Good vs. terrible bosses: What to know

Congratulations, college grads. Many of you will be heading off to your first post-college job soon. And some of you are already a few days, if not weeks, into a new job, and, ahem, the “real world.”

And of course just as importantly, you are going to work for a new boss. How can you start on the right foot? How will you know if your boss values you? What should you expect of your managers as you begin your career? What will they expect of you?

Here are some tips from Peter Cappelli, a Wharton professor of management and creator of “How to Be the Boss,” a newly launched undergraduate course at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Keep it professional

First and foremost, while it’s nice to be friendly (and make friends) in the office, don’t get too chummy - especially with the boss.

“This is not an extension of college. Managers are not your peers. They’re not your buddy. Your boss is your boss,” says Cappelli.

A welcome lunch, or even after-hours drinks may be in the cards as a way of bringing a new team together. You should definitely go, says Cappelli, but if your boss doesn’t stop at the first drink, you should.

Consider having an “out” and make it known early on.

“This isn’t like living in Las Vegas. People at work remember what happens at the bar as if it happened in the office,” Cappelli says.

How to read your boss

Just as your new boss will be evaluating your performance, you of course will be learning his or her management style. Of course, there are some great bosses out there, and some not-so-great ones as well.

What is a sign of a good boss? If he or she “[takes] your interests into account,” Cappelli says, then you are likely going to grow and feel motivated in your new position.

As for spotting a bad boss, Cappelli says one clear sign is when “they can’t admit they are wrong.”

And if you end up feeling like your boss “doesn’t like you,” Cappelli has advice.

“I wouldn’t assume that because you feel you aren’t getting along with your boss that your boss is not happy with you. They may be distracted or just not very personable,” he says. “If I was worried, I’d ask them how I’m doing, what they think I should do better.”

No pain, no gain

“In college, no one cares how you get the work done so long as you get it done,” says Cappelli. “But in the workplace, there are rules that you’ve got to abide by.”

Play by those rules, even if it means putting in extra hours to finish a project. You’ve got to show your commitment to the new job, says Cappelli.

Give it time

“There’s no magic number as to how long you should stay in your first job,” says Cappelli, but a minimum of a year is a good ballpark number, “unless the job somehow becomes an unbearably bad fit.”


If it is, start interviewing elsewhere immediately, and by all means, “don’t quit until you have something else lined up,” says Cappelli. “That’s just common sense.”

Vera Gibbons is the Founder of which produces “NoPo” - a free daily newsletter that covers and curates non-political news only within Consumer/Personal Finance; Health & Wellness; Fashion/Beauty; Fitness/Diet.