The Horrible Boss Screening Test

Last Updated Jul 11, 2011 5:58 AM EDT

Thanks to Hollywood, horrible bosses have filled the media lately. Psycho supervisors might make great material for comedians, but in real life, of course, you want to avoid them like the plague. So when you're hunting for a gig, how can you screen out all the different sorts of crazy you might encounter in a manager and avoid a real life version of the new film?

Stanford management professor and author Bob Sutton has an unusual and very topical specialty -- what he politely refers to as "bossholes" -- so he's been fielding a lot of questions similar to this lately. To help out everyone inspired by fiction to make sure they avoid real life lunatics in the corner office, he's taken to his blog to offer a list of 10 types of horrible bosses, as well as screening questions to identify them.

The post is, as usual, entertaining and well worth a read in full, but just to give you a taste, here are some questions Sutton suggests asking other direct reports of your potential new boss before you accept any position:

  • "How does the prospective boss respond to feedback from people higher in rank and lower in rank?" "Can you provide examples from experience?"
  • "Does the prospective boss accept criticism or blame when the going gets tough?"
  • "In what situations have you seen the prospective boss lose his temper?"
  • "Which style best describes the prospective boss: gives out gratuitous credit, assigns credit where credit is due, or believes everyone should be their own champion?"
  • "What do past collaborators say about working with the prospective boss?"
  • "What kind of email sender is the prospective boss?"
  • "What types of people find it difficult to work with the prospective boss? What type of people seem to work very well with the prospective boss?" Pay attention to responses that suggest "strong-willed" or "self-motivated" people tend to work best with the prospective boss because assholes tend to leave people around them feeling de-energized and deflated.
  • "Does the prospective boss share information for everyone's benefit?"
  • "Would people pick the prospective boss for their team?"
Do you have any other tips to sniff out potentially horrible bosses when you're interviewing for a new gig?

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(Image courtesy of Flickr user Official Star Ways Blog, CC 2.0)
  • Jessica Stillman On Twitter»

    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.