Your Toxic Job Hunt

By Robert Goldman

July 22, 2021 5 min read

In today's economy, it's not all that difficult to find a job.

What is difficult ... what takes time and effort ... is to find a job that's totally toxic.

And a totally toxic job is what you want.

With a toxic job, you never have to make excuses for screwing up. Whatever you do wrong — or don't do at all — it's clearly the company's fault. This situation may not lead to long-term employment, but it can be quite relaxing. And if the brilliant executives who created all the toxicity happen to burn out before you do, there could be a series of very lucrative promotions in store, leaving you with a humongous salary — completely impossible if you worked for a company that actually functioned normally (if such a company actually exists.)

Unfortunately, other professional purveyors of workplace advice do not grok the advantages of working at a place that does not work. I refer to Forbes, whose website recently devoted a passel of pixels to a Timothy R. Clark article, "How To Spot A Toxic Culture In A Job Interview."

In his article, Mr. Clark identifies nine questions to help you spot a toxic work culture, which he, inexplicably, sees as a negative. The point of view is definitely twisted, but some of the questions do make sense, once you understand how to interpret the answers.

For example, "What do you like about working here?" is presented as a trap for hiring managers who "stumble and hunt for a good answer" before finally commenting about "some extraneous variable, such as location."

For those of us looking for a toxic workplace, the inability of a recruiter to think of even one positive about the company not connected to its proximity to a freeway on-ramp shows that you stand a very good chance of standing out. Really! Even your low levels of performance are sure to attract attention and raises and, maybe, if you're truly lucky in finding employment at this bottom-of-the-employment-barrel location, a shortcut that saves five minutes on your two-hour commute.

"If you were in my position, would you take the job?" is another test question. How the interviewer answers is not important. What is critical is the time it takes to come up with an answer. Of course, they're going to lie and say "Yes," but you want to time how long it takes to get to that "Yes." If it's instantaneous, you've found a company that puts a premium on hiring accomplished liars, and you're sure to feel comfortable using "I never got the email" and all the other bogus excuses that never worked in your present position.

If you still suspect that the company may actually have decent values, you will want to ask, "What happens to employees who make mistakes?" If the interviewer "is able to look you straight in the eye and say, "We look at mistakes as opportunities to learn,'" you have found a company that has a positive work culture, and, of course, you'll want to terminate the interview. If you hear the crack of a whip and screams of pain coming from a distant conference room, you'll know you've found a company which is serious about torturing its employees, which will definitely be amusing on long, dull afternoons when you're tired of playing "Assassin's Creed Valhalla."

The final test for toxicity in a potential employer is "How do you feel after the interview?" Ask yourself, "Did you feel heard? Did you feel appreciated? Are these people sterile and scripted or truly warm, happy and engaged?"

If you can answer yes to any of these questions, cross the company off your list and move on. You don't want to be heard; you want to be ignored. You don't want to feel appreciated; you want to feel overcompensated. And you certainly don't want to spend 40 hours a week with a bunch of warm, happy, engaged people who start meetings with a recitation of daily gratitude lists and end with a rousing chorus of "Kumbaya."

Remember — it's toxicity that will make you want to quit a job to become a fashion influencer on TikTok, or run away to sea on a tramp steamer, or take up competitive macrame, or learn to play Beethoven's Ninth on the hammer dulcimer.

With a great job, it will never happen. With a toxic job, before you have a foot in the door, you'll have a foot out the door.

Good hunting! I'll be looking for you on TikTok.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: www_slon_pics at Pixabay

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