personally.

            So please do not beat yourself up over these things because whereas you had inside knowledge that it was a lions den you were luring a possible lamb into, that lamb may have been a wolf inside that you never noticed.

        2. Adlib*

          Yep! The lady in the office next door was like that when she arrived, and I have since told her “I’m sorry. I guess I didn’t beam hard enough.” It’s been less than a year, and she’s already getting pretty disaffected.

      2. Bend & Snap*

        I’d love to see a thread on the best kiss-off “this is my last day” letters.

        My current company tends to have people with decent tenure who send really nice, classy notes no matter how they’re leaving and sometimes they post them on LinkedIn.

        My former company had a couple of doozies, including a VP who signed off with “Sayonara!” after a relatively rude note about his time working there.

        1. aj*

          That would be so fun. I have a sample letter from a colleague. I didn’t even work there anymore and someone forwarded it to me because it was so jaw dropping.

          1. Artemesia*

            We had a difficult character working for us who quite in a blaze of creative writing; I had moved on but my old boss send me the letter it was so amazing.

        2. Lynxa*

          We had a secretary who quit via post-it note on her chair. We found it in the morning when she was late.
          I envied her SO HARD.

          1. Fact & Fiction*

            I had a babsitter! who said she needed time off for a family issue – I can’t remember what now. It was supposed to be temporary but she kept extending it. We had a backup sitter we took my son to and after a couple days we got his bag of diapers from the regular sitter to take to backup sitter. More time goes by and regular sitter is acting shifty but keep in mind she never hints she’s quitting. Finally a few more days goes by and backup sitter had the fun task of advising husband and me she found a note! in the bag of diapers! saying the regular sitter quit. Now regular sitter could have told us any time over the phone to check the bag, which would have been unprofessional enough of a way to quit rather than talking about it, but nope. She just kept acting like she just needed a little more time until the other sitter found the note. It was the most bizarre situation and made me so livid at the way she acted. Ugh.

            1. Ruffingit*

              I would have a hard time not calling her up and saying “Hey, this wasn’t necessary. You could have just told us.” Because she was watching your child, I’m thinking you have enough rapport to have done that. But I also get just letting it go too because…WEIRD.

          2. Rainy, PI*

            Many years ago I was pretty much the entire front office (admin, scheduling, bookkeeping, etc) for a small business that was full of assholes. The teapot painters were terrible assholes. The teapot delivery person was an asshole who liked to deliver teapots while high on meth. The site manager, a close family member of the owner, was an asshole. They were all assholes. I lasted 3 1/2 years until I developed so many facial tics I couldn’t apply foundation without getting it in my hair, and left to finish my degree. When I gave (four months’!) notice, my boss insulted my work ethic and professional skills and then segued smoothly into demanding that I advertise for, screen, and interview applicants, check references, choose a final candidate, hire them, and then train them.

            My first choice was a no-show the first day of work (that’s another story), so I hired my second choice. I spent 3 weeks training her and 1 week observing to make sure she was capable of running Teapots Painted By Assholes, and left and spent the 3 weeks before classes started doing nothing but sleeping and staring at the wall, which banished my facial tics at last.

            She didn’t last six weeks. One Tuesday she put the phones on hold, wrote “I QUIT” on a sticky note, put it in the middle of the admin desk, and drove away. Her absence wasn’t discovered for three hours.

            1. Ruffingit*

              So…they were assholes? LOL! Seriously, this letter is awesome. I love your writing style. I’ve been in jobs where facial tics developed and conscious Tourettes, if you will, where I would whisper profanities under my breath. So I get it. And this is the sort of job where I can’t blame someone for quitting this way.

              1. Rainy, PI*

                Thanks! If nothing else, I got a lot of amazing stories out of that job, and it did convince me to go back to school and finish my degree!

                I didn’t blame her either, really. I’m mostly just amazed I lasted as long as I did. Before me they’d never had someone in my role stay for more than a year.

            2. peabody*

              Than you for this! I know I’m not alone. I only lasted 2 1/2 months at a teapot company with assholes. One a teapot painter, manager, and meth dealer. A never had facial tics until working there and it took several months for the stress to float away. In class, a week before finals, I felt the stress leave my body. My professor thought I was autistic.

          3. Anoni-me*

            I was the first one in my office to discover, once (I worked in a political office), that a coworker resigned, because I checked the news and saw the article about their press conference…

        3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          On my last day on the job at Toxic, Inc., a co-worker ran out in the hall and yelled that I was going to be out of the industry in three years and “you’ll be sorry!”

          With my box of personal items in my left arm – I gave him the ZZ Top “wave” just as I went out the door.
          Never looked back. Happiest moment in my 44 year career. View the video “She’s Got Legs” – well I felt like the couple riding off to glory in the ’32 Ford.

          I have said this before in other threads – 12 years later I ran into them a college football game. Some of them were pathetic – they tried to rankle me. I had to drag my wife off as she laughed at them….. I felt sorry for them.

        4. A*

          Oh, boy. Years ago I witnessed a truly awesome kiss-off letter sent by the senior tech writer to his department head. It was several pages long and enumerated, in detail, all of the ways that Department Head was incompetent and holding everyone back from doing their best work. The tech writer BCC’d every single underling in the office…and no one said anything. You could tell who had read it, because everyone was clamping their jaws shut and shooting “OMG DID YOU SEE THIS” looks at each other…but no one let slip to the Department Head. Far as I know, he still doesn’t know.

        5. Adlib*

          I just remembered! A coworker had a specific Word file on his desktop titled with the names of his managers on it saved for after his eventual quitting/firing (he was planning to leave before they fired him). I didn’t get to see what was in it, but after he was let go, they got access to his files, and I’m guessing they read it. I think it laid out exactly how he felt about them. (I’m so fortunate not to have ended up with those managers after some leadership changes.) He now is able to run his business full time and loves it!

        6. Nervous Accountant*

          oh my gosshshhhhhh we had someone like that at our company–she emailed the company’s clients telling them that she was fired and all the details about how badly the company was operating. It was like one of those fantasy letters that you wish you could send but also know it’s a bridge burning letter.

        7. RKB*

          I work at a gym. Had a coworker tell a patron he didn’t get along with to “f_ off.”

          Then when the patron said excuse me? He repeated it.

          Then he went on his lunch and never returned.

          What a day.

        8. Gadfly*

          I worked at one place where I literally kept a list of all the things I would do on my last day if I never needed a reference…

          Ironically, because I never really had a manager for more than a few weeks at a time, and they have since closed my department, and I didn’t stay in touch with any co-workers, I don’t think I could get a reference if I wanted one. Kind of makes me regret I didn’t just go for it.

          1. Bellatrix*

            It was still worth it :) You never know when you’ll run into those co-workers in another workplace or on different sides in a business relationship. You only get one reputation!

            Fantasies should stay just that, fantasies.

        9. Lemon Zinger*

          A manager at my first job planned her last day well in advance (and we couldn’t wait for her to be gone). When she left the office, she wrote “SAYONARA, B*****S!” on the whiteboard.


        10. dawbs*

          I worked at a tech-y company (as a CSR) and when they fired one of my supervisors (debatable whether it as appropriate or not. Honestly, she shouldn’t have been moved up to super, and didn’t hack it there, so they fired her without much warning–but they were really dysfunctional) they sent her to clean out her desk…and didn’t disable her password first. Because they were idiots.

          And so somewhere, in a saved file (which I fwded to my personal email, before they tried to get rid of all copies) I have the email that ends with something like “I wish my employer had told me the were dissatisfied with my service before so I could remedy this, but at this moment I just want to wish everyone left behind here luck while the bankruptcy moves forward”

          1. seewhatimean*

            Ha! Just reminded me of being in a similar situation where I was hired to replace the outgoing manager of a service company who it turned out was passively refusing to retire/leave. Her method of choice was to simply refuse to train any new hire for her role. I was about the third attempt in two years. I spoke to the board of directors when it because obvious this was happening, and that she was setting me up for a poor probationary report while I checked in every single morning and afternoon to ask for tasks and be turned away to stuff envelopes (!).

            When she insisted I be fired, I had been in the process of the one thing I had been “allowed” to take on – upgrading the computers in the office, working with a tech company. They had a quote from a company that seemed to be charging a horrible amount for very low grade equipment, so I put out some calls, and saved them approximately $30K while upgrading substantially. I had been told firmly that I needed to ensure the system was foolproof, so the tech company set it up with an admin password, and then logins that would allow limited access as required, so that no one without clearance (based on ability) could crash the whole thing. Made sense to me, was approved by staff and manager.

            Because it was still in progress when I was let go, the only people who had password access to the full meal deal were myself and the tech company. Instead of firing me, the board compromised and retroactively changed my position to be a contract for the computer upgrade, which saved me my ability to file for unemployment insurance, and made it very clear to me that they knew what was going on with the manager. She sat with me while I cleared my desk and emails, as if she knew what I was doing and could monitor, and it was very very tempting to do a system reformat while she watched.

            I didn’t, but my call from the lobby was to the tech company, to tell them I had been let go, and that I had not shared the admin password, so they had at least one more chargeable visit left to them, which was all I could do. One of the issues that drove me to speak to the board was that, shortly after the system was installed, the staff and manager had started to rumour-mill that I had locked them out of the system and was in cahoots with the tech company (for what gain I will never know, as they had previously had dumb terminals without even word processing ability, and had full functionality…plus they had REQUESTED the admin/staff password set up very repeatedly and clearly, which they just didn’t understand. Not to mention that with the savings I got for them on the project, hiring me was a net profit.)

            There was no one there to send “so long and thanks for all the fish” emails to, but I did hear about two years later that they had finally forced the manager to “work from home” and reshuffled the office to promote from within. Given that there were three other staff, all of whom were absolutely tech-illiterate, and with no accounting ability at all, nor management skills, nor much integrity, I’m always startled to discover they are still operating.

