2 Steps to Avoid a Sneaky, Toxic Workplace Culture

2 Steps to Avoid a Sneaky, Toxic Workplace Culture

A sneaky, toxic workplace culture isn’t so different from a toxic social culture, or even at home.

I love avoiding gnarly problems. Especially of the people kind. I want to see people at their best. More … I want nothing to do with low-integrity people, or the toxic workplace cultures that breed them. 

Those cultures turn good (often) men into predators, corrupting them. They turn women into prey, often until it’s too late or too expensive to take effective action.

They don’t rate my time, and I recommend you avoid them and enjoy the happiness that comes when you surround yourself with honorable folk. You deserve to be happy. Happy people are healthier. Happy people have a good shot at being wealthier, too.

Nothing wrong with that.

Sadly, you know it’s all too common, and in this case, a whopping 69,000 women were affected, and still are. When their class action suit began, they had no idea it would be going on for years.

It’s why I recommend you avoid these employers, social scenes, even personal situations in advance. The high-value question, for both women and men, is..

How To Avoid a Toxic Workplace Culture in the First Place?

Like most of us, what these women went through made my blood boil. My heart went out to all 69,000 them. It’s a story of a predatory culture, wrapped in a veneer of care, sustained by secrecy.

Not uncommon. And easily avoidable.

Because there are healthy cultures out there. There are healthy cultures available to you.

When you know how to seek them, you’ll find them.

Important: Notice I didn’t say ‘perfect cultures’. Imperfect people in a good culture are WAY better than imperfect people in a toxic workplace culture. Hands-down, every day. Go for good and happiness can be your companion.

The 2 Steps to Avoid a Sneaky, Toxic Workplace Culture…

Here’s your prep-work to find and notice those pesky toxic cultures … including sneaky signs, how to find out in advance, and what to do about it. Plus additional resources so you get the help you need the thrive in today’s culture … here we go!

Step 1, Crafting Your Attainable Outcome

So you can get what you want & avoid the ucky stuff, nearly every time. Avoiding those gnarly problems (yay!).

History shows that a corrupt system corrupts those within it, often otherwise good men. HerStory is sadly full of sisters who’ve been on the receiving end. My mission is to empower YOU to put a stop to it. Every woman counts. Every man, too.

Worse, corrupt systems have layers of cover-up, so good men and women find it increasingly tough to keep their honor, while the unsuspecting are

  • Underpaid
  • Isolated
  • Belittled, Harassed, Abused 
  • & Silenced

Avoiding these really is your “Step 1” and your mind, you brain, is very, VERY directional.

Step 1 is about you getting super-clear on what you want. Deeply clear, like a full-color motion picture, Dolby surround sound and more.

Why? As a new hire, or new to a particular part of your current organization, you are not going to change the culture. It will be what it is. It will support you, or aggravate you or torture you.

Your best strategy is to be part of the movement to starve toxic workplace culture of good talent. 
(Pssst … More on how to get out of a toxic cesspool in a future post.)

Having avoided situations like this, I also knew how much other women & some men, wanted to avoid it too.

It’s my mission to help women get what they want and deserve. Knowing what that is for you… Step 1.

Let’s get to it.

Your brain works directionally — to or from. Toward or away. Step 1 is about you choosing to set your brain on a course for a wonderful future you want — and that accords with your values, your talents, your goals, your soul and the important people in your life. It gives you the ability to get what you want with ease and flow.

Know what you want is key … and often that starts with a brain dump of what you don’t want. But don’t stop there. Flip those “don’t wants” into a few versions of their opposites. Pick the few best that ring true for you.

Because brains don’t actually process “don’t”. After all, if someone says “Don’t think of ice cream” — right away you’re seeing, imagining, almost tasting … ice cream!

There’s nothing more powerful than complete clarity in what you want your future experience to be, in all its sensory glory. When you’re thinking of your future company, you want it to be a great fit. You a

So you’ll want to describe what working at that company looks like, what it feels like, what it sounds like. If food is involved, how it smells and how it tastes.

When I guide women through this as their trusted advisor, they get to do it in a light meditative state — just enough so you’re out of that “head chatter” and can hear your deeper wisdom, what some call the soul, your deeper knowing, the still small voice within. Give it a try on your own!
(And yes, help’s available, just email me at support@dorothykuhn.com with the Subj line “Attainable Outcome Session”)

So far you’ve described how you want to feel, what you want to see and hear. Maybe even taste, smell.  GOOD for you!

