What happens when you badmouth your old boss in the job interview

badmouth your old boss

There are many reasons you shouldn’t badmouth your old boss or former colleagues. Here’s what happens when you do.

You hate your former boss who sided with an evil colleague at your old workplace who sabotaged you by taking credit for your work and got the promotion that should rightfully have been yours. So, you quit and went looking for a new gig. And now you find yourself sitting in a job interview being asked why you left your previous position. Should you spill?

No, you shouldn’t. Don’t badmouth your old boss.

No matter what happened in previous employment situations, you should never trash a former employer, manager, or colleagues. There are many reasons for this. Among the reasons you should never badmouth your old boss or former colleagues.

It makes you look petty. Talk about other people is never flattering. No matter how justified you think it is.
It undermines your credibility. Even if your story is true, there are two sides to it and the listener knows that. Trying to pass it off as all someone else’s fault is suspicious.
It exhibits questionable judgment. Most successful people assume you know that speaking negatively about others makes you look bad. So, they’ll be wondering why you’re doing it.
It’s a small world. There’s always the possibility that the person you’re talking to knows the people you’re talking about. It can turn the listener against you and might also get back to the other person, who will then have a chance to make things worse – especially if they truly are as bad as you say they are.

What you say about others also reflects on you

Another good reason to not speak negatively about others is that the traits you attribute to others may be attributed to you. This phenomenon is called trait transference. A 1998 study found that spontaneous trait transference is a real thing and that it’s not a logical decision but a mindless association (via Psychology Today). The research found, interestingly, that trait transference is trait specific. So, it’s not simple as someone transferring a negative impression of someone who disparages others or a positive impression of someone who compliments others. If, for example, you say someone else is sneaky, vindictive, or mean, the person hearing you will subconsciously think that you are the one who is – specifically – sneaky, vindictive, or mean.

Separate research also found that traits are inferred, and that these inferred traits are also transferred. What does that mean? Brett Wells from the Department of Psychology, Northern Illinois University, wrote, “if Randy mentions that Emily aced her Quantum Mechanics exam, Randy will be perceived by a listener to be more intelligent (though less so than Emily herself).”

So, if you say someone else aced a test, the listener will think the person you’re talking about is smart and will also see you as smart. Similarly, if you say someone stole your lunch out of the office fridge, they will think the other person is dishonest (and maybe a bit strange), and also that you are dishonest (and maybe a bit strange). Maybe. It’s obviously not guaranteed. But why take a chance?

The lesson here is that, if you want to make the hiring manager like you and increase your chances of getting the job, you should find positive things to say about other people. Find reasons to refer to others as “smart,” “reliable,” “trustworthy,” and “creative.” Say they’re great problem solvers, good friends, and have wicked senses of humour.

Note that this doesn’t just apply during the job interview. It applies no matter who you’re talking to and when.

Instead of disparaging others, compliment them. You’ll look like a better person, and a more hireable one.

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