      3. Venus Supreme*

        Yup. While I was at ToxicJob, I had coffee with my predecessor and we both had the same issues working there. She said she tried to warn me beforehand but she was being watched like a hawk by BadBoss. I left the organization before they filled my position and I was tempted to leave a note folded up in the desk with “GET OUT” written in red ink. No worries, the person after me didn’t stay long either.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Funny you should say that. My bf once took a job (for one week only before running back to his old job) where he found a note in the drawer that said something like “Leave. They can’t make payroll most of the time.” (He’s still trying to get what he’s owed from that week) He of course confirmed with several other coworkers before exiting.

      4. Cucumberzucchini*

        At one interview I had, I got the strong feeling that one of the staff members was sending me brain wave warnings to not take the job. I had gotten a whiff of dysfunction during the interview but when they offered me the job, I was financially in a desperate situation so I took it. The job was way worse than I ever could have imagined. I did ask the staff member if they had been trying to send me a telepathic warning and indeed, that had been the intention.

    2. LKW*

      Many years ago I was job hunting, had an interview and then in a quiet moment the two women interviewing me said “You don’t want this job. You’re too smart and you have too much going for you. You will hate it here. If they offer you the job, don’t take it.” they explained a few other things and I thanked them very much and told the recruiter it wasn’t a good fit but didn’t tell her why.

      I sadly ended up in a really toxic job a few months later. I thought as I had worked with the owner in a different capacity that I knew what I was in for. On the third day one of the accountants pulled me over, told me all the things I wish I had known before I accepted the position. I started a new job search shortly thereafter and was out of there in 3 months.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I had a recruiter go over a job with me that sounded pretty good, but it turned out that someone wrote the job description while the hiring manager was on vacation and it was all wrong. Not even the correct job! The manager called me and told me this and said basically the same thing–that she didn’t think I would be happy in this job. When they reposted it, I saw that I was WAY overqualified. It was a backup to all the other admins (like a junior admin position), without one bit of the document work the first listing had mentioned (which was the reason the recruiter called me in the first place).

        It kind of bummed me out because I would have been a good fit for the mythical job!

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I really wanted to do this at my last job. A woman who had been interviewing accepted her offer on what turned out to be my last day (I basically quit without notice, long story). I had tried so hard during my conversations with her to tell her to run like hell, but I was never one-on-one with her. I’ve heard that she’s having a very hard time adjusting and ran into some of the same issues I did after less than two months on the job. It’s hard to hear about since I liked her a lot when I met her. I do think, though, that she must have been pretty surprised when she showed up on her first day and I wasn’t there.

      1. Ruffingit*

        I once interviewed for a job where I talked to some of the staff during the interview. I should have known by their demeanor what I was in for. There were about 10 staff members including three owners of the company. I interviewed Friday and was offered the job. On Monday when I showed up for day 1, 6 of the staff members were gone. The only people left were the three owners and one guy who’d been working for them forever. I quit that job with no notice about two months later.

    4. copy run start*

      I pulled a co-worker trying to transfer into my exjob’s office into a conference room and basically told them they didn’t want to work there and how awful it was, and some of the awful things that had been said about that person by management. Not sure if they took me seriously, but I am glad I didn’t keep my mouth shut. I believe they eventually landed elsewhere, though I don’t know if they turned down an offer or didn’t get the offer.

      I desperately wanted to warn external candidates by the time I left, but the opportunity never arrived.

    5. Red Reader*

      I did that with a house I was renting once. They brought a couple through to look at the house for after our lease was up, and they started to fill out the paperwork and then left with the guy. Twenty minutes later they came back alone, “I think I left my gloves on the counter?” And then I showed them / told them about all the things the owner’s agent had been neglecting to fix for the last six months, including multiple leaks in the ceiling and the fact that half the house was sinking so that there wasn’t a level door in the place, the front door had to be readjusted to make the latch line up so it would close about every two weeks, and the walls didn’t touch the floors.

      Weirdly, they weren’t able to rent the place out before we left.

    6. Green Goose*

      I’ve been on both ends of a work-place warning. Years ago when I accepted my first full-time job out of undergrad I had to relocate for my position. I emailed two people out of a list of ten who were listed on the team I was offered a position on, I think I randomly picked them because their bios were similar to mine. One person never even responded, and the second guy didn’t respond to me for over a week and I remember it was the day after I sent my signed contract to the company… the guy wrote a very, very long email that was more of a rant about how horrible the company was. It was very dramatic and there was TMI personal information grievances in it. It freaked me out but in the end, since the email was not written in a level headed way I decided to not take it as seriously. When I got to the new office, it turned out that the two people I had randomly selected were the office jerks who hated everything (not just the job) and the guy that responded had put in his notice and was leaving within a month, which he didn’t mention in the email.
      The other time was when I was leaving a position at a company that had treated the employees quite badly. The entire direct services staff had chosen to not renew our contracts so we were all leaving. The higher ups would only let the leaving employees speak to prospective employees with our employers in the same room hovering over the phone. Very uncomfortable. I couldn’t be as candid as I wanted but I tried to use a tone that implied it wasn’t a good place to work and I think it worked.

    7. Wendy Darling*

      Occasionally I try to find my replacement at AwfulJob on LinkedIn and fantasize about telling them that they’re not crazy, they’re just the fifth analyst at the company in the last 12 months and there’s a really good reason for that.

      I was the only person in my job to last longer than a month, so I hope my successor had better sense than I did and got out fast.

      1. chicken_flavored_deodorant*

        Wow, I thought I had it bad as the fourth analyst in 3 years. What in the world were they doing that created such high turnover?

  2. Searcher*

    Oooh…this makes me nervous. I definitely think Alison’s advice to double check those reviews (especially for their veracity!) is worth it.

    1. Sherm*

      Yes, and I would replay in my head all the things I saw and heard at my interview. Were people bickering in the hallway? Did they keep you waiting an hour for your interview without apology? Anything that made your gut tremble? It’s easy to explain away situations (“Maybe they were having a bad day.” “People get busy!”) but as is often said here, an interview is where they’re at their *best* behavior.

      1. LoiraSafada*

        Exactly this. Having experienced this before, it would really unsettle me to receive a warning about working somewhere. I was hired for a job by the person whose job I was actually filling – no indication that this was the case during the process at any point. Not even an inkling, since he’d told no one else his plans. I turn up on my first day and ask “oh, where’s so and so?” Turns out he quit immediately after I accepted the position with zero notice. The work environment turned out to be incredibly toxic, and I’m upset this flaming, football-field sized red flag wasn’t apparent to me until after I’d taken the job.

    2. Grumpy*

      Once when I worked at a Terrible Place someone actually phoned to speak to me, introduced himself as someone who had just received an offer and asked me if the promises Manager had made were true and if the job was worth taking (nope, not even close).
      Not sure if this would be possible for the OP.

    3. Art3mis*

      Agreed – and when you check the reviews, here are some more things to keep in mind, from someone whose toxic ExJob had a four-star ranking:
      – Are the positive/negative reviews all from a certain department or role? Maybe all the executives popped in to leave good reviews, or the company as a whole is fine but there’s an issue with one particular team. (ExJob had two classifications of employees, and Type X was shielded from almost all the dysfunction absorbed by Type Y. The CEO would go to Type X meetings and make a game out of everyone leaving positive reviews to make up for the one-star reviews left by Type Y.)

      – How detailed do the negative reviews get? If it’s just “this place is awful, they don’t respect their employees,” that could be garden-variety disgruntlement. If they tell detailed and specific stories of awfulness, then beware.

      – Note the timing of reviews – several negatives in a short time period indicates a blowup, mass layoffs, a management shakeup for the worse, or something else unpleasant. Four negative reviews spread over 5 years don’t mean as much as 4 negative reviews in a month.

      Good luck, OP!

      1. WerkingIt*

        I don’t know… I’ve left generic “taking this job was the biggest mistake of my life the end” reviews before. I worked in organizations or rolls where it would have been very easy to identify me especially had I left the specific details.

      2. m00nstar*

        Good point!

        ” Are the positive/negative reviews all from a certain department or role? Maybe all the executives popped in to leave good reviews, or the company as a whole is fine but there’s an issue with one particular team.”

        My current job has pretty bad ratings, but honestly, my team is pretty great, and has been good for my career and great for my personal life. The bad ratings are mostly for another (much bigger, very different) department, and it makes hiring for my good team much harder. There are definitely some dysfunctions in the company at large, but I am pretty shielded from it.

        I wouldn’t have taken the job if I wasn’t unemployed when I was offered it, so it’s good that it all worked out in the end :)

  3. TeflonMom*

    Although I agree with Alison’s thoughts that this is the type of warning that most employee’s wish they could give, I’d also think really (really) hard about the type of person who goes from wishing they could warn to actually sending an email to a stranger from an anonymous email account. The action that the employee took by warning a stranger are incredibly aggressive and out of professional norms. I think it’s worth considering that in the equation.

    1. Kyrielle*


      …as is the fact that (1) this person knows you got the offer and (2) you might have to work with them or have them in your management chain.

    2. Roscoe*

      I don’t think its that much of a stretch. IF you really are just on your way out and wanting to warn someone to not get into the mess, I don’t think that makes you a bad person anymore than leaving a scathing glass door review

      1. TeflonMom*

        I think sending an anonymous email to a stranger is a LOT different than leaving a bad glassdoor review. To me, glassdoor is a totally appropriate way to anonymously out your company culture. That’s what it’s there for. If I got that email I’d think to myself – does this person not know how to post a review to glassdoor?

        1. Jesmlet*

          I think I’d assume that this was someone I’d met while interviewing and they liked me enough to reach out and warn me. Of course that opinion would change if the email was riddled with typos or grammatical errors and then I’d probably assume what you did.

        2. Daisy*

          But OP had already seen and dismissed the negative Glassdoor reviews, but is thinking again based on the emails. That seems to suggest the email is more effective.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        I’m torn. Half if me agrees with you, but half of me wonders if this is someone that was hoping to get their friend hired and upping the chances if Op doesn’t accept.

