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April 10, 2007

LinkedIn and the Art of Avoiding an Asshole Boss

LinkedIn_ Find References.jpg

Since blogging about Bob Sutton’s notorious book, The No Asshole Rule, I have received a constant flow of emails from readers sharing their own tales of lecherous bosses and indignities suffered.

Mean-spirited morons are still running much of the workplace, and it’s time to take a stand. Most nastiness is directed by superiors to subordinates; so before taking a job, do your homework and screen them out in advance. (After all, avoidance is the easier than curing.)

To do this, I propose that you check your prospective boss’s references just like she’s checking out yours. I’m not suggesting that you ask your prospective boss for a list of references (you can try, but it may mean you don’t get the job).

Instead, do a LinkedIn reference check. First, look her up to determine if you have any common connections. If so, find out more from people you trust. Second, use the LinkedIn reference check tool to find people who overlapped with her in the past.

The beauty of this tool is that she doesn’t even have to be a member of LinkedIn. You simply specify the company and years of employment for her, and LinkedIn will show you people in your network who worked at that company during the same time.

Once you’ve located folks to serve as a reference check, you need to know what to ask. This is where Badass Bob Sutton comes in. He prepared this list of questions for you.

  1. Kisses-up and kicks-down: “How does the prospective boss respond to feedback from people higher in rank and lower in rank?” “Can you provide examples from experience?” One characteristic of certified assholes is that they tend to demean those who are less powerful while brown-nosing their superiors.

  2. Can’t take it: “Does the prospective boss accept criticism or blame when the going gets tough?” Be wary of people who constantly dish out criticism but can’t take a healthy dose themselves.

  3. Short fuse: “In what situations have you seen the prospective boss lose his temper?” Sometimes anger is justified or even effective when used sparingly, but someone who “shoots-the-messenger” too often can breed a climate of fear in the workplace. Are co-workers scared of getting in an elevator with this person?

  4. Bad credit: “Which style best describes the prospective boss: gives out gratuitous credit, assigns credit where credit is due, or believes everyone should be their own champion?” This question opens the door to discuss whether or not someone tends to take a lot of credit while not recognizing the work of his or her team.

  5. Canker sore: “What do past collaborators say about working with the prospective boss?” Assholes usually have a history of infecting teams with nasty and dysfunctional conflict. The world seems willing to tolerate talented assholes, but that doesn’t mean you have to.

  6. Flamer: What kind of email sender is the prospective boss? Most assholes cannot contain themselves when it comes to email: flaming people, carbon-copying the world, blind carbon copying to cover his own buttocks. Email etiquette is a window into one’s soul.

  7. Downer: “What types of people find it difficult to work with the prospective boss? What type of people seem to work very well with the prospective boss?” Pay attention to responses that suggest “strong-willed” or “self-motivated” people tend to work best with the prospective boss because assholes tend to leave people around them feeling de-energized and deflated.

  8. Card shark: “Does the prospective boss share information for everyone’s benefit?” A tendency to hold cards close to one’s chest—i.e., a reluctance to share information—is a sign that this person treats co-workers as competitors who must be defeated so he or she can get ahead.

  9. Army of one: “Would people pick the prospective boss for their team?” Sometimes there is upside to having an asshole on your team, but that won’t matter if the coworkers refuse to work with that person. Use this question to help determine if the benefit of having the prospective boss on your team outweighs any asshole behaviors.

  10. Open architecture: “How would the prospective boss respond if a copy of The No Asshole Rule appeared on her desk?” Be careful if the answer is, “Duck!”


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Comments

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www.metrik.cl

Working with assholes (or for them) drains the life out of you. The office always seems to be in a joyous state the entire time they are sick, on vacation or a business trip. Why do we let them have this power over us? Why is it not so easy to go out and just say "I quit"?

I don't know...

Scott - www.workingwithassholes.net

Guy,

Sensational! No, wait, sensationalist! Maybe the sequel can be something like "The Toxic Toad, aka Employees Who Suck."

It's true... Some bosses are assholes. Of course, some people are assholes too, so odds work out about even for bosses and employees.

But, most folks work hard, care about what they do, and care about the people they work for, and with, and who work for them. For every asshole boss story, there are at least that many about men and women that might be considered both capable and honest, if not downright giving.

Toxicity is attention-grabbing, but not necessarily wholly beneficial. I'd love to see you, the guy we all love to trust, present something soon to balance this negative energy...

Thanks...?

Being a Chinese by blood, I am not proud to tell everyone about my last year's experience in China, but the fact is: the managers in this country are more concerned about their individual well being than the "big picture" of the company. One particular manager excels in meeting all the "10 requirements" of an A.H. boss with flying colors, so to speak!

I can only hope that this does not apply to the whole of China :)

May the force (or whatever religion) be with you! Cheers!

Take Control of your life and do what you think is right for you. This means be passionate and thoroughly enjoy what you do at work or outside.
Remember life comes only once and make the best use of it.
If I comes across a asshole boss I will try my best to accommodate but when it reaches my limits then I give up and move out for something better.

Assholes are everywhere be it in companies, friends or your own people sometimes.

Thanks
Koshy

You inspire me to be a leader above those who surround me, and for that I thank you.

