ask the readers: have you ever quickly realized you weren’t a culture fit with an office?

We talked a couple of weeks ago about the term “culture fit.”

Semi-related to that, have you ever known pretty quickly that you weren’t a culture fit with an office? Maybe you were forced to sing a song at your first staff meeting. Maybe you found out on week one that your new team was super into tarot cards, the Secret, and sharing their personal “visions.” Maybe your coworkers thought you were too enthusiastic about your work.

Whatever made you realize it, tell us about it in the comments. (Bonus points: Looking back on it, were there signs you missed during the hiring process?)

{ 700 comments… read them below }

  1. beetrootqueen*

    yep definitley. it was for an events sorta thing so the event was happening that night and I was working my arse off but getting no info back.(my job was to do the social media, online questions, phones etc people were asking for info and i couldn’t get through) no phone calls, no emails nothing. I worked remotely but in the end had to go down their where my boss laughed in my face and made a series of pretty gross jokes about my work. what was worse was the rest of the team decided he was right. in the end the events tanked completely and i was left dealing with unhappy people while he laughed it off. basically everyone let him slack off and did the same it was a nightmare.

  2. Art Vandelay*

    I am going through this now! I just switched jobs and have no desire (at all!) to meet, hang out with or otherwise get to know anyone here. I fear I made a mistake in switching jobs and will have to stick it out for a year here. I was so ready to leave Old Job™ that I took the first offer, and overlooked glass door reviews and the experiences two other people that used to work here. I’m not happy at all and it’s only week 3. Sigh!

    1. Not Yet Looking*

      If you can get another job offer in the next month or so, you should just jump ship, drop BadJob off your resume and ignore it entirely, or so I’ve been told.

    2. Lurking Tom*

      Same, though I am definitely not sticking it out (I’ve been here 6 months). We have a generous work from home policy and I am definitely taking advantage as much as possible.

    3. washashore*

      Going through the same thing – I started looking for jobs immediately. Please, you owe it to yourself to do the same.

      I’m coming up on the one year mark regardless and I’m so miserable here. Cultural fit is bad, work assigned is bad… I definitely have more red flags in mind when going into the hiring process. Strategic hire? We like you but don’t reallllly have a place for you quite yet. We’re interested in expanding in that industry? We may not be putting any resources towards it now, and you won’t work in the field you want to. Billable hours? If there’s not enough work to do, you (a) bill to the company (and they hate this) or (b) bill to clients and don’t feel good about it.

      I feel very stuck and isolated and unproductive and it only got worse over 12 months. Keep looking!

      1. Sideeyetoallthat*

        I’ve just left a job after a very similar experience. I ended up so depressed and anxious about the whole thing that what work I was assigned really suffered and I ended up on a performance review cycle which culminated in my not getting the cost of living increase on my pay when the rest of the org did.

        I wish I had actually left straight away. In fact I could probably have walked straight back into my old job because they took ages to recruit my replacement. But I’d left to great fanfare believing I was taking a wonderful step up so…. nah.

        As it was I stuck it until the project I was nominally assigned to was finished so I could say I’d worked on that to future employers. Then I was made redundant.

        Although I’m currently looking for work I’m so much better out of there I don’t mind.

    4. Same boat*

      @Art: I’m in exactly the same boat. So sorry! :( I decided to cut the moorings and my last day is next week (after about three months). I don’t see myself as a good culture fit because my co-workers spend most of their time gossiping and complaining, and I prefer not to get into that.

    5. Jesmlet*

      Continue looking! There’s no reason you’d have to stick it out since you just left the other job

    6. Doug Judy*

      Try to get out asap. I knew like day 2 of my new job that it was a bad bad fit. I tired to stick it out but it just got worse and worse and I got very depressed.

      1. ToxicWaste*

        +1 Same here. I knew the first week, but needed the money/insurance/etc. Stuck it out for a couple of years and it got to be too much, so I left.

    7. Kateedoo*

      I did this a few years ago – jumped shipped from Old Job for the first offer that came up. Spent a year miserable feeling like there was something wrong with me as I couldn’t connect with a single person there and I hated the work. I stuck it out for the year, got hired a great company (that I’ve been at 3 years now!) and at the very least it still makes me grateful everyday for my awesome boss, coworkers and company. It’s tough but you’ll never take a great job for granted again. Just keep your head down, do good work and fulfill yourself outside of work. I also learned the screen the crap out of a job offer before accepting! Never going to make that mistake again.

  3. Pup Seal*

    I didn’t work there, but I knew during the interview I wasn’t going to be a good fit. I believe I posted this on an Open Thread before. The workplace was ultra conservative and prohibited drinks and food at desk and personalizing your desk, and women cannot wear pants and must wear pantyhose with skirts (leggings not acceptable). When I was there, I felt a bad vibe that everyone was on edge. I’ve also heard stories of people getting fired for having a mug on their desk. Decided during the interview that we were not a great fit for each other.

    1. paul*

      If that happens in an interview, what’s the ettiquite on it? If you know at some point you wouldn’t take the job if offered are you supposed to end the interview early?

      1. fposte*

        Oh, God, you reminded me of an interview that in retrospect was a flag of horrible fit–fortunately they recognized it too and I was not offered a job. It was a conference interview in a high-up hotel room (that’s not unusual) and the atmosphere was so tense and adversarial that it was a relief when a window washer came by to distract us.

        1. fposte*

          P.S. Even if it had occurred to me to end the interview early, it would have been a bad move–that would have been seen as bad manners in a small academic world, so it would have likely cost me elsewhere.

          1. Rainy, PI*

            Someone who joined my undergrad department told me not long after he started (I worked in the office and Have One Of Those Faces–people tell me everything) that due to his previous job he was very interested in the culture of where he ended up, and everything had seemed okay at his conference interview but he was very alert on his campus visit to figure out what the culture was like. At drinks at the Head’s house on his second day, the assembled faculty asked if he had any questions, and he just bluntly said “Is the department collegial? Do you all like each other? Is everyone *nice*?”

            He said that when there were a bunch of shifty eyes he was like “Oh shit” and then one brave soul said “Well, it’s very collegial NOW” and everyone laughed and nodded and sighed and laughed again, and he said that was when he knew it was going to be the right job.

            (He was replacing someone who’d basically been blackmailed into taking early retirement because he was such a giant jerk. The department had its usual personalities, but after Jerk Dude left, everyone got along *so well*!)

            1. fposte*

              How wonderful that he asked outright and how wonderful that somebody opened up to tell him!

              1. Rainy, PI*

                Yeah–I have seen instances where there are very definite attempts to keep the Missing Stair from attending the campus visit festivities so as not to spoil the pitch.

            2. F M*

              I admire his, ha, gumption in asking so directly! I did the same when interviewing for an academic position, but it was mostly in a quiet aside when I was meeting with the people who wouldn’t be my supervisors. That was when I asked outright about how the department was on various matters like -isms, diversity, bureaucratic slow-downs, internal politics…

              Come to think of it, I was coming in just as a Missing Stair was leaving, too, and everyone hastened to assure me he was on the way out.

            3. dear liza dear liza*

              Oh my goodness, that reminds me of a colleague who felt something was off throughout an on-campus interview. He climbed into the car with the junior member of the search committee for the ride back to the airport, and as soon as the door swung closed, the junior member swiveled around and said, “Run. Run now.” Then he laid out all the petty squabbles and betrayals and dramas that were bubbling just below the surface of the department. As soon as he got home, Colleague withdrew his candidacy.

      2. Pup Seal*

        Luckily it was toward the end of the interview when I asked about the work culture, so I just smiled and nodded the way through. We seemed on the same page we weren’t a good fit anyway, because they wanted to give me a pay lower than what I’m paid now, and they said there was no negotiation. That part was at the end of the interview too.

      3. Emily S.*

        I would think that one should finish the interview anyway, and be courteous about it (at least, in most situations).

        Then of course, if you were positive it wasn’t going to work, you could simply contact the company and withdraw your candidacy for the position — say, the next day, or within a brief period of time.

        1. Nea*

          I’ve ended interviews where I knew I wouldn’t be a good fit (for the job, not necessarily the culture) by saying that I appreciated their willingness to talk to me, but it was becoming clear that I wasn’t the person they were looking for and thanked them for their time.

          1. Not Australian*

            Me too, although I was a lot blunter. “I think we’re just wasting each other’s time,” I said, and he agreed, and I got up and walked out.

      4. anon for this*

        I really wish there were a protocol for leaving an interview early. I’m in academia where interviews are a full day affair and there have been times I’ve known within about an hour that I wasn’t a fit for the site. (One memorable occasion included a secretary who asked me multiple times if I spoke Mexican.) Unfortunately, there’s nothing to do but sit through another seven hours of that nonsense without turning into an anger ball.

        1. Tiffin*

          She asked if you spoke Mexican. She asked if you spoke Mexican. She asked if you spoke Mexican.

          Nope, repeating it doesn’t make it any better or get me closer to finding any universe in which this is OK.

          1. Rainy, PI*

            I’m wondering if it was in the Midwest, because I think my sister went there. :P

            1. Fluffer Nutter*

              Went to Mr Fluffer’s childhood fave Mexican restaurant in Indiana. The menu lists Enchilada “gravy” because if you say “sauce” -well….
              Sorry anon- not to make light of how you were spoken to – so many ignorant people everywhere!

              1. Confused*

                Could someone explain this comment for me? I’m not from the US and I don’t get it. Thanks!

                1. New Window*

                  I’ll give it a shot, though I’m not the original commenter.

                  Gravy is also a kind of sauce, but in the U.S. it’s made from meat drippings, maybe added meat/veggie juices or soup stock, some herbs and spices, and thickened with cornstarch or flour. It’s most typically poured over near and mashed potatoes. It’s a very American type thing, and I would say mostly associated with mainstream White and I think African America communities. It’s not considered to be an “ethnic” food.

                  Enchilada sauce, on the other hand–well, I don’t really know what’s in it. I just eat it because it’s tasty. But it is often considered to be an “ethnic” thing because it isn’t necessarily rooted in European-derived foods. A sauce can be a mysterious, weird, foreign thing with who-knows-what added in it, but gravy? That’s good ol’ stuff like Grandma and Grandpa always made.

                  That’s my attempt to explain, anyhow.

                2. Mananana*

                  Mexican refers to the people of Mexico. Spanish is the language spoken there. To ask if someone speaks “Mexican” is Just. So. Wrong.

                3. Confused*

                  Thanks! I wasn’t very clear in my original question: the part I didn’t understand was the “gravy/sauce” difference, not the “do you speak Mexican?” comment.

                4. EE*

                  New Window, that’s exactly the same definition of gravy that is in Ireland, Australia and presumably other places as well.

                  The shock here is that ‘sauce’ is apparently too adventurous! I thought you Americans loved your cranberry sauce and ate a lot of Italian-inspired foods with tomato sauce?

                5. attornaut*

                  This is not a particularly “US” thing, the ‘gravy’ to avoid sauce. I’ve never heard of it and lived in many different US cities. I think it is particular to whatever small area OP is describing.

              2. Bryce*

                At a summer camp in the northwest the cafeteria had an enchilada night one time. The other campers were bugging me to try the salsa because they knew I was from NM and said it was “very spicy.” The best way I can describe is is to imagine a salsa made in terror of letting anything even remotely spicy be included, then when that’s done put a bowl of water within 5 feet of it and serve that instead. I’m personally a fan of foregoing excess spice in salsa in favor of actual flavor (some skilled folks can do both), but this was a 0 on both scales.

                1. Rainy, PI*

                  I’m from the Midwest, and as a child my only experience with spicy food was the peculiarly Midwestern form of spicy my parents like where it’s just chilis all the way down and it has no real flavour except burning.

                  When I moved out I was exposed to actual spicy food, in which the burning exists but is part of a delicious melange of spices and flavours.

                2. whomever*

                  Completely off topic, but: Certain members of the Italian-American community (mostly from Southern Italy) do use the phrase “gravy” as a translation of Sugo (whereas everyone else would use sauce). Even more interesting, last time I was in India I ate in an (extremely good and high-end) restaurant that used “gravy” as the English term for, well, what we might call a “curry” (which surprised me, and of course they spoke fluent English with an Indian twist).

                  Re Mexican I think the very worst meal of my life was a “mexican” restaurant in Alabama where the “burrito” was ground beef and cheez-wiz all lovelying put in a stale tortilla. The Burrito as we know it is a cal-mex, not Mexican thing anyway.

                  I’m Australian (so obviously is my sister) and she ended up living in Austria for a while, so we made lots of jokes about speaking Austrian.

              3. Close Bracket*

                I don’t know about enchilada gravy, but chili gravy is definitely a thing! Chili gravy is chili sauce thickened with a roux, like gravy (chili sauce, for the Southwest-impaired, is chilis, water or broth, and aromatics). I can only guess that as chili sauce moved North, it encountered an unfamiliarity with the texture of chili sauces, so people made it into a gravy to match their tastes.

          2. JustaTech*

            “Do you speak Mexican?”
            “I speak Mayan and Aztec.”
            (Yeah, no, no universe where that makes sense.)

            1. Owl*

              There are 6 million people who speak a Mayan language! But that’s probably not what the secretary meant.

            2. Coco*

              My adult students are all Latin American immigrants, and I have been surprised to hear multiple times someone refer to “Mexican” as a language (as well as Mayan and Aztec, which are languages/lang families, altho Aztec is normally called Nahua/Nahuatl).

              Of course I wouldn’t recommend saying that, just an observation!

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I think it’s a little different among Latinx folks (particularly immigrants) because when they say “Mexican,” they’re referring to the dialect/vocab differences. They all know they’re speaking Spanish.

                But most of my friends who speak Spanish and who are adult immigrants or who grew up in Latinx ethnic enclaves where there were clear country-of-origin divisions use “Mexican” or “Venezuelan” or “Dominican” as short-hand to describe the distinct ways in which Spanish is spoken by the majority of the population in that country. It’s functionally equivalent to Spaniards saying that someone speaks Castellaño or Catalán or Galego (as opposed to saying that someone speaks Spanish).

                (I apologize if I am explaining something you already know!)

          3. AdAgencyChick*

            “Lucy’s from El Salvador.”

            (sorry, I know it’s horrible that that happened in real life, but I can’t help thinking of “Clueless”!)

            1. SanguineAspect*

              “Where’s my white collarless shirt from Fred Segal?! It’s my most capable looking outfit!”

              (No shame here, AdAgencyChick–I LOVE CLUELESS SO MUCH)

            2. Rebecca in Dallas*

              “It’s an entirely different country!”

              Haha, I love that movie!

        2. Lisa Fakes*

          Having been an interviewer I think it is not rude and would actually be a relief if candidates who realize they don’t want the job drop out. As a couple of posters have said above just politely say that you are realizing the job is not for you an politely decline to continue. Getting an hour back of your time during interviews is priceless and avoids the confusion when you are ranking candidates after the interviews. Don’t consider it rude just politely excuse yourself. Maybe academia is different but in general no one wants to waste their time.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Yeah, I think academia is different. We had a search this spring for a tenure-track position, and each of the candidates had to do an hour-long presentation to the faculty and doctoral students regarding their research and teaching, with a Q & A session afterward. The faculty will ask probing questions about the research to see where they can see the candidate fitting in (what courses they might teach, etc). Once candidate bombed the presentation and got combative and defensive during the Q & A session, and then she still had a day and a half of interviews left. I’m not sure how she could have gotten out of it. It would have been even worse if she’d said, “Yeah, I’m going to go home now.”

            1. Abby*

              I have worked in both business and academia. I agree, you can’t leave an interview in academia. Each area is such a small little world and word would get out and probably be worse for women and other minorities.

              However, I do agree that otherwise you could say something polite.

              1. Lilian*

                I agree with Abby and Mallory Janis Ian. In academia, I *have* known people to email the search chair to withdraw from a search very promptly after a first-round interview or campus interview, and I’ve also known search committees to email candidates the morning after an interview, to tell them “no dice.” In these cases it was clear during the interview that the fit was terrible, and people went their separate ways as soon as they politely could…which basically meant right after the interview was over.

        3. Lynn Marie*

          I don’t think there has to be a protocol as such. I have ended interviews midway; just used my biggest smile, said I’m realizing as we talk that we’re not a good fit and I don’t want to waste your time, shook hands, thanked whoever for their time, effort and interest in me, made small talk out the door. Just treat them the way you’d like to be treated in the same situation. In an all-day scenario you may have to chase down HR or the hiring manager. There’s nothing rude about being honest here, just be honest courteously.

        4. Ramona Flowers*

          I was once at an interview day where someone “went to the bathroom” and never came back.

        5. Executive Assistant Barbie*

          Wow. An adult asked you that?

          12 year olds at the midwestern middle school I attended asked me to speak Canadian to them after they learned I’d recently moved from Canada. Again, they were 12 (and I was still perplexed by the lack of awareness regarding a neighbouring country’s language/dialect).

          1. Graflex*

            Was that a lack of awareness, or were they totally aware of it and just wanted to hear any accent you might have?

            I say this as a Bostonian that frequently visits the midwest, and people frequently want to know about how we always pahk the cah in Havahd Yahd.

      5. CoveredInBees*

        Do your best to wrap up the interview early and then send a note after saying something along the lines of “Thank you for your time…upon further reflection, I don’t think this position is right for me…” I did this and the interviewer (potential boss) thanked me for letting him know promptly. Part of the response might have been sarcastic but he was part of the reason I didn’t want to work there.

      6. Yorick*

        I wouldn’t end it early unless something was horrific, but would withdraw from consideration shortly after.

        1. blackcat*

          I am just… so baffled. I would, by default, show up to just about any interview in a pants suit. I assume many women would. Would they just not hire women who showed up to interview in pants?!

          Was this in a particularly conservative region/industry?

          1. Pup Seal*

            Region is moderate, and the industry is not conservative (it’s retail). It’s just that company. I’ve heard rumors saying women who wear pants to the interviews don’t get hired.

            1. RVA Cat*

              Umm, is this a particular conservative retailer that took a case to the Supreme Court a few years ago — and just got busted for smuggling antiquities out of Iraq?

              1. 2 Cents*

                Nope, I think it’s one that rhymes with either Cord-strom’s, Pacey’s, or Ward & Whaler.

                1. Connie-Lynne*

                  It can’t be Pacey’s, I worked for them in the early 90s and wore pants regularly.

                2. anonykins*

                  I’ve worked at Pacey’s and definitely not that level of attention to dress. Of course, if this was an executive office or flagship branch it could be different….

                3. OlympiasEpiriot*

                  At Pacey’s in NYC (the very epitome of Flagship Store), lots of female sales associates look very swanky in trousers.

                  Just sayin’.

                4. Beezus*

                  LMAO. Trust me, the dress code at Nordstrom is quite liberal. I worked there as a personal shopper for several years and we loved to out-outfit each other with trendy ensembles.

            2. Close Bracket*

              Note to self: Always wear pant suit to interviews.

              Hell naw, I’m not wearing pantyhose to work.

          2. Ali Bradstein*

            I worked at a conservative bank where women were required to wear pantyhose from Memorial Day to Columbus Day (reasonable enough, I guess, even though it could still be pretty hot well into October). Men were prohibited from wearing turtlenecks. Not women, just men.

              1. Alli525*

                I think it’s probably just perceived as Not As Professional as a button-down (or maybe even a polo). Or maybe they had a That Guy at one point and it affected policy.

            1. JeanB in NC*

              There is no freaking way I would wear pantyhose for a job, much less for almost six months out of the year. Of course, most of my work history is in Texas and NC where you would basically self-combust wearing pantyhose.

              1. NJ Anon*

                I cant even remember the last time I owned a pair. I would not be able to work anywhere I couldn’t wear pants.

                1. On Fire*

                  A woman of my acquaintance is a regional sales director for Mary Kay cosmetics. For their regional sales meetings, the rule is that all reps must wear skirts. She said a few years ago some women wanted to wear slacks, and that was finally allowed – until they started showing up in jeans. The dress code immediately changed back to skirts – nice skirts, not jean/khaki styles.

                2. Jadelyn*

                  I think I might have an old pair of pantyhose in my storage unit, used to wrap up small delicate items before packing. Which should tell you how long it’s been since they’ve seen actual use, lol.

                3. Rebecca in Dallas*

                  I was thinking that Pup Seal might have been talking about MK, I have a couple of friends who have worked or interviewed there. I remember them saying something about pantyhose being required and I couldn’t fathom it here in TX! I don’t even own any, just tights that I wear in the winter.

                4. Pomona Sprout*

                  Same here. I can’t even imagine not being able to wear pants to work.

                  Come to think of it, I haven’t even owned a dress or a skirt in years.

              2. MCMonkeyBean*

                I did a state senate page program one summer in high school and I was told I had to wear pantyhose and I was a pretty serious rule-follower so I showed up with my hose on the first day to find I was the only girl there who had followed that particular rule. Was very glad to not have to wear them after that first day.

              3. Kimberly*

                Several years ago I had a principal that wanted the women to wear pantyhose except he called them nylons. He also wanted us to wear skirts and heels the majority of the time. This is elementary where you are sitting on the reading rug and are outside for recess duty (average high temp in Oct 82f here)

                I just called my doctor during my break. On the way home I picked up a letter from him that prohibited me from hose because of a genetic skin condition (they irritate my skin and set off an allergic reaction) and heels because of an orthopedic condition. It also said I had to wear pants if the pollen count of specific weeds and trees was over a certain threshold because part of the genetic skin condition is contact dermatitis. He also faxed a copy to HR for me.

                HR was not happy with him. Turns out that coworkers went to the admin building enmass after school while I was going to the doctor’s office. It got so bad for a while they had people switch their hours to stay till 4:30 on Wednesdays to deal with all the complaints after on of his pronouncements during our faculty meetings. Then he started making our faculty meetings go to 5 (we were excerpt but our contract hours were 7:30 m to 3:30 pm and staff with kids in the district day care had to pick up kids by 4:30. He also told us we should all go work at Walmart, forced us to pray in faculty meetings, made bigotted remarks, sent our emails of sermons, and tried to force a Muslim student and a vegetarian student to eat ham sandwiches at lunch. This was a public school in Texas. The FFRF got involved and he was transferred laterally. He still has a job.

                1. Emelle*

                  I worked at a preschool/daycare that required either pantyhose or dress pants.
                  A kid had an accident on me and my director “let me” run to target to get new pants and I bought whatever I could off the clearance rack to finish my day (3 hours.)
                  I got written up. For a dress code violation. That was when I realized this was not a school I wanted to be at, if my black baggy yoga pants weren’t appropriate for teaching 3 year olds for 3 hours.

              4. KrystalM*

                JeanB, last I checked Mary Kay’s corporate office still requires women to wear panty hose. When I was a recruiter they were a client – I had to keep a jacket and panty hose in my car just in case they called. And their corporate office is in Dallas. But yeah, I don’t think there is enough money to make me wear panty hose again.

            2. OlympiasEpiriot*

              If you wore stockings with a skirt that wasn’t short or nylon knee highs with a mid calf skirt, how would they know the difference?

              And, I assume that them saying you had to wear panty hose means you had to wear a skirt. And not a maxi skirt?

          3. NeverNicky*

            My boss would be quite relieved if a woman turned up in trousers – when he was interviewing for my role, another female candidate wore a skirt and there was a bit of a “Basic Instinct” moment … Apparently she was scary in other ways too …

        2. Brandy*

          I applied to AAA years ago (around 2010) and was told you have to wear hose even with slacks. I knew it wasn’t for me.

          1. Pickles*

            YES! You were allowed to wear sandals/open toe shoes BUT you had better have knee highs on if you wore pants or full on hose with skirts. Yes, capri pants were acceptable….as long as you wore hose……..

            They don’t make us do that anymore. I think they relented because so many of us just….stopped doing it.

            1. SocksTheCat*

              I’m so confused by this. I wear socks when I wear pants. Would I have had to wear knee highs AND socks?

              1. Sam*

                I think for a lot of women’s business attire above a certain level of formality, socks just aren’t worn, because “fancy” women’s shoes show a sliver of skin above the vamp of the heels/loafers/whatever they are. Men’s shoes usually come up to the top of the arch, but a lot of women’s leave a huge swath of that area uncovered. (Annoyingly. Back before my office toned it down to business casual with jeans, I had to buy men’s shoes just to be able to wear socks so my ankles didn’t get cold.) Forcing someone to cover such a tiny patch of skin with hose, however, is seriously unnecessary.

          2. NoHose*

            I would die.

            I stopped wearing hose years ago and I’m so happy. I wear skirts and dresses to work virtually every day, year round and we have weather in this province! I wear leggings to work, peel’em off and my legs are bare in our nicely heated offices, put the leggings back on when I catch the bus home.

            I just spent so much money on hose that never fit right on my short but overweight frame that I always quickly destroyed. Or pilled. Hose only looks good as long as it has no pilling, runs and fits right.

          3. The Southern Gothic*

            This “hose with slacks” is absolutely a thing at AAA. I worked there in the early 90’s and actually got written up for no panty hose covering up the 3″ of bare skin on the top of my foot in closed toe flat shoes. My write up was done by a manager who would walk across the parking lot for a pedicure every Thursday in a pair of capri pants and come back wearing sandals for the rest of the day. She was married to a district manager.

      1. Mpls*

        Also, they must not have winter. Places with winter are way more pragmatic about women wearing pants.

        1. GertietheDino*

          There is an org here in Colorado that doesn’t allow pants on women until it hits freezing.

              1. Zombii*

                I don’t know why it never occurred to me that they would hire people. Maybe I just assumed they reproduced by budding?

        2. Purplesaurus*

          Their summers must be fairly mild as well, since hose are not the coolest things in the world when the temperature rises.

          1. A Good Jess*

            LOL, I live very close to their HQ and just skip them entirely when reviewing job sites! I have heard too many stories.

            And the irony is that so many people think this company is SO WONDERFUL because they are closed all day on Thanksgiving instead of doing the early Black Friday thing. Sorry, one day doesn’t make up for that rigid work culture.

        3. MCMonkeyBean*

          November every year our company has a big charity partnership and part of it involves “selling” jeans days, and usually it’s like for $20 you can wear jeans from mid November through the rest of the year. I’m always glad for the timing because I feel like most of my work pants are pretty thin so the jeans are much better for the cold.

          1. Amadeo*

            Does the name of this company include a word that sounds the same as a small denomination coin? I remember being allowed to ‘buy’ a jeans day once in a while and a short stint where jeans were totally allowed, during which time I left that job.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              I imagine using jeans days to raise money for charity is probably pretty common!

          1. 2 Cents*

            Do they plaster a red “P” on her chest too? Or is that too 19th-century novel-y?

        1. Emi.*

          Probably they just decide she’s not formal enough to be a good fit, and don’t offer her the job. Most things aren’t that dramatic. :-/

      2. Elizabeth West*

        The giant church here has that rule too. I knew someone in one of my classes who was a member and also worked at their headquarters. At the time, I was looking and she said they were looking for help, but when she said you can’t wear trousers, I was like, Nope. But I think they prefer to hire members, so it’s doubtful it would have been worth applying anyway.