        1. OhNo*

          That was my first thought, too. It could be a legitimate warning… or it could be a crock of you-know-what sent by someone who had their eye on the job.

          I think the only way to know which is true is to run it by the manager. If it’s the latter, chances are they know who sent it.

          1. LC*

            I definitely would not report it to the manager! If it is a dysfunctional work environment, this might result in a witch hunt for the culprit.

            That said, I think the instinct to go back to the company is a good one. Perhaps the OP can speak to a few people at the company on the team she’d be on.

    3. INTP*

      On the other hand, it just be someone whose moral compass is stronger than their desire to adhere to professional norms. I worked as a recruiter for a company with a lot of toxic and chaotic qualities and I felt really gross about doing my job, which was to recruit the people that my bosses and colleagues wanted to work for them, whether I felt that would be in the person’s best interest or not. I often felt like if I was a better person I would have warned them somehow. I played company cheerleader because that was my job and it was in my own best interest to do it, not because of any qualities I have that would make me a more reliable person to listen to than someone that would do this.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Also, when you’re in a toxic environment, your judgment can get wacky after a while.

    4. Fiennes*

      See, my first takeaway from the anonymous note via another email address is that this is coming from a super-toxic office culture where blame and fear play huge roles. In that scenario, being both direct and anonymous makes a lot of sense.

      My strong feeling is that the warning is sincere, but LW has no way to evaluate the credibility and mindset of the sender. That person could be unjustly disgruntled, or they could be trying to shove her into the last lifeboat off the Titanic. I agree with Alison’s advice to assume nothing. It definitely look closer.

      1. LoiraSafada*

        I agree with your first paragraph because I’ve worked somewhere like that. I think it holds true particularly if the company is on the smaller side where it might be easy for someone to “sniff out” who left a bad review on Glassdoor or through accepted method of providing feedback. Worth a deeper look, but would come across as a red flag to me either way.

      2. AdAgencyChick*

        +1. I’ve been in a situation where I was one of the secondary interviewers for a candidate and I was explicitly told to “sell” this person. If I had said anything negative to the candidate that could be attributed to me, I would have gotten into serious trouble.

    5. Venus Supreme*

      I think confronting the manager about this is a good move. OP will get a lot of information/context based on the manager’s reaction.

      I’m also curious to know how the warning-sender got OP’s e-mail address? I don’t know how that company works but in my experience only the people directly involved in the interviewing and negotiating have access to the candidates’ e-mails.

      1. KarenD*

        It’s not hard at all to find email addresses for most people (if I’m trying to find someone, I will often try their first initial/last name and firstname.lastname on gmail and this hits about half the time) and a job seeker in particular is likely to have their email out there.

        1. SophieChotek*

          true….although it suggests they (the anonymous emailer) has to know the person interviewed with the company. (Unless OP has been posting all over social media, etc, “I have an interview with (Possibly? Toxic) Job Inc.”

        2. Lablizard*

          But why would someone who is not on the hiring team have candidate’s first name and last name? It hasn’t been announced to the company because they haven’t accepted

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Yeah, this is what’s making me think the email is from someone the OP met during her interview(s).

      2. Jeanne*

        In my experience, quite a few people get to see resumes of those who are being interviewed. Then those resumes are often left on top of desks or whatever. It’s easy to get the email address off the resume. And easy for many people to know there’s an offer. “We’re really busy but at least they finally made an offer to Jane. She was pretty good in the interview.”

        1. Lablizard*

          In my experience, your experience would be a firing offense. The information on resumes is personal and should be protected. Would you want you information hanging about for all and sundry to see and use?

          1. Workaholic*

            I used to work in a small administrative office. Applications and resumes would be faxed in or dropped off at local stores and arrive loose along with the daily paperwork which any number of us would sort. Then they’d go into the owners in-tray until he got around to looking at them. Any or all of 10 -12 people might have seen them.

            1. CodingFool*

              “Firing offense” means nothing if it’s not provable, especially if management likes the person committing the offense.

          2. CodingFool*

            “Firing offense” means nothing if it’s not provable, especially if management likes the person committing the offense.

    6. Mike C.*

      So what does a non-aggressive and inside of professional norms warning look like instead?

      1. Alice*

        I don’t think there is a way to both offer a warning in a professionally-normal way AND protect yourself against potential fallout. Giving your name and how you’re connected to the company, emailing about work from your work email, and/or bringing this up sometime during the interview process (rather than an out-of-the-blue message) would probably make it more ‘normal’ seeming, and would certainly make it a lot more credible. But those same things would also open you up to possibly serious repercussions if the person you’re warning happened to mention the interaction to someone at your workplace, or if the warning or conversation were overheard.

        1. SophieChotek*

          Or the potential hire goes to another person in the company and says, “Jane said that there issues A, B, and C…is it true?”…

      2. OhNo*

        Depends on what kind of contact you have with the potential hire. I think there are ways to drop hints during the interview process or even outright talk with the person to give them a warning.

        But if you don’t have direct contact with them, I don’t think there are any good ways to do it. Or at least none that would preserve your privacy.

        1. Jeanne*

          When my job had some big negatives, I would try to hint, even in group interviews. I used to say things like “During busy times, X and Y will often happen. Are you able to handle those stresses?” Something like that. I never sent anonymous emails.

        2. Mike C.*

          This was reccamended to an interviewer several months ago, but the candidate didn’t understand that “email me if you have any other questions” was a shibboleth for “this place is a madhouse”.

      3. TeflonMom*

        It looks like a review on a trusted site, or like using an already-established network to gently pass the word that the company culture is a little off – this would really only make sense if there’s only 1 or 2 degrees of separation between the current employee and the applicant. If there is no way to get that across discreetly and professionally, it looks like keeping your mouth shut and your fingers still.

        1. Mike C.*

          I’m not going to lie, I have some serious issues with that. As I mentioned above, not everyone knows the secret codes and just letting someone walk into a situation they clearly know nothing about feels incredibly unethical.

          I think there are ways to say something and be specific without sounding like a crazy person or being “unprofessional”.

          1. Horological*

            There absolutely is, in a company that follows professional norms and is non/low toxicity. However, in a highly dysfunctional department – the sort that someone might want to point-blank stay away from, rather than just being aware of issues before accepting – there’s every chance that those options aren’t available. There’s quite a few stories in the thread from people who say they would have been in serious trouble for saying anything negative about the position/their company.

          2. anonymous for this*

            bear in mind that currently, what is “professional” is more-or-less defined by employers- or at least, heavily favours them. (this ties into the reason I think the labour market in the US is fundamentally dysfunctional- due to at-will employment, its’ easy to lose a job, but harder to find a new one (I’m not saying it should be impossible to fire someone, but there need to be two main changes: 1. A reason must be provided for dismissal. If you can disprove the reason, you are entitled to back pay since the firing and, if you want, the job back. 2. for anything except gross misconduct, you are entitled to notice of dismissal. The idea is to force employers to prove someone actually is incompetent before firing, and give them a chance to improve. Either that, or it needs too be easier to get hired. if it’s easy to lose a job, it needs to be easy to get a new one.)

      4. NaoNao*

        Probably something more like:

        Hi, I’ve been an employee of Teapot Nightmare for 3 years. Here’s a list of the scary things I’ve seen.
        Scary thing in neutral, facts-only language
        Scary thing II in neutral, facts-only language
        …repeat for as many as it takes
        I’m telling you this because I wish someone had told me this before I accepted the job.
        Best of luck either way…

    7. CodingFool*

      Agreed, TeflonMom. Sending an anonymous email from an anonymous account to give unsolicited advice is so far outside the boundaries of appropriateness that I have a hard time believing that there’s no hidden agenda here. At the very least, it shows a lack of professionalism and common sense.

  4. Jerry Vandesic*

    OP: are you able to respond to the email sender? Maybe ask for more details? If you are able to get more information, you might be able to better judge its accuracy.

    1. Kelly White*

      This is what I was thinking- could you respond and get some more specifics? Not with the intent of trying to narrow down who sent it, but more reasons/info than just “don’t take this job!”

    2. Surrogate Tongue Pop*

      This is what I’m thinking…the OP doesn’t say explicitly that this email is anon. So, reply and see what happens whilst following Alison’s advice. Perhaps this person is trying to warn you off for super legit reasons. Perhaps they have a personal vendetta of sorts. Perhaps they work in a really sucky area of the company but all other areas are OK or really good. Maybe it’s all truly dysfunctional. Maybe it’s not. No one knows. Find out through the means available and approach the interviewer(s)/internal talent recruiter person/potential new manager). Good luck OP!

      1. KarenD*

        YES THIS! Even if the email is a pseudonym, it’s still a working email. If I were to use a throwaway account to email someone, I’d probably check back at least a bit to see if the person responded.

        I get anonymous emails at work from time to time and I’ve had good response just asking them: Please help me out here. I know you had a good reason to email me but I need more to go on. Can you help me verify this? Surprisingly, I will often hear back from the “anon” saying “I’ll tell you who I really am if you promise not to rat me out.”

        It’s definitely worth a shot.

    3. Jady*

      Ditto, this was my first thought. Re: “What is it about the company that is problematic? Can you give some detailed examples?”

      A) No response, which means it was a rage email and has little value.
      B) Another rage response that is vague, which means it has little value.
      C) A well detailed explanation of pros and cons. Which would be important to consider.

      While I understand the fantasy email idea, someone who wants to warn a candidate away from a job would provide better substance than ‘it sucks’.

  5. Emi.*

    Ai ya. If you bring it up and it is real, do you think there’s a significant chance that the hiring manager would guess who sent it and punish them?

    1. animaniactoo*

      This would be my concern. It’s likely there’s a pretty slim number of people who know OP is the candidate and have her e-mail.

