Before you accept that job offer, consider this…
Job title, scope of responsibility, passion for the organization, compensation – these are all fine factors to consider when weighing a potential job opportunity. And of course you know that you should “like” your new boss, but is having a fantastic manager that important? Many candidates underestimate the importance of vetting their future managers before signing on the dotted line, and that can be a big mistake.
So, why do managers matter?
Your manager holds the keys to your professional growth. Your manager is the only person in your life who is expected to give you regular feedback and coaching. Until you’ve had an awesome manager, you may not understand the difference between “ok” coaching and “exceptional” coaching, but the gap is huge. Even the most self-aware person can benefit from another set of eyes and perspective on how to handle challenging situations, and those are the moments where professional growth happens. Additionally, managers often decide if and when you get to work on projects that will stretch your skill set.
Great managers become great mentors. Career advice blogs are practically dripping with articles about how important it is to build your own “personal Board of Directors”. But – and this is the million dollar question – where do you find those people? You can use current and former managers as a “farm team” for that personal Board because they have direct experience observing your performance in a professional context. Don’t you want to make sure your future mentor has what it takes?
Managers have a disproportionate impact on your overall happiness and health. We spend nearly 40% of our waking hours at work every week, so it makes sense that the effects of a bad boss would creep into the off-hours, too. Research has shown a link between bad bosses and elevated incidence of heart disease. Research also shows that a bad boss doesn’t just affect you – a bad boss can affect your whole family!
So, now you know that it’s important. But… how can you identify a GREAT boss?
Do some digging. If you’re interviewing for a role that was previously held by another person, figure out what that person is doing now. Did s/he get promoted within the company? (Good sign!) Or did s/he make a lateral move just to get out of the organization? (Not a great sign…) And how does your future manager talk about this employee? Does s/he speak disparagingly about the former employee, or is s/he glad that the person found a new challenge? Look for signs that the manager encouraged that person’s growth and development.
Ask the team. Go beyond “What’s it like working here?” and try to get team members to provide substantive examples. Try, “What did it take you a while to learn about working for X?”, “How often do you receive formal or informal feedback from X, and how does s/he deliver it?”, “Do you think there have been any trends among employees who weren’t ultimately successful working for X?”
Bonus points: Do your own reference check! If you’re in a position to negotiate, it doesn’t hurt to ask your future manager if you can speak to a former direct report. This is especially helpful if you are signing on to work for a small team or startup where you and your boss will work closely together.
While every job has its own rewards and challenges, working for a great manager makes it more likely that you will appreciate the rewards and be well positioned to address the challenges.
– By Amanda Kullman