Green Flags in Job Listings and Interviews: Looking for a positive workplace culture
On the hunt for a psychologically safe workplace
When searching for a new job, it can be hard to gauge if the organization has a healthy company culture. In this blog, we’ll cover some green flags to look out for when pursuing job listings (and nailing the interview process) so you can join a company that supports a psychologically safe working environment.
What is psychological safety?
In short, psychological safety is the ability to show and employ one’s self without the fear of negative consequences of self-image, status, or career.
What psychological safety actually means, according to Dr. Amy Edmondson (the HBS professor who coined the term), is a shared belief held by all members of a company, department, or team that people are safe for interpersonal risk-taking. In the workplace, psychological safety looks like this:
- Mistakes aren’t held against you
- You feel comfortable bringing up tough issues
- Team members feel included regardless of differences
- You can take risks without fear of retaliation
- You can ask for help
- The team builds each other up rather than undermining efforts
- You feel that your skills and expertise are valued and utilized
How to detect a psychologically safe culture before you start the job
As Miley Cyrus reminds us, “nobody’s perfect,” and that applies to organizations too. Everywhere has flaws and challenges, but some places have a greater capacity to address these obstacles. When a company prioritizes psychological safety as the foundation of its culture, it leads to a healthy workplace with happy employees. Here are our tips for hunting these unicorn companies.
Before you even start searching, know your values
Nothing is better than working for a company whose values align with yours. That could be how they go about their workplace culture or even who they have partnerships with, but finding that common ground is a great sign of a psychologically safe environment. You can prepare yourself before actively looking for a job by diving deep into the company's website and socials. If you like what you see, you can ask some follow-up questions during the interview or even within your application.
Green flags in a job listing that indicate a psychologically safe workplace
Next time you’re pursuing job postings look for these six things that exhibit a psychologically safe culture. They might save you some serious headaches down the road.
🧘 Free of jargon
Think of a job listing as a first impression. If the description is free from BS, like empty phrases or the buzzwords “team player,” “self-starter,” and “proactive,” it says that the company values clear and thoughtful communication. That’s super important when nurturing an environment that encourages employees to talk about tough issues or concerns, the foundation of a psychologically safe culture!
💸 Transparent compensation
If you see compensation or a salary range in the job listing, it’s usually a good sign. It shows that the company values your time because they aren’t asking you to apply for a position that doesn’t align with your expectations. But most importantly, salary postings are directly tied to pay equity. Since the wage gap disproportionally affects female candidates and people of color, transparent compensation eliminates guesswork and blind negotiations. This could indicate that the culture is psychologically safe because the company aims to promote inclusiveness and equality.
💬 Clear interview process
It’s the best feeling when an interview process is published in its entirety - the deadline for applications, when you should hear back, and the next steps. While this seems like a minimum requirement of any job listing, you’d be surprised at how few postings actually map out the process. But when they do, it shows a general overall thoughtfulness and organizational design, which ensures that the company values your time, skills, and expertise.
🌱 Opportunities for development
One of the most exciting (and maybe nerve-racking) parts about a new job is being able to collaborate with and learn from other industry experts. Explaining the skills you’ll be learning in the position is a great indicator of a psychologically safe workplace because it implies that the culture builds up employees rather than undermining efforts.
💡 A learning curve
A job posting that acknowledges you won’t (and can’t) know everything coming into the position indicates that the culture expects that you’ll need some initial guidance. That could mean they anticipate you’ll ask questions, make mistakes, and take risks - all great signs of a psychologically safe workplace.
🌴 Vacation and working hours
Everyone needs a break and to feel safe taking one. A healthy workplace culture will encourage employees to rest, relax, and decompress, whether that means taking a vacation, respecting unavailable statuses, or refraining from sending emails or slack messages after working hours. In a job posting, clarifying healthy working expectations signals a positive culture because employees are expected to care for themselves. This leads to individuals who can personally contribute to creating a psychologically safe culture by entering the workplace with a clear head. It takes more than leaders to build a psychologically safe culture, and rest periods are a way to keep employees supporting each other when they come back to work cool, calm, and collected.
The job listing passed the test, but now what?
So how do you know if a company actually practices what they preach? Asking some targeted questions during the interview process can be a telling indicator. Here are some examples:
- Can you tell me of a time when a person made a mistake and how the team handled it?
- How do you typically onboard employees?
- How are remote/hybrid employees integrated into the company culture?
- What do you wish you would have known before you joined the company, good and bad?
- What do you consider a “great” employee at this company?
- What makes people stay at this company?
Remember that when you’re interviewing for a job, you’re also interviewing the company just as much as they’re interviewing you. So don’t be shy with your questions.
Everyone wants different things when sifting through a job listing. It all depends on your individual values and how you align with a company. But generally, psychological safety is the foundation of any other green flag - knowing you can speak up, take risks, and make mistakes. By understanding what psychologically safe signs to look for in a job listing, you can weed out potentially toxic workplaces and teams.
Happy job hunting!