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How to answer during interview when they ask "What do you dislike about your direct manager?"

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    Some thinking of your own is allowed. Maybe add a few possibilities which you can think of.
    – Martijn
    Oct 16 '14 at 10:50
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Personally, I think this is an incredibly poor question to ask an interviewee and it shows bad judgement on the part of the interviewer.

If I were asked, I'd almost certainly respond with something along the lines of:

I don't dislike anything about my current manager. We occasionally have differences of opinion, but I think that's a healthy part of working in a team where all members are trying to do their best for the project and isn't indicative of any personality clashes.

Whether that's entirely true or not is immaterial because an interview is not the place to be airing dirty laundry about your current or previous employers.

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  • I always find it interesting when these 'generic' but good sounding messages are posted. They can be molded to fit most people and it can turn a question you'd be caught off guard hearing into a positive way to show yourself.
    – Xrylite
    Oct 16 '14 at 15:38
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    In many cases this will be a poor response. The question is intended to discover whether you able to be realistic about your relations with other workers, and how you handle it. If your response is always "there is nothing I dislike" then you are portraying yourself as someone who is either unrealistic about their workplace relations, or who is bull***tting because they don't want to be 'airing dirty laundry'. Please remember that just because you dislike something about a manager that doesn't make them a bad manager. Oct 16 '14 at 16:13
  • @DJClayworth The point is it's none of your business and I won't be sharing it with you any more than I'd share detail about my marriage. If you feel it makes me unsuitable, then I'm probably not a good match for you.
    – Dan
    Oct 16 '14 at 19:26
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    How you interact with your co-workers is definitely relevant to a potential employer. I suspect that the problem is, you think the interviewer is trying to find out information about your manager. They are not. They are trying to find out information about you. Oct 16 '14 at 21:08
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    @DJClayworth - I don't dislike anything about my manager. He's a nice guy who does his job and manages well.
    – Jon Story
    Oct 7 '15 at 14:21
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Nobody likes a complainer or a dissident. These kinds of questions are meant to find out what kinds of opinions you might really have about your direct boss. Some people in general are highly critical of their boss or just outright defiant and they interviewer is really looking to see not only what you are divulging about your boss but also any negative emotions you may be harboring about that person.

Interviews are stressful and technical ones can be long and difficult. A long stressful interview can do much to soften some personal information that you would normally keep to yourself so remain vigilant if possible.

A general rule of thumb that I live by in the workplace is,

Never have anything negative to say about anybody

You may have negative opinions about an individual and rightly so but keep it to yourself. I leave you with another piece of wisdom:

Average minds discuss people, good minds discuss events but great minds discuss ideas

If it were me answering this question I would try to be sincere but really only bring up a very minor fault and try to seem uninterested in the question. I might even just say that your manager is pretty awesome and you have no complaints. The important thing is that you don't want to be seen speaking ill of people. People like to work with pleasant people that get along with everybody.

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This question isn't as terrible or as 'mine-field'y as I think many of the other answers are presenting it as.

"Tell me what you dislike about ___" is a question designed to feel you out. It can be a bit tricky(you should never use it as an opportunity to unload personal feelings for example) but largely it's being used to see what you need or want in a team and whether you can identify appropriate pain points in a system and, potentially, propose solutions. It's much more useful to ask what someone doesn't like about a thing (a manager, a role, a system) than what they do like because, typically, it's hard to codify what makes you like something and many of those things are irrational or unquantifiable.

Let me be a bit more specific. "Nahkki, what do you dislike about your manager at Widgets INC?"

Acceptable responses to this question are professional, actionable and reasonable. I would recommend using a compliment/positive sandwich method because no on wants to come off as just complaining. Some examples might be:

  • "My manager is excellent at supporting our team but sometimes we don't communicate as often as I would like. I would like to have regular stand ups with my team."
  • "My team works really hard at what they do. However we don't have a process for planning and implementing new widgets. It would be pretty cool to use something like Scrum."
  • "Overall I am happy with my company, I appreciate the opportunities I have had to learn more about my role and industry. I'm leaving because I felt I didn't have a clear career path/opportunities for my future. I want to work for companies that have career paths and mentorships."

Notice what these answers have in response. They start with something positive about the target of the question('manager', 'team', 'company'). They then move into a solvable measurable/neutral 'negative'. And they finish up by pointing out what would have made you happier/changed your dislike of the situation. Additionally the responses are filled with 'I' statements.

This sounds a little bit janky no? Let's look at some inappropriate or less helpful answers:

  • "I hated that jerk! He was so lazy and never was around!"
  • "My company is terrible. It's all about profit. They canceled our monthly BBQ party, the employee training program and then started tracking our time cards!"
  • "My team is full of lazy assholes"

Notice the difference? These answers are full of red flags for an interviewer. Whether or not they are true, whether or not they are something you might say to your friends/support network doesn't matter. What matters, overall, is that they are unprofessional and personal in an inappropriate way.

Consider questions like this not as dangerous or bad questions but as an opportunity to interview the company you hope to work for. If someone balks when you say "My company required a lot of overtime. I want to work somewhere when I don't regularly have to work nights and weekends" then that tells you something about that company and can help you decide if you want to work there. Keep answers honest but positive and professional. Use the answers you give to highlight you preferences(or even your 'strengths').

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  • Those first three are really good answers. It's also important to communicate that just because there are things you dislike about your manager, that doesn't make them a bad manager, and doesn't stop you working with them productively. Oct 16 '14 at 16:14
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State what it is that you like about your manager and that you would not be happy if you didn't have it.

State what it is that your manager could do better by you and specifically state what changes you have in mind that would make you happy.

If there is anything that your manager is doing that's driving you crazy and that your manager is not changing, and state your unfulfillable wish that he changes that.

Again, keep it dispassionate and matter-of-fact.

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