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Poll: Why the Boss Sucks, By Employees

George Washington

Earlier today, we revealed which CEOs, celebrities, and politicians were considered the most wanted bosses, according to a new poll by HR company Adecco. But not everyone can have their ideal boss—and in fact, most don't. Adecco's poll also asked 700 employees and 300 bosses from blue and white collar industries about the relationship between workers and management. The results make all bosses seem a little more like Michael Scott—and might make them rethink their next interaction with employees.

Commanders vs. Coaches

When asked to report on leadership style, bosses and employees disagreed in certain categories. Only 15% of bosses described their own management style as commanding. About 23% of employees, on the other hand, reported their boss's style to be commanding, and just 11% said being commanding was the desired style. "Bosses may not recognize how bossy they actually are," the report says.

Similarly, bosses believe they are visionary leaders and good coaches; their employees disagree. "Nearly one in three bosses may think they are using a coaching style, but only one in five employees agrees," concludes Adecco. Only 17% of bosses are self-styled visionaries, whereas close to 23% of employees view this as the preferred leadership style.

Respect the Team Player

More than one out of three employees think they are smarter than their bosses, even if they are more educated. Younger generations tend to think this way more: 41% of Millennials and Gen-X'ers believe they are smarter than their bosses, compared with just 30% of Baby Boomers.

Age difference is an integral part of respect. While the vast majority of bosses and employees share mutual respect, age disparity can cause significant problems with respect. Could you respect and work with a boss who is two years younger than you? 89% agreed. Ten years? Only 68% agreed. Twenty years? The number drops to 56% of respondents.

One area where most respondents agreed: Bosses must be willing to get their hands dirty. When asked whether a good boss is willing to roll up his or her sleeves to help the team get the job done, nearly three-quarters completely agreed, with another 14% somewhat agreeing.

Do You Want the Top Spot?

Interestingly, though many respondents offered criticism of their boss' style and approach, very few are interested in a management position. A surprising 70% said they did not aspire to have their boss' job.

Moreover, aspiration also varies based on age, gender, and other factors. Around 36% of men aspire to have their boss' job, compared with just 23% of women. Only 18% of Boomers aspire to the same positions, compared with more than double the numbers of Gen-Xers and Millennials. Lastly, respondents with kids at home were more likely to aspire to their boss' job (39%), compared to 23% without children.

So what is your management style? Are you a visionary? A commander or a coach? Think again. Don't forget: A third of your employees believe they are smarter than you.

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  • Pete Walsh

    I think it's interesting that one in three bosses think they are coaching yet one in 5 employees think the boss is coaching. That tells me the bosses need to do a better job learning what coaching is and how to do it effectively. Everyone thinks they know how to coach but the reality is that truly effective, sustainable coaching that produces results comes after a leader commits to coach training. Coaching is a great way to connect and get commitments from your team - but there is a real process to doing that. I hope some of those wanna be coach leaders will commit to learning more about effective coaching skills.

  • Scott Asai

    Self-awareness is key to becoming a better leader. Remember, your brand is not what you think it is, it's what OTHERS think it is. It's a blow to the ego to have a younger boss, but that's the reality of today. It's not purely technical skill that wins the job. Some people just have better leadership ability and strategic sense and it has nothing to do with age or experience, just talent. Modeling will always be the best way to lead. "Don't come to me with problems, come to me with solutions."

  • Vicky Dayal Madhwani

    The post reminds me of a book I recently read called The Leaderful Fieldbook. This book proposes a radical theory, a no boss theory. Don't know how effective this theory is but it goes something like postulates that the only possible way to lead ourselves out of trouble in management is to become mutual and to share leadership. Even though I feel the author is being too Utopian in his claims, but I would love to see something like this happening in my office. As an experiment, I would love to see the 8 members of my team given full freedom to run the team our way, with no boss around, no holds barred.

  • Chris Kay

    I think the best type of boss is one that acknowledges his or her strengths and weaknesses and acts accordingly. I think being honest with employees up front is an excellent way for bosses to appear realistic and more effective - everyone knows bosses aren't perfect, but those that try (appear) to be often fall out of favor with lower-level employees. An effective boss knows his or her limitations and builds a team to maximize each person's abilities and professional interests.