In February, an Uber employee went public with the reasons she had left her job at the popular ride-sharing service. Quite simply, it was a horrible place to work. Since then, the floodgates have opened with stories of company’s toxic work environment. The most recent episode happened this week with a member of the company’s board of directors making a sexist remark to Arianna Huffington – of all people!- at a board meeting.  He has since resigned, with an apology carefully massaged by PR consultants.

Now we hear that, according to the New York Times, “…In Uber’s continuing attempt to repair its reputation over a series of scandals stemming from its bad-boy culture, its co-founder Travis Kalanick said he would take a leave of absence as its chief executive.”


What Makes a Workplace Toxic?

Uber isn’t the only company out there with workplace issues. According to a recent article in Forbes magazine, narcissists at the top, complaining colleagues, and a lack of transparency are just a few characteristics of a toxic workplace.

Many of my clients come to me desperate to escape a miserable work situation. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, staying in a job too long can be dangerous. Let me illustrate this by telling you about Jessica*, who came to me for help. Here’s a brief glimpse into her situation…

Jessica took a job about two years ago that was a good step up.  She was hired to create new systems that could transform the client experience, improve efficiency, and drive quality. Yet after being on the job for several months and working behind the scenes, (and also doing the job the “old-fashioned way”) her boss balked when she was ready to launch. He stalled and promised. For months. Then, he started avoiding her. On top of that, her co-workers were crude, unpleasant and unwilling to adjust to a new approach. Communications between her and her boss became more cursory. He never asked about her progress and seemed content to ignore her as long as the work was getting done. She began to lose her confidence, and dreaded going to work each day.

*Not her real name.

Eventually Jessica confronted him and came away being certain that despite his promises, she’d never have a chance to do the work she was promised.  That’s when she reached out to a trusted adviser who recommended she find a career coach.

The good news?  We worked to clarify her career fit, she implemented our plan, and she just got a job offer. Being alert to the dangers of a toxic environment, she was smart – so one of her first questions when we looked at the offer was “How do I make sure this doesn’t happen again?”

How Do You Spot Warning Signs Before Accepting a Job?

When you have an offer, it comes a wonderful dose of excitement and relief, doesn’t it?  The trouble is that we so desperately want to say “yes” that we’ll overlook a whole host of issues, especially if we’re in a job we’re desperate to leave.

Fortunately, Jessica was determined not to let this happen again.  I coached her to do some pre-interview research about the company and the people.  I also prepped her with some questions to ask during the interview that are designed to reveal and tease out red-flags.  

My strong advice is to trust your gut in these situations.  If you don’t like what you hear, DON’T take the job!  

A toxic environment can damage you personally and professionally. I’ve helped hundreds of people just like Jessica find a great career fit – email me at to find out how.