How to work effectively with a difficult boss


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    Key Books

    Managing Up: 59 Ways to Build a Career-Advancing Relationship with Your Boss

    The Bully at Work: What You Can Do to Stop the Hurt and Reclaim Your Dignity on the Job

    Fighting Back: Overcoming Bullying in the Workplace

    Ten Questions to Ask When Interviewing the Company

    Posted: 2/14/2005 12:24:03 PM


    Now that you have read my story and I been given a healthy amount statistics, how can you avoid working for the wrong company? As you now know, I have had a handful jobs in a short time. I don’t consider myself a “shot timer.” Some people I have met over the years say that I will have trouble finding jobs because my resume clearly shows that I stay with companies between twelve to eighteen months. Considering what I have been through and witnessed, are you surprised? I have never had a problem getting a new job. I personally feel I am a very good engineer and have the ability to save companies millions of dollars. However, I am not unlike other efficiency experts, there are many like me out there doing the same or better work.

    The key to successfully landing a job is the interview. Every human resource expert and college advisor will tell you that the interview is the most important part of the hiring process next to a resume. I know of many people that did not have the experience and/or education needed get a job, it was their interview that separated them from the others. There are plenty of resources available to people on how to effectively prepare for an interview. Most colleges offer interview classes within their job placement departments. Just about every government run employment agency offers advice on how to successfully interview. Go to your local bookstore and there dozens of books on getting hired and how to answer questions at interviews.

    It seems to me that the focus is on impressing the employer and representing yourself as someone they should hire. However, I have not found a lot of resources on how to effectively interview the employer. Most books I have seen on the market on interviewing, advise people to ask questions about salary, benefits, vacation, and other basic human resource criteria. Let’s face it, many of you wish that you did not accept your current jobs. It is hard to know from an interview if the company will turn out to be a Diebold or worse. Based on my experiences, I have learned what to look for in a perspective company and what to ask. There are also a few simple guidelines that can be followed that help you see the warning flags. Remember, not all companies are worthy of your time, stress, and expertise; so be careful.

    Nowadays, most companies have a website that can be referenced. This is a very good start before you even spend the time preparing a resume for them. Most company websites talk about their products, company size, annual revenue, and stock prices. You will probably find information on the company’s history and who were the founding fathers. All of this information, is nice to know, but really does provide enough in site on what it is like to work there. I recommend you first read the mission statement if one is provided. Take Diebold’s mission statement as an example, “We Won’t Rest.” This should have been a huge “red flag,” for me. If you were a potential customer of Diebold’s, you would assume they would work hard for your business and do what was necessary to maintain a good relationship. As a potential employee, this mission statement should have you running for your life. Clearly at Diebold most of us did not rest, especially the production workers. Next, do they have a section on employees? As you now know from what I told you about Whole Food’s Market, their website discussing the dedication to employees and their empowerment to make the company better. They also back this up by how much they invest in their people through training and other personal enhancement programs. A website can give a small look into what you can expect.

    Find someone who has worked for the company before. It is probably better to ask two or three people if you can, so you can get more than one story. Granted there maybe some current or former employees that have personal grudges against the company, but they can reveal information about training, working conditions, hours, and other important aspects that will not be available on a website.

    Other valuable resources:

    Business Ethics. Business Ethics is a “Corporate Social Responsibility Report” that provides information on companies that have ethical business practices.

    The Better Business Bureau (BBB). The BBB is an organization that provides reports on businesses and charities to help consumers and donors make informed decisions, help resolve consumer complaints, and promote ethics in business.

    Fortune Magazine: “100 Best Companies to Work For in America.” This an annual report that rates company’s based on size, number of employees, annual revenue, management trust, pride in the workplace, and camaraderie.

    Upfront work on a company can yield pretty good information. Of course your best opportunity is during the interview. Below you will find questions that should be asked to a perspective employer, regardless if they are offering good pay, benefits, bonuses, and vacation time.

    Ten Questions to Ask When Interviewing the Company

    1. Ask what the employee turnover is. Be generally concerned how often people are circulated in and out of the company. If turnover is high, try to find out why. There could be a variety of reasons why employees are quitting and the company is in a constant hiring mode. If employees are staying for long periods of time, it could be a sign of a healthy work environment. Make sure you ask the human resource department this question and not your potential boss.

