5 Ways to Spot a Bullying Boss in a Job Interview

Nobody wants a boss who is a bully. One of the biggest reasons people leave a job is because they have a bad manager. Unfortunately, the drastic changes that have taken place in the workplace during the pandemic may have created more toxic bosses.

“Bullying behaviors often stem from stress and anxiety and the desire of leaders to solve a problem,” says Bonnie Low-Kramen, author of Be the ultimate assistant. “What the pandemic has done is increase stress and anxiety in the workplace, especially among leaders who have not received training on how to manage a team. … All of this means that leaders don’t necessarily act in a respectful way towards the team.

Instead of finding out too late that you’re working for a toxic leader, look for these five signs during your interview:

1. Observe how they interact with others

One way to spot a bully is to listen to how he talks with others. Do they say “please” and “thank you”? Do they call people by their first name? Do they interrupt?

“Interruptions send the message that ‘what I have to say is far more important than what you say,'” says Low-Kramen. “These are solid clues.”

In an interview panel with more than one interviewer, candidates can also observe how managers react to their colleagues and vice versa, adds Jill Chapman, senior performance consultant at human resources provider Insperity.

“For example, a manager who dominates the interview without considering other people’s questions may indicate an authoritarian management style,” she says. “If the signs seem murky, candidates can ask how managers maintain a positive work environment…with a dismissive or rude response pointing to a bully in the workplace.”

2. Determine their expectations for the role

During the interview, ask the manager, “What differentiates an employee who succeeds in this role from one who fails?” suggests Eileen Linnaberry, Ph.D., practice leader and consultant for professional services firm Vantage Leadership Consulting. “Look for clues that the hiring manager expects compliance, ongoing availability, and exercise of authority for power,” she says. “For example, if the hiring manager considers successful employees to be those who work midnight and work weekends, you may also find yourself intimidated into doing so.”

3. Notice if they try to make you feel comfortable

Interviews can be stressful. Linnaberry suggests paying attention to what the hiring manager does to make you feel comfortable.

“If they do things to create a stressful environment in the interview, they’ll probably do it at work too,” she says. “The hiring manager who is late for the interview and doesn’t give you time to portray your abilities will likely continue to show little respect for your time and skills in the future.”

4. Watch how they deal with discomfort

The key to spotting toxic people is getting them to face situations where they might fail or look bad. A lack of concern for others while responding to this ego threat is a sure sign of a potential bully, says Dr. Kenneth Matos, global director of people science for Culture Amp, an experience platform employees.

“A question you might ask would be ‘What is your view on the strengths and vulnerabilities of your company’s main rivals and how do they compare to your company?'” he suggests. “A good response is one in which the respondent can provide feedback with respect to the rival. Are they able to recognize where the rival is most effective? Do they speak of the rival with respect or disdain? Would you like your boss to talk to you or talk about you the same way? »

Low-Kramen, who worked for 25 years as personal assistant to actor Olympia Dukakis, likes to ask executives, “How are you doing on your worst day?” The answer to this question will speak volumes, especially if you observe his body language after asking the question.

“Olympia Dukakis would often say, ‘Bonnie, the body comes first,’ which means before anyone says anything, the body telegraphs what it’s feeling,” says Low-Kramen. “You can see tension and discomfort.”

5. Talk to references

“It’s becoming increasingly common for candidates to ask to speak to organizational references, such as other team members or former employees who have worked on the team in the past,” Linnaberry says.

Talk to the people who work for this leader and ask specifically how they are managed and developed. When managers invest in their staff and create a psychologically safe environment, the team will have no problem sharing this information with new candidates.

“Bullying managers is likely to create a secretive vague environment – team members may not come out and tell you the boss is a bully, so read between the lines and dig deeper, if possible,” says Linnaberry .

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