how legit are those “best places to work” lists?

A reader writes:

I’m wondering how legit these “best places to work” lists are. My husband is currently job hunting and we just 86’d a company that had all kinds of “best place to work” awards but when you do even a cursory google search it appears it’s a hair short of a pyramid scheme/multi-leveil marketing/what have you. The Glassdoor reviews seem overwhelmingly positive save for a couple of “this is a scam,” which are the ones that I was picking up on as more representative. The company has a couple of videos on their website (“Is the culture at Teapot Scams Inc right for you?” etc.) that had my scam or scam-adjacent radar pinging as well (frequent use of the phrase “building wealth” and really conspicuously placed Nice Vehicles among other things that just felt Off to me).

I work in a totally unrelated field and have never job searched in the field my husband has worked in for 20+ years, so I’m torn between feeling like I am being overwhelmingly negative about possible opportunities and feeling like I am being realistic and not wanting him to get sucked into a bad situation that we will lose our shirts on. He picked up on it being not right for us, but did not get the OMG RUN vibes that I was getting. I also have worked with clients whose companies have been on these “best places to work” lists that have been complete and total dumpster fires.

So how much stock do you put in these lists/articles/other things? I have been an Ask A Manager reader for probably five or six years so I’ve seen all the “my company wants me to write fake Glassdoor reviews” and it all feels so confusing. It also seems like sales is particularly rife with this, but that may just be my non-sales read of it.

You’re not normally going to see scam companies on those official “best places to work” lists, because the publications that put them together do some screening. However, you’ll sometimes see companies that are pretty crappy places to work on those lists, because the screening criteria they use are limited and don’t include many of the factors that control whether somewhere is good or bad to work at.

Also, be aware that companies nominate themselves for consideration and fill out a questionnaire on their own (a process that’s often managed by their marketing departments). Many of the questionnaires focus things like benefits and perks, not culture or management approach. (And often those perks are ones that not everyone in the company has access to.) So you can see employers on those lists that have excellent parental leave policies but pretty awful day-to-day quality of life when it comes to culture and management.

Oh, and look, the company that runs many of these lists just happens to sell packages to help you position yourself on their lists. Nothing shady about that… And here’s an example of someone who sells her services to help companies get on those lists.

So, it’s not exactly an objective crowning of the winners.

That’s not to say that you can’t get useful info from those lists. Just be sure to read how they evaluated companies. The “best place” label in and of itself shouldn’t carry a lot of weight; you want to dig into the details.

{ 145 comments… read them below }

  1. it_guy*

    My parent company is always on the list as one of the worst places to work in the country (bottom 5 for many years), but I enjoy where I work. It really depends on who the manger is and other mitigating factors.

    Bottom line answer – Keep it mind, but don’t go just by the list.

    1. gladfe*

      I’ll bet that sort of thing is really common. Several of my friends have worked in the local offices of a particular national company. The company has recently been in national news for scandals partly stemming from a bad work environment, but all of my friends have very positive experiences working there. The ones that still work there have decided to stay on, despite fears that the national problems will result in layoffs, because they’re so happy with the working environment. I’m sure it’s equally common for mostly-great corporations to have lousy management in one location.

      1. Optimistic Prime*

        I think the opposite is probably true as well. Google/Alphabet always shows up at the top of the list because of all the perks, but some of those perks are really location-tied – if you work in Mountain View or one of the other really big offices, maybe they’re available, but if you work out of one of the smaller offices they may not have them.

    2. NYC Redhead*

      I came here to say this. My company is always on those lists because of its benefit packages, but one’s day-to-day manager, team and work affect quality of life more profoundly.

    3. AnotherHRPro*

      As an employee, you need to decide what you value in an employer. Sure, great parental leave benefits might be valuable to some employees but not at all helpful for others. These “best of” lists can be directionaly helpful, but they do not indicate that a company will be a great place for YOU.

  2. Bekx*

    My company participated in our local “best place to work” a few years ago. Our HR Department did fill out the paperwork, but all employees in the target location (we had 3 city papers) had to fill out an anonymous survey about the work culture.

    I do know we were given ad space, since I was the one who created the ads for the newspapers. It seemed like they did take the surveys into account a little…saying things like “Employees ranked the salary as above average” or whatever the criteria was.

    1. Ama*

      My previous (university) employer was once nominated for a national best place to work list — and they sent the survey around about two weeks after a couple morale sapping developments (a pay freeze in several divisions, and the use of data collected via another survey about people’s schedules for a potential bike share program to lecture the entire staff about “too many people leaving early on Fridays”) . I refused to fill it out at all because I was still mad about the other survey incident, but I suspect a number of people took the opportunity to voice their displeasure because we somehow never heard about our nomination ever again, and we definitely didn’t appear on the list that year.

    2. Kelsi*

      Same for my agency a few years back. It was pretty extensive–they looked at our compensation and benefits, did a site visit, had HR fill out lots of paperwork, and sent out an anonymous survey to each employee about the culture, how we felt about our work, etc.

      I think it all comes down to: do your research about the place compiling the specific list you’re looking at. What are their criteria? How do they check those criteria (just asking the company’s HR vs. employee surveys, are the employee surveys anonymous, etc.) That’s probably going to tell you way more than just “this place is on a list and this place isn’t.”

  3. Emotionally Neutral*

    Some companies game the system for better rankings. I know someone whose former employer strongly encouraged employees to fill out “best places to work” surveys and granted all employees an extra day of PTO if the company reached a top position in the published results.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      As an employee, I’ve done some surveys for these lists, one was for the local Business Journal and they had a question like “Were you told how to answer these questions or otherwise influenced to provide positive answers?”
      Unfortunately, our HR Director was overly enthusiastic promoting the survey and suggested that everyone be positive and think in 10’s when taking the survey. I heard many people said they were influenced, and we didn’t get an award. I don’t know if we were disqualified or or if it just tanked the overall score.

    2. KarenT*

      I worked at a company that prided itself on being high on the best places to work list, and they used to force us to fill out those surveys. We handed them in to the collectors, non-anonymously, so those collecting the surveys would see all responses (usually senior managers). I never heard about negative consequences, but I’m sure unfavourable surveys were discarded.

    3. Alexandra Hamilton*

      Yep. I’ve been somewhere like that, too. Sure, it’s anonymous – but 5-star reviews were strongly encouraged, rewards were dangled if we made the list, and pouting ensued if we didn’t.

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      Yep, I’ve worked for one of these companies that tried to game the system. They won twice and then became increasingly competitive about it, to the point of aggressively persuading employees to give them top marks on everything. Guess what… the scores got worse not better.

  4. Joielle*

    I’ll second the bit about excellent benefits/perks but awful day-to-day management. My husband works at a big company that regularly shows up on those lists, and he does have good benefits and a lot of perks, but his little department is a complete nightmare because of 1. a ton of bureaucracy and corporate BS, and 2. a bunch of conflicting personalities. But, there are people working on the same floor in different departments who likely have a completely different experience. So I always take the lists with a big grain of salt.

