Jerk-Proof Your Next Job

October 12, 2009

Are you working for a jerk or even worse a bully boss?  As I wrote in my article “The Courage to Take Moral Action,”  if it gets to the point where you need to move on to a new job, you want to make sure you don’t end up in the same boat again at your new job.  There are some things you can do as you look for your new job that will help.

The most important thing you need to do is to decide how important it is to you to avoid ever again working for an asshole as bad as the one you are trying to get away from.  If it is not at the top or your priority list, you will likely compromise somewhere along the way and risk eventually being right back where you started.

Before you go look for your new job, take an honest look inside yourself and ask what you might have done to contribute to your current misery.  It is not your fault you are being bullied at work, but some parts of your situation might be your responsibility.  Did you take your current position for the wrong reasons?  Did you fail to do a diligent background check of the organization and your boss?  Did you discount bad news or warning signals you had about this company or your boss before you took the job?  Once on the job and the bullying started, did you address the behavior quickly and effectively or did you hold out unreasonable hope?

If you find something inside yourself that contributed to your current situation, confront and address it before you move on.

Now go find the job you want and deserve, not the job you need.  You have no control over what the folks you interview with will do, but for your part, give them a realistic preview of your expectations.  In very positive terms, describe how important it is for you to work for people that treat others with respect and dignity. Tell them that you thrive in an environment like that and aspire to lead like that yourself when given the opportunity.  Ask to see their policies on workplace harassment and bullying.  If they don’t have specific policies like that, ask why not?  Listen carefully to how they respond. 

Make sure they understand a healthy corporate culture and ethical leadership are very important to you.  This will be a good signal to send to companies that operate accordingly and a bad signal to those that don’t.  If they balk at your signal for any reason, shake the dust off your feet and move on.

Be patient, but be resolute. Even in a good economy it could take a while to sort through the chaff.  And even if you do your best to put all your cards on the table there is no guarantee that the company you are interviewing with will do the same.  But it’s the best you can do and it’s worth the time and effort.

Related Posts:

Is it Time for You to Quit Your Job?

What it Takes to be a Career Commander


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Comments (12)

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  1. Joseph Logan says:

    Very well put. I’m in the midst of final edits on a book for first job seekers, and the very first chapter delves into this very topic. We don’t really get much advice early on about how to create mutual, emotionally healthy relationships in our work. Very much of a piece with your posts on targeting your value and dealing with bullies.

  2. Joseph, will look forward to you book when it comes out. I know when I was a new job seeker, all I wanted was a job. Now I know to look for the right job, not just any job. Learned my lessons the hard way as I suspect do many others. Thanks! Bret

  3. JB says:

    How should one handle a reorg with new boss? I’ve had 7 supervisors in past 3 years due to mergers, reorganization and department consolidation. It’s not realistic to think one can choose their boss in current corporate climate. It’s rare that the person who hires you will be your supervisor for long.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    JB, are you now working for an asshole as a result of the reorganization? If so start by confronting the situation and the behavior. I’ve got a number of posts in here on courageous followership and bullying that might help.

    I hear what you are saying about not being able to chose your boss, but you can attempt to train them. I always initiate an eye-to-eye meeting when I get a new boss so they know what the are getting with me. My message is clear – I am a very valuable asset to this organization and I am going to work my butt off for you, but I don’t mess around or play games. Has not always worked as you can imagine. When I could bear it no more I moved on and am better off for doing so.

    Thanks for the question and comment! Bret

    JB Reply:

    Actually like and respect current boss. Can’t say the same for some past ones.
    Too bad corporate america doesn’t train people how to be good supervisors which would increase productivity and retention. In most large companies the upper mgmt spend all their time and energy managing upward in hopes of advancement while neglecting the daily managerial tasks and then wonder why their people leave or burnout.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    It can be a crap shoot. I share your concern about companies not doing a better job preparing people to lead. Thanks! Bret

  4. Manuela Capodanno says:

    Any possible chance you work in Massachusetts?
    I want to work for you!

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Nope, Nevada. Thanks for taking the time to read the article and comment! Bret

  5. Manuela Capodanno says:

    I’m a positive person naturally, and love the idea of creating a positive behavior work place! Sometimes seeing it written down puts it in a whole new perspective. I’ve signed up for your Newsletter and look forward to collecting thoughts and ideas when I’m ready to search for a new job and also using them in my present one. Already planning on using some of your “stuff” in my interviews.
    Thank you for trying to make the work environment a better place!

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Great, Manuela! Make sure to subscribe to the blog because I am much better at updating my blog almost daily than I am at writing newsletters 🙂 Thanks for stopping by! Bret

  6. Thanks for the great article Bret.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Thanks for the kind words, Joe! Bret