Pay Attention to Internal Warning Signals & Red Flags  

Two questions came in to our Ask A Coach feature—from individuals who took new jobs and left them within 8 months. If you want to avoid a similar fate, consider these stories.

“I left a good job because an employer, who found me on LinkedIn, told me they wanted a change agent. Once I came aboard, I found a LOT that needed to be changed. Six months later, the Board fired me.

“They called it an employment at will decision, but in condescending terms said I should have spent my first six months understanding the organization before making any changes. Now I have a high-profile failure on my resume.”

“The employer I left last week courted me for two months. I met with all four of the senior management team. They told me about their proud history as an “employer of choice.” They touted their retention rates, which seemed stellar, until I realized they were one-month and not one year retention rates.

Soon after I began this new job, I learned that two of the four senior managers had sons they wanted to assume the company’s leadership in a year, after I mentored them. That’s when I learned that the “long” in ‘We want you to have a long, exciting career with us meant 12 to 14 months, as the “boys” had been promised they’d be promoted after they’d learned all they could from me.

That wasn’t the worst. The “boys” were incompetent and spent all their time sabotaging me, but when I tried to handle their performance issues fairly and diplomatically, they went running to daddy. I left exhausted, and vowed never again to jump into any position without thoroughly vetting the prospective employer.”

What about you? It’s a hot job market. Are you tempted by a new opportunity?

Whatever you do, don’t rush before you’ve taken a deep look at what you’re getting into.

While an employer woos you, they tell you everything great about their organization. They tell you what they like about you—and that feels so great that you may leap before you look.

It’s up to you to vet the new opportunity, and to look behind the curtain.

Here are key questions to ask yourself or your prospective employer.

  1. Who are the decision-makers and influencers in the prospective organization?
  2. What behaviors and actions do they value?
  3. Who wants you to take the position, and why? Who vacated the position and why?
  4. What is promised you? Are the promises in writing?
  5. If you’re asked to be a change agent, what exactly does that mean to those hiring you? Are there untouchable practices or people? You need to get an accurate read on the extent to which the organization hiring you is open to outsiders, and what barriers to change exist.
  6. If you can, ask rank-and-file employees what it’s like to work for the company.
  7. When you walk through the company, do employees make eye contact and smile at you or those you accompany, or not?
  8. Will you enjoy working for your new peers and employer?
  9. Are you receiving any internal warning signals?

Before you buy a new car, you don’t simply listen to the salesperson’s story. You take a test drive; learn the average mileage other drivers achieve; research the safety ratings; read Consumer Reports and evaluate other potential vehicles. Can you afford to do less with a job in which you’ll invest 2080 or more hours of your next year of life?

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7 thoughts on “Pay Attention to Internal Warning Signals & Red Flags  

  1. It’s been my experience that being hired as a “change agent” is an invitation to a beheading – yours! If I tried this again it would only be after talking to former or current employees, (preferably after they had a cocktail or two). Also I would ask for a guarantee of compensation if things don’t work out. Ideally, I would go in as a contract employee for three to six months before agreeing to stay long term.

  2. Lynne and Wendy’s point of talking to former and current employees is spot on. The “list” should also include secretaries, janitors, and others far from the ivory towers.

    As mentioned previously, a very wealthy man claimed he learned more about incompetence, waste, and what was holding companies back from them than any other source.

  3. Absolutely! No one knows more about the personalities and behind the scenes dirt of a company than the boss’s secretary unless its the receptionist!

    1. Lynne, You just outed all receptionists!!! If I had one, She would be in my office at this moment…..

  4. Cautionary tales! Exactly the kind of thing I worry about when people talk about getting tired of their existing job, or not getting enough challenges, or whatever, and decide to go looking for a new job, and then leave. They may be going into a firestorm

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