The good news is that as the job market improves, more workers are able to leave jobs -- or bosses -- that make them miserable.
The bad news is that some are taking jobs that are going to make them just as miserable in a very short amount of time.
What happens is that many people believe that once they leave a jerk behind in their old workplace, things will be great. They'll work with people they like or they won't have to put up with a jerk boss.
It would be great if that were true. But even in the best companies, there are jerks and a**hole bosses. There might not be as many -- but you can bet they're lurking among the cubicles.
If you're looking for a new job -- or even thinking of jumping to a new department in your current company -- there are some ways you can figure out if you're about to take a job with another jerk and be just as miserable.
Here are some things you need to think about:
- Your initial visit. When you interview with a company or department for the first time, are you treated with respect? For example, are you kept waiting for an hour and then no apology is offered as to why your interviewer was late? Does a receptionist or another employee smile at you, or ask if you need assistance in some way? Do other employees greet one another by name, smile at one another or walk like zombies through the hallways? The key is to see that employees seem comfortable with one another and are engaged enough to want to reach out and try to help someone else.
- Body language. Do employees you speak with tense up when you start asking about the boss? Do they refuse to make eye contact when they talk about his or her management style? Does the interviewer quickly change the subject when discussing the boss? These are all caution flags that may indicate the boss isn't well liked or respected.
- Ask questions. Interviews are not a one-way street. If you really want to see if a workplace is a good fit, don't ask questions like, "What do you do if someone is a bully?" The standard human resource line will be that such a person isn't tolerated, blah, blah, blah. What you really want to do is ask something like, "Let's say that a client makes a mistake in a delivery date, but blames one of your employees. The client says he will take his business elsewhere and really starts ranting against that employee. What would you do?" Listen carefully as to what will be done. If it turns out later that that the employee really did make the mistake -- what will happen? How does management handle mistakes by employees? How does management deal with such volatile situations? If the boss or the interviewer stammer around without a good answer, then that may be a clue they don't handle such situations well or at least not in a thoughtful, fair way.
- Check social media. Potential employers use social media to check on you -- why not do the same? Look at what company employees post -- are they obviously unhappy people? Or, do they seem engaged in their work? Does the boss post thoughtful essays on LinkedIn or the company blog? What about podcasts? Was the boss interviewed so you can gain more insight into his or her thinking?
The point is that if you don't want to trade in one awful workplace for another, you need to take more responsibility for ensuring that you've done your due diligence in checking out the jerk factor.