    2. If you are interviewing with your future supervisor, ask him/her if you can talk with the people in your department that are not managers. Non-managers will probably give you accurate information on working with the company that human resource and management would not. Ask them if they enjoy working there and what are the hours like. Do they work weekends? Ask them, how quickly vacation time is approved? A good question to ask a non-manager is about the level of training people receive and does the company invest in its people. Every manager and most human resource people will tell you they train and invest time and money into their employees. If they did not admit this, you would probably not accept the job. If you are not allowed to interview non-managers at any point in the interview, this should be “red flag.”

    3. When speaking to the human resource department about training, ask a lot of detailed questions. Is there a dedicated training coordinator? Is there a budget for training? How long does the training last? Are employees sent to offsite classes and courses? Is there a tuition reimbursement program for employees who want to go back to school?

    4. Ask your boss about overtime, and be honest. If one of the first questions they ask is about overtime, be concerned. Explain to them that overtime should only be worked when absolutely necessary. It is important to realize that extra effort is needed, but it should never be the norm.

    5. Ask everyone if the company encourages a balance between work and family life. When I was hiring Sam and David, I was curious in their personal interests and if they had responsibilities at home. I would rather have a person who had passions outside of work, than someone who just worked twelve hours a day. If the company answers yes ask them how they support the balance.

    6. Ask your boss how he/she judges your performance. Is it based on hours? Time management? Project completion? Interaction with colleagues? You will be able to find out real quickly if this manager is legitimate.

    7. Ask your boss, what do they do for fun? Do they have a life outside of work? Is the answer that they don’t have enough time to have fun? Or are they very active outside of work with non-work related activities. A boss that does not have a lot of interest outside of work, may not appreciate yours and will have a hard time understanding why the weekends are for your skiing trips.

    8. Ask your boss, if you were to ask the people that work for him/her, what would they say about him/her? I asked this question at my current job and he replied, “Why don’t you ask them?” This was very encouraging because I was able to a good feeling for his management techniques.

    9. Ask your boss, what would his boss say about him?

    10. Finally, ask the company, “Why should I come to work for you?

    Remember, anyone working in the company can tell you a lie about the environment. I am sure there are plenty of other questions that could be asked to help you separate the Diebold’s from the Whole Food’s Markets. Just be careful and don’t get caught up in titles, salaries, and bonuses; because in the end it won’t be worth the stress.

    About the Author

    Chris Ortiz is a senior lean consultant and the owner of Kaizen Assembly. He has spent the majority of his professional career working for Fortune 500 companies, teaching and guiding them to become more efficient businesses. He has designed and constructed well over 100 assembly lines and other manufacturing processes resulting in millions of dollars in cost savings and waste reduction.

    He is the author of 40+: Overtime Under Poor Leadership and his Ten Signs of an Incompetant Leader ihas received international recoginition. Chris has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, Seattle Times, Orlando Sentinel, and dozens of work life balance newsletters and trade magazines. He is an active speaker on workplace related issues and writes articles on leadership, overtime, and employee based programs.

    Chris can be reached at [email protected] or visit his company's website at

    Email Link  |  iFaveIt

    Comments: [add a comment]

    User: anonymous
    Date: 5/1/2005 11:28:00 PM

    Wow. Very good Article. It was worth reading it over and over again! I am going through hard time finding job. At my last job the Work Enviroment was not healthy at all. it was the worst job i ever had. You have no idea how much this article will help me.!

    User: anonymous
    Date: 5/25/2005 3:38:00 PM

    Ask a question like number 10 and you will be out of work just like the author.

    User: anonymous
    Date: 6/23/2005 4:46:00 PM

    I am going on vacation for 7 days, should I mention it at the job interview?

    User: anonymous
    Date: 6/24/2005 8:59:00 PM

    Yes. Employers like up front honesty about your schedule. If they decide to hire you, you have already told them of your plans, and you can more easily get the time off. Is this vacation going to happy during the interviewing process? Chris Ortiz

    User: anonymous
    Date: 7/19/2005 2:10:00 PM

    If a company is reluctant to answer question #10, then it is a company not worth working for. Nowadays, most professionaly ran companies are happy to disclose what they have to offer you as an employee besides of salary, benefits, etc. The ten questions I have listed are intended to protect you, not ensure you get hired. Chris Ortiz

    User: anonymous
    Date: 7/22/2005 8:39:00 AM

    Chris, I read your book and I really enjoyed it. Thanks for some insite.

