I know from personal experience that when I reported to a boss I was aligned with ideologically and who trusted me, I performed very well and kept getting promoted and promoted. But there were other bosses with whom those alignments just were not there, and after a while we separated—at times voluntarily and at other times involuntarily. I’m certain my situation was not unique and that many readers have had similar situations. Why is that? Why is it possible that the same person can be considered a superstar by one supervisor and incompetent by another? After all, people don’t typically change so drastically overnight.
Are personal biases a part of work relationships?
It is known that hiring managers hire people like themselves. Logically, it’s easy to explain. In marriages, they say opposites attract; but that’s not so in work relationships and it would probably take a psychologist to explain the phenomenon. I know that managers each have an agenda. In fact, they have two. One is the business agenda, which good managers share freely within the department and perhaps outside that manager’s area of responsibility; but then, the manager also has a personal agenda. That one is kept secret because it includes personal biases and prejudices and subjects governed by law. Such a secret agenda is taboo and kept deep inside managers’ minds. If revealed, it could cost them their jobs, and managers know it. But at times, evidence of those biases and prejudices surfaces, often bringing along victims.
Job candidates should try finding out during the interview what the future boss is really like.
Many people go to the interview with a mind-set similar to that of a victim taken in for interrogation. The outcome of the interview is very important to the candidate—to the point that he behaves submissively and meekly. But this should not be. If hired and the relationship with the boss turns out not to be conducive to a good future work relationship, the outcome will be separation. In such a case, the boss is typically the one who stays on. Therefore, the best move the candidate can make during the interview is to try to uncover the interviewer’s personality. That’s not an easy task, because the hiring manager is in control. But with a few probing questions, perhaps at least a few hints could be revealed. Here are some example questions:
- Can you tell me about your management style and philosophy?
- How long have you been in this position?
- What did you do before that?
- Have the members of your staff been in their present positions for a long time?
- What is your communication style?
- How often do you hold staff meetings?
Perhaps during the interview the hiring manager will reveal even more about his style. Many hiring managers are good actors, and what one sees in the interview may be the opposite of what happens in reality once the candidate is actually on the job (have you heard of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?), but my point here is that the more the candidate can find out during the interview, the better able that candidate will be to make final decisions about accepting the job if offered. My own experience has been mixed. How about yours?