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So I'm on a team where nearly everyone is at each other's throats, and the manager who used to be an engineer can't bring himself to stop doing technical work and taking over people's projects, basically doing them himself, because he has severe control issues.

This is devolving into an extremely toxic mess very quickly. 60% of the team is ready to quit within the first year of hire, some of them within weeks and months, one has quit, and another got fired for losing his cool over the situation.

Would it be unethical to privately warn the incoming hire before they accept the offer?

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    The obvious question is, why are you still there if it is so toxic? – Jane S Jan 15 at 6:46
  • @JaneS, that's not a good question though. Most people don't want to appear like job hoppers. Not to mention that finding a new job takes time unless you are prepared/ can afford to take anything, which for most people with some work experience shouldn't be the case. Not to mention that it's frequently an intransparent situation. You have hopes it will get better, then discover after some time it never has. When I started to search for a new position 6 months into a new toxic job ALL companies I applied at treated this as a sign of job-hopping. I only found something after a year. – BigMadAndy Jan 15 at 7:08
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    @BigMadAndy That depends on how many times you've hopped. The OP hasn't also disclosed the length of time they have been at this place. And if you hop from toxic job to toxic job, you might want to examine more closely what the common factors are. – Jane S Jan 15 at 7:10
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    @BigMadAndy Actually, I haven't :) My question makes no assumptions, it's a question. My previous comment also makes no assumptions; again it poses a question as to how long the OP has been there. It could be three years, it could be six months. Nor have I assumed the OP's location or the cultural factors behind remaining. I simply asked a question, which is very likely what the prospective candidate would ask the OP if they attempt to warn them about onboarding there :) – Jane S Jan 15 at 7:20
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    @BigMadAndy I have to agree with Jane, if anything you're the one that has made assumptions. Jane's question is a reasonable one, and if the OP were to state that they had only been there 6 months and were concerned about appearing to be a job hopper that would be a reasonable answer to her question. – motosubatsu Jan 15 at 9:14
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It is not "unethical" but it is dangerous. Can you really trust the new recruit?

If there is a toxic culture your primary concern should be survival and if possible improving the situation. Not adding to it by putting someone on the defensive from day 1.

Alternatively you could find another job and leave this behind, life is too short to waste in places like that.

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    They have yet to accept the offer – Vashta Nerada Jan 15 at 5:47
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    Dangerous in that the new recruit could be very excited about the opportunity and very excited about the pay and benefits. This recruit could decide to try and get in the 'good graces' of the evil manager and tell that manager about your warning. Now you are out of a job before you have your new one lined up. – Bill Leeper Jan 15 at 15:17
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I have warned people about one job I had. It was a similar situation: People used to start it and quit within one year (not wanting to appear job hoppers) and some still in their probationary period. They all quoted the same reasons. People were employed for positions that never existed and they learned a few days into their new jobs that their job was to e.g. input data into software instead of doing skilled work. Not to mention all the screaming, bullying and manipulation.

I shared this info on the internet in places where people search for this info (similar to glassdoors).

If I had known someone who applied, I would have definitely shared this info too, of course in a factual manner. I think we are humans first, who should have some sense of decency towards one another, only after that: employees.

EDIT: I just remembered I was actually contacted by an unknown person on linkedin who asked me about the company and said he wanted to apply. Given that I didn't know him, I tried to keep my advice general but I did hint at problems.

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    Profile : "BigMadAndy No info since I want to stay anonymous" - if I can't guess your location from your user name, I'll eat my sporran :-) – Mawg Jan 15 at 8:25
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Would it be unethical to privately warn the incoming hire before they accept the offer?

Yes, in my opinion - unless you knew the person before their interview.
The actual answer may vary based on culture / location.

Is this the question you meant to ask:

Should I privately warn the incoming hire before they accept the offer?

If you know them, I would do so.
Don't just say that it is 'toxic' though, describe what it is like to work for them day-to-day and tell them how it makes you feel. The situation may not bother that person.

If you don't know them, no you shouldn't.
If you met them in the interview, that doesn't count as knowing them.

Let your conscience guide you - if you're compelled to tell them then do so. If you're on the fence about it, make sure you think through the possible costs and decide if you're willing to bear them.

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A lot of companies do it already!

They add sneaky labels like "gret GREAT teamwork" and "Experience of work under pressure", "Resilience", "Positive attitude" and so on you might want to add some of these labels or tell them in person in this way recruiters do not hold liability for telling them the work conditions

  • This response has been down voted, but I would say this speaks to the idea that the company has been free to position themselves in any fashion they wish and alludes that would it be no less genuine for someone who knows something about the company to provide related information. – John Spiegel Feb 15 at 19:38
  • Labels like "great teamwork" should be read as if written by an estate agent or realtor : "welcoming entrance hall" ie only just enough room to take a coat off... – Solar Mike Feb 17 at 9:25
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Is it possibly detrimental to you or your position with the company? Absolutely. But being ethical doesn’t mean doing the easy thing.

Is it ethical? IMO, yes. If you knew a door mislabeled “free candy inside” actually led into the cage of a hungry tiger, would it be unethical to tell someone turning the knob about the cat? That’s extremely hyperbolic, but I don’t see why if you earnestly believe the situation to be what it is that it would be unethical to share your opinion with another human who, in your opinion, is walking unknowingly into an ugly situation.

Some might consider it hypocritical for you to continue to accept a paycheck from “the tiger”, but that’s tangential to the specific question.

One caveat, I think there are some fiduciary responsibilities attached to being an officer of a company. In that case, it might be illegal for you (in the US) to act in any fashion that might diminish the profits of the company. IANAL

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If you already have a personal relationship with the person, feel free to tell them as a friend what to expect.

For clarity, your friendship may very well have begun at a previous employer.

Telling some random person I think would be overstepping boundaries. How do you know they wouldn't like an environment you consider toxic.

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