    1. Zap Rowsdower*

      Along these lines, a company as a whole can be a good place to work for, but individual offices/branches may not be. My company isn’t bad overall, but I really don’t like the silo culture my office has.

      1. sunny-dee*

        This. My company overall is great to work for, and most departments are really good — except my previous department, which has 40% turnover (more in some positions), incredibly low morale, poor performance, and craptacular management. If you work anywhere else in the company (barring a few isolated managers), it’s fantastic. Work in that department, and it’s misery.

    2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      This is my experience as well. My university has been a best place to work for a few years and I really enjoy working here — with some general frustration at the silliness of higher ed drama and the red tape to get things done. Some departments are a mess and some are great.

      I think the other thing too is that some employers, as dysfunctional as they might be, are still far better than their competition so they fly to the top of the list. And it’s also easy to be a big fish if the pond is small enough. Compared to other higher ed institutions in my region, we’re pretty darn good. And I’m somewhat close to the bottom of the food chain so it isn’t just Deans and Vice Presidents that have it good.

    3. Roz*

      This is my workplace. It’s on the list for our city and is, in my opinion, a fantastic place to work. But ask someone in another department or on another team and they’ll tell you there’s too much documentation and management sucks. It’s all relative. I love it because my team and manager are awesome in addition to excellent pay and benefits.

  5. CM*

    I think those lists can have some value. I definitely agree that you have to look at what the criteria are, what incentives the list-maker has, and in general take the whole thing with a grain of salt. But if you see a company pop up over and over, with employee testimonials that ring true and are consistent with what you’ve heard from people in your network, lists like that may have information that other sources might not focus on (unusual perks, for instance, or insight into why people love working there).

    I laugh every time I see the “best law firms for women” lists — most of the law firms on them are notorious sweatshops where you’re not allowed to admit that you have any priorities outside of work. But they have part-time programs and generous maternity leave, so they make the list. Never mind that if you actually use the part-time program, or god forbid, take paternity leave, you’re immediately put in a category of “9-to-5er who doesn’t take this job seriously.”

    1. Bookworm*

      I agree; you really have to look at who is publishing the lists, but depending on the source, they can be useful. I’ve definitely seen some local places do “Best Places to Work for [Category] in [Mid-sized City]” and those have often rung true with my experience.

      That said, I think the bigger the company, the less likely someone will be able to categorize it, since departments can vary so widely. Some companies can be wonderful to work at within certain teams and proverbial dumpster fires on others.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      I work somewhere with a similar culture. To me, best places to work lists don’t mean much because they are based on the magazine’s criteria, not your own. I’m happy where I’m at, despite stress and long hours. My mom is happy where she is at, with a 10 minute commute and a predictable job every day. My dad is happy where he is at because he as at the best-paying place in his field, even though he works 70 hr weeks and is gone all week.

    3. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      I know several people who work for one of the “best law firms for women.” In addition to the issues you noted, their paid parental leave is only available to attorneys, not staff.

      1. Optimistic Prime*

        Yeah, this is why I always feel weird about my big tech company and others being on these lists. Our awesome benefits are only available to full-time staff, not to our vendors – but vendor/contractor staff can make up 50% or more of many teams. So we get to say we have awesome benefits and such but a huge chunk of the people who do the every day work that makes this place run don’t actually benefit from any of those.

        1. Faith in internet comments restored*

          Yes! I worked for a company that made this list. They specifically asked staff if they were part-time or full-time. Employees that responded they were part-time were explicitly asked if they worked in X-department that has a lot of part-time staff with zero benefits, few perks and limited access to staff cultural activities. Although there were lots of quotes from staff talking about what a great work place this was; a large bulk of staff didn’t have access to them, which seemed really misleading.

  6. SoooAnonymous*

    I worked somewhere briefly that lauded itself with a “look how many Best Places to Work awards we have!” type ploy, complete with a wall o’ plaques/trophy display case. Come to find out, any time one of those surveys came around or an employee was to be interviewed, the head honcho would coach them on how to respond. It was actually part of someone’s job description to seek out/apply for those awards. Then there was also the “hey, if you post a review of us on X site, I’ll give you $100,” which explains why finding honest reviews of the place is a needle in a haystack but there are tons of reviews that say a lot of nothing.

    Conversely, I worked somewhere else that won several BPtW awards, didn’t seek them out that I’m aware of, and legitimately was a fairly solid place to work — long hours on occasion, but had some nice perks to make up for it. So YMMV.

  7. Helpful*

    If he is in sales, perhaps pursuing his network will allow him to screen out major scams/dumpster fires. If you know someone who works there, it could help reassure you!

  8. Anonymous Educator*

    However, you’ll sometimes see companies that are pretty crappy places to work on those lists, because the screening criteria they use are limited and don’t include many of the factors that control whether somewhere is good or bad to work at.

    Even barring all the shadiness Alison rightly points out, there are definite limits to what an outsider can know about any company or organization. Workplaces can release all sorts of quantitative metrics (number of vacation days, retirement plans, average salaries, average tenure of employees), but having great scores in all those areas (even if the scores are true) can do little to offset a horrible manager. Isn’t there a saying that people don’t leave companies but managers? I mean, if your company overall is “amazing” but your manager stinks, doesn’t that mean your work quality of life also stinks?

    It’s similar to the college rankings U.S. News & World Report puts out. They can measure things like average spending per pupil, class sizes, SAT scores, degrees professors have, etc., but they can’t really tell you what your experience as a student will be like.

    1. Cassandra*

      Not to derail the whole thread, but US News rankings are garbage for even more reasons than that. In my (professional) field, nobody asks students or in-field employers what they think. They ask each department in the field to rate the other departments.

      Fox. Hen house.

      Seriously. Ignore US News rankings; they are utterly beyond worthless.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Ah, but asking students would not be the best solution, either. They don’t realize the department’s goals are not aligned with their own. At least other departments realize the academic game each department has to play. : )

        1. Cassandra*

          Absolutely! Every accreditor visit we’ve ever had has involved visitors who understand what weight to give to student complaints. One of my colleagues who has been an accreditor says succinctly “Students always complain, and they always complain about the same stuff.”

          It’s still important to ask, because every rule has exceptions and because it’s important to triangulate opinions from several different classes of source — as US News emphatically does not.

    2. Jillociraptor*

      Right on. And even on top of that, while there are many commonalities among great places to work, what will really be an ideal fit for an individual is highly variable. I used to work at a place that often made the Great Place to Work list, and I really enjoyed my time there. Although the organization employed lots of the best practices for employee engagement and workplace culture, though, I can imagine plenty of reasonable people who would have hated the environment and been miserable there. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with how the organization was run, but we have a variety of preferences for what makes us happy at work.

