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Can You Spot a Bad Boss Before You Take a Job?


When it comes to your personal happiness, who you work for might be more important than what you actually do. The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics reports that 2 million people voluntarily leave their jobs each month, even with unemployment well above 7 percent, and a study from Accenture finds that 31 percent of those people quit because they didn’t like their manager. Obviously, it behooves us to figure out, during the interview stage, whether a hiring manager will be a good or bad boss. But how can we tell?

Normally, in interpersonal situations, you might be tempted to go with your gut. But since your gut is likely full of pre-interview butterflies, look for these signs that your interviewer will not be a good boss:

1. He’s disrespectful.

Sure, you want the job, but the interviewer shouldn’t treat you like a supplicant looking for a handout. The interview is as much about you testing him as him testing you.

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“Don’t overlook unprofessional behavior, such as emails that aren’t returned or disregard for stop and start times for the interview without apology,” says Anna Maravelas, author of “How to Reduce Workplace Conflict and Stress,” in an interview with “These mini-moments are microcosms of your potential supervisor’s style.”

2. She uses “you” when talking about negative parts of the job, and “I” when claiming credit.

You can learn a lot about a potential boss by the pronouns she chooses. Performance consultant John Brubaker tells Forbes that interviewees should watch out for little slips of language that indicate that the interviewer likes to deflect blame or hoard all the glory to herself.

3. His management style doesn’t work for you.

Alison Green of Ask a Manager recommends asking about the interviewer’s management style, right off the bat, using questions like:

– “What type of person works best with you, and what type of person doesn’t do as well?”

– “What do you think staff members would say if asked to describe your management style?”

– “How do people you manage know what they’re doing well and where they can improve?”

Of course, it’s possible to lie about one’s management style, but there’s not much point. Even if the hiring manager paints herself in glowing terms, her choice of words will give you some indication of what you could expect if you took the job. And that’s a lot better than just going with your gut.

Tell Us What You Think

How do you know when an interviewer will be a bad boss? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

More From PayScale

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3 Characteristics of a Bad Boss

3 Ways to Deal With a Bad Boss

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(Photo Credit: tedmurphy/Flickr)

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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