As all areas of the US economy continue to show improvement, more and more people will be making moves to new jobs. As such, the chances of working for a new boss increase, and unfortunately so do the chances of working for a bad boss. Whether you are one of the millions who will interview for a new role or one who will be working for a new boss in the coming weeks and months, you may not know how to determine if your new boss fits into the category of boss from hell. There is some good news. Social media and other technology based tools and resources make it a lot easier to conduct your own form of background check. But a few old fashion questions are some of the best tools you can deploy to get a peek inside your boss’ mind. Here are 6 questions you should ask any potential new boss as they can reveal some traits that may just be the wrong fit for you.
Question #1: Of all the people who’ve worked for you, how many have been promoted and how did you help them get promoted?
You want to work for someone who has a history of developing people. A great boss will have many examples of helping former employees take on larger roles and responsibilities and get promoted. If the potential manager talks in general terms and provides very little details about anyone s/he has helped, it may be a warning sign that s/he doesn’t develop employees.
Question #2: Tell me about a time there was a disagreement with your team and another team. What was the situation, and how did you help to resolve it?
Conflict and collaboration go hand in hand in every organization, and the key is to try to determine how healthy the organization’s ability to collaborate is. Bad bosses will be dictators with their own staff and often will stay away from putting themselves directly in the middle of any conflict that could damage their careers. Listen for their involvement (or lack thereof), and ask probing questions based on the story that is shared.
Question #3: In what ways do you and the organization support ongoing employee development? Are there formal mentoring and coaching programs? What resources do you typically support for your employees?
Do your homework first and ask your HR representative(s) about the employee development programs available to employees at the level you’re working at or the level you’ll be entering into the organization. Then ask the hiring manager how s/he supports these programs. If the hiring manager appears to have little knowledge of the programs and cannot provide specific examples of how s/he has developed employees, this would be a clear sign that employee development may not be a priority.
Question #4: Where did the last person in this role go?
Just by asking this very open ended question and closely watching the hiring manager’s body language, you will glean a great deal of information about the past. Listen and watch for signals indicating success – the previous employee was promoted internally or accepted a new role at a different company. Good bosses will speak with pride that someone in their team moved on to bigger and better opportunities. On the flip side, if there are signs of an unpleasant ending to the previous employee’s tenure, it would be extremely important to carefully ask follow up questions to assess what the current state of perception is about the role. Horrible bosses and high turnover rates go hand in hand, and it might behoove you to seek more information about the role and the manager’s contributions to the role’s vacancy.
Question #5: What are three expectations you have of the candidate who fills the job?
Horrible bosses will talk in very vague terms when responding to this question. The key would be to ask a follow up question seeking specific details of the expectations stated. For example, if the hiring manager states, “demonstrate trust and respect” or “live our values”, ask for more specific details and watch the verbal and non-verbal signals. If you see clusters of the top 10 potential signs of deception, it might be a good idea to reconsider taking the job.
Question #6: How would you describe your preferences for getting work done?
Listen for signs that would indicate preferences that don’t match yours. Also ask the follow up question, “How do you deal with people whose preferences are different from yours?” If the hiring manager’s responses are fairly generic, this should be a sign of concern because a good manager would be able to tell you very specifically how s/he values diversity and uses it to achieve better results.
By taking the time to ask the right types of questions and to look for the clues that your new manager may not be a good fit for you, you can dramatically decrease the potential for having a very bad employment experience. And in the new, normal economy where competition for great jobs is extremely high, working for a boss who effectively supports your development has become a critical competitive edge for sustainable career success.
If bad bosses are destroying productivity and causing high turnover in your organization or if you want more strategies for detecting bad bosses, email me today at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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