Nearly every millennial can attest to “amazing work culture.” You know the kinds of companies we’re talking about. The ones who lure unsuspecting employees under the guise of free lunches, board game nights, and dogs in the office. But, under all the cake and watermelon, something seems amiss. These people share when they knew they had to leave their workplace.
#1 It’s Not About the Money
I knew it was time to go during a meeting with our CEO. I heard him tell us that, “compensation is only one part of the employment experience” during an earnings call. People were calling him out about underpaying his employees, and he was attempting to save face and answer complaints. We even reported record profits that year.
#2 Donuts for Pay
I had an unpleasant experience working at an internship back in the day. I know that a few internships can be tough, but, at the end of it all, I learned one valuable lesson. Apparently, “we work hard and we play hard” means “we want you to work 75-hour weeks, but sometimes we’ll put donuts in the breakroom.”
#3 About Those Games...
This happened in a company from a neighboring building. They had an entire area devoted to foosball, pinball, billiards, console gaming, and video booths on the ground floor. It was clearly visible because of the glass windows on street level. Oddly enough, nobody ever used them. The place was almost always empty save for a few people who used the internet kiosks.
When I learned a friend worked there, I asked why nobody would want to take the opportunity to use the awesome-looking recreational facility. He told me that people who do use the facility often found it used against them during performance evaluations, even when their use wasn't excessive at all. After a while, word got around and they started avoiding the place altogether. The irony is that their recruitment ads always touted a culture of "work hard, play hard."
#4 Wasting Money
The place I’m just about to leave bought a pool table for the "breakout space" earlier in the year. It's horrible, cheap and not fun to use. I've seen colleagues get ushered back to their desks part way through a game because they were in danger of overstaying their lunch break. This company always made sure to show potential new hires that they have it, though! They also bought an Xbox with no games and then complained about wasting money because nobody uses it. Umm…?
#5 But You Can Never Leave
I went on a work trip for training on a software suite that my employer bought. While there, I marvelled at all the amenities this software company had. Things like a fully-stocked kitchen with automatic coffee machines, a continental breakfast bar, snacks of all kinds just to take, and lunch ordered in most days. Video game consoles were stuck in various corners, both arcade units and home systems. All kinds of stuff.
Then I realized, of course, they had an ulterior motive. The easier a company makes it easy for employees to stay at the office, the more they expect employees will. And of course, no employees were actually playing video games at any point. At least, none that I saw over the course of a few days of training.
#6 Cancel Christmas
"We have a great culture! Lots of team lunches and drinks!" Yet, when I started, our boss had banned the social club, birthday celebrations, took away the Christmas party, the Christmas break period, and tried to prevent people from talking to each other. All the while, she'd take every second day off and had long weekends every weekend.
We had maybe three team lunches in the time I was there. She always made sure to tell us that we wouldn't be paid for anything over our lunch break, even though she came as well. We had to submit manual timesheet corrections to remove the amount we took. I thought, “Okay, fair enough. But, can't you just let it slide? It's not your money and we're talking maybe 20 minutes here.”
A client also invited me to their Christmas party due to our close relationship and my good work on their files. She then had the nerve to call and inform them that I wasn't allowed to go. In the end, she told me I couldn’t go because she was concerned I might reflect badly on the department. It was ironic, really.
#7 Little Lushies
I worked at Lush for over two years. The cult is real. I had a nice, belittling boss calling us ”my little darlings,” ”my little lushies,” and ”my little rockstars.” I also had a one-on-one meeting where the boss yelled at me, accusing me of not loving all the products. She was furious! After that meeting, she had her eyes on me during all product introduction meetings.
For instance, it was frowned upon when you didn’t praise a new bath bomb to the sky for its glorious features. The norm was to scream, ”Ooh! My God, this is amazing!” every time a product contained glitter. You’d get so-called bonus points if you knew the background information behind all the products, regardless of how useless.
You were supposed to learn all product information on your days off. If you worked six hours a week, you were still expected to know the information of 100+ products, which only came from the company’s website. Overall it was a good company, though. But I just had to leave because it was a little too weird for me.
