Many companies have matrix-reporting environments. Do you know if the senior executives who will rely on your work and your direct supervisor share a common view of what success in your role means? If not, this is a red flag that a conflict of priorities may hinder your ability to succeed. These situations, however, are not unusual within large companies and are to be expected. What distinguishes healthy environments from highly dysfunctional ones and what impacts the level of influence you will have on achieving success, are the dynamics used to resolve these management differences or to address frequent changes in priorities.
If no one can tell you what success in the role looks like, try to obtain specifics on how priorities are set. Are priorities based on an organizational business case or does the rank of a particular executive carry the day based on his or her organizational status and business-specific agenda? While the ability to adapt easily to rapidly changing environments is a skill that many professionals need to have to advance one’s career, make sure you are comfortable with the dynamics that drive frequent changes in priorities, decision-making and the level of influence you will have on the work you are expected to deliver.
Exploring these red flags during the interviewing process will help you determine if you will be entering a healthy environment where you can thrive or a highly dysfunctional workplace where you will be limited in your ability to succeed. Unfortunately, these dysfunctional situations exist all too frequently, even within pockets of some of the best-known large employers. Many of these companies are recognized among the ranks of the best places to work. Their reputations as “employers of choice” make it easy for you to put blinders on when your professional instincts tell you to dig further so you understand the playing field before you accept the offer. If you are interviewing with a highly reputable organization, make sure the workplace environment of the team you will join lives up to the company’s broader reputation.
If any of these five red flags appear as the interviews proceed be sure to follow-up. If management will not give you the answers you need when they are trying to attract you, they will be even less responsive to your concerns once you are hired. Take advantage of the opportunity you have to learn as much as you can during the interviewing process so your new “dream job” does not become a nightmare. A few surprises when you begin a new role are of course inevitable, but hopefully, as a result of your due diligence these challenges will be manageable, and as you settle into your new role you will be well on your way to creating your next success.