May 13, 2009

How to find a good boss?

One of my friends (in HR field) called up, and said she's quitting her job because of her incompetent boss, in a hope to find a better one.

A few months before, I had the laugh of my life, when a new joinee (a fresh graduate) approached me with a serious question. He very innocently and sincerely asks me: "Sir, I don't want my manager," and gave his list of reasons.

The quest for a good or better boss goes on.. There are all types of bosses - hard task-masters, passive, directionless, control-freaks, over-friendly ones, mentors, highly supportive ones, dishonest, boot-lickers and a long list of them..

One of my senior colleagues sympathetically explains to me, "Manohar, there are two things in life you can't choose - first, your parents; second, your boss."

I love the quote from Chetan Bhagat's novel 'One night at a Call center', where he puts it forth in a brutally honest expression - “A bad boss is like a disease of the soul. If you have one for long enough, you get convinced something is wrong with you. Even though you know your Boss is the real loser, you start doubting yourself. And that is when your confidence goes.”

Given that backdrop, if you have a tough boss - remember everyone cracks at some point in time under continued pressure of a bad boss, and we wish we didn't have such a boss, but, so does everyone. If you're a survivor, and given that you can't choose your boss - look at how you can make the best of what's been given to you - observe and learn ways of managing your boss. There's many books on that topic to get some gyan. Tough bosses also get the best out of you.. Try and add value to him, win his/her confidence, and you'd have done good. Be careful not to subscribe to the professional boot-lickers' club :)

As far as the question of incompetent bosses are concerned, it's a sorry situation as there's not much in there to learn under the guidance of your boss, and moreover, you start losing respect for the person who's allegedly leading you.. Certainly one may start looking for better leaders in better organizations (which still is not a surety); in the meanwhile, you may perhaps partner with your boss to do some new project / initiative, and add value to both of you. Surely, his experience may come of some use.

Finally, if you're on the search for a better boss, and attending interviews, make sure, you'd ask a few details from the recruiter about the reporting structure, the culture within teams, the reward system in the organization, policies about escalation and mechanism available for resolution of issues with your immediate reporting manager etc., Chances are that one may also be interviewed by their future managers. In such cases, you may ask that direct question, and also ask his level of interaction with the team, reporting styles, expectations, discuss your aspirations, if time permits some ideas that may help you understand more about your future boss etc., Caveat: during an interview, it's a sample of the best behavior and may not be true always.

In the end, I'd suggest the same explanation I received - there's not much choice when it comes to choosing a boss. So, make best of what you have!
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