Interviews can go by quickly, and there’s a lot of ground to cover. But no applicant should get up for the final handshake before asking some version of the following:
What kinds of decisions would I be able to make on my own, and when would I need to get someone else’s approval?
Some companies, to put it bluntly, have a culture that values micromanaging. It’s hard to get things done when you work at a company like this and executing day-to-day tasks can range from frustrating to impossible.
You spend much of the day cajoling, justifying, and defending. Most people find that it’s just not worth it, and they leave in search of workplaces that are better at delegating authority.
I’ve worked for companies where I had the authority to spend up to $100,000, hire the people I wanted to hire, and pretty much do what needed to be done without having to “sell” my ideas to a higher authority or sit around waiting for their approval. Working in an environment like this is liberating. It leads to people giving the company their best efforts.
Long time Applied Materials Chairman Jim Morgan always encouraged us to make decisions, frequently adding that no matter what we did, we were unlikely to “sink the company.”
Unfortunately, other companies will saddle you with an array of rules and constraints that make your life only slightly better than if you were in a Supermax prison.
I had one client who wouldn’t let his salespeople spend more than $500 for travel without first getting his approval. These were salespeople who had to fly to visit their customers.
If you’re used to making and implementing your own decisions, as many top performers are, you’ll find it unbelievably frustrating to have to constantly run those decisions past others before you can get anything done.
If you’re a candidate, here are the sorts of questions you should ask during interviews:
- How much money can I spend without getting your approval?
- Can I hire the people I need to hire?
- Can I assign work to the people in my organization the way I want to?
- Can I travel when I the need arises?
- Can I approve travel and spending for the people who work for me?
And if you’re a hiring manager, it’s important to be completely honest when you answer questions like these. If your company keeps employees on a short leash, it’s better for all concerned to get that information out upfront—before you spend time and money onboarding a promising new hire who is destined for a short, mutually unsatisfactory stint at your company.