        1. JeanB in NC*

          My good friend in Texas works for one of those giant churches and she wears basically nothing but pants. However, she does have to be a member, has to attend church weekly, and has to tithe, all of which are deal-breakers for me.

          1. Jadelyn*

            The idea of forcing an employee to tithe is just…like…ass-backwards, to me. If I work for you, I work for you in exchange for you paying me money. If *I’m* giving *you* money, that money is going in the wrong direction for this transaction!

            1. Natalie*

              It’s possible that by “tithe” they just mean “donate to charity”. A lot of evangelical nondenominational Christians I know use it that way.

              But yeah, if they mean “donate it to us, your employer” that’s gross.

              1. Jadelyn*

                I’d bet they specifically mean “give a minimum of 10% of your gross income to the church”, or at least that’s how I always experienced the term being used back in my church-involved days. May depend on the specific church, though.

            2. Not Australian*

              My daughter-in-law applied to work in a Christian cafe where staff were required to tithe – quite literally 10% of their earnings. I never found out how it was done, but I assume they just paid them 10% less … Anyway, she very politely told them what they could do with their job.

            3. Fifty Foot Commute*

              The expectation (not being forced) is unfortunately common. I work in a very not evangelical church, and I know my last boss was judging me for being the only employee who didn’t give to the church (employees are all non-members by policy; I have my own church to give to, thankyouverymuch!).

      3. Nan*

        I had one of those interviews once, at a credit union. I walked in, in black pants, and the older than dirt guy who interviewed me said women can only wear pants on Fridays, it’s the dress code. Yeah, that was a big, fat NOPE.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I could never work anywhere that wouldn’t let me have tea close at hand. Eeesh.

      1. Tinysoprano*

        Yeah reading this comment thread I’m starting to feel weirdly grateful that I work somewhere where I can have a bucket of tea on my desk, trousers on my butt and brogues sans hose on my footsies.

    3. Britt*

      I had something a bit similar where I went on an interview for an admin job at a prep school and my recruiter was pressuring me to purchase a skirt suit to interview in. I was hardcore looking for a job (mostly in lab jobs where a suit was not the normal interview garb at all, usually nice pants or khakis with a button down) so definitely could not afford to purchase a skirt suit based on a maybe interview that I was taking out of desperation. I had nice black suit-like pants, so I wore those. The office was…very backwards. As in there were rules written into their school laws that females were not allowed to wear pants under any circumstances and could only wear dresses or skirts with nude pantyhose. I felt like I had taken a time machine back to 1930. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job (probably because of my scandalous pants) and I dropped the pushy recruiter too.

      1. JanetM*

        I’m curious — if the recruiter had said, “this school has a dress code and women are not allowed to wear pants,” I assume you would have skipped the interview. But would you have dropped the recruiter?

        This is not meant in any way to be critical of your decision! I’m just wondering about context and such.

        1. Britt*

          Yes because the recruiter was very pushy and not a good fit from the beginning. I was waitressing to pay bills and she would call me over and over again looking to go over my employment history in the middle of my shift and if I wouldn’t (read: couldn’t) answer, she would begin rapid fire texting my cell phone! I really only kept working with her as long as I did because I needed a full time job so badly.

      2. league*

        Genuine question for Alison or anyone else who may know: What’s the legality around different dress codes for men & women?

        1. Britt*

          I would love to know this too because it certainly made my eyebrows rise. This was years ago (around 2008) and I was wondering if they were even able to enforce rules like that.

        2. Jadelyn*

          I know California law specifically disallows employers from forcing women to wear skirts/dresses, but on a national level, I believe it’s legal so long as it doesn’t create an “unequal burden” on either sex. There was a court case a couple years ago where the court upheld a gender-specific dress code policy on the grounds that it didn’t create unfair burden on the female employees, if I’m remembering correctly. The casino one with the bartender who refused to wear makeup – anyone else remember details on that?

          1. Zombii*

            One gender being obligated to pay for (and take the time to apply) cosmetics while the other isn’t—and one gender being obligated to pay for clothing items that are essentially disposable (I’m looking at you, hose!) while the other isn’t—and one gender being obligated to pay for and wear shoes and clothing that is often restrictive and/or impractical while the other isn’t—none of this is an unfair burden on female employees?

            Goddamn. O_o

            Noted. I guess. Wtf though srsly.

          2. Wendy Darling*

            Is it an unequal burden if I am constitutionally incapable of putting on pantyhose three times without putting my thumb through them two times, so each pair is only good for 1-2 wears and I have to spend 1/3 of my paycheck on pantyhose?

            Because it should be.

        3. SarahKay*

          Pretty sure that in the UK it’s illegal to have different dress codes for men and women. To the extent that a school in the south of England had boys wanting to wear shorts in the hot weather we’ve just had and when they were told no, uniform is trousers (pants) or skirts, about 30 of them borrowed uniform skirts from sisters/friends and came to school in skirts. It made the papers, in an “This is awesome!” way so I’m guessing even if the school had wanted to quietly (and illegally) discipline them, it’s not going to now….
          For sure if someone tried to tell me I couldn’t wear trousers to work I’d start quoting the 2010 Equality Act.

          1. This is She*

            Yup, same here in Canada, to the best of my recollection. Employers aren’t allowed to require unnecessarily gendered dress codes (can’t require high heels or skirts for women) nor requirements that infringe on religious privilege — e.g. a ‘no hats’ policy cannot include turbans or yarmulkes, etc. There was one rather famous instance where a server in a bar was told that on ‘Hawaiian Night’ the women staff all had to wear bikini tops, but men could wear Hawaiian shirts. She was awarded about $3000 by BC’s Human rights Tribunal, IIRC.

          2. Jenny*

            No, UK employers can have different dress codes, last year there was a story going round the papers abouta temp worker sent home for refusing to wear 3 inch heels and this is completely legal

    4. Former Hoosier*

      I knew it at an interview once. It was for a printing company and before the actual interview I had to take an editing test and a proofreading test. That was fine. Then I had to take a personality test which was weird. It was this mimeographed, kind of odd test (not like Meyers-Briggs or Strengths Finder). I did that. And then in the interview the CEO asked me about my responses in a weird creepy way. Like one question asked what I enjoyed doing in my free time. I had put spending time with my kids, going to college basketball games and a couple of other things. He kept asking me why I enjoyed those things and it just felt weird, creepy and off. I could never figure out what I was supposed to say and he asked me why I enjoyed them in a way that actually seemed suggestive.

      And I asked him to describe his management style and he said, “I don’t know. I tell people what to do and they do it.”

      I finished the interview and then prayed that I wouldn’t get an offer because I really needed a job. I got an offer the next week before I heard back about this one. After accepting I immediately hung up and called the other place and turned it down. I was so relieved.

        1. Nico m*

          I dunno. Direct orders to do stupid are preferable to passive-aggressive cajoling or tricks.

      1. Starwatcher*

        Oh, my! I know this is late but I just had an interview with the most surreal tests ever, too! Was this test this bizarre thing with boxes where you had to choose pairs of words that least & most described you, with several that had religious ones like “devout” and “reverent”, and then the boxes get coded with Lucky Charms type symbols according to a complicated chart, and these get mapped onto another graph and then plotted as an X-Y graph so they can look up what personality type you are according to another, secret chart?

        I was amazed, because not only was this weird, unusual, and intrusive-feeling, it had absolutely nothing to do with the job and they didn’t even ask any position-related questions. They weren’t interested at. all. Like, if you were interviewing for Experienced Teapot Designer, and you brought in samples of teapots you’d designed, and not only did they not ask to see them they were entirely indifferent when you asked if they wanted to see them, and ordinarily you would be expected to demonstrate your proficiency in SpoutCAD CS, and all they cared about was if you could type 40 wpm on one of those online typing tests.

        But they were all completely convinced of the infallible results of that word-choice personality test!

        No, I didn’t get a call back. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be a good fit due to all the Thomas Kincaid and “inspirational” angels around the office, and it wasn’t “AngelPots Ltd” either, but I was willing to tamp down my irreverent geeky personality for a paycheck again. But a teapot-maker that showed absolutely zero concern over the qualifications of a potential teapot designer really weirded me out! I only encountered that one other time in 20 years, and that job was a constant dumpster fire of people quitting without warning. (OldBoss thought hiring people with little/no teapot-designing experience and underpaying them as she trained them “on the job” was a good way to save money. Spoiler: It was not.)

        So even though I really need the work and could do it without difficulty, it was a relief. (I did research them before the interview, too, and there wasn’t any hint they were anything other than an ordinary generic small teapot manufacturer. No signs of cultlike conformity produced by selecting employees through a process of what felt like esoteric divination!)

    5. Kama'aina Kitty*

      I interviewed at the foundation of a Big 10 Midwestern university and was told that women must wear pantyhose at all times, and yes, that they would _check_. WTF, I thought to myself. I wish I had had the presence of mind to ask how exactly they check such things: does it stop at the feet or do you have to drop trou and show your undergarments?! I managed to keep my composure, finished the interview, went back to my desk and withdrew from consideration. Mind you, it wasn’t so much the pantyhose requirement, but the checking. Ewww! This was around 2003 for a non-customer facing position.

    6. Wendy Darling*

      Cripes, at least you found out the pantyhose thing in the interview. Maybe it’s my west coast tech hub-ness talking but pantyhose are a dealbreaker for me, so if I’d found that out after I already accepted a job it would not be pretty.

  4. Managed Chaos*

    Yes. My boss has received complaints that I am too friendly, that I say “Good morning” to people as they walk in in the morning specifically. Apparently, that is “too much” to do every day. Also, I have been made fun of for smiling all the time – the owner’s wife overheard it at a party and scolded the main offender for “bullying.” Most of the office seems crabby and unhappy 90% of the time. A red flag for me during the interview process should have been that I was never invited to the office. I wasn’t able to see if I thought I would fit it. (I was replacing someone and they didn’t want them to know until closer to the end of the process.) Also, the office is open, and so everyone is in everyone’s space all the time. If I had visited the office during working hours, the chance of me taking the job would likely have been about 20%.

      1. Managed Chaos*

        I’m starting to casually look, but I’ve only been here a year so I’m trying to stretch it a little so it doesn’t look so bad on a resume’.

    1. Pup Seal*

      This almost reminds me of the building where I work. People get thrown off when you say good morning and stuff like that, but not because they’re crabby. There are a lot of socially awkward people here. One time my former boss was here to visit me, and he tried to say hello to someone. They just gave him a weird look.

      I’m sorry about your experiences. That sounds tough.

      1. Chrissy*

        Haha! :) This sounds like me. I’m admittedly socially awkward, but I also get very tired of my one coworker wanting a detailed report of my previous evening – every. day. for. three. years. straight. It feels so tedious. I would love to engage him in real conversation if he asked every so often instead as part of his morning checklist. I don’t mind a smile and a soft good morning, but the monotony of recounting every evening gets old. Your company culture sounds perfect for me.

    2. Lowercase holly*

      I was reprimanded at one job for not smiling enough (not customer facing) so I developed a habit of smiling at all I pass in hallways which weirded people out at subsequent jobs.

      1. CMart*

        I just got out of a decade+ of bartending, with my last gig being at an upscale sort of place where “surly bartender” wasn’t an acceptable persona, and now have “resting friendly face”.

        At my corporate accounting gig now I 100% weird out all kinds of people as I smile warmly at them as I pass on my 80 trips/day to the kitchen to refill my water bottle. I’m sure I smile pleasantly at my computer as I work as well, like a happy lunatic.

        1. jactar*

          I recently returned to the 9-5 workforce (public health policy & advocacy) after 7 years of corporate bartending, and was surprised at how well “resting friendly face” transitioned to lobbying on the Hill. It also helps to think of everybody there as drunk.

          1. Anonicat*

            I have it. I meet a lot of new people because strangers are always asking for directions or other help. It’s not bad though.

        2. WittyOne*

          OMG I so needed that laugh. I was once told, at a new job, that I was amazing but that I should smile when I answer the phone, cause people on the other end can ‘hear’ the smile. I was nice, friendly and helpful but they needed more. Then again this is a place that called the receptionist the Director of First Impressions. Yep, I didn’t last.

          1. Been There, Done That*

            I’ve just begun a job search and saw a posting for a “Director of First Impressions.” I’ve also notice employers are giving a standard job a fancier or off-the-wall titles, like $12/hr (very low pay in my area) “office manager” and “executive assistant” jobs that are really receptionist, or admin-receptionist. Is this a trend?

      2. Machiamellie*

        I was written up because I smiled and nodded at someone’s greeting, but didn’t verbally say “good morning.”

    3. Nanani*

      I’ve had the opposite – told I needed to *start* saying GOOD MORNING to the entire office (one big room with open plan seating, so just one greeting. not go around saying it to everybody individually) when I walked in. I got used to it, and then realized everybody else was doing it too but I didn’t really notice because of where my seat was in that LOUD LOUD place + when I start concentrating I can tune stuff out very effectively.

        1. Anonicat*


      1. MsMaryMary*

        My current job also has a thing about saying good morning/good night to everyone. Sometimes when several people are leaving at the same time it sounds like the end of The Waltons. I caught on pretty quick when I started working here, but some people haven’t figured it out or don’t think it’s important. Then the Good Morning People insist someone doesn’t like them or favors other coworkers because he doesn’t say hello to them (no, he doesn’t have strong soft skills and he tends to get very focused on one thing at a time. He probably didn’t realize you were there).

        1. Jadelyn*

          I’m in an office on the main hallway to the back door, so everyone passes by me as they leave for the day. Sometimes around 4:30-5ish I will exchange “good night!”s with a dozen people in 5 minutes as they all troop on out.

        2. Kaden Lee*

          oh man! same here! my last job I only really said good night to the control room operators (because I had to walk through the control room to get out of my office) and that was it. I started a new job and a few weeks in a coworker saw me as I was leaving and griped “why don’t you ever say goodbye? sheesh!” (in a friendly way, I fit way better here). Makes sense because it was a plant of 200-ish employees versus an office of like 10 but it still feels a little awkward to dip into somebody’s office to intentionally say goodbye.

    4. Jackie*

      I also worked at a place where people never greeted. And if you greeted you were ignored. It was like you were invisible. Just ghosts passing in the hall…

      1. Kiwi*

        Yeah me too. A couple of months after starting there I was knocked off my bike and spent some time in hospital. When I came back to pick up my laptop so I could work from home, I hobbled past all of my colleagues (with plaster and pins screwed into my arm) and …. nobody said a thing. I was a bit hurt, but they weren’t being deliberately rude – the workplace was just kind of disengaged. It was a place that encouraged working from home and they acted like they were working in isolation from home even when they were in the office. Even the receptionists behaved that way which is weird, because most receptionists I’ve encountered have been very outgoing and friendly.

    5. Rainbow Hair Chick*

      If you are in Canada then I feel that we may have worked at the same place! I was told all of the above and was told that I was too professional to customers. They also told that I worked too hard to resolve customer problems. There were regular shouting matches between the employees daily using a lot of profanity. One morning I said good morning to a co-worker and he told me f**k off. One of my coworkers had make a mistake and the supervisor took her shoe off and threw it at his head when she found out. It was by far the worst seven months of my life.

        1. Managed Chaos*

          I know this isn’t funny, but I keep laughing at it. I think it is a stunned laugh though.

      1. On Fire*

        This goes so far against every Canadian stereotype that my brain broke a little.

      2. Can't Sit Still*

        You’re in Canada, so that can’t be my former boss, but maybe it was a long lost cousin. Mine liked to whack people with a metal ruler, too. Wham! I’m still jumpy decades later if somebody’s waving a ruler around. (Yeah, I know, but it was literally the only job in town. I moved.)

    6. Janelle*

      I got to say I am an ass because I hate when the same dang person says good morning how are you every flipping day. It’s 8am and I haven’t won. D lottery yet. I’m not great.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        My coworkers have gotten used to my habit of a noncommittal “Eh”[1] (with a shoulder shrug) in response. It helped when I explained that’s what I do when I feel the social need to acknowledge their existence, but don’t actually have anything to say.

        [1]It’s the sound that requires the least amount of energy to make. I’ve made a study.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          I have been known to make a kind of “unf” noise if it’s before 9:30 and I haven’t had coffee yet. I’m REALLY not a morning person. I’ve also had a lot of jobs where all my problems were in a different time zone from me so when I arrived in the morning my first task was to un-FUBAR everything that got FUBARed in the night, and that doesn’t make me cheerful.

    7. Allergist*

      Reminds me of my roommate when I lived in Australia who complained about her Yank roommate who was “forcing herself on her”…. I had a habit of saying “hello” and “how are you” to said roommate when we were in the common areas and was pretty pissed when I learned how she was describing it.

    8. Abby*

      I am not really a morning person and I used to have an hour commute to work so I would come in not quite ready to talk to people. One of my direct reports at the time was really friendly (and I liked her a lot) but she would always be really cheery in the morning and I would just say hi.

      She told another employee that she thought I didn’t like her and the other employee said, “She’s not really a morning person.”

        1. Ree-ree*

          Omg this! I used to have a direct report who had to loudly and cheerily welcome me every morning into the office (at first she would even stand up to hug me, ick!) . I am not a morning person at the best of times, but the real reason I hated it is because the office was open plan and her OTT welcomes were was alerting my nightmare micro-manager of a boss to my exact arrival time. I work in an industry that involves a lot of extra evening/weekend work so people are generally quite relaxed about timekeeping, and yet he’d act as if I’d personally insulted his ancestors for being <10 mins late (yet he told me that me staying an extra 30 mins or more most nights didn't count "because he wasn't there to see it" – worst boss I ever had!).

          I sort of regret being so brusque with her now – I should have just taken her to one side and told her the deal, but at the time I was just stuck in 'eugh, leave me alone' mode.

          1. Starwatcher*

            My nightmare micromanager of a boss would aggressively highlight people’s timecards for being one minute late, literally, rant and threaten and boast how replaceable everyone was if we didn’t want to work there, and then randomly not come in until 9, or noon, or sometimes not at all, because she was remodeling her kitchen. There were lots of things that needed her to personally sign off on, too, and tight teapot-manufacturing deadlines meant they couldn’t be put off indefinitely, so this meant a lot of unplanned overtime for us teapot makers.

            Worst thing? She never bothered to call in and let the supervisors know (because they worked for her, she didn’t work for them) so if she’d gotten into a car accident nobody would have realized it until the next day.

            Yes, that company was out of business a couple of years later.

  5. edj3*

    Oh yes. I accepted a job with an engineering company, and all interviews were by phone or Skype (I lived out of state but had lived the company’s location before).

    I knew pretty quickly that it wasn’t the best fit–if you were an engineer, you could and would get access to every software needed to make you more efficient. If you were in an overhead role, and weren’t producing revenue, then you didn’t get anything. So we didn’t have a learning management system for our (required) training–we used Excel, and manually built all rosters to then enter in PeopleSoft and then manually go back and mark complete. Those poor analysts in HR would pretty frequently get faxed copies of smudged rosters that were more than a year old, and then hope they could read those blurry faxes.

    The company is very profitable, and others love working there. For me, though, that attitude of engineers sit at the right hand of God and the rest of us don’t just wasn’t worth it. I resigned 18 months later without a job lined up.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Ughh, it’s like they actually WANT people in “overhead” roles to be inefficient. They’d have less overhead to whine about if they actually let people do their jobs!

    2. Natasha*

      I don’t work in an engineering company, but have heard this is true about nearly every (software) engineering focused company. I work in the development side of my company, and we’re just treated like regular Joes. That’s probably a good thing but some of the tech perks sound fancy!

      1. NoHose*

        Four years at an multi disciplinary engineering firm (not software) and yeah, there was more than a few who acted like they were the bee’s knees. There was a few I called Divas…and they were men. It was never boring during those four years.

    3. Jadelyn*

      Gods, this makes me so grateful that my VP is the “will it make your job easier? Then buy it.” type. I have a repetitive strain injury in my right hand, and the worst thing for it is using a traditional mouse. I’ve tried a dozen different weird mice over the years – vertical mice, trackpads, finger mice, ergonomic “ball”-shaped mice, etc. – and the best one for me is the Contour Rollermouse. I still have pain, but I can put in a solid 8 hour day and still be functional when I get home to spend another hour or two playing video games or writing on my home computer.

      Only, it costs like $300. I saved up and got myself one for at home, and for awhile I tried carrying it back and forth to work every day, but that got old quick. So I steeled myself to ask the VP for permission to order a rollermouse for my workstation. I explained what the issue was, what the rollermouse is, and told him how much it costs, expecting to hear “no” or have to argue my case on official accommodation grounds.

      He literally asked “it’ll make it easier for you to do your work, right?” I said, “gods yes, the less pain I’m in the more work I can do.” He said “then buy it. Does your corporate card have enough room on it right now? If not, here’s mine.” It was just that easy, and I have never forgotten how valued it made me feel, that he would be willing to spend a chunk of our budget on something like that for me.

      (So much sympathy for those poor HR analysts though. SO MUCH SYMPATHY!! I’m dragging my HR team kicking and screaming into the 21st century, so I know how that goes.)

      1. veggiewolf*

        I have the same rollermouse, and couldn’t be productive without it. I had to go through the ergonomic assessor, but he backed me up.

  6. KB*

    I went from a government consulting firm to the government consulting arm of one of the “Big Four” US accounting firms. The firm was pretty aggressively recruiting from my former employer, and after about two weeks got roped in as a peer interviewer for one of my former colleagues. He asked whether the Big Four firm offered student debt assistance. That was not something I was concerned with, so I had no idea. But since one of the purposes of the peer interview was to make the candidate feel like he already had friends/connections inside the firm, I promised to follow up with the recruiter and circle back with him.

    As promised, I asked the recruiter. She replied “Yes, we do. But we hate it when candidates ask question like that in interviews, because it shows the candidate is concerned with what [the firm] can do for him, and not what he can do for [the firm].”

    I made it just another few months at that place.

    1. CoffeeLover*

      Just wanted to commiserate on the Big4 front. Started as a consultant right out of uni and regretted it pretty quickly. It was weird because I actually really liked the people I worked with directly – smart, motivated, willing to help each other out, fun to hang out with, etc. But there is some kind of terrible overarching culture that you can’t get away from, and the longer you’re there, the more it affects you.

      One of the biggest issues I had was actually with recruiting. The firm spends so much energy in projecting a certain type of image and getting the highest number of candidates possible. But then almost no one talks about why 85% of people are gone after 2 years (or when they do it’s some form of “they couldn’t handle the pressure” or “they got a great opportunity because of their experience with us”). Ya, those aren’t the real reasons.

      The firm does not speak honestly and transparently about itself and the work during recruiting. Examples of things I was told or were implied during the recruiting phase that just weren’t true (or are true for very few people): 1) You can move to an office abroad after 1 or 2 years with the firm; 2) All of our projects are super interesting and involve strategy; 3) You will ALWAYS get paid overtime if you work over 40hours; 4) You will work on a broad range of project and industries. I could keep going, but I’ll stop there.

      1. KB*

        I got my payback, though…landed with a small company and went to a hiring fair to hire someone. Ran into my old dishonest director at Big Four, herself handing out resumes and looking for a job. I wonder if she “couldn’t handle the pressure”? Because if she was at a job fair it definitely wasn’t *because* of the great skills she got in Big Four…

        1. CoffeeLover*

          Haha, I’m happy to hear it worked out for you! I moved to a different country and am looking for my next step.

          I actually found this was one of the biggest “lies” if you will – that consulting is the best move for your career. It can be difficult to find your next step after consulting because, while you may have a lot of transferable skills, you don’t have a lot of direct skills. I have a feeling a lot of people stay at these firms not because they really enjoy the work, but because it can be difficult to find the next step (unless you’re recruited by a client, which is how most go).

          1. Louise*

            Would you mind expanding on what you mean by direct skills? I’ve just started out in consulting (but at the point where it’s still easy to switch out), but I don’t want to end up trapped in an industry forever!

            1. CoffeeLover*

              Sorry for the length. I got on a roll. A quick note: most of what I say is referring to junior/mid-level consultants because that’s what I’m most familiar with.

              Basically, if you want to move out of consulting, it can be difficult to move up rather than moving down when applying to jobs outright. There’s a few reasons for this I think:
              1) A lot of people in industry don’t really understand what consultants do. While people in consulting (and related professions) know the lingo and the value/strengths consultants bring, people outside of it aren’t familiar with the work you do. Just think of the last time you said you were a management consultant and got a blank stare or a “yes, but what do you DO”. There’s a bit of mystery there that you need to explain and the value isn’t as apparent as we would think.
              2) A lot of the specific work you do in consulting doesn’t really translate to any industry jobs. How often do companies go through major changes and overhauls? These aren’t the kind of positions companies usually keep in house. That’s why they hire the consultants: temporary workers with experience in major change.
              3) While you may develop a lot of variety of skills, you don’t have the specific skills companies are looking for. For example, imagine they’re hiring a sales manager and you’re working as a consulting manager. Why would they hire you over someone whose worked in sales for 5 years and has the direct sales experience they’re looking for? So while you talk about how your experience writing proposals and selling projects is similar, another candidate can point to the direct skill of working in sales. This applies to pretty much all industry jobs.

              Typical exit options for consultants basically breakdown to this:
              1) You move from consulting firm to consulting firm so you can continue to progress your career. Or you start your own consultancy/work as an independent consultant. These are the career consultants.
              2) You go back to school (MBA or other), so you can learn new skills and make new connection to move into a different field.
              3) You get hired by the client you’re working for. Probably the best outcome if you can stick it out this long. Clients don’t really poach entry level people, but it can definitely happen at the sr.manager/director level and above. Usually, you get hired in a more senior role than you could get were you to apply for that job outright.
              4) You go into industry through your network or some other opportunity that presents itself. It’s doable, but it will usually be a lateral or downward step if you’re not lucky.
              5) You start your own company.

              A lot of consulting firms do a great job of marketing and make it sound like consulting is the best kicking off point for your career. While you do learn a lot, the problem is you’re not necessarily learning the things that can help you move to your next step if that step is outside of consulting and if you’re not willing to work in consulting until you reach a senior enough level. A lot of the skills you develop aren’t directly relevant to industry and are more generic in nature (though still useful). I’m talking about learning how to deal with clients, how to pitch projects, how to manage change, etc. Useful, but not directly applicable to most mid-level jobs.

              I think consulting is really useful for people that have industry experience and want to move to a more strategic/senior role. A few years of industry experience would lead to a specialized consulting role (rather than the generic role new grads and/or career consultants usually take). Specialized consultants either have an industry specialization or an area of expertise such as supply chain. As a consultant, they can leverage their knowledge to develop some of the more strategic and soft skills companies are looking for in leadership and go back to the industry once they have a few years of consulting under their belt (this is what I saw a lot of the more senior consultants do).