#8 Lack of Safety
I worked at B&Q (essentially the British Home Depot) and one of my colleagues was viciously attacked by a customer. I was completely shaken. The next morning, we were taken into a big room and made to sign a document saying we wouldn't sue them. If we didn't sign, we'd lose our jobs. Also, my colleague was attacked only a month after they got rid of our security guard to save money.
#9 Glassdoor Reviews
Our CEO sent out an internal email whining about people posting bad reviews on Glassdoor. He said that we should keep our feedback in-house. Yeah, guy. You're cutting every department past the bone to cut costs. It was obvious he wanted to raise share price so he could sell the company and make eight figures when his options vest. Clearly, he was going to care about my criticism of his "strategy."
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#10 Daily Matches
I was at a fast casual restaurant for a couple of months. The general manager always talked about the culture. You know what's a great culture? When the morning and night shifts have daily screaming matches over stuff they accuse the other one of needing to do. It was impressive just how incompetent the entire company was, from ownership down.
#11 Family Business
My husband worked for two weeks for a "family owned and operated" business that touted how important "family" was. My husband was on his way to drop off our two-year-old son at daycare before work. Unfortunately, our son threw up all over himself. So, my husband called his employer to tell them what happened and that he needed to take our son home to clean him up. But, he reassured them that he'd be in ASAP.
His manager told him he needed to get his priorities straight. My husband responded with, "You know what? You're right, I won't be back in at all." He was still working part-time at his previous job where they had been sad that he was leaving. So, he called them and told them to put him back on the schedule full-time. The "family" business is currently in the process of liquidating assets before going out of business. I cackle every time I drive past it.
#12 Too Flashy
Last year, I worked as a subcontractor and was assigned a new place of work. Just two weeks after I started, the new boss wanted to hire me. He put down the contract where — compared to my current contract — pay was down 25%, average weekly hours went up by 20%, vacation days went down by 10% and I wouldn't have a company car for personal use anymore. Before he actually handed me the contract to read, he said, "I will only make you this offer once, but it's only valid if you change all your pictures on your social media and you sell your car. It's too flashy for our company."
#13 God-like CEO
This is for a flight centre headquartered in Brisbane Australia, but they’re a global company trading under many names. Everything about the company internally screams cringe. Everyone treats the CEO like a god. They use his name in a lot of different puns and play on words. People think it’s cute and funny, but I think it’s ridiculous.
#14 ‘Cause I’m Happy
My “saw the light moment” was when I went to an after-hours party with my firm. The firm’s “fun committee” handed out song sheets. A choir of employees, led by a bad guitarist, sang a song about how great the firm was to the tune of “Happy” by Pharrell. We were expected to sing along. It was at that moment I realized I was in a cult.
#15 Your New Job
I had to phone the corporation leaders to find out why none of the mechanics I interviewed were hired. The mechanics had come from all over the country, and some had waited patiently for months to know if they got the job or not. Turned out, the CEO had changed his mind and wanted me to take care of all mechanic work (I was a factory manager). But, they knew I’d be upset, so neither he, HR or the COO wanted to be the one to tell me.
#16 The Late Shift
I worked at this business that was real keen on telling everyone they were like a family. They’d chastise me for not going to company parties, but also refused to pay overtime and expected me to work late several times a week. Additionally, they wanted a 14-hour day, twice a month, for stocktale at the end of the month. Apparently, because we were a family, we were all expected to chip in on the big days, except it was literally just us bottom-tier workers who had to stay late. I quit that place and never looked back.
#17 Changing Locations
I worked for a company that prided itself on being in the top 100 places to work in the U.S. They bought the hospital I was working for while I was doing IT work there. For a year, they let me stay at the current hospital where I worked. I worked with a team for countless hours getting ready to switch out IT infrastructure over to match the places new software.
We also changed out all 900 computers at our location. After that was done, I was then told that in the next few months I’d have to commute to the main campus to keep my job. It was a drive that was over five hours, roundtrip. They did not offer a transfer or even pay compensation for driving there. I was literally forced to quit at this point.
