Hard work and dedication are no doubt one of the greatest factors that determine your success, but one of the most undermined reasons which contribute to the same is your relationship with your boss and its nature. An able mentor, manager and leader is crucial not only for the organisation and team to deliver great performance, but also for the progress of the individuals, especially in the formative years of their careers. Although everyone goes through at least one job in their life where they have to work under an impossible boss, it is essential to spot a bad boss as early as possible, beginning right at the interview. Here are some techniques, which may help you identify the red flags:
- Do your homework: If you happen to know the name of the person you’ll be working directly with, look them up. What kind of person do they appear to be from their social media accounts? This can also help you identify potential similarities in professional and personal capacities to talk about at the interview. Look for any anomalies in terms of people abruptly quitting when working in their team. Reaching out to such employees over LinkedIn might not be a bad idea. If the boss’ reputation precedes him/her, no matter if it’s positive or negative; you’d want to know, won’t you?
- Their Behaviour: Were they late to the interview? If yes, did they offer an explanation or an apology? Is their office extremely disorganised? Are they coming across as too harsh or too friendly? These questions will help you establish the person’s nature and personality easily. Watch out for how they behave with other employees, for they could be on their best behaviour during the interview, but may put their guard down while interacting with the people who already work in their team, which becomes an opportunity for you to see how they communicate with others.
- The Questions: Are they reading off questions from a list or actually conversing with you? Are they asking the questions which have already been answered on your Cover Letter or CV? Are they asking exceptionally difficult or easy questions? How do they react when you answer correctly or incorrectly? Look out for how the questions are framed, and if the nature of the questions is dominating and assertive, or more free and open. Check how willing they are to explain and engage you during the answer, for it might just be an indication of how likely they are to explain and engage in the future.
- Talk to the colleagues: You’d be surprised to find out how many people are willing to genuinely talk about their bosses with complete strangers. Strike a conversation with people on the team if you get a chance, while waiting or exiting. If possible, request to spend half a day with the team, before reaching a decision. Not only will this help you identify the team dynamics and the role of the boss, but also give you a chance to see first-hand the chain of command, and the nature of communication.
- It’s all in the Details: Are they being evasive about why the last person left the job? Are they confident and clear in explaining your role in the organisation? Are the details about the work being given to you vague? All these are indicators that the person is under-equipped with information, or unwilling to share it. Either way, it reflects poorly on their part. If you aren’t satisfied with the answers you got during a small interaction with them, imagine working all day with them and having ambiguous and unclear answers and directions to guide you.
- Ask the right Questions: More often than not, the interviewer asks the interviewee to ask any questions if they like, and mostly, the latter stays mum, fearing they might come across as a challenge to the authority. But this provides a great opportunity for you to gauge how good of a boss they are. The trick is in framing the right question, and not being blunt or direct. So instead of asking ‘What kind of a leader are you, or why did the last person leave the job’, ask something on the lines of, ‘What is the process to end a disagreement in the team, or how will I learn?’
- Trust your instincts: Most of all go with your instincts. Many a times people put a pin on such red flags, and brush these concerns under a carpet, simply because the remuneration is better or the position is senior, but don’t make that mistake. A bad boss will counter all these perquisites, in addition to claiming your peace of mind. So if you can see yourself working with the person, going to him/her with your concerns and doubts, and expect them to support you, go ahead. If not, it’s better to explore more and find a definitive answer before you accept the job.
In the end, an exhaustive checklist will also fail to do its job, if you are unclear about the kind of mentor and boss you want to work under. So before you begin evaluating your next boss, evaluate the needs of what you want. What leadership and management style do you work best under? The definition of a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ boss changes from person to person, and if you have defined these for your own self, the next step isn’t all that difficult. All the best!