Talking to a group of graduating MBA students going for their first job I advised them that it’s important to seek out a good boss, not just a good job. So the question was asked, “What makes a good boss?”

He (or she):

-Tells you what he wants and doesn’t want in terms of work behavior; is clear, succinct, with no ambiguity
-Does not judge or criticize your character or motive, only behavior
-Gives “atta a boy” pats on the back (literally and figuratively) when you do a job well
-Curbs your behavior when you don’t do a job well by going back over as many times as necessary, “this is what I want and this is what I don’t want”
-Let’s you make mistakes
-Let’s you correct the mistakes without reprisal so as to learn from the experience
-Is as much focused on you doing well as himself doing well
-Is consistent in his behavior with everyone
-Doesn’t lie, steal, or cheat

How do you find out if you are going to have a good boss like that? Ask others about the boss if possible but also have the courage to directly question the potential boss yourself with:
How do you manage people?
What do you do if a subordinate is exceptionally good?
What happens when a subordinate makes a mistake?
What do you pride yourself in being especially good at?

You have to ask in a conversational manner so as not to make the person uncomfortable. But if you don’t ask, you won’t know until it’s too late. I’d rather raise issues now and see their reaction. They will either be intrigued by your questions and therefore you or they will be intimidated. Either way you gather information that you need to know for you to decide if you want to work with that person.

Even with that effort, reality is the the best you can do is cross your fingers and say a prayer that you’ve got a good one.