How to Find the Best Boss for You

Photo by  Jovo Jovanovic

To have a productive, valuable work experience, it is critical to work well with your boss. This is necessary because your boss is usually the person with the biggest impact on that experience. And this impact, both positive and negative, can influence the future of your career and your opportunities to advance.

It’s imperative to have a boss you respect, and look up to—one who will be your advocate and help move your career along. When evaluating your relationship with your boss, or if you’re shopping for a new one, here are some things to keep in mind to find the leader who will stand beside you.

What if Your Boss Doesn’t Like You?

If you think your boss doesn’t like you, this is a problem you must address. Granted, every relationship has its ups and downs, but if you’re feeling tension, apathy, condescension, passive aggressiveness, or overall negative sentiment from your boss, this will adversely affect your work, the future of your career, and your overall happiness. This is true whether it’s specific to you or generally applies to everyone who reports to this person.

For example, you may be passed over for raises or promotions, miss out on important opportunities, or never receive fair feedback. This will have poor implications on your reviews, career progression, or your ability to get a good referral when you choose to move on.

If you sense a pattern of negativity—remembering that disagreement isn’t dislike—the first thing to do is bring it up with your boss and try to resolve it if there is a real problem. Find a time where your boss won’t be rushed or distracted, and approach the situation diplomatically, addressing your concerns and showing your willingness to accept feedback. If they’re upset about something you did, accept responsibility, apologize, and do your best to rectify it. Schedule regular meetings with them to get the relationship back on track. Ask them for input on projects to show you value their opinion. Don’t always take things personally if an email feels brash or someone else was selected for a project. And, remember to help (or offer to help) them. When all else fails and your efforts don’t help or your boss is straight up unapproachable, take the issue to HR.

How to Find the Best Boss for You

If you’re in the job hunt and finding a great boss is one of your priorities—it should be!—follow these steps to find the best boss for you.

Learn from the manager’s current direct reports.

If it’s possible to tactfully engage with future coworkers as part of your job search, do it. If you’re early in your search and you’ve identified the organizations you’re interested in but haven’t applied yet, consider messaging current employees on LinkedIn. Ask about their experiences and their satisfaction with the relationships they have with their managers. If you have a connection at the organization, ping them with questions, and ask them to connect you directly to employees working in the relevant department.

Keep in mind, public institutions may have rules against engagements of this type, so it’s not applicable in all situations.

If you have already applied for a position, use company reviews site like www.glassdoor.com to find current and former employee comments. Ask how employees came to work with the organization, what they like about working there, and what they would improve or change if they could. Ask about the organization’s general culture and management’s approach. This is a critical way to gain insight on whether the environment and supervisors will help you thrive.

Ask relevant interview questions.

Once you’ve made to the interview, use this time to really get a feel of what it would be like working with this manager. Talk to the manager about their leadership style to gauge their orientation toward their team and approach to their job. Talk to potential colleagues about their work experience and the environment to get their general sentiment about working for this organization. See how people react—enthusiasm is good, but if they seem strained to answer, that could be a red flag.

Questions to Ask a Potential Manager

  • What do you love about your job?

  • How did you come to be involved with [organization]?

  • What is your preferred management style?

  • How do you define success for your employees?

  • What’s something your team accomplished in the last few months that you’re exceptionally proud of?

  • What’s one thing you would want to change about how your department operates?

Questions to Ask Teammates (and the Manager’s Direct Reports)

  • What do you love about your job?

  • How did you come to be involved with [organization]?

  • How do you think you’ve grown as an employee since taking on this job?

  • What’s one thing you would want to change about how your department operates?

Do some social media research.

If you can’t find what you need, research the manager and colleagues on social media. Now, don’t go full-on stalk, but definitely check out their profiles on LinkedIn. See if you can find anything that communicates what the experience of working with the manager might be like, their skills and endorsements section, or their recommendations section.

Dig a little deeper to see what the employees are saying about their jobs. Are they posting positively on LinkedIn? Are they venting on Facebook or Twitter? Look to see when they’re posting—high activity during the business day might mean they’re distracted, dissatisfied, or bored with work.

If you’re currently job searching or considering it in the near future, schedule a free 45-minute phone consult to determine which qualities you need most in a manager. It’s important you find a boss who will help grow your career, and also get out of a job with a boss who is holding you back.