#18 Incoming Changes
Our university's vice president explained that the goal of every tenured faculty member was to write enough grants to pay our salaries and replace us with TAs. Every semester, ideally every undergrad class. Also, we'd be under a hiring freeze but could feel free to "be creative" and use temporary grant money to hire tenured faculty. Also, we'd all be paying an extra $250 a year in parking fees to fund a new student parking lot. Dear Lord, was I glad I'd already decided to leave.
#19 An Ultimatum
My old company was bought out by an equity group. We knew pretty quickly how things were going to change. The new president, who was on a call with thousands of employees said, "We have two kinds of employees: those that work a tremendous number of hours, and those that that should find another company to work for."
#20 New Offices
My last job was at an independent school in the UK. During a period of “streamlining,” the entire faculty was called into a hall and told, in upbeat terms, that we were struggling to make ends meet. Salaries were too high, perks were too abundant and spending was unsustainable. For clarity, salaries weren't too high and perks were practically non-existent.
Spending was definitely unsustainable, however. In part because they were spending hundreds of thousands redesigning the senior staff offices to hide all the cabling and install “proper” wood paneling. They didn't even get as far as telling me what they planned to do with my job and pay - I was gone in less than three months.
#21 You Don’t Need a Degree
My district manager told me to talk my key holder out of going back to college. Mind you, she wanted to be a doctor. They were proud that no one had degrees. That’s fine, but I’m not working 45+ hours a week and mandatory holidays just to sell some shoes. The loyalty my coworkers had was so cringeworthy. They didn’t understand how we were being taken advantage of because we didn’t get our degrees.
#22 Have a Seat
I was in sales and worked in an alright office. We had a keg in the break room that we could get to on Fridays. One day, they brought all the salesmen into the break room and told us all to grab a drink. They then told us until the rest of the year, we weren't going to be paid commissions. Our commissions made up about 70% of our money. Four of us just got up and left.
#23 Not as it Seems
I worked at a popular travel stop; it's practically a state icon. They’re famous for their good wages for a low-income job. There's a huge sign over every entry with the starting wages around $13.00 an hour in a state where minimum wage is $7.25. Customers think it's a great place to work. Well, they literally fired a girl for having a stroke.
#24 We’re a Family
I once worked for a company that always told us, "We treat our employees like family!” Yet, they’ll ignore harassment claims, hire from outside the company, refuse to give out decent pay, and will write you up for doing overtime. And yet, the CEO just bought himself a nice new BMW. Honestly, I hate that place.
#25 The Best Hospital
I worked at an animal hospital that wanted to be the best hospital in the city. It had the most modern equipment, looked incredible inside, had good Yelp ratings, etc. On top of that, we were told during hiring that we were a huge family and everyone loved each other. This couldn’t be more wrong. This place was the epitome of superficial. The turnaround rate was out of control and people absolutely hated each other.
Moreover, the pay was horrible, even though we charged double the amount of any other hospital for our “extensive care.” We couldn’t talk about our concerns because it was considered “gossip” and people were fired frequently for this. Apparently, they’ve now put audio recording throughout the hospital to listen in on employees' conversations. I honestly don’t know how anyone still works there.
#26 Thanks for Everything
I was in management and got the message that bonuses for the last financial year were severely cut across the business. We were probably going to receive 30% of our total potential at best. We then attended our financial end-of-year results meeting and were told that net profits were up by 18%. It was the best performance in years, all thanks to us. Okay, I’m planning on leaving now.
#27 Company Cheer
When I went to my first corporate managers rally, I thought it would be cool. There was a free catered lunch and it counted as a work day. Then, they started the rally with the company cheer. At first, I thought, “What? We're adults, why are we cheering?” I looked around and way too many people were into this cheer. I realized that job wasn't going to be for me.
