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Signs your new job is lousy

  • Story Highlights
  • You can often tell if you'll hate your job in the first few days at work
  • If you receive warnings from past employees you should probably take notice
  • Coworkers say they won't bother to remember your name because you won't last
  • Hired as a call center operator, woman finds out job is for a phone sex operator
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By Anthony Balderrama writer
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It isn't hard to find plenty of workers who saw ominous signs of a bad job soon after accepting it.

It isn't hard to find plenty of workers who saw ominous signs of a bad job soon after accepting it.

Few of us will ever win an Oscar. We will, however, receive a job offer at least once in our lives.

The moment that we get the call is the closest we'll get to hearing our name announced at an awards ceremony. All the hard work, heartbreak and worry that we won't be able to pay the electric bill were worth it.

In that moment we realize that our new boss likes us. He or she really likes us!

Securing a job means you can stop sending out résumés and waiting for responses.

You can take that energy and focus it on worrying about the new job. Will you be good at it? Will your co-workers like you? Can you wear jeans on Fridays?

More often than not, your fears are allayed within the first week on the job. Aside from a few growing pains, everything goes well (and you can wear jeans when the boss is out of town). But sometimes the job that was an answer to your prayers turns out to feel more like penance.

In the first few days, you won't necessarily know if you'll love the job, but you can often tell if you'll hate it. It isn't hard to find plenty of workers who saw ominous signs of a bad job soon after accepting it.

Run, don't walk

Before you even show up for Day One, you might receive all the warning you need to stay away from the new position.

Sophie Martin went on six interviews with the company before being offered and accepting her new position -- news she happily shared with friends via e-mail.

"Within five minutes of that e-mail going live, I got a call from a business associate telling me that I should try to get out of the new job," she recalls. "The words 'founder syndrome' and 'chew people up' came up in that call, and truer words, as they say. I lasted six months -- the last three were spent looking for a new job."

Mistina Picciano, president of Market It Write, ran into a similar situation when she accepted a job.

"One week before I started my first corporate job, I went to a party and mentioned that I was starting work at this company as a staff writer. A woman stared at me with huge eyes and said she had interviewed for that job two years earlier," Picciano says. "She had received an anonymous phone call at home, telling her to run away."

The warning wasn't unfounded.

"Sure enough, when I started work, my manager was taking me around the building, introducing me to people. At least two people smiled, shook my hand and explained that they probably wouldn't bother learning my name; people in my position typically lasted no more than two months."

Professionalism, or a lack thereof

Even the most laid back employee expects a semblance of professionalism at work. Not necessarily a corporate uniform of suits and pantyhose, but common courtesy and respect from colleagues.

Of all people, the boss should be setting a good example for you and your co-workers.

"Well, the first sign that my new state university academic adviser job was a bad move was the fact that my future boss arrived 35 minutes late for our interview, breezing in after taking two of my future co-workers to lunch," recalls Carmin Wharton, founder and CEO of "She never acknowledged she was late, and of course, you can't apologize for what you don't acknowledge."

Sherri Bergman, director of marketing for St. Andrew's-Sewanee School, had to wait a little longer to get a glimpse of her boss' unprofessionalism during a previous temp job -- but it still didn't take long.

"Within the first week of the job, the boss -- who managed a staff of probably 30-40 -- was coming in to my office to tell me how glad he was that I was there because the rest of his employees were so incompetent," she says.

"I didn't take that as a good sign -- not because of my colleagues' potential incompetence, but because of the unprofessionalism of any manager who would confide this sort of information to a temp."

Bergman chose not to stay with the company and took a permanent position elsewhere.

Money woes

Everybody experiences a money shortage once or twice. That's a reason many people look for a new job in the first place. For that reason you'd like to think your employer is a reliable solution to your financial concerns. Unfortunately, that's not always the case, and it's often a sign that something worse is afoot.

Mike Wright was a disc jockey whose friend offered him a job, which he accepted. The husband and father of a one-year old knew quickly that he made a mistake when his first paycheck bounced. Shortly thereafter the radio station went bankrupt.

Marketing consultant Jenny Tallis had a similar experience, only her paycheck was the problem for a different reason.

"I was hired as a marketing director in the year 2000 and after I got settled, I asked the accounting person for the marketing budget so I could plan next year's expenses. His reply? 'There isn't one. We spent it all on your salary,'" she remembers. "He wasn't kidding."

And the rest ...

Given the chance to tell about warning signs that their new jobs were lousy, workers offered a bevy of stories. Here are more clues to be wary of:

• "Someone was always crying in the office."- Anonymous

• "You get yelled at for not knowing the format for a document and scolded for not paying attention to the training session. My response: 'There was no training session.'" - Anonymous

• "The computerized system consisted of three-by-five cards." - Joni Daniels, Daniels and Associates.

• "Your new boss comes in Monday morning on your first day and tells you she gave notice on Friday. [And] your predecessor left without a new job on the horizon." - Gaea L. Honeycutt, president of G.L. Honeycutt Consulting.

• "On my first day, they showed me to the reception desk and said, '...and this is your new office.'" - Mary K. LaFrance, founder of marketing agency HELP Virtual.

• "I took a job as an operator in a call center. Only to find out it was a big room full of phone sex operators!" - Christine Haynes, owner of Fezelry Jewelry Designs.

Remember to be on the lookout for red flags in the interview, offer or salary negotiation. Hopefully any first-day snafus you experience are minor hiccups. But if they resemble the stories above, you might want to start sending out résumés again.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority

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