How do you find a non-abusive workplace?


It seems like all of the (paid) architecture jobs I have had have been at miserable high-turnover workplaces with abusive bosses where most employees stay for less than a year (sometimes well under a year) before burning out or being fired. You're treated as disposable because you are. The firms may often also practice with sketchy ethics or have issues with things like harassment. 

My experiences so far have been with small-midsize firms doing generic/corporate work and work with a little bit of creative or conceptual framing around it, but none of the starchitects people usually call out as having bad workplaces. The hours aren't necessarily even that bad, but every hour can sometimes feel twice as long as it should because of how unpleasant the workplace culture is. 

I keep wanting to quit my current job which is in exactly that kind of a toxic/miserable situation, but I don't know if it's even possible to find something else that's better. I assume I keep getting jobs at firms which have those kinds of environments because they are easier and less competitive to get, but does there exist a tier of firms where those kinds of issues don't happen? If so, how do you get into it?

Apr 9, 22 9:47 pm

Yes, they absolutely exist. With the exception of one manager, nobody at my firm has left for greener pastures since 2013 (holy smokes!). Your best bet is to reach out privately to current or former employees at firms you're interested in. LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, etc etc. 

Apr 9, 22 10:47 pm  · 
3  · 

where do you work?

Apr 18, 22 10:12 pm  · 

Damn, that’s not bad at all.

May 28, 22 8:50 pm  · 

Of course you can reach out, but how do you formulate this question? 'Hey, is your office toxic?' 'Do PMs ever abuse you?'

May 29, 22 3:44 pm  · 

In all seriousness though, what kind of cues can tell you if an office is indeed toxic? I personally doubt if any employee would badmouth their own firm and its management to a stranger. Is it possible to get any of these cues indirectly in the interview stage?

May 29, 22 3:46 pm  · 

High turnover could be a clue, though there's only so much one could infer from LinkedIn.

Even the worst places have their supporters though - those who eventually bought in because they did manage to climb up the ranks, or embraced the culture despite their initial reservations.

May 30, 22 4:06 pm  · 

Reading company reviews on Glassdoor can be helpful as well.  Just know that sometimes firms will have will their people post phony good reviews to offset authentic bad ones.

Glassdoor also can mix up firms with similar/same names.  My office gets reviews posted to our Glassdoor profile that are really about some tech company in Europe with a similar name.

Apr 10, 22 2:57 pm  · 

I can confirm the fact that firms have their staff post fake positive reviews to improve their public image on Glassdoor. Two firms I've worked at do it, and one of them was actually an extremely toxic place

May 29, 22 3:49 pm  · 

Some people also are too lazy or afraid to write a review. There's semi-famous mid size architecture firm where I live (Chicago) and two of my friends worked there - absolute shit show, based on what they were saying. Yet they didn't mentioned anything on Glassdoor, even though I was asking them to do it

May 30, 22 3:33 pm  · 

I feel the same way as you. I wish someone had told me this before I started working but try to get to know as many of your peers and architects are you can. They can tell you about whether an office is good or bad. For example, Morphosis, Steven Holl, Rafael Vinoly and many other starchitects are known for hiring and firing. People rarely post about it because they need the recommendations for their next job or they need to keep their job. Also these offices after they lay you off sometimes offer a severance package where if you accept you can no longer sue them or really talk about it. SOM and many corporate offices are also hire and fire. I've also heard poor things about Standard Architects and MAD in Los Angeles.

However, I have heard good things about Bestor Architecture. Also I had a friend who works at Cover, they are intense but at least they are focused on their work and will accept you if you can show you are talented. Not based on networking like so many other offices.

All of this information is second hand, all of it from coworkers or classmates. I haven't written about any of the offices I've worked at because of the severance packages I mentioned above.

Apr 18, 22 10:47 pm  · 

The key is to be recognized as "talented" and be the best - if you're no, then you get "laid off" (Fired)

Jun 8, 22 2:20 pm  · 

Sorry forgot to mention that one of my classmates from undergrad recommended DIGSAU.

Apr 18, 22 11:00 pm  · 

Perhaps starting here or here? More broadly see also

May 28, 22 4:17 pm  · 

Hi! My name is Arta and I am a student in the Netherlands.
As part of my MSc. Thesis, together with my team we are conducting #research on "Why don't employees leave destructive / abusive supervisors?".

Abusive supervision remains a significant problem in society, and we need your help in order to answer important questions about the sustained nature of this phenomenon. Since we got very few responses, we are in desperate need for more participants. That said, I would really appreaciate if you could help me anyhow in collecting more responses.

Criteria to participate: If you have ever been a victim of destructive / abusive supervision according to the definition provided, please take some time to fill in the survey below:

Thank you in advance!

Jun 7, 22 3:40 pm  · 
1  · 

take a look at this pamphlet that helps understand what is and isn’t fair in the workplace!

Jun 8, 22 8:31 pm  · 
4  · 

have a few questions about clearing that paper jam but that's a pretty good resource there!

Jun 15, 22 12:28 pm  · 
1  · 

do you work in an office? You should try working from  home. It has made things so much better for me. 

Jun 9, 22 10:17 pm  · 

I prefer the office - when we did WFH in 2020, my PA/PM's become belligerent on Slack - too much confusion, ghosting, missed messages - I'm at another firm where we are in the office and there is respect and no confusion - the problem with WTF/WFH is that the day never ends, you're always on call.

Jun 10, 22 12:54 pm  · 

You need to end the day. Walk away. Turn off your messaging. Dont check your email. The world won't end because your colleagues had to wait until the morning.

Jun 10, 22 1:09 pm  · 
1  · 

at that particular firm, if you did that, your PA/PM, the firms principal and HR would call you up on Zoom the following morning to question as to why you didn't respond to the e-mail at 11:25pm - they didn't mess around, clients where getting impatient, because in 2020, banks where pulling out of projects, many being sold for millions below market. A lot of angry people in 2020.

Not responding had consequences

Jun 10, 22 1:20 pm  · 

I understand. I hope you took that into consideration when you had the ability to reconsider your place of employment.

Jun 10, 22 1:28 pm  · 

After that, I would GlassDoor firms I was applying to - Careful to choose firms where there were at least hybrid office/WFH situations - I would ask questions in interviews. If it was remote only, then I moved on to the next.

Jun 10, 22 2:03 pm  · 
1  · 

They exist, often do not need to hire b/c a) they have high retention and b) can hire through references (and are often protective of their culture)

How to find them: word-of-mouth is likely your best bet - identify who's happy and where they work / where people in your experience bracket stay for longer periods of time.  In interviews ask questions that give you insight into culture: turnover rates, how much people socialize (inside and outside office), work hours, compensation rates / fairness; interview past employees (the more casually you can do this, the better).

How to set yourself up as an attractive candidate. Be a team player, and get a good reputation as a someone people want to work with (clients/consultants can be great resources if you keep good relationships with them).  Get good at tasks that are critical for the success of projects and firms - asking firm owners and other senior staff what they want in employees in non-work settings is a good habit to be in (at events like AIA or other professional group settings where mentoring may happen).

Jun 14, 22 5:44 pm  · 
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This is the single best piece of advice I've ever encountered on this site. It's all true. Listen to this.

Jun 16, 22 11:16 pm  · 
arhiarhi design group

Depends on the head. Listen to the CEO talk to the pizza delivery guy and how he handles it. Then u will see how he is with everyone.

Jun 18, 22 2:27 pm  · 

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