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Job Search Tips: How To Tell When To Decline A Job Offer

Updated on November 21, 2014

So you have found yourself a job. In your enthusiasm, you may be tempted to accept it without any hesitation. After all, it is hard to find a job and you should count yourself lucky to have even found one in the first place. But there are situations where it is better to decline the job offer and walk away. Based on personal experience, one situation would be a bad work environment.

What to do before starting a new job?

During times when it is tough to get a job, it becomes very easy to simply accept any job without proper due diligence. This is especially true when you have been job searching for a long time and really could use the money. People have to make a living and you cannot stay unemployed for too long.

But the odds are that once you have put yourself into a bad work environment, you will suffer accordingly. A bad work environment brings down productivity for all. It is very easy to say during the interview that you can function in any environment, but the reality is that conditions do matter.

People are not machines and a bad environment will sooner or later begin to have a negative effect. Some people made a career switch because they started out with a bad experience. Thinking their experience to be the norm, they decided that particular career was not for them and went to do something else. If only they had joined some other unit in the first place, they would have had a better time and stuck with their original career goals.

It is therefore very important that you step back and find out everything about a new job before getting yourself into something you may come to regret. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to detect if that new job is right for you or something to take a pass on.


How to recognize a bad work environment?

So how do you recognize a bad work environment if you have never worked there before? Here are some of the signs to look for based on my personal experience:

  • Carefully scrutinize every part of the job interview process. If you are not treated in a proper manner, it is probably because they are used to treating their employees that way. You should expect that to continue since they are very unlikely to alter their behavior for you.
  • Ask other people who have worked there or know someone who has for their opinion. There are lots of social media networks to help you contact people. Be aware though of relying too much on other people opinions. Some people may be biased and you have to keep that in mind. Assign more weight to a trusted source.
  • The employer should be straight with you and willing to answer all your questions. You should be allowed to see the workplace and get a feel of what it is like. Attempts to hide certain information is a clue all is not well.
  • But the best way is to look for high employee turnover. During the interview, always find out why that position became available in the first place. It the person who previously held that position left after a short stay then that is a red flag. If you have the opportunity to meet other members of the unit, ask them how long they have been a member. If all or almost all of them have been there for only a short while, then that is a bad sign.

Be sure to put things in proper perspective. If the unit is relatively new, you should not expect too many employees who have been there a long time. However, if this particular unit has been around for a long time and all the employees are relatively new, you should be very wary. This is especially true if other units at this company do not display similar high turnover. Remember that people in general tend to vote with their feet. They stay when they are content and leave when they are not.

Should you still go for it regardless?

Some people might say that a job is a job and you cannot be too picky in a tough labor market. It is also true that positions tend to open up more frequently at bad places. The good positions do not become available as often because people instinctively know they have a good job and are not likely to give that up very easily.

Every person is different and you have to weigh your own personal situation and decide what is best for you. So unless you absolutely have to, you should decline to work in a bad environment. But if you are in a really desperate financial situation, you should be open to all options. At least for as long as you can find something better and move on.


I once worked for a very large employer with many different units. Walking past the cubicles, I was amazed at the stark differences between some units. Some barely saw any employee turnover. It was always the same faces year after year. The only time somebody left was when they had become eligible for retirement. Other units resembled a revolving door with people constantly coming and going.

The key is to always do your own due diligence. Always know what it is that you are getting yourself into. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Make sure to evaluate any employer and you will save yourself a lot of grief.



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