Next, ask your self what will demonstrate you have the things? What will be the evidence you have what you want? What will you see when you have what you want? What will you hear? How will you feel? Add taste and smell, when important to the outcome you’re wanting to achieve.

Draw on your experiences with safe people. What would you see with your safe people? What would you hear? Feel? etc.

Super Important: Are these experiences things you’re in control of? Can you initiate these things? Can you maintain them? Keep them going? Make your evidence in “I will see …” statements. In “I will hear….”, “I will notice…”  “I will feel…” statements.

You’re not looking for what the other person does … You’re looking for what you can observe with your own senses.

This is empowerment at its core. Super cool.

Next ask yourself: “What resources do I have, or will I need, to have, now and through time?” For example, if it’s a job interview, you may need to update your resume’ to get the interview.

And of course, does what you want work for you? Both internally, in your heart & soul, and externally, with your loved ones.

We’re nearing the end … with these three:
 * What will you gain if you get what you want?
 * if you get what you want, will you stand to lose anything?
 * What will happen if you Do get it?
 * What won’t happen if you Do get it?
 * What will happen if you Don’t get it?
 * What won’t happen if you Don’t get it?  (yep, this one’s a brain twister … just ask it and listen to whatever comes up!)

Wrapping up! … Ask, what would you have to give up (that you value now) if you get what you want?
   (Sometimes it’s just our own excuses. I know that’s been true for me  because…  human 😉

Step 2, Verify in Advance, Through Others 

Before your first in-person interview, do some ‘recon’ and make sure to interview current & especially former women about company culture.

Reach out to 10-to-20 former or current employees, briefly state that you’re considering the company as a future employer, and knowing how important cultural-fit it, would value a brief 10-min call/Skype about company culture, just to see if it’s a fit for you.

They don’t want your backstory. They aren’t going to read a long email.

They’re busy people who will only respond to something professional, brief and to the point.

Use social media, especially LinkedIn, to find people who recently worked for the company you’ll be interviewing — yes, you’re interviewing them. They have to EARN you.

Email and private-message 10-to-20 former employees with your request for 10 minutes, a week out — aka, far enough out, that even the busiest person can say “Yes” to 10 minutes.

This gives you time to do a bit of digging in advance, so use this week to get familiar with the company’s public-facing info on company culture.

Sometimes it’s accurate. Often it’s aspirational in someway, and that’s OK, especially when they say it’s something they’re working on.

Sometimes it’s pure fiction .. as was that of Enron, of early 2000’s infamy. In this case, it’ll be hard-to-impossible to get an interview. THIS IS A BIG RED WARNING. Run, run, RUN (do not walk) from a company were no one wants to talk. There are lots of good companies that would value you, and  your talent.

Taken as a whole, these interviews are your best indication of the company culture, as experienced by people like YOU. 

Here are a few starter questions you can ask: 

  • Tell me about your experience with the culture at XYZ company.
  • Were you considered for promotion?
  • Compared to your peers, were you paid well?
    • Note: Pay disparity is not only often hidden, it’s also a first indicator of the other stuff. 
  • Did you sense they treated you fairly? Were you treated like the guys?
  • On a scale of 1-to-10, what was the level of sexist joking? Gender-role presumption? Objectification of women?
  • What goes on at company events?
  • Have you ever heard phrases like “Are you ready to drink the Kool-Aid?” 
  • Do men dominate the customer-base? (Pssst … All the more critical to learn of any predatory habits in advance. Again, if no one at a the company wants to talk with you, THAT’s information. Move on.)


If you can’t figure out why your profession, social or private life just doesn’t seem to be OK, you might need to ask for help. (My free Facebook Group is a great place to get said help!)

If you want a guide on what to look for, get your very own copy of my Gift to you, The 9 Early Signs You Must Spot, to Stop Insults, Bullying, Harassment & worse. 

One of my favorite books on how to spot real jerks, verses the regular mistake-making people who generally mean well: Don’t Let the Jerks Get the Best of You!

Read more about the 69,000 women who were objectified, harassed and worse, at the nation’s largest jewelry retailer for unequal pay, as chronicled by accomplished journalist and author Taffy Brodesser-Akner in “The Company That Sells Love to America Had a Dark Secret” for The New York Times Magazine.


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