I have had a number of bosses during my career. Most were superb, providing professional and technical guidance and support when I needed it and giving me the reins and responsibility when they thought I was ready. However, two of those bosses were truly awful.
In both cases they became my boss through company personnel moves over which I had no control. Both individuals were manipulative and technically inept, but incapable of being wrong even though they were often wrong on a daily basis. In each case I stayed in the job about a year, thinking that I should give the situation and the boss at least twelve months before I considered any moves. Unfortunately, after a year each boss had proven to be even worse than I had anticipated and I left those companies, never to return.
Back in Tip #33, I mentioned that high pay is not reason enough to stay in a bad job. Well, nothing can make you dislike a job more quickly than working for a boss you despise.
Concept: When interviewing for a position, interview your perspective boss as hard as he (or she) is interviewing you. The pay may be great and the position fantastic, but a bad boss can negate all of that.
Details: As should be clear by now, the boss sets the tone for the whole team dynamic. His level of effort, his desire to train and develop his direct reports, and his management style will in large part determine the working atmosphere along with the ultimate success of the team. Great co-workers are important and wonderful to have, but the boss’s personality will more likely determine whether you actually like your job.
Because the boss’s management style is so critical, it is imperative that you vet him/her thoroughly before accepting a job. Go out to lunch with the boss and other team members and see how they interact. Invite the boss to dinner with his/her spouse and watch how they treat their spouse and the wait staff. Is the team comfortable with the boss and does the conversation flow easily, or are they quiet? Does the boss mistreat his/her spouse or talk down to the restaurant staff? Is the boss decisive? Can he/she admit fault? Ask team members if there are any individuals who left the group. Is so, track them down and find out why they left. Take the time and make the effort to find out all you can about the boss because your level of job satisfaction will in no small measure be determined by this one person.
Watch-Outs: If you are touring the plant or office and the boss lies to other workers or team members, talks down to his direct reports or treats lower level company staff with disdain, moving on to other possibilities is probably the best course of action. The boss may be brilliantly successful and knowledgeable but working for a tyrant can be unbearable.
Exceptions: Some companies transfer “Hi-Po”s (High Potential Management Employees) from job to job every 12 months. If you get one assigned to your group and they are awful, it may just be easier to bite your tongue and wait them out.
Insight: A good boss can even make staying in a bad job worthwhile. The company may be struggling or the corporate politics ugly, but a good boss will somehow find a way to keep the team together and shield them from the fray. However if things get too bad, a good boss is one who encourages his direct reports to develop and grow their careers, even if that means leaving the group or the company.
Rule of Thumb: A bad boss should be a deal breaker of any job consideration. Interview the boss thoroughly and carefully before you accept any job.
Hunter Vegas, P.E., holds a B.S.E.E. degree from Tulane University and an M.B.A. from Wake Forest University. His job titles have included instrument engineer, production engineer, instrumentation group leader, principal automation engineer, and unit production manager. In 2001, he joined Avid Solutions, Inc., as an engineering manager and lead project engineer, where he works today. Vegas has executed nearly 2,000 instrumentation and control projects over his career, with budgets ranging from a few thousand to millions of dollars. He is proficient in field instrumentation sizing and selection, safety interlock design, electrical design, advanced control strategy, and numerous control system hardware and software platforms.