  9. DecorativeCacti*

    My workplace was nominated for one of those a while ago and they sent out a survey for us all to fill out. I don’t know about anyone else but I nearly died laughing that it was the best anything. I then filled out the survey honestly. I never heard anything about it again.

  10. EBStarr*

    I worked at a place that was on some of those lists because they flat-out lied to the reporter about stuff they offered. Forever afterward, a favorite running joke of the office was demanding how to get in on that free dry cleaning we supposedly got as a perk. (I don’t know what they expected to happen when they proudly emailed the article to the whole company.)

  11. jake*

    I worked for one of the best employers in the country for about a year and a half. The culture was very different and a lot of people (including me) didn’t fit. Those employees were ditched pretty quickly and they’d just find someone new (this was in 2008 and they were super proud that they were still hiring when other companies were reducing their workforce. The reason why was not included in their brochures).

  12. Lucie*

    I worked at an employer who was so excited to be on one of those lists… I was so happy to leave there.

  13. finderskeepers*

    caveat: the reason many of these places make it a great place to work is so you’ll spend 16+ hour days there

  14. sam*

    They do survey employees, for whatever that’s worth. I know this because my company is being surveyed right now. I’ve gotten about 87 reminders to complete the thing before the deadline.

    1. Essie*

      Yup, same here. And reassurances that it’s anonymous, despite personalized e-mails scolding me for not having filled it out yet.

      1. TiffIf*

        Being anonymous about the feedback and personalized emails reminding you that you have yet to complete it are NOT mutually exclusive. They can and often do go hand in hand. It doesn’t mean there is anything shady about the promise of anonymity.

      2. sam*

        Having helped put together our own internal NPS surveys using tools as simple as surveymonkey,

        I can totally confirm that it’s entirely possible to design the survey so that you can track whether people have completed it while still only giving you “aggregate”/”anonymized” results.

        Of course, you can keep things entirely anonymous, and then you just have to remind everyone to complete the thing, even when they’ve already done so.

  15. k8*

    ‘the Glassdoor reviews seem overwhelmingly positive save for a couple of “this is a scam,”’

    lol yeah imo if I saw even one “this is a scam” reviews on Glassdoor I’d assume it was one…..i honestly can’t imagine a plausible why a legit company would have any reviews like that? Crappy reviews, sure, but I’m not sure why a disgruntled employee would call a company a scam unless it was one?

    1. NaoNao*

      Well, a couple:

      I have a lot of love for “The American Public” but…they really can’t read. :) Take a scroll down your friends’ FB page or the comment section of any even remotely controversial article there. It’s a poo-flinging free for all, complete with misspelled words, no/weird/over punctuation, name calling, missing the point, and logical fallacies a-go-go.

      My guess is the following:

      Someone like Perceval from a couple letters ago is posting the review
      The company has an arm, associated business, or franchise that the reviewer is thinking of
      The company itself in its corporate offices is not a scam. The product however….
      The company is in the business of doing something (like customer service) for product that are unreliable and tend to make people crazed with anger (cable, telephony, internet provider). The review is being left by someone who is “fed up” with their department and its contributions to how they treat customers. I worked for a client at a BPO. The client provided satellite internet to rural locations. Customers would call in screaming, veins popping, about how slow it was and how they felt scammed.

      It was not a scam. It was just not performing to the degree they wanted. But I can see how someone working at that call center would start to believe, after 500 irate phone calls, that yeah, it was a major scam.

      So, there’s reasons.

      1. HR is fun*

        Yes, I was coming here to say that our company contracts out for certain jobs and those jobs get terrible reviews on Glassdoor. The people in those jobs are not employees of our company, the jobs are very different from anything that our “real” employees do, and I (in human resources) have never met or talked to anyone in those other jobs. However, they still get “matched” to our company’s name on Glassdoor, and I think it would be impossible for someone on the outside to realize that they are really working for a different company. So Glassdoor isn’t always accurate for every company.

  16. Gloria Burgle*

    I worked at a place that “won” a BBB Integrity Award. The management had forced us all to write glowing nomination essays. I resisted turning one in, but in the end, I had to or I would have been pushed out. (I eventually got pushed out anyway for resisting other shady practices. It was such a lovely place to work!!!)
    Same company places large monthly ads in our city’s business magazine. I am not shocked when they win “best place to work” or “best in industry” awards in same magazine.
    So, no, I don’ t put much stock in any of these awards.

  17. Liz Lemon*

    It’s also, at the end of the day, still a matter of fit. My husband once worked at a “best place,” and it was easily his least favorite job of his career. I could see how some people would really enjoy working there, but as my husband doesn’t drink and isn’t interested in the sort of bro-culture that was going around, he always felt out of place. And when a company is really invested in it’s own awesomeness, but you don’t drink the kool-aid, it can make you feel even more of a loner.

    1. Jesca*

      I guess I dont understand why companies want to have “fancy” cultures. I mean why not just stick to the basics like respect for stakeholders and shareholders and focus on ethics and openness? I can get on board with that.

        1. Zip Zap*

          Call me old fashioned, but my main goals are to do good work, get recognized when I do exceptionally good work, get feedback when I need to improve on something, have opportunities for growth and professional development, and have an atmosphere of mutual respect between myself and my co-workers. And to be paid market value for the work that I’m doing. I would rather have those basics than extra fun stuff. Although the fun stuff is good too when those basics are being covered.

    2. TC*

      I work somewhere that has awards, and I was very skeptical before I started, but I’m really enjoying my job and the culture overall. I can see why many others wouldn’t, as it can be a loud and boisterous place at times.

  18. Bertha*

    There are two issues at play here, and since it’s so hard for me to explain this in a theoretical way, I’ll just .. only kinda change the name of the company I’m talking about.

    I used to live in the city that housed a large MLM marketing business, let’s call it Spamway. If you worked at Spamway CORPORATE, it truly was a great gig. They treated their employees very well, paid well, and had good benefits. I was a temp there and my boss was fantastic, and while I couldn’t experience many of their amenities, I sure did enjoy those vending machines. Working at Spamway Corporate was a lot different than selling Spamway Goods as an “Independent Business Owner.” I’m sure they were on “Best Places to Work” lists and I think it would have been completely accurate.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I have a few times thought about/applied for a job at “Spoiled Cook,” let’s say. Which again, the HQ seems like a great place to work and the kind of job that would be really cool … but yeah, being an “independent consultant”, heck no.

      1. Episkey*

        I have a friend that does work there in HQ — and I do think she likes it, but I would never be an independent consultant either.

    2. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

      I’ve heard the same type of things about working at “Carry May” corporate versus being an independent consultant. Corporate HQ gets all sorts of Best Places to Work awards.

