Managing ExpectationsWhat Makes the Best Boss

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Managing ExpectationsWhat Makes the Best Boss

Is your boss autocratic, overbearing, or a micromanager? Or are the words “laid back,” “collaborative,” and “hands-off” more accurate? Some of us need accountability to be productive, while others thrive on self-management (entrepreneurs, anyone?).

Just as every person’s working style differs, a boss’s oversight style will be unique to him or her. We surveyed over 1,000 full-time salaried employees about the ideal attributes in a boss as well as their current management experiences.

You Got it, Boss

While you have likely thought of the professional relationships you prefer, you may not have considered whether gender plays a role in these preferences. Do men want male bosses? Do women prefer working under other women? Of those surveyed, the majority of respondents said they worked equally well with male and female bosses. Twenty-eight percent of women favored male bosses, while 28% preferred female management. Of the men surveyed, 33% said they worked better with a male figure, and 13% said they worked better with a female boss.

Regarding management style, women overwhelmingly said they were better employees with an attentive boss. Male respondents favored passive management styles. In both gender groups, 8% of respondents did not have a preference.

Men and women, however, both chose a friendly relationship with their boss over strictly professional. Women reported a slightly higher preference for these relationships at 65%, though.

Management Characteristics Do Matter

Depending on age and gender, certain characteristics of management will be more important than others. Overall, communication was at the top of the list for both men and women and across generations. Leadership and honesty ranked second and third, respectively, and similarly across generational lines.

CEO Magazine named leadership skills such as communication and collaboration as keys to being an effective manager.

“A good manager ensures everyone knows what their role is, and explains the expectations for that role. And clear goals and expectations keep employees engaged, with something to work towards.”

While the publication named decisiveness as a necessary skill also, this characteristic fell to the bottom half of respondents’ preferences in all three age brackets.

There were disparities for characteristic preferences depending on age, though. Millennials and Gen Xers overwhelmingly placed a high value on empathy; the groups also ranked confidence higher on the list. In contrast, baby boomers said teamwork was of much greater importance. All three generations placed patience among their top five choices.

Gender Differences Made Apparent

Some of these same characteristics may have pleased multiple generations equally, but they did not fare as similarly when looking across gender lines. Women were much more likely to value group characteristics such as teamwork and organization. Men chose loyalty and discipline as their top values, which lean more toward individual efforts rather than collaborative ones.

In Harvard Business Review’s article, “Explaining Gender Differences at the Top,” researchers explain that women make up a tiny fraction of those in high-level management positions partially because they may be viewed as less competent by their male counterparts. But on the other side of the coin, as research shows, women are less likely to compete with other colleagues for those top spots.

“... Men are more likely than women to engage in dominant or aggressive behaviors, to initiate negotiations, and to self-select into competitive environments – behaviors likely to facilitate professional advancement.”

A conclusion could be made that the publication’s findings are consistent with the characteristics women value the most in a boss.

“These differences contribute to men holding higher leadership positions than women. Meanwhile, women tend to be more motivated by affiliation – the desire for warm, close relationships with others – than men, research finds.”

The Older, the Better? Not So Fast

What do you consider the “sweet spot” when it comes to the age of your boss? The age preference of a manager will depend on both an employee’s age and professional experience. As the age of the employee increased, so did the acceptance of a boss over the age of 70. Not surprisingly, the older a worker was, the less willing he or she was to approve of a boss under the age of 30.

Forbes reports management style preferences are important when it comes to overseeing employees across multiple age groups. The management style needs of each generation will also differ based on the way they see their career paths.

“... almost eight in 10 millennials report they’d like their manager to act like a coach or mentor. That makes sense, because they’re trying to gain skills, make connections, and advance their careers.”

Age gaps play a role, too. Baby boomers, because they’re older, reported they were more willing to work with a larger age gap as long as the manager was younger than themselves. By comparison, millennials said they prefer a larger age gap with bosses older than themselves.

High Relational Fulfillment

Many respondents said they are satisfied with their boss. Fifty-nine percent said they were very satisfied with their management situation, while only 5% said they were completely dissatisfied. Both men and women reported higher satisfaction with bosses of the same gender, with the highest rating (60%) given by men being managed by other men.

Of those highly satisfied with their boss, 65% said their boss had an attentive management style. The friendlier the relationship and higher the employee salary, the greater the likelihood positive manager satisfaction was reported.

Industry Standards

The characteristics listed at the top vary based on the industry. People-centered fields like health care tended to have more attentive bosses and more professional relationships with them. Higher demand, lower-paying positions, like those in retail, reported higher levels of boss dissatisfaction and manager passivity.

The construction field, for example, fell under the most-disliked category, possibly because of lower salaries and more professional relationships than the transportation and warehousing industry, which saw friendlier interactions with bosses and higher instances of passive attitudes.

Meeting Manager Expectations

Overall, according to over 1,000 salaried employees, characteristics of great bosses vary by age and gender. Attentive bosses who sought out friendly relationships with their employees tended to receive the highest ratings. But overly attentive or passive ones sorely missed the mark. When working with millennials, empathy and confidence were the top characteristic preferences. When speaking to older generational groups, however, teamwork and commitment were emphasized. As with any aspect of life, though, balance is key. Whether you’re a manager or looking to become one, SimplyHired.com can help you look for jobs, search salary information, compare the top places to work, and access a plethora of valuable career resources.

Fair Use Statement

Most of us appreciate information that helps create the most ideal work environment. After all, Business Insider says the average person will spend around 90,000 hours of their life at a job! When sharing this beneficial material for noncommercial purposes, though, please don’t forget to cite this article.

Methodology

We conducted a survey of 1,008 Americans who were employed full time and reported to an individual manager or supervisor. Respondents were then asked questions in relation to their perceptions of bosses as well as their experience with their current boss.

Fifty-two percent of our respondents identified as male, 48% identified as female, and less than 1% identified as a gender not listed on our survey. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 75 with a mean of 36 and a standard deviation of 10.6.

Limitations

Industries were limited to those with a sample size of 26 or more. It is possible that with more respondents from each industry, we may have been able to gain better insight into this demographic. The data we are presenting rely on self-reporting and, as such, are susceptible to exaggeration or selective memory.

No statistical testing was performed. The claims listed above are based on means alone and are presented for informational purposes.