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3 ways to spot a bad boss before you take the job

Sharon Florentine | July 16, 2014
Horrible bosses are all too common -- there's even a movie about them. Here, three experts weigh in on how to spot a bad boss before you accept a position and offer tips on how to make sure you're making the right employment choice.

Everyone suffers under a bad manager - morale sinks, productivity tanks, absences increase. Even those above a bad manager in the corporate hierarchy feel the impact; executives must dedicate time to resolving conflicts, and often end up assuming the role and responsibility for those who aren't adequately doing their job, says says Patty Azzarello, CEO of Azzarello Group, and a business advisor, author and executive.

But there are warning signs, red flags to look out for when searching for a job and while interviewing that can identify a bad boss or an untenable work environment before you accept a job.

Do Some Early Detective Work

Your first step should be researching the company online - but go beyond the obvious corporate Web site and Facebook profile, says Craig Bryant, founder and product manager for Kin HR, which provides human resources software solutions for small businesses.

"Before you even start the interview process, research the company online. Go to Glassdoor and other feedback sites to see what current and former employees have to say about the company," Bryant says.

While the comments on sites like Glassdoor aren't entirely objective, you can get a good sense of whether or not employees are happy with the company, their management hierarchy, whether or not there are advancement opportunities, says Johanna Aiken, human resources director at ecommerce solutions company Cleverbridge.

"Especially in the technology arena, it's critical to use social media to your advantage," Aiken says. "Use sites like Glassdoor, sure, but don't discount LinkedIn. Use LinkedIn to do keyword searches and connection searches; reach out to current and former employees and ask if they're happy with the company, do they like their job, that sort of thing. If they've left, ask why," Aiken says.

What you're looking for are patterns of behavior: Does every junior programmer leave that company only to reappear as a senior programmer at a different company? That could be indicative of a lack of advancement or promotion opportunities, says Kin HR's Bryant.

In addition, find out as much as you can about the company culture and work environment, says Bryant. Finding a good fit is as much about character, culture and personality match as it is about hard skills, and it's important to make sure you'll mesh well with the company.

"When we hire, we're looking for character and cultural fit, not just hard skills," says Bryant. "We're looking at who and what that person will eventually become at the company. Are you a freewheeling, work-anywhere night owl? You might not perform at your best for a company with strict nine-to-five hours and not a lot of flexibility, for instance," he says.


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