      That and the hiring manager might look shocked and/or “take it seriously” BUT have already gone through this exercise and be ready to reassure.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      That’s my concern – that they will assume they know who it is even if they are incorrect. We had a huge scandal at my office because of a boss assuming he knew who sent an email to his wife warning her that he was fooling around with a coworker. He made that guy’s life hell only to find out later it was someone who had quit a few months before.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          No, he got promoted because the person who was sleeping with was very powerful! But his wife was pregnant with their first baby at the time and she dumped his ass.

    3. Koko*

      I thought the same – if it’s just an offer that hasn’t been extended, you could probably count the people who know about it on one hand. Not that OP owes the anonymous emailer anything, but she might want to bring up the Glassdoor reviews instead of mentioning the email, to get at the same thing.

  6. BBBizAnalyst*

    I’d want more details in conjunction with the Glassdoor reviews. It’s worth a second look. I know the employee sounds disgruntled but the worst thing OP could do is accept the job and the email turns out to be truthful.

    In my experience, Glassdoor has been pretty accurate in assessing company culture if there are enough reviews.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      I’d say this is true-ish.

      But like with any reviews (be it of a product on Amazon or a restaurant on Yelp) you really have to read the reviews carefully for content and context. So many times I see something with 3 stars, and the bad reviews all mention , for instance, that something isn’t waterproof- that isn’t supposed to be waterproof.

      The same goes for Glassdoor. One person’s “The manager is so inflexible” is another person’s “The manager enforces proper professional boundaries” So it may be that the anonymous letter writer is a poor fit for the corporate culture, where the OP is a perfect fit.

      1. Kyrielle*

        This. I read the positive and negative reviews on Glassdoor for my current employer before I accepted – the negative reviews actually increased my desire to work here. They and the positive reviews agreed on a few traits – things that some people would like and others would not, and whether it was a positive/negative review just depended on what the person reviewing it was looking for. I’m very happy here – as I expected to be, because what I wanted aligned with the positive reviews.

        If the position isn’t base entry-level, it could also be someone who applied and interviewed for it internally, and thinks they might still have a chance if the new hire turns it down.

        Is that likely? No, but this is *so far* from professional norms that I’d say it’s not as unlikely as I’d normally think either.

        1. Parenthetically*

          I’m the same — negative reviews often increase my desire to buy/watch/eat at/go to the thing, if the person writing the review clearly doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

          That said… My spidey senses are tingling a little on this one, though. It doesn’t seem quite specific enough to be a vendetta (like restaurant reviews obviously from disgruntled former employees that say, “I ate there five times and got horrible food poisoning every time and when I told the manager he laughed in my face like the ugly, fascist tyrant that he is.”), so it may be worth a second thought.

      2. seejay*

        Yeah I’ve read the Glassdoor reviews of my company and trust me, I don’t have rose-coloured glasses on… but the scathing remarks are really off for some of them. Sure I can see where some of them come from, we had some really bad management issues in the past, but they were also resolved over time. Some other complaints about specific managers, I could see why some people might have issues with them, but having worked with those particular managers, I can see that the issue is less “that manager is bad” and more “you don’t really get how to work in this environment”.

        Reading through other companies, I’ve definitely seen some red flags that have made me not want to go near them, but it’s like Yelp, IMO. You’re not going to get the most perfect 100% place to work, there’s going to be issues, and in the end, how do places deal with it and how much are you able to handle it. I enjoy the work I do, I like my manager’s style and the way most conflicts and problems are handled (I’ve only ever had one serious issue that wasn’t handled well at all and it eventually worked itself out by leaving, but in the meantime I just avoided it as best I could since it wasn’t totally intolerable). Could it be better? Of course, anything can be… but it’ll do for now until better comes along.

    2. Mike C.*

      I’ve found that Glassdoor doesn’t like reviews that are “too negative”, even if they’re truthful. Most toxic workplaces are so outside the norm that they seem like complete fantasies to those who have never experienced one.

      1. TrainerGirl*

        That’s surprising to hear. There’s a company whose reviews my teammates take great joy in reading, because we have a few employees that used to work there and can vouch that that stuff is absolutely true. And the employees are so creative in their evisceration of the CEO and other executives.

    3. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

      I am super jaded about Glassdoor, because ToxicJob used to post Glowing! Reviews! on Glassdoor a few days before they’d do layoffs, just to counteract any negative reviews disgruntled employees might post. AND they’d comb thru their negative reviews to try to figure out what employees posted them. It was so bad that I waited over a year after I left to post my negative review, so that they wouldn’t be able to identify me. (I did have to laugh when a super positive review appeared a few days after mine posted…)

    4. KarenD*

      In my experience, Glassdoor has been pretty accurate in assessing company culture if there are enough reviews.

      Not so much in mine. Almost all of the reviews on my company reflect the previous management, who was night and day different to the current corporate ownership and local management. The weird thing is that some of those reviews, which describe particular executives and outdated policies in recognizable detail, are dated pretty recently (years after those details were made obsolete.) I was pretty puzzled by that.

      1. Spreadsheets and Books*

        Some people may be reviewing an old employer just to join Glassdoor. I don’t know if they still do this, but when I signed up, I was required to leave a review to gain full access to the site.

  7. Jen*

    Jobs are really so subjective. I can think of so many situations where I could have warned somebody like that and they might have really enjoyed the job.

    For example, one of my earlier jobs was a start-up. The staff that worked from the beginning was hired by one woman. She left. A guy took over. He was really abusive to any of the start-up crew. It wasn’t just our imagination. He was downright mean to the start-up staff and awesome to the newcomers. So I could have warned a new person that this guy was egomaniacal, short-tempered and abusive but they would have started and thought “That guy? The one who invites me to pool parties at his house? Nah!”

    Then later on, I accepted a job at a rather conservative financial firm. The girl who recommended me worked there for a decade. She LOVED it and encouraged me to accept the job. I started and hated it. My direct supervisor (who was different from my friend’s) was condescending and micro-managing. The office environment was too conservative for me to feel comfortable in. Her good times were not indicative of mine.

    However, a third time, I accepted a job and a current co-worker knew my soon-to-be boss. She simply said “Oh you’re working for her? Good luck with that. She’s mean and she lies.” and sure enough, she was mean and she did lie. However, I also got a management title and a lot of great experience so overall it was a good move.

    You just never know. Weigh the pros and cons. Someone else’s bad experience does not mean that it will be a universal bad experience.

    1. SophieChotek*

      Me three. (Though honestly, I usually would love updates on about 50%+ of the letter here.

  8. Alton*

    I don’t see how it could be a random person who doesn’t have ties to the company or the OP. The email would have to be from someone who knows that the OP is a contender for the job, right? So that probably means either a current employee at that company who’s aware of the search or someone who knows the OP. That doesn’t mean the warning is legit, but I just don’t think it can be dismissed as a random disgruntled internet person.

    How specific and damning are the negative reviews? What are the proportion of negative reviews to positive ones? Are there common themes?

    Alternatively, if the claim really doesn’t seem credible, is there anyone who might benefit from dissuading the OP?

    I would proceed carefully.

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      That was my thought — I wondered if it came from someone who applied internally for the job, and then was miffed that they were passed over.

      1. Willis*

        Just about to make that comment. I agree with Alison about mentioning it to the hiring manager. Depending on the response I might follow up with a question about average employee tenure or how long the last person was in this position/why they’re leaving. How she answers all of that will hopefully give you more insight. How weird!

    2. Hermione*

      My thought as well – typically, job offers aren’t flouted publicly, the anonymous emailer would either need to be psychic or have been told by either LW or the offering company. Unless the LW has posted about being offered the job online somewhere, I’d assume that this is someone from the company giving a warning, whether justified or not.

      I would also proceed carefully.

      1. Lablizard*

        I have money on it being someone involved in the hiring process. Who else would have candidate emails? Or this is a company that isn’t so great at protecting personal data allowing any random to get the private email of someone offered the job.

    3. Mike C.*

      The thing that dissuades me from this view is the fact that the email opens along the lines of “if you really need this job, take it”. If this was a case of trying to scare away someone directly competing for a position, I can’t see them making a statement like this.

  9. Roscoe*

    I’d definitely take that warning to heart. Now it really depends on your current situation, but if I got that, I wouldn’t ignore it.

    Here is why, your interaction with the CEO may have been great. Meeting someone once and working with them are very different. Similarly, you asked someone about this in an interview. How honest do you really think they were? I mean if they were in management, they probably are going to slant it in the companies favor. If you asked a non-manager this in front of the manager, they may not have been 100% honest either.

    My company is one that definitely encourages people leaving a response, and most of them are good. In reading it, there are none that I think are blatantly untrue, but they definitely minimize some serious issues that we have, while painting a rosier than accurate portrayal of the day to day here.

    So again, it depends on your situation. Are you desperate for a job? Do you have other options? Because you should probably really consider this info. As Alison said, no one would put their real name on an email they are sending you about this.

    1. Amadeo*

      Meeting someone once and working with them are very different.

      Singling out for truth. I wish someone had warned me when I left my daily newspaper job for a small locally owned printing business/local weekly paper. My interview with the business owner went well, he was friendly and full of information and stories and touted their benefits.

      Working for him, while not quite a nightmare, was definitely a challenge and the business was far more peaceful if he was gone than if he was there. I asked him more than once if he wanted to do something himself because he’d stand behind me and criticize my use or disuse of program keyboard shortcuts.

      I did not tell the next person who asked me what it was like to work there not to take the job, I told them that it was their decision, however, here’s what I ran into. To their credit, they took my veiled warning to heart. As far as I know they’re still working at the corporate daily paper I left five years ago.

    2. A. Non*

      It’s a lot like that old adage about dating vs living together. Dating, you put on your nice face. Living together means farting on the couch.

  10. Product person*

    I remember fantasizing about sending this type of email when I learned that someone who seemed to be a highly talented person had received an offer to join my highly dysfunctional team. I had my foot out the door, but wanted to stay until my high-visibility project was live so I could claim my part on its success. So, 3 months after joining, that person asked for an 1×1 with me, to get some advice on her (terrible) situation. I had to say I was about to leave, and that I was really sorry she didn’t have a chance to learn more about the work environment before she joined, because I knew what she was going through but didn’t have any suggestion on how to fix the problem (other than hoping against hope that our terrible manager was fired).

