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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Rate My Boss

For the record, I love my boss. I really do. She's great. And now that I'm done with my regularly scheduled groveling (in case I get outed), let's talk about your boss.

I got an e-mail from the founder of eBoss Watch, announcing his new website. (I didn't want to list his name because who knows if his boss knows? If he contacts me again and approves the use of his name, I'll include it.)

My gut reaction? I don't like it. The theory is you can rate your boss (good or bad) and then people can look up their potential boss to help make a decision.

The problem is, you don't know the people doing the ratings and there are tons of reasons for the rating to be biased. Getting a low increase or a bad project doesn't mean your boss is bad, it may mean you are bad. But, because you don't know who is doing the rating, you don't know which one it is.

I know the rate-my-professor type sites have been around for a while and I don't like them either. I do training as part of my job and have surveys filled out at the end of each class. Most of the feedback is positive and we implement any good ideas that come through. Once in a while I get a "this class stunk like rotten potatoes" (if you've never smelled those, you are lucky).

Even though the surveys are anonymous (and done electronically, so I can't even look at handwriting), I have a pretty good idea who wrote the survey. It's the woman in the back row, who is taking the class only because she'll get her access to our HRIS cut off if she doesn't. She has spent most of the class surfing the internet and reading her e-mails. Writing e-mails too. (Do you really think the trainer can't tell when you are typing during class? We can. We're just that smart. Plus, she's the same one that has to ask repeated questions because she wasn't paying attention in the first place.)

Those results don't bother me one bit, because they are placed in context of the other results. The problem with E-boss Watch (and similar sites) is that there is no context. I don't know the rater, the rater doesn't know me. I don't know if the rater just got a raise (and therefore is feeling all warm and fuzzy about his boss) or just got fired (and is bitter and angry).

I agree that sometimes you can get blindsided by a bad boss, but I think there are two sides to every story. I want both sides--or at least one of the sides to come from someone I trust.


Anonymous said...

How about we start an eEmployee Watch site that can inform the world you come in fifteen minutes late every day, email your friends during work hours and don't get along with your co-workers? Then potential employers can not even waste their time interviewing you because one anonymous boss didn't like you. Yep, sounds fair to me.

This is no different than the site(s) rating men by disgruntled ex-girlfriends. Nobody is going to bother to rate a "good" ex-boyfriend just like customers don't go to management about a good sales clerk.

Evil HR Lady said...

Yeah, I just don't like it.

Ask a Manager said...

Ooooh, I totally agree. I wonder how well the site will do though, especially given that you have to pay $3.99 for a report.

It raises something interesting though: Wouldn't it be great if it were standard practice for candidates to be able to be offered references from employees of their prospective boss, just as companies are offered references on that candidate?

she said: said...

I don't know....I wouldn't find the site very useful. If the boss is bad enough not to work for.. its usually because the company is a horrible place to work.

Problem solved. I'm going to look elsewhere.

Plus.. while nice - I don't have to love my boss. I'm not going to refuse a job that is going to look super good on my resume because of one boss..

Bosses are temporary - but what goes on your resume is much more lasting.

Evil HR Lady said...

Ask a Manager--

Back when I was managing people, when I interviewed someone for a new position, I also made sure all her future co-workers interviewed her as well.

My thought was that they were going to have to work with the new person as well. (Plus, I had fabulous employees.) But, that would also allow the candidate to ask them questions about me.

Laurie Ruettimann said...

Many employees feel that the performance management process is random, and at worst, punitive. While performance reviews aren't publicly discussed, it is widely known at most companies when an employee isn't performing. I think this can add an interesting dimension to the employee/employer relationship. Also, this seems to steal from Gallup. Not a bad thing in my opinion.

d said...

I agree with shesaid.

I had a job some years ago where I worked for the Boss From Hell. To this day, I'd probably rate her among the top-five meanest people I've known (work-related or otherwise) in my adult life.

But you can live with anything for a year or two. It was a good position with a good (and famous) company, and it positioned me well for better things. I got my ticket punched, and left after about 2 years.

I would have done myself a big disservice if I'd declined the job based on her reputation for being a nasty, mean person.

ps- a new director finally took notice of how she treated her people; she got fired, essentially, for no reason other than her viciousness to her reports...

Redkudu said...

I've seen my teacher ratings on one of the teacher sites, and it seemed to me it was mostly disgruntled students with a bone to pick. As I looked through other people's ratings I know (mostly teachers I know to be very popular with kids) it was the same.

Personally, I don't find the slogan "Nobody should have to work with a jerk" very professional either. Seems like it's already set up to create a certain antagonism, and the $3.99 fee is daunting, since you have no idea what you're going to get (as you pointed out).

It seems like yet another goofy internet scheme to me. Not something I'd use as a reference tool in a job search.

Michael Moore said...

These anonymous ratings are purely cathartic and usually don't have enough structure to give meaningful feedback. I tried to take the eBoss survey, but it was blocked by the office firewall. Major marketing oversight. The natural employee reaction will be to take the survey at work (to prove a point while violating the company's internet policy). Anyone who will take the time to do this from their home computer will bias the feedback. This site will attract only apple-polishers and cavilers.

eBossWatch said...

