5 ways to spot a bad boss in an interview


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5 ways to spot a bad boss in an interview

  1. 1. 5 Ways to Spot a Bad Boss In An Interview.Stephanie Taylor Christensen, ContributorA boss can literally, make or break your career. Here are five ways tospot the bad ones before they become yours.A great boss can make you feel engaged and empowered at work, will keepyouout of unnecessary office politics, and can identify and grow your strengths.But a bad boss can make the most impressive job on paper (and salary)quicklyunbearable. Not only will a bad boss make you dislike at least 80% of yourweek,your relationships might suffer, too. A recent study conducted at BaylorUniversity found thatstress and tension caused by an abusive boss “affects the maritalrelationshipand subsequently, the employee’s entire family.” Supervisor abuse isn’talwaysas blatant as a screaming temper tantrum; it can include taking personalangerout on you for no reason, dismissing your ideas in a meeting, or simply,beingrude and critical of your work, while offering no constructive ways toimproveit. Whatever the exhibition of bad boss behavior, your work and personallifewill suffer. Merideth Ferguson, PH.D., co-author of the study and assistantprofessor of management and entrepreneurship at Baylor explains that “itmay bethat as supervisor abuse heightens tension in the relationship, the employeeisless motivated or able to engage in positive interactions with the partnerandother family members.”There are many ways to try and combat the effects of a bad boss, includingconfronting him or her directly to work towards a productive solution,suggesting that you report to another supervisor, or soliciting the help ofhuman resources. But none of those tactics gurantee improvement, andquiteoften, they’ll lead to more stress. The best solution is to spot a bad
  2. 2. boss—before they become yours! Here are five ways to tell whether yourinterviewer is a future bad boss.Move up Move down1. Pronoun usage. Performance consultant John Brubaker says that the topverbaltell a boss can gives is in pronoun choice and the context it is used. If yourinterviewer uses the term “you” in communicating negative information (such as,“you will deal with a lot of ambiguity”), don’t expect the boss to be amentor.If the boss chooses the word “I” to describe the department’s success—that’s ared flag. If the interviewer says “we” in regards to a particular challengetheteam or company faced, it may indicate that he or she deflectsresponsibilityand places blame.2. Concern with your hobbies. There is a fine line betweengenuine relationship building, and fishing for information, so use yourdiscretion on this one. If you have an overall good impression of thepotentialboss it may be that he or she is truly interested in the fact that you areheavily involved in charity work, and is simply getting to know you. On theother hand, the interviewer may be trying to determine whether you havetoo manycommitments outside of work. The interviewer can’t legally ask if you aremarried, or have kids, so digging into your personal life can be a clever waytounderstand just how available you are.3. They’re distracted. The era of email, Blackberries andsmartphones have made it “okay” for people to develop disrespectfulcommunication habits in the name of work. Particularly in a frenziedworkplace,reading email while a person is speaking, multi-tasking on conference callsandchecking the message behind that blinking Blackberry mid-conversation hasbecomethe norm of business communications. But, regardless of his or her role inthecompany, the interviewer should be striving to make a good impression—whichincludes shutting down tech tools to give you undivided attention. If yourinterviewer is glancing at emails while you’re speaking, taking phone calls,
  3. 3. orlate to the interview, don’t expect a boss who will make time for you.4. They can’t give you a straight answer. Caren Goldberg,Ph.D. is an HR professor at the Kogod School of Business at AmericanUniversity. She says akey “tell” is vague answers to your questions. Listen for pauses,awkwardness,or overly-generic responses when you inquire what happened to the personwhoheld the position you are interviewing for, and/or what has created the needtohire. (For example, if you are told the person was a “bad fit,” it mayindicatethat the workplace doesn’t spend much time on employee-development, andblamesthem when things don’t work out).You should also question turnover rates, how long people stay in givenroles,and what their career path has been. All of these answers can indicate notonlyif the boss is one people want to work for, but whether pay is competitive,andemployees are given a career growth plan.5. They’ve got a record. Ask the potential boss how long heor she has been at the company, in the role, and where he or she workedbeforecoming to it to get a feel for his or management style, and whether it’swhatyou respond to. For example, bosses making a switch from a largecorporation toa small company may lead with formality. On the other hand, entrepreneurstendto be passionately involved in business, which can be a help or a hindrance,depending on your workstyle.Goldberg also recommends searching the site eBossWatch, where you readreviews that former employees have given to a boss. If you’re serious abouttheposition, she also suggests reaching to the former employee whose spot youareinterviewing for, and asking for their take on the workplace. (LinkedInmakes
  4. 4. this task easy to do). The former employee’s recount may not necessarilyreflectyour potential experience, but it can help you to determine whether his orherdescription of the job and company “jives” with what the potential boss said.