Bad boss red flags to spot now before you get miserable


Few relationships mean more to a worker than the one they have with the person who signs their paycheque.

Feeling equally supported, challenged and encouraged by a boss is often the only obstacle between staying on track and exploring Indeed listings. A study from the MIT Sloan School of Management found that toxic work culture is the biggest predictor of attrition — more than 10 times more likely to contribute to employee turnover than low pay. Worse still, hostility, discrimination and intimidation are most likely to affect minorities, women and people with disabilities.

But sometimes you don’t know your boss sucks until it’s a little too late. After all, it can be difficult to determine who a manager is before working with them. Experts spoke with Fortune on how to identify a bad boss early on and what to do if it’s too late.


Remember: a job interview isn’t just about what you can bring to the table. Asking questions that need a specific answer during this stage can likely give you a better read on what your potential boss has to offer, says Nate Smith, founder and CEO of recruiting software company Lever.

Consider asking your potential manager how they set expectations for their team members, he suggests, adding that you should ask them for specific examples. He says this generally gets more useful information because managers are likely anticipating hypothetical questions and are armed with pre-set answers.

Also potentially revealing: ask why the last two people on their team left. Smith says every company and every team experiences turnover, which isn’t necessarily bad. “Someone who leaves a team because they have grown and learned new skills is a sign of a great manager,” he explains. “A not-so-good manager would probably make excuses.”

But if you really want the inside scoop on a manager, Smith says you better talk to other people on their team and ask. their questions like: “How has my future manager really helped you progress in your career? either you have an answer or you don’t.

The interview stage is less about red flags and more about green flags, he insists. “There are endless ways to be an asshole. Look for evidence of positive things, and if you can’t find any, that’s your red flag.

You’re in. And now ?

Say your manager passes Smith’s litmus test and you’re in the first few weeks of a new job. This is the critical moment for really get a feel for what you’re dealing with, according to Sam DeMase, founder of career coaching service Power Mood.

Some signs of a sub-par manager are easy to time, she says. Among these are one-on-one meetings that are simply status updates rather than focusing on development and goals. Worse yet: a manager who doesn’t organize any one-on-ones, claiming he’s too busy.

A bad manager doesn’t set clear expectations, views a heavy workload as an opportunity or motivator, and doesn’t verbally defend you if you express a desire to move to a new team, DaMase says. “We don’t really train people to be people managers,” she adds. “We generally promote people who are good at the technical side of the job.”

Another red flag can be seen in how bosses treat their workers, she adds. Run the other way if your manager blames you for their own mistakes, takes credit for an employee’s work, and discriminates or condones anyone who does.

For those wondering how bad their boss really is, DeMase recommends starting a journal and writing down each upsetting interaction as it happens. “From there, you can notice how full or not that notebook is,” she says. “It’s really easy to forget, when you’re in the middle of a job, how difficult things can be. Documenting it can help.

But it’s never too late to try to work things out with a manager who doesn’t feel okay, she says. She recommends approaching them with these lines: “Are you willing to talk about some things I need to do my best?” or “Can we have regular one-on-ones on the schedule? I have some thoughts on what that might look like.

As long as you feel you can speak openly with a boss, you should do so before looking for other jobs. That said, she adds, looking for a job while you still have one is “so low risk.”

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