    So, OP, do what Alison says, and make sure you investigate as best as you can before you take the offer. Good luck!

  11. Collie*

    Is this a company that might have public customer reviews? This might not be super helpful, but you might get some insight by checking into something like Yelp for customer perspective, at least as a supplement to Alison’s advice.

  12. INTP*

    If you asked an employee at the interview straight-on whether the Glassdoor reviews are accurate, I don’t think that you can assume their answer was honest. Maybe it was, but even if they agreed with the reviews, chances are, they aren’t going to tell you. I know that I would never give negative feedback about my company to an interviewee that might later tell HR, in response to why they’re turning down the job, “I saw these negative reviews and I asked someone and she said they were accurate.” Some people will speak in a code that you can figure out, but some people will view it as their job to be as positive as possible to recruit the best people the company can.

    I think if there’s a common theme in negative reviews, there’s generally a grain of truth in there at least. The trick is to figuring out whether that grain of truth is a con that you can deal with in a job or one that you definitely can’t.

    Agree with suggestions above to ask follow up questions and try to figure out who this person is and what their motivation is. It seems unlikely to me that someone not connected with the company would even know you had been offered the job, let alone be inclined to talk you out of accepting it. This could be a bitter employee giving you a valid warning, or a bitter employee who is unhappy in their job because of reasons that don’t apply to you. I wouldn’t just dismiss it, though.

    1. Alice*

      Given 1) that you specifically talked to an employee about the Glassdoor reviews, 2) that this message focuses heavily on those Glassdoor reviews, and 3) that an employee you were able to talk to extensively during the interview process is one that’s relatively likely to know that you got the offer…I almost wonder if this message was sent by the same person you talked to. I could pretty easily see someone feeling like they couldn’t be honest about whether the reviews are accurate while they’re sitting at work having a face-to-face conversation, but wanting to set the record straight later. Obviously that’s just supposition, but…

      1. Willis*

        Ooh that’s a really good point. I interpreted “one employee said he read the review and didn’t find it to be the case” as referring to a different, positive Glassdoor review. But if it’s something a current employee said to you in a group interview setting/around other people where he couldn’t be honest, I could see him correcting that later via anonymous email. Definitely seems a lot less random if that’s the case.

    2. Lily Rowan*

      I really don’t know what I would have done if anyone had directly asked me about the bad reviews when I was hiring. They were all 100% true! But I still wanted to hire someone for the vacant position, you know?

  13. animaniactoo*

    My first thought would be that’s someone looking to keep OP out of the job so a friend/co-worker can have it.

    But given that they said “If you need the job, take it”, I wouldn’t throw the possibility out but I’d rank it a lot lower on than that somebody is genuinely warning OP this is going to be a soul-crushing job and it’s going to suck.

    I think I’d go back over the Glassdoor reviews, weight the negatives ones twice as much as the positive ones and see if it still seems like a worthwhile risk.

  14. Anon for this one*

    It’s also worth considering that “bad boss” can be a relative term in situations like this. I’ve been asked how it is working for my current boss paired with sympathetic head tilts several time. The honest answer is “Great!” My boss is direct and no nonsense, and sometimes that comes off harshly, especially if the person doesn’t want to hear what she’s saying. Frankly, I like knowing where I stand. She’s also flexible, fair, gives me tons of autonomy, and supports my development. If I have to put up with a brusquely worded e-mail every now and then for that, I think it’s a fair tradeoff. Just because some people don’t like the CEO’s style doesn’t mean it’s bad overall. Definitely watch for signs it’s not a good fit for you, but I agree with TeflonMom- you might want to take the kind of person who sends vague, doom and gloom e-mails anonymously with a grain of salt.

    1. INTP*

      This is a good point. I once had a team leader that when I started, some of my coworkers took me aside and said, “When I started working for Jane I wound up in tears on a regular basis. Come to me if you ever need to vent about anything.” And I honestly had fewer issues with Jane than anyone else in that company. (Of course, the rest of the culture was completely dysfunctional in a “positive words only!” way and wound up even being mentioned in a letter I wrote that was published here.)

      1. INTP*

        Forgot the rest of my comment, lol. My takeaway for the OP on all this would be to try to figure out what the anonymous person’s complaints about the boss/organization are, assume there’s at least some element of truth to them unless they can determine that the person has no connection to the company, and decide whether those are cons that the OP can live with or dealbreakers for her. Good and bad jobs are so subjective – what sends me home in tears every night might be a minor annoyance for someone else.

    2. JustaTech*

      And there’s the flip-side of this; I really like my boss, but he’s got a tendency to back down from stuff a lot, which can be frustrating because it means I have less to do. He’s really nice and generally a good boss, but if what you want and need is someone to push for your professional development, he’s not the boss.

  15. PK*

    Hrm. Someone had to know you received the offer and your full name at the least in order to warn you. Could be disgruntled employee, could be internal candidate vying for position or could be actual warning (maybe even from one of the interviewers). Hard to say but Alison’s suggestion to check the Glassdoor reviews is a good idea. Personally, I’m not sure how much worth I’d give a single anonymous complaint.

    1. Lablizard*

      And had access to your personal email. If it isn’t someone involved in the hiring process, I would wonder about a company that is so careless with personal information. Other employees should have no access to the email candidates applied with

    2. INFJ*

      Right. I’m leaning towards ignoring this email, simply due to the fact that it is just one voice. OP: You have your own experiences, observations, and preferences to consider. You also have glassdoor reviews to consider. I think if you take an honest look at your impressions of the company based on all this information, the email is just a drop in the bucket.

      And even if there were a grain of truth to the email, who are they to tell you what kind of job you would be happy or unhappy in? This whole thing just rubs me the wrong way.

    3. CodingFool*

      Agreed. Sending an anonymous email from an anonymous account to give unsolicited advice is so far outside the boundaries of appropriateness that I have a hard time believing that there’s no hidden agenda here. At the very least, it shows a lack of professionalism and common sense.

  16. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    In regard to Glassdoor, I’d suggest doing the same thing I suggest for Amazon and Yelp reviews: look at 2 stars, and 4 stars more significantly than 1 and 5 stars. Those tend to be more measured and balanced.

    1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

      When I look through reviews I disregard any one line or reviews without specific info/details. Not because I though they’re fake, but because they just don’t tell me anything useful. Just because you think the culture is “great” doesn’t mean that we share the same definition of “great culture”. If the review says “the culture is great, the CEO does X,Y and Z” or “the culture is great because low performers are paraded around in dunce caps”, then I’ll take the review into consideration, and I don’t really care what the star ratings are.

    2. animaniactoo*

      My experience of 1-star reviews on Amazon is that a good chunk of the time, either one of 2 things is true:

      1) They have ridiculous expectations for the pricepoint/physics
      2) They have no clue how to use the item.

    3. JustaTech*

      Also, check dates on reviews! My company has been through several major changes that make a bunch of the Glassdoor reviews (positive and negative) moot, but the reviews are still up.

  17. Former Retail Manager*

    I think Alison’s advice is great, but I don’t know that I’d specifically mention the e-mail. As another commenter said, it’s highly likely that only a handful of people know that an offer was made. Even if they can’t determine which of the handful it was, you have the potential to bring multiple people under intense scrutiny for an unknown period of time, potentially for no reason at all (if you end up taking the job) and rest assured, that you will now be on the hit list of whoever knows that you mentioned it. I just don’t think that asking point blank is going to glean enough information to make it worth the potential trouble it could cause.

    I’d do your due diligence and really listen to your gut. As others have said, one person’s hell is another’s heaven.

  18. always in email jail*

    It’s so hard to know what to do. As Alison said, most of us who have worked for a dysfunctional company have fantasized about sending that email. On the other hand, to do so violates professional norms in such a way that it would affect how much I trust that individual’s judgement. Please let us know how it works out!

  19. Pen and Pencil*

    Somone I worked with at a previously workplace actually did this. She sent the girl and email telling her the workplace was crazy dysfunctional. I was never really quitre sure how to feel about the email because she was 100% right in the the workplace was a disaster, but OTOH it seemed wrong. The place was small (<30 people). I would take it more seriously if it was from a person at a small company vs a large one because large organizations can have different business units that have different problems. At a small company the person who sent the email is risking a higher chance of getting caught and is more likely to have the same experience as others there. I would really really consider if you want this job or not.

    1. SophieChotek*

      Did the girl your coworker sent it to take the job?
      Did you co-worker do this anonymously then?

      1. Pen and Pencil*

        The crazy thing was the woman took the job, and then was pissed when it was every bit as insane as promised. Her one condition on accepting the job was that the person who sent the email apologize, which would have been weird enough if it was my co-worker, but my coworker said it was her “cousin” who sent it without her permission (the bosses somehow believed that). So the interviewee was asking for the cousin to apologize. She started the job without the apology, but then kept asking the co-worker who sent the email why her cousin hadn’t sent the interviewee an apology yet for weeks after starting. To clarify, this “cousin” that the ordeal was blamed on did not work at the company.

        The co-worker did it anonymously, but the woman (interviewee) only handed her business card out to a few people. It was narrowed down pretty quickly to the person who sent the email, mostly because although everyone at the place was at BEC levels of done, the email sender was the only one who was both given a card and would be stupid/unprofessional enough to do something that rash. I still don’t understand why they believed her story of the cousin sending it.

  20. Nonny*

    I’m more inclined to trust this message than I usually would trust an anonymous, unverified message, because it lists specific issues. They’re not saying “Avoid at all costs”–they’re saying “If you’re looking for a path for career growth, this isn’t it” and “As others have said, there are some concerns with the CEO”.

