How important is… my manager when choosing a job?

My boss is a total…

One of the most common reasons people are unhappy in their jobs is because of their boss. People can end up feeling overworked, undervalued, or even bullied in extreme cases. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of career paths, having a boss is not optional. Therefore when choosing a job, it’s really important to have a think about how you would like to be managed.

Being managed by somebody you don’t like is a sure-fire route to anxiety, stress, and an unhappy employment. On the other hand, the right kind of boss can be a very positive experience. There will be plenty of people out there who owe wonderful careers to the guiding influence of a supportive or inspiring manager.

Management styles

 You probably already know if you like being managed in a hands-on or a hands-off way. Some people find it hard to self-motivate, and benefit massively from the structure and encouragement offered by a supportive, hands-on boss. Having a mentor who takes the time to help while sharing their experience and knowledge can be a valuable thing for people willing to take advice and learn from constructive criticism.

There is however a line for most of us, where hands-on managing can descend into the territory of micromanagement. Nobody likes being chased for constant updates, or being made to feel like they can’t be trusted to do their job.

Some people prefer to work a lot more independently, so the ideal boss for them would be a manager who takes a step a back and trusts you to get on with it yourself, providing support if needed or requested. This level of trust usually needs to be earned though, so don’t be surprised if this is not always there from day one. A hands off manager also doesn’t mean you cannot be supported and mentored, however you will need to be more proactive in seeking that help and advice out.

Is there another way?

 There are those who simply don’t like being managed at all (guilty), and the lack of a manager can be a major draw towards self-employment. The pros and cons of being self-employed is a whole other discussion in itself… but for the purpose of this topic, it’s worth remembering that even while being self-employed, you never work truly independently from the feedback and input of others. You will still have clients – some of whom can be very demanding. Of course, you do have a lot more say over who you work with and what the terms are.

For the vast majority of jobs, having a boss is simply unavoidable. In fact, I’m struggling to think of any job where you would not be answerable to somebody, somewhere. There will always be someone with more knowledge and experience in the hierarchy, so it’s important to try and work for someone who is going to help bring out your best.

Finding the right manager

 If you know that you don’t particularly like being closely managed but self-employment doesn’t sound right for you either, then pay close attention to what the management structure looks like when applying for jobs. For example, maybe you’re very goal motivated and like working alone, so decide to interview with a manager for a sales type job. How often will this manager want updating on your progress? How much influence does he/she want over your selling approach? What will his/her approach be if targets aren’t being hit? The answers to those questions could greatly impact your enjoyment of the job.

If you decide you want someone who will offer close mentorship, then make sure to find out at the interview stage what the management style is like. How do they develop their junior employees? I’ve worked with managers before who were barely in the country, let alone the office. It suited me at the time, but I can’t say I learned a thing from them. Would that bother you?

And remember, in a bigger organisation, there will be more choice. If you’re relatively junior it might be possible to swap teams or managers if it’s not working out, or try out a few areas of the business before you find the manager you really click with. In a small business, you will not have that level of flexibility, so be certain you like the style of leadership and management before accepting a job in a small team.

Final thoughts

 I’ve had some good managers and some bad managers. The thing is though, what made them good or bad for me might be the complete opposite for you. Make sure you know what management style suits you best, and decide how important it is to you that you get a manager who fits.

This series is looking at some important questions to ask yourself if you still haven’t got a clue what you want to do for a living. Check out my article about how answering these questions will help. I’ve already talked about the importance of salary, teams, and work/life balance.