Interview Your Boss

I have a saying about employment: Your job is only as good as your boss. I have what I think is a pretty typical experience in that most of my bosses have sucked. Some of been just uninspiring to work for. Some have been sexist and even pervy at work. Some were so concerned about covering their own asses, they forget to also protect mine.

I’ll probably mention this frequently on this blog because it’s worth repeating, but I once had a job where I reported to 6 different bosses in 6 months because of all the re-orgs. This was when they were still trying to figure out if the web was a technical operation or a marketing one. I guess that debate is still open. (Psst! The answer is: both!)

It is from this experience from working since I was 14 (that was a long time ago, though I won’t say how long ago) and having many jobs with many bosses at each one that I can speak to my original thesis statement. Even while the economy sucks right now and the job market sucks, if you are getting job offers, there is something you can do about getting a crappy boss – and by extension a crappy job. Interview your boss when he or she is interviewing you.

You have to know that when you take on a job, you are essentially agreeing to commit on some level to the company and the people you work with. As far as that goes, you should feel at least as excited about working there with those particular people as they are to have you join them. If you don’t, you won’t do your best work, and they’ll think you’re lame and will have some buyer’s remorse. You can do yourself and them a favor by taking a job where you fit. The most important fit is between you and your boss.

To determine if you’ll work well together, know what kind of employee you are. Do you enjoy your autonomy? Do you like lots of feedback? Do you need help keeping track of all your projects or are you the most organized person you know? Do you speak your mind and disagree with people higher on the org chart or are you just fine doing just as you’re told? Know that manager-managee relationships become toxic when paired up the wrong way. Micro-managers stifle independent people. Humorless managers may judge someone who enjoys to joke around as ineffective, and that can hurt you when it comes time for performance reviews. The impact is more significant than just a few frustrating meetings.

Keep in mind that when you’re taking a job, you’re agreeing to a relationship, much like dating – except that breakups can be even messier and have more ramifications for you down the road. Know what you need. Make clear how you work and what you look for in a boss, and make that a genuine 2-way interview.

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