9 Signs Your Company has a Bad Culture

The term ‘champagne and razor blades’ is synonymous with recruitment. Any sales job has a rollercoaster element, but recruitment’s probably up there with the most turbulent.

To borrow a phrase from Dolly Parton “if you want the rainbow, you’ve got to put up with the rain.” Meaning, you can’t celebrate the good times if there aren’t bad (or at least less good) times along with it. Some months you’ll be the toast of the office. Some months you’ll blank.

It happens.

Leaving the industry because of pressure isn’t great. But it’s understandable. Leaving the industry because of a lack of enjoyment in your current role however is completely avoidable. One bad culture doesn’t mean recruitment’s not for you. And there are so many companies that offer great environments.

Sometimes the writing’s on the wall. And while there’s a penchant for that writing to be company values, here are some things to look out for, in lieu of more honest critiques.

1. “My way or the highway”

Your manager will tell you to do something followed by the phrase “because I said so.” There are recruitment leaders that inspire you and impart knowledge. They give you the why along with the how. Then, there are those that want things done and don’t have time to tell you either how or why.

Don’t work for these people.

You’re an individual, and based on the fact you’re in recruitment, have aspirations to do something great. Therefore your ideas are probably worth listening to. At the very least they’re worth a discussion. Work for a manager who inspires you to be great and is open to talking through strategies.

2. Stick is favoured to the carrot

I’m not talking about commission here because that’s, fairly obviously, a large carrot. I’m talking about the way in which the hierarchy of the business interact with you. Being inquisitive is key to learning.

When you’re learning the process of recruitment you’ll get things wrong. And even when you’re experienced. You are human, after all.

If your first thought is “what’s the boss going to say” rather than “how can I rectify this” then chances are you’re working in a culture of fear. This goes for a culture where empathy’s lacking too. Your job’s a big part of your life. If either one of them isn’t great then it’ll affect the other.

Wind Hair

3. New starters come and go, like the wind

When a new employee joins your company there should be some excitement, or at least notification to say a new member of staff’s joined the team. The management, who have faith in you, has seen something in them too.

I’m not saying there should be a fan fair and the floor lined with and flowers on arrival. But you should at least be introduced and made aware of this new starter’s capability and background.

This goes for people leaving too. If there’s a revolving door and someone leaves your business without you knowing or even realising, there’s probably something fundamentally amiss.

4. Exit reasons are misconstrued

On the subject of people leaving, there seems (amongst some companies) to be some of the most imaginative reasons for employees leaving a business. “They’ve moved to Switzerland” … “They’ve gone into banking” … “They weren’t cutting the mustard” … despite billing the most in the company last quarter.

People talk.

You’d hope they do any way, otherwise the culture’s definitely broken. If someone leaves and the management create a fabricated reason for someone’s exit, it screams desperation.

People leave businesses.

It happens. And they do it for lots of reasons. Being honest about it will rarely create ill feeling. Lying about it often will. And undermines the intelligence of people who know the truth, which will be most people.

There’s a simple way out of this one if you’re in management. Just be honest. Talk about it. If people weren’t happy to be at a company, they wouldn’t be there. One person leaving won’t alter your happiness too much. Senior management lying to you will do.

5. Holiday requests are a chore

There’s an emergence of companies that offer unlimited holidays. Why? Well firstly, because Recruitment’s a sales job, and you need to take some time off or you’ll burn out. But in reality, there’s quite a lot of thinking that with unlimited holiday available you actually take less.

You need money to go on holiday. And to get money, you need to make placements. Which means you need to be at work. It’s the vicious circle that constitutes working life. If however your manager asks how many deals you’ve done before accepting requests or refuses holiday for no reason, you’re in the wrong business.

6. Small things outweigh the large

What do your internal meetings consist of? Is it someone in the office flouting the ‘facial hair guidelines?’ Is it someone who was five minutes late twice last week?

Or is it how to make the company, culture or performance better? It should be the latter. If the small things in your company get more airtime than the big things, that’s not positive.

This also goes for managers who love to point out you’re five minutes late in the morning, but don’t tend to notice you at your desk until 9pm the night before. This’ll be the same Manager who asks why you’re not at your desk during ‘core hours.’ Until robots take over the industry, which people keep threatening is on the horizon… you’re entitled to human interaction occasionally. Even in Recruitment.

7. There’s no buzz

Not every recruitment company has to be awash with power hours and people ringing bells and slamming desks. There should however be somewhat of a buzz about the place. The kind of buzz that happens organically where people are on the phone or (dare I say it) happy to be somewhere and enjoying the day.

Look around your office right now. Can you see people smiling? You’re in that office for the largest part of your week/month/year/life. Don’t surround yourself with unhappy people.

High Five

8. No one socialises outside of work

Recruitment takes all sorts. Which means you won’t be friends with everyone you meet, wouldn’t that be awful? But there should be a large amount of people you get on with in your company. If going for a beer with your colleagues after work sounds like hell on earth, you’ve got the wrong colleagues.

9. Table tennis provides the pièce de résistance

Now, before you think I’m having a go at any company with table tennis, hear me out.

Firstly, table tennis is awesome (as Hunted head honcho I’d welcome any challenge thrown down) but it shouldn’t be the only thing that’s awesome about your company culture. You don’t fix a poor company culture by getting a table in the office.

It will help, but it should be accentuating an already excellent culture. Not trying to tape over the seams of a company falling apart. This goes for pool, darts and foosball too.


The above list may make you think. What you should be thinking is “this sounds nothing like where I work.”

If however you’re thinking “this actually sounds very familiar” then you need a change. Rather than leaving the industry however I’ll let you into a secret… there are companies with amazing cultures out there that will let you enjoy your job again.

For inspiration, look no further.