You’re about halfway through your interview when the hiring manager says, “At this point, I’d love to introduce you to the leader of the department you’d be working in if you filled this role.”
“Great!” you think to yourself while waiting for your prospective new boss to enter the room, “I must be on the shortlist for this positon!”
Suddenly, the department manager appears—strutting through the conference room door with flames all around him, a menacing grimace on his face, and two small horns sticking out from the top of his head.
Alright, let’s face it—identifying a bad boss isn’t always quite so obvious. But, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Keep your eyes peeled for these warning signs that you won’t get along with your potential manager. If you see them? Well, proceed with caution.
1. You Don’t Appreciate Her Sense of Humor
You pride yourself on your sarcasm. But, the person you’re talking with? She doesn’t seem to appreciate your dry delivery—in fact, you’re not even sure she’s picking up on it.
Or, maybe this situation goes the other way. Perhaps she keeps cracking jokes that you find offensive, totally inappropriate, or something as equally uncomfortable.
Either way, there’s no denying that your senses of humor just aren’t meshing well together. While this certainly isn’t a deal breaker (you’re not in the office to crack jokes, after all), the miscommunication that often results from two drastically different funny bones can lead to some tense relationships and hard feelings in the long run.
2. You Have Incompatible Working Styles
Admittedly, discerning someone’s approach to work before you ever spend a full day in the office can be difficult. However, preferences do have a way of sneaking out during your interview conversations.
Perhaps you decided to ask about the leadership style at the company, and your future manager says he prefers to be super hands-on and involved every step of the way. But, that’s totally different from the way you prefer to work. You just need to be armed with a few rough guidelines. From there, you prefer to crank something out and then gather feedback.
If it’s becoming apparent that you two have totally different views of what a successful working relationship looks like, you might want to be wary. Remember, trying to fit a square peg in a round hole only leads to problems.
3. You Hear Him Speak Negatively About His Team
You’re discussing the open role and your goal is to find out more about the specific position and the department you’d be working in. But, he keeps making small, backhanded comments about certain team members like, “Well, they’re not the most creative bunch, but they get the job done.”
In the office, you want your boss to be the biggest proponent of your work—in most cases, he should vouch for you whenever you need him.
But, if he’s the one putting his own employees down? Well, that cattiness, disrespect, and overall lack of enthusiasm can be toxic. So, ultimately, it’s probably not a team you want to be a part of or a supervisor you want to work under.
4. You Can’t Get a Word In
Considering you’re the one being interviewed, you figured you’d have to do a good chunk of the talking in order to show this potential manager what you’re made of. But, to your surprise, you can’t seem to get a word in edgewise—she just keeps rambling on and on about herself, her work, and her accomplishments.
Yes, you’re interested to hear about her experience and learn from her expertise. However, you also want to know that you’re teaming up with a boss who will actually hear and consider your thoughts and opinions—and how can that ever happen if she won’t stop talking?
Sure, some people are just chattier than others. However, if this supervisor seems so self-absorbed that she’d rather hear herself talk than understand what you have to say, you might want to consider whether or not that’s someone you’d really want to work with (ahem, and listen to).
5. You Have a Hunch
Do you know that feeling you get when you meet someone and there’s something just off? You can’t put your finger on it, but you recognize that you and this person just don’t click—and you probably never will.
That’s your intuition talking to you. And, while I wouldn’t recommend basing every major career decision off of a gut feeling, I do think there’s a lot to be said for trusting your instincts. So, if you’re getting that creeping sense that you and this boss would constantly clash, it’s probably best to move on to something else.
Listen, you and your supervisor don’t need to be best friends. There’s no rulebook stating that you have to grab beer after work and add each other on Facebook.
However, having at least a decent working relationship with your manager can be undoubtedly helpful in relieving some of your work stress and ensuring that you feel happy, fulfilled, and comfortable in the office.
While there’s no surefire way to recognize a bad boss before you ever sit down on your first day, keeping your eyes peeled for these five red flags will help you be more keenly aware of what you should expect. And, if by chance you actually see the burning flames and horns? Run—run as fast as you can.
Photo of people working together courtesy of JGI/Tom Grill/Getty Images.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author