A Bad Gig


We know smart people.

We have this consistently growing collection of really smart and talented people spread out around the world. It is awesome to see so many of them thriving, affecting change and blowing stuff up. It is also incredibly frustrating to see some of them jammed up in bad gigs. It is difficult to see talent being wasted.

We have talked here before about why people stay in bad jobs, but I am a little more interested today in how people can better avoid bad jobs, bad organizations, bad bosses.

In many cases, people go into their new job blind. There are certainly some exceptions to this; we recently spent some time with some of the Rackspace folks for example. There are organizations that provide some real insight into their culture and are very intentional about who they bring in to that culture. But, most job interviews are about as authentic and candid as a first date.

There is today, more information available to applicants, thanks to sites like Glassdoor and others. But it still seems to me that awesome people still have a hard time avoiding jobs, employers, bosses that suck.

You are a recovering HR leader, any words of wisdom?



  1. Hi Joe,
    Having worked at a couple bad places myself, I think I can offer some words of wisdom:
    1. Know thyself – take a hard look at yourself and what you haven’t liked about your prior jobs. Is there a different way you could have handled adversity ? Did you miss or deliberatley gloss over red flags during the interview ?
    2. Ask a lot of questions – not the typical crap. Spend some time crafting questions that will help you understand what type of organization/people you will be working for. If you ask a question and someone tries to divert or avoid answering, circle back, don’t let it slide.
    3. Network – On-line and IRL – places like glassdoor are great but those reviews are either overly fawning or overly negative. You can learn a lot more talking to someone on the phone or in person.

  2. Hi Melissa, thanks for reading and posting your suggestions here, great stuff. Any chance you have a few sample questions you could share with us?

  3. Hi Joe, I try to craft questions based on things I did and did not like at previous companies. For example, previously I worked at a field office of a multi-national company. I thought it was a great oppurtunity to dip my toe into international HR. I was very wrong on that aspect. Basically the home office attitude was that the field offices were “red headed step children.” The relationship between home office HR and field HR was not good to say the least. When I interviewed for my next job (which was also in a field office, I live in a small town), I made sure to ask a lot of questions related to the relationship between home office and field offices such as:
    1. Does home offic HR set HR policy? How much flexibility do you have interpreting/enforcing policy ?
    2. How are disputes or disagreements between field and home office resolved?
    3. Does home office HR solicit your insight/experience into policies/programs/etc; ?

    Obviously (like any interview) there is only so much information you are going to get and that will be threw a rosey lens. The key here is taking the time to think about what you didn’t like at a bad gig and then figuring out how to get information to help you determine if the new gig will be the same, better or worse then the last.

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