    3. TiffIf*

      I was about to say something similar. I have friends who work/worked at a locally headquartered MLM that really love their jobs and the benefits, but that is vastly different from being a distributor in an MLM. I know for a fact that they are on a Best Place to Work list (there’s billboard proclaiming it proudly on the highway).

      Personally, even though there is a difference between working corporate side vs distributor side in an MLM, I would never work for one corporate side because I will not support that business model in any way.

      1. Bertha*

        Yeah, I can totally see not wanting to work at an MLM, even if the corporate headquarters are good to work for. I couldn’t exactly tell what the OP was looking for by mentioning MLM.. certainly you don’t want to work somewhere that you don’t agree with ethically, but if the concern was the job itself was a scam.. probably not, if it’s at headquarters.

    4. SpiderLadyCEO*

      Hmm, I wonder if that is what is happening in my hometown. I was seeing the same MLM companies listed in all of the best places to work lists, and I would go in to interview and it was one red flag after another. But they came up all the time as great places to work. I don’t know why.

  19. Tasha*

    In the early 2000s, I worked for a well-known company that showed up on one of those lists, and got a call from a company in an unrelated industry asking for advice on how to improve their standing. I said “make yourself a better place for employees to work” (I was in the corporate quality dept and don’t even know why I got this call) and they didn’t get it. They were like, no, seriously, how do we improve our standing on the list?

    1. Sharon*


      In another internet forum I was lamenting how I seem to always get hired by companies that have mediocre or downright shabby ideas of adequate work quality (as in my work ethic is higher than the company’s!) and someone suggested that I look for companies like yours. Problem is I have no way to identify them short of using lists like this. But even that doesn’t work for all the reasons listed in these comments.

  20. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    So this is Who’s Who of American/International Businesses 2.0? Made flashier and more relevant by its own ephemeral quality of being online and in the media?

    1. ro*

      If it’s the Forbes Best Places to Work, then not maybe not exactly. That one is somewhat legit, I think.

      For that list, my company has been on it for many, many years. I can tell you that Alison is absolutely right, our company submits to be considered. And the “package” submitted is a well-polished marketing/PR piece that a whole team of staffers work on for the better part of the year. The best writers, professional photographers, heartwarming stories from employees are solicited, etc. Then Forbes has a 3rd party send out a survey to a random sampling of employees. I’ve gotten it twice, once a long time ago it was a written survey in the mail and recently it was an online survey. Whether or not it was truly anonymous isn’t really irrelevant here because my company only gets to see the score totals and a list of comments.

      I think if you see a company on this list know that overall it *might* be a best company, or it *might* just have some good PR people, and even if it is great, if your group or manager sucks who cares. Also, remember there will be many, many, many more “great workplaces” out there who will never get this attention because they aren’t going to have/dedicate resources to such a contest.

      FWIW- My c0mpany has fallen in its standings (which are VERY important to HR- makes recruiting supposedly easier- and our CEO), in part because now every major company has similar perks to ours and also because the culture here is not as good as it used to be. The good news from that is, they are more motivated to listen to employees and hopefully make changes. So that’s been an unexpected benefit of “the list”.

  21. Glenn*

    One possibility that Alison didn’t touch on — there’s a difference between “this company was on the Fortune best 100 companies list” and “this company was on some sort of ‘best’ list I found on the internet” and “this company says on their website that they were on a list.” Either of the latter two options could easily be scams manufactured by the company itself, and if the company is a true scam (like a pyramid scheme or whatever), this is quite likely if the list you saw it on was not from a reputable company you recognized.

  22. sam*

    Also…just remember that every person’s experience is different. For some people it’s all about salary/benefits/job responsibilities. For some folks it’s about culture and “office friendliness”. For some it’s a combination.

    The “best” job I ever had, the one I truly LOVED, was the one where my job was my life – I worked like a dog, traveled constantly, and ultimately…ended up getting laid off because the firm was secretly collapsing. But while I was working there, I loved it because I was part of a team that I truly loved working with – we worked together for ten years at two different law firms.

    Now? I *like* my job. The people are great, the work is great, but I very intentionally taught myself to not become so emotionally invested in my job after I basically got dumped by that job I loved. So I don’t think I’ll ever love a job again the way I loved that job. And it will probably reflect in the way I answer survey questions, among other things. But that’s less about the *job* and more about where I am in my life.

  23. Nea*

    I have, in the course of my career, worked for two “best places to work.” My experiences there rank as #1 and #3 of the three worst jobs I’ve ever held.

  24. Job Hopper*

    An old company I worked for tried really hard to get on those lists. We were… lets say strongly encouraged to fill out the employee surveys. There was definitely a cohort of people who were sycophantic to the CEO and probably liked working there and I’m sure filled those out glowingly. I avoided filling it out at all and pretended I did. But it was the worst (professional/office) place I ever worked (in terms of what it was actually like to be an employee there on a day-to-day basis). I put no stock in those at all.

  25. Former Hoosier*

    I work in healthcare and hospitals all game the majority of those awards for best hospitals, etc. I wouldn’t give them any consideration.

    My husband works at a corporation that many people think is a bad place to work but that hasn’t been his experience.

  26. Stephanie*

    FirstJob was on one of those lists. In actuality, it was either somewhere you hated or loved (I ended up being in former category, unfortunately). JobBeforeGradSchool also regularly showed up on those lists, which eh. I think being on those lists is as much of a function of name recognition than anything since those lists are heavily dominated by big companies.

  27. GreyjoyGardens*

    I’m glad you posted this, Alison, and I’ll be reading the comments with interest. I’ve always wondered both about those “best places to work” lists as well as those “best jobs to have” lists which crop up in magazines and on sites like CNN. I’ve always taken both with a grain of salt.

    One problem is that *good, non-toxic management* really makes or breaks a workplace, no matter the on-site daycares, flexible hours, foosball tables, free snacks or what have you; and this is not the sort of thing that makes it into a Top Ten list.

  28. SushiRoll*

    My company often places on the regional best places to work lists and we are a pretty good place to work – but your company has to agree to participate (many don’t) and while my company doesn’t bribe anyone to take it in any way, they do let employees know they consider the survey important. The company that runs one of the bigger ones is kind of annoying to deal with (in my opinion – but they are just trying to sell the ads and whatnot) so many good companies may just opt out.

    Some of those other awards – like “Taeapots Magazine’s Top 100 companies that make teapots” or whatever – you basically pay for those. I know because I submitted the application for my company to appear on one and it was hundreds of dollars and I am pretty sure most companies with a half-assed application that pay the ransom get on the list. Then you get a shiny logo to plaster everywhere. Same with a lot of other similar industry awards – you’re just paying for the award as long as you’re at least somewhat qualified.

