A bad boss is one thing. A bad one can make a potential dream job frustrating. A TOXIC boss will take any job and turn it in to a true nightmare from beyond the veil. The stories of working for a toxic boss are legion, and after too much experience working for them, I have come to realize that their presence can be detected during the interview process. Here are the red flags I’ve experienced, and others I know have spotted over the years:
Disrespect before the Interview
Your emails to confirm the interview go unanswered. Your attempts to phone in and confirm are ignored. The interview starts late, and there is no apology. You are pressured to sign on as fast as possible. These are just a few of the small things that give you an inside look in to the company’s culture. Who sets the culture? The boss/leadership/senior management team. The rank and file mirror the boss when dealing with outsiders and new hires. If there is a poor attitude towards you before you join, do you want to imagine how bad it can be AFTER you join?
Interviewer Body Language
Watch for it, and watch carefully. Body language is a key indicator of their attitude towards staff and employees. One classic sign: if they scan you from the head down, already there is a tone of condescension in that body language. Notice the hands and arms: Interlaced fingers, crossed arms, tapping the cheek, chin or tabletop. Other signs include constant shifting/fidgeting, avoiding eye contact, rifling papers or even checking their phone during the interview.
They are bored. They are not interested in doing the interview. Your future boss is already bored of your presence, and you don’t even work there yet. He’s going to be a fun one when you have to explain things to him isn’t here. And do not defend this kind of behavior with “The boss is a busy man” excuses. If leadership/management cannot make time for an interview, they sure as heck can’t make time for an employee.
Listen to what they say. The words they actually speak. As crazy as it sounds, the interviewer is the dominant presence in the room. Is the mood kept upbeat and positive or start negative and then try to move in to a positive upbeat refrain? This is indicative of leadership style, motivation methods and their approach to their personal life and work.
If they seem to enjoy the sound of their own voice, they cut you off when you are providing an answer or tell you you’re wrong, or interrupts with their own answer to the question, it is an indicator that you must not ignore.
A Bad Attitude and/or extreme behavior
Watch the interviewer. If they have a lack of enthusiasm or interest in the company then this is a caution sign. It is possible that you’ve gotten the one bad employee or that one employee on a bad day for whatever reason. If the problem however, seems to be echoed around the office, be careful.
Make sure during your interview to ask about the rest of the team you will be working with. How well they interact, stay focused and meet their objectives. Watch for responses that identify a lack of respect for individuals. These are potential clues that “motivation” methods include threats, public humiliation and comments about layoffs.
Be cautious of the boss that is too nice/too friendly. There are many ways to bait a trap, and as the saying goes, “you catch more flies with honey.” If things are too bright, too shiny, happy and positive, then something is up. Hopefully everything is on the up-and-up.
Granted, you are there for an interview. But if there are open signs of mistrust or open displays of a lack of trust in people, it would be in your best interest to find out what is going on. Ask directly. If answers involve scapegoating, blame-shifting and responsibility avoidance it’s not a good sign.
Everyone has bad days and off days where things are just…not going well. If you spot one or two of these things it’s a possibility that it is one of those bad days. But if you are spotting a lot of them, I would advice that if you are desperate: Take the job, and be prepared to make a lateral move as fast as humanly possible.
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