              I thought I was done, but I have one last point to make after reading you last few words. One of the big selling points for new grads is not having to choose an industry or career path that they will get “trapped” in. Consulting is supposed to give you the freedom to develop skills without getting pigeon holed. Honestly, I think you’re better off going to industry and looking for high-growth positions. Pick something that interests you and try it out. At least you’re figuring out your career (what you like, what you don’t) rather than delaying it and building semi-transferable skills. Moving is always possible later on. People do it all the time. You may even find changing career paths within industry or across industries easier than moving from consulting to industry.

              1. CoffeeLover*

                Ok now I want to say something else haha. I don’t want you to think you made some kind of huge mistake or something for going into consulting. There are a lot of great skills to learn in consulting. A lot of those skills look awesome on a resume and can help you move on to your next step, and will definitely help you over the long haul. I just want you to be aware that the firms are a little full of it when it comes to exit opportunities. They make it sound like private companies will be banging on your door which usually isn’t the case. Usually, you’ll have to do some work to get those jobs and that may mean taking a step down (which isn’t always a bad thing). Of course this is all really depended on the work you do while in consulting. Some people do a great job of building their experience in specific, high-demand areas and can find good work, easily.

                1. Anon for this one*

                  Chasing this up a year later but thank you for this – you missed the point though that (women only) having a baby usually ends a consulting career. I had a client who did not understand why I wouldn’t schedule a C section and dump my newborn in another state to work 4-5 days a week to accommodate a deadline. I resigned with nothing lined up, and it’s been tough to find something where they don’t expect Big Four hours and effort for shit pay. Employers have outright told me, “You worked crazy hours for Big Four, so you can do it for us!” Yeah, Big Four paid much better in salary and benefits than your crappy company. Also, I didn’t have any kids.
                  I have taken a SHITLOAD of abuse from family and friends for the dip in my career – the fact that my client wouldn’t accommodate my pregnancy and that I moved clients (team I worked with, office location etc) every few months translates to “you kept getting fired” / “they didn’t like you enough.” It’s gotten so bad I’ve retained a lawyer to keep my child from being taken away from me.

              2. consultant*

                That’s true actually and that’s what I’m discovering now, trying to find my next job (switching to the client’s company is not an option).

                Also, the description of the Big4 work culture above seems realistic. I’m not with Big4, but with another huge consultancy and I recognise my company in it.

                1. Former Consultant*

                  I started my career working for the government arm of a Big 4 consultancy (in DC/NOVA), and am now in the financial services industry in NYC. While there are certainly downsides to consulting (I don’t plan to go back), I disagree with your assessment regarding exit opportunities. I was actively recruited during my time as junior analyst/consultant during my 3 years at the Big 4 and the roles were almost always steps up (although I didn’t take them). I think that the keys to translating your consultant work to industry work is to be thoughtful in the positions you apply for and to talk about how your skills will apply to projects the teams have. In my industry role (definitely a step up) I’ve done a lot of project management and process development, which is what I did as a consultant. Many of the roles I applied to and interviewed for (to the final round) wanted someone who had experience working multiple projects, on cross-functional teams, and the ability to pick up new subjects quickly, which are all things you learn as a successful consultant.
                  TL/DR: I think it’s more about choosing to apply for the right positions rather than lack of opportunity. If you can show accomplishments as a consultant, companies will want to hire you.

                2. consultant*

                  Hi Former Consultant,

                  I’m from Europe, so it might be a geographical difference. My job is similar to yours: strategy but mostly project management, mostly huge international business transformation projects and cross-functional teams.

                  However, it’s still difficult. The positions I find mostly have a focus in strategy, logistics, marketing or IT. I have some experience in all that but it seems that the companies prefer someone with a more traditional background, who has been specialising in one of these areas from the beginning.

      2. CoffeeLover*

        Just wanted to add. They basically tell you what you want to hear while recruiting. If you say you want to work in some specific area, they’ll give you examples of projects that are exactly what you’re looking for. Never mind that they haven’t done this kind of work in a while and have no leads for future projects. If you want to move abroad, they’ll give you examples of people who have done so; even though, it’s really difficult and rare to actually pull off. If you want to travel a lot, they’ll give examples of people who do. If you don’t want to travel, they’ll give the opposite. If you don’t want to work a lot of overtime, they’ll tell you about their work-life balance policies.

        I’m obviously a little (okay, a lot) jaded by the whole thing, but I think it’s wrong for these companies to essentially lie to candidates just to get them in the door. I bet they would have a lot better retention and happier employees if they were more open about the work because there are also a lot of positives and great learning opportunities.

        1. the_scientist*

          ugh, my best friend is at a big 4 and it sounds terrible. I know I could never do it.

          1. Getting older CPA guy*

            Actually, I think the Big 4 (used to be 8 when I started) count on the high turnover. Salaries are very low for the first two or three years. They are able to hire the top students out of the local universities, then pay them entry level salaries for a couple of years. They are then excellent candidates to be hired into private companies. Then there careers start booming.

            1. CoffeeLover*

              Good point. Layoffs are usually on the horizon when too many people stick around for too long. Still though, when I left I heard a few of the partner’s complained about how much they invested in training me only to have me leave.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          Daaaang. So I should have no regrets on my decision to skip public accounting I guess.

          In my graduate program, pretty much the only people that came to hire us were public accountants. I knew at the start that wasn’t what I wanted (we had to declare of “major” or either tax or audit and I was like… those both sound terrible, I just want to be an accountant?)

          Luckily fate worked in my favor and I interviewed with two smaller public accounting firms in the area I wanted to move to and neither ended up hiring me so I was kind of panicked because all my classmates had jobs lined up (I made things more difficult for myself by not being willing to one of the two bigger cities in my state where all the Big4 had offices). But then my current company emailed our programs recruiter and said they were looking for somebody in the city I wanted.

          It felt so crazy when it happened because the recruitment part of our program was like four months long and I came out with nothing, and then I got the email about this job and got hired in like a two-week span. Right before Christmas too, just in time to enjoy the holidays :)

          1. KatiePie*

            Ha! I’m with you in that public accounting NEVER appealed to me. I worked through college, first in administrative roles and then entry level accounting roles for small companies. I loved it. I was like, “Why would I move to a huge bustling city where I know no one and work crazy hours for clients I barely know?” My heart was and still is small/medium businesses, and I’ve been able to build a credible career in industry. We seem to be the few, who skipped public altogether.

            1. WorldTraveler*

              I graduated in Dec ’08 just as the economy crashed. I already had a job offer lined up with a manufacturing company I interned for but I wanted to get my “Public Accounting Experience” despite knowing that a compeitive environment wouldn’t be the best for me. Luckily for me 3 of the 4 interviews I had lined up dropped them due to restricted hiring and the fourth decided to go through with interview but wouldn’t be hiring. I quickly accepted the job with the company I had worked for. 5 years later I decided to go back to public accounting to get the experience at a mid range firm (not big 4 but as close as you can get). I made it 2 months before I knew that I would quit at the year mark. I was still trying to learn how to do things the public way instead of the internal audit way and they were giving me no training or any sort of constructive criticism. 7 months after I started they fired me without warning. Good news was I got severance, unemployment, and now I just celebrated my 2 year work anniversary at a company I love. I should have stuck to my instincts.

      3. Professor Moriarty*

        My big4 penultimate year internship was the best thing that ever happened to me because if I hadn’t done it I would have been stuck there for 3 years after graduation! I quickly realised it just wasn’t for me, I just felt like it was a kind of cult and you were supposed to be super grateful to be there but no one was ever honest. And they kept apologising for the light workload over the summer while I was doing 8 until 7 every day and asking for reedback on the experience but creaking out of it wasn’t gushing and complimentary. It was an incredible learning experience though and meant I was far more probing in my interviews and I’ve landed an excellent grad job where the hours are long and I feel valued even though I know that I don’t know much yet. The big4 are pushed so hard on campus and i know a good few people who only applied there because they didn’t know any other route into accounting, luckily my careers centre were incredibly helpful when I went in for advice on other options and put me in touch with alumni in various industries.

    2. Michael Scarn*

      Former Big 4 accountant here. I was only there a year. Loved the people, hated the double-speak. They didn’t up the audit fees, but the workload increased substantially due to new audit standards. So while they’d tell you not to eat time, they were constantly monitoring time budgets and wondering why the audit couldn’t be completed in the same or fewer hours than the prior year (even when the whole team had turned over).

      I agree with the commenter who said they wanted to maintain a certain image. I knew this recent grad who had great grades, a lot of extra curriculars and an outgoing personality. They never moved forward with her resume. Why? Because she was very overweight. Such a shame. And if you were over 30 and wanted to come in as a new staff due to a career change, forget about it! Unless you looked like you were in your early 20s, your resume was going in the reject pile.

      1. Jennifer Walters*

        I have a friend from college who went to the Big 4. He was never incredibly overweight, but he was a fluffy guy. All of the sudden, I started noticing on Facebook that him and the other fluffy person in his “class” at the firm started losing weight at a rapid pace. He’s super fit now and told us, while he was happy he made the change, he definitely did it because he felt he wouldn’t go anywhere in his position at the Big 4 if he didn’t.

      2. Zombii*

        This is concerning. I’m 34 and one year into school for accounting. I look younger, like mid-20’s. Also I’m overweight (working on losing some for health reasons but I’m always going to be chubby, that’s just how I am)

        Should I drop out now/change my major and cut my losses, or just stay away from the Big 4?

        1. Professor Moriarty*

          My 38 year old coursemate just graduated with a training contract lined up at a small firm, that pays the same as the big4 but actually pays overtime. Not saying age discrimination etc won’t be a problem for you but it can be done :)

    3. Still Paranoid After All These Years*

      Big 4 firms are crazy. I worked in a variety of roles for almost a decade in a couple of firms. When I was in HR, our sick list was always about 10% of our employees, so, 2000 employees, 200 people out on disability.

      Stories from the Big 4:
      The African-American manager who was told she need to either cut her waist length hair or keep it in braids at all times, but she not allowed to wear it loose again because it was “distracting.”
      The senior manager who kept a bang list of the interns, IYKWIMAITYD.
      The manager who demanded that his next assistant be f@(kable and also told one of his reports that she had a nice @ss as part of her performance review.
      Various stories of drunken debauchery that ended with ambulances and the ICU and also the firm being banned from all restaurants with indoor seating. Also, all golf courses within 100 miles.
      People having sex pretty much anywhere and everywhere at any time in the office. You coughed before walking around blind corners, because you never knew what you might see otherwise.
      Support staff wasn’t allowed to say no. Ever. To anything. They always had to say yes without hesitation, no matter what.

      I don’t know why I stayed so long. They tell you it’s not for everyone, and instead of saying, you know what, you’re right, I took it as a challenge. That was not the best choice I ever made, that’s for sure.

      1. Anon for This*

        Not the Big 4, but I worked at a big company in the 90s that hired SchmaSchminsey & Co. for a huge strategy overhaul. In the middle of it, they hired a handful of the consultants for various director, VP and C-level roles. All men. With one exception, all of these hires were huge jerks.

        One was a coke fiend hired directly from rehab. He ended up having an affair with a direct report. The CFO billed the company for his expensive dental work (and I don’t mean through dental insurance) which he justified because he was an executive and it was a publicly traded company. Lots of slipping out for golf, tennis, cycling every week. Spending money like they thought we were printing it in the basement. Tons of drinking. Other bad behavior. Jerks.

        And apart from them, the actual strategies from SchmaSchminsey & Co. are part of what drove this company into the ground. (It eventually would have died just from competing technologies, but the new path from SchmaSchminsey brought it to its knees prematurely.)

        I still have no respect for that consulting firm.

  7. I'll say it*

    I was let go over a culture fit once and it still makes me feel pretty awful. The culture mandate was from the CEO, who changed his mind frequently, liked to make glamour reels of how great the offices were, and commented on the quality of the clothing people wore and how that reflected on them personally. (As in, non designer, you bought that at target and you’re low class.)

    The culture was one of “respect the CEO and praise him at all costs” and I just didn’t. He also felt that I was “too positive” about other things. So, when I explain it this way, it makes sense and anyone would say “it’s good you’re not there!!” But it still hurts to be rejected, even if it’s over silly stuff like this made-up culture.

    1. I'll say it*

      Oh and the red flag would have been during my interview process, when one of those glamour reels was presented to me while I was onsite and I had to give my thoughts on it right then and there – in detail. “That was really great, and showed some great shots of the building” wasn’t enough. I could tell they wanted me to say “this was amazing and why would anyone not want to work here???” when in truth, it really didn’t tell much about the job or the people or the office for that matter, other than there were some great photographers and videographers. I should have known right then, and accepted anyway – because the job I was in was terrible. That’s been my downfall ever since – leaving somewhere that I hate and taking another job, any other job, to get out. Sigh.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      “As in, non designer, you bought that at target and you’re low class.”

      WTF was this company, middle school?

      (Also, he’d better damn well have been paying you a lot if he expected designer clothing only.)

      1. Jadelyn*

        If he wants me to wear designer crap, he better be buying me designer crap, cause I have better things to spend my money on than buying the approval of a shallow jerk like that.

    3. Abby*

      I understand and I think it is really hard to be let go for a culture fit issue. It never feels good to be rejected.

      As someone who does hiring, culture fit is a really important issue and a poor fit can make things very bad in an otherwise well functioning department.

      But your description sounds more like someone who was capricious and lacked a certain amount of self awareness to say the least.

      1. I'll say it*

        That’s the hard part, though, because I don’t really know if it was all him, or there really were issues with me that might carry over into other jobs. Sometimes when someone is that overtly overbearing, it’s easy to pin everything on him, and now I don’t get a chance to see what my issues were or if there’s something for me to fix. Everyone I worked with said I was fine, it was all him, but I also don’t think they’d be blunt with me and say “most of it was him, but you really didn’t do x very well and it did make a difference.”

        1. Kira*

          I know what you mean. I didn’t quickly identify there was a bad culture fix, because I kept trying to change myself to be the kind of worker my director would praise (and ideally promote). Only after a couple rounds of direct managers telling me that I was handling XYZ fine and the director’s expectations were wack did I have the context to decide “It’s not me, it’s them/their culture”.

          Very similar to what you described – culture of “we’re the best at everything”, here’s a pretty picture of our feel good story, and centered around the personality of the director.

      2. Nico m*

        Could you give an example of cultural fit that doesnt boil down to

        Dont be an arsehole


        Tolerate some company arseholery

        1. Anna Badger*

          The big one for me is differing approaches to the right balance of policy vs practicality – rigorous people in flexible teams or vice versa aren’t necessarily *wrong*, but they create tension

          1. Nico m*

            a normal organisation that cant tolerate the normal range of humanity is an arsehole organisation

            1. Anna Badger*

              I’m sorry but that’s totally untrue.

              I’ve worked in both environments and can handle either, and have had colleagues who would thrive in one environment and suffer in the other – neither the colleagues nor the organisations were arseholes.

    4. Junior Dev*

      I briefly worked for a company that had a huge photo of the CEO’s face painted on the entrance wall. Looking back, I shouldn’t have been at all surprised that the CEO was an abusive, self-absorbed creep.

      1. Anonicat*

        It’s nothing to do with work, but I recently saw a fancy car with the personalized numberplate “ID D8 ME”. I don’t think I would…

  8. AdAgencyChick*

    I was hired a few weeks before Halloween at an agency that was really, REALLY into their Halloween party. It became very clear that your creativity as an advertising professional would be judged based on your creativity with your Halloween costume, and that buying a witch hat at the drugstore would not suffice.

    I am not a Halloween enthusiast by any means. I pleaded prior plans for that night (fortunately, I was hired so close to the date that I could do this plausibly) and made sure to be somewhere else. Have fun at your party, people, but just because I don’t want to put effort into a Halloween costume doesn’t mean I won’t put effort into, you know, paying work.

    1. Purplesaurus*

      Wow. I love Halloween and go all out decorating my house, but I don’t dress up because I’m not good at the whole costume thing (also lazy), so this sounds nuts even to me.

      1. Rainy, PI*

        My office does Halloween enthusiastically but like a bunch of people who are super busy and think about their costume twice in May and then remember it on October 25th. One year we had three people in the same dinosaur onesie, and they hadn’t coordinated.

        Jurassic World had just come out, so we all made the most of it by taking pictures of ourselves in the Chris Pratt pose with our dinosaur-clad coworkers.

          1. Rainy, PI*

            My office is the best. We have a lot of fun but not in a Mandatory Fun kind of way, and everyone is literally the most wonderful coworker you could imagine.

            Well, almost everyone. ;)

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      I actually asked about Halloween during my interview! I love Halloween and I love costumes and I thought that would be a good way to get a sense of how casual the environment was. They were very surprised by the question I think lol. They told me they weren’t sure if people really dressed up but they were pretty sure it wouldn’t be frowned upon.

      I am usually the only person on my team to dress up every year and I wish more people were into it but I’m glad to be able to do it at all. The company always sends out an email saying that casual clothes are acceptable on that day, which makes me feel like they’re definitely okay with dressing up as long as you don’t wear anything inappropriate. Most people just take advantage of the opportunity to wear jeans I think.

      I am frequently told of someone who used to work here who came in dressed up as a calculator once. Apparently people thought it was hilarious. (I am an accountant.)

    3. AnotherAgencyChick*

      Are overdone holiday parties an agency thing? I was hired right AFTER the Christmas party at my agency. My first day I was warned about the party. Hand made gifts for all 12-15 employees is REQUIRED. We beg my boss every year to stop.

    4. Kindling*

      I had a roommate who put it in our roommate agreement that we all signed that we had to dress up for her annual party. Fortunately she didn’t expect me to put too much effort into it, but still. Some people are hardcore about Halloween.

  9. Elfie*

    I realised within a couple of days at OldJob that I wasn’t a good culture fit. There were two reasons for this. The least important reason was that the place was an educational charity, and it was all about charitable work, “team building”, etc, etc. A lot of the influential people were also really avid fitness enthusiasts, so this manifested itself in things like sponsoring people for doing the marathon, a Christmas Fit Club, office yoga, etc. There was also, weirdly, a big drinking culture (because UK). I am fat, lazy, and not ashamed of it. I also don’t drink very much because I’m usually a designated driver so low alcohol tolerance, and also I lived 60 miles away, so for me, a 90-minute commute each day. No, I did not want to spend additional time with coworkers I didn’t like very much in a bar drinking water and then have to driver for 90 minutes on top of that and make dinner when I got home!

    The more important reason was the company’s devotion to the Agile methodology (no, they weren’t a software development company, but they did build their own systems in-house – no real COTS product on the market for what they did). I have nothing against Agile, but what really grates on me is when one methodology, a framework, gets demonised in order to promote another (usually justification for paying a consulting company a lot of money, IME). It was dogma. You weren’t allowed to criticise it, you weren’t allowed to say you didn’t like it, and you pretty much had to completely disavow Waterfall to get by. This basically said to me, ‘This company doesn’t want diverse points of view, and only wants yes-men. They don’t want real change’. This was true throughout my experience with them.

    As to whether there were red flags that I ignored, yes, there were. I’ve never felt so misled before between interview and job. I knew they were Agile practitioners, and my discipline doesn’t fit well with Agile, but I ignored the red flags that were presented because I’d quit my last job without another one lined up, and I said to my husband that I would take the first job that was offered to me. But there were also other things that didn’t flag up in the interview (such as the fact that although they said they were inclusive of diversity, family-friendly, etc, they didn’t practice what they preached with regards to health issues and accomodations).

    However, I did learn a lot from that job (some of what was what NOT to do!), and it has led to the best job I’ve ever had, so a year of my life for that compared to what I’ve got now – I probably would do it again if it had the same outcome.

    1. Jesca*

      “However I did learn a lot from that job”
      This. I don’t regret my couple years at a dysfunctional place as I was able to significantly boost my skills. No one would work (on top of other crazy ass issues), so I would just volunteer to learn and do everything! also learned how not to act to get what you wanted.

      1. Rainy, PI*

        I have really good answers for those “tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult coworker” questions because of an outrageously dysfunctional company I worked for for three years a long time ago.

        Turns out that however diplomatically I describe that coworker’s behaviour, there’s always one in a prospective workplace, and my description of the situation always causes sympathetic nodding.

    2. Arielle*

      I am literally the Agile coach/scrum master for my team and that “Agile above all else” attitude drives me up a wall. I’ve had someone say to me, “Well, we can’t do that because it’s not Agile.” Uh, so what? If it’s the best thing to do for the team, then doing something else just because that’s what you’re “supposed” to do is kind of the opposite of agile, right?

      When I train people in Agile, I tell them it’s like Communism. Great in theory, imperfect in practice.

      1. Elfie*

        Yeah, I mean, I’m all for agile (who doesn’t want to work better, faster, and more in tune with user needs?!), but ‘Agile’ sets my teeth on edge. I’m now working somewhere that also practices agile, but they’re not slavishly devoted to it. I find this approach works for me, and I’m slowly learning to love (like?) Agile again.

      2. Squeeble*

        Ha, isn’t the point of Agile that you’re supposed to be, you know, agile and open to working in different ways?

    3. Elfie*

      Also poor culture fit – everyone had to be positive all the time. My type of job is essentially finding the risks/issues in a solution, and attempting to mitigate them. We often joke that cynicism is part of the job description. Plus, I suffer from depression (so definitely not smiley happy positive all the time!) I have never felt as unwelcome for being me as when I worked there.

  10. lisa*

    I moved from a relatively large association to a small consulting firm (fewer than 5 full-time people). I had known the CEO for years and thought she was smart and accomplished, and I was upset about several issues at my current job and very ready to jump ship. Bad call.

    As it turned out, the culture at the consulting firm was such that every decision, great and small, had to go through the CEO for approval. I was used to supervisors who trusted me to know my job and do good work. She wanted to screen my emails before they went out; she insisted on time being tracked and justified in 5-minute increments. The final straw was when I found a rotten piece of fruit in the refrigerator and our HR person told me I needed the CEO’s permission to throw it out. I refused to request permission to trash moldy fruit and began job searching in earnest. For all I know it’s still in the fridge today!

    1. 2 Cents*

      “But that apple should be added to the vat we have in back as part of our cider initiative.”

  11. Alex*

    I think for me, it was a slow realization that everyone in the office talked about each other behind their backs. Within my first few weeks at this place, if anyone wasn’t at lunch (the office was very small, 9 people total), the rest of the group would talk about them, which mostly was the Exec Director, because he never ate lunch with us, but a couple times it would be others who were out sick or running an errand. Once I picked up on that, I noticed it all the time, and eventually stopped going to lunch because it was hard. I lasted a miraculous 11 months there, but when I had a new offer, I bolted out the door and never looked back!

    1. Kiki*

      This happens at my current job. I do my best not to participate in the gossip, but I have been accused of being too quiet because of it. I also wonder what they’re saying when I’m not around.

    2. Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend*

      This happened to me too! My very first day my supervisor was smack-talking my predecessor. There were constant whispers coming from my supervisor’s cubicle. It drove me to distraction. I heard about things that she said about me through the grapevine. I had to change departments to get away from the gossip.
      I came from a tight-knit team in retail, so the switch from camaraderie to backbiting was really jarring.

    3. Kira*

      Ooh, I can definitely see how it might take a few days/weeks to realize that the gossip is normal and not just looping in the new staff member about some personality details.

  12. Gen*

    I worked at a startup that aided the selling of art items that I’d previously been selling with so I thought it’d be a good fit. They had a sort of kitschy aesthetic that was nothing like my own but I’d done ok on their site so I thought it was just a design choice but oh man did they live it. They’d spend twice the money they didn’t have to get a poorly made handcrafted table instead of a proper desk. Only organic raw food allowed in the office. They had all these different wooden chairs that looked cool but were hell to sit on, then wondered why everyone was off with back pain. I thought I could cope with all the tweeness until I got into two arguments in one day- first about not wearing ALL handmade clothes in the private office (I’m both short and fat, there’s not a lot of high fashion eco stuff in that combo), and second for pointing out that the adorable aesthetic choices meant that customers couldn’t read the site unless they had amazing vision. ‘Oh but disabled people don’t need handmade, what would they do with it?’ As a disabled person I realised I really wasn’t valued there, and I really wasn’t willing to spend all my pay to fit their aesthetic when we weren’t customer facing.

    I definitely shouldn’t have underestimated the things I saw in the interview with how the staff presented themselves.

    1. KatieKate*

      ‘Oh but disabled people don’t need handmade, what would they do with it?’

      Oh my god I am seething. What???

      1. OhNo*

        Jesus, that line would have me seeing red. I wonder what they’d do if they hired someone who needed a mobility device – bash them for not buying a handcrafted, repurposed, found wood bamboo-framed wheelchair with eco-friendly, recycled rubber tires?

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          Based on my (limited) knowledge of piano making, I’m pretty sure that at least part of Ray Charles’ and Stevie Wonder’s pianos were made by hand.

    2. Observer*

      They actually SAID that?! That’s just horrifying!

      Also, incredibly stupid – someone should point out to these idiots that you can have less than 20/20 vision and still be really lucrative customer. Then again, they don’t deserve the business.

      1. Gen*

        Yeah they wanted to put really important legal text in a pale green box in a font that was only marginally darker. It was a fight to get them to stop making important text into flat images because they didn’t believe in screenreaders but I doubt more than 30% of the customers could read the important legal instructions. We got complaints. They were ignored

      2. DataQueen*

        UGH I deal with this every month when I see our emails go out. It’s like white text on an orange background and all these boxes and whatnot – it looks cool, and I can read it, but no one without 20/20 vision can, and our average donor is 67. No one listens…

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          And why wouldn’t you want to reach the most people? There are tons of resources out there to help guide people through accessible design.

          I’ve suffered poor eyesight most of my life. Just because corrective lenses help make things clearer doesn’t mean that they improve contrast. (I also know at least two people who are completely color blind. People often forget about them in design. Never indicate something with color alone.)

    3. NeverNicky*

      What the actual …
      Some of the most talented artisans I know are people who work around their disability.
      And I have multiple sclerosis, but my home is full of things I have made – just as well, if they don’t want to sell me any!

      1. Anonicat*

        Right? And on the other side, I know several people with various disabilities who prefer to shop for online artisanal goods because they can get exactly what they want without dealing with crowds, poor access, exposure to allergens/infections etc.

    4. MakesThings*

      I can’t even. Not only is this discriminatory and patronizing, but where the heck is the logic here?? Why would disabled people not need handmade? How is this a thought that occurred to anyone?

      1. Teapot Librarian*

        After thinking about it, my guess is that it’s because (sarcasm alert) all disabled people are on government assistance and can’t afford anything not made in a sweatshop overseas.

