Are You a Good Boss? Two Studies Identify Traits of Top Managers

Worlds Best Boss

Two separate studies were conducted by Google and the Royal Bank of Canada to determine what traits make for a good boss versus average or even bad boss.  Here is what they discovered….

How many great bosses have you had in your career?  For me, two stand out.  One was with a job I hated, the other was with a job I loved.  One was male, the other female.  One was a lot like me, the other not like me at all….except maybe for our sense of humor.  One was stubborn and feared by some in the organization.  The other was the friendliest person you’ve ever met, quick to put others at ease.  So, how is it that I would find these two VERY DIFFERENT people equally great?  Had I changed over time?  There were about ten years between these two bosses after all.  I’ve worked with many great people but what made these two bosses great?  There is no shortage of research on leadership; however two of my favorite studies were performed by Google (2008, then updated in 2018) and Royal Bank of Canada (RBC, 2011-2013) in separate attempts to determine what makes manager good?

What does a good boss look like?

Do you know a good manager when you see one?  Based on the findings of both RBC and Google, not at first glance.  Both studies report good manager traits having little to do with what the manager does, but how and why they do it.  Micro-managing determined highly ineffective by both groups, suggesting a good manager’s day revolves more around strategy and developing or coaching employees; however nearly all other findings relate to how a good manager engages with employees.  Being genuine and showing an interest in both personal and professional well-being for employees rate high on both lists suggesting empathy for others and authenticity are essential in making employees feel valuable.  Today this should be no surprise.  In 2017, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy wrote about the impact loneliness is having on the workplace.  A person with a poor network of friends and family, lacking support needed to push through this epidemic of loneliness in most cases will still need to work, making work perhaps their only opportunity to feel connected.  If true, doesn’t it only make sense employees respond positively to managers that seem invested in the employee’s personal journey?  Look over the list provided here.  How many listed traits do your top managers possess?  More importantly, do you feel your under-performing managers can learn the traits and behaviors necessary to be more effective?  Can a manager learn to be empathetic and genuine?

Google & RBC findings side-by-side
* Trait was either updated or revised in 2018

Why it matters

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, employs more than 107,000 people worldwide.  The company owns more than 88% of search engine market share and is in the race to join the highly exclusive $1 trillion dollar list.  RBC employs 80,000 people, and with 1.28 trillion dollars in assets is the biggest bank in Canada and the 11th biggest bank in the world.  They look for ways to excel, commit to a solution, and go ALL IN.  Google and RBC’s choice to independently research their own management practices that were proving to be effective versus ineffective and build their teams and leaders on these principles is no accident.  This research, although beneficial to many, was not done for humanitarian reasons.  Good managers drive success.  In a study, employees working for a manager identified as average when changed to a manager identified as highly effective, increased productivity by 50%!  Good bosses also have lower employee turnover and themselves also stay with companies longer than bad managers.  It’s important to note, the 2008 Google study was only after Google surveyed their own engineers to determine whether managers were at all necessary within their organization.  It was perhaps this initial project that led them to realize that a good boss is highly valuable whereas a bad boss is actually worse than no boss at all.

I stay in touch with each of my former managers.  I trust that I can call either of them today and they will still take time out of their busy schedules to help me.  I don’t know what their relationships were like with my peers or other leaders within our former organizations although I suspect those relationships were positive.  It was perhaps a year ago that one of them reached out to me in need of a favor.  I stopped everything I was doing and immediately jumped at the chance to help my former boss and friend.  It was no different when I worked for these individuals.  I cared as much about their success as I did my own.  That’s the thing about a great boss – their fingerprints from pushing you forward, catching you when you fall….are EVERYWHERE in your life!  A great boss changes your life,  But because it’s authentic and they genuinely care and love their jobs, it happens so naturally and organically.  Only in hindsight do you look back and wonder….were they working for me or was I working for them?

When is break time?

Why do you offer breaks to your employees? Is it good for morale? Does it help ensure better quality? Well, for 21 states, if you’re a company operating in the private sector – it may be because it’s required.

Private sector employers in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia have minimum requirements for meal and/or break periods. While a company may choose to go above and beyond the minimum, the following is important for all employers to make note of, regardless of state requirements:

Track time worked by hourly employees
The actual time “worked” by an employee is a very valuable piece of information as it is used for a variety of calculations and reports. Internally, this figure can be used to determine productivity and efficiency, employee benefit eligibility, leave entitlement, and calculating overtime for payroll purposes. More broadly, this figure is reported in annual OSHA 300(A) logs, and may even be what makes or breaks a company’s worker’s comp rates (as rates take into account payroll dollars). Should the company for any reason be subjected to an audit, employers can most certainly expect to be questioned about “time worked” – given the impact this figure has on a company, and its employees. So, aside from being able to track and comply with break period requirements, an accurate “time worked” figure for hourly employees will be beneficial, legally and financially.

Consider breaks as part of an accommodation
What if an employee is taking more frequent or longer breaks than permitted? Is this a behavioral issue? Should you warn the employee or perhaps dismiss them altogether? Before moving too quickly to judgement, discuss (and of course document) a conversation with the employee. What is his/her reason for deviating from break policies? If it’s due to a medical condition or medical needs of the employee, be prepared for an accommodation discussion. A request for accommodation is not always an obvious or formal interaction. As with most expectation conversations – it’s best to first have a discussion with the employee to understand the reasons behind issues around behavior or performance. A simple accommodation such as an additional or extended break may be a worthwhile step in retaining an exceptional employee as well as avoiding unnecessary, public, legal issues.

Don’t overlook employee morale
What does your policy around breaks say about your company? Does it suggest a company that is concerned about its employees and their well-being? Or, does it suggest a company that offers only what it must? Company culture is not something that is created in a mission statement or on a company website, but collectively by policies, practices, priorities – put together and/or upheld by the company’s leadership. Let your policies reflect the priorities of the company while taking into consideration minimum requirements. Then consider, “is the minimum enough for us”?

Requirements for the 21 states listed above may be found on the US Department of Labor Wage & Hour website. Be sure your policies and practices around breaks and rest period are compliant today.

https://www.dol.gov/whd/state/meal.htm

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Are you discussing these 2 things with your employees? No worries if you’re not – they’re probably leaving you anyway.

Gallup’s recently released State of the American Workplace report shows that more than 51% of employees are searching for a new job. Assuming most companies are not excited about turning over 51% of its workforce – it’s important to consider what employees value in a job and company. Gallup’s same report asked employees to rate the importance of various company/job attributes.

60% of surveyed employees say doing what they do best is “very important” to them. Not too surprising when you given some of us spend more time working than we are with our own family and friends. Who then wants to spend the majority of his/her life feeling insignificant? Tip: Find ways to leverage your employee’s strengths in the workplace.

53% of employees state a healthy work-life balance is “very important”. Do you encourage your employees to use their time off benefits? Do you expect them to be available 24/7? Tip: Start recognizing those working effectively versus round-the-clock?

While incorporating these topics likely requires changing up traditional coaching conversations the question becomes – will you start discussing this with your current employees – or the 51% of new employees who you hire to replace them?

Contact a Culture Engineer