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Turn the Tables and Rate Your Boss

There are resources to check out a potential employer -- here's why you should.

Everybody has had a bad boss. Wouldn't it be great if you could have been warned about yours in advance?

Asher Adelman decided to do just that when he launched

eBossWatch in June, with the goal of helping employees avoid

hostile workplaces

.

Almost half of working Americans have suffered or witnessed workplace bullying, including verbal abuse, job sabotage, abuse of authority or destruction of workplace relationships, according to a new Workplace Bullying Institute/Zogby Interactive survey, which has been tracking this field since 1984.

Adelman, 33, was one of those victims when he worked under a horrific boss at technology company Slangsoft. The workplace he found after being hired was a surprise: "It seemed like a great company after the first interview, but the CEO terrorized employees from cursing, name-calling to public humiliation," Adelman recalls.

Top-Down Design

Especially for small businesses, the state of the working environment is crucial: When there are fewer employees performing a wide range of duties, it is important for everyone to work well together. Small businesses, therefore, need to carefully consider employee-boss interaction, including both sides' motivation and engagement.

Mary Clark, executive director of

Winning Workplaces, a nonprofit organization committed to helping small and midsized workplaces succeed, agrees. "An employer that has an engaging workplace holds onto its employees better. They offer better customer service, better products and are more innovative and sustainable."

Winning Workplaces recently partnered with

The Wall Street Journal

to create an annual ranking of the best small workplaces in North America. What makes these organizations stand out has much to do with their office culture, explains Clark -- does it bring people together with a sense of purpose and move them forward?

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Not surprisingly, the boss sets the tone, which can foster -- or discourage -- an environment for people to perform well. "There's a lot of data that show engaged employees will bring their best effort to work," says Clark.

To develop his contribution, Adelman relied on research from sources similar to Winning Workplaces, including sites like Work Rant, but to create "something that was more of a career resource," he explains. Rather than using stories for entertainment value, eBossWatch uses others' experiences to provide job seekers with a valuable look inside. Rating a boss is free, and accessing a report is $3.99 per listing.

The site has taken off: "Thousands of people already commented on thousands of companies. I expected it to be something that would serve a strong need, but I didn't anticipate it growing as quickly as it did," Adelman says.

So if eBossWatch gives your potential employer the thumbs down, where can you look? Adelman's sister site,

Jerk-Free Jobs, lists only companies that can demonstrate a positive work environment (the cost is $250 for a 30-day posting). Employers must have confirmation that their company has received an outside workplace award or ranking ("best company to work for" or "best employer," for example) or an external consultant's report that verifies its beneficial status.

Who's the Boss

For eBossWatch, a survey of six questions allows users to anonymously rate their bosses on their level of communication and respect, involvement in career development, and whether the user would recommend the boss.

To find information about a particular boss, the job seeker simply enters his potential boss' name into the database to find out whether he or she has a past record that should raise alarms.

Likewise, Martin Lehman, a counselor at free business advice organization

Score NYC, advises people to find out as much as they can about a potential employer, preferably from current employees.

If eBossWatch doesn't have your boss listed, another option is to talk to the company's customers or vendors, explains Lehman. The important thing is to talk to as many people as you can -- if a boss has a bad reputation, it will eventually get around.

However, always keep some perspective about where you're obtaining the information. "

eBossWatch is an advice column. Advice is fine, but it all depends on the circumstances," Lehman cautions.

Particularly in the small-business environment, your relationship with your boss is important. "When you get up in the morning and go to work, you want to be happy. You don't have to be chastised," says Lehman.