The culture we work in has a major impact on our mental and emotional well-being as well as the level of enjoyment we experience professionally. As we come into a new workplace, how can we determine if the culture is toxic or healthy?

I recently read an article by Charlotte Colombo in which she identifies the one question candidates should ask during their job interview to avoid working in a toxic workplace:

“Tell me about the person on your team

that’s most different from you.”

We refer to this as the green fish question.

How an interviewer responds to the green fish question can present red flags about the organization’s workplace culture.

Implies a Healthy Culture                               Implies a Toxic Culture

Positive response                                            Negative response

Praises their colleague                                    Makes fun of colleague

Talks about complementary skills                  Complains about colleague

Shows self-awareness                                    Implies everyone needs to be the same

It’s a good sign if the interviewer leans forward and shares excitement about how this other person is different. However, it’s a bad sign if they tell you that they just don’t understand the other person and think the person’s differences are a problem.

Other questions that reveal the health of a culture include:

  1. “Tell me what you have changed recently based on feedback from your team.”
  2. “What’s your favorite thing about working here, excluding pay and benefits?” It’s a positive sign if they speak about the company, the atmosphere, and their colleagues, but a concerning sign if they talk about the clients, pay, and benefits.

Regarding the culture you work in, how would you answer the green fish question?

From our green fish team…Willow, Kevin, and Tom.

Paul Bernabei, Director
Top 20 Training