Bad Places to Work? 4 of the Most Toxic Company Cultures

Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

Toxic sign | Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

If you’re looking for a job, you’re probably doing your due diligence to avoid landing in a toxic work environment. We’ve all heard and read horror stories from people who hold “toxic jobs,” or jobs that often involve low pay, long hours, little appreciation, and utter emotional and physical exhaustion. And that’s not even including co-workers, who themselves can carry a pathogenic toxicity with them. Hell, you might even be the problem.

So, if you’re on the job hunt, avoiding toxic jobs or toxic work environments should be high on your list of priorities. The problem is, there’s not often an easy way to tell which companies you should steer clear of. Surprisingly enough, even some of America’s biggest and most-admired companies can produce negative work cultures.

Toxic work cultures – like roaches or rats – always seem to find a way to thrive. It may be a blend of corporate policy, friction between personalities, or the very nature of the work itself; no matter what the root cause, toxic jobs are in every industry. And while you can sift through Glassdoor reviews of a prospective employer, you often won’t know for sure if you’ve found yourself in one until you’re actually there.

But we’re going to orient you, job seeker, a tiny bit. We’ve made a short list of four big-name employers, which have been known to house some very toxic work environments. Each of the following companies have done some amazing things. And each have thousands of employees who likely love and cherish their jobs. That’s because experiences are not uniform. People perceive and experience things in different ways. One employee’s nightmare scenario may be another’s dream. It all depends.

Take the cutthroat nature of the finance industry, for example. The great majority of us probably couldn’t handle working 80-hour weeks, with the potential for catastrophic fallout if we use bad judgment. But for some people, Wall Street is the perfect fit.

So, if you’re looking for a new job, there are plenty of places to look. But be sure to keep work environments in mind, and try to get a read on what the actual day-to-day experience might be like as an employee. Here are four big companies that might look great on your resume, if offered a job, but might present some real challenges to prospective employees.

1. Amazon

Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

Amazon has an incredible story – growing from a small, online book dealer, to one of the biggest and most innovative companies in America. It has (or might have, at some point) roving 3D-printing trucks, drone deliveries, and so much more; but it has also come under tremendous fire from employees for cultivating an incredibly toxic work culture. At least, that’s according to damning reports from The New York Times, which ran a detailed expose about the company’s internal structure. Read through it – we’ll just say that a lot of employees (and former employees) aren’t very happy with the way things are going.

2. Walmart

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. is the nation’s largest private employer, and one of the biggest targets for those looking to snipe at big business. The company has done good things, like providing millions of jobs, getting low-priced goods and services into areas that need them, etc. But there’s another side to it – Wal-Mart is notorious for paying low wages, doing what it can to avoid supplying workers with insurance and benefits, and for squashing union talk. For those reasons, you can imagine working there would be stressful and unrewarding. Or, in the words of employees, “toxic.”

3. Goldman Sachs

Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Wall Street and the world of high finance definitely isn’t for everyone. The industry is one of the most competitive in the world, and the jobs require long hours, a high stress threshold, and dealing with the stigma of white collar crime, which is seemingly rampant. For those reasons, you could say that it presents a toxic work culture. And Goldman Sachs, one of Wall Street’s most notable firms, is at the heart of it.

We actually have confirmation, straight from one of the company’s high-ranking officials, who left. In a New York Times op-ed, former Goldman Sachs executive Greg Smith pointed out how the company’s culture had changed so drastically that he no longer wished to work there.

“Culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years,” he wrote. “I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years.”

4. Apple

Stephen Lam/ Getty Images

Stephen Lam/ Getty Images

Most of us would lop off an arm for a chance to work at Apple. The company employs some of the best and brightest minds in the world, and is consistently reinventing the ways in which we live our lives. Unfortunately, as with many other big tech companies, the work culture leaves a lot to be desired – according to many former employees.

Some have called it the ‘iCult’. A former employee has discussed the “soul limiting entrenched dogma” present at Apple headquarters. Those aren’t really the things you want to hear, as a job-seeker. Even though a gig at Apple is one of the most sought-after in America, it appears you’ll have to take the bad along with the good.

But again, not everyone’s experience is going to be identical – so, as always, take things with a grain of salt.

Follow Sam on Facebook and Twitter @SliceOfGinger

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