by Bill, Think About It...

Be Choosy When Picking Your Next Boss

1 Comment 01 April 2009

bozobossIt seems like everything is up for the month of March, including the month itself. During the month, the market was up impressively: Dow (DJIA) + 7.7% (hooray), the Nasdaq + 10.9%, and the S&P finished the month +8.5%. That’s not all. According to the Conference Board, the  important Consumer Confidence Index edged up to 26.0 in March from a record low of 25.3 in February. That’s significant, as we’ve maintained all along that improving confidence is as important to dealing with the current financial mess as the implementation of systemic support measures.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. Dow Jones reports that the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) expects the U.S. to undergo an even deeper recession than expected, with GDP now expected to contract 4% this year vs. 2008. It follows, then, that the unemployment rate (jobs report due out Friday) is also likely to go up for March, and beyond. Indeed the ADP jobs report released this morning suggests that March job losses may exceed the currently expected 656,000 level.

Into the teeth of this blizzard of numbers, I’m going to offer some advice learned from decades of working with employers and job seekers alike. Here goes: If you’re looking for a job, and who isn’t these days, be careful, very careful in choosing who you go to work for. I’m not referring so much to the entity named on the paycheck as the human being to whom you would answer. That person is in a position to make a bad job with a mediocre organization palatable, or a great job with a first rate organization miserable. It’s that important.

Unfortunately, if you’ve been out of work for a while and resources are getting low, you’re under the gun to get something going.  All I’m suggesting is that a poor choice of supervisors (I really dislike that word) can put you even further behind the 8-ball in a very short time. If you think things are tough now, imagine having to re-start your job search on a cold trail in three months. Here are some things you can do to improve your odds:

1. Develop a list of three questions you can use (at the appropriate time) in a job interview that will smoke out what kind of person this individual is to work for. Questions like…

  • What’s your proudest moment thus far as a manager? Listen carefully for “I answers” as opposed to “we answers.” Is this person a narcissist (a legend in their own mind), or someone who is more likely to be considerate of others (you)?
  • What kind of workers do best on your team? Turn your listening devices up on this one, as the response can suggest whether this person is willing to be challenged, willing to be wrong, apt to listen to others’ points of view, and whether they’ve even taken any interest in the folks on their team.
  • What’s the turnover rate like on your team? Whereas a high rate (> 40% annually) might suggest that the person is a poor recruiter, a jerk, or just personally inconsiderate, an abnormally low rate might suggest something even worse – a complete lack of standards.

2. Check references, even before you interview. Google them. Visit the person’s blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or other social network page (they’ll be looking at yours). If you go deep in the interview process with them, ask for the names and contact information of three former employees who worked for them, 2 who worked out, and 1 who didn’t. Ask about their employee survey scores if the organization does such surveys. (If they don’t, be a little wary.)

3. With regard to your own networking, ask people in your network for the names and contact information of the best bosses they’ve ever worked for or known. Sort out the ones who are likely to be in the same arena you’re interested in/qualified for, and call them. Tell them how you got their name (it’ll make their day), and see if they can help you.

While admittedly you’re choosing a boss, not a spouse, you’ll likely spend more time with this person than you do your spouse or significant other, so it pays to look them over good. Happy hunting!

A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com

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- who has written 227 posts on Contented Cows.


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  1. Caroline says:

    Keep up the good work.


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