    I wouldn’t consider this a red flag necessarily (as others have pointed out, sending a message like this is outside professional norms, which does undermine it a bit), but I would consider it a yellow flag, and it might tip things over if I had seen other yellow flags along the way.

  21. discarvard*

    Once I interviewed at a company whose Glassdoor reviews were terrible. I read the reviews before going to the interview, so I knew to be at least a little bit wary. They sat me down to talk to the guy who was at that point the sole member of a team they were trying to expand. When he asked me if I had any questions, I said “What are the best and worst parts of working here?” He immediately started acting very nervous and began to look around the room as though he expected to be eavesdropped on. I think he even muttered “what can I say?” He gave what seemed to be a pretty normal answer, but then he made a point of giving me his email address and saying “if you have any more questions, ask me.” I am fairly sure he was trying to communicate to me that he had serious issues with the place. I turned down the job (after being pressured to make a very fast decision), but if I had been even a little bit inclined to take it, I would definitely have asked him first. The moral of the story? Sometimes current employees really do try to send warning signs out of sincere concern.
    Epilogue: Several months later I met someone who had worked there, and he told me in so many words that I had dodged a bullet.

  22. I am now a Llama*

    Something occurred to me, but this may be over-reaching….

    Could it be an internal candidate that didn’t get considered because of the OP getting the offer?

    1. discarvard*

      I would think someone trying to pull that off would lay it on really thick about how terrible it is rather than saying “if you need this job, take it.” The message as written seems understated if anything.

      1. INFJ*

        I’ll give you that: it gives the sender credibility in the “I’m Doing This Out of Concern For You” department, because the sender is recognizing that sometimes you just need a paycheck.

        1. BethRA*

          Right, or it could be someone trying to make themselves and their evil schemes credible…*twirls non-existent mustache*

    2. Edith*

      I doubt it. It would require the internal candidate to have access to more information than they probably would, like how solid a candidate they were, final candidate rankings, and which external candidate got an offer and when. Really it sounds like something from a movie more than real life.

  23. discarvard*

    Also, if the name on the email is a fictional character, pop culture reference, a pun, or similar (Anne Onimous, Noah Boddy), it may well be a current employee trying to avoid backlash.

  24. IT_Guy*

    As far as glassdoor reviews go, it really depends on the area of the company that you work at (and manager) that makes the difference. The parent company of my employer has the ranking on Glassdoor as one of the 10 worst companies in the country to work at and because of the chain of command etc.;, I am really happy where I’m at.

  25. Sue Wilson*

    How did they get your email address? Because, if it’s someone close to the hiring process (instead of an email address they could find on your LinkedIn), then I would take it more seriously.

    1. WerkingIt*

      The OP could also be saying “email” in broad terms when they mean a message via LinkedIn or another site. The sender could also have gotten the OP’s email because it’s listed on LinkedIn or somewhere else. Or guessed. OP didn’t say if it was home email or work. Also, many times I have learned of an offer being extended and been told the candidates name. Or it can be easy to find out who was brought in for interviews and when if the hiring manager’s calendar is viewable.

      I’m just saying, if I wanted to, I could find an applicant.

      In fact, I saw a familiar name once on the calendar for an interview. I had not met her personally, but I called my friend who worked with her and said “if Sally would like to know more, I encourage her to reach out to me. I can answer ANY questions she might have.” Either Sally got the point or my friend told her how unhappy I was. She declined a second interview.

  26. Uzumaki Naruto*

    I don’t know what to do about this information, but FWIW, I wouldn’t believe the employee who told you he had read the Glassdoor reviews about the CEO and hasn’t found it to be accurate. The employee *has* to tell you that during the interview, so at best, this means nothing.

    I also wonder if the fact that the employee admitted reading his company’s Glassdoor reviews is actually a sign that something is rotten over there. It’s also interesting that you discussed Glassdoor reviews and then got this anonymous note telling you to trust Glassdoor — is that really a coincidence? I don’t know, there’s nothing definitive here and there are contrary explanations, but I’d be wary in your position.

    1. Kitkat*

      Yes! I can hear a little Alison voice in my head telling me not to read into things and jump to conclusions, but…this feels like one of those movies where you’re having a dinner party and then one of the hosts whispers frantically at you to run because it’s a family of zombies or something.

  27. Lablizard*

    Who is that tap tap tapping at my door, quoth the Raven, “Check out Glassdoor”

    No advice beyond what Allison gave. I just had to type what went through my head when I read the letter.

  28. George Willard*

    My instinct would be to give some weight/trust to this person’s take precisely because they weren’t over-the-top castigating the company. It sounds like pretty measured advice: if you’re already in a bad place, this job might be worth taking…if you’re comfortable enough where you are, this place will probably be a step down.

  29. Anna*

    I think if it were me, I might write back a professional and neutral sounding email asking me if they could give me more information and/or be willing to have a conversation with me. I mean, even if this person was a psycho killer, they already have your email and therefore likely other personal info about you. Is meeting them in a starbucks/having a Skype conversation going to put you at any further risk? Probably not.

    Someone who would go to the trouble and risk of sending a (traceable, in-writing) email, if asked nicely, may be perfectly willing to do this if promised anonymity.

    That way, you can better judge whether or not this person is coming from a biased situation (performing badly, is otherwise kooky) or has some legit things to say.

    1. Mrs. Fenris*

      Just what I was going to say. My immediate knee jerk response would have been to reply, “Who are you?” even though it wouldn’t be likely they would reply. Asking for an in person conversation can’t hurt since they know who you are.

  30. Jan Levinson*

    I would definitely consider this email in your decision to accept or decline your offer.

    I worked for a highly dysfunctional company straight out of college and so, so wish someone would have sent me a warning email. I was miserable there, and so was everyone else on my team. The turnover rate was through the roof, and management continued to hire more and more employees to keep up with the work rate. It was a revolving door. I left in October of 2015, and by April of 2106, the entire 7-person team that had been there when I left, had quit also. Each time a new person came in, everyone would express their sympathies to said person, that they were walking into such a terrible environment. But, it was a mute point after they’d already accepted their offers.

    I never, ever in a million years would have known I was walking in to such a horrid place based on my interview. I was interviewed by seemingly warm, friendly managers, and was actually excited to start (which, looking back now, is laughable).

    Anyway, I think that there’s a better chance of the email being from someone who genuinely doesn’t want you to walk in to a terrible situation, than there is a chance of the email being from an unreasonable, irate employee. My reasoning is that I think there are more Toxic Workplaces in the world than there are terrible employees who blame their company for their lack of success, and will find any way to trash the company.

  31. Looey*

    Is there anyone from your current company who knows about the offer? They may be trying to get you to turn it down and stay.

  32. Jan Levinson*

    Another thought I had was to email the sender back (as others have said) to ask for more details. But, in their response, look at the language to see whether their complaints are emotionally charged (potentially a disgruntled employee), or whether they are fact-based. For example, I would take more value out of, “the manager has what some would consider strict deadlines, and a no-nonsense attitude” over “the manager is cruel and unfair.”

  33. always in email jail*

    Plot twist: Could be the hiring manager. The one time I was tempted to tell smoeone to “run!” it was the position I was hiring for.

    1. Lablizard*

      It is more than likely someone in the interviewing process. Who else would have access to candidate emails and know decisions? Unless the company is sloppy with personal info, which is not good

  34. Bend & Snap*

    I told a candidate at a job fair once that you could work a lot of hours in the role we were discussing and our HR rep nudged me in the ribs.

    This place is “culture first” and “work hard play hard” (ugh) and I was working 60-65 hour weeks at the time. along with everyone else. Not sure why you want to hide that expectation from candidates.

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      “Work hard, play hard” has always been a red flag for me in terms of what it means for culture. I’ve known people that love that type of culture, but it isn’t for me.

      1. Another Lawyer*

        I’ve always read it as weird bro culture and avoided it. Which is not to say I don’t work long hours/am put off by firms with long hours; I remember interviewing at one law firm and a partner said to me, “we are not a “lifestyle” firm, but we don’t set unrealistic billable expectations either.”

    1. MoinMoin*

      “If you need the job, take it. If you are looking to advance your career, look at Glassdoor. Good luck and don’t waste your time. Glassdoor is the truth and everyone here has one foot out the door.
      “If your boss calls you into her office and she’s sipping a cup of tea, just RUN.”

  35. Employment Lawyer*

    It may be true, it may not. But first, ask yourself: How easily can you walk away from this offer?

    Assume for a moment that the letter is true–if you are going to take the job anyway,then I would not speak to the manager. It’s unlikely to help you and it may hurt you in the long run, especially if it leaks out.

    Also, assess yourself and your abilities. I know people who have worked at highly competitive places and hated it; know others who have rapidly advanced. When lots of people are leaving, that can be bad for company morale… but it can be great for promotions, if you can stay above the crossfire. Even if the letter is true, that doesn’t mean you should turn down the job.

  36. Troutwaxer*

    The one group at any company who aren’t involved in hiring but might have email and offer information are the IT people. So it might be someone in IT who’s contacting you.

  37. Cassandra*

    Whoof. From the potential-warner side, this can be hard to navigate.

    When Jane was hired into my Toxic Ex-Job, the entire social-media world (it seemed like) told Jane to talk to me about it. Minus me — I didn’t think it was a good idea at all. What could I possibly say that was all three of: true, professional, and helpful?

    I mean, I was hardly innocent in the whole Toxic Ex-Job fiasco. Maybe Jane, who was conspicuously different from me in skillset and approach, would be just fine! (Whereupon I could learn something useful from her.) Maybe my “warning” would turn out to be a jinx, turning Jane unnecessarily against her new workplace! On the other hand, if I didn’t warn Jane about what she’s getting herself into, how was I not just throwing Jane to the wolves?

    I wound up being Jane’s occasional sounding-board as Toxic Ex-Job stayed pretty much as toxic as I remember it. I did my best to suggest possibly-workable coping strategies when Jane asked me to. Otherwise, I stayed as far out of it as I could conveniently manage (given that Jane and I worked for the same university), not least because I didn’t want to be accused of messing with Jane or badmouthing my ex-coworkers.

