Fiona Smith Columnist

Fiona writes on workplace issues, including management, psychology, workplace design, human resources and recruitment. She is a former Work Space editor at The Australian Financial Review and has also covered property, technology, architecture and general news.

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Five questions to unmask the manager

Published 16 May 2013 00:46, Updated 23 May 2013 10:51

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When Andy Cross went a-courting as a law student in England, he would take his dates to see the Whitney Houston romance movie, The Bodyguard. He went seven times.

Cross, now the managing director of staffing company Ambition Technology in Sydney, was using the movie to get an insight into the character of his next potential girlfriend. Sure, yes, he also won them over by showing he was not afraid of romance. And surely it couldn’t hurt that by the seventh date he knew, off by heart, the lyrics to the overwrought I Will Always Love You and had the good sense not to sing along.

When it comes to shopping around for a life partner, people use all sorts of strategies to find out if it will work.

My (now) husband gave me a mix tape which included doomed, but sublimely talented folk singer Nick Drake – a barometer for many men who matured in the 1970s. Shame I didn’t have a stereo system at the time, but I moved quickly and had one when he visited again two days later. I passed.

So, we set tests when looking for love, but what happens when we are trying to choose a new boss?

Cross says people often fail to ask the questions to help determine whether you can actually work together.

“Our research found that only 8 per cent of people consider the prospective manager as a deciding factor during the recruitment process,” Cross says.

Yet 32 per cent of employees quit because of a bad relationship with the manager, or a cultural misfit.

“You have got to pay attention to who you will be working with,” says Cross, who recommends job-seekers:

  • 1. Ask which business figure they admire and why. This tells you about their values and opens up a discussion.
  • 2. Ask who is the highest performer in their team and why. This tells you what you need to do to get ahead.
  • 3. Find out if they have children, which may indicate whether they have an understanding of your family needs.
  • 4. Look for common interests. Ask what they did on the weekend, mention an interest of your own and see if they respond.
  • 5. Watch their body language. Are they listening to you or adopting a power pose to indicate superiority?

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