Should You Take a Job If You Don’t Like the Manager?

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You spend a lot of time at work, and if you dislike a manager, those hours can feel long, frustrating, and unpleasant. Not getting along with your manager is stressful – who wants to leave work feeling like they have hours of complaints stored up? And it’s not just that your quality of life that’s affected. Managers play a role in determining if you get a raise (or not), if you’re offered a promotion (or not), and if you get offered interesting projects and perks (or not).

So if you’re interviewing for a position, and you get a bad vibe from a manager, or think that you’ll struggle to get along with the person, it can be hard to know how to proceed. Should you take the job, and figure things will work themselves out? Or, turn down a job offer, even though there’s always a possibility the manager isn’t so bad after all?

Some Signs of a Potential Bad Fit with Your Manager

Even the most even-keeled, agreeable person tends to find some people easier to get along with than others. It’s like workplace culture – some places (and people) are a better fit than others. So it’s possible that you’ll meet your potential manager and immediately get a sense that they’re a person you’ll struggle to get along with. Only you can know if that's a dealbreaker or something you can handle.

Aside from personality, there are a few signs of a difficult manager that are universal, and that you might pick up during an interview:

●    Rude behavior: In an interview situation, typically all participants are trying to make a good impression. If you find a potential manager rude under these circumstances, just imagine what it would be like on the job, when there's no need to impress. 

●    Employee unhappiness: If you meet any people supervised by your manager, pay attention to the interaction — do potential co-workers seem happy or intimidated? Similarly, note how a potential manager talks about staffers. Does he or she praise them and note positive traits or insult them? Ideally, a manager supports and praises staffers.

●    Attitude: Does the manager talk only about him or herself, and forget to ask you questions? Or, does the manager bad-mouth the company? The focus should be on you during an interview, and it should also be positive. If it’s not, that could be a sign that your manager’s ego and self-absorption will always dominate interactions.

What to Do If You Think You Really Won’t Get Along

So, if you think you won’t get along with your manager, what should you do? There is, of course, no one correct answer to this question. Everyone’s situation will be unique. Here are a few considerations that can help you think through your decision:

  • Does the company have frequent turnover? A look at LinkedIn or Glassdoor can help you suss this out. If people frequently cycle in and out of the company or change roles, it’s possible the manager might not stay at the company for long. (But, on the other hand, if the manager has been there for years, and everyone else around him or her has been cycling out, that could be a sign that you’re not the only person who finds the manager difficult.)
  • How badly do you need the job? If you need a job, sometimes there’s no workaround. You have to take any reasonable offer—even if it’s accompanied by a potentially toxic, difficult manager.
  • Will you work with the manager frequently? Try to get a sense of the organizational structure at the company. It may be that you have a lot of dotted-line managers — other people who can provide mentorship, feedback, and support in place of the not-so-great supervisor. Or, it’s possible your manager frequently travels, isn’t a hands-on type, and won't be providing a lot of day-to-day oversight.
  • Can you switch roles? During the interview stage, nothing is set in stone. Take a look at the company’s job board or ask a human resources contact if there are other jobs available that might be suitable. You’ll have to be careful: you don’t want to say that you are looking for another option because you don’t want to work with a specific person. But there may be a way to finesse yourself into a different role with a different supervisor.

    One of the most important considerations to keep in mind is if your dislike is personal or work-related. If you find your manager's habits and personality irritating, and would not be friends if you met at a party, that's probably surmountable. It's nicer to work with someone you feel compatible with, but not essential. But if during an interview you think the manager would undercut you, or make your day-to-day work difficult, that's a different and more serious problem.

    Bottom line: Consider carefully before taking a position where you think you’ll have a difficult time with your manager. Try to establish if the sacrifice in quality of life is worth it, and if the poor connection with your manager will just be a small irritant or something that affects your on-the-job success.