    5. Mazzy*

      Wow I lol’d when you said “no wonder everyone’s out with back pain” how ridiculous

    6. 2 Cents*

      *waits until they get sued in a district court for their website flagrantly violating the ADA because it happens to banks and other websites all the time*

  13. SarahBot*

    I feel like I might be in that situation now? I’ve been in my current job for a little over four months, and I waffle back and forth between “oh, this is just you getting used to a new place” and “nope, this is just not the place for me.”

    Some things that just really don’t work for me:
    -It’s very much motivated by urgency, not importance, and what’s urgent is determined by what has caught the CEO’s attention that moment (which means that there’s very little foresight / planning – lots of ad hoc work, not a lot of process-based work or standardization);
    -The communication culture is diplomatic to a fault – lots of people very gently making suggestions or asking questions that are actually task assignments, which is only made clear when you directly ask “is that something you’d like me to handle?”
    -The big thing for me – very silo-ed, independent departments, very little cross-functional coordination and teamwork. Getting information or trying to set up a meeting involving multiple leaders takes a lot of back and forth, and it doesn’t feel like anyone is invested in working as a team or pitching in to help each other out.

    I wish I had asked more questions about the team dynamic, and how they communicate – as an EA, I was super focused on how well I would be able to work with the executive that I’m supporting, and sort of turned a blind eye to how much I’d be having to work with people that aren’t him. I also was fairly anxious to get out of my old job, so I think I probably discounted some things that should have given me pause (like the fact that they told me that they didn’t have any processes for anything) because I just wanted to get a new job, any new job.

    1. Mazzy*

      Interesting because I hate my current culture because it is the opposite – no urgency no direction. I hate it!

      1. SarahBot*

        Well, you would half like this place – lots of urgency, little direction! Lots of “hey, this needs to happen now!” but when I ask, “okay, I’ve only been here four months, what’s the first step to making this happen?” there’s a lot of shrugged shoulders and “well, we could do this, or we could do this, or we could do this – what do you think?”

    2. Sketchee*

      Sounds similar to cultures I don’t get along with. I love when things are planned out. Even urgent projects can have some if then planning.

      And the idea that it’s important because a high level person or client finds it important also doesn’t work well. I appreciate a more a consultant environment where decision makers are looking for ideas and advice on priorities. Ultimately the client or executive can make a decision. I think it’s nicer when the culture expects them to have some reasoning. Or they’ve built the trust that we know they have reasons.

  14. Kyrielle*

    Nope, but I was at one point all ready to accept one that would have – in hindsight – probably been a bad fit. Fortunately, they didn’t offer the job to me. Overall it was a good match (flexible schedules, interesting stuff to work on, friendly people) – but I think they were a little *too* friendly and connected for me, and it was an open-plan office and people could bring their dogs in (but only well-behaved ones, they said, and I think that was true – I only saw one very lazy dog napping under someone’s desk space).

    I…I like private offices, get distracted by noise and visual cues, and while I have been working on my phobia of dogs and it is greatly reduced and I could work around them, I would be constantly a bit on edge.

    I am so very, very glad they did not offer me the job. I might have taken it, and I think I would have regretted it.

  15. ZenJen*

    Yup, it was a flower shop where everyone smoked WHILE working on the flower designs AND worked overnight. It was expected that I would work overnight on my second day there, even though there had been NO conversation about it. Coworkers joked that I would start smoking soon (I don’t smoke, and had seen NO evidence of smoking when I had interviewed there). I went in on day 3 and quit because of the smoking–I smelled smoke more than the flowers. :-(

    1. Delta Delta*

      Is this, by chance, in Florida somewhere? Not even kidding – when I was in high school (this was back in the Stone Age, so things may have changed), I worked at a florist in the midwest somewhere. One of the designers told me all about how she was going to move to Florida to become a designer because a) the weather was better and b) smoking indoors is/was allowed there and you’d be allowed to smoke at the design bench.

      Thanks for rekindling a memory I forgot I had! so many things about that job were ridiculous and funny, but that just about took the cake.

      1. my two cents*

        Funny, because I read this one and was like “Wonder if it’s the flower shop by OldJob in (southeastern) Wisconsin…” lol

    2. Jenna*

      So weird! I went into a local flower shop last year (midwest) and it was very apparent that they smoke inside there. I thoughtthis was a one-off thing–it seems so counter-intuitive that there would be smoking in a flower shop ( really place of business these days, but especially a flower shop).

  16. Karne*

    I’m in it right now…

    When I started I was told that the staff customarily eat lunch at their desks so I could pick between a 7-8 hour workday. I KNEW that I wasn’t a person that could work through lunch but my eyes were just too big – I get an extra $4600 per year for working through my lunches and now rely on it.

    Now I am stuck in a burnout situation where I need to start taking lunches but I’m now clashing with coworkers that rely on me staying and who all think I need to keep in line.

  17. LiberryPie*

    I once worked with a bunch of sweet people who I just felt were from a different planet from me. I’d just moved to this city after graduate school, and in the interview process one person expressed concern that I was too young to be living so far away from my parents. The job was in a sprawl suburb where nothing was walkable, and I had very limited options getting there on public transportation from the city. People expressed a lot of confusion as to why I lived in the city – “What do you mean there’s stuff to do there? What would you do?” “Are there grocery stores?” It was just kind of a provincial mindset, and I wondered a lot if there were signs I could’ve seen ahead of time. The mission of the organization was worthwhile but not my passion, and it was a world I wasn’t familiar with ahead of time, so that was part of it. I became really fond of most of these people over time, I just never felt like I fit in.

    1. OhNo*

      Wow. Had your coworkers just… never been to a city before? I am so confused how they could have been, well, so confused at the prospect of living in the city.

      1. whomever*

        True story. I live in New York City. Back when I was dating I had a date with a woman (who I’d met on the net) who had grown up in Queens and had literally never been to Manhattan. I actually asked for a second date just out of, ah, anthropological interest (which ok, maybe was mean) but I think she detected my, ah, shock.

        1. WittyOne*

          OMG… I’m from NY, miss it terribly and this comment hurts my head and heart.

  18. NewHere*

    Oof. I found out I’m not the greatest fit at Current Job (looking to leave soon) when I was tasked to work exclusively on a political campaign for a senator that my boss volunteered to manage. I never have been too outspoken about my political views in the workplace-for good reason!-and this particular campaign did not align at ALL with my beliefs. I was paid on the clock to work on this campaign I already felt icky about (this is a manufacturing company-no semblance of politics was ever mentioned in the job description), I hated feeling complicit in something I intrinsically couldn’t agree with, and I felt stuck doing it regardless.

    I’ve come to realize that this whole company predominantly favors one extreme end of the political spectrum and everyone is very outspoken about it since, you know, they know they won’t be challenged by the majority; I’ve tried to head off some of the more unsavory discourses, so everyone knows where I “fit” now, which has led to some “playful ribbing.” Time to bounce!

    1. Small but Fierce*

      I can empathize. My manager is a pretty good one, but one thing he insists on is “playful ribbing” when it comes to politics. I tried to remain neutral, but he and my coworkers insist on talking about it constantly. He often poses “political questions of the day,” forcing me to articulate my (often inadequately researched, in his eyes) viewpoint to him about any given political issue. I’ve attempted to refuse, but he typically doesn’t take kindly to that since he seeks to “educate” me. He also sends me articles several times a week from those notorious websites that aren’t known for being centrist, to put it kindly.

      Between that and a manic and inappropriate boss, it is a matter of time before I start seriously job searching. Just want to get through some personal and professional milestones first.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        I once had a boss who loved “political ribbing” – about literally life or death issues and with antifeminist stuff. I responded to the former by telling him, deadly serious, that he was saying people like me should die, and to the latter with stony silence.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          (Also, “ribbing” the only woman in your department with antifeminist twaddle is discriminatory, especially when your pet subordinate is telling her she’s too emotional to do her job because she’s a woman. God, I wish I’d had evidence, so I could have sued them after they fired me.)

          1. Small but Fierce*

            I’m sorry you were fired, but a bright side is that you’re out of that environment. Mine is a similar situation – only young female in the office. I’ve experienced the gamut, from sexually suggestive comments/images to implications that a woman couldn’t be a manager. Sadly, the very manager that challenges my political beliefs is still one of my strongest allies in this job since he helps me navigate those situations.

    2. Mints*

      Woah! I’m curious (if you don’t mind) what kind of work you do? If the boss is insular, he might not realize PR for a company is different from political advertising.
      But seriously I might quit with nothing lined up if in that situation. That sucks

      1. NewHere*

        I’m a graphic designer for a small manufacturing company, but I was the executive assistant here when I was working on this campaign (hence feeling stuck doing it since the CEO himself was the one spearheading this whole thing). It’s family-owned and has its own quirks as a result, and this campaign was more of a pet project for him that pretty much ended up dominating all his and my time, thus the company’s time. :/ I almost did quit because of it but then they promoted me to graphic designer and I could distance myself from all that particular ish!

        1. Mints*

          Ah, that would have been my second guess. Sounds like it worked out well for you though!

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Wow… I don’t think I could have sucked it up and did the campaign work.

      I had a boss when I was in my 20s who used to tell me that I’d “grow up” and change my political views once I understood how the world works. Funny thing is I am now further in the opposite direction she expected me to go!

      1. motherofdragons*

        My parents have been saying the same thing to me for years…”Once you get a job and start paying taxes, you’ll change your mind.” I also am ending up farther and farther in the opposite direction!

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          This particular boss had a daughter my age so she absolutely related to me in the same way. She also got mad at me for accepting a transfer to another office that I was offered in lieu of being laid off because business slowed down.

        2. CMart*

          I love pointing to my dad as a counter example any time someone makes the claim that age will send someone running to the right. He’ll be 74 this weekend, and was an Ayn Rand reading, Goldwater Republican in college and is now… whatever the opposite of a Fox News Dittohead is.

          That is to say, he’s an old man who yells at the TV and won’t shut up about politics and is always inciting disagreements with family on Facebook, except it’s all VERY progressive, anti-Trump, anti-right wing, anti-Republican things. He’s an interesting case, as he got much more liberal after he found God and became a Christian. Which feels right to me, but is not the usual trend.

      2. Jadelyn*

        My dad always said the same. Hey dad, I’m 31 and still the same flaming liberal I always have been. Hell, I’ve moved even further left, in fact. 20-year-old me would’ve disavowed 30-year-old me as an extremist, lol.

    4. DCer*

      If the senator is a federal candidate – i.e. U.S. senator – this is a crime. It’s considered an “in-kind” contribution and they are regulated. It must be disclosed. And a corporation is prohibited from making in-kind contributions – so your boss can’t provide this in-kind service from his business. He could personally provide some in-kind services. You could personally provide some in-kind service. But your boss can’t make you an employee do so. If the senator is in a state legislature, there is still a good chance this isn’t kosher – most of them have similar regulations as the federal level. Next time (if there is one) that you get asked to do work for a political candidate, you could object on legal grounds.

      1. NewHere*

        Fortunately, he was/is a state senator. I just looked it up and my state has a cap on how much corporations can contribute, which I’m sure we honored, but I agree this whole deal felt pretty shady regardless!

  19. SheLooksFamiliar*

    Way back in the mid-late 80s I took a job at an employment agency, considered a boutique firm in my major metropolitan area. They had an activity point system that everyone had to adhere to. Pick up the phone? Put 1 point on your Activity Point Log. Call a prospective client? That was 10 points. Present a candidate? 25 points. Make a placement? 50 points. They had it all figured out: To make 1 placement, you needed 8 candidate interviews, which took a certain number of activity points per. I actually made 3 hires the first month I was there – we rang the Placement Bell, had a parade around the office, lots of whooping and hollering. That was bad enough.

    At the end of my first month the district manager and my office manager called me into a meeting, both wearing frowns. My interview to placement ratio was 3:1, not the 8:1 they established. So clearly, I wasn’t tracking my Activity Points correctly. I assured them I was, and that I made sure the candidate met the client needs, and vice versa. The DM said that couldn’t be right. I had to have 8 sendouts per placement, and I didn’t. So I must not have been paying attention to my Points. I again assured them I had, and that I was just careful about who I sent to interview. More frowns: they could not believe I was trying to ‘work smarter, not harder.’

    The office manager said she was going to work with me for the next month to monitor my Points. I put up with it for a week before I quit. I managed to make another placement – with only 2 candidates. Gah.

    1. Alton*

      Wait, they were upset you *didn’t* waste clients’ time by sending them more candidates than they needed? Wow.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        They were, and they did. I called it ‘power matching’ – told them the candidates and clients were happy, and I could work on more placements with less wasted time and goodwill. They called it ‘corner cutting’, and you know the rest of the story.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I don’t even understand their logic. Most (if not all) recruiters earn commission based on actual placements, not sendouts. You were probably making them a lot more money and saving everyone a lot of frustration. Wow.

    2. EvilRecruiter*

      So 8 * 25 points = 200. 200 points from candidate submittals per placement. Is it even worth making the placement for 50 points after that? That’s only worth 2 submittals!

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I can’t remember all the details, only that the system made sense in theory. Kind of.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I’ve never read that book, but I have to know the reason you mentioned it now.

    3. Amy Farrah Fowler*


      I’m in a role that does hiring for a role we have MANY positions for and there is a good amount of turnover, so we are hiring most of the year. We track how many phone screens, how many interviews, how many people get hired, but not as a “you must do this many” but more as a “if you’re sending too many people to interview that are failing that interview, maybe you should be more discerning in your phone screens” or “if the number of people you phone screen are ALL making it to interview, maybe you’re being TOO picky in your app screening and should invite a few more to phone screen”.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Amy Farrah Fowler, I support metrics tracking in staffing, in large part for the very reasons you list. We must be effective and efficient, and tracking certain activity just makes sense. And yes, sometimes we need to prove we’re not the problem, in spite of what most of the free world thinks about HR ;) I can’t go to bat for my recruiters on their say-so alone, even though I trust them. If I have to push back on a certain hiring manager who declines candidates without a good reason, I need data to show s/he is the road block.

        But it never made sense to me to be as formulaic as that agency was. I was doing good work, and all they focused on was my Points, er, points. I hope things have changed on the solutions side of the business, I’d hate to think people still have to make hash marks every time they do something.

  20. stuff happens*

    This happened to me recently. After a cross-country move for family reasons, I tried to move from the government world to consulting (I wanted a job quickly and they move a lot faster… a hint I should have taken). I think I didn’t realize the vast cultural differences between the two. I thought since the consulting firm worked almost exclusively with local governments, that things would be similar. NOT AT ALL. Things were extremely high-pressure, with expectations that you would work 60+ hours every week and not take any time off. Within a few days I knew that I would not make it there. A clue I missed was that all of the on-boarding (paper work like releases and insurance, etc.) was done before I even started. I did a bunch of that stuff (maybe 6-8 hours worth) unpaid before my first day. At the time, I thought it was efficient, but now I realize it was a way for them to not pay me for extra hours worked–a trend that continued after I started. My first day was 14 hours and I was told to still enter 8 on my timesheet but bill the clients for all of it. RED FLAG.

    I was lucky that I was able to find a local gov’t job within about 3 months and I am much happier here. I actually applied for this job before the consulting one. Local gov’t moves slowly and that’s the way I like it.

    1. Nanani*

      Yeaaaah that’s not so much a cultural difference as an “illegal time card fraud” difference. I bet your local government has a reporting line that would love to hear about this.

      1. LKW*

        Yeah – that’s totally shady. Your time report should be consistent with what you actually worked and your client should be billed for what you actually worked. They’re basically creating two sets of books.

  21. B*

    Oh yes, I have been there and quit within 2 weeks. Looking back on it I realize there were clues in the interview I never picked up on – the looks on peoples faces, the energy in the office, how I did not really connect with the person who would be my boss and it was in an environment I was not at all interested in. Even worse was I ended up with two micr0-managing bosses. The whole situation was bad but when you need a job you do not see those clues. When I told co-workers that this was not normal, they were shocked because they were just out of school. After I left a bunch of others did as well and they ended up closing.

  22. Bend & Snap*

    My last job, I learned a couple of months in on my summer outing that it was gonna be bad news. They loaded up a bus with employees and kegs and drove us to another state for drunken ocean kayaking, followed by lunch where the owner led a sing along of “I touch myself” in a crowded restaurant and then copious amounts of day drinking. I didn’t have any friends yet and was generally horrified.

    1. Purplesaurus*

      I’m just going to say it. Drunken ocean kayaking sounds like a great way to rid the world of people who think drunken ocean kayaking is a good idea.

    2. No, please*

      I was sober and terrified in an ocean kayak. I can’t imagine getting drunk and kayaking. Maybe it would have made my ex more tolerable though?

  23. AnotherAlison*

    After 5 years at my first job, I took a position with a competitor in a different role. I went through 4 positions in 3 years, and I guess I never really figured out that it was a culture mismatch. The second position was the worst–very frat boy department. But, overall, even though the company did the same thing as my previous company and was full of ex-employees of ex-job, the culture was 180 degrees off. I came from a very regimented, process-oriented culture to one that was more relaxed. I was looking for a different culture, but I should have realized I’m not really a “fun” person and the new company expected people to “work hard play hard.” I do better in a more serious environment.

    The weirdest part is I am actually still at this company, 12 years later. After the job-hopping years, I landed in a role that was fairly autonomous, so that worked, and now I work in the oddball department that doesn’t really fit with the rest of the company, which fits me!

  24. Yup*

    Worked in marketing for a sports/fitness center.

    Really truly not a BAD work environment just so not my cup of tea. Everyone wore yoga pants and dry fit shirts every day. Sportscenter was on constantly. Everyone was always checking in on other people’s fitness goals and diets- but not in a bad way! They really were all into that and I am so happy they were able to find a office culture where that was encouraged but I could not stick it out.

  25. Game of Scones*

    I panicked the first time I heard “swear jar” at a new job. They weren’t joking. It was real.

    1. Rebecca*

      They tried that at my job, last year. I muttered “damn” and someone heard it, and swooped in and shoved the swear jar in my face. “You owe us a quarter!”

      Uh, no I don’t, and “get that damned thing out of my face”. “That’s 50 cents! Pretty soon we’ll have enough for pizza for lunch!”

      I said, seriously, get that thing out of here and I’m not putting money in the jar. I turned around and went back to work. The concept soon fell by the wayside.

      1. BookishMiss*

        My office could buy a house after a day. We swear A LOT.

        Which is probably why we don’t have a swear jar…

      2. Anonicat*

        I generally don’t swear at work beyond “oh bugger” but anyone shoving a swear jar in my face and demanding money would probably get upgraded to a swift “f*** off”.

      1. Teapot Librarian*

        I am not a swear-er by any means, but so would I. What’s the clean version of the number “crap-ton”?

        1. Treecat*

          See, and I don’t even register “crap” as a swear. I had to read your comment three times to get it, heh.

          (In my current position I overheard the colleague I’ll be working most closely with say “f*ck” in my second week, and I was like “Oh thank goodness, I don’t have to worry if I slip up.”)

          1. Jadelyn*

            I honestly thought “crap-ton” was the euphemistic version for “fuckton”. “Crap” doesn’t register as a swear word to me, either, lol.

            I still remember the first time my manager said “motherfucker” in the office: “You know, I try to be nice, but sometimes you just have to be like “Look, motherfucker…”” I had just been reassigned under her from a truly toxic, awful supervisor who was later fired, who micromanaged the shit out of me and tended to make snide remarks about social class anytime I so much as muttered “dammit” when I dropped something, and it was so reassuring to feel like I didn’t have to feel like I was under a microscope all the time.

        2. LizB*

          Butt-ton? In my kid-and-work-friendly vocabulary I would probably just say “a ton” or “a whole ton.” (In my everyday vocabulary I would say “a metric f*ck-ton. One of my talents is compartmentalizing my language.)

          1. Cordelia Vorkosigan*

            Whoops, I should have read all the comments before posting. Sorry for the duplicate!

    2. LQ*

      I try hard to not be a swearer at work, I work in government and it’s a bit conservative (in this way) but I have said “swear words” a few times lately. Like I just said “swear words” instead of cursing. Which was incredibly effective in many ways. Does that count?

    3. Misteroid*

      I swear the least of anyone in my office, and I can still be heard cussing out thr f***ing printer some days.

      We’re a very sweary bunch.

  26. Luke*

    Years ago I worked at a corporate cell phone store. The nature of the business sometimes draws people who have an exploitive personality, and it was the case for this instance.
    After being hired I was immediately sent on the company dime to a training conference for three weeks at their office 700 miles away,so I didn’t work at the store until my fourth week with the company. Since I and the other newcomers were treated with respect at the training office I figured it would be the same at the store . That’s when the metaphorical music stopped; it turned out my boss was a sexist jerk who verbally abused his female reports (but not the male ones), interrupted customer interactions to butt in with inappropriate comments and reacted to criticism with variations of “my way or the highway”. He bragged about abusing union regulations to get “undersireable people” canned on false pretenses,and cooked the books on multiple stats reported to corporate. Sick days and vacations were spent like currency in a hyperinflation episode- as fast as they could be accrued. One should ideally never quit without notice,but that place was an exception as I frankly couldn’t trust the manager to act professionally through a 14 day notice period without retaliation. It was a lesson in toxic workplace culture I’ll never forget.

  27. Bejeweled Librarian*

    My last job in fundraising before returning to school to get my library science degree was a horrible fit. It was the “dream job,” and represented the highest and most prestigious position I had attained. Nothing felt off during the interview process; I knew the organization held its staff to very high standards and the demands would be greater than anything I experienced. Right after I started, which was when the economy tanked, the behavior of the staff changed towards me from what I had experienced during the interview process. I was picked apart for any and every little thing, including how I dressed (I like wearing black and that was an issue) and spoke (the tone of my voice was found to be annoying along with the fact that my English accent sometimes creeps in and that was an issue). I asked HR what was going on and was told that the staff and the department head wanted another candidate for the job, but the CEO overruled them due to the fact that I had more experience. A long time employee told me some of the staff decided they would make my life hell in the hope that I would crumble under the pressure and quit. He said they wanted to make sure that I understood I did not belong there. When that did not work and I secured support from several lapsed and new donors, including some significant six figure gifts, they started to lay off. By the end of my tenure there (and how that happened is a whole other story), I was burned out.

  28. Michael Carmichael*

    I have ruled out places based on clear culture clash in the interview process, which was hard for me because in both instances I was pretty desperate for a job:

    (1) Went on 3 interviews and was offered a job at an e-learning company. I took what was basically an IQ test online prior to interviewing. On the first interview, they shut me in a room and made me take it again to be sure I didn’t cheat the first time. In the behavioral interview, the (very inexperienced) interviewer asked me to describe a time when I lost my temper at work. I have never lost my temper at work so was at a loss. The rest of the people who interviewed me talked a lot about how late they worked and I got the sense it was one of those macho places where whoever stays latest, wins. Too many red flags and I declined the offer (but used it to speed up an offer from my current workplace). Would probably have taken this job and hated it if it weren’t for the other offer.

    (2) Group interview for a low-paying multi-hat-wearing office administrator role for a quasi-medical facility. No one knew it was a group interview until we all showed up (10-15 people). They made us write out answers to questions like “What do you do if the phone is ringing, you have a client standing in front of you, and you’re needed in the back?” and then showed us a video from the founder or someone talking about how positive thinking can cure your illnesses (complete with BS pseudo-science graphics). Then they split us up to talk individually, and that was when I learned that the actual hourly rate they were offering was $3 less than advertised. I was offered a position on the spot and I actually uncontrollably laughed out loud and then tried to decline as politely as I could. NOPE.

    1. Michael Carmichael*

      Oh and also, company #2 was out of business within like 3-6 months. I passed by frequently because it was in a strip mall near a great Mexican place we used to go to (which, much more sadly, has also become extinct).

  29. KarenT*

    I did once, and it turned out I was wrong. It was at my second company after graduating, and I think the first company had a big influence on how I felt a culture should be. My first company was incredibly social–events, happy hours, and the like. The second was quite a bit more formal, though as I got to know people it did turn out there were happy hours etc, it just wasn’t as open. Now that I’m out of both companies I can’t say I even prefer one culture over the other, but just that leaving one culture for another without knowing what was ‘normal’ created a bit of a culture shock when I made the jump.

    1. fposte*

      Oh, that’s a really interesting insight, and I’d never thought of that. We talk so often about culture fit as if it were one to one, but that’s an excellent point that most of us could succeed in several different cultures–the important thing is to avoid the ones where you can’t succeed.

    2. Squeeble*

      This is kind of my experience, too. My first full-time job, I didn’t really know what I was looking for (much less the concept of different companies having different cultures). It wasn’t a bad place to work and at first I really loved it, but by the time I left, five years later, I had a much more nuanced understanding of what worked for me and what I wanted to leave behind.

    3. Abby*

      That is an interesting insight.

      In contrast, I once had an employee to whom I explained our procedures and trained her. She didn’t say anything at the time. Then, I realized that she hadn’t done something according to our procedure (for which was had good reasons for setting as procedure, not that I wanted everything in pink ink or something). I corrected her nicely and she said that wasn’t how she did it at her last job. I said I understood but that this was our procedure and explained the logic behind it. She continued to do it the other way. She could never adapt to the changes. I did let her go for cultural fit reasons. But she acted one way in the interview and another at work. For example, in the interview I told her that we all answered the phones, made copies, etc. She said that was fine. Then she just wouldn’t answer the phones if they rang and everyone else was out or busy. One day I told her she needed to pick up the mail (we had to go to a central mail office). Later I asked where the mail was and she said it wasn’t her job.

  30. Myrin*

    I had that feeling when I went to my last interview a couple of months ago; ultimately, I was rejected (and I assume because they got the same feeling about me as I got about them).

    In my case, the lead interviewer (and the person who’d be my primary supervisor) was reeeeally enthusiastic about team work. I don’t have a problem with theam work but the way he appeared so extremely gung-ho about it made me feel like I’d be expected to be in my coworkers’ pockets at all times. It was especially strange because the work itself was something to do with electronic data that could be easily done remotely (which they acknowledged) but they absolutely insisted that daily personal teamwork was imperative.

    (I still wonder how that would have worked in reality – it would have been 20 hours a week which I would have been able to spread out however. The same was the case for the other two people in the same position. So while you’d probably always have encountered someone in the office, it’s not exactly a setup that would’ve guaranteed regular face-to-face contact with everyone on your team.)

  31. Fishcakes*

    Yeah. I like working in relaxed environments with high achievers. My workplace now is the exact opposite of that. People faff about over stupid rules and don’t get any real work done, and the work they do produce is what I consider to be shockingly low quality, but they’re all very proud of themselves. This organization is also very tech-averse and in love with useless meetings. I don’t fit in at all.

    1. Justin*

      Oh man, relaxed but with high achievers is what I have found myself in now, and it’s ideal. Thanks for putting it into words.

    2. WittyOne*

      I’m in the same environment you describe. People tell me I’m ‘amazing’ over the most Mickey Mouse stuff. I feel like I’m wilting, I miss being in an environment where I feel like I’m learning and I’m surrounded by intelligent people, inspired to do my best. I keep trying to convince myself to stay for the flexibility (work from home once a week, I drive over 2 hours a day) and great benefits but understand I have to leave for sanity’s sake.