  29. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I knew those lists were BS after I read this article:

    In summary, a federal court found a company guilty of systematic gender discrimination and the company owed $250 million in damages, yet that SAME company made it onto Working Mother’s 100 best companies list. One of the key culprits in these surveys? Usually the high paid, upper level people participate, and they’re usually the ones that have better perks, pay, and job security. Discrimination and other bad stuff tends to hit lower level staff.

    The individual stories in this article are truly disgusting.

    1. Bertha*

      I think that the lower level staff DO participate.. but when you get the survey via your company email, and you have to fill it out on a company computer, well, it makes sense that people won’t feel like being completely honest!

  30. Rincat*

    My husband’s company truly was a “best place to work” a few years ago, when they got one of those awards. Shortly after that, it was bought by a bigger company, and has now turned to crap. He’s actively looking for another job. However the company still features that award in their marketing materials since the name didn’t change. So just be sure you do some date checking!

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Yeah, that often happens. My company was part of a larger, much better corporation. Great benefits and flexible work. But we were sold off and now it sucks.
      Also, management changes… often not for the better.

  31. blackcat*

    Adding on to the “different offices/divisions can be different,” is that there can be wildly different sorts of jobs within the same company. BigManufacturer or BigRetailer might be wonderful/terrible for corporate employees while being terrible/wonderful for factory/sales floor workers.

    1. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

      And it can be wildly different for full-time vs. part-time employees or temp vs. permanent employees. Years ago, I temped at a regional headquarters for a major financial company. It was one of those companies that was always on the Fortune Best Places to Work list. (until it failed and was bought out by another company, that is!) They had several temps there at any one time, and there was a very clear division between temps and permanent employees. (It didn’t help that my manager went out of her way to make temps feel like second class citizens.)

    2. Typhon Worker Bee*

      Yes, my employer (a health care provider) is always on these lists, but my experience working in the office of one of their research lab divisions is going to be completely different to that of a nurse working in one of their many hospitals, or a paramedic, or a tech in a clinical lab, or a social worker, etc. The bigger the organisation, the less the ranking matters, I think.

  32. Bend & Snap*

    i work for a “best place to work” and it…could be better. The culture on my immediate team is great, which is why I stay, but in a large company, there’s no such thing as a blanket “best place to work.”

    1. Anon for this*

      I’m the same. My company has been on a Top 100 list for a few years now, and has been towards the top lately, but there are some pockets that are awful. Bullying is rampant in one team in particular, and explicit favouritism. It’s so awful- but that team is on another floor from most of our senior staff, and works very different hours. There are also a lot of senior staff who are extroverts, and that’s really the culture- if you’re an introvert or even just quiet, you can be spoken to about that and pushed to participate.
      It’s really awful actually- but my team is great. I sometimes get really conflicted about staying but I genuinely do love the work I do there.
      But yeah, if you are joining that team at our company, it would almost certainly not be the best experience at a job in the country, as you might have been lead to believe.

  33. Bobbin Ufgood*

    I don’t know much about “best places to work” — but I’m a doctor, and many of those “best doctors in America” lists are absolutely 100% pay-to-play. They mail a letter to *literally every* doctor and tell them “yay! you are awesome! pay us X$ to be on this awesome list!” and people do. If you pay more money, you can get a really nice-looking meaningless plaque. Totally just a brilliant money-making scheme for the list people.

    1. H.C.*

      Ohhhh, my OldJob was Marketing & Communications in healthcare, and our department was hit up for $$$ too ( along the lines of ‘[X] number of doctors from your facility are regarded as the best – show it off with an ad!’)

      However, that particular best of list is pretty transparent about its nomination/selection processes, and they’ll still display your doctors even if no ad was purchased – just nowhere as prominently as their “partners”.

      1. SarcasticFringehead*

        There’s a similar list the attorneys at my firm are often on. As far as I can tell, the list itself is legit, and it lists all (and only) the attorneys who meet their criteria, but you can pay more for a fancy bold listing or callout box or etc.

    2. Not a Real Giraffe*

      When I was in my early twenties, a national organization of which I was a member, called me to tell me I had won one of their “Young Female Professional of the Year” Awards. When I asked how/why I had won this award, they changed the subject, then told me I needed to pay them $500 (or something crazy) in order to receive my award plaque.

      …I had been laid off from my last job and had not been fully employed for months when I supposedly won this award.

    3. Karo*

      Yeah, there’s a “best of” list for my industry that claims to be survey-based only, but somehow it always seemed to happen that the people with the largest ads in that issue of the magazine got rated the highest.

    4. The OG Anonsie*

      Where I used to live they ran the Best Doctors list in the city paper by polling doctors in the area, and it got broken down by specialty. The doctors in the specialty would all nominate each other and due to the way the rankings worked, all always ended up on the list at least some of the time.

  34. Formica Dinette*

    I worked for a company that was on a regional “Best Places to Work” list one year. Getting there required such a massive internal campaign that they haven’t gone after it again as far as I know. As other commenters have stated, how good the company actually was to work for depended heavily on your department. In my case, the largest department was generally happy while the rest of us were generally miserable. Finally, I wouldn’t put any stock into lists that are more than a few years old because, well, things change.

  35. Nancy Drew*

    Getting on the list is easy. Ranking as a low number (closer to #1) is not easy. Neither is improving rank year after year. Some lists are paid for, some are not. I’d look into the methods (anonymous employee surveys are good, lack of judging criteria is not) and see if the list seems respectable.

  36. Dessi*

    I’ve worked at two companies that were ranked on “X City 10best places to work,” and they were both easily the two worst jobs I ever had. At one of those companies employee morale was absolutely abysmal.

    Speaking to the legitimacy of those stupid lists, fun fact. I was living very close to the spiritual Mecca of a very large “church” that is being high criticized on a cable TV series right now… anyway, they pretty much own the entire town, and I once interviewed with a company they own that’s on that top 10 best places to work list. I was referred by a mutual acquaintance. 4.9/5 stars on Glassdoor, everybody was super happy and smiley during the interview, in a rush to hire me asking if I’d start right away. I had to take an aptitude/personality test, which after googling the fine print citing the infamous founder of this “church,” I saw it was the Oxford Capacity Analysis test, the one they give to people for free in order to show them how screwed up they are and rope them in to this organization. I BS’ed my way through, was told the next day my personality score wasn’t what they were looking for and could reapply in 90 days. I guess I couldn’t be reprogrammed.. bullet dodged.

    Since that experience I’m only far more skeptical of these lists and Glassdoor. You just can’t be naive about these things. The girl who referred me left a few months in, citing shady practices “she was not allowed to disclose” and a Glassdoor review she had to post on her first day..

    1. Andrew*

      Hi Dessi,

      I think I know what area/city you are in. I won’t say it, but it sounds like two “fast” growing companies in the software/tech sector of a city that has had land battles with this specific church downtown.