Years ago I attended a seminar by Tom Peters (he spits when he gets excited, so don't sit in the front row!). One of the things he said was (very roughly translated), "if you hate your job, or your boss is an asshole, quit and take another job, even if it means giving yourself a demotion. You'll end up much better off in the long run". I thought that was silly at the time but, then again, I had a great job and a non-asshole boss. Later in my career, I ended up with the asshole of all asshole bosses (the CEO). Instead of putting up with the abuse, I quit the job and took a job with a lesser title with significantly less pay. It turns out that Tom was right, because my professional life is great now. The moral of the story is, man (or woman) up. Don't put up with crap from asshole bosses!

Is this just a function of the person and not so much the businessperson? What we learned we learned in kindergarten as they say: play nice, say please, and share. Afternoon naps are good as well.

Muy bueno, muy interesante. Gracias.
Very nice, thank´s.
Saludos desde Argentina.
Greating´s from Argentina.

The only problem with LinkedIn is possible bias. You never know if the person you're talking to is being honest. Perhaps they're the asshole and they hold a grudge against their old boss.

I'd much rather trust the opinion of people I know personally. If that kind of information, I'll form my own opinion through interviews. I find that prospective employers never mind questions about management style as long as they're not presented along the lines of "are you a jerk?"

GJ
http://www.60in3.com

there's a simpler solution:

don't use LinkedIn.

i'm confused by friends frantically attempting to a)chase "social networking" tools then b)frantially trying to "manage" all the information and impressions that result.

disconnect. leave most all of it alone. in the big picture, none of this stuff is worth your precious life energy.

unless your life is about how to make money, create money, generate money, collect money.

The best solution? Be self-employed. It's wonderful to be your own boss (unless you are the a-hole, of course).

Can I related? Sure. Who can't? Anyone who has been working has come across micromanagers and insecure leaders. It's always good to find resources for dealing with them or just avoiding them altogether.

Another good book is, My Way Or The Highway, by Harry Chambers.

Thanks, Guy.

Hi Guy, I checked the linkedln site, and I surprisingly find my boss there. I said surprisingly, because we work in an Italian company... a big one, but still Italian. Anyway, I just wanted to check out his information, but I first had to register, and the registration was a bit more complicated than other websites, then I discovered that in order to read some useful information I have to upgrade to the business account.
It's a pity, another missed opportunity. It seems a bit strange to me that you didn't point out this "feature". You usually are very careful about that.
Thanks at any rate for your posting.

Mandi
MailMaster C.

Checking references on your boss is just as important as a boss checking references on you. Nobody wants to work with an asshole.

Until real leaders return to the top spots in the world of business, these creeps will continue to perpetuate down through the ranks.
No one is watching the store anymore. All they see is the cash register.
I have only seen it getting worse over the past twenty years. All I can do is write about it.

"Most assholes cannot contain themselves when it comes to email..."

I laughed good and I laughed hard.

It seems like there's a market opportunity for some company to offer pre-employment background checks of companies for prospective employees. Particular people (bosses) would only be part of it. Gathering and explaining available financial data would be part too. If a company is being funded week to week by a VC who has serious public financial issues, wouldn't it be good as a prospective employee to know that when the company is telling you they want to go public within the next year? Or if the company doesn't have hourly workers and still has multiple employee complaints with the labor board, shouldn't that be part of wage negotiation (or just a red flag)?

Time for this service is about 3 years out. Employees are cynical and choosey now, but not quite enough. I still have to convince many friends to spend $300 on lawyer time to review and explain employment contracts to them before they sign, particularly all the parts that are at best questionably enforceable (e.g. uncompensated non-competes).

Wow, what a good article. When they have a change to check about subordinates, at the same time subordinates should have same freedom. Unfortunately till now this is not taken place, from now every one should have equal rights. Most of the time, Bosses are real AssHoles. This article is really helpful. Hope we will share more info like. Please keep it up guys.

Regards,
Rama K

Guy, you so crack me up. I love your plain-speaking. Your advice applies to screening clients as well. Life and business is so much nicer, and much less soul and energy draining, when you work with those who are a fit. I'll leave the jerks, a-holes and morons to give themselves and each other ulcers instead of giving me one, thank you very much.

Best,

Danielle

As usual, Guy has ideas worth hearing. This one's a GEM. Thanks, Guy.


Jeff Yablon
President & CEO
PC-VIP.COM

Besides answers to the excellent questions, get a war story or two. Sometimes the stories are more telling; the answers to the questions may be nicened up, but nobody forgets the boss who demands you back at your desk at 8 am after you worked till 4 am restoring from a hardware crash.

Guy! - Excellent text!

I can not resist!

My last annual evaluator [stupidvisor] was terminated 16 months after I resigned [December 2004]. I had visited the Tuesday prior to the stupivisor's termination [Thursday-April 2006]. Two months after I resigned, I created my own employment; six months after my resignation, I resumed studies in a master program and by the end of the Fall [2007], I will graduate {Master Accountant Financial Analyst}

I still occasionally visit my former place of employment to visit and still meet ex-coworkers that either didn't know I had resigned or greet me as if I have returned to work.

That "A$$hole Boss" helped me more than harmed me. I would consider hiring the former stupivisor for they were good at running-off talent and maintaining an excellent network "slackers". ** As a policy, I would encourage exit interviews and offer the resigning employee the position of supervising the "stupidvisor" :)

After the stupidvisor was terminated, their main slacker resigned, due to lack of knowledge for the propped position.

This is "deep" -- I am blunt :) If the housekeeping staff run from visitors' -- one most likely should do the same. On-the-other-hand, housekeepers that smile and look visitors directly in the eye [as if they anticipate a question from the visitor] the ambiance of the firm is a decent place to work as well as conduct business!

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