    Jane lasted two and a half years before leaving for what I hope — Jane is a wonderful and talented person and I like her! — is a much less toxic situation. (I made it to four and a half years by the skin of my teeth, but honestly I should have left after two.) I won’t lie, the circumstances of her departure make me feel more than a little vindicated in my feelings toward Toxic Ex-Job and those who made it Toxic… but honestly, when Toxic Workplace gets around to hiring the next Jane, I don’t think I’ll handle matters much differently. I don’t see a better way to thread this particular needle.

    I just hope social media doesn’t try to connect New Jane and me next time… SO awkward.

  38. INFJ*

    I… kind of feel like I’m the only person who doesn’t feel like this really carries much weight. I would trust my own observations and the information being received from multiple sources instead of putting all the weight on just this one email.

    Even in my current position, which I love, there is someone in my department who has told me that “half the department wants to leave.” Even if that were true, I certainly don’t feel that way, and everyone that I’ve worked with in my department is very hardworking and good to work with. So either that one person was wrong, or their assessment didn’t influence my satisfaction in the position at all (and I’ve been here 2 years now).

    1. BethRA*

      No, you’re not alone. I don’t think OP can ignore the email – Allison’s advice is pretty solid.

      But thinking of the people I’ve known who’ve gone from fantasizing about doing a take-this-job-and-shove-it exit to actually DOING it? Not people who’s judgement or assessment I found trustworthy.

    2. Knitty*

      Yeah there is something about the email that makes me want to not take it too seriously. If I were to send a warning like that I think I’d be much more clear upfront. The “if you need it take it” combined with “Glassdoor is true” just seems like too little to go on. I’d follow up with the email and try to get something a bit more solid than “all the reviews are true.”

  39. Interviewer*

    My company’s one bad Glassdoor review showed up a week after we terminated someone. Timing and location made it obvious. I hate that it’s out there but we get questions from candidates about it. OP, because of the possible warning signs, you should do your due diligence here. You should ask about the more negative reviews and see what the recruiter says about them. Pay attention to body language as well as the specific words. Is it honest and forthright about issues the company is facing? Is it a categorical denial of any problems at all? Is it defensive or hostile? Are former employees labeled as “traitors”? Do they take the opportunity to learn and grow? All of these things are clues as to how your company handles feedback.

    I would not mention the anonymous email because of the potential to unmask the writer.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      I wouldn’t either. The email has little enough information in it that OP can just as easily say, “I’m concerned about X, Y, and Z based on Chocolate Teapots’ Glassdoor reviews. Can you comment on that?”

  40. I'm Not Phyllis*

    I think it’s probably someone who works there, to be honest. I wouldn’t let that email make or break my decision, but it definitely gives you an indication that you should be taking a second look at the company. Good luck!

  41. TootsNYC*

    Could you ask to speak with a few current employees? Though, if they speak w/ you about the company bcs the CEO or another manager asked them to, they won’t be honest.

    What about reaching out to other employees, w/ a “cold contact” email, if you can find some people via LinkedIn?

    1. designbot*

      I was wondering about LinkedIn too. I would be scouring my network for anyone who worked there, had previously worked there, or even knew someone that worked there, to try and get further explanation.

  42. AdAgencyChick*

    Based on previous similar experience (although nobody has ever reached out to me anonymously with information like this, I have gotten inside info late in the process that caused me to rescind my acceptance of an offer), here’s what I would look out for:

    1) How does the information in the email mesh with what you heard at the interview? For example, my interviewers had sold me on, “You can build your own team!” This turned out, when I spoke to the person who had recently left the job, to mean “All the writers have quit because they can’t deal with the awful account team, so you will have to re-hire a whole team!”

    2) How, as Alison suggests, do the hiring manager and/or recruiter respond when confronted with the information? When I called the recruiter to say I was rescinding my acceptance due to things I had heard about the company since accepting (I was vague about what, because I wanted to protect the people I’d spoken to), I don’t remember exactly what she said, but her tone was very “oh sh!t”/sheepish. I could tell from her tone that this was “oh crap, she found out the truth about us” and not “I need to understand what she’s been told so I can help correct any false impressions.”

  43. Naomi*

    I so wanted to warn applicants that were applying for an organization where I worked, to RUN AWAY. I know for a fact that the all the positive reviews for this Org on the glassdoor sites were written internally under order from the CEO. Not sure this is how you want to do it, but have you thought about emailing back to the person? Asking why? Good luck. The job market is hard, and the pain of turning down offered work is brutal.

  44. AnotherAlison*

    I had a client who was a smaller company and no one who wasn’t family lasted more than a year. They have 12 Glassdoor reviews, most negative, some detailing the threats that the company owners used against them to keep them from posting negative reviews and others saying the positive reviews are only from family employees.

    Working with that client is the one thing in my entire career that makes me think listening to an anonymous warning is worthwhile.

    Once we knew what they were, I tried to think if we could really tell how bad they were by the initial meetings. I think the answer is no. The CEO/Dad carefully controlled interactions and information, but in initial meetings, it doesn’t seem to be a red flag that you aren’t talking to other employees directly, etc. However, they had a reputation in the industry, so we could have asked around more. I think that’s what you have to do here. . .find a friends’ ex-coworkers’ brother-in-law or however far you have to go to find someone who has dealt with the company who can give you feedback.

  45. Marisol*

    As warnings go, this one seems pretty paltry to me. Basically, this person is upset that they weren’t promoted, which is not necessarily a damning statement about the company. If I were to send a warning email like this (I can’t imagine doing so, but speaking hypothetically) it would have to be for a serious reason, something like a profoundly toxic company culture. And because of this, I’d want to give convincing examples of the problem. In other words, if someone were motivated by an ethical obligation to break with professional norms and write this type of letter, I think they’d do a better job, rather than tossing out a few vague sentences. Given the execution, this email sounds like sour grapes from a disgruntled, unprofessional weirdo.

  46. Not Australian*

    I made a solid attempt to warn somebody off a job once, although I don’t know how exactly it turned out. I’d put in my notice and she was interviewed to replace me. Later that day, when she was on the brink of accepting, her husband rang the office – I was alone there at the time – and asked me what I thought were the chances of getting the company to increase their pay offer. I told him frankly that speaking as the person she’d be replacing, that was the reason I was leaving – and that I had the sense they were in financial trouble and might not be around much longer. A year later they were out of business.

  47. Rincat*

    Just throwing my vote in for taking this with a grain of salt. I recently accepted a job working in the IT division of my company. IT’s most vocal critics were people that I slowly came to realize were disgruntled, cranky, and never had anything positive to say about anything. One guy told me never to work for them, and I’m pretty sure he feels like I’ve betrayed him since accepting the position. And I’ve never been happier in a job! I’m enjoying it immensely. I can spot the problem areas, and it’s not a perfect organization, but there have been major leadership changes in the last year or so that have had a positive impact, and all of the people I’ve encountered so far are very different than how they were described to me by the disgruntled outsiders.

    So I’d just take Allison’s advice and try to gather as much evidence as you can from all sides. It could very well be a horrible place to work, but consider the source, and consider your own experience so far.

  48. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

    My first impression is that it is someone who prefers the second choice candidate. But I’m so cynical so take that with a grain of salt.

    Also, “bad boss” is super subjective. There’s a manager at my old department that so many people rant about. They think he’s a total asshole, cocky, arrogant, and it’s hard to tell where you stand with him. I personally LOVE him. I get his dry humor and know when he’s being sarcastic, so I get snarky back at him and we laugh. He came blowing into my new department like a Cat 5 hurricane and terrorized half the staff, barking out my name… and then gave me a big hug and asked me to take a walk to chat about how things are going. People get scared of working for him but if they could pay me better I’d be back in a heartbeat.

    1. Rincat*

      I had a professor like this in college – she had a reputation for being “super difficult” and was warned away from her. I loved her – took three classes with her and loved every minute. She was challenging for sure, but she obviously cared about the students and really wanted us to learn how to think critically and write well (this was for an English degree). I quickly learned that the people who didn’t like her were the ones who didn’t want to do any work!

  49. WerkingIt*

    I would also suggest reaching out to people through linkedin or other contacts. If you can get some current or former employees to give you their opinions about working at that company it is immensely useful.

  50. JacqOfAllTrades*

    When I interviewed at NewCompany, my predecessor (who had been an acquaintance of mine for years) tried to give me hints that NewCompany was not a good place. However, I was working at ToxicCompany and needed out, so I took the job at NewCompany despite the warnings. Turns out she was just bitter because her husband who also worked at NewCompany wasn’t promoted when she thought he should be. I am glad I didn’t listen to her “the grass isn’t always greener” innuendos – NewCompany is the best place I have ever worked.

  51. Hoorah*

    I would be floored if a new hire brought something like this to my attention. We have long term staff in our head office (people with 5-10+ yrs of service, literally no staff turnover in the past year), staff are paid well and receive perks like gym/holiday accommodation/clothing allowance etc, plus our big boss genuinely hates office politics and manages the workplace on a principle of “we should all enjoy coming to work”.

    So to have one person anonymously complain our workplace is horrible – I would be blown away because it would be such an unexpected accusation. (Is there a significant problem I’m not aware of? Do we have one toxic person who’s poisoning the pool?) Since it’s an anonymous complaint that’s impossible to investigate further, I can imagine myself reacting with surprise/annoyance at least initially.

  52. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    I’ve been fortunate – I have worked in some “zoos” in my time; but, I’ve never worked in a place that couldn’t make payroll – there have been times when a company MISSED payroll, day late due to logistics, etc. but never any bounced checks.

    I’ve been fortunate to work for (mostly) reputable firms.

    1) Glassdoor is fine – but a company may have a good reputation but you’re going into a bad department. ALWAYS ask if you can meet and talk with your peers. If not – RUN LIKE HELL.

