Check Your New Bosses EQ BEFORE You Sign On

I read an interesting post by Guy Kawasaki about using LinkedIn technology and good old fashioned networking to check out the emotional intelligence of a prospective manager.  What a smart idea, I mean, who wants to unknowingly get stuck working for some schmuck or worse, a total psychopath?  It is easy to get nervous during an interview and forget that we need to check out the hiring manager as much as they are checking out us.

The point Guy makes is that you can use a new feature in LinkedIn to track down people that worked at that company at the same time as your prospective boss.  (By the way I tried this and was bummed to find out that you need to be a LinkedIn Business User to take advantage of this feature.  Why promote LinkedIn’s premium features?)

Anyway, once you locate people who have worked at the same company as your prospective boss, you contact them and ask about the new boss.  While Guy did not call it an EQ Check, the 10 questions that he suggested you ask (well, actually Bob Sutton of the No Asshole Rule book suggested them) are classic emotional intelligence questions.  In fact, the very first question was on "kiss up and kick down" which is code for "has zero emotional intelligence" and lacks in social awareness and relationship management skills.  "Short fuse" is someone who is lacking in emotional self-control.  I won’t repeat all 10 questions here but would suggest you check out Guy’s blog for more detail.

Let me toss a few of my own ideas on the pile for consideration.  Here are three additional profiles of individuals you will want to avoid based on low emotional intelligence:

#1 – Micromanagers and Critics
Micromanagers and critics are people who want to control or criticize everything you do.  They often have difficulty with trust, control, and delegation.  They may be perfectionists and find fault with everything you do.  The underlying emotion for micromanagers and critics is fear.

As your boss, a micromanager can be impossible to work with.  They will check in on you too often, dictate how to do things, and always seem to know the one best way to complete a task.  They may be also perfectionists and constantly pick apart your work or ask you to revise it. 

#2 Dishonest Managers
Dishonest managers range from those who occasionally tell little white lies to those who lie compulsively and may even cheat or steal.  This category would also include those who act unethically or ask you to act in unethical ways.  The underlying emotions for dishonesty  could be anger or fear. 

A dishonest boss can misrepresent the truth about you and your efforts.  They may take credit for your work or blame you for their own mistakes.  They may project dishonesty on you and discount or discredit what you say and do.  It is especially dangerous to have a boss who asks you to act in unethical ways. 

#3 Cavemen
I am not talking about the funny cavemen from the Geico commercials here, I am thinking more like Imus.  These cavemen are the relics of the past.  They include bullies, powerfreaks, racists, and sexists.  They tell off-color jokes, use racial epitaths, or single out individuals and pick on them.  They may think they are just having fun with others by teasing when they are simply trying to cloak their aggression in humor.  They are usually men but women may also fall into this category.

As your boss, cavemen may make it a point to show you who is boss or get off on treating you like dirt.  They may try to make themselves feel more powerful by singling out you or one of your peers and trying to humiliate you in front of a group.  Or, they may make unwanted sexual overtures or discriminate against members of the opposite sex.  They may label groups of people and use derogatory language toward people who are different from themselves.

If it is too late for you and you find yourself working for someone with low emotional intelligence, be afraid, be very afraid.  The last thing you’ll want to do is try to build a strong relationship with them or worse, try to straighten them out.  If you can, get out to another job at the same company or even to another company.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. I have been intrigued by the problem of how to avoid accepting a new job in a jerk-infested organization, and I think I’ve found an excellent and unique way to avoid this costly and painful problem.
    I just finished developing a website called http://www.ebosswatch.com that allows people to rate their current or former boss so that people who are considering a job change can search for bosses at potential workplaces and can receive reports detailing the ratings that each boss has received.
    Bob Sutton, author of the best-selling book The No Asshole Rule, has called eBossWatch “fantastic, a great idea.” I hope this helps some of you avoid jerk-infested workplaces.

  2. Asher, thanks for your comment, I am glad to have sparked your interest. I also like the idea of ebosswatch.com. What a great idea to offer an outlet for people to log abusive bosses.
    The thing I wonder is how will you make sure that the system is not abused? For example, if as a boss, I had an emplyee who had their own set of emotional issues or were fundamentally broken in some way (and I have), how do I prevent them from using a tool like yours as a means of attacking me? In other words, if you have individuals lacking in emotional intelligence or who have problems with emotional boundaries, they are just as threatening as bosses who abuse their employees.
    Contrast your new site with the self-policing forms of feedback offered by Amazon or eBay. You are allowing virtually anyone to show up and “rate” virtually anyone else with no accountability. Even the abusive bosses you are trying to expose could actually go here to continue to harass their employees by rating them poorly.
    I went on your site and checked a few of my more colorful exbosses, myself, and everyone I could think of who might be in your database. No one was. Then, I went ahead and filled out some information on myself. Since it is anonomous, the system let me rate myself as pretty darned good.
    I think this is a flaw of this version that you need to address. Without checks and balances, this won’t go far. It reminds me of the sites that allow people to report bad boyfriends or girlfriends; that association is probably not the one you want people to have.
    Anyway, I wish you luck and once again thanks for your comment.
    Anthony

  3. Anthony,
    Thanks for your comments. I agree with you that the internet has its limitations. Even in Amazon or eBay, for example, there is no way of knowing if a certain book reviewer has a personal connection to the book’s author which influenced his or her review of the book (either positively or negatively).
    However, a safeguard that we have implemented in eBossWatch in order to protect the accuracy of the reviews is a feature which makes it impossible for someone to review a certain boss more than once. I would be more than happy to hear if you have suggestions about ways to effectively verify that reviewers indeed worked where and when they claimed.
    eBossWatch was designed to be a tool that can be used by job applicants (together with other methods) to help shed light on the atmosphere and dynamics of potential workplaces. With regards to your previous bosses not existing in the database, the site was launched only two days ago, so we are still far from having most US managers profiled. Maybe you can be the first person to review your ex-bosses!
    Best regards,
    Asher

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