Choose the Boss, Not the Job

Without bastardising the quote too much, it has been said that people choose a position because of the job but then leave the position because of the boss.

A job description and even day-to-day work of the position may be amazing, but it is your boss who monitors and motivates you to fulfilling your objectives. If you boss’ style does not mesh well with yours then there is an exponentially higher likelihood that you will become frustrated with your day-to-day work.

If the statement at the top is true (which it is), then the question beckons, why it is more important to find a good job with a great boss over a perfect job with a horrible manager?

Here’s why…

Your boss is often the most important person in your career (except for you). Not only that, but your boss generally holds the purse strings, i.e. they determine your end of year performance ratings and the type of raise you will get. Even more than the dollars and cents side of things, generally your boss has to support you in any promotion you may be put up for and often is called upon by higher-ups to give feedback on how effective you are at your job.

Think about it in relation to the pay you get for a job. It is easy to run a sprint within your career (short periods of time at a company) where your salary and compensation drive you to do well and will give you a sense of self-worth (i.e. You are willing to put up with a bunch of crap because you are getting paid well). This feeling is fleeting, though.  Most people need a sense that they are contributing; ultimately money does not continually motivate workers for years and years. The same can be said of a boss. With a bad boss, all the other factors like pay, value of experience and impact your overall job satisfaction less than your boss does.

If having a good boss is so important, then how can you tell of whether a potential boss is good or bad? (so that we are including who your boss would be as an element to “choosing the right place to work”) First, you want to look for signs during your job interview process. Asking the hiring manager about his/her goals and management style during the interview process is a good start. Here you will find out what your potential boss is really like (the good and the bad) or you will find out they are completely delusional and not conscious of their management style at all. Realize how much of a micro-manager you can handle and make your decision on a job accordingly.  Next you want to check with references to understand what kind of experience others have had with your boss. These references will see what you can’t since they have a depth of experience while you only may have a couple of interactions with your potential boss.

All in all, the core message I am offering is that you should do everything you can to prevent yourself from taking on a job with a bad boss. Make sure to evaluate your boss in the job screening process (interviewing is a two-way street where you should be evaluating the job and not just being evaluated yourself). Finally, if you get stuck in a situation where your boss is less than ideal, focus on managing your boss by doing what you can to make them look good, then start searching for a new job that has a better boss (taking into consideration how you learned the hard way with your current job).

Beyond your boss, check out 15 other reasons that it may be time to find a new position.




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About Young Professional's Edge (YP Edge)

Aaron McDaniel is a corporate manager, entrepreneur, author, public speaker and community leader. Aaron has held numerous management roles at a Fortune 500 company, being appointed Regional Vice President at the age of 27, and is the founder of multiple entrepreneurial ventures. He is also the author of the book, The Young Professional's Guide to the Working World ( Aaron instructed a highly rated student-led course on leadership at UC Berkeley’s Haas Undergraduate School of Business and has a book, The Young Professional's Guide to the Working World: Savvy Strategies to Get In, Get Ahead, and Rise to the Top, due to be out later this year. Aaron offers advice that helps young professionals build the foundation for a successful career. Visit his blog, to learn more.

Posted on April 12, 2012, in Lessons Learned, Philosophy and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. The great boss case is very true for me when I first started out working in construction management out of college. Now that the same boss has left the company, and I’ve had decent bosses on the past couple of projects, so I’m starting to explore my options (based on other factors than just my boss).

    I’m interested in the references of the potential boss – is that something I would ask for during the interview? As well as asking to interview with the potential boss? Construction is on a personnel need basis, so supervisors/staff members change from project to project.


    • Vinh,

      You bring up a very valid and important questions. Generally it is a good idea to at least speak with your new potential boss/supervisor before accepting the job (or a new project). While you don’t always want to judge a book by its cover, reputations are often merited, so if you can’t meet him/her ahead of time, then ask around to see what experiences others have had when working for your potential supervisor.

      I think asking to speak with your potential boss is definitely worth asking for (don’t be too timid about asking- remember that they want you to work for them, it is not just you wanting to work there).

      In your situation, I would find a boss you like and see what you can do to follow him/her to future projects. A smart boss will develop a team that he takes with him to future jobs. Get in that rotation and you can get in a rhythm and really start to feel the rewards of your job (and working in a well-run team environment).

      Thank YOU for sharing your question.

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