Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Is Any Job Worth a Bad Boss?


When there are stressful times in the workplace, you can bet it's going to bring out the best in a lot of people -- and the worst.

Unfortunately, job seekers may not discover which category a boss falls into until it's too late.

For example, good bosses will understand that the continuing tough economic news means they need to rally the troops, to stick close to employees and make sure employees see they are calm in the face of bad economic news, determined to keep doing the best possible job. They make sure their door is always open to listen to worker concerns, and even spring for a pizza every once in a while just to help lighten the mood.

And then there are the bosses that crack under the strain. They hole up in their offices, the door tightly closed. When they do emerge, they are uncommunicative with workers, except to criticize or be short-tempered. They may be sarcastic, rude, insulting and thoughtless. Employees become tightly wired and depressed, alternately sniping with one another or lapsing into brooding silences.

Enter the hapless job seeker. With shiny shoes, a bright smile and firm handshake, the job candidate enters the door of a company, hopeful that in this crappy job market, he or she may land a job.

Many are desperate. They try not to let that show (a definite no-no in the job search world), but they know their current company is sinking fast, their industry on the rocks, their job security a thing of the past. They need another job, and they need it now.

So, they may be willing to overlook a few things they would not have in the past, when job seekers had the upper hand in a thriving economy. Now, with rising unemployment, they don't care about the long commute, the less-than-generous benefits, the lack of stock options. In other words, they are willing to overlook a lot of the frayed edges if it just means they can keep a paycheck coming in.

Understandable. You gotta do what you gotta do. But there is one area that may bear closer scrutiny: the boss.

As anyone who has had a bad boss knows, a rotten manager can affect you in ways you never dreamed. You can't sleep. You can't eat -- or overeat. You yell at your kids or partner when you get home, you develop bad headaches and stomach pains. You feel like you've aged 10 years overnight and secretly envision the boss getting hit by a bus. (Not killed of course, just in the hospital for the next five years.)

That's why it's still important that while you may be willing to settle on a lot of things when you go for a job these days, don't settle for a bad boss. And here's a bit of good news: The bad bosses are being exposed as never before. It's going to be easier to learn who is a lousy manager simply because he or she is cracking under the strain.

Here's some ways to find out a boss's true colors:

* Ask to speak to other employees. Sometimes you will not always be given this opportunity, and other times, the workers may not be truthful because they fear for their own jobs. Ask questions such as: "What has been your favorite assignment and why?" "What gives you the greatest satisfaction working here?" "What three words would you use to describe your boss?"
* Find the favorite watering hole. This may be a neighborhood pub, or a lunch spot where employees hang out. It may even be a nearby park. The idea is to strike up a conversation away from the eyes and ears of the boss so that you can get an employee to open up about the true management style of the boss.
* Be objective. Just because one employee trashes the manager doesn't mean the boss is terrible. It could be that this person doesn't get along with anyone. Try and talk to several employees so that you can get a real feel for what's going on.
* Don't think you're special. I'm always amazed by job candidates who take a position knowing the boss is an ass. They always think they can find a way to get along with the manager, that they somehow possess special powers to overcome a bully boss. Not so. If the boss is a jerk to the majority of workers, chances are you're going to experience the exact same thing.

What are some other ways to spot a bad manager?


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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ten Things They Never Taught You in School But you Gotta Know in Order to Survive on the Job

Most new parents I know say that can't believe the hospital just let them walk out with their newborn child. The panic sets in as they realize there is no owner's manual to accompany such a momentous event in their lives.

The same could be true of the workplace. Sure, some attend years and years of school, but nothing really prepares you for what the workplace is truly like.

That's why I've put together this list. Tuck it in your pocket. Post it on your refrigerator. E-mail it to yourself. Just don't forget these lessons that you need to know when you work for living:

1. Learn to read upside down.

2. Always carry two pens.

3. Never talk about bodily functions at work. This includes hormones, flatulence and constipation. Only share those events with someone related to you by blood or marriage.

4. Clean up after yourself. Maids work at the Hilton, not your office.

5. Hold the door. The smallest niceties often have the greatest impact.

6. Just because someone is lower than you on the company totem pole doesn't mean they can't retaliate if you wrong them.

7. If you keep up only with your industry or job, you'll be royally screwed when you're booted from both.

8. You are replaceable. Ten people could fill your job tomorrow, and a couple of them are within a few feet of you.

9. Look out the window. Taking your nose away from the grindstone often brings about the greatest insight, clarity and creativity.

10. Be careful of anyone who takes your side in an argument. Their commiseration can cause you to say things you'll come to regret.


What else do we need to know to survive in the workplace?


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