  32. Justin*

    Let’s see. At my last job, I had a million interviews (4) for a low level managerial position (that eventually grew).

    My boss was very kind (until she left, but the new boss was too). And my job was split in two, which they told me up front – half the time at one desk, half at the other, but both sites were on the same city block. Okay. Nonprofits make you wear lots of hats.

    So, during the last interview, I was waiting in an office, and people were going about their jobs. This is very very specific, but it was early 2013, and the previous year I had signed up to run the NYC marathon, which was then cancelled. I ended up running 26 miles with a friend that day.

    While I was sitting there, I noticed a marathon shirt at one person’s desk, and asked her about it, genuinely curious but also I knew enough to know that having something in common wouldn’t hurt. She said she’d also been signed up, and when I said I ran with a friend that day, she stiffened and said, “Oh. Well. I volunteered for cleanup instead.” (The implication I got was that I was selfish for not volunteering.)

    You’re probably reading this and thinking, “well, that’s nothing.” And that’s what I thought. But turns out, this person was sort of the “social leader” at that site, and I guess she decided that I wasn’t what she wanted, and they deliberately froze me out of social stuff (don’t care, but it’s still annoying) and work stuff (ie, I found out new rules/regulations later, they left me off email threads). This person being how she was isn’t culture, but a gossipy, whispery culture is.

    That said, I needed the job, so I probably still would have taken it. I just wouldn’t have wasted the first year trying to change her (and a few others’) mind about me when it was clearly made up in that very second. I did eventually bring it up to both bosses, and they both were supportive. But the way my brain and confidence works, I definitely assumed there was something wrong with me and my performance for a long time.

    And now, at this job, I have zero such concerns.

  33. Xay*

    I realized I wasn’t a culture fit for a large consulting firm around the third required happy hour in 2 weeks of employment. I was older than the average consultant and I’m not a big recreational drinker. When it became clear that the main form of networking was happy hours and there was a strong expectation to drink, I knew it wasn’t the culture for me. I did work with some of the experienced hires to have networking activities that weren’t centered around alcohol but even the corporate retreats emphasized it.

  34. AK*

    My current job is a poor cultural fit. Which is sad because I picked this job for the company culture! I left a high-pressure, crazy work hours job and for my next position really looked for work-life balance. I found that in my current company where in the interview everyone raved about the work-life balance and importance of family. Unfortunately, this was due to the fact that most of the employees here are very religious. The CEO has sung church hymns in our corporate meetings. They are also very conservative politically. I had no idea since this isn’t an industry where you would expect religion and politics to factor in. Clearly I didn’t do enough research into the company and that’s on me. But as a liberal atheist I’ve been uncomfortable the entire time I’ve been here (2 years).

    1. Liane*

      I am a very liberal Christian, and it would be a bad fit for me, because we generally aren’t politically conservative.

      1. motherofdragons*

        Same, and I would be horrified if my CEO sang hymns in meetings! Like, what?!?

    2. Elle*

      I’m having a similar issue at my new job — a number of people listen to religious radio, talk very openly about reading the Bible or praying during their lunch hours, etc. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! but my religious tradition is very different, and it’s weird to be immersed in this in a nonprofit-type setting that’s ostensibly about diversity and secularism. Of course, this is also the office in which my being a thirty-something hetero married woman without children just *did not compute* for a number of people.

  35. Dee-Nice*

    I went to interview at a college prep tutoring firm and the women I interviewed with told me the official hours were 8-6, but they were all always there and came in early and left late. This was for a receptionist position.

    I must not have been able to adequately control my face because I didn’t get an offer, and I’m glad.

    1. Justin*

      Ha, I had an interview with a place that said we were expected to work 50 hours a week AND that we had to literally clock those hours even at home. Part of me felt lazy, but I knew it wasn’t for me.

      1. Dee-Nice*

        Yeah, one thing about getting older is I don’t feel I need to “prove myself” by showing how eager I am to work constantly. Because I’m not eager at all. I like having a job, AND I like leaving at 5.

    2. Dee-Nice*

      Oh, AND every person there was a slim, attractive woman under 30. I was 29 at the time and I’m cute, but not like, “hot”. So also that.

    3. So many...*

      Just want to say I love your user name. That skit cracks me up. In real life I have an uncommon (but not unusual name) and the way people mispronounce it you would think it’s the most bizarre name in the world.

      1. Dee-Nice*

        Thanks! It is a great skit.

        It baffles me how many people mispronounce any name that isn’t, say, “John” or “Jessica”.

  36. Rebecca*

    Sorry this is so long. I was completely blindsided and I’m not sure how I could have anticipated this. I should have known on Day 1 when I learned Ask A Manager was blocked by IT. And when our USB ports were disabled on our laptops because they were afraid that “they” would use some sort of USB stick to fry our computers on purpose. I had never heard of that one.

    I stuck it out for about 14 weeks. I had years of experience but in a very different field, think experience in teapot logistics vs garden hoses. Some of the things that happened:

    -I was assigned to a 4 person team. One of them barely spoke to me, it was like she couldn’t be bothered to speak to me unless it was absolutely necessary. The other was nice, but clueless, no matter what I asked her she didn’t know (she had been there 17 years). The 3rd was way behind the technology curve, like physically searching through Outlook emails for an email she knew she had, rather than using the search feature to find a key word or sender’s name, and using a manual calculator to add up figures in an Excel spreadsheet and manually keying the result.

    -I openly asked for help and hints about the office culture, but was belittled and ignored. I was invited to attend a meeting (my first few days) to get a sense of what I’d be doing, so I went along with bad technology coworker. We got all the way to the meeting room, sat down, and in front of everyone she said “you should have brought your laptop with you. That’s what we do here”. She sat across from me, and we walked together from our cube area, and she knew all along I didn’t have my laptop, and could have said something then, but she waited to make the statement in a conference room with other people. I was embarrassed.

    -I was referred to in another large group meeting as “Rebecca, the new person who doesn’t know anything”, when manual Outlook searcher was going around the room introducing people, like Joe, the guy who knows everything, Bill, the guy who thinks he knows everything, joking like that, but I was new, and I really wanted to say at least I knew how to search in Outlook and use formulas in a spreadsheet!

    -There was also a “clean desk” policy. No paperwork could be left on your desk overnight in case someone got into the office (this is in an area where you need a badge to scan and open the door, so I’m not sure who would be reading anything in the middle of the night). They’d be able to read it and see industry secrets, I guess…so I didn’t know, left my notepad and an email laying next to my keyboard, and was told about it the next day.

    -Ditto no talking early in the morning. Other people were chit chatting, and I said “good morning” to someone too loudly, I guess, and was told not to speak so loudly and not to disturb others in the morning.

    -I was having trouble with a particular process that involved freight in transit times, and carefully calculated the dates based on the chart I was given. It turns out, weeks later after being told “I can’t understand why you can’t do this” that I had an old chart, given to me by, you guessed it, manual Outlook searcher. She actually said I should have gone to Joe or Jack in traffic for an updated one. But…I had no idea who Joe or Jack were, so I didn’t know I needed a new chart…and I had asked multiple times to go and meet the people I needed to interact with, and it was always “later”. Later never came.

    -I couldn’t speak to my manager. She was always busy.

    -I had a situation come up, just like I had handled with teapots, but now it’s garden hoses, so I applied the same process, as agreed to by other team mate (the 17 year one). That was one time my manager stopped me in the hallway to talk, only to say “that’s not how we do it here”. I said OK, can you tell me how to proceed in the future, and she said “I’ll get with you later”. Later never came.

    -The final straw came when I was working on a customer with manual Outlook searcher, and the customer had transmitted orders via EDI with UPC#1. We had stock in the same item, but with a different count, UPC#2. I asked if we would reach out to the customer to get a revised 850 or if we could process an 860, and she snapped at me and yelled “why would you ask me that?”. She grabbed the paperwork out of my hands, stomped around and asked multiple people to adjust the orders manually in the system. If you work with EDI, inbound and outbound data needs to match. She refused to talk to me for days after that.

    At this point, I reached out to my former employer and asked if they had any positions. They did, and I put in my notice. My manager did finally take time to talk with me. I talked to HR and didn’t burn any bridges, but I’d have to be jobless with no unemployment benefits to even consider going back there.

    I had a bit of schadenfreude, though – the last few days I was there, Outlook searcher started getting messages from trucking companies about many pallets of merchandise being refused at multiple ship to locations across the country due to “goods not on order”. I wonder how she explained that one.

    Happily my old job is much better, bad manager is gone, new managers in place, better work schedule, etc. I’m very grateful it worked out in the end.

    1. robot*

      This sounds pretty horrible!

      (I will say although disabling USB ports is extreme, policies that restrict USB devices and in particular flash drives for work computers are not unheard of, and are actually a pretty good idea for preventing malware, etc.)

      1. tiny temping teapot*

        We’re not allowed to use the usb ports on our computers here or have our laptops at the office – financial services takes security seriously. My mother was taken back that the firm send fake phishing emails to test us, but I understand the impulse given the information in our files.

        1. Anonicat*

          My friend works in an IT firm where management sends fake phishing emails to check people are following security procedures.

          If you click on one of the links, it takes you to a site that rickrolls you while turning your speakers up and moving the exit icon around at random. People generally don’t need another warning after that.

      2. Bryce*

        My dad used to work at a laboratory with highly classified stuff, and according to him they actually sealed up unused ports with epoxy.

    2. JeanB in NC*

      I would not have been able to contain myself if I saw someone using a calculator to add up numbers on an Excel spreadsheet. I was around when spreadsheets (Lotus 1-2-3 at the time) began being used and I was so thrilled to not have to add up rows of numbers on a calculator!

      1. Rebecca*

        I used my best AAM script to try to show her how to use sum, subtotals, etc, but she said “that’s not how I do it” and blew me off. I also pointed out that Outlook had a search feature, and she could put the garden hose item# in the box and find the particular message quickly, and she snapped “that doesn’t work, I tried it”. Whatever, lady.

      2. MsMaryMary*

        I briefly worked with someone who added figures up by hand and entered them into Excel. I had previously worked with a lot of actuaries and programmers and was completely dumbfounded.

    3. SL #2*

      Honestly? Sounds like Manual Outlook Searcher felt threatened by a new tech-savvy employee and decided that indrect sabotage and belittling was needed to put you in your place from the very start.

      1. Rebecca*

        Interestingly, the HR person asked me if this particular person had anything to do with my hasty departure, and I said “yes”, and that apparently I wasn’t the right person to work with her. I just wanted out.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      “…using a manual calculator to add up figures in an Excel spreadsheet and manually keying the result.”

      This hurts my soul.

    5. Owl*

      These are all terrible. But I wanted to comment that the paragraph you have about EDI? I have never heard of such a thing but I 100% understood everything I needed to to grok the situation, you gave us just the right amount of information. You are a good thing-explainer!

  37. Jesca*

    When I was going through some serious health issues that were taking a long time to diagnose, and my manager told me that when she was pregnant she got the flu and still went to work. Would sit at her desk and vomit in the trash can beside it. This was her reasoning of why I was being a “pussy”.

    Ended up I was dealing with some significant nerve pain due to a genetic disorder that causes disk deterioration in my spine! (in case you don’t know, its very painful!)

    I will admit that I was young and that stuck with me for years. Who knowhow many people I infected with colds over the years based on this “coaching” session from this boss.

  38. Ali Bradstein*

    I quickly learned that my current job is not a culture fit. I work in a very unprofessional municipal office doing administrative work. There are a lot of problems with lazy employees being protected and never fired, high school like cliques, and passive aggressive behavior. A lot of the employees I work with have lived in this city for years and still have drama with each other and people in other departments that go back to high school, or something that happened with their families.

    There is also just not enough work to justify the amount of administrative positions. No one wants to address that, including management, because it’s hard to eliminate positions, and there are people in these unnecessary positions that provide management with political capital in the workplace. Also, our duties are very spelled out by position. I sometimes help coworkers who are overburdened with work, and get negative comments from people in my Union that I shouldn’t be doing work outside of our contract. They would rather sit around doing nothing than help out some of the professional members of the office who are busy all the time, because it would mean that *gasp* there might be more expected of us in the future. In fact, the job description for administrative positions for my municipality does not even include Word or Excel skills as a necessity for the job. These descriptions haven’t been updated since the early 2000s!

    During the interview process, there were definitely red flags. One question I had to answer in the interview was how to deal with people who didn’t want to get their work done. I should have asked at the time what management was doing to quell laziness, and why a lazy person would be kept around. The main manager who interviewed me also went on and on about how professional the office is and what high ethical standards they hold themselves to. I thought that the speech was a little much at the time, and I was right. My manager also called me the day after my interview to offer me the job, which was flattering at the time, but in hindsight was just out of desperation to land someone competent.

    1. Government Worker*

      I recognize so much of this from my office. Not so much the small-town aspect, but the laziness, the union issues, and management’s reluctance to address some kinds of problems.

      But the funny thing is, the office is still a pretty good culture fit for me. I’m in an analyst role and I really care about the work the agency does. I’ve been able to connect with the people across a few departments who share my work ethic and my interest in getting things done, and I had the good luck that the team I’m working on is on the more functional end of the spectrum. So for me the overall dysfunction is an obstacle to work around and one more reason to stay and try to make positive changes happen for the public we serve, not a sign that I need to leave.

      Goes to show how much these things vary by person and by the specifics of a role and an organization, I guess.

      1. Government Worker*

        To provide context: there’s a story (possibly a myth), that a longtime employee had done basically no work for years without management really doing anything about it. A manager finally tried to hold him accountable, and the union successfully argued that by allowing him to do no work for so long his job duties had de facto become to do nothing, so he could not be fired for lack of productivity. And so he remained in his job, doing nothing, until he retired with 30-odd years at the agency.

        Again, it may be a myth (or just majorly oversimplified), but the fact that the story is even remotely plausible tells you something about the culture here.

        1. Ali Bradstein*

          Government Worker – I could really see this situation being a reality! My manager and the manager of a different department who also has employees in my union will talk about their staff watching TV on the job, playing solitaire, going home early while falsifying their time sheets, etc. Frustrating stuff!

          The President of my local is a very ethical person who tries so hard to fix so many issues, but unfortunately there is only so much that one person can do. I know that the only way to make positive change is if good employees stay and keep pushing for improvement. This is only my second “professional” job after college. When I started, I had very unrealistic expectations of how quickly I could change things. I didn’t really comprehend how many stakeholders would be involved for seemingly simple solutions/process improvements. I applaud you for sticking it out and getting whatever wins you are able to push for!

  39. Red*

    I had my first ever job interview with cold Stone creamery. I was a shy kid, and it was a group interview where I was asked to sing. I told the interviewer that the job wasn’t for me and left lol

    1. Emi.*

      At least they have singing interviews for singing jobs, so you know what to expect and can leave! Good for you–I was also a shy kid and I don’t think I’d have had the guts to do that.

  40. Quackeen*

    I had one job where I knew within the first half day that it wasn’t going to work out. I had been so set on leaving my previous job that I ignored any red flags I saw during the interview process. During my first morning there, the woman who handled all HR for this small company took me aside and told me, “We tell Boss what he wants to hear to his face, then go off and do things the right way. he can’t handle it any other way.” I quickly learned that it was a culture of keeping secrets from the owner so as not to damage his fragile ego; backstabbing and gossip; covering up for the owner’s incompetence and lack of social skills; and a whole lot else that I repressed. True to my initial sinking feeling, I was job hunting within a month.

  41. TerraTenshi*

    My first day at my first job out of college a coworker stood up, yelled “think fast” and threw a stuffed monkey at my head. It hit me and started making a screaming noise which everyone thought was hilarious. Looking back I should have turned around and walked straight out.

    1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

      That’d be a great way to get ME flying at the coworker’s head screaming.

  42. Lynn Mac*

    It was the requirement to wear panty hose in the dress code in the handbook, and the HR person sounding very excited that after years of debate they were allowing an exception to the rule for the summer months. The organization ended up being WAY more formal that I like, but that was the first sign.

    1. AwkwardKaterpillar*

      This sounds exactly like my work. They even send out images with examples of appropriate and non appropriate summer dress. With images of ok sandals and not ok sandals, etc.

      1. Emi.*

        Given a strict dress code, though, I’d way rather have a *clear* strict dress code. :)

  43. Phi*

    On my first day, my boss had me meet her at a nearby Starbucks, where we spent an hour and a half while she tried to remember all the things I needed to start working on right away. At the end she paused and said, “Is there anything you need to know before you get started?” It was first thing in the morning. I hadn’t even been shown around the office yet or met any of my coworkers. I knew right then I had made a huge mistake.

  44. EA*

    I had a job that was pretty toxic and I left after 7 months. It was a bit of a bait and switch but I was also a bad culture fit.

    I had come from a place that was very fast paced, and speed was more important than quality.

    The new place people had very little to do, but everything had to be perfect. Like internal emails had to be perfect.

    I have no help on figuring out which environment is which. I think all places I interview consider themselves fast-paced.

  45. TeacherNerd*

    Oh goodness, yes. I knew I’d be a bad fit while I was waiting in the lobby, before the interviewers came out to get me. There was an air of palpable tension and unhappiness; everyone who walked by looked miserable. I knew it would be a bad fit before I even talked to anyone, so I didn’t even try to make a good impression (I wasn’t trying to make a BAD impression), and of course that was the job I was offered that allowed me to move to a different state altogether, which I needed to do. In hindsight, I should have declined the job.

    In a smallish department of fewer than 10 people, we celebrated every birthday, and every time someone had a baby. (With the exception of the GrandBoss, everyone was female, and we celebrated perhaps 8 or 10 pregnancies in the less than two years I was there.) This was not my thing; I don’t want to socialize with my co-workers, most of whom were very nice (I was there to do a job). It was expected that we would donate for birthdays and special occasions, while I was making $11 and it got to the point where I couldn’t afford to eat more than one meal a day. (This was in Long Island, which, being part of the NYC metro area, is what one would call a more expensive part of the country to live in.)

    One year, to celebrate the Christmas holiday, we went out for dinner as a department but had to pay for our own meals; another, we were expected to contribute a certain amount for the catered lunch. (This was a really big financial strain for me but at the time I didn’t know that I could simply not contribute.) During these celebrations, BossLady would come up with a game in which she would develop rather snarky (not funnysnarky) clues in which we had to guess who she was talking about. (One year, the question was, “Who eats dinner for breakfast?” The answer was me, and I was mortified. I was already embarrassed about my inability to eat lunch or breakfast most days, so occasionally bringing in the previous night’s leftovers was the only option.)

    I was, and am, an introvert and my co-workers were more outgoing than I, and my boss interpreted my personality as anti-social, accused me of stalking out of an interview (I had no idea I’ve ever “stalked out” of anything), and used that as a primary reason not to give me a raise. One memorable day, the boss called me a screwup in front of the entire department – incorrectly, since this was one time I hadn’t made any errors in my reporting. (I was an analyst and I can say, now, that I was not great at my job, although truly not as terrible as she made me out to be.) She never did apologize, although, one co-worker apparently told her she was out of line. (And I’m still grateful the coworker did that.)

    My co-workers were nice people, but it was bad culture fit: I wasn’t interested in socializing outside of work, or even during work, and that was the cultural norm. I’m better at work socializing now; I’m older and more sure of myself – but man that was a terrible work environment. (It says something, too, that the turnover was so high and the pay was so low.)

    1. Turtlewings*

      They paid you pennies, shook you down for donations, and then made fun of you for being poor? Consider it a point in your favor that you didn’t fit in there.

  46. NoMoreMrFixit*

    One of my earliest jobs was working for one of the major accounting firms. Huge mistake. Massive. It was a disaster pretty much from the start. Being young I didn’t notice the warning signs until long after it was too late. These included a coworker hired the same day I did quit days later by sliding their resignation under the door on the weekend. Dress code that you had to be a partner to afford. I grew up in a blue collar town. Walked in wearing a pink shirt one day. They were not pleased. Back then smoking was still allowed in public places. Regional government passed a bylaw that in the new year anybody could force a workplace to become nonsmoking with a single complaint. I made the mistake of saying out loud that I couldn’t wait for that regulation to come into effect. Days later I got hauled into the boss’s office and told my services were no longer required. I was relieved to be out of there and actually changed careers because of the nonsense I endured there.

  47. AVP*

    Let me start with, I come from an industry that is notoriously laid-back and freewheeling. I was offered a job about a year out of school and I jumped on it because it was FT and up to then I had only been finding freelance work that was driving me batty.

    I knew it was a terrible culture fit when the Big Halloween Party came around. I was in the camera department but we had been detailed to the Decoration Committee because we were the “creative people.” The theme was “dead rockstars” and they wanted us to create a cemetery with gravestones with rockstars names on them. Okay, a little tasteless but whatever, this is what the CEO wants. Then came the fun…a succession of meetings, ascending up the hierarchy, for people to agree which musicians deserved to be represented in the graveyard. You guys, this went on for weeks, with each layer of management wanting to pick over and approve everyone on the list individually, taking each addition/retraction as ironclad proof of every other middle managers taste level and personal worth, until by the end each person had to be unanimously voted in and we ended up with, like, 6 people.

    (And then of course the day of the party came and we decided it looked sad because there were so few so we added some back in, after all that.)

    Looking back, I ignored sooo many signs including that they had the salary completely wrong and had promised benefits that didn’t exist – the HM was a really nice guy but should not have been left alone in the hiring process as he had no clue what the job or offer actually entailed. The place was just a total mess, hiding under the guise of a million meetings and calls and processes because no one ever knew what was going on.

    1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

      “You guys, this went on for weeks, with each layer of management wanting to pick over and approve everyone on the list individually, taking each addition/retraction as ironclad proof of every other middle managers taste level and personal worth, until by the end each person had to be unanimously voted in and we ended up with, like, 6 people.”

      This is like chaining the concept of fun to a pickup bumper and driving 30 miles.

      1. SomeoneLikeAnon*

        Oh ugh, your story made me think of tons of stuff I forgot on my entry further down.
        – Like how the promises made during recruiting never materialized; including the promised raise for getting an advanced degee and difficult industry certification.
        – How my boss was so bad at his job that I almost missed a client requested conference; when I brought it up with nearly no time to spare, the CFO yelled at me like it was somehow his fault my immediate boss didn’t update the CFO about not ordering my company credit card.
        – How I was doing a stellar job with bonuses until they found out I was job hunting and then I was worst person ever in the history of teapot design that couldn’t even identify a teapot let alone work near one!

        1. AVP*

          lol! For this one it was literally health insurance. As in, they told me I would get health insurance at the interview, and then when I signed in on the first day and filled out start paperwork there was no insurance and no one was quite sure how that had transpired.

    2. fposte*

      Okay, the massive Halloween dead rockstar bureaucracy is truly amazing. I hope it was prominently mentioned as an achievement in everybody’s annual reviews.

  48. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

    I’ve got a great one for this. A few years ago, I landed my first accounting assistant job. I was SO excited. Previously, I’d worked as a bank teller and I had a couple of years of college (no degree) but no actual accounting experience. Plus it was about a 40% increase in pay.

    Jump to my first day – my new supervisor takes me out for lunch and starts with “we’re not a cult…”. It turned out that all of the people that worked there belonged to the same church. I have no idea how I got hired, but it was awful. My bank account happened to get compromised while I worked there and there was speculation over why the “devil was trying to get me”. I made it a year and was able to use the experience from that to go through a temp agency to land another job.

      1. CatCat*

        Totally out of the blue. I didn’t even get what was happening at first, it was so bizarre.

    1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      I’ve worked for a couple Christian businesses over the years, but I’ve been fortunate in that aside from one recommendation of a church to join if I was looking for one, no one’s ever tried to convert or proselytize to me. (Then again, I figure my innate heathen/uber-lapsed Catholic qualities come blazing through and I’m seen as a lost cause.)

  49. Future Analyst*

    First day! I interviewed with bosses A, B, and C, with the understanding that I would be working with them 60-80% of the time, and boss D the remainder (and I did not meet boss D). On my first day, I met boss D, and realized that I would be working with him 98% of the time, and I would never, ever have taken the job had I known that/met him ahead of time. He had a skeezy feel about him: he’s the type of person who’s your best friend one day, and can’t find anything you do well the next. Unfortunately, I canceled the interview I had that was scheduled to take place the 2nd day, and I still regret that. I only lasted 8 months– it was one of the worst working relationships I’ve ever had.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I can’t help but assume that there is a reason you didn’t meet boss D during the interview.

  50. Snark (formerly Liet)*

    I suppose this is true of my current position, which is environmental consulting onsite at a client office. It puts me in the interesting position of being a bad fit for a culture I’m basically not a part of – there’s a pretty clear line between the contractors and the regular employees, and they’re polite when coming to task me with something but there’s absolutely zero friendly chitchat or invites to happy hour or the summer cookout or whatever. To the extent such things happen at all, because it’s generally a pretty stiff office; not formal, just distant and not chummy in the slightest.

  51. Mona Lisa*

    Yes, my last job was at a non-profit that tended to breed workaholics because, if you weren’t working at least 50 hours a week, you didn’t really care about the mission. I value a work-life balance and believe that most low- to mid-level office jobs shouldn’t require more than 40 hours/week on the regular. Also since they were paying me so poorly, I didn’t feel I had a strong incentive to work the kind of hours they were expecting because it would undercut my “hourly” wage.

    In retrospect, I should have looked at the warning signs they handed out like “We’re like family here” or “We work until the job is done.” I also wish I had thought to ask more culture questions during interviews, but it was my second job (following a pretty fantastic first job I’d lucked into), and I didn’t know enough to ask how days would be structured or what type of hours people usually kept. It definitely taught me a lesson about screening for culture fit in the future!

    1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

      ““We’re like family here”

      *runs away flailing hands, screaming*

      1. tiny temping teapot*

        I hear we’re like family and I have learned that means the worst dysfunctional possibly abusive family you can imagine, only they have your paycheck in their hands. Run screaming as fast as you can and never look back.

      2. The Southern Gothic*

        “We’re like family” is secret code for “we treat each other like shit, and are enmeshed in relationships we all hate”

    2. paul*

      I’ve seen enough abusive and/or dysfunctional families to run in fear anytime a workplace advertises itself as a family.

  52. Jake*

    My second job out of college… I went from a megacorp with 60,000 employees to a place with 150 employees. I’m from the midwest, and new company is based out of Mississippi. I was not ready for the good ole boy, it’ll get done when it gets done attitudes. Couple that with the fact that the company was over 99% white and over 95% Christian, I didn’t really understand what I was getting myself into until it was far far too late. Anybody that tries to explain that diversity isn’t important needs to do a case study on this company. I’m white and come from a traditionally Christian background, so its not like I stuck out and was victimized directly, however, it was very obvious that everybody was expected to look and act the same.