Thank you for your comments, and I appreciate your honest feedback.

In response to your comments, the site is not intended to be the sole decision-making tool for candidates to use. This is what the interview process is for. Just as the company is interviewing the candidates, the candidates should also be evaluating the company, researching and gathering as much information about the company as possible in order to determine if the company and managers are the best fit for them.

eBossWatch is designed to be an additional resource for gathering information about a prospective employer. I think that the limitations of anonymous ratings are clear, and I don't anticipate candidates' decisions to be made based solely on our Boss Reports. I see the ratings as an additional tool to help spot any warning signs about a potential manager.

For example, if someone receives a Boss Report for a prospective manager, and there are some negative ratings, then they should inquire further, ask about the company's workplace atmosphere and the boss' management style, and try to also speak with some current or former employees to make sure that this person is indeed a good manager.

By the way, the amount of support and enthusiasm that we have been receiving so far (including from many people who have worked for abusive bosses) has been tremendous and far outweighs the negative feedback that we have received.

Evil HR Lady said...

eboss watch--thanks for stopping by.

We probably dislike it because we're HR and we've spent far too much time listening to employees whine.

Wally Bock said...

Hey, I'm not in HR and I think don't like the site.

First, we know that people with negative judgments about companies or individuals are about ten times more likely to share them than people with positive judgments. Anyone who's worked in customer service knows that.

Second, we know that allowing people to be anonymous is asking for mischief.

Third, there's absolutely no context to the ratings. We know nothing about the rater. We know nothing about the raters performance at work. We know nothing about how the rater acts most of the time. Who knows, the rater could be the jerk.

Fourth, this site is incredibly subject to gaming. Get a bunch of buddies together and trash someone. It might be your boss. It might not. But since you don't have to pay or identify yourself to post, this can become a vicious version of sending someone you don't like hundreds of magazine subscriptions.

Chew said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chew said...

Ignorance as to what constitutes abuse of power in no way condones it. "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?..." Jer. 13:23 This is why we need the Healthy Workplace Bill in place so that we may put an end to this social malady. In the meantime, all we have as victims in preventing future victims is ebosswatch.

Paul said...

This seems to the most meaningful site dedicated to this purpose so far. I'm impressed with the thoughtfulness of the whole design and philosophy behind it.

But to be useful, it has to generate a large critical mass in a short period of time.

Have fun

June said...

How about rate my boss at

I find this fascinating since traditionally
the managed class have little chance or is
very hard to voice against the people in power.
The Web turns the table around to a more optimal

rojo7449 said...

There are tons of really bad bosses out there. Had I been able to look up my last one, I never would have taken that job.

She did MY job all day because she didn't know how to do her own. She took credit for the good work done by her team, because she had to feel like she had done something. Any mistakes were quickly blamed on someone else. She terminated two older women without warning and without cause. Terminated isn't exactly what happened, she forced them to resign so she could avoid litigation.

HR helped her. HR is not an advocate for the worker, so sites like eBossRater, RateMyBossCafe, JobVent, etc. are where the employees can go to feel they've given these bad bosses a performance review. I can't think of a better idea, and, although I understand the concerns voiced in the article, I also know that HR will side with a bad manager and do things to employees that are flat out wrong, as well.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a pretty good idea, and it seems only fair. It's not like my potential employer isn't going to perform a background check on me, so why shouldn't I have access to information on their history as a manager? If only I had known some of the things I know now, it definitely could have saved me a year of my life serving the worst manager in history.

And of course if I had quit, to my next employer it looks like I can't hold down a job. If I explain the reason I quit, it looks like I can't cooperate with my coworkers. Is this an unbiased view of my work history?

And on the validity of these rating systems, I visited Rate My Professor frequently while I was in college and I found it to be fairly helpful. Obviously you have the occasional poor rating with the comment "tHis guy sux he gave me a D-!", but everyone forgets these kinds of biased ratings are easy to spot and easier to ignore. However, if the professor has ten negative ratings that go into detail on their failings as a teacher, you can believe there's probably a lot of truth behind them.

It all boils down to equality. If employers are going to screen my work history, I should definitely be able to screen their history as an employer.

J. D. Fish said...

Rating systems will always show bias, no matter who they're for. That's just how it is. However, if you get enough samples, you begin to notice a trend pointing toward the truth. You said yourself every once in a while you get a Rotten Potato rating. Well 1 out of 20 isn't too bad, and you can generally assume the class is alright if 19 people enjoyed it, but if you end up with 20 rotten potato ratings, I think we can all tell you're not doing something right. Obviously, there's an amount of bias in the rating, and maybe one person gave you a bad rating because you were failing them, but then how do you explain the other 19? You didn't fail everyone, right? This is when you can start to tell there's probably more than bias playing a part in those low ratings.

I think the rating systems are a great idea, especially for the work place. For years employers have been able to get a list of everyone I've worked for and see what they thought of me. Now I can finally get a list of their previous employees and see what they thought of my new boss.