There are lots of clues that a company or institution you’re interviewing with is a bad place to work. You can tell by the way the recruiter communicates with you. You can tell from the feeling you get when you walk into the building for your job interview.
You can tell in a second how friendly or unfriendly the people in the company are. You can watch them banter and joke with one another, or hand you off stiffly from one interviewer to the next. The cultural clues are everywhere — all you have to do is notice them!
I don’t want you to accept a job offer with any organization until you’ve read its Employee Handbook cover to cover. If they won’t give you the Employee Handbook when they’re trying to get you into the company, that’s a good reason to run away, right there!
If you were about to sign a contract, wouldn’t you expect to get a look at the contract before someone stuck a pen in your hand and asked you to sign it? Of course you would! Anyone would.
If you take the job, one of the first things they’ll do at your new employee orientation meeting is to make you sign a piece of paper that says you’ve read the handbook and intend to comply with all its policies.
That’s why you have to have a chance to read the handbook before you accept the offer. This would go without saying except that job-seekers are so used to being beaten down and treated like dirt that it doesn’t occur to most of them to ask for something as reasonable as an advance copy of their possible new employer’s handbook.
You have to get it, because if these policies are in it, you don’t want the job!
No Moonlighting Policy
When you have a full-time job, you are responsible for giving the job a good day’s work every working day. After that, it’s your life. You should be able to spend it doing whatever you want to do, from fishing off a pier to making baked ziti or anything else that suits your fancy.
No employer should be able to make you sign a policy that says you won’t work anywhere else after hours. How heavy-handed can you get? No-moonlighting policies are the epitome of fear-based bullying. They have no place in the Knowledge Economy we all operate in now.
Stack ranking or forced ranking is a medieval management system that became popular in the nineteen-eighties and in some out-of-touch employers is still going strong.
In this system each manager has to “rank” his or her employees from best to worst, in case the employees are one-dimensional, stackable and rankable objects instead of vibrant, unique and amazing people. Run away from any employer who still uses a stack ranking system or otherwise pits employees against one another!
Stitch-Level Dress Code
Assuming that a company hires only adults, they can trust their employees to dress themselves. If your prospective new employer’s handbook includes a painfully-detailed dress code policy, it’s not a place that can grow your flame. Trust-based cultures don’t treat their employees like children, and children with poor judgment, at that!
We Own Your Ideas
It is reasonable for an employer to make it clear to employees that ideas that you have and bring out on the job belong to the employer rather than to you personally. It is not reasonable for an employer’s policy to say that any idea you have while you are working for the company, even at home and off hours, also belongs to them, but that is what some company policies say.
Check this part of the handbook carefully before you take the job!
In the U.S. it is important for non-exempt employees to track their hours because the law requires them to be paid overtime once they pass a certain number of hours in the day or the week. Salaried employees are not covered by those laws and it is ridiculous for employers to make a big deal out of arrival and departure times for people who are paid a salary. If your possible next employer has a strict attendance policy, they don’t deserve your talents!
Bell-Curve Performance Reviews
Bell-curve performance reviews are testaments to managerial fear, because they forbid a department head from giving more than just a few people “excellent” marks on a performance review. A good rule of thumb when it comes to performance reviews systems is that the more formal the performance appraisal process is, the lousier an employer you are dealing with.
Performance reviews will disappear altogether in all but the most hidebound and out-of-it employers before long. Don’t go to work for people who are behind the curve!
Some old-school employers count and will ding you for tiny “infractions,” sometimes called “incidents,” and they’ll do it by creating an Infraction Record or Incident Report that will require you to go talk to someone about why you goofed up when you did, for instance by transferring a customer call to the wrong person or forgetting a step in a process. You are not in prison – you are at work. The more a company runs its workplace like a prison, the longer and more detailed its Employee Handbook will be!
If you travel for work, you should be able to keep your frequent flyer miles, period. Business travel is hard on the brain and the body. Even more importantly, any company that chooses such a skeevy way to save money is not a company where you’ll be happy working.
Some terrible employers require their employees to bring in a funeral notice when a family member dies. Maybe at some point in history an employee invented a family death and now all the rest of you have to pay for that mistake. This policy is an abomination and a loud statement about the organization’s concern for its employees in their lives outside of work.
Managers Decide Who Transfers
It is downright stupid for employers to limit their employees’ movements from one department to another, because their competitors for talent won’t put up any barriers to smart people who want to advance in their careers. If your possible next employer has a policy that requires managers to sign off on employee transfers, don’t take the job! You can’t afford to put your career in the hands of unintelligent people