Survey: How employees really feel about their managers

In honor of Boss’s Day, a survey explored the qualities employees admire in their managers, how employees really feel about jargon, and whether millennials are so different after all.

Did you know that Oct. 16 is National Boss’s Day in the U.S. and Canada?

Well, I didn’t either. The only reason I found out is that the Workforce Institute at Kronos conducted an online survey with Harris Interactive that explored:

  • The attributes of the best managers.
  • Employees’ preferred form of recognition.
  • The management-speak phrases that employees find the most annoying.

Some of the results from the survey are worth thinking about if you are a manager. For example:

1. A majority of employees (69 percent) believe their managers set a good example with their behavior. These employees believe their managers are ethical, honest, collaborative, creative, empowering, innovative, dedicated and trustworthy. A whopping 92 percent of those who believe this also believe their managers adhere to those values on a regular basis.

2. When given the choice between a manager who is a high achiever but demanding or a manager who is nice but ineffective, 75 percent of employees would choose the high achiever.

3. When asked to rank the three most important attributes of a good manager , honesty was the front-runner (78 percent), followed by goal-oriented (44 percent) and compassionate (40 percent).

4. When asked whether they prefer a manager who invests in employees’ professional development or one who invests in programs that make the work environment more fun, 61 percent chose professional development. Only 39 percent chose fun.

5. When it comes to being recognized, most employees would rather receive praise privately. Four out of 10 of employees prefer direct, individual praise from their managers while 32 percent favor praise from their manager’s manager. Twenty-five percent prefer praise in front of their peers.

6. A “surprising” statistic: “Only” 76 percent of employees find business jargon terribly annoying. Phrases employees dislike include:

  • “Think outside the box” (25 percent)
  • “I don’t care how, just get it done” (24 percent)
  • “It’s on my radar” (19 percent)

Millennials aren’t different from other generations

One finding that jumped out at me—because it breaks through all the generational nonsense you hear these days—is that most employees don’t believe millennials are all that different from previous generations.

Millennials’ preferences for individual recognition, investment in professional development, and high-achieving but demanding managers are the same as previous generations.

This last finding doesn’t surprise me because I have been saying this since 2009:

“The Millennial generation … is no better or worse than any other generation that came before. Yes, they have their own unique generational issues, but in my close experience with them, Millennials reflect what you find in other generations and society as a whole—some are good, some average, some clueless.

In my personal experience with the Millennial generation—I hate the nonsensical and meaningless Generation Y tag that some use to describe them—I have found that there is no one way to characterize or manage them. The three Millennials that I am closely related to are as different as any three people you would find on a street corner. And the classroom of Millennials that I teach writing to each semester at a local university follows this same pattern …

The notion that the Millennial generation is so unique and different from generations before them is nonsense. They are different, yes, but so is every other generation …”

A good question for next year

Boss’s Day is supposed to be a day for employees to thank their bosses for being kind and fair throughout the year. Although it’s nice we celebrate that on Oct. 16, it makes me wonder: Why don’t we celebrate being kind and fair to each other every day?

Maybe that’s a good question for next year’s Boss’s Day Survey.

John Hollon is vice president for editorial of, where a version of this article originally appeared. An award-winning journalist, he has written extensively about HR, talent management and smart business and people practices. Contact him at, and follow him on Twitter @JohnHollon.

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