Is He or She the “Right Supervisor?” – Talk to People Who Know

If you were going to buy a new Chevy Silverado pickup truck, how would you go about researching it to find out if it met the quality and safety standards you were seeking, along with the vast array of features that could be included? You would probably scour the internet for articles and customer reviews for that vehicle, correct? Perhaps you’d look at Yelp and other customer ratings which may be available. 

But let’s say you found out that your neighbor had just purchased a new Tesla sedan. What if I suggested you could get his opinion on a new Chevy Silverado pickup truck? You’d probably look at me like I was crazy! Why would you go to someone who doesn’t appear to have any interest or experience with the same vehicle you are interested in purchasing? 

Exactly! You’d want to talk with someone who knows. Someone who has experience with the vehicle you are considering. You would be willing to trust online reviews from strangers vs. advice from your neighbor. 

Be Aware of Information Gaps

In that context, let’s now say you’ve interviewed for a position on a team within an organization you are very interested in. You’ve gotten past the screening interview, and you’ve also spoken with the hiring manager. So far, so good – everything appears to be headed in the right direction for you to receive an offer. You have a couple more interviews with people in other departments who would be peers of yours, and then you receive an offer! Congrats! 

BUT…nowhere in the interview process did you have a chance to talk with other team members who also report to the same supervisor to whom you’d be reporting. Or perhaps you may have had interviews with team members, but you didn’t get the opportunity to ask many questions about your new potential supervisor’s work style and habits. Bottom line – there is usually an information gap about the supervisor. 

Look Before You Leap

The adage, “look before you leap” comes to mind. And, as with many adages, scriptural principles lie beneath it. Proverbs 18:13 says, “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.” Additionally, Proverbs 13:16 also states, “All who are prudent act with knowledge, but fools expose their folly.” Fill in that information gap about the supervisor before you respond to an offer. 

As I advised in last month’s series, when you receive an offer, it is often received without the candidate having all the information he / she would like or need to have to make a well-informed decision. Your due process to ask for more information will pay off to make that decision. 

Ideally, you’ll want to meet with 2-3 direct reports of your future supervisor. When you meet with them, you’ll want to ask each of them specific questions – not something broad like, “What’s it like to work with your supervisor?” Here are some questions to consider. Let’s assume the future supervisor’s name is Sally: 

  • How does Sally communicate her expectations to you? 
  • How does Sally live out the organizational values? 
  • Could you tell me about a time when you and Sally had a conflict? What was it and how was it resolved? 
  • Please tell me about a time when Sally was under a lot of pressure. What was it and how did she behave toward you during that time? 
  • On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being a “micromanager” and 10 being “not even present”, where does Sally rank in how she supervises / reviews your work? 
  • How does Sally manage her own work life balance? What are her expectations of you in this area? 

Be Specific

As you can see, the more specific and real you can get with your questions, the better the information you will have to enable you to make a good decision. 

As with many situations in life, they are simple, but not easy. By taking a little extra time to investigate in the right places, you can save yourself from a world of future hurt.  Talk to people who know. 

Dave Sparkman currently serves as the volunteer Crossroads Career board chair and local ministry leader. He is also the founder and managing director of Spark Your Culture, a corporate culture consulting firm. Prior to that he worked at UnitedHealth Group, a Fortune #5 public company, serving in the role of Chief Culture Officer. His unemployment experience came from the implosion of Arthur Andersen, where he served as the West Region Managing Partner, People.

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Comments 1

  1. I agree totally with your comments above. It takes me approx 6 mos of research before I decide what car to buy. All that research also provides options and background info so when I see a deal in a car that was not my first choice, I can make a decision because I have the info already in my head. ( being a very analytical person is both a blessing and a curse).
    With regards to the above article about asking your neighbor who a Tesla about about a Chevy, I’d still ask. He might provide input as to why he got the sedan and not a truck that I had’nt considered. At worst, he did not have any relevent information that would help my decisioning. I try to stay open to info, if I determine its not applicable, I ignore and more on. This has worked well for me as I tend to Unearth information that I never would have thought about. With regards to the job, getting inputs from others regarding their supervisior/ worker relationships can give some perspectives of what is possible outside of my own experiences. What works for me, doesn’t always work for others. Someone may love their supervisor because they bring in cookies every friday and always asks about what they do outside of the office and every Monday gives them a to do list for the week of how to do their job. That wouldn’t be my ideal boss but to each his own.
    Anyway, my point is , you have to get creative when trying to uncover information. Sometimes its what is not said that is most revealing.
    Thanks for letting me share.

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