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How To Avoid Working For A Toxic Manager
By Carole Nicolaides

Progressive Leadership

If you are back in the job market because you dislike your current manager, you’re not alone. Have you ever heard anyone say, “I like what I do, I just don’t like who I do it for?” The majority of people leave their employer not because of money but because of their manager. The last time I checked the statistic was 70%.

You certainly don’t want to find yourself working for another manager like the one you’re planning to leave. So how do you recognize a toxic, unfit manager? Have you considered a strategy for identifying these unhappy and disturbing people?

When you are offered an interview, you naturally get excited. You prepare to meet your potential manager. You use all the resources available, lay out your clothes, rehearse your interview and talk to your loved ones about your big opportunity. But allow me to add something to your “To Do” list that could save you from making a big mistake.

Candidates are eager to land a job and often forget to assess if the hiring manager is one that they would like to work with. Consider your meeting as a two-way interview. Make some mental notes of your own and ask a few questions, too. Here are a few techniques to keep in mind during your interview that will help ensure your satisfaction with the new manager.

1. Ask Pointed Questions - Most interviewees ask questions similar to, “Am I going to have training”, “How many vacation days do I get” and “Are there programs that will allow me to improve my knowledge”? While these are indeed valid questions, they won’t help you to identify a manager’s attitude or behavior.

Consider asking questions like, “ How do you protect your employees from occupational burnout”, “What are the specific measures that you take when one of your employees has been unfairly treated” and “Do you encourage employees to make decisions on their own”? With these kinds of questions you will be able to determine the flexibility of the manager as well as his/her position on coming to the aid of employees under their charge.

2. Listen – You have a lot on your mind during an interview. Quite often, nervous people tend to talk excessively. Resist the temptation to do so. Aside from asking a few pointed questions, most of your time should be used to observe your prospective manager. Pay attention to their manner of speech. Listen carefully to how they phrase their comments, and the answers to your questions. Are you receiving solid information or vague responses? You will gain much more information by listening than by talking.

3. Be Bold - If you are not clear about the information you receive politely ask for clarification. Most good managers appreciate your honesty. It will also show your interest in the company and your new position.

4. Become A Detective – Finding out as much information as you can about the company, your position and your manager can save you from making a career mistake. Some excellent ways to do this are to:

a. Arrange a “tour” of your new department and talk with the employees who currently work there. Notice their demeanor and their reaction when you and the manager walk into the room. Casually ask them how long they have worked in the department.

b. Ask your interviewer the question, “What is the turnover rate of your company and the department I would potentially be working in?”

c. Ask the question, “What is your management style?”

Compare your mental notes from the tour and the above two questions. Look for consistency between these three elements. As an example, we’ll say the manager states that he or she manages with a family attitude and always puts employees first. However, from your tour you discover that none of the employees has been working for this manager longer than a few months and that no one is smiling or talking with each other. Caution is in order here. While there could be several reasons for this set of circumstances, it definitely deserves further investigation.

5. Go With Your Intuition - Your intuition can tell you a lot about important decisions. Trust your inner compass. Relaxed and let go of the fear of not getting the job. In most cases, your gut feeling will lead you in the right direction.

What do you do if the answers to your questions, your tour and your manager’s attitude all leave negative imprints? You must ask yourself if it is worth working in an environment with a boss you might not like. Would this new job be worth a decrease in the quality of your life?

As you see, all these techniques require one important thing - thinking out of the box. If you have your mind attached to the end outcome of getting the job, you are less likely to judge what you see objectively. Remember, an interview is a two-way street. While the manager is looking you over, you can look for information that will save you from working for a toxic manager.

By Carole Nicolaides, Copyright © 2001, All Rights Reserved

About the Author

Carole is President and Executive Coach of Progressive Leadership Inc who thrives on helping individuals and organizations achieve results by coaching them on how to discover and build upon their strengths. She also offers teleclass training and consulting in Organizational Effectiveness, Branding Strategy and Leadership Development. Visit the Progressive Leadership site for more info & subscribe to her FREE Ezine.

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