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 Evaluating Your Potential Boss

By Joe Stein

A popular theory, in recent “how to” books, is how to go about managing your supervisor.  The idea is that you have the ability to alter or manage the behavior of your Boss in a way that is agreeable to you.  What I have seen little written about, however, is selecting a supervisor at the recruitment stage that you are comfortable with, or even better, excited about.  How many people do we know that complain endlessly about their supervisor or “management” in general…a lot!

 

Savvy HR Professionals realized, a long time ago, that a leading cause of turnover and employee dissatisfaction is the relationship with their direct supervisor.  A proactive organization carefully selects their leaders and provides them with training, regarding topics such as communication, conflict management, and issue resolution.  We all know, however, that even within the best organizations, there are supervisors of different quality and style.

 

What is a “right boss”?  For this discussion, we will define it as a supervisor whose style meshes well with the environment and allows you to reach maximum satisfaction and productivity.  I certainly do NOT consider it to be the easiest boss or the most ineffective supervisor. 

 

How does a Job Seeker accomplish “selecting the right boss”?  Let’s look at some quick tips that will make the process easier for you.

 

·         Determine What You Will Need In a Supervisor -   I am a list person, and if that works for you, then create a list of the attributes you will need from your supervisor.  Try to achieve as many attributes on your list as possible when selecting a new job.  If you are in the beginning stages of your career, you may want to focus on an individual who will serve as a mentor to you.    A good mentor will allow you the autonomy to learn and grow, while providing you support and guidance. A seasoned job seeker may feel uncomfortable having a supervisor who is their junior.  I would suggest working hard to reconcile those feelings, but if they do exist, you may need to look elsewhere during your job search for a more experienced leader.

 

  • Target Organizations Whose Culture Best Suits Your Personality - If you need a “casual” type environment to reach maximum success, do not focus on traditional (i.e., conservative) organizations.  Chances are your supervisor will fit that traditional culture or they would not have reached the level that they achieved.  Networking is a great tool to find out information regarding the culture of an organization.  Reach out to individuals working in or familiar with the organization, and target whether their philosophies match with how you feel.  Do plenty of research on organizations, focusing on “lists” that rank top or preferred employers and why they are featured on the list.  What makes them special to employees?

 

  • Evaluate Your Future Supervisor During Process - There are still organizations where Human Resources handle the interview and then assign the selected employee to the supervisor.  Another scenario is where the direct supervisor is on vacation or a leave, and can’t interview you directly.  If it is impossible to “formally” interview with your supervisor, then attempt to at least meet with this person.  You obviously do not want to monopolize the conversation with only questions from you regarding the traits of the potential supervisor, however, a couple of pointed questions is certainly acceptable.  You can also just observe the mannerisms and demeanor of your potential supervisor and draw your own conclusions.  Consider asking a couple questions, such as “Describe your best employee”, or “What mechanisms do you have in place to communicate with your employees?”  When your potential new supervisor is describing their best employee mentally match this description with your self-assessment and determine how you match.  Evaluate the overall interaction with your potential supervisor by asking yourself: are they engaged in the process, is the conversation warm, do they make you comfortable?
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  • What are the Career Plans of Your Future Supervisor? - The final and frequently overlooked part of the supervisor evaluation, is determining what are their career aspirations and potential.  A Job Seeker, who is striving for promotional opportunities, will want to attach himself or herself with someone who has a great reputation within the organization and is promotional material.  This is important for several reasons.  If they have a positive reputation, then you may have the ability to share in the brightness of that star when accolades are received for a job well done.  Try not to; however, attach yourself with someone who assumes credit for all the good achieved in their department at the expense of the staff.  You also have the opportunity of replacing your supervisor in a positive environment when they are promoted.  I am not an advocate of placing yourself in a position of joining a department with a weak supervisor in hopes that will be replaced and you will be provided the opportunity.  Two things can cause this plan to frequently go wrong.  First, you may end up being joined or linked negatively with your supervisor jeopardizing your future.  Secondly, this is a situation where frequently the employer looks to the outside for a replacement.  In this situation, you will most likely be inheriting a mess making your chance of success less likely.  The tough part is determining how to obtain this information.  Probably the best way is via your networking contacts, as they can provide you with a realistic appraisal of how this person is perceived.  You can also probe some for this type of information by consulting with others within the organization you may be interviewing with.

 In summary, you know that your supervisor plays a giant role in your satisfaction. Therefore, it is very important to consider your potential new supervisor in your search.  It is easy to be swept away with your offered new salary, new title, or new responsibility.  All of those items will mean little, if you are working for an impossible supervisor.