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STUDY: How People Really Feel About Their Bosses

The relationship workers have with their managers is one of the most important factors in employee retention. The role that managers play in shaping company culture is just as important.

That’s why Comparably took an in-depth look at how employees across the technology sector view their bosses. The data, which comes from 20,000 employees at small, mid-size, and large public and private tech companies, was collected between March 2016 and June 2017.

Respondents were asked the following:

— Does your boss hurt your company culture?

— What does your direct manager most need to improve?

— Do you think you can do your boss’s job better than he or she can?

— If you were the boss, what’s the first thing you would change?

— Do you feel comfortable giving your boss negative feedback?

The results show bosses have plenty of room for improvement.


About a third of people say their boss has a negative impact on company culture.

BY GENDER: Women were more likely than men to say their bosses hurt company culture (39% women vs. 31% men).

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BY DEPARTMENT: Workers in business development and administrative roles were most likely to say their bosses hurt company culture. Workers in HR and engineering were least likely.

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BY AGE: The youngest workers (aged 18 to 25) had the most positive view: 27% said their boss was bad for culture. From there, the percentage rose, peaking at 38% among workers aged 56 to 60. (Note: Data for ages 61 and up was eliminated due to small sample size.)

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Communication is the No. 1 thing people say they want their bosses to improve (50%).

The second most popular response was “accountability” (20%), followed by “positivity” (14%), “honesty” (9%), and “work ethic” (7%).

BY GENDER: Women and men were almost identical in their responses.

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BY AGE: Workers in their older years were more likely to choose “communication” than workers in their younger years. For example, 44% of workers aged 18 to 25 chose “communication” as their top priority vs. 59% of workers aged 56 to 60.

Workers aged 18 to 25:

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Workers aged 56 to 60:

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About a third of people think they could do a better job if they were in their manager’s shoes.

BY GENDER: Men and women were about even in their responses (36% men vs. 34% women said they would do a better job than their boss).

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BY DEPARTMENT: Workers in business development and legal were more likely than any other group to feel this way (53% and 45%, respectively). HR workers were least likely, at only 24%.

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BY AGE: Confidence in one’s ability to better do their boss’s job generally strengthened with age, though dipped slightly for the 56 to 60 age group (31%). Those aged 41 to 45 were most confident: 35% of them were sure they could their boss’s job better. (Note: Data for ages 61 and up was eliminated due to small sample size.)

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BY EDUCATION LEVEL: 53% of employees with a high-school education level selected “yes” when asked whether they would do a better job in their boss’s shoes. Only 32% of employees with a Bachelor’s degree responded the same. 4


The first thing people would improve if they were the boss is “vision and strategy” (33%).

The next most popular response was “improve office culture” (23%), followed by and “increase employee pay” (22%). The lowest priorities were “make a better product” (16%), and “cut expenses” (6%).

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BY DEPARTMENT: Workers in administrative roles and customer support were the only people who ranked “increase employee pay” above improving strategy and vision. Workers in finance were unique in that they ranked “vision and strategy” just as importantly as “increase employee pay” and “improve office culture.”

Administrative:

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Customer Support:

3

Finance:

4BY DEPARTMENT: The only age group that didn’t rank vision and strategy as No. 1 was the 18 to 25 set — the youngest workers surveyed. Twenty-seven percent of them chose “increase employee pay,” slightly more than the 24% who chose “vision and strategy.”

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BY CITY: At 37%, the city of Portland, Ore., had the highest percentage of respondents who chose “vision and strategy.” Boston and Chicago were close behind, each with 35% of the vote.

Portland:

6

Boston:

7

Chicago:

8


Just over 60% of people are comfortable giving their bosses negative feedback.

BY GENDER: Women are less comfortable giving their bosses negative feedback than men.

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BY DEPARTMENT AND GENDER: Women in executive roles, engineering, and customer support were the most comfortable with giving their boss negative feedback, while women in business development and legal were the least comfortable.

On the flipside, men in HR and customer support were the most comfortable with giving their boss negative feedback while men in legal were overwhelmingly the least comfortable. (Less than 40% of men and women in legal were comfortable giving their boss negative feedback.)

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BY AGE: Sixty-six percent of workers aged 36 to 40 said they were comfortable giving feedback to the boss — the highest percentage of any age group. Workers younger and older than that were generally less comfortable, particularly those aged 18 to 25 and 41 to 45.

AGE

BY EDUCATION LEVEL: Sixty-nine percent of employees with a high school education level said they were comfortable giving their boss feedback. The rate incrementally declined among those with a higher education, bottoming out at 55% among those with an Associate’s degree.

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Comparably monitors the job market for the best Careers, Compensation, & Companies to make work more Rewarding & Transparent.

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