      If it is, I had an inperson interview with one of them once, and took the same Oxford Capacity exam. It didn’t seem weird, but knew about it from a previous reviews. I didn’t get the job and got ghosted, but I believe it had to do mostly with pay with the hiring manager. He wouldn’t tell me a range, but wanted to know my salary range first. The team I interviewed seem fine and normal, but everytime I see companies promoting fooseball and playing games at work, I think something is up and it isn’t as rosy at it seems.

      The other company, I had a phone screening, but that was it, didn’t go further than that. Their glassdoor reviews seemed a lot more fishy with all the praise.

      Another company in the area seems to be similar with their reviews and it seems all the work is a college frat party vs actual work…

  37. BBBizAnalyst*

    I feel like a lot of these lists emphasize perks. I don’t care if an office has a pool table or onsite chefs.

    1. Rincat*

      I’ve seen that, too. And yes, perks are meaningless to me if the culture is messed up. I had telecommuting and a private office at my last job, but the department was so dysfunctional that I didn’t mind giving those up to get a better job. Now I’m in a cube and I drive into work every day – but I love my job, and my stress levels are waaaay down.

  38. Kat M.*

    My old workplace always landed on those “best places to work” lists. “Random” staff were always asked to fill out surveys about their experience. Strangely enough, I was always “randomly” selected, every year. Definitely had nothing to do with the fact that I was a high-achieving employee that kept my complaints to myself.

    When I started pushing back on illegal labor practices at our location, I was “randomly” no longer surveyed. Funny how that works.

    1. Kat M.*

      To be fair, they did quite a number of things well. The benefits were much better than were typical for the field (which isn’t saying much, just things like health insurance, paid holidays, and a tiny 401k contribution match vested after a few years). And they did hire most of their supervisors from within.

      But when MULTIPLE members of your staff end up with UTIs and kidney infections from insufficient bathroom breaks and people are illegally covering for pregnant coworkers just so they can pee, I can probably think of better places to work.

  39. DCGirl*

    OK, this has been years ago, but when I worked at a Big Five accounting firm, in order to participate in those surveys, we had to give the surveying organization a large list of employee names/addresses and the organization downselected those who would actually receive questionnaires. The idea was that employers couldn’t game the system by selecting the 500 happiest employees. Some of these surveys are much more reputable.

  40. Catabodua*

    The large university I work for is always on those lists, but because it’s so large the way you view employment here can vary wildly. I’ve worked in wonderful departments and I’ve worked for tyrants who make your life hell.

    So while it’s all fine and good that your company may have good benefits on paper, how your supervisor manages can make all the difference on whether you actually can use them.

  41. alanna*

    I don’t think they’re outright scams but take them with a lot of grains of salt. I work for a company that’s perennially on those lists in regional magazines, and I really love it! The benefits are good, the values are real, etc. But part of that is that we’re not as economically squeezed as other companies in my industry. And there have still been stretches when I’ve had a bad manager or no work/life balance or whatever when I wouldn’t have described it as “great,” just as I’m sure there are people here who like their jobs but don’t feel connected to the company in the way I do.

  42. Totally Anon*

    My workplace did that, and employees were “strongly encouraged” to give high marks across the board. So YMMV. Some places probably are legit “great” to work in. Mine’s actually not bad, but it was ironic that they used bad workplace tactics to coerce an “excellent” rating.

  43. Lesser Tiffany*

    I worked for one that regularly appeared in the state’s best places to work list.

    It wasn’t. The health insurance was pretty good but the job itself was awful and time off was stingy (10 days of PTO, vacation and sick time wrapped up) and the location sucked.

  44. Cautionary tail*

    I took a position at one of those “best of” companies when I was young and naive. I even moved my family across the country for this job. It was HORRIBLE!!!!

    They packed us in like sardines (30 sq ft per employee) with three people to an office where you had to stack items vertically on the desk (think 5-foot tall bookshelf on top of a 3-foot tall desk). It was so tight that if someone needed to leave the office, the other two had to leave to make space to walk. It was expected that you would work 12-hour days on M-F in the office, 8-hour days on Sat in the office, and encouraged that you would work on Sundays too in the office. We were only allowed to submit 40-hours per week which I was admonished for because I thought I was supposed to put in the hours that I actually worked.

    We worked on some of the oldest, slowest tech out there and the company made a huge splash that they would begin to move to better equipment, but the reality was the vendor discontinued the junk we had so my company was moving to the slowest current offering.

    I later learned that the company did a hiring wave just so they could test-drive new employees and then fire half of them over the next year. People began to disappear shortly after I started. I lasted 6-months and I quit because the company renegged on a written promise to me which was simply the last straw. They put me in a depression and destroyed my self-esteem. Many years later I still shudder because until they were bought out, they continued to be on a “best of” list.

  45. Horrified*

    It’s the “building wealth” phrase on the company’s website that would be a flag to me. I guess it depends on what kind of work your husband is seeking, but that phrase and pictures of nice vehicles (I’m guessing the company doesn’t sell vehicles but rather is showing flashy cars that their employees are driving??) suggests a job with compensation very VERY heavily weighted on commissions. Basically: we’ll give you the tools, now go out and beat the bushes for clients. It could be multi-level marketing or a job that requires zillions of cold-calls and an annoying level of persistance.

    The Best Places to Work lists are often pay-to-play, although some lists are legit. I would put zero weight on a company being on that list.

  46. Lora*

    Working at one of those now. They do have a lot of sweet perks and benefits, but whether or not you’re happy depends on your manager more than anything else. I have good days and bad days. I am good at minding myself, haven’t had a real boss for more than a few months since 2012, so I quite like having an absentee boss. If I needed more direction and training and didn’t know how to seek it out or who to talk to, I’d be pretty unhappy. I am mad that I get ignored or talked over in favor of people who are more corporate-y but less technically proficient, but day to day it usually isn’t terrible. I wouldn’t say it’s my best job ever though.

  47. AthenaC*

    It really depends. Several years ago I worked at a “best place” company that really did try to have a good work environment. They even listened to feedback and tried to improve what they could. The problem is – they could only control things in the office itself, so tax people (who were always in the office) reaped the benefits and reported very high levels of satisfaction. Unfortunately, us audit folks who were never in the office didn’t get the benefits of bagel Mondays or jeans Fridays or Wednesday afternoon sing-kumbaya-in-a-circle-and -leave-early or birthday parties or baby showers, etc. Audit people continued to be disgruntled through a combination of crappy clients and department-specific middle management issues. So the tax people continued to be more and more satisfied while the audit people continued to be disgruntled but were now additionally resentful of the tax people and all the perks they got.

    I work at a different “best place” now, but I do love it because the people I work directly with are fantastic. I think our company culture does encourage people to be fantastic, but it’s still evident (from some of the people I’ve met) that some people choose not to be fantastic. So I’m sure there are plenty of people at my current company that don’t think of this company as a “best place” and they’re not wrong, of course – they have just seen different things than I have.

