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One Question You Can Ask To See If Your New Boss Sucks

Can one question really predict whether you will love your job? My research shows that it can. And it starts with whether your manager supports your ideas or tells you what to do...

Female trying to abstract from screaming boss, occupational burnout, overworked
Female trying to abstract from screaming boss, occupational burnout, overworked

If you’re interviewing for a new job, it can be easy to get wrapped up in the excitement. And It’s tough to know what it’s really going to be like once you start.

First, you should realize that the biggest predictor of job satisfaction is the relationship you have with your immediate manager and I know because I’ve had 53 jobs. I held more than 20 part-time jobs before and during college to pay for my degree.

Afterwards, I spent time in various full-time roles while climbing the corporate ladder in sales, marketing, and executive roles at large technology companies like SAP and Nielsen, as well as senior roles in a number of successful startups. I’m currently an international speaker on leadership and marketing strategies, CEO of my own consulting company, and I’ve been spending the last few years on this book, Mean People Suck, trying to answer why some people are happy and engaged in their jobs but the overwhelming majority of us aren’t.

I believe there’s one question everyone should ask, that will give them insight into what their manager will be like, before they accept a new job.

“Do you champion new ideas from your team?”

I believe the answer might surprise you, and it depends on how much your new manager sees your job as ‘just do what you’re told.’ Or if she really sees her role as facilitating your best ideas up the food chain or with clients.

I remember a recent conversation with a highly-talented former colleague who was considering joining a start-up. She had interviewed with the founder, the hiring manager, HR and a number of the team members she would be joining.

She said it felt like they were conducting a casting call for a movie. They spoke about relevant skills, and ‘cultural fit.’ How how everyone had a great time. And of course they were going to change the world.

She was miserable in her current job because of a micro-manager boss who didn’t value her ideas. So she was really psyched about the new opportunity, but something seemed ‘off.’ She had not asked the important question yet.

So I pushed her to get coffee or get on the phone with the hiring manager and a few of the new team members and ask them how often new ideas are encouraged and supported.

Afterwards, she told me that she heard plenty to be concerned about. The manager said they ‘are always open to new ideas.’ But didn’t seem to even like the question. And her new team members felt equally uncomfortable and made up what sounded like excuses. Things such as “but it’s so fun here…no one ever leaves.”

Too many of us get wrapped up in the superficial, financial, and cultural elements of a potential new job. Or we just want to get out of a really bad job.

We forget to consider what really motivates us. For most of us, we want to bring our creative ideas to help the companies, and our managers. But we are often just handed a series of tasks, goals and milestones that don’t always solve the problems we see.

Most important of all is how much they are willing to fight for your ideas with other people in organization.

Why the shift to talking about career advice and leadership?

I looked back and realized I’ve had 53 jobs so far over the course of my life and most recently those jobs have been in marketing. But I asked myself, what are the biggest lessons I’ve learned from all my experiences. And also, when I talk to marketers who are struggling to implement new ideas, they all tell me the same thing: they mostly hate their jobs and there is a real culture of complacency that gets in the way of leaders finding the courage to support new ideas from their employees. So I made it my goal to help shine a light on this problem.

53 jobs? WTF?

Yes, I’ve been employed in 53 different roles. Some include promotions and roles within a single company. I spent almost 10 years at Nielsen. And 7 years with SAP. So I’m not just some job-hopper. But half of those jobs were prior to even going to college and another dozen or so while I was in school. Most of them were customer service jobs of some kind. And that really shaped my worldview.

What was my biggest lesson from all those jobs?

The biggest lesson is that if we want to succeed in our careers, we need to become what I call a ‘Champion Leader’ by championing others. Empathy is strangely the key to solving the misery so many of us have in our jobs. I think we all get so caught up in ourselves that we forget this most basic rule that we need the support of others to be successful in life and our careers.

What is a Champion Leader?

A Champion Leader is someone who encourages ideas from their team and others to solve the most important challenges of the business. And then, importantly, helps to build the support and momentum for those ideas.

What’s your advice for anyone who wants to become a Champion Leader?

You can’t change your manager. But you can change the entire culture of your team, your department, or even your company if you reach out across your organization and champion other people’s ideas. If you’re the leader of organization or even a CEO, you can change the entire culture today just by asking your employees how likely their managers are to champion ideas.

So what do you think? Are you ready to change the world?

This article originally appeared on Mean People Suck

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