    2) Check the company’s financials – do you have access to Dun & Bradstreet? Know someone who does? You don’t want to go into a firm and find out they’re “on the brink”.

    3) Reputation. Google the company, especially in news. I once interviewed at a place, then saw all the names of those I interviewed with in the papers, subpeonas over a court case (they weren’t criminals but couldn’t provide paperwork for a prosecution, state agency)…. boy did I dodge a bullet there!

    “Yes, we’re under this federal investigation, but don’t let that bother you!” Uh, yeah, even if YOU aren’t involved in the company’s troubles, the stink will follow you for your career.

    Also note if there’s a three-ring-circus in the interview process – should that company go down – you might get classified as being a “graduate of a clown college”. Be wary of those places.

  53. NK*

    I think you really, really have to think about how much you want/need this job. I once took a job I was warned about. It wasn’t even an anonymous situation, my old boss (who worked at an entirely different company at this point) knew the guy I was replacing, and warned me about it. However, I was getting a 50% pay increase and cutting my commute by 50 miles each way. So frankly I didn’t care. It’s true, the people there were total loons. But it was survivable and I have zero regrets about taking the job, though I only stayed about a year and a half. So I think you need to consider how much of a risk you’re willing to take in this job based on your current circumstances.

  54. Moonsaults*

    These stories did bring up the memory of the job I quit my training week.

    I was burnt out and needing to move to another city after my boyfriend was hired on an hour outside of where we lived originally.

    The interview went smoothly, the person interviewing me was the owner and my direct boss. I’m used that set up, working directly with colorful personalities who are great owners because they can’t work with let alone for someone else.

    The lady who was leaving and was training me kept warning me about things that set the boss off. Then straight told me about how the woman had fired people before for the most asinine reasons. One of the warnings was also “never let her see you cry”.

    I’m a huge hard ass but the thing I don’t tolerate is screaming or being berated. So that week with the warnings still in my mind, the owner took one of the crew members outside to “talk”, only by talk it was shrill screeching about how he dared to take time off to do some side work.

    I woke up at 3am and texted my apologies to both owners and the girl who was training me. I was lucky that it ended there. My next text was to my previous boss telling her that I wasn’t leaving after all.

    But that was the only time a “warning” was warranted. I had my other positions come with some warning labels but it turned out to be disgruntled or just inept people who couldn’t get along with the boss. The boss who was more of a second father figure to me was a notorious turd but he adored me because I cared about doing a good job and having his best interest at heart.

  55. emma2*

    I feel like this could go so many ways. The idea that they are genuinely trying to warn the OP in a wish-fulfillment kind of way is the most relatable one. But there is always the possibility of various ulterior motives – they want a certain other candidate for the job, they randomly dislike the OP for some reason, or it has nothing to do with the OP and everything to do with sabotaging management. Who knows, people’s motivational structures vary significantly.

    1. emma2*

      I agree with a lot of previous commenters’ advice, though. Do what you can to get other people’s feed back about the company, and do as much research as you can. Probe for specific examples of wrongdoing by the company. If a company really is bad, people will have plenty of anecdotes.

    2. jasmine*

      Interesting… I also thought of ulterior motives when I read this story. My first thought was that the anonymous sender (most probably a company insider) has someone (maybe a friend) that they want to see hired at the company, and they want to eliminate the competition.

  56. Argh!*

    I don’t think I would let the hiring official (or anyone else) know about the anonymous letter. If the boss is vindictive, this could blow back on innocent parties.

    I’d look at glassdoor (though I would have done that before applying too) and then contact them to ask about the issues that were raised. I’d do it over the phone so I would have a chance to hear hesitating or vacillating in the response.

  57. Sharon*

    I think you should take it seriously. I work in a really toxic environment (I’m actively trying to leave!) and I’m seriously considering doing just that – sending a candidate we extended an offer to an anonymous, facts only heads up. I’m a sane person who would never do something like this normally, but I really wish someone had warned me about this place before I joined here – it’s really that bad and even my worst day at any of my three previous jobs couldn’t compare to an average day at my current firm.

    As for how the email sender got your email address – it may be pretty easy. At my firm, most people share their outlook calendars, and the admins always place the resume of the interview candidate into the calendar appointment of the interviewer. So even though I wasn’t one of this candidate’s interviewers, I can easily see their resume (and email address) via the calendar appointments on the interviewers’ calendars.

  58. Anon for This*

    I used to work at an extremely dysfunctional educational institution. Although it was a nonprofit, it catered to the wealthy and it was an open joke that most of the students (and many of the staff) were trustifarians. The GlassDoor reviews all make a point about the below market-rate salaries, but other than that they are all over the map. I think that many of the students had good experiences, while a handful had terrible ones. In different departments at different times there was a lot of sexism, homophobia (and transphobia) , ageism and racial discrimination. There were high rates of turnover and many staff only stayed for a single school year. The treatment of instructors was all over the map, as were the GlassDoor reviews by them.
    While my experience at the institution in two different departments was horrible (they really did treat their support staff especially bad), I can see that others were had better experiences. I never worked so hard and received so little in the way of recognition as when I worked there. I’ve thought about leaving a GlassDoor review, but I worry that I would simply be dismissed as “just another disgruntled employee or former employee.”
    Often times, disgruntled employees and former employees have legitimate reasons for being disgruntled. Does anyone think I should even bother leaving a review on GlassDoor? Any precautions I should take?

    1. MommaCat*

      I would keep it as dry and informative as possible, and let the readers draw their own conclusions. Disclaimer: I’ve never really perused Glassdoor, but that’s what would help convince me.

    2. emma2*

      It can’t hurt to leave a review on Glassdoor. Just make sure to use a neutral tone (as opposed to an over-emotional, angry tone) to explain exactly what it is about the company you don’t like (with examples.) I read Glassdoor reviews all the time, and I understand that some people have good experiences while others have bad ones at the same company, but that doesn’t mean they are not legitimate. Seeing the different sides is really helpful for me. If people at your work are truly racist/sexist/ageist, chances are minorities have vastly different experiences from the employees that aren’t being discriminated against.

  59. Hoorah*

    Sure, warning off new employees is a fantasy that most of us have had while working in toxic environments. But to actually make the effort of making a new account, tracking down a new hire’s contact details and sending anonymous information? I would factor in the trustworthiness of someone who would go out of their way to send accusations they won’t take any responsibility for.

    Also: How much can you rely on Glassdoor reviews when job hunting? As with a lot of online feedback, people tend to be more vocal when they’re voicing complaint, rather than praise. Every single company has some disgruntled ex employee who wants to rant about their bad experience. So I tend not to give weight to negative feedback unless it makes up a huge percentage out of several dozens.

    1. emma2*

      It doesn’t mean the bad reviews are not legitimate. People expect businesses and organizations to function well by default, so when it doesn’t, people take it upon themselves to warn outsiders. And even in good organizations, someone might genuinely be unhappy with their experience for some reason. I think it’s more important to look at the specific reasons the employee is unhappy, and for patterns if there are frequent bad reviews for a specific department or location.

  60. Contrarian Annie*

    Is it possible that the anon email could be from the hiring manager / interviewer themselves?

    Let’s say you are in charge of a team at a dysfunctional company. You have a vacancy (can’t think why….?) you have to fill, but your human side feels bad for the candidate who’s about to get into this awful situation.

  61. Barefoot Librarian*

    I worked for a really toxic company a few years back with a boss that we called “she who must not be named” and other colorful euphemisms (to try and lighten an otherwise depressing situation). Needless to say, the turnover was high and we were constantly hiring. We never went as far as to send anyone an anonymous email, but we did use a lot of coded language in the section of the interview process when final candidates met with the team. We’d say things like “we find that people who do well around here are resilient/self-confident/naturally positive/good at rolling with the punches/perform well under stress/don’t take things too personally/etc.” Obviously we were going to have to fill positions, but we didn’t want anyone who was going to crack under pressure. It wouldn’t have done them or us any favors. It’s a difficult situation to be in knowing that you work in a negative, soul-sucking environment.

    1. Chaordic One*

      I once worked at a publisher where we had a boss who was known as “the subhuman.”

  62. Erin*

    Another possibility is that someone at the company does not want you to have this job because it in some way threatens them (at least in their perception). I’m not sure if this is the case for you, but I thought I would share that something like this happened to my sister several years ago. She was extended an offer at my company – it was a new position to support the growing needs of another group. One of the people in this group came to me “in confidence” to warn me about how bad it is and cried about how she in good conscience could not live with herself if she did not tell me this information so that I could relay it to my sister. At the time I was very appreciative, and I told my sister who ultimately did not accept the job (she opted for grad school instead). Later, I learned from others (and it also became evident to me) that this individual had lied to me, that things were not terrible, and that she simply felt threatened by change and anyone new who might affect her current job.

  63. Printer's Devil*

    If you said COO instead of CEO, I would have thought you were talking about my company. (Well, that, and I doubt they’ve ever given anyone a “nice” offer for anything.)

    Read the reviews carefully. See what else you can find out about the company.

  64. Warnings*

    My first game industry job, a friend and I drove to New Jersey to both interview at the company. When I was meeting with the management, the engineers had my friend alone. They warned him the company was toxic and he shouldn’t work there. We both got job offers, he decided not to take it. I decided it was a foot in the door in the industry. The job was in fact toxic, but the engineers who issued the warning are now lifelong friends of mine who I’ve lived with in other parts of the country multiple times, the job did indeed get my foot in the door for my now 23 year game industry career. The job itself I only stayed at for 7 months, and I was at a different game company at the 5 month mark (Spent two months working both jobs so I wouldn’t leave the other engineers in a lurch).

    Final straw (and oh my goodness there were so many straws) was after saying in a meeting that we needed to have an actual plan of what we were going to deliver, how we were going to test it and resolve issues if we were going to make our theoretical launch date, management gave me a lecture on keeping a happy face on, and of course did nothing to actually resolve any issues or make a plan that would let us deliver a final game.

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