Dishing the Dirt on My Boss

Question:

I’ve had a string of bad bosses, resulting in five job changes in the last three years. I want to settle down with one company and know the secret is finding a decent manager who treats employees well.

I recently interviewed for a job with a company. The manager seemed like an all-right guy but you never know. After the interview, I realized I could search the company’s website for a list of employees and find out from them what it was like to work for the man. So that night I called several employees and asked them fair questions about what working for him was like.

A week later, I called to see to see about the job. I didn’t get it. I asked the receptionist a couple questions and she freaked out, saying, “Oh, you’re the guy who called around to employees to find out what the boss was like.” She told me my calls ticked the manager off.

I find this totally unfair, as employers conduct reference checks on employees. Perhaps I should have asked the employees I called to keep my call confidential? Or is there another way to check out what the boss is like?

Answer:

The hiring process itself gives you a sense for what your new manager may be like. Does the manager interview you personally, ask thoughtful questions and listen to your answers? How does the manager respond to questions you ask? Does the manager ask others, including your potential future coworkers, to meet you?

You can also do what you did, and speak to current employees. Some hiring managers encourage this and even let you connect with current employees before you leave the work site following your interview. Others, however, find an applicant’s desire to interview current employees unsettling.
Two websites and a new app offer you additional help.

eBossWatch invites employees to anonymously dish dirt about their bosses and working conditions. I checked out a boss reviewed by seven employees, six of whom disagreed with statements such as “I would recommend this person as a good boss to work for” and “I trust and respect my boss.”

Glassdoor encourages employees to post reviews of their employers and leaders and offers those who access the site the chance to “see what real employees have to say about any company.”

Collectively’s Memo app encourages employees to anonymously gossip about their managers, employers and workplace woes. Users can log in via their phones and from their LinkedIn accounts or company’s email and post messages on a public board. Collectively verifies a user’s association with the employer concerning whom they post by sending an email to the user’s work email.

Employees who post comments to the Memo app, eBossWatch or Glassdoor need to realize that their employer’s computer system can capture any information an employee posts if the employee accesses the external sites via the employer’s network. Glassdoor, eBossWatch and Memo’s terms of use warn users that their identities may be revealed in certain circumstances.

At the same time, companies can’t easily discipline employees who post derogatory comments about their supervisors. A December 2014 National Labor Relations Board decision reaffirms non-supervisory employees’ rights to engage in protected concerted activity online, including discussing their views concerning their supervisor and other terms and conditions of their employment.

This NLRB decision also affirms the employee’s right to use their company’s email system during non-work hours. According to the NLRB ruling, email is the electronic equivalent of a “natural gathering place” and “employees who have rightful access to their employer’s email system in the course of their work have a right to use the email system … to communicate with coworkers regarding workplace concerns during non-working time.”

Finally, the best hiring interviews allow for two-way dialog. When you’re next interviewed, you might directly ask the hiring manager questions that matter to you, such as, “If you hired me, how would you want us to communicate?”; “What do you look for in an employee?” and “Would you feel OK if I asked a couple of your employees what it’s like to work here?” That way, you can find out what you want to learn through the front door rather than the back.

© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at www.bullywhisperer.com.

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