Signs of a Bad Company to Work For

Employees at award-winning Top Workplaces bring their best to work every day. They’re motivated, and they want to stick around. Leaders at these companies realize the benefits of a people-first, and they make it a priority day in and day out.

Bad company culture is a different story. A toxic environment leaves employees feeling drained, unmotivated, and unfulfilled. All of this negativity thrives when the culture is unstable. But sometimes, these factors are not immediately visible because they occur beneath the surface.  

To find a job you love, look for the qualities of a great workplace. Take the time to look for the warning signs of a bad employer. This red flag list will help you avoid bad work situations.

1. Lack of team bonding and communication

Workplace communication is vital to any business. It involves the exchange of ideas and information and is essential for productivity. Excellent communication between employees and employers increases morale, efficiency, and commitment.

Poor communication harms the workplace, resulting in:  

  • Poor leadership
  • Unclear objectives
  • Limited feedback
  • Disengaged employees
  • Damaged reputation. 


One of the signs of a bad company is a lack of team bonding and communication happens where there is a lack of connection across the organization. Eventually, this impacts how employees interact and collaborate. 

2. Unmotivated employees

The external reflects the internal, so happy employees make for satisfied customers. People engaged at work invest more time and effort in their work, bringing their best each day. They also like to recommend and refer their company to others. 

If you hear about unmotivated employees, know that is one of the red flags of a bad company. Unmotivated employees damage the company’s overall outlook, and they’re also one of the warning signs of bad company culture. They channel their displeasure into behaviors that decrease customer experience and satisfaction. 

3. No recognition for your work

Employee appreciation consistently ranks as one of the strongest drivers of engagement. What gets celebrated says a lot about the company’s culture, whether taking the time to offer genuine thanks, recognizing progress, acknowledging milestones, or sharing customer praise.

When employee appreciation and recognition are not part of the company’s culture — or when it falls through the cracks during challenging times — turnover rates increase and employee engagement drops. Look for this as one of the signs of a bad company. 

4. Unstable work-life balance

Today’s modern organizations value and appreciate work-life flexibility. Top Workplaces strive for a culture where employees meet the demands of their personal lives while maintaining high levels of work performance. Flexible work arrangements include options for when, where — and how — the work gets done.

A lack of work-life balance is a big red flag. This includes employees who are expected to be available online at all hours of the day, working while on vacation, or refusing to take sick time are visible symptoms. An unstructured work-life balance can lead to employee burnout, manager burnout, or work-from-home burnout, which leads to productivity drops and employee turnover.  

5. A lack of company and project direction 

A strong company direction is a sign of a healthy workplace culture. From strategy and vision to well-defined projects, employees who believe in the organization’s direction are more likely to invest in their work because they know it will make a difference. 

When leaders and managers don’t offer clear, consistent direction, it’s one of the signs of a bad company culture. Sometimes, asking for clarification resolves the issue. But when a lack of direction impacts your work consistently, it may be time to find a new opportunity.

6. Scope creep

Scope creep occurs when employees are asked to work outside their defined responsibilities. It’s typically a slow process that happens over time, first presented as a special request that eventually becomes an expectation. The effects of scope creep include:

  • Wasted company resources
  • Missed deadlines
  • Weakened team communication 
  • Decrease in employee morale 
  • Unhappy customers


In the workplace, scope creep can be one of the many warning signs of a bad employer and quiet firing.

7. Extreme criticism

Top Workplaces cultivate a work environment that encourages new ideas and allows employees to learn from their mistakes without unreasonable consequences.  

Extreme criticism occurs when leaders and managers notice errors and failures in a public forum, often calling out employees. Negativity has a significant impact on employee motivation and confidence. And when feedback crosses the line to extreme criticism, it is one of the signs of a bad company culture. 

Learn more: Qualities of a Good Manager

8. Bad reputation and reviews

A bad reputation is among the most common signs that should tell you to consider finding a new job. Being associated with a company with a bad public image, poor reputation, or low client satisfaction rate can affect your personal and professional appearance. 

Most job seers want to work for an organization with a good company reputation. Top Workplaces understand the importance of a good company reputation and validate their culture strengths with credible employer recognition. 

9. Aggressive political opinions seep into the workday

You can expect office discussions to occur now and then. But the workplace should remain free of politics, especially in today’s turbulent environment. Still, when opinions and emotions run high, it is easy for political talk to escalate and irritate other people. 

Research shows that employees experience stress or tension from political discussions in the workplace. You should recognize this as another sign of a bad company. 

10. Competition over collaboration

Competition is healthy in the workplace, especially when it is friendly and rooted in a collaborative culture. However, the culture can take a big hit when competition overcomes collaboration. 

When competition is present in a workplace with a poor culture, it can cross from friendly banter to aggressive behavior. As competition becomes fierce, employees can sacrifice teamwork for individual success.

11. The absence of core company values 

Clearly stated company values are a powerful declaration of a company’s intended culture. They’re also the glue that holds a workplace together. 

Energage research shows that employees who have company values top of mind are more likely to be engaged — and that means they’re willing to give their very best at work every day. 

Communicating company values is one of the most straightforward, accessible ways for leadership to state their intentions for the culture. Look to see if core values are visible on the company websites. If you can’t locate them, consider this one of the most significant warning signs of a bad company. 

12. High turnover rates

Employee commitment is one of three elements of employee engagement. When a healthy workplace culture is present, employees are more likely to stay with the company and do their best work. 

A company with a high turnover rate suffers from a poor culture. Many job seekers will avoid accepting their dream job if they discover that the company has a high turnover rate. High turnover is a warning sign that just shouldn’t be ignored.

13. Pay does not meet the responsibility level

Most professionals consider salary a deciding factor when accepting or declining a job offer. They also appreciate when employers use pay transparency, because it shows a higher level of appreciation, trust, and knowledge of industry standards.

Low pay is another warning sign of a bad employer. Employees with lower than average wages may often lack motivation and quickly leave for greener pastures, leading to high turnover and poor company culture.

14. Employees rarely take lunch breaks

Employees who do not take lunch breaks could indicate a poor company culture. The employee might have too much work to take a break or believe that their superior would look poorly on them for taking a break. This often leads to employee burnout, resulting in employees leaving the company.

15. Sense of boredom and unhappiness

A big sign of burnout and unhappiness is when employees are bored on the job. Try to gauge the involvement of employees at the company while visiting for a job interview. Avoiding a company where employees look bored or unhappy could save you a lot of time and energy in accepting a position at a company with a poor culture.

Explore Top Workplaces for cultural excellence

If you’re looking for a new job, explore Top Workplaces to find companies that have been awarded for having the best work cultures. Explore the awards page to find a job you love with a company that makes the job search easy.


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