Are You an HSP Applying for Jobs? How to Spot a Toxic Work Environment

If you’re a highly sensitive person (HSP) looking for a job, though it’s overwhelming process, it’s also a great opportunity to use your deep intuition.

Not only are you most likely looking for a job that allows you to use your skill set to the fullest, but a company’s culture and work environment is just as important (skills can always be learned — especially in a healthy workplace). 

Applying for multiple jobs is tremendously time-consuming. That’s the reality, but there are ways to get smart on which jobs you apply for, so that you’re on the right path to finding the right position and work environment that fits your needs.

Over the years, I have learned my lesson on reading job descriptions closely. Many times, you don’t really know what a company is like until you start working for them. At that point, you put in a lot of time and effort into landing the job, so it can be hard to back out (Note: but you always can and sooner the better, if the job isn’t what you expected or you see signs of toxicity right away). 

In the past, I have definitely applied for a lot of jobs, and at the same time, I was in the position to write job descriptions and hire people. Through my experience being on both sides, I have found a few red flags that are so commonly seen in job descriptions and the descriptions for company cultures. 

What I’ve learned is you can understand a lot about a company and the role you’re applying for all from the words and phrases used to describe the role, the culture, and the work environment.

How? Read between the lines.

Toxic phrases used in job descriptions

A job description can tell you whether or not a company has strong emotional intelligence.

It’s tempting to just scroll through to the requirements and qualifications, then apply for the job. But reading how they describe the culture and the words used to illustrate job duties is so important. 

Some things on a job description are written to lure the best candidates in, but they lack authenticity. This only leads to the best employees feeling stressed in their first three months and eventually quitting.

In my experience, here are three phrases that I have seen in job description that scream “toxic.” 

1. “Work hard, play hard.”

This is often used in the tech / startup world, but it became a really “trendy” phrase to use when identifying a fun and engaged culture. However, in my experience this phrase is a hidden message. It really means that you will not only be expected to put in the long hours, but you will also be expected to attend all the social events. 

The company and the people care about whether or not you can “hang.” They expect you to possibly have drinks with clients or attend weekly happy hours with the team. Don’t ever confuse this with “team building.” Though it’s absolutely important to build some sort of bond with your co-workers, especially if you depend on each other to get work done. But you don’t have to ever be expected to party with the work crew all night – and still be expected to show up for work the next morning.

If you’re sensitive to being around alcohol, this is most definitely a job to avoid.

2. “We are family.”

Though I believe that some companies mean no harm by this, and I want to believe that it’s used to illustrate the importance of respect and inclusivity — “we have each other’s backs,” “we’re loyal,” “we’re bonded.”

But here’s the thing. Unless you’re a family member working for your family’s business, most likely your employer is not your family. At the end of a day, a profit-based business is about making money. If sales aren’t going well, the economy is crashing, or your employer believes you’re no longer fit for the job – you can be laid off, fired, or whatever else — yet it’s not personal. 

Family is personal. Business is not.

This is a hard thing for an HSP to swallow. We want to connect on a deeper level — whether it’s with the company’s mission or a co-worker. 

You can still feel strongly about a company’s mission, which is a big reason to say “yes” to a job as it’s a big motivator for HSPs. And yes, you can definitely build bonds with the people you work with. Just remember, it’s not family. The company for and the people you work with is a different type of relationship. 

I do want to make note that many people I’ve worked in the past with became long-term friends. In fact, every job I have ever had I made one or two friends. My best friend (who I think of as family) is someone I met while working at a toxic environment. We always got along really well, but we didn’t truly open up to each other and become close until after we both left the job.  

“This job requires the ability to multitask”

Time and time again, science has proven that there’s no such thing as multitasking. If you believe it’s a thing, do your sensitive-self a favor and read this.

Multitasking became a productivity love affair. The idea of multitasking is used to describe someone who can do many things at once (how lovely!). However, in most cases, the most successful people don’t “multitask” — they delegate (which is a great skill to have and understand how to do right without taking advantage of others). 

Multitasking is a fancy way of saying: “We want you to do the job of three different people and do all three jobs very well.”

I do believe that there is an opportunity for people first starting their career to dabble in a few different things to really understand what they want to do, but if you know your skill set and know how you want to make a contribution, then being in a job where you’re expected to constantly “multitask” will only lead to burnout — with nothing accomplished or to show for. 

The dark side of company values

Another thing to look out for is a company’s written values. Since personal values help guide us towards our goals, values are just as important for a company to reach theirs. Most companies these days will include their values in the job description and/or on their website. 

It became “trendy” to have a mission, vision, and values in a company. Yet these three leadership must-haves have always been best practices in building a profitable and successful company that people love working for.

But with today’s working generation prioritizing a company’s” “why” to be a top factor in saying “yes” to the job (which is great news for HSPs), unfortunately company’s have taken advantage of it. Many companies use values to lure employees in with what they want to hear, only to disappoint employees once they find out that the values don’t align with the company’s real culture at all. 

When reading company values, look out for the phrases listed above, as well as vagueness. There are certain values that should be mandatory in a company culture and can go without saying, such as: integrity, respect for others, diversity, and inclusivity. If these are words used in a company’s written values — you have to wonder if the company is overcompensating for what they don’t offer.

Listen to your gut 

At the end of the day, it’s about how a job makes you feel. Are you excited to apply for the job? Did you like the people who interviewed you? Do you have an understanding of what will be expected out of you? Did you get a good sense of the work environment? 

The above red flags are based on my experience. I’m sharing them with you to encourage you to keep your eyes and ears open, and to always read between the lines. 

I do believe most companies mean well. But if you are an HSP reading this that’s currently in a leadership or HR position, know that words and phrases matter. Also, be honest when writing about your company culture and the role. You’ll be able to significantly improve your employee retention rate — guaranteed!

As an HSP, your job requires meaning, a healthy environment, opportunity, and much more — you deserve it. 

Remember to use your intuition and know that the right job is out there for you. If it’s not, you always have the opportunity to create it. 

What do you believe are red flags when searching and applying for jobs?

1 thought on “Are You an HSP Applying for Jobs? How to Spot a Toxic Work Environment

  1. Pingback: 4 Ways HSPs Can Prevent Burnout | Tonia Moon Coaching

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