#28 Cheapskate Architects
This is what the woman who interviewed me once said: “Here at Cheapskate Architects, we don't often do all-nighters for our customers, but when we do, it's a real pizza party! Also, we don't pay overtime, we do it for the love. And your wage is $22,000, even though you’re an architect. Also, I won't be there because I'm HR management and I'm married to the director. Yes, we need an HR department even though there are three employees.”
#29 Blaming the Employees
We once had a bit of a problem with a client. Rather than professionally diffuse the situation, the boss decided to dump all of the blame on a 24-year-old woman, who was basically his most loyal employee. He went so far as to make her cry in front of the client, as if that would somehow save the relationship.
#30 Two Weeks’ Notice
A coworker of mine was actually forced to work while her mother was suffering in hospice. Unfortunately, her mother did wind up passing away, after which my coworker decided to quit. Once she handed in her notice, my company went so far as to escort her off the premises like a common criminal. It was so disrespectful.
#31 Work Versus School
I got fired for asking to not be rostered on at times when I have my lab practicals. I want to be a neurochemist and design medication to help treat neurological conditions. If they asked me tomorrow to come back in, I would not. I do not want to work for people who don't want to allow their employees to get their degrees, no matter how much I like my coworkers.
#32 Spa Day
When my boss planned an office day trip to a car show and brewery, he only invited the guys in the office. Even worse, when one of the women said we should all go he said, "No, no, but why don't you girls have a spa day instead!" He also put on a very noticeable accent whenever he talked about his many Asian clients. Obviously there were other issues, but those two stand out.
#33 Smiley Faces
When working at a shoe shop, my assistant supervisor was assessing people's performances. He came to me and said, “You greeted the customer well, so I'm giving you a big smiley face.” He then marked it on his checklist. Then he added, “But the customer didn't buy any shoes.. so I’m just going to mark that as a neutral face.” I got my 50% employee discount on my shoes and just walked away into the sunset.
#34 Free Popcorn
My last job was for a large cinema chain. The incentive of working there was free movies and great culture with the colleagues. This seemed great on paper, there were five pillars of the company, one of them being “fun.” Now, I worked at one of the largest branches in the company, with 50 or so employees at the time. Every morning before we opened the doors, the managers made us huddle together like a football team and gave us our morning pep talk.
They’d tell us, “Alright, guys. Listen up! Today is going to be great! We’ve got a new movie and whoever sells the most promotional items gets a free soda! Woo! Go go go, it’s going to be amazing. Can you top this week's record for best reviews? Whoever gets the most good reviews today gets a free popcorn! Woah!”
Man, I hated it so much. No one cared, but they preached this speech at the beginning of every shift change. They even did this despite the fact that every single employee was completely deadpan. It was like a school care worker trying to get adults to play bricks and build the tallest tower. It was just awful.
#35 Bonus Withheld
My personal moment was when I worked for a call center. I had my ~$2000 bonus withheld because I had to stop taking calls and answer our new hire's questions. My bosses would be MIA for four hours at a time and people needed help. I figured it showed initiative and also kept the operation moving along since I was one of the top 10 reps they had. I was mistaken.
#36 Covering Shifts
I remember being essentially bullied into working 76 hours a week because they couldn’t find other managers to cover the shifts. Yet, of course, when I went on stress leave, they miraculously managed to get all my hours covered with no one else working over 38 hours. I couldn’t believe it, that place was ridiculous.
#37 Higher Up, Lower Pay
When I was promoted multiple times into roles requiring much more skill and knowledge. Yet, my salary actually got smaller because my work wasn't sales-oriented and therefore not making the company any money directly. This was at a multi-million dollar company, where most of the employees didn’t work in sales.
#38 Backpacking in Europe
I worked at Outback. The amount of team meetings and mandatory enthusiasm was ridiculous. I was given the chance to backpack across Europe with some friends for about three weeks one summer. I told my manager and she went, "Three weeks? I don't know. You'll really have to work hard up until then. I'll let you know if you can take that time off." I straight up told her, "It's not if you let me go. It's if you still let me work here when I get back." Yeah, when I got back I immediately started looking for new jobs.
