Of all the relationships we build at work, the one we develop with our boss is perhaps the most unique and challenging — and, potentially, the most rewarding.
Anyone who has been in the "real world" for more than a couple of years has likely worked for both good and bad bosses. Through those experiences, we learn what kinds of managers motivate us, help us grow and lead us to do great things. We also discover what kinds of bosses drag us down, kill our productivity and eventually persuade us to look for something new.
I've been lucky in my career to work for several managers who proved through their words and actions that they genuinely cared about my success and about me as an individual. Some of them are still good friends, even though we haven't worked together for years.
I'm sure I'm not alone in this good fortune, and a recent survey confirms that suspicion.
Global training organization Sandler Training commissioned a survey of 1,010 employed American adults, which was conducted in May by Ipsos Public Affairs.
According to the results, almost seven out of 10 workers said they loved or liked their boss, while only 8 percent said they disliked or hated their boss.
I was a bit surprised by this, since I often seem to hear people complaining about their bosses. But I think it's a great result and a tribute to the managers out there.
In fact, the Sandler Training press release said that the number of respondents who said they loved their boss was a whopping 16 percent.
Hmm. I manage nine people on my team now. In order to meet this standard, somewhere between one and two of them need to love me as a boss, and about seven of them need to at least like me. If they're ever asked to participate in a survey like this, I hope it's on a day that I bring doughnuts!
The Sandler Training survey also indicated that, when asked to label their bosses from a group of choices, 44 percent called their boss a leader, while 19 percent said their manager was missing in action. Another 16 percent said their supervisor was a micromanager; 11 percent said he or she was a power-tripper; and 10 percent said their boss was a best friend.
“Of the kinds of bosses one might identify with, it’s a relief that the No. 1 choice people identified with was describing their boss as a leader,” Dave Mattson, CEO of Sandler Training, said in a press release about the survey. “But, looking at the remaining traits, I find it alarming that 46 percent of working Americans refer to their managers as 'missing in action,' 'micromanager' or 'power-tripper.'
"Individually, each of these traits can have an extremely negative effect because workers are far more likely to be productive and contribute to the bottom line when they feel supported, empowered and heard. Executives that turn their heads from these negative management behaviors are only detracting from their company’s potential.”
I couldn't agree more with Mattson's point of view. I've written in previous columns about the effects bad bosses have on employee morale and, ultimately, productivity. When productivity suffers, that trouble seems to find its way to the company's bottom line.
So how can more bosses fall into the "leader" category? Well, there are several traits that make a good manager, and the Sandler Training survey asked respondents to give their bosses grades in a few of those areas.
The results overall were decent, but they show that we managers have room to improve.
For example, 40 percent of those surveyed gave their bosses a B for overall management and skills. Furthermore, 34 percent gave their bosses a B for leadership and motivation, and 34 percent gave them a B for communication.
But it wasn't all good news on the survey. According to Sandler Training, 24 percent of bosses received a C in overall management skills, while a combined 14 percent received a D or an F.
“Bosses can make or break a person’s experience at work, so it’s reassuring to see that many of us think our bosses are doing a good job in terms of overall management skills, leadership and communication,” Mattson said in the Sandler press release. “I do worry about the bosses who received a C or below, though, because they are the ones who are likely frustrating employees, leading to things like internal fighting, higher turnover and numerous other things that negatively affect the bottom line.”
I hope I would average a B or higher in those three key areas if my team took this survey. I've tried hard over the years to develop good communication skills, especially, as I think they are vital to providing quality leadership.
I think I would add another question to this survey if I were doing it, asking people to rate their bosses' interest in helping employees build better work-life balance. I can't overstate how important I believe that is to improving morale and productivity in the current office environment.
I would be interested in your take on all of this. What grade would you give your boss in the areas of overall management, leadership, communication and concern for employees' work-life balance? And which of the labels from the Sandler Training survey would you use to describe her or him?
Leave a comment online or send me an email with your responses and your tales of excellent or horrible bosses. I'll share some of your ideas in a future column.