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Signs Your New Boss Will Be a Nightmare to Work For

Updated on April 10, 2017
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I'm a business communications coach who teaches writing, speaking, and leadership skills to adults in the midst of a career change.

Watch for signs during the interview that your boss could be difficult to deal with.

Interviewing for a new job can be a stressful experience and if we are anxious about finding a employment, it's easy to miss the subtle clues that our future boss might be a nightmare to work for.

Courtesy is a two-way street, even in a job interview.

Good manners matter when it comes to choosing your future employer. Did the interviewer give you his/her full attention, or did they seem distracted during the interview?
Good manners matter when it comes to choosing your future employer. Did the interviewer give you his/her full attention, or did they seem distracted during the interview?

Being treated with respect in the workplace starts from the moment you first make contact with a future employer. Looking for work, responding to ads, going to interviews, and following up afterwards takes a lot of time and energy, and you deserve to be treated with respect by prospective employers.

When you're not shown basic courtesies such as the interviewer arriving on time and giving you their full attention, you need to take these as warning signs that even if you did get the job, you could find yourself working for a miserable boss in a miserable office with dismal hope for advancement.

Here are some questions and suggestions to help you determine if the person or company you are being interviewed by will provide a satisfying, stable, and respectful work atmosphere.

Job interviews are a two-way street. All the same rules about interview etiquette that you’ve had drilled into your head should also be expected from the person interviewing you. While you’re being assessed for your skills, aptitudes, and ability to work well with others, you should be assessing your future boss on his or her leadership qualities and personality. For example, if you notice any of these things happening during your interview, you might want to ask yourself this is the person you want supervising you:

  • The interviewer shows up late and seems scattered and disorganized.
  • The interview doesn’t start on time.
  • The interviewer avoids eye contact with you, offers a weak handshake, and shows defensive body language. Signals such as crossed arms, gazing over your head while you talk, drumming fingers on the desk, or fidgeting are signs that the interviewer is not mentally present during the meeting.
  • The interviewer can’t maintain their composure when faced with a visible minority candidate. (A friend of mine who has a visible physical disability told me about an interviewer who, upon seeing her for the first time, raised his eyebrows, cocked his chin and shook his head ever so slightly in a gesture that said, "What are YOU doing here?" My friend excused herself from the interview and declined to waste any more time with that company.)
  • The interviewer is rude and dismissive to other people in the office. If employees are treated badly in front of visitors, how are they being treated behind closed doors?
  • The interviewer allows other people to “pop their head in the door” and interrupt your interview. Unless the building is on fire or someone in the office is having a medical emergency, there are very few good reasons for another employee to interrupt your interview. A boss who allows this to happen is displaying a lack of boundaries and leadership skills. A good leader will make sure that he has given the right people the direction they need to do their jobs while he is devoting time to the very important recruitment process.

The interview is going smoothly. But is this really the ideal job for you? Asking the right questions can help you find out. Even if the person interviewing you is courteous and the meeting flows smoothly, don’t assume that you have a complete picture of what working for this person would be like. Many people are smooth and charming and are able to put people at ease during an initial meeting. But making a good first impression is just one part of the whole picture.

The wise man doesn't give the right answers, he poses the right questions.

— Claude Levi-Strauss

Treat your meeting as though you're interviewing your "would-be" manager and the company. As the interview winds down and you’re asked if you have any questions, seize the opportunity to inquire about organizational culture and your future employer’s leadership style. By asking smart questions now, you can reduce the chances that you'll end up working for an incompetent and tyrannical boss.

Here are some questions you might want to consider asking:

1. Why does this position need to be filled? What prompted the need to hire?

2. How are employees encouraged to share ideas, offer suggestions, and give feedback to help the organization grow?

3. Beyond promotions, pay raises, and merit increases, can you tell me how employees are recognized for their efforts and contributions?

4. What are the policies on individual development and training? Hint: Employers that don’t offer professional growth opportunities don’t envision their staff as long-term team members worth investing in.

5. What is the average length of time that employees have worked here? This is a subtle way of finding out about staff loyalty and turnover rates. An organization that has high turnover rates, or has seen a sudden mass exodus of employees, should be viewed with caution. High turnovers rates are always a cause for concern. After all, the relationship that managers have with their employees is a strong determinant of staff morale, productivity, and loyalty to the company.

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. And what you can ask is not limited to these examples only. In fact, your personal beliefs and values will influence the questions that you’ll want to ask. (For example, is rate of pay important to you or would you rather have scheduling flexibility?)

What matters most is how you feel about your would-be employer’s response to your genuine questions. Does this feel like a company that cares about its employee and jives with your personal values? Your gut instinct will tell you. Vagueness, awkward pauses, or lack of an enthusiastic and forthright reply to your queries may be a sign that this isn’t the right job for you. Don't take it personally. It isn’t you, it’s them.

Have you ever turned down a job offer because you got a really bad feeling about your boss during the interview?

See results

© 2012 Sally Hayes

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  • Say Yes To Life profile image

    Yoleen Lucas 2 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

    Thanks for these tips, especially the questions to ask the employer! I really like the story about the applicant with the disability immediately cutting out of the interview!

  • FlourishAnyway profile image

    FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

    Great hub! Your advice and list of questions is terrific. Always trust your gut.

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