    The only part that I could’ve foreseen was the lack of diversity, but with a home office of 30ish folks and field offices spread throughout the country, I didn’t realize that the entire company was that way just by seeing 5 or 6 people during an interview. Plus, even asking about it wouldn’t have yielded much info because in their mind, they WERE diverse. Some liked golf, others liked tennis. Some were Catholic, some were Methodist. Some were from southeast Mississippi, some were from northwest Florida. Stuff like that.

  53. JulieBulie*

    I’ve had a number of interviews where it was obvious that it wouldn’t be a Love Connection, but fortunately I was not offered and didn’t feel obligated to accept any of those jobs.

    However, I did one find myself in a Mean Girls environment once and didn’t realize it until I was laid off. The Mean Girls (which included my boss, her boss, and a couple of other people) liked me, and I was their buddy, and I had no idea we were a clique until I discovered that they hated one of our coworkers.

    I hadn’t thought it was strange that the coworker didn’t go to lunch with us, because she usually ate lunch with her desk. But I also had lunch alone with her a few times when the mean girls weren’t around, and I thought she was okay and we became friends. She was much more helpful to me about work stuff than any of the mean girls were, and after all, I was there to WORK.

    Then one day my grandboss basically started asking me for dirt about my friend. I thought it was weird and I said I didn’t have anything to offer.

    A few weeks later, there was a mass layoff, and my friend and I were both included in it.

    (I’m not a totally oblivious person; I was only in the office once or twice a week, and otherwise worked at home, so I didn’t get enough exposure to have a complete picture of the dynamics.)

    Over the next few years, the company tanked, so we were actually pretty lucky to get out early while they could still afford to pay decent severance.

  54. bohtie*

    My job is pretty flexible about culture stuff, thankfully – like, my boss wears business attire pretty much 24/7 but doesn’t care one whit if I wear sneakers or have facial piercings or dye my hair funny colors as long as I’m at least business-casual and, like, clean. I’ve had to make some adjustments because I came from a more casual work group where, for example, it was no big deal to be, like, a few minutes late as long as it was less than 10 – everybody uses public transit so you never know what you’re going to get – and my current department head is EXTREMELY strict about punctuality, etc. but it’s all been stuff I can grumble about a little bit but then just handle and within a month or two I don’t even notice the changes.

    My last job, I knew I was in trouble within the first week when my boss got too drunk to drive herself home and it was, like, 4pm. It was a very heavy drinking/partying (at work) culture but also the kind of place where everyone wore really expensive jewelry and went to fancy brunches together on the weekends and that is just not my thing, not at all. I rarely drink, I definitely don’t like being drunk with people I work with, and Luckily, it also had extremely flexible hours – not customer-facing at ALL; you could pretty much just show up whenever you wanted, do your work, and clock out – so I could avoid most of it, and there were a few more people who were also really uncomfortable so we just kinda stuck together until our contracts were up.

  55. Snark (formerly Liet)*

    ““We’re like family here”

    *runs away flailing hands, screaming*

    1. Decima Dewey*

      “Oh, so you know how to push people’s buttons and shrug off feedback by saying people are wrong about what upsets them?”

  56. Julia*

    Interviewed at a company where they had a “voluntary” bible study during lunch that most of the staff participated in. It was for a very large well known company that I did not know was actually family owned.

    Sorry, but I do not think I need to mix my religion into my work life.

      1. N.J.*

        And the Noptopus spaketh “Behold! Blessed art thou who nopes in my name, thou shalt inherit the kingdom of no f***ks left to give.”

        Couldn’t help myself.

    1. Bridget*

      Yeah my parent company is like this. Luckily I’m in NC and they’re in TX and they apparently don’t require their subsidiaries to have daily bible study like they do at the home office. I’m catholic, but not THAT catholic. 0_0

  57. Anon16*

    Small, open plan office in which there were occasional ping pong matches, shouting arguments (about politics, work, or even silly arguments that got extremely heated), loud talking or loud music playing at any given time (such as rap music or Beyonce’s new album). Loud arguing/complaining about management in which the program director participated in. Insert a new shy, introverted recent grad. Very big cultural clash. I ended up getting along well with my colleagues and am on good terms with all of them, but I felt like such a fish out of water for the first year. I’m not complaining, wish I had loosened up a bit and enjoyed it while it lasted.

  58. Definitely NOT a T-Rex*

    When I asked my interviewer about the workplace culture (at a university), she started talking about the international students!

    Needless to say, upper management lives up to their reputation of not being competent managers.

  59. jenniferthebillionth*

    I felt it was not a good fit in the interview. I felt it was not a good fit when I accepted the job. I felt it was not a good fit for the two years I worked there. I felt it was not a good fit when the company and I made a mutual decision to part ways. Even though I fell into a deep depression, I still felt that job was not a good fit.

    I took some time, got my depression managed, and found a better fit. I now listen to myself better.

  60. WellRed*

    Slightly different situation, I worked part time at Borders in a liberal New England City for several years, with a lot of the same staff. It was bought out by Books a Million, which hired back pretty much all of us into the same roles. Unfortunately, while it’s hard to put a finger on it, most of us Borders employees never quite fit in with the culture of BAM which was based in Birmingham, Alabama. Think big stuff, like removing books on Jewish religion to the New Age section, decimating the LBGQT section (in an enormously) gay friendly area and just a … different vibe. Even the top managers were dropping like flies. I made it three months. They just stopped putting me on the schedule because I wasn’t signing up enough people for their paid membership at the register. I worked the sales floor, not the register.

    1. Cats of Katie Elder*

      My husband worked for Borders for 10 years and only lasted 4 months after BAM took over, they just stopped scheduling him too. I wonder how many others?

  61. Temperance*

    I was a terrible cultural fit at my first job out of college. I’m very literal and matter-of-fact, and my BigBoss was an annoying salesperson who bonused on making sales. So basically, she would offer things to our clients that were not possible, and then make me the bad guy. (Example of not possible: she said that someone could have 6 filing cabinets. We didn’t have 6 filing cabinets, nor did I have permission to order more. I had to tell the guy that we didn’t have them..)

    1. Tau*

      Horrifying flashback to sales at my last job. I don’t think I’ll ever be over the time our sales person managed to make a binding promise for us to do something that was 100% impossible (like, on the impossibility scale it’s somewhere between “six filing cabinets” impossible and “gravity does not work that way” impossible) and would then regularly bug us with “well when are we delivering this? the customer expects it!”

  62. Lora*

    Oh boy! It was actually a project I consulted on. I was made the site lead for a validation project, as I had the most experience, and a guy who reported to me who was basically fresh out of college but very ambitious, had thought he would be the site lead. And he was ANGRY and SOOOOO bitter about having a lady boss. Lied through his teeth to me about what he was working on and progress at any given time. If I gave him ANY feedback at all, such as “please fix the wording on this paragraph, here is a markup copy, can you please make these changes and let me know if you have questions” he LOST IT and would scream “YOU FK ME OVER? YOU FK ME OVER? I FK YOU OVER!!” And I was not allowed to fire him, my boss just said, I will speak with him. Whatever he said, it didn’t work. Basically the consulting company was trying to squeeze as much money out of the client as they could, so they hired some unqualified personality problems who were willing to work for cheap, and they didn’t want to go through the hassle of trying to find someone else who would likely bill more expensively. After my 6-month stint at that client was done, they fired the guy, but holy moly the company’s reputation was trashed and it just went further downhill even though they fired the dude.

    It wouldn’t have done me much good to ask who I would be bossing in the interview; in consulting your team can change a lot over just a couple of months, depending on the project. That and “are you going to make me in charge of the most unprofessional d-bag on the face of the earth?” isn’t a question you can legitimately ask.

  63. bluesbelle*

    Ha! Yep, this has happened to me a couple of times.

    Current job: I came in very eager from a great contract position that valued my organization skills, attention to detail, and writing. I spent a large portion of my interview talking about those things and how much they matter to me. First day on the job (in a creative roll), new boss immediately told me that people who are organized are by definition not creative. The office was a complete filthy disaster, there was no training plan, and I had nothing to do/no proper workspace. Also, my writing was too formal and not “cool” enough. No explanation of what that meant, but I apparently just didn’t have “it.”
    I don’t get it. I had to submit writing samples for this job. I talked about my love of systems and a good calendar in the interview and in my cover letter. I’ve been here for a year and it has been a nightmare. Everyone in the office is just as disorganized and gross. I’m trying to find an exit.

    On the lighter side: First full day of work at an outdoor accessories company was the office Christmas party and attendance was mandatory. We were going skiing. I cannot ski to save my life. I was the only one who couldn’t. I went with the cross country skiing contingent, ended up flying down a very small hill, and Wile E. Coyote-ing it face first into a snowbank. Best part: the VP of Sales had to pull me out of the snowbank by my butt in front of all my new coworkers. I was the office joke for a really long time and I never really fit in with the culture, but they did appreciate that I tried my best.

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      I have a relative who had a similar issue with an outdoor accessories company; she came from fashion sales and realizing that they really did push for embodying the outdoor adventure lifestyle was tough for her to deal with. Was not a match.

  64. Delta Delta*

    I recently had an interview with a department in a government agency. The interviewers were very nice, but kept me waiting about 20 minutes. when they came in, one made a big production about the fact she was “sooooooooo busy” and had “so many emails she couldn’t handle it.” Maybe that’s true – I don’t know, but it didn’t seem to bode well during an interview that the position would have so much work it wasn’t do-able, and that you’d complain about it to a stranger. At least, that’s how she made it seem.

    I had another interview back in the winter where I expressly asked about office culture. I was coming from a toxic stew of dysfunction and I wanted to make sure I didn’t land in another similar place. They didn’t know how to answer and told me I could wear a suit if I wanted to, but that it wasn’t required. It felt like I asked, “do you like carrots?” and they answered “orange!” So, maybe not bad places to work, but both were interesting clues to me that maybe it wasn’t the right place for me.

    1. nnn*

      It felt like I asked, “do you like carrots?” and they answered “orange!”

      I must remember this analogy for future use!

    2. Cedrus Libani*

      I once had an interview where I asked about office culture, and everyone looked at me like a deer in headlights and then changed the subject. (This was in multiple one-on-one interviews with potential peers.) I’d already gotten a bit of a spidey-sense about the boss – nothing specific, just a bit abrupt – but that sent my eyebrows migrating towards the ceiling. That job came down to me and another person, I didn’t get it, and since I was broke enough to have taken it anyway…the universe probably did me a favor on that one.

  65. The Other Dawn*

    I would say my previous job was a bad culture fit (and really a bad fit in every possible way). It was at a small bank that was based in a very well-off county in the state. It was actually the same county in which I lived at the time, but most branches were in the VERY well-off cities and towns within the county, which wasn’t where I lived or where I grew up. I had just come from a small bank that served the low- to moderate-income population in a fairly depressed area and watched every dollar, so coming to the new bank where pretty much everyone, customers and employees, were well-off was quite strange to me. It blew my mind to see the tellers and many other employees pull up in brand new Mercedes, BMWs, etc. It also blew my mind to walk into the storage room at the administrative office and see bottles and bottles of wine, champagne and Perrier; expensive cheese in the fridge; and expensive sculptures in the board room. To listen to employees talk about their housekeepers, landscapers, summer homes, and all that just made me feel so inadequate. It wasn’t that they were purposely flaunting it; it was just their normal conversation from day to day. But it was so different that what I had experienced up until then.

    That was part of the bad culture fit. The other part was that the employees were all miserable and no one ever had anything nice to say about the company. You always get a few people that are miserable and/or like to complain all the time and you can usually just brush that off, but it was really every single one of them. And they loved to bash the company and other people whenever they got the chance.

    Other things were a bad fit, too, like the job and my boss (big things!). I was there for 10 miserable months before I got out.

  66. k.k*

    “The staff here is more like a family.”

    If I ever hear that in the interview again, I should just go. The people I work with are all actually lovely, nice, caring people. But it’s an office full of outgoing, know all of each other’s business type of people, and I’m not at all that way. I’m fairly sure people thing I’m weird because I like to work quietly and keep my work and private life separate. To the point where I think they’re worried I’m sitting at my desk sad all day. My feedback and performance reviews are basically coded language for “You should be an extrovert because I don’t understand what an introvert is an assume it’s a bad thing.” The kicker is my job duties don’t involve or require much interaction with others, which was why the job appealed to me.

    1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

      I usually find that the “staff=family” line is code for “if you want to know about our work-life balance, imagine an old-timey balance scale with an F-150 on one side and a feather on the other. Hope you like Sue from Accounting, because you will literally see her more than your children.”

  67. Bee Eye LL*

    I knew I had made a mistake on day one. Why?

    1. My computer had no monitors. This is for a tech support job.
    2. My desk had no chair. I had to steal one from another guy who was out of the office at the time.

    It took a few days and overnight shipping to get 1 & 2 fixed. They just weren’t ready for me.

    Day 2, I was told there was so much turnover in my position that people take bets as to how long the next person will stay. How’s that for a welcoming committee?

    I stuck it out @ 18 months.

  68. Emily S.*

    After a period when I was out of the workforce for a while, I joined a temp agency to find admin jobs similar to the one I’d left earlier that year (this was early 2013).

    I was pretty desperate at that point, for any decent job that could pay my bills. So I interviewed with a local nonprofit (part of a global charity network) for an admin job in their Development Dept. (fundraising group). The interview went very well: The people were genuinely nice and engaging, and though I wouldn’t be working for them directly (I was employed by the agency), it seemed like a really good work environment.

    So, I was happy to accept this temporary position which was due to last four months, if it worked out. After that point, the organization’s contract with the agency would allow them to interview me, to maybe offer a permanent position if I was a good fit. So I began my temporary term.

    Early on, it seemed like a good fit. But having never worked in the nonprofit sector before, certain things were very strange to me and just seemed off. The culture was totally different from the corporate jobs I’d held in the past. This wasn’t typically a bad thing, but just didn’t always feel right to me.

    I think the biggest issue was that it felt like all the org.’s employees were “drinking the Kool-Aid,” if you will pardon the expression — they all seemed to believe that this organization was just a wonderful and 100% awesome thing, and it seemed to them to be the perfect place to work, the greatest organization ever, etc. But the intensity level was too much for me.

    For example, 100% of employees were expected to donate a percentage of their own paychecks to the organization itself. To me, this idea was bonkers, particularly since I’m young, loaded with student debt, and felt that by working there as an employee, I would already be contributing a great deal (and giving up a much higher salary at a corporate job).

    Looking back now, I do think it is a good organization, but it was an incredibly demanding job (probably the most stressful department of the charity organization would be the fundraising arm, with quotas to meet, etc. – very akin to a sales team, really), and just not right for me.

    In any case, it was clear to both me and the organization that I was not a good fit for the role. I liked some of the work, and my manager was great (a truly kind, generous person), but I am just much more suited to the corporate world. So I finished the temporary term, and then they hired someone who was a better fit for the job.

    More than anything else, at the end of the assignment, I felt a big sense of relief that I could leave that place and never go back.

    The temp agency then lined me up with a better job (at a large global company, where I was on a great team, doing much more interesting work). Then, I eventually went back to a previous employer, and got a new position that was a good fit for me. The culture here is not perfect, but it works for me, and I feel that I’m part of a solid team with a great manager — so important.

    1. k.k*

      “For example, 100% of employees were expected to donate a percentage of their own paychecks to the organization itself.”

      Uhhhg. As someone who works in fundraising that is something that really bothers me. I’m lucky that I cut my teeth at an org that was very aware that most staff weren’t in a position to donate back, so that idea was never ingrained in me. But it’s something that is more common that it should be.

      1. Mischa*

        My former organization urged us to donate to the annual fund (non-profit independent secondary school). It was so annoying — we were paid garbage and they wanted it back. Glad I left.

    2. Emi.*

      “Of course I want to give back to the organization! You see, I’m donating the many thousands of dollars that I would be making if I worked at a for-profit venture.”

  69. Yep, me again*

    I had been laid off from my prior company where I’d worked for 3 and a half years. A job in my experience with a bit more responsibility came up. It was in Database admin but no past experience in this field was required (and inside sales position).
    The first interview was 45 minutes and very thorough. The second was with the hiring manager and executive vp and those were short but very well. The hiring manager told me I was the only candidate she’d spoken with that she liked (yay!). I felt like we gelled so no worries.
    Eventually the interview process was an interview with the account manager I’d support and two in-person interiews with the EVP and the owner of the company. Before this is the red flag. The recruiter called me and said they liked me, and asked if I knew anyone else who would be interested. They wanted this person to start the same as me. Mind you, I had not had the last two interviews yet. When I mentioned it to my former HR person from the company I was laid off from, she said ‘that’s pretty strange’.
    At the interview the EVP was cold and I really thought I’d screwed up in general. Surprise, surprise! They still offered me the job. I accepted but my manager was on vacation for two weeks. When she returned, the first conversation she had with me was telling me she was disappointed I didn’t refer anyone else. It was her idea for me to recruit another inside sales person because she didn’t like anyone she interviewed. (By the way, another person who works closely with sales had a friend who had database admin experience and wanted to try sales. He answered a question the way she didn’t like and ended the interview which was really embarrassing for my colleague.)
    From there it just gradually went downhill. She was hypercritical of everything and insisted I should no more than I should (never been in database admin, remember). Her coaching was uncomfortable not only because of her snappiness but so uncomfortable because she’d use crude analogies (she’d say in every conversation ‘you wouldn’t want some strange doctor grabbing at your boobs/whatever without having a conversation with you first would you?’
    And the acct manager I supported that I interviewed with turned into a total dick. He bitched about me constantly behind my back and my manager always took his side. If she didn’t have a gripe about me she was relaying a gripe from him. It was too the point she said ‘The account managers are under pressure writing the paychecks for the entire company so be mindful what you say’.
    Despite lack of knowledge, I was still making the numbers assigned but she decided that I wasn’t apart of the ‘company culture’ and put me on a performance improvement plan despite being on target. Then she extended it another month.
    I decided I had enough. I was prepared to hand in my notice, but I got a job offer first (I was going to make that last week my last week regardless. Job or no job. I never cried so much in my life over a new job, never had such a hyper critical, unprofessional, hot mess for a boss. She’d asked if she could see me, and then I’d never see her the rest of the day. I know they just got a new EVP, let’s hope he brings a new VP of sales with him too.

  70. The Claims Examiner*

    At my first job as a legal secretary out of college I was given a 6 inch thick ring binder to read after they decided to hire me. Every time I asked for help or did something wrong I was told “that’s not procedure” or “it’s in the handbook”. The binder had about a thousand form letters and tucked way in the middle were about 2 pages of actual rules and procedures like a dress code from 20 years ago and how to set up your files. This was also the type of place that would send out a memo if the toilet wasn’t flushed or the air conditioner temperature was changed.

    1. WhoseTheCrazyOneHere?*

      Oh gosh this sounds like my last workplace. I had a 6inch binder too, and actually read the whole dang thing (wanted to be perfect!), only to get spoken to repeatedly that I was doing thing wrong.

      Turns out the binder they gave me was never updated – was *just* similar enough that the processes worked, but didn’t conform to new SOP.

      After getting set up to look like a total idiot, I beat a hasty exit out of that job.

  71. Janelle*

    So much yes. I worked for a company owned by a very well known motivational/inspirational boon writer. Think soup.

    His claim to fame “per him” was that he could write a book in a day. Everyone praised him and it was a very very religious environment. I felt insanely uncomfortable. The thing that made me the most uncomfortable is that this man is writing books that people rely on for help, healing, etc but it was just a money making farm for him. I couldn’t get the pride in a book a day. How are you even offering good advice at that rate. I was so put off.

    1. Zombii*

      His claim to fame “per him” was that he could write a book in a day.

      From what I remember of skimming one of those books in some godawful waiting room once, it shows.

  72. A very anonymous person*

    It’s a long sad story but bottom line, the red flag I overlooked was that the manager did not walk me through the office or introduce me to the rest of the team either time I came in. I was only escorted swiftly to conference rooms that were removed from the main work area. If I had been in a position to notice the hostile stares and whispering from the office clique, aka my team, because I was an “outsider”, I might have avoided taking a job that was a horrible cultural fit. Or at least I’d like to think so.

    I didn’t know until after I started that my boss had done something very unusual and controversial by hiring me from the outside, as the most qualified candidate for the role, instead of doing the normal promote-from-within from the pool of people who had been there since high school and were mostly neighbors and relatives of one another, and were used to getting promotions based on how long they’d been working there. I thought maybe my new colleagues were just busy or reserved when they initially gave me the cold shoulder. But it became really obvious what was going on when an “insider” transfer started two weeks later and my colleagues were over the top warm and welcoming and one even walked into my cubicle to forage for supplies for her.

    I put up with being mocked by people who openly bragged about being rednecks for several years because the work was engaging, but it became glaringly apparent after a management change I was never going to advance my career there so I left.

  73. Dan*

    Yup. Figured it out during the interview. Oddly, this was for “dream job”. It was why I went to grad school. The job ad was a copy/paste job of my resume. I was like, “this is perfect.”

    Except 1) the pay sucked, and 2) When I went on site, everybody else looked like a zombie who would rather be elsewhere. There was no buzz or excitement. My first thought was, “This is my dream job. I’m excited to be here, and I have to work with people who would rather be elsewhere? Pass.” They did not extend me an offer. This was 2008 in the middle of the recession — I wanted them to not make me an offer, because I did not want to take it knowing I’d be looking to get out ASAP.

    That’s when I learned about dream jobs.

  74. tiny tyke*

    Oh wow on the lunch bible study — I just could not…

    A recent management position I held was fine, but the lead of our not-for-profit really encouraged everyone to sing the praises of the organization at every meeting. I do not care at all to testify and group share about how pleased I am to be working somewhere/how my co-workers are like my family when I have only been somewhere a few months. At that point, any compliments shared are entirely inauthentic. There were endless all-day staff meetings with lots of poster-making and feelings sharing and clapping. I am friendly but sarcastic and being at such an over-earnest place was not a culture fit.

    Throughout my three years there, I also noticed that many people felt very bound to the internal language of the organization and would correct you if you expressed yourself in a non-jargon-y fashion. If I said “project-based learning” instead of [insert proprietary, jargon-y phrase for teaching high school students how to work on real-world projects], I would get chastised by my colleagues who were peers (not my boss, thankfully).

    I have a big mouth, so I would tell anyone who corrected me that learning is free and swaddling it in proprietary language is not helpful to students and teachers–it’s a money making maneuver for the organization. The more jargon, the more you can convince principals that they should pay you big bucks to train your teachers.

  75. AP*

    A previous job was such a bad fit I only lasted 6 months. I went from a large organization to a small shop of 20 people. There was a big focus on pleasing the owner, who didn’t have a ton of knowledge about our line of business, but loomed large in the minds of all the employees. This was a theme: there were people who weren’t really skilled or knowledgeable, but their word had a huge amount of power because they were friendly with the owner. A lot of time was spent silently fixing or hiding their mistakes.

    There was also a kind of Mad Man casual sexism that really didn’t sit right with me. My boss and I were the only two women there and I should have been tipped off on my first day when someone commented that Boss only hired me so “she’ll have another girl to talk to”. This was a few months before the holidays, and I soon realized that although Boss and I had demanding client management roles, we were also expected to plan, organize and execute a holiday party for all the guys in the office, during which they all won funny awards and prizes and we got to clean up the wrapping paper and make sure the games and events went well.

    I think the warning signs during the interview process may have been the emphasis on personality and “family” atmosphere during the hiring process. It was just really not a good fit for me.

  76. Whoopsy*

    After several months of job searching, I got a job as a pet handler at a dog kennel where my at-the-time girlfriend had volunteered for many years. Way outside my wheelhouse, but any port in a storm, right? Yeah…nah. More politics in that office than occurred across the second and third quarters of 2016, most of it passive aggressive and all of it nasty. Throw in an incipient separation and getting barked at all day by 100+ dogs and you have me taking my lunch breaks in my car so no one would see if I broke down.

  77. Ruthie*

    A little over a year ago I left a job I had been at for maybe four years. It was my second job after school and I was still very new to the workforce. I got along really well with my boss but everyone else was just plain… well… mean to us. The office was very cliquey. I have no idea why, but I just didn’t fit in. I remember leaving the office several times to see everyone outside at the bar next to our building having happy hour. Everyone but me and my boss. I went through a whole series of emotions and eventually realized that I didn’t want to be a part of this unkind group. I even went to a professional counselor who helped me realize that my coworkers weren’t going to change. I ultimately got some peace after realizing that the reason this group of people were so aggressively social and hierarchical in the workplace was probably because they didn’t have any other social outlets and were really invested in the workplace social life.

    Every email I sent required political strategy. Decisions were rarely made based on the best thing for the organization or populations we served, but on who had the most social capital. It was exhausting. But the pay was really good and I had a lot of repsonsibility, so I stuck around for a few years.

    Until I got to my new job I didn’t realize how much I had internalized that there was something wrong with me and that I was inherently unlikable. It was a big shock to me when my new coworkers seemed to genuinely want to talk with me. I almost burst into tears the first time someone asked me if I wanted to get lunch together. My old team usually went to lunch together every day without me.

    I have a lot of concerns about my new office, but I am so much happier to work with friendly people. One time I even had some work friends over to my apartment and my fiancé was hiding in the bedroom fighting back tears because he was so happy for me. Things were really that bad before.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      I worked in an office like that, although not to that extreme! Yes on the political strategy of emails (I still panic sometimes about how to order people’s names in the to: line…) Somehow I just didn’t fit in socially, so I would overhear people planning happy hours that I was never invited to, etc. I did make one friend there, who ended up hiring me into my next job, which was a much better fit. Apparently before I started, she warned all the new coworkers that I was very quiet, but good at my job. I was not quiet there! Because I didn’t think everyone hated me!!!

  78. Tuckerman*

    My story is a little different, in that the fit had nothing to do with poor management. I got hired as a very part time waitress (1/day a week). I already worked full time but wanted extra cash, and the restaurant was right around the corner from my house. My aunt’s ex was one of the owners so I was able to get work.
    It was a great company. People were friendly and patient. But I didn’t really feel part of the team because I was rarely there. I wasn’t part of the service industry culture (e.g., swapping shifts or really being impacted by a slow night).
    The manager talked to me about cutting back shifts even further or waiting for awhile to come back because they wanted to prioritize shift for other servers who relied on the business for income. And I was totally happy with parting ways at that point.

  79. the gold digger*

    I moved to a subsidiary of my employer. I gave a month’s notice to the old job; that is, NewJob had more than a month’s notice I was coming.

    Warning signs I ignored:
    1. They lied about the salary, telling me it was $85K but then writing $75K in the officer letter. When I challenged the hiring manager, he said that I had misunderstood – that $85K was the full value of salary plus benefits. Which yeah – that’s how everyone answers the question, “How much does this job pay?”
    2. They didn’t want to let me carry over my vacation. (I was going to a subsidiary!)
    3. I had to start before Christmas – they insisted – and nope, the subsidiary doesn’t get the week between Christmas and NY’s off.