  48. TCO*

    I worked at a national retailer that annually ranks near the top of the Fortune 500 Best Places to Work list. One year I was selected to take the survey; I do truly believe it was anonymous and random.

    I liked the job a lot and it truly was a “best place to work”–for me. A large retailer is so decentralized that there’s no way to guarantee a good work environment for everyone in the company, all the time, at every location. The company’s HR practices, ethics, benefits, etc. were generally great, but it was my store’s good management that kept me working there. All of the employee discounts in the world can’t overpower terrible management.

    And of course, my coworkers didn’t all feel the same way I did. Job satisfaction depended on their career path goals, their relationship with management (some of them really disliked managers that I got along well with), PT vs. FT status, etc. Mileage varies so widely that I wouldn’t put any weight into those lists when choosing where I want to work.

  49. Kai the Admin*

    My employer started buying it’s way on to Top Employer lists right when our employee satisfaction survey results were at some of their lowest in our institution’s history. Every year I look up the reasons that justify our inclusion on the list(s) and find that the perks noted aren’t available to all staff (such as saying all staff start with three weeks paid leave or referencing PD programs that closed years ago). If anything, I’d say inclusion on those types of lists it’s a warning against leadership taking any real interest in work culture.

    I say that my employer “bought” their way on because all the employers on the list are institutions that have advertised with the publication that publishes the list. It’s a joke if you look at it even a little critically.

  50. Zip Zap*

    I worked at a company that was one some of those lists. There really were some great things about working there. The perks, opportunities for growth, and flexibility we’re amazing. There were also some really dysfunctional teams. It depended a lot on who you were, what your goals were, and who you worked with.

  51. Grey*

    Reminds me of a billboard here that read “Voted #1 Office in Michigan!” But of you looked closely, there was an asterisk and smaller print that read “* by our staff”.

  52. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    I stopped believing in such ratings after the top newspaper here in Major City listed the private university where I work as the “Best Place to Work” for two years in a row, in a time when boss’ boss was an authoritarian pinhead who thought that insisting that salaried employees work 14+ hour days was leadership. It was clearly The Good Ole Boy Network, as opposed to actual objective evaluation.

  53. JAM*

    I know my firm wants to make those lists. They did the survey last year to set a baseline and as a result we saw some new policies implemented (better maternity and paternity leave, early outs before a holiday, some new internal technology, and more planned to come) so even if the lists aren’t 100% legit some employers will do things to improve or to stay on top of those lists.

    I think the best thing is to read the report as to why they made the list. I know from reading that one local employer is super dog-friendly and another has on-site daycare and both could be valuable depending on what you value.

  54. Honor Harrington*

    I worked for a company that was always on those lists, based on surveys sent to the employees by the list-sponsor. My employer’s marketing department put heavy pressure on us to complete the surveys, including giving us specific things they wanted us to say. My employer was one of those dumpster fires.

    Ever since, I don’t believe those lists at all.

  55. Ramona Flowers*

    Also, be aware that companies nominate themselves for consideration

    This is such an important point. I think a ally of people assume they’ve considered and chosen from a wide list. Perhaps even that these companies have got a surprise phone call to tell them they’ve been chosen.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Also, my employer is really fantastic and we aren’t on any of those best employer lists.

      Instead the organisation has opted to put itself through things like the Stonewall equality index, which rates you on LGBT equality and inclusion.

  56. KR*

    The company I work for has made those lists. It’s a huge huge company that’s well known in southeast US though, so I feel like while I’m extremely happy here and feel like the part of the company I work for is great, I have read the glass door reviews and realize that I could transfer to another part of the company and miserable.

  57. Daria Grace*

    Even if the ranking is based on allegedly honest, anonymous surveys of staff, still treat it with some skepticism. The intensity and variety of means I’ve seen used to pressure staff into answering positively on such surveys is astounding

  58. Grumpy*

    I worked at one of these “best places.” That company sent a company-wide email one year saying they were no longer entering the competition because they were sick of paying the fees involved and got no value from buying their way on to the list. So I figure the whole thing was just a pay for placement scam.

  59. Preppy6917*

    I worked at a very well known “best place to work” that’s very big on its specific corporate culture (you can probably get it in three guesses) for a number of years. And it probably is–for a very specific type of individual. It wasn’t a good fit for me, though–the culture seemed fun at first, but was annoying after a while, and excruciating come evaluation time.

  60. SandrineSmiles (France)*

    I used to work at a place in France that just was SO.LOUD.ABOUT.THIS. Best place to work this, best place to work that. The only reason I even filled the questionnaire was because it gave me some relief from the phone duties I had. But really, it felt really sketchy and hypocritical. Even to this day, when I see a mention of it, I shiver.

  61. Quadnon.*

    I worked at a company that was and still is routinely on the best places to work list in my area and staff were always asked to participate in the surveys that determined the list. It was a great place to work…in certain departments. If your department was highly visible and front facing it was great. If your department wasn’t it was hell. I always answered the surveys honestly but I know tons of my coworkers who didn’t for fear that somehow the upper management would find out. I’ve come to recognize a few things since I’ve been gone, if glassdoor reviews always praise the same thing (i.e. “bootcamp!!! It’s great!!”) but are vague on the actual work culture, be suspicious.

  62. Jeanne*

    I once filled out the survey for one of those lists. We had great health insurance but most everything else was crappy. I was honest but we were number 3 on the list I think. The lists mean nothing. Use other ways to determine where to work.

  63. SS*

    My previous organisation had quite a few perks, not Google-level, but free/cheap access to our product (it was something most people would be delighted to get or even temporarily try out for free), free gym and subsidised classes, cool merch, meetings were very well-catered, and we had some pretty flash corporate events (high-end restaurants, big-name celebrities, corporate box at big sporting events, even overseas trips).

    But the management was awful, the sexism was appalling, they wouldn’t replace a broken chair that was causing me chronic pain for over a year because it would cost too much, they refused my request for a work phone but would send irate messages if I didn’t answer calls immediately when I was out sick or on holidays, and when the results for the survey on staff morale came back lower than the previous year the CEO called a meeting to tell everyone off for being ungrateful.

    Now I work for a government organisation where the work is boring, the pay is medium and the material perks are zero. We have to bring our own tea, coffee and milk, and people even buy their own office supplies because the stuff provided isn’t very good. Even the building and furniture is drab and depressing compared to most places! But they take things like harassment and health & safety very seriously, most managers are very supportive in helping staff advance their careers even if it means moving to a totally different area, they offer great mat leave and flexible hours and don’t penalise people who use them (the gender split of senior execs will be 50:50 within a couple of years), and even senior people are never bothered on days off unless it’s a genuine emergency. “We’ll give you a comfy chair and your manager will treat you like a human” won’t compete with gym memberships and celebrity chefs on some internet listicle, but I can tell you where I’d rather be.