#39 Hotel Worker
I was told by management that because I was part-time, I had to work extra hours. Granted, the money was decent, but the exploitation wasn't very fun. The Hilton and generally working in hotels can be a nightmare. It can be truly rewarding at times, but it's mostly 12-hour days, simply working to please idiots.
#40 Company Credentials
I once got a warning for coming into work without our company credentials and mission statement pamphlet inside my lanyard. We had name "tags" about the size of a playing card on a lanyard with a slot in the back specifically for wearing the credentials. Management wanted the credentials "near our hearts" at all times.
#41 Building Character
I got hired for a company that supposedly treated everyone like family. When trying to acquire an ADA to accommodate for time off, my manager tried to talk me out of it. He said it would look bad on my part. I went through the steps of getting the ADA anyway. I was then threatened with termination for missing days because they “clearly” weren’t related to my illness. I called out my manager for not working with my accommodation, but he just shrugged and said that sometimes getting fired builds character.
#42 Cool Futons
I once worked for a place that got super-modern futons so people who worked all night and slept in the office finally had an actual place to sleep. They made a big deal about it, like it was so cool and nice of them. All they were doing was encouraging more people to sleep in the office and sacrifice their lives.
#43 Filthy Animals
A company I worked with once aired an advert portraying the people who buy our products as anthropomorphized animals. Upper management called everyone in on our days off (unpaid) to gather around and watch this masterpiece before it was shown to the public. In the end, we all just looked at each other, horrified. That is, until one brave soul asked, "So we're saying that our customers are all sub-human, filthy animals?" There were a few "uh oh" looks, but nothing more was said. Someone must have agreed because the adverts didn't last long.
#44 Checklist of Changes
I worked for a cable company once. They spent years talking about how they were better and how well they treated their employees. They then systematically changed all of their policies because "other companies are doing it.” They basically took the list of things we were happy about and used it as a checklist of things to change.
#45 Scoring That Raise
My manager told me that I wasn't getting a pay raise after crushing it in my job. So, I told her that I would start applying for a new job immediately. She tried to pull the culture card, but I said my job was staring at a screen for eight hours a day. I really didn’t care which building I did it in or who sat next to me while I did it. A few days later, I scored a $10,000 pay raise.
#46 Christmas Party
I once worked for a union shop. There were roughly 150 union employees and about 50 company employees. The company always said how the people were their most important asset, yet they segregated themselves by having a Christmas party just for them. Seriously. Literally no one from the union was allowed to attend.
#47 Harlem Shake
A company I worked for did their own Harlem shake video, well after the meme was forgotten about. I didn't leave right after that, but it was a wakeup call. That was the moment that made me realize that maybe this company wasn't as "hip" and "on top of trends" as they claimed to be when I interviewed with them.
#48 Fancy Floor
I didn't get paid for the first month. I kept asking my manager about it and he said he was "working on it." It just so happened the corporate offices were in our building a floor up. I wandered up there before my shift one day. This floor was fancy, with wooden doors and black marble everywhere. I found a random guy and explained my situation. He turned out to be the CFO. I got paid within the hour and my manager gave me mean looks after that.
#49 Ambitious Company
I took a job at an established tech company. Their pitch was that they were a $50 million dollar company looking to be a $200 million dollar company in two years. Pretty quickly I realized it was all nonsense. They were far from $50 million in sales. They were doing about a deal a week. To do $200 million in sales they needed about five deals a day.
Their tech was good, but seriously outdated. The market had passed them by and they didn't even know it. There was a great culture, though. I realized people stayed just because of that. It was a nice place to work (nobody had to work hard) and they had a ton of fun things for the employees. But, culture doesn’t pay bills.
#50 Senior Estimator
I worked for a construction company. I was the sole estimator, but I didn’t really have enough experience to do. That was okay because the director would help me anywhere I was having trouble. I was reasonably happy. Then the company grew and we got a senior estimator to help my workload and oversee things. It was only after our first tender review with the senior estimator (and the director) that he explained to me it wasn’t normal to be screamed at for every mistake and would be resigning ASAP.