    Things I couldn’t ignore once I started:
    1. Day one, after more than a month’s notice, they not only did not have a computer ready for me, they had no place for me to sit.
    2. Hiring manager tells me, on day one, that he wants me to cold-call SIX THOUSAND PROSPECTS. For a $50-$100K training program that we were selling. There had been no, absolutely no, discussion of cold-calling during the multiple interviews I had.
    3. I sat in the conference room to read training materials because I didn’t have to hear the radio playing. Upon learning I do not like the radio – and even after my saying, “And I can’t be the new person who comes in on Day 1 and turns off the music,” NewBoss turns off the radio and tells my new co-workers that I do not like it.
    4. NewBoss sits me at a desk in the middle of an open area next to customer service and then tells me to call a prospect in Mexico to discuss our highly-technical product. Which I can do – but – in Spanish. With the radio blaring. And other people answering the phone next to me. When I suggest I might need a space with more privacy, he seems surprised.

    I started looking for a new job a week later.

    And I was beyond thrilled when the CEO (whose own shenanigans came up after Day 1) was fired last year.

  80. Anon today...and tomorrow*

    I’ve twice interviewed for companies that I knew, within seconds, that I wasn’t a fit for their culture. One was a software company that stressed training was intense because “we want to break your spirit so we can fix it with what works for us”. I literally stood up, thanked them for their time and walked out. I honestly didn’t think about it – it was like my body was screaming RUN! The other job was a part time gig and the person interviewing me (male, I’m female) kept flirting with me and I knew that there was no way that this was something I’d put up with.

    But…on the flip side of this…I once took a job where I was sure that I wasn’t a fit. My background up until this position was in retail so this job which required extensive training and product knowledge (call center for a medical insurance company) was more than I’d done. I remember sitting through training and wondering what the hell I was doing. Everyone else “got it” and I didn’t. Then one day, about two months in, things clicked and to this day that was one of my most favorite jobs. I was there for 3 years.

  81. Doubting Thomas*

    I left a startup for a big institution a few weeks back, and I regret it.

    In the interview, everyone told me it’s a really relaxed workplace. They were right…because nothing gets done. Ever. “It’s not my job” is the standard answer for any question, especially “can you tell me who to ask about it instead?” I understand this mentality with company veterans, but I’m a millennial, so I don’t get that benefit because I’m newer to the workforce and a lot of companies have cut benefits for new hires because of the recession.

    I missed orientation, and everything that goes with it (PTO reporting, how to set up direct deposit, etc.) because HR didn’t feel like signup me up for it. My department’s admin assistant asked me why I didn’t go to orientation, and it went like this:

    AA: “Didn’t HR sign you up for orientation?”
    Me: “No. I asked about it and they said they had no idea and didn’t handle that.”
    AA: [raised eyebrow]

    Didn’t get an employee pass either, so I need to call one of my co-workers when I get in in the morning. AA says the people who handle that aren’t replying to her.

    I’ve worked in other big companies where not-my-job-ism is common, but at least at those places I could go to someone higher up and say “Wakeen in the CT office won’t respond to emails or calls, and we need him for the quarterly reports. Can you talk to his boss?” and suddenly Wakeen would be helpful. Here I’d get an “it’s not my job”

    I make a good salady, but given I’m young, in a major metro area, and willing to work my ass off, I’m looking to leave and go somewhere where I’ll have better advancement and earning opportunities.

  82. Malibu Stacey*

    I had been laid off after being an admin for 10 years at two orgs and was on umemployment. I was offered a newly created admin job in an industry I wasn’t psyched about, but the salary was above average and it was in a beautiful office 6 blocks from my house.

    My two previous positions were in one medium-ish dept and medium-ish company. I knew all of my coworkers. This company had thousands of employees, at there were 200 in my department and only two of us were admins. The reporting structure of the company was employee -> supervisor -> manager -> director -> AVP; except me, I reported directly to the AVP. Someone got moved so I would have the cubicle closest to my boss’s office. People resented me because I got a better cubicle and/or because I was higher than them on the org chart. (Overheard in the restroom, “I can’t believe the girl who gets the mail outranks me”) Even for the people who seemed open to me it was hard to get to know them because everyone else was in roles that worked collaboratively or they were afraid anything they told me would get back to my boss. It was like being the principal’s kid at school.

    If that wasn’t bad enough, the actual company was shady af. This was before I read AAM so it never seemed suspicious that I didn’t recognize the company name and I didn’t google them. Turns out they had a long history of ripping off their customers, and there are complaints about them all over the internet. Every few to several years they would change the name of the company after they had to pay a huge fine. When I couldn’t stomach it anymore and interviewed at (reputable) companies in the same industry, I barely had to get into why I wanted to leave because 9 times out of 10 the Hiring Manager would say, “I have people on my team who worked there.” and would just nod knowingly.

  83. skeptic analyst*

    This is going to be long, but maybe someone can learn from it.

    At my last job before Current Job, I interviewed for a level above the position I was eventually hired for. I asked the magic question and felt the interview went okay, but wasn’t too blown away by the company. In the end, I was offered an entry-level position instead of the second tier job and ended up taking the job because my current temp position was firing more people each week and had started using the phrases that preceded more firings. This was also a temp job, but chances were really high that it would turn into a permanent position after the 90 day temp period.

    Within the first week, I figured something was hinky, but couldn’t put my thumb on it. Coworkers seemed put off by my learning easy tasks and finishing up trainings quickly. I spent a good chunk of time each day without work and there was no one to train me on other tasks, so I was bored. I didn’t want to cast judgment too quickly, since it was my first week. However, the evening after my first Friday, I got a call from my recruiter. She said that a few people had told her they didn’t like my attitude and thought I thought I was better than them. Now, I admit I have pretty expressive body language and me being bored with the mundane tasks probably came across as attitude. But my recruiter couldn’t (or wouldn’t?) give me any specifics and told me only to keep my head down.

    The next week I was low-grade terrified while at the job. I was the only one in my family working and we needed this job. After a few days of upset stomach and not being able to flesh out who thought I had an attitude, I told my supervisor what my recruiter said. My supervisor quickly said that was untrue and that she loved my working, etc. In fact, she was giving me tasks on the level I originally interviewed for because she loved my work.

    I did get the permanent position and took it because I didn’t want to do another job hunt. I wish I hadn’t taken that job because it was probably the worst working year of my life. After starting as a permanent employee, my supervisor did a complete 180 in personality and reduced me to tears on more than one occasion. She made me feel like a failure and that I couldn’t be trusted to do the really simple tasks. In reality, I trained more than half of our team (we had really high turnover in the entry level position, which was another red flag) and our international team on how to do the easier tasks. I did beta testing on a few other new systems and had lots of praise from the managers, but not my supervisor.

    When a position in the level above me opened up the first time, I wanted to apply. Unfortunately my company wouldn’t allow it without immediate supervisor sign off. And she refused, saying I hadn’t been in my job long enough to try for the one above my head. In the end, they ended up promoting two coworkers, one who started three weeks before me and another who had been in the job for less than 90 days. The second time a position opened up, I had to spend an hour convincing my supervisor to let me apply. She only agreed because she didn’t know when another position would be opening up and that I was not happy in my current role. Yet again, they ended up hiring someone who had been in the job for a few months less than me. And I ended up training them on their new tasks.

    It took me five months to realize my job was not the right fit and another six or so to find a new job. During my notice period, my supervisor told me they were going to replace me with someone on the level above me and made me cry four times. I ended up filing complaints with HR and the supervisor’s manager, but I doubt anything changed. My supervisor is still there, and is probably still making new hires cry.

    Bottom line: Trust your gut and don’t stay in a job if you can afford to get out. I was miserable. Everyone in my department had two different faces and that wasn’t someplace I ever should have worked for. I was in the job for about 14 months before leaving for my current position, which I love. Best of all, my supervisors have never made me cry.

    1. SomeoneLikeAnon*

      BIg thing you said was trust your gut! If I had listened to it earlier I would have left my one company at about 9 months instead of a little over 2 years.

  84. Elizabeth West*


    1. A retail location that also sold a service on the product (think teapot sellers who also cleaned teapots). Family-run business.
    Nothing I did there was right. My first clue should have been my supervisor making fun of the person I replaced, to me. I’m sure she did the same thing after I left. I was hired to schedule the service and cover the retail desk one day a week; I was told there were no sales. Well, the scheduling involved upselling and when we had the meeting where I was let go (I was also quitting but they called the meeting), the manager told me Supervisor hired me anyway even though I said I didn’t want sales because she thought I would just do it anyway (lied to me, basically). The retail division had a salesperson who was so nasty that the retail desk employee would skip out on work several days a week to avoid her. Someone told me she harassed a new sales guy so badly (mean girl stuff) that he walked out after three days and never returned. But she was family and good with customers, so they didn’t fire her. Eventually, I was doing the retail desk person’s job more than mine. I was glad to go.

    2. The non-profit I worked for, who had a cheer they did at meetings. A cheer. Also, they had a tattling culture–if you had a disagreement with another employee, you were supposed to go to management FIRST, not talk to the other person like an adult. And the CEO regularly threatened us with dismissal if numbers didn’t go up. He actually did lay someone off in a meeting, in front of everyone, without telling her first. And we had to donate (once, but still) when we started.
    Never again.

  85. TotesMaGoats*

    Looking back I should’ve been able to tell the culture from how adversarial some of the people in the interview were. It was just their nature…with everyone. but not somewhere I could flourish.

    I knew, in about 3 months, that I wasn’t going to fit the culture. The culture being dysfunctional on every level. And perversely proud of the level of dysfunction. I started looking at 6 months and hard at 1 year.

  86. So many...*

    My very first “real” job after college. It was at a private college. I showed up the first day wearing an ankle length khaki J. Crew skirt and black short-sleeved J. Crew sweater with dressy black sandals (slight heel – not flip flops!) and was promptly informed by the receptionist that bare legs and open-toed shows were not allowed. Ever.

    I was then shuffled off to help the Registrar file some sort of index cards for each incoming student. I was given extensive, detailed instructions about how to file them…alphabetically. And told that I had to put each index card in perpendicular to the ones that were already filed, so that the Registrar could double check my filing before mixing them in with those already filed. I was a graduate of well-known and well-respected private university but could not be trusted to file cards alphabetically.

    It was the late 90s, but there was no voice-mail or email and the aforementioned Registrar was using DOS to track students grades. (Which I’m told she’s still using! In 2017!!) I was told I couldn’t chat with the students (I think because I was very close in age to them?); I could go on and on.

    I went home the first day and thought to myself, “I don’t think I like this job.” But I resolved to stay there for a year. I had moved from a small town to a very large city, and that job was the means for me to do so. In terms of red flags — as I said, it was my very first office job so I guess I didn’t know what to expect/look for. I had always worked as a life guard prior to that so it wasn’t really comparable.

    1. Emi.*

      I was a graduate of well-known and well-respected private university but could not be trusted to file cards alphabetically.

      A single glance into the CD closet at the radio station of the well-known and well-respected private university that I attended will tell you that, sadly, this assumption may have been based on long and bitter experience.

  87. SomeoneLikeAnon*

    The first professional job after quite a number of years in the military wasn’t the best fit culturally for me. First, they were really relaxed and my professional image was constantly commented on. Not in a “you look so sloppy,” but a “you look too dressed up,” way. Mind you, I wore mostly business casual, with slacks/skirt and a blouse. It was too much for them obviously and they insinuated I was a bit uptight. To me, I wanted to look professional and I couldn’t do that in high-waters, flip flops, cut-offs, t-shirts, hoodies, ripped jens, or low-cut tops. I should have known I wasn’t a fit when the recruiter interviewing me was in flip flops and capris.

    Second, I’m used to getting a task and doing it thoroughly and well. I was often told to intentionally delay things because they didn’t want to show the job could be done quickly. Or when I commented on how unneccessary long a process was taking, I was told I was sounding “burnt out.”

    Lastly, I also didn’t want to gossip, be two-faced, or worship my CEO as God-incarnate, so I was quickly shunted to outside the “clique.”

    I eventually moved to a larger company that more than fits with my professional dress and drive.

  88. Time Bomb of Petulance*

    Yes. In hindsight, I realized it after my second interview, when my future boss called and asked to go to dinner with me and my spouse. Spouse and I thought it was weird, and I ended up getting out of it and got the job, but it was sooooo bad for a variety of reasons (including being a bad culture fit) that I left fairly shortly. I did learn from the experience, however, that when people talk about how everyone is “like family!!!” at a company, it’s probably not somewhere that will be a good culture fit for me.

    1. Time Bomb of Petulance*

      To be clear, the dinner request was prior to making an official offer, and this was not for a high level position, nor did the position require moving overseas or anything like that. The dinner was simply to determine “how my spouse was”… which was totally irrelevant to me doing the job.

  89. rubyrose*

    I was not offered a position and if I had of been I would have rejected. I’m in software and was asked what steps I would go through to gather requirements. When I said “talk to the business owner(s) to see what they say they need” the two interviewers looked at each other in amazement and started asking me in earnest as to why I would do that. They worked for a very large organization, one all of you would recognize, and they were accustomed to dictating to their clients what they needed in their software.

    1. Susan Calvin*

      In all fairness, depending on the type of software and the type of client, letting them write a wishlist and just going off that… is a plainly awful idea. My job pretty much consists of figuring out what outcome a client wants, and then giving them the right tools to actually get there. I imagine that’s what you meant, too, unless you’ve had the pleasure of dealing with exclusively competent, IT savvy and internally perfectly aligned customers, but I can see how there might’ve been a bit of a miscommunication (inclination to unquestioningly trust a customer’s judgement in my role, for instance, is a six to seven figure liability in the worst case).

  90. Spreadsheets and Books*

    My first job in grad school was a nightmare. I worked in a small satellite office (4 people… the whole company was only 25 employees) for a boutique wealth management and financial planning firm for high net worth individuals. It seemed okay at first but it ended up being so bad. We’d have meetings to sit around and talk about how we should turn down clients who didn’t match our “high end image” and my coworkers were so stuck up and pretentious. At the time, I was carrying a Coach bag my MIL bought me and one of the other associates actually made a comment about how my purse was “just Coach” and not a nicer designer like hers.

    Also, I said “damn” once and the whole office looked at me like I was actively beheading puppies for fun. Ended up getting fired for performance issues after I basically gave up on even trying, took the severance, and ran. Best thing that ever happened to me (and I got out of personal finance before it could suck me in too deep). My current corporate finance coworkers do not care one iota about my sailor mouth.

  91. PNW Jenn*

    1. Lesson learned…
    I was hired as the marketing director for a small, family-run company. I showed up on day 1 to find out that they’d downgraded my job title significantly. As the only person not related/married to another employee, I stuck out like a sore thumb. One employee was clearly being physically abused by her husband, who worked there and was extremely popular. The office manager was sleeping with the coffee-mug-throwing boss. The 3:00 p.m. daily appearance of red solo cups was indicative of rampant alcoholism. They passed the collection hat for an employee who’d had a heart attack but threatened to dock my pay when I missed 4 hours of work to visit my mother in the ICU after her own heart attack. They punished me for mistakes I made using software on which I’d had no training.

    I knew after 4 weeks that I’d made a terrible decision. They fired me after the longest, most miserable 14 months of my life. It was a tremendous relief. It took me several years to recover my career.

    2. Repeat avoided…
    I was a finalist for a position as the director of events across a college’s multiple campuses. It was a new job and would have required establishing, communicating, and enforcing a lot of guidelines. During the interview, the VP who would have been my boss called me “young lady.” I was ~40 at the time. It was a sure sign to me that she was never going to allow me to establish myself as leader in the role so I backed out of the interview process.

    1. WhoseTheCrazyOneHere?*

      OH my gosh this made me laugh (re: young lady) as it recently happened to me at an interview as well!
      I’m 40, and the interview was via video Skype. Now, I have to admit that I do look a little bit young for my age (or the video was filtering out my wrinkles really well), but still! This was for a Human Resources Specialist position, and a company that feels free to refer to the HR candidate as young lady is going to have way too much paperwork to do.

      1. Ditto - really?!*

        Oh my! Also an HR job – SAME THING. I was in my thirties, it was a video conference, and he referred to me as “young lady” – followed by telling me he didn’t believe the experience I had on my resume could possibly be true since I was far too young to have disciplined or terminated anyone.

    2. Anon for this*

      “As the only person not related/married to another employee…” – in AwfulOldJob I was the only one on a team of 4, not related to the owner. My colleagues were her *sisters*. Every time things went wrong, guess who got the blame? After about 6 months a new person joined. Yay, except not. She was a friend of Owner. So I continued being the scapegoat, until I left a few months later with my self esteem battered beyond belief. Once I’d left, Friend became the new scapegoat… until she left and took Owner to court. (Not in the US, somewhere with a lot more protection for employee rights.)

      Postscript: She also had realised by then that I wasn’t the incompetent idiot that Owner had made me out to be, and recommended me when she heard of an opening in my field.

  92. Jiggs*

    YES! The very first day they gave me an office that had sat empty for ages and no one had cleaned it. So I spent my first day wiping this filthy, dusty office down with Lysol wipes. (Plus I had no computer or even notepad, just a USB with the previous files on it.)

    Day 2, there’s a BBQ in the common area. I go down, get some food, my new boss introduces me to one person and then wanders off to sit with her clique. There are no more seats available in the picnic area, and I’m just standing around being ignored, so I go upstairs to my office to eat. Later my boss comes to complain to me that the BBQ was “for me” and I hadn’t been talking to people. (A fact never told to me.)

    Day 3, went for lunch off-site and coincidentally met two ladies who also worked there, so passed a lovely lunch chatting with them. First question my new boss asks when I tell her: “Did they talk about me?!”

    Then she disappeared on vacation for 4 weeks after my first week ended and came back mad I was working on a Teapot Plan. (My title was Teapot Manager.) She actually said “You don’t have the authority to do that.” I also had two offices 5 blocks apart I was supposed to split my time between. One was the Filth Dungeon from Day 1. One was a beautiful, clean office with a really nice space. Guess where I spent all my time while she was gone? She was mad about that too, probably more fairly but I was reeling so hard from the “don’t do your actual job” commentary that I was like, there’s no way in hell I’m going to sit in the Filth Dungeon all day AND get yelled at for doing what they supposedly hired me for.

    I walked out. I worked there for less than six weeks.

  93. WhoseTheCrazyOneHere?*

    This is my current workplace.

    When I was hired on they portrayed the energy as ‘cool/hip/woke/chill’ and stressed how much employee engagement was everything to them. EVERYTHING.

    The reality is that this group of coworkers are demanding, abusive, rude, perfunctory, snobby, belittling, rectally-retentive. They sugar-coat it in this haze of ‘because WE are the best, we DEMAND the best’ so the teensy-ist thing is blown up nuke-style.

    Ever used a comma in place of a semicolon on an internal email? That’s a beatin’.

    The CEO seemed to thrive on this idea that if we are predatory with each other seeking out minute mistakes to tear apart, that will somehow make us better. Yeh, let’s turn the workforce into coworker police!

    I knew within 1 week that I needed out of here, just putting in my time for the crime of accepting this offer. I got 2 months left on my sentence before it won’t look terrible on my resume to get the heck outta dodge!

    1. Newbie 101*

      Good luck! It sounds like you’re doing a great job at keeping yourself sane and sensible in that insane workplace. I hope you find the perfect new job ASAP

  94. Andrew*

    Hmm probably my previous job I was laid off at. Culture fit within the IT department was great. With the whole company? Not so much. Odd but the IT department was great to be around. The work was fine and I learned a lot.

    Probably sound like I am whining but I hated having to trade my casual fridays for Thursdays bc of the every so often company lunches. But the lunches weren’t that good (unless IT was providing the food). Lunches had a lot of hero worship of the founder and Christianity and I was never comfortable during those. Felt like I was in church, what was supposed to be fun, felt stuffy.

    I was hired with another person, she was supposed to be my lead after a few months. by those few months when I started reporting to her I realized we never clicked and it probably wasn’t going to work out. Stupid me should have started job hunting then. Instead I lasted a year. I typically enjoyed working with others on my team, except for my lead. Even then most of the team was laid off after I was except for the lead and another trainer. Go figure, although I worked well with that specific trainer.

  95. Sundaisy*

    I didn’t realize I wouldn’t be that into a tight-knit “we’re all family” environment. I should have known it when my interviewer/future manager hugged me after our in-person interview. There are only 6 full-time employees in our small non-profit and they hug before saying goodbye for the weekend, when they get back on Monday, when someone is stressed. It’s nice for them but I’m not a hugger and I don’t like to share much about my personal life. My boss is a huge over-sharer – I mean really unbelievable amounts of detail about her children, personal mental health struggles, etc. Their outlook is that if they are physically close to someone they are also emotionally close to someone. I’m the kind of person who blushes when sharing benign details about my weekend. I just don’t like the attention but I won’t fit in if I don’t make an effort.

      1. Sundaisy*

        Yes. We went to the same college (almost 20 years apart) and I think this gave her a false impression of closeness.

    1. NonprofitYankeeChick*

      I worked for a small nonprofit like that! One of my colleagues took an instant dislike to me, refused to work with me and accused me of being unethical. When I asked the Executive Director to work with me to resolve this ( so I could do my job) she asked me if I wanted a hug. Um, NO.
      I had also heard through the grapevine hat this particular ED was “weird and smelly” before I interviewed there. I didn’t experience that in my interview but in hindsight that should have prevented me from taking that job. It was a long two years.

  96. Fabulous*

    I have a couple examples. I realized once in an interview with a Japanese company. I am completely unfamiliar with the Japanese culture, aside from reading Memoirs of a Geisha and watching Karate Kid. I was coached a bit for the interview and thought I could handle it. I did well enough in the interview and probably would have had the job, but I was just so uncomfortable in hindsight that after I left I ended up excusing myself from consideration.

    The second time is when my job changed a year in. I was working in a cubicle doing analytical finance stuff when they suddenly decided I needed to take over front desk duties in addition to my work. Let me preface by saying, I am an introvert by nature. Unless I know I have to be ‘on’ I will always keep to myself. They just threw me on the front desk one day and said “this is your new spot” which I was in no way prepared for. Having to switch between analytical thinking and friendly outgoing was SO hard. I would get frazzled easily and apparently when I was trying to process verbal information (as opposed to spreadsheets and numbers) I would come across as angry or something. I only received that feedback when I tried to transfer departments. I didn’t get to transfer, but that was OK because I wouldn’t have fit there either (contracts are so boring compared to numbers!) and they ultimately hired someone else for my position too – who was much better suited for front desk work, fine by me!

  97. Atomic Orange*

    Yes for sure, at a previous job a few years back for a non profit. I was hired along with 2 other people because the CEO wanted to bring in fresh blood and new ideas. And it was the promise of change and future opportunities that drew us to the job.
    I realized once I started that most of the existing employees were older and had been with the organization for a very long time. And the CEO was very hands off with daily operations. The organization worked in a very rigid manner and was heirarchical based on length of tenure. Which meant that despite the fact we were hired to bring in change (ie: update existing procedures to better utilize technology and improve efficiency, etc.) … none of the employees bought in or cooperated, and management did nothing because they had seniority.
    Us new hires (all in our mid 20s at the time) experienced micro-management (ie: manager literally looking over my shoulder and silently watching me work; purposely ‘over hearing’ my phone conversations with clients in order to pick apart everything that was ‘wrong’ after) and age discrimination. We were spoken to with less respect than our older peers. We got assigned all the tasks that people didn’t want. For 2 years I worked every single event that fell on a weekend…despite the fact that the schedule was supposed to be ‘balanced’. When I requested schedule accommodation to attend biweekly specialist appointment for a medical condition, I got passive aggressive responses and the feeling that they didn’t believe me because I seemed young and healthy (for the record, I always made up the hours… at the office, so there’s no reason for people to think that both I and my doctor would lie to get me time off.)
    All these made for a toxic work environment, which became more obvious as time went on. But alarm bells definitely went off as soon as I started. It’s probably no surprise that none of the people hired at the same time as me are still with the organization.

  98. ThatGirl*

    I had an interview a few weeks ago at a small, family-owned company who wanted a marketing person to do EVERYthing. I asked why the position was open and the CEO/owner of the company, who was interviewing me, told me they’d had a great guy who did it for about 10 years, but he developed a brain tumor and died. And since then they’d had trouble keeping people in the position.

    Along with a dozen other orange and red flags, that was like “nooooope”.

  99. rubyrose*

    Don’t know if you consider 1 year quick or not…probably not.
    I was a female Yankee, no military background, moving to the deep South taking a management position in a company that was 67% former military, with no other female managers. I thought it would be OK since I was actually transferring from the parent company and had spent the last 7 months doing work for this subsidiary. I was wrong. I don’t know which part of my background they objected to the most, but there was nothing I could do to make it right. Got out of there as fast as I could.
    In hindsight, I did not do an objective analysis of how my background did not mesh with theirs. Just because they accept you when you are temporary does not mean they will accept you if you are permanent.

  100. Amanda*

    I recently left a company due to this. It was an outsourcing firm, they were very candid in the interview process that they had few women and were looking to correct that. What should have been a big ol’ red flag was when the HR person said “We are just so excited you’re a girl!”.

    It. was. awful. Someone somewhere in the company must have declared, “we need more women!” but there no steps internally to change the culture to accept diversity but that was just one part of the problem. The majority of the company is offshore and the majority of management are from a particular country. If they didn’t want to include you in a conversation (or in a meeting), they would revert to a language other than English and then stare you down.

    I knew I really needed to leave when I was asked if I was disappointed that my baby was a girl (6 months pregnant at the time of the comment). I have thick skin and thought I could handle being in a company that was a bit tough for women but then I realized I didn’t have to, I wasn’t proving a point to anyone and my happiness was much more important.

  101. Rachel B*

    Yes! I took a job with an ad agency in the city. In my second week, I found myself standing with a group of three managers at a company party (I was hired as a junior analyst). I mentioned that I had 2 cats, which I had brought up in my interview, too (in the context of serving as the volunteer webmaster for a local animal rescue while going to school). One of the managers exclaimed “So you’re the weirdo with the cats we’re all be talking about! I can’t believe they actually hired you!” The other managers didn’t speak up or indicate why that comment would be inappropriate and alienating for a new hire. I hoped it would be a one-time incident (or a ‘problem’ employee) but it was definitely representative of the company/leadership culture.