    User: anonymous
    Date: 7/28/2005 10:49:00 PM

    # 10 not a good question

    User: anonymous
    Date: 7/29/2005 10:22:00 AM

    Can I ask why #10 is not a good question? I am just looking for your perspective. Thanks Chris Ortiz

    User: anonymous
    Date: 8/14/2005 8:35:00 AM

    All the interveiwers might not be as braod minded as interpreted by the author, we must evaluate his/her personality quickly to ask the type of questions. Kaunain Shahidi

    User: anonymous
    Date: 8/15/2005 7:30:00 AM

    Kaunain, You are correct. Chris

    User: anonymous
    Date: 10/17/2005 6:50:00 PM

    If you ask question #10, you better make sure of two things - one, you don't want the job, and two, the economy is so great you'll be able to snap your fingers and a job will appear! I would not ask that question.

    User: anonymous
    Date: 10/20/2005 6:40:00 PM

    profound, if I'd known and done a part, it would have saved me much effort, finances and other things among which self esteem.

    User: anonymous
    Date: 11/1/2005 12:26:00 PM

    Question 7 and 10 will put you out of the running for a job. What the boss does in his free time is irrelevant, maybe he works longer hours because he wants to get ahead (he is after all, your boss!). Ask Question 10 and you will look like exactly what you are - someone who thinks they are better than they actually are.

    User: anonymous
    Date: 11/3/2005 1:50:00 PM

    Thanks for the input. I have heard of a few people I have coached that said question #10 worked well. It is in your approach. The key to this question is not about arrogance but simply asking the company what they have to offer you in general. Finding talent these days is tough and employers are struggling to find ways to find and retain it. Just try to get a feel if they want you. There is nothing wrong with that. Thanks again! Chris

    User: anonymous
    Date: 11/28/2005 6:32:00 AM

    Several posters say the #10 is not a good question. That is because most people think that company is "giving" them a job. This includes potential employers, who too often think you should be grateful for them hiring you. What must be recognized is, they need you (or someone) as much, or more, than you need them. Expect no altruism or charity from an employer; it is essentially an exploitive relationship. They make a profit off your labor. Morally, they have to give you something in return. Hopefully, that will include a decent paycheck and an environment where you don't spend a third of your life, or more, in abject misery. If question #10 helps determine that, then it is a legitimate question. If it loses you the job you're probably better off not working for that company.

    User: anonymous
    Date: 11/28/2005 2:34:00 PM

    Well put. Chris

    User: anonymous
    Date: 1/20/2006 1:43:00 PM

    As a business owner and past HR Advisor, I would expect this question from the candidate. I am always prepared with a list. As a candidate, this is a question I have always asked and got some good answers. No one was offended. The boss is going to ask 'why should I hire you?'

    User: anonymous
    Date: 1/22/2006 8:52:00 AM

    Thank you for your repsonse. I am glad a HR person has come forward and agreed. Chris O.

    User: anonymous
    Date: 6/21/2006 10:21:00 AM

    If you have concerns about number ten, rephrase it. The objective is to learn what the company does or provides to make them stand out as a terrific employer. Try, "I am very interested in your company. Can you share with me three reasons you like to work here(or took the position)? Follow up with "If you could change two things about the company or the work enviornment, what would they be?" Same results, different approach. And if they don't want to answer number ten in some form, why on earth would you want to work there? Rita Ashley, Job Search Coach

    User: anonymous
    Date: 6/22/2006 12:13:00 PM

    Thanks Rita. I like the suggestions and your feedback. Chris O.

    User: anonymous
    Date: 1/23/2007 7:08:00 PM

    #10 IT'S GOTTA GO

    User: anonymous
    Date: 10/18/2007 12:30:00 PM

    The importance of the questions is not lost on me, especially given the explanation at the end, however, if they are not re-worded, then all is lost. Alas, it is true that most employers feel that they are doing you a favor by offering you a job. And alas, the halo effect comes into play far too often. However, it's what it is. It's the nature of human beings. I would certainly thread more cautiously until after I've gotten the job.

    User: anonymous
    Date: 3/15/2008 12:18:00 AM

    Hello, it has been some time since I looked over things. This is in response to the 1st to las post. #10 its gotta to go. Please remember this is to be asked in a very professional way. What I am suggesting is to ask the employer to explain why there company is a good place to work and what makes it a place good for long term employment. I have hired a lot of people over the years and I always have respected the person for asking. Chris

    User: Leslie
    Date: 11/21/2009 7:56:00 PM

    Hi, I have been in the job market for over 6 months now. I have had several interviews but no real bites. This time I am going in armed with some of the questions provided from the article and for once...will interview the company. Thank you for the information Chris and I hope that it will help. = Leslie

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