  64. Tempest*

    I worked at one of these ‘best place to work’ award winning companies in Europe not the States. Basically they gave you a preparatory booklet a few months before, a bit after that they did a barometer survey of everyone to gauge who had the most unhappy departments and tried to brow beat those into saying they were happier at work than they were. Then when you got your ‘anonymous’ survey (they ask you what department you work in so unless the departments are huge they can easily track back who’s who) you also got another booklet telling you how to answer. Such guidance as ‘remember the difference between exhausted and tired. You might leave here tired, but you wouldn’t be exhausted.’ Like, no, I decide if I feel exhausted or just tired, and mentally exhausted is just as legitimate as physically exhausted. They’re pretty much a total crock as far as I can tell. We filled them in mostly as instructed to avoid having our honest feelings tracked back to us and thus the results were completely sanitized.

  65. babblemouth*

    I’d rather have a good manager than all the hammocs, nap rooms, office waterfalls, slides, and free lunches in the world.

    Yes, having both is fun. But I respect a company SO much more for spending time and money on good management than all the office perks.

  66. Polymer Phil*

    There are a few big pharma companies that are always on these lists, but have a terrible reputation in the scientific community. They don’t just have one big round of layoffs and get it over with; it’s more like a death by a thousand cuts that has everybody constantly terrified. I’m sure they have great perks on paper, but I wouldn’t want to work somewhere like that.

  67. ayh*

    I have personally, under close supervision, helped to fill out the 60 page survey for “best places to work in virginia” for a small company i worked for.

    It was full of exaggerations and half-truths, and perks that not everyone got were highlighted.

  68. lee*

    The nonprofit I work for is regularly at the top of one of the “best places to work for” lists, and it is a great place to work at with competitive pay, great benefits, etc.
    However, leadership also rewards us for being in the list every year with an extra PTO day, so when the anonymous employee surveys come around every year I suspect some people are overly complimentary so we don’t lose our free day off. Bottom line – those lists can be helpful but your acual experience interacting with employees should hold more weight

  69. The Gadfly*

    My company recently ended up on one of the large “Best Places to Work” and there were a number of folks who just rolled their eyes. Yes, it pays well and has comparatively decent benefits but the culture is definitely a “drink the kool aid” mentality and where the “bros” run around like they own the place…not to mention the arbitrary caste-like hierarchy for promotions and compensation. There are decent teams and management chains but that is definitely the exception and not the rule.

    The award was also given in the midst of numerous, highly publicized lawsuits many of which dealing with hiring practices and treatment of protected classes of employees. FWIW, our marketing department is pretty good so maybe that had something to do with it. LOL Ever since we got the award, I’m highly skeptical of any of these lists.

  70. katastrophe*

    I work for a company that’s often on those lists and it really truly is an amazing place to work. Everyone I work with loves their job. The benefits are pretty standard, the only one that really tips the scale is the fact that we’re a 100% remote company that has managed to foster a close-knit, “one team one dream” mentality despite us all being scattered across the country. We have a common saying that our worst day at this job is still better than our best day at other jobs. So sometimes the lists tell the truth, but it’s still best to go with your gut.

  71. Isabelle*

    A big part of your happiness at work depends on your relationship with your manager. You could work for a company that is well-known for treating employees well but if your own manager is an ass, you will be miserable.

    Another think I noticed is that in large companies, the satellite offices often have a very different work culture from the main office and you may be unlucky enough to end up in one of the ‘bad’ offices.

  72. mrs__peel*

    The only one I would ever believe is Wegmans (which regularly tops our local listings). All others taken with a grain of salt.

    Wegmans is great.

  73. Chaordic One*

    My former employer was named as one of the 10 Best Places to Work in an industry-specific magazine. Even though it was the absolute worst job I ever had, I can see how other employees would find it to be great. As the others have commented, so very much depends on whether or not an employee receives benefits or not, whether they are considered exempt or non-exempt, and things vary by branch office, by department, by manager. I’ve had good jobs go bad when a new manager was hired or when my employer was purchased by a different company.

    The same things do apply to Glass Door reviews and need to be taken with a grain of salt. While the overall reviews for my former employer were mixed, just about every one of them commented on the below-industry levels of compensation which should be a red flag to both job seekers and to the company management.

    1. A Rose By Any Other Name*

      I’ve noticed that some companies with offices in different locations can really have widely different salaries and Glassdoor ratings. That’s something that Glassdoor doesn’t do very well. A salary range for an office in Baltimore might be different for a person in Reston, but Glassdoor will make it look all the same. Project Managers in McLean, VA complain about the company all the time, but folks in Greenbelt, MD, from personal experience, are pretty happy.

  74. Snapdragon*

    I used to work for a company that made the “best place for women to work” lists every year. It was all good on paper, but the reality was: The director of my division sexually harassed me, along with pretty much every other woman around. We all have texts on our phones he should have been fired for. He made sexually suggestive comments about 19-year-old interns. He bragged about the women he slept with in Vegas. He slept with (and dated at least two of) his direct reports. At least one of the times he dated a direct report, both HR and the C-suite knew about it. After they broke up, he humiliated her in meetings regularly, to the point where an uninvolved employee in the department complained to HR about it.

    Suffice to say, I think those lists are nonsense.

  75. A Rose By Any Other Name*

    Also, be aware that companies nominate themselves for consideration and fill out a questionnaire on their own (a process that’s often managed by their marketing departments).

    Totally this for my last company! My last company was a government subcontracting company and they were always pushing the “best place to work” surveys. It felt so awkward; I didn’t actually work with any of my company’s employees. I worked with government folks in government spaces. Filling out the survey was not relevant to my experience with the company because I never actually worked directly with my company. And, while the company did have some good benefits, some weren’t. They were pretty standard, but being encouraged to act like the benefits were avocado and toast when everyone else was eating a similar variation, was annoying.

    Also, their business staff (HR, Finance, etc) was so absolutely dysfunctional (I witnessed first-hand sexual harassment and favoritism) and the owner was completely criticism adverse. With my personal level of mistrust and perception of dysfunction, I was hugely suspicious about how confidential the answers were.

  76. Julie Farragher*

    Thank you for posting this topic. I have always wondered where the information for the “Best Places to Work” lists come from.

  77. This is me*

    I realize this is an old post, but I would take those lists with a grain of salt. Companies have to apply and pay a fee in order to even be considered for this, which means that so many companies aren’t even being considered. The last company I worked at not only paid the fee and applied, they hired an outside consultant to complete the application to ensure that they win. The consultant knew nothing about the company or the culture, but he did know what needed to be said to win. He did leave out the part about a 40% turnover rate..

  78. Valerie Van Kooten*

    I worked for a hospital that really pressured its employees to send in the forms, etc. to these kinds of things…and then screened them first to make sure they were all positive. When we got on the list, I thought it was kind of a joke.

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