    1. afiendishthingy*

      OMG!! I’m glad my current workplace is full of animal lovers. Which reminds me I need to show Heather the funny pictures from this morning of my cat attacking the TV screen because a kitten livestream was on

  102. Mojo*

    I was so excited when I landed my first job after college that I ignored the red flags at every turn. Bibles in the waiting room, all old white men in leadership positions, “optional” bible study every Wednesday and a hired priest that walked around the building a couple times a month to check in on everyone and offer counseling. Although I knew the business billed itself as a Christian organization (the teapot design being totally unrelated to this), I didn’t realize that translated into repressive of creativity or anything that looked like change – even in the marketing department. Another red flag I overlooked was terrible employee reviews online. At one point, I found out my manager / the CEO’s son was sleeping with one of the girls on my team which is why she was so entitled, terrible at her job, and rude to other employees with no consequences. Everyone including HR knew but denied that it was a problem. That place was simply toxic and thanks to all the Very Important Men in Leadership Positions that needed to voice their contrasting opinions on every issue no matter how small – nothing was ever accomplished there. I left that job within six months and couldn’t be happier.

  103. SocksTheCat*

    I had just moved to a new city with my husband and needed a job, as I had just left behind a retail gig. A family friend worked at a place that was hiring, so I ended up working there.

    I stayed there for a WHILE and moved through three different departments, and it wasn’t until the third one that I finally fit with the people around me. The first department was filled with people who smoked a TON of weed, who weren’t very responsible, who talked about very inappropriate things and generally made me feel uncomfortable a lot. The second department was full of older women who would bother me constantly about when I was going to have kids. The third department was full of pop-culture loving nerds, so I fit right in.

    Red flags? Well, the interview consisted of being asked when I could start, so that was probably one right there.

  104. Not Karen*

    Am I the only one who’s confused about why all these posts are about bad management and dysfunction, not culture fit…?

    1. Jenna*

      I think leadership has a great deal of influence over the culture of the organization, so it makes sense that bad management would be at the root of a cultural fit problem.

    2. tiny temping teapot*

      In many cases, one person’s dysfunction can be a culture that someone else thrives in. I think that came up recently with the question about “warning” a new hire.

      1. Confused Teapot Maker*

        Agreed. For example, I like things quite organised so a disorganised culture isn’t going to suit me. Whenever I write about the management, I’m probably going to write it in a way that makes them probably seem a bit more disfunctional than they really are because I’m focusing on all those terrible disorganised things they did. But, equally, they probably remember me as ‘That employee who always had to have things a certain way’ and other people who work there who are more easy going etc. are going to have a totally different and much better experience than I am. So my ‘My boss can never keep to schedule and it’s driving me mad’ is their ‘I love how my boss isn’t tied to any particular schedule and is really flexible’.

        1. Kathenus*

          Confused Teapot Maker, sounds like we’re culture opposites! About 15 years ago I was interviewing at two places. During my interview at the first, the director who was showing me around kept talking about ‘housekeeping’ everywhere, and in the administration offices there was not a paper out of place. At the second facility, I was interviewing in the office of one of the two managers who oversaw the position, and there were piles of books and papers on the desk, and along one wall on the floor. I knew in a heartbeat the second company was a better fit for me! (And I was very happy there for over five years until a 20% reduction in force where I was laid off.)

    3. SomeoneLikeAnon*

      Well, in my opinion, a lot of time bad management and overall dysfunction contribute to a bad fit culturally. Since management helps shape the attitudes and behaviors of a particular social group, like a work culture or office, it makes sense a lot of folks are talking about the overall dysfuntion. Bad management is just kinda icing on the cake of overall chaos.

  105. Sam*

    It was for an IT gig for a company that didn’t believe in IT spending/investing. I should have noticed on the competency quiz, there were several questions about Windows 2000 and IE6 (released in 2001; sunset 2008) – this was 6 years ago. I only lasted a year but the place was overflowing with homemade patchwork systems and outdated software – they legit had Windows 2000 boxes and “segmented” networks (this was someone who’s job was to run in the IT closet every other day and plug network cables to the other network when needed)

  106. Seal*

    Years ago I took a temp job at a large bank providing clerical support for mortgage underwriters out of necessity. The temp agency described the atmosphere as “business casual”, so the first day I showed up in slacks and a sweater, which is fairly standard attire in the Upper Midwest in the winter. The woman who was responsible for training me called me “conservative” at least a couple of times because I wasn’t wearing long out of style acid-washed jeans and a ragged sweatshirt like she was. When she left a few weeks later (much to everyone’s relief, I later learned), I was intentionally not invited to her going away party. Besides her, the other people in the office were never outright nasty to me but I never felt like I fit in. Fortunately I found a permanent position in an entirely different field a few months later.

    More recently, I had a day-long interview for a fairly significant managerial position. Everyone I met was great, all of my interviews with the various stakeholder groups went well, and I was starting to feel like I would fit in nicely there. And then I met with the director, who proceeded to complain in great detail about an obvious health issue that one of her employees had and how it was impacting her ability to do her job. Having just met the employee in question, I was appalled by not only the director’s lack of empathy for this woman’s situation but also by the fact that she (the director) didn’t feel the need to proactively address the issue with either the employee or HR. I was not terribly upset when I didn’t receive a job offer there.

  107. afiendishthingy*

    Less than a week into one job, at a private school for teens with severe/profound disabilities (mostly autism), my coworker R vented furiously for about half an hour about another employee. This was while R was driving a van with 7 students and three other staff. The venting was profanity laden including frequent use of the b word, calling the other employee fat, etc. I was supremely uncomfortable and upset thought about making a complaint, but I was also young and it was my first job in the field. R was one of the worst offenders, but incredibly inappropriate staff conversations in the presence of mostly non-verbal kids turned out to be common practice. On another van trip R and two other coworkers played “f*ck marry kill”. About other people we worked with. In front of students.

    R got fired eventually, but for insubordination to the principal. I ended up working there almost two years. But yeah, not a fit, and I knew that early on – but I kind of got used to it after awhile, which is the dangerous part.

    1. The Rat-Catcher*

      Oh, that story makes me angry! The lack of consideration for the kids being the worst of it, although subjecting you to that kind of talk at work is also pretty horrendous. Glad you’re out of there!

  108. RecoveringMiddleManager*

    I quit a job after two weeks once. No red flags during the interview process, and I was really flattered because HR wanted me for a position with them, and the ED wanted me for a position on her team. The ED won (of course). On Day 3 of the job, I began to notice there were signs everywhere in the office: “Don’t Touch This,” “For HR Use Only,” “If You Don’t Work in Maintenance, Don’t Touch.” Now, I’m not a huge fan of signs like this. It’s one thing to caution people that something will blow up if they touch it/use it wrong. It’s another to virtually urinate all over a stack of copy paper (Don’t want someone to use it? How about keeping it in your office?) When I saw the new HR staffer putting up one of these signs on Day 4, I realized that she was probably going to be at the job longer than me. And I was right. After the ED said some astonishingly racist things, followed up by asking me whether the very visible tattoos on my arm were pot leaves (no, and she could have asked during the interview if they bothered her so much), I told her, “Hey, I am not the person you want in this position. No point in giving notice since I’ve only been here two weeks. Have a nice day.” That was 15 years ago. I just started a new job three weeks ago. I’m on the Executive Leadership Team, and one of my responsibilities is to help reinforce positive, supportive corporate culture where everyone is valued. And the only sign I’ve seen reads, “Please feel free to use the glasses and dishes provided in the kitchen.”

  109. MechE31*

    I worked for a tech unicorn where I did not fit the culture. I was way too laid back and mild mannered. I knew going in, but thought I could make it work. It was a cool job while it lasted.

  110. EmKay*

    I interviewed for a position as “assistant to the owner” of a small company that made… cell phone games? Something to that effect, it was 10 years ago.

    The woman I met with was in charge of HR and a bunch of other things. She repeated at least three times, in very delicate wording, that the owner was very, very busy, and often out of the office, and he needed an assistant who could handle things for him. Then she said that they’d been through 5 assistants in the last 8 months.

    “When do you want to start?”
    “I don’t. Thank you though.”

  111. The Rat-Catcher*

    I worked for Big Box Store and struggled as a stocker. The arrangement that finally worked was putting me into a low-freight section. I might take a little longer to get done, but then I would go and ask my manager where else I could help out.
    I actually came under fire from that with some coworkers, one of whom directly told me that I needed to stop asking the manager what else I could do to help out. I was a little surprised that this was not only the norm, but such an exception that people felt the need to call it out.
    It does make sense, as this chain has a reputation for treating workers like dirt, and workers respond accordingly in the amount of effort they put in.

  112. Temporarily Anonymous*

    I think the worst culture fit for me was one job at an insurance company:
    They were very conservative and hadn’t updated their dress code since the 80’s (it actually specified that culottes were acceptable but not skorts). I had a data entry job with absolutely no access or view to the public and with a fair amount of heavy filing but was expected to dress on the formal side of business casual. And my workplace neighbor hated jokes- especially puns- and let’s just say if I were a guy I’d be the “Dad jokes” guy. Even though all I did was data entry and filing, they were not at all flexible on work hours because “it might start a trend”. Did I mention that we weren’t allowed to have a microwave to heat our lunches because the person who ran a small cafeteria in the building had a crying fit when one was brought in previously because it would destroy their business?

  113. Ihmmy*

    You could not show any bare skin below the waist. Tights only with skirts (no leggings), you had to wear hosiery (or real) socks with sandals, even those toe-covered-but-kind-of-open-sided sandal/shoes weren’t allowed without hosiery socks.

    It was owned by a pretty conservative family (mennonite iirc) of Good Ol Boys, but this for sure wasn’t mentioned until I’d been there for months already. It wasn’t the worst fit ever but it was definitely way more conservative than I was going to be happy with.

  114. I have a few stories.*

    There were a few times, yes. The most recent one where it happened after I had been hired. I realized the job was asking much more than had been pitched to me (the offer had come from an acquaintance who was looking for an extra hand) that really could and should have been done in a more efficient manner except the boss didn’t want to spend money for the software to make the job easier, rent out a bigger office (crammed with 5 other people in an space really only meant for 2, maybe 3 people). I quit after maybe 3 weeks because I knew it was heading for a disaster (the crammed conditions and the REALLY LOUD boss was just not a good place for me to actually do work).

    Luckily I’ve had a couple where I’ve caught it during the interview process. One was when the interviewer went on a 5 minute rant about how he couldn’t dress down because the firm head did not believe in Casual Fridays or even dressing down when the weather really would warrant it (it was in an place where it gets very hot and very humid in the summer). I’ve had experiences with places that have very strict dress codes and I knew it was not a good sign. I didn’t get the job which made me sad when I got the rejection but in retrospect I suspect it was for the best.

    One other place had two interviewers who did not pronounce OR write my name correctly in person or in our email correspondence. My name is a “bland”, boring name that really shouldn’t be too difficult to remember but people who are lazy or can’t be bothered (or sometimes when we don’t know each other well) seem to call me by a diminutive. I was disappointed by the lack of attention to detail. As a minor (and personal thing) I also wasn’t a fan of their pets being allowed to roam freely around the office. That’s just not my preference for a workplace that’s an office setting. It wasn’t a fit so I withdrew after the first interview.

  115. 5 Leaf Clover*

    I enjoy Christmas on my own time, but have always hated the pressure of it in offices. So when I started a new job I was dreading the fabled Secret Santa… even more so when I learned it went on for a whole month, with a gift or treat expected every day! (And a $50 limit for the whole month, which was both good and awful). For various reasons I didn’t feel I could say no, but I dreaded every day of that month. But I really knew I was not a good culture fit when, at the final “reveal” meeting, my coworkers announced, “That was so much fun. We should do it again… in July!”

    They were wonderful people but it was a poor fit. I’m now at a job where there is no Christmas celebration at all – and when I first found that out I knew I had found my place!

    1. AMPG*

      I ran my team’s Secret Santa (which we called Secret Snowflake to make it more inclusive) for a few years, and we were very clear about it being opt-in only (as in, I sent exactly one email to the whole team, and you had to reply to me to join) to keep people from feeling pressured. Having stuff like that be forced is just hideous.

  116. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

    Yes. I worked in a very, very cliquey department, and if you weren’t one of the favorites, it was not a fun place to be. The department had several “breakfast clubs” where people would take turns bringing breakfast in for everyone in the group once a week. (It was a large department so it actually made sense to divide into smaller groups for a weekly breakfast club.) I had been in one for my first year or so, but when the person who organized it (and who had invited me into the group) left the department, that breakfast club broke up and everyone else organized very quickly into another one. I was pointedly not invited into the new group – I was told that they just didn’t have room for another person. Fine, but that didn’t stop them from frequently adding new employees into the club. I think there were only a couple other employees in the department who weren’t part of a breakfast club. (This was the same company where my supervisor told me I didn’t have as many friends as I thought I did and that she got lots of random complaints from coworkers about me.)

  117. tiny temping teapot*

    I went through a few supervisors at OldTempJob. I should have known the last one wasn’t the one for me when someone complained to the office manager I didn’t wash my hands after going to the bathroom. a) I do. and did. b) If I hadn’t one time, it was because I was rushing. c) who is watching someone that closely in the bathroom. The office manager told my temp agency who called me up, actually laughing, saying they’d never received a complaint like this, it seemed absolutely ridiculous. Go to meet with supervisor and she doesn’t think it’s funny at all. She thinks it’s very serious. I should have known then. (In retrospect it was a clear sign she was a micro manager who took everything seriously, no matter how trivial or faintly ridiculous.)

    I mentioned the bathroom thing to a friend who still works there and she said she’s still paranoid in the bathroom making sure she washes her hands loudly so no one reports here. (Also, I DO WASH MY HANDS.)

  118. the_scientist*

    I recently had an interesting interview that was full of…..yellow flags. It was an internal position, and I happened to have the inside scoop: the position was vacant because the person had been fired. When I tried to probe that during the interview, they responded with “we have a lot more clarity about what we need in the role now”, which is actually a great answer, but then followed up with “but we’re still a new team and the role is evolving, so it may change substantially in the next year”. So…you don’t have much clarity, then?

    Another concern was that they’d already posted the position, internally and externally, twice, but hadn’t found a acceptable candidate, “not for lack of options.” This was an early/mid career level role, not a director or manager level position. It transpired, from further questioning, that they wanted two diametrically opposed skill sets in a single person.

    My interview was nearly two months ago and I’ve received zero follow-up communication, as an internal candidate, so I’m taking that as the final sign that this is Not Meant To Be. At any rate, I’m very happy in my current job, so I’m not too disappointed.

  119. BeezLouise*

    I’m in this now, but it’s more a situation of the culture changing and me not.

    When I started this job ~2 years ago, I was told in my interviews how family friendly the office was, and how easygoing — that as long as you were getting the work done, no one cared if you ducked out to a doctor’s appointment or came in at 845 instead of 830; that people worked from home when they needed to, and it wasn’t a big deal at all, etc.

    Both my boss and the chief of staff have been laid off now, and none of the above is true. Our head person told me a few weeks ago that “we’re still family friendly, but this is an all hours job,” and that he was always on call and working so I should be too. He makes six times my salary. So yeahhh.

    1. BeezLouise*

      Separate from the culture issue, though, I knew the job wasn’t a good fit during the interview and never should have taken it. Everyone I interviewed with had a different idea of what the job was going to be doing, and when I mentioned it to my then boss, she acted like I was crazy and the job was incredibly straightforward.

      They’ve rewritten the job twice since then, and are threatening to do it again. What they’re looking for is always changing and still differs depending on who you ask. It’s less than ideal, and without any great structure to even have someone who can help guide you. A few months ago, I was told I would be reporting to one of my colleagues. Fine. So since then I’ve been doing what she’s told me to do and frequently noting to her that the projects she was assigning me weren’t in my job description, but I was happy to do them, but that meant X wasn’t getting done, etc. Except that doing what she told me led to me being thoroughly chewed out by our director, and when I protested and said my “boss” had told me to do them, I was told that they didn’t match my job description and that I should have been doing all the things (which is literally impossible), and that I still officially reported to the director but reporting to my former colleague was coming down the line.

      Needless to say, I’m job hunting.

  120. Cynical Lackey*

    I quit an exempt sales support job in the mid 1990s because they said during the interview “We close at 5:00 and no one stays past 5:30” and I failed to understand that means “You better be here well past 9 on Friday and come in on the weekend too”.

  121. mialoubug*

    This was many (many) years ago, when I had just graduated from secretarial school. I was just 21. I had been working since 14 so while it wasn’t my first job, it was the first professional one I had. I’m still not sure if it was culture or a bad boss I interviewed with an insurance company, one that sold municiple policies. I aced all the tests, had great interviews, met my colleagues and the big boss and was offered the job on Thursday. I took it, but the person to whom I would report was out on calls. I gave my two notice to my hospital evening shift job (a job I really loved and was actively trying to keep it I could), and started the new job on Monday. I would work both jobs for a least two weeks.

    Did the orientation thing Monday and I was the youngest there; Tuesday met the much older women who were in my office typing pool (this should have been a hint) and read through documents. Wednesday new boss came in and met with him. He took me to lunch, we talked a bit about the job and he gave me my first assignment: Type up a 45 page insurance binder. Now this was before computers were everywhere so I had an IBM selectric typewriter. I was certified in typing 60 wpm (and take the same in shorthand) so I wasn’t a slouch. I had graduated from the two year program at Katie Gibbs and was pretty on the ball. The company DID have a word processing center, but it was for very specific projects.

    I finished typing the document after a few hours, and brought it to my boss. He read through it, marking pages here and there for edits, and came to page 26 where there a was a series of paragraphs with words underlined. He looked at them and said that the underline was off, a bit crooked, and could I fix the page. He would look at the rest of the document while I made the edits. If you don’t know about Selectric typewriters, they were electric typewriters that used a ball element for typefaces. To change the typeface, you switched out the ball and locked it in place. It seemed odd that the underlines were off, but hey, my job was to type and so type I did. I retyped the pages with underlines a total of 17 times. 17 times he found the underline off. He was going to be out the next day, Friday, but wanted the document on his desk by 9 am Monday. He wasn’t mean but stern and I knew that there would be MAJOR issues if I didn’t complete this document with straight underlines.
    After typing the pages again (25 times TOTAL), I realized that this was not for me. I finally called down to the Word Processing Center and asked for help. The woman there asked me who I was working for and when I told her the silence gave me all the information I needed. She typed up the full document, I gave it to him before I left and he was just thrilled because the underlines were PERFECT.
    I spent Friday at my desk, moving things around, reading manuals, talking with the woman next to me. After the weekend, I came in early, went to the big boss (since mine was out), and resigned on the spot. He asked me if I would like to be moved elsewhere but I knew deep down that there would be repercussions and awkwardness if I stayed. I finished up the day, left a note for my now gone boss, and went to my evening shift job where I begged to rescind my resignation. I was able to do that and went on to stay here at hospital in increasingly higher managerial jobs for the past 30 years.
    I say trust your gut. And don’t not meet your new boss before you start. Culture is vitally important for a job.

    Whew!! sorry so long!

    1. The Rat-Catcher*

      That…is ridiculous. I got upset about having to do a task 4 times (granted, a large one) because revisions kept being made. Could not even imagine 25.

  122. Higher Ed Admin*

    Yes! It was awful. My first job out of grad school in higher ed. Awful fit. And I looked back on the interview process and felt they just put on such a great face during the on campus day and a half interview. I had no idea until I got there. I had lots of feelings of failure afterwards but reading your blog and connecting to my colleagues who had similar experiences helped me feel better and less alone. Not every person fits every culture and leaving is just one aspect of doing business. Even though it felt like a big deal to me at the time.

  123. Cristina*

    I got seduced by a company that was literally 5 minutes from my house (in an area with pretty bad traffic). There were definitely some red flags about the overall job. For one, I was expected to manage a team but they only wanted references from past supervisors. The whole interview process went incredibly quickly. And at the last minute it was decided that I’d report to the CEO, rather than the VP. But I decided that none of those little oddities necessarily meant anything terrible and took the job anyway. The CEO, although a nice guy, turned out to be such a micro-manager that I, as a senior director, couldn’t even send out a marketing email without weeks of approvals and revisions. In the month and a half before I quit, I sent 3 emails and pretty much didn’t do anything else. In order to work with the CEO, most of the exec staff had started as junior employees (where they would have expected close supervision) and worked their way up. The few newcomers were miserable or quit quickly. It’s too bad because they were very nice, smart people but that culture definitely wasn’t a fit for me.

  124. Folklorist*

    Yeah, it was pretty awful. I was in a super-conservative place where I was a super-liberal 22-year-old environmentalist. I also don’t like kids. One of the bosses drove a Hummer and (during a gas crisis) was bragging about how she was taking more gas than everyone else and got left on the side of the road b/c she ran out of gas–but “it sticks it to those hippies, so I don’t care!” And the other boss made me babysit her kid (I was an editor/publisher, not a daycare person). There were only 5 people in the office, so every conversation was about liberal-bashing or kids.

    My bosses were just nasty people, though–they acted really nice throughout the interview process. I could tell when interviewing that the job wasn’t a great fit and that I’d be really bored (also, they said that they wanted someone in the position for “at least 5 years,” when I could tell that I wouldn’t want to stay for very long), but the pay was better than my last job, I needed the benefits, and I would have lost unemployment benefits if I turned down the job.

  125. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

    My last job was a horrible culture fit. The office staff and management was extremely homogeneous – almost everyone was white, conservative and firmly middle class. All non-work related conversations centered around hunting, camping, football, guns, country music, and how the country was being systematically destroyed by immigrants, gays and minorities.

    Work related fit was bad too; the general vibe was to keep your head down, put in your 8 hours of paperwork, don’t question any processes or decisions, and be grateful you had a job. Any attempts at creativity or signs of ambition were crushed as soon as they were shown.

    I’m now at a job that has a very diverse staff all the way up to management, and who values creative problem solvers and folks who are enthusiastic and colorful. It’s not perfect but my God is is an improvement!

  126. Sup Sup Sup*

    I was applying for PR job. I met with my future boss, interview went pretty well. She gave me a homework assignment. I was a little annoyed because I provided a portfolio of work that showed a wide-range of work that I had done. But, I figured what the heck. The homework assignment was to create a marketing plan for one of their products. This wasn’t a marketing job. They had a marketing manager, who reported to my future boss. I was leary. But, it was a promotion and more $$$, so I took the job. In the end, my boss never provided clear guidelines about what she wanted and I definitely didn’t voice my opinion or ask for clarification. There was little understanding on both sides about what was expected and I failed miserably within the year.

    Also happened at my LastJob, when we got a new Director who made it clear early on what fit she preferred: a department of pretty, competitive, 30-something women — which is kind of the norm for public relations. As someone who was on the wrong side of 35, of average beauty, and relatively low-key — it became increasingly apparent she wanted me gone. I was happy to oblige.

  127. Somniloquist*

    I have an unfortunate habit of feeling desperate if I don’t have a job and jumping at a job that will hire me and it has really bitten me in the past.

    1. I’m a Teapot Marketer and I got a job where I was supposed to market teapots 50% of the time and sell them the other 50% (so create the leads and follow up on some with the sales manager). I ended up making cold calls to sell people Faberge Eggs. Also, I was in an office with all men and while my manager was amazing, the VP was a sexist sociopath and HR had a rainy day fund for Sexual Harassment suits. I should have known this when an HR person let me know that a sales manager at another site complained all the way up the chain at my salary because he thought he could get a “marketing girl” cheaper. But the economy was bad and I had student loans and no health insurance.

    2. First day at Toxic ExJob when I was apprised of “the rules” of the office which were arbitrary things the office Exec Assistant did and didn’t like and you would get in trouble if you did something simple like throw food away in your desk’s wastepaper basket (the baskets were changed daily). The kind and amazing boss I interviewed with quit 5 months in and I was moved to a manger who was there because they were a family member of the Executive Committee. They thought they were a high performance marketer because they had been elevated so quickly through the ranks and bullied anyone who had different experience from them.

    I lasted a little less than a year, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to die in Current Job because I never want to risk a job like this again.

  128. dyinginbiglaw*

    Yup! I transitioned from the outdoor industry into corporate law (I moved to a new state short notice for personal reasons, endured a grueling job hunt, and accepted the first offer that would take me). I had heard people talk about not fitting into OldJob’s culture but couldn’t really understand how. Looking back, it’s plainly because I meshed well with everyone I worked with.

    I knew during the interview it was going to be rough. My interviewer was really stretching out some very small tasks to make it sound like there was a lot to do around here (“On birthdays you blow up a balloon and leave it on their desk!” … we have 20 people in this office). I was so desperate for work I ignored it. I cried on my first day. I went from a very casual, friendly, close-knit environment to uptight, cold silence. My boss doesn’t talk to me. I finish my entire day’s worth of work by 9:30 am. I’ve somehow lasted 9 months here, but everyday is torture. I bring in my personal laptop and do Lynda courses, read books, draw. I enrolled in online classes to build a portfolio (I have 2 creative degrees and am now enrolled in grad school online). I’m very high energy and creative. I am motivated by long task lists and team work. Here, I am on no team. I have no tasks. I worry this place has turned me into a terrible employee. I picked up a part time job on the side just to talk to other humans and use up some of my energy (I also work out 1-2 times a day to burn some of it off).

    I just got back from vacation and was feeling so rested and relaxed. My plan was to last the fall semester so I can really build a nice portfolio to find an internship in my target industry, but now I’m not sure I can last until December.

    1. dyinginbiglaw*

      Examples: During our monthly staff meetings the administrative staff talks IN DETAIL about others’ bathroom habits. As in, “SOMEBODY barely even washes their hands!” “It’s been brought to my attention that SOMEONE is forgetting to flush!” “I saw that SOMEBODY dropped a hairtye in the restroom and didn’t pick it up!”

      I stopped using the multi-stall restroom and only use the private one to avoid being the SOMEBODY.

      They also complain at length about whether or not the cleaning lady remembers to dust their shelves, the Panera staff a building over who took too long and had to audacity to laugh, the homeless people who sleep on the train (none of them take the train. I take the train. The homeless people are quiet and trying to stay warm. It’s fine). It’s nonstop and never relevant to our work. I’ve been working at the front desk for 8 months and still have no idea what this firm does because nothing has ever been covered in a staff meeting.

  129. Lady By The Lake*

    Several times:
    – The job where at orientation a speaker came in an announced that “The most important thing for you to know is that Teapots, Inc is the highest priority in your life.” People would happily and proudly tell stories of missing their children’s important dates, cancelling family vacations, working while hospitalized etc.
    – The job where their idea of a healthy work environment was to give several people the same task and then “duke it out” in front of the clients. We are lawyers, and I was hired as a specialist in my area. I had to constantly argue with other lawyers who didn’t even know the basics in my area.
    – The job where everyone adored the former boss. He was still around, but in a different role. I found him to be manic, not very bright and a racist. I questioned a friend about some of the things that he said and it turned out that they didn’t think critically about him — they had just been habituated over the years to s to think the best of him, even when he had changed for the worse.
    – The job where everyone at the company was convinced that the company could do no wrong. I was new and could see a lot of things that were wrong. Those things that I thought were wrong were later featured on a 60 Minutes expose’.

    1. Michael Carmichael*