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You put your best foot forward during your job interview. You wear a pressed suit and arrive 20 minutes early. Once you've been working at a place for a while, though, you get a little more comfortable. Maybe you scrounge through the hamper to find a shirt that's not too wrinkled and you slide into your chair just as the clock strikes eight.
Did it ever occur to you that employers might also be hiding their true colors during an interview? The dream job with the friendly boss who has an open-door policy might turn into a nightmare as soon as you sign the offer letter.
Here are six true-life signs that you shouldn't stick around at your new job.
1. You ask your new boss for supplies and she hands you a No. 2 pencil and legal pad -- and nothing else. Not every company has the budget to give you an expense account, a BlackBerry and a cutting-edge laptop, but you should be equipped with the tools necessary to perform your job. A company experiencing financial troubles might be so stingy with supplies that you spend more time worrying about the company books than working.
2. You were shown to a cubicle your first day of work, given a company manual and haven't spoken to anyone since. Any good employer trains new hires during their first few days on the job. Although you might have years of experience, each company has its own procedures and expectations that you won't magically know without some instruction. From the first day, your new employer should make it clear that you have a network of support ready to help you and answer any questions.
3. You get the same reaction every time you tell someone about your new job and employer: Raised eyebrows and "Really? ... Good luck with that." You know better than to believe gossip, but sometimes a company's reputation speaks too loudly to ignore. If friends, colleagues and people in the industry consistently give negative feedback about the company, there's probably a legitimate reason. At the start of your job search, research which companies have the best reputations and which have the worst.
4. After two weeks on the job, you are already halfway to becoming the employee with the most seniority. One of the reasons the country's top companies have employees who have been around for years is that people will stay where they're appreciated and treated well, and they'll leave when they're not. "I joined a firm in St. Louis and learned that the company had seven other employees come and go in the past year," says Sarah, a public relations executive. "What's worse is that it was only a five-person operation. That should have been the first sign that the company was not a great place to work."
5. You answer the phone while the company's secretary is away from her desk and find that the voice at the other end is a collection agency calling for the third time that week. While this sounds unbelievable, this actually happened to one worker, who said other employees at the company were eventually instructed to not answer the phones. "It became a joke with all of us," she says. "We used to run out and cash our checks as soon as we got paid and were always afraid that they were going to bounce!" If you see any signs that your company is in real financial or legal trouble, don't wait for layoffs; get your résumé back out on the market.
6. You notice that every day for the last week, at least one person has run crying from your boss's office. Not every boss is the kind of person you want to be best friends with, but you should show each other respect. If you can't have a conversation with your boss without being yelled at, don't feel obligated to stick around. A good company uses open communication, not fear and intimidation, to get results.
It may take a few days, weeks or even months to realize the new job isn't right for you. The key is to recognize the signs and leave when you can. If you have a bad gut feeling the first morning you report for work, listen to it. Better to move on than to find yourself still waiting for conditions to improve five years from now. E-mail to a friend
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