Culture & Management

5 Questions You Should Ask to Avoid Working for a Toxic UX Manager

min read on
Culture & Management
Vivianne Castillo | Visual: Pexels
A white man's torso with his arms crossed. He wears a white shirt, suspenders, and a watch.

Some of you are reading this because you are currently experiencing a horrible manager and are trying to GTFO.

Some of you are reading this because you have goals to level up in your career and want to make sure your future manager will support you.

And some of you are just looking for this affirmation: you’re not crazy, there really are issues with your manager.

Hopefully these interview questions born from my experiences with amazing managers (and some who have opportunities for growth 😉 ) and the stories I’ve heard from others will increase your discernment into whether your next UX Manager and the team culture they create is toxic or not.

#1: How would you describe your management style and in what ways has it proven to be successful or challenging with the team since you’ve been a manager?

I thought this question was a dumb one to ask until I heard of a manager who likened their management style to positive parenting.

Yes, you read that correctly. Positive. Parenting.

They said that they tend to shy away from constructive criticism in order to prevent creating a toxic and fear-driven work environment (hint: this is a red flag). Instead, if they felt like you were doing something wrong, they’d ask you why you did something in that particular way and then — that’s it.

So, unless you too want to be managed by someone whose management style is based around a parenting technique meant for children whose brains aren’t fully developed, ask them this question.

“… with the team since you’ve been a manager?”

I find this part of the question to be the most insightful if I’ve already completed my stalking on LinkedIn and have discovered that several people have left within the past 12–18 months.

This question is also great for getting context and a more complete story of the team from the perspective of the manager.

Bonus Followup: How would members on your team describe your management style? What would they say has been successful or challenging about this management style?

#2: Can you please share with me what the Turnover Rate on the team is like and what, if any, some of the reasons are for these shifts?

I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard where someone started a new job, only to find that their new manager is the reason why the last person quit and this position was opened — again.

Pay attention to how they answer this question. Do they seem hesitant to answer? Are they stumbling over their words? Do they trash talk direct reports who have left? Do they blame? Do they provide reasons that seem legitimate?

#3: What are some of the challenges your team is experiencing and what do you think is causing those challenges?

While this may seem like an opportunity to see how transparent a prospective manager will be with you, it’s really an opportunity for you to see they handle conflict and issues within the team/company.

Stay woke.

Do they blame others?

Do they trash talk their direct reports, co-workers, or people who have left?

Does it seem like they’ve put thought, effort, and care into helping their team and the individuals on it grow in the midst of these challenges?

Do you hear signs of passion and/or interest in their role as a manager and the responsibilities they have?

#4: Can you please share with me a time when you had to take responsibility for a poor decision or a mistake you made?

This question gives you a peak into:

a) How the manager defines a “poor decision” and/or a “mistake”

b) Their ability to have self-awareness

c) Their ability to be transparent and vulnerable

d) If they’re able to acknowledge their errors and grow from them

Sit down. Be humble.

Bonus Hint: Pay attention to their tone and/or body language as they answer this question. It’s amazing what people can tell you without saying a single word.

#5: What are some of the challenges you are prioritizing to address this year or quarter on your team?

Is your manager proactive in managing their direct reports? How well do they know their direct reports (especially important if they are managing a team remotely)? Any hints of blaming and/or skirting responsibility? What do you hear in their tone as they answer this question? What, if anything, do they understand about what’s currently happening within the industry and has that played a part in how they are identifying and addressing challenges within the team?

**Bonus Tip**

If possible, reach out to someone who used to work under your manager at the prospective company or who recently left! Ask them about their experiences with the manager and/or why they left. Obviously, take this one with a grain of salt and use some discernment. This approach often works best if you have a mutual friend or some type of relationship with the individual you are contacting.

I know what some of you are thinking: “I don’t want these difficult questions to cause a manager to pass on me as a candidate.” If a manager decides that you’re not a “good fit” because you are asking these honest and challenging questions, then trust me, they’re doing you and your career a favor.

Happy hunting!

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