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Lead Your Team Managing

5 Traits Employees Want In a Boss

5 Traits Employees Want In a Boss
Credit: Vchal/Shutterstock

There is a big gap in what employees want out of a boss and what they actually get, new research finds.

A study from leadership training provider Dale Carnegie Training revealed that many of the qualities workers deem most important in a manager are the traits supervisors exhibit least often.

Specifically, 84 percent of employees said it is important that managers admit to their mistakes. However, just 51 percent of their supervisors actually do so, the employees said. In addition, while 88 percent of employees said they value bosses who listen to them, just 60 percent of workers said their managers do so.

The research also found that 87 percent of workers said it is important for bosses to show sincere appreciation to their staff. Unfortunately, only 61 percent of employees said they get that from their manager.

Employees also appreciate when their bosses value their work. Although 86 percent of the workers surveyed said this is important to them, however, just 60 percent said their managers exhibit the trait. [See Related Story: Want Better Employee-Boss Relationships? Communication and Recognition Help]

"Employees want leaders who develop themselves and others, making it safe to share their ideas, try new things, make mistakes, learn from them and improve," the study's authors wrote.

Overall, the top five qualities that employees said motivate and inspire them the most are:

  1. Encourages improvement: Nearly 80 percent of the employees surveyed said inspiring leaders encourage and help employees improve.
  2. Gives praise and appreciation: Nearly three-quarters of the workers surveyed said great bosses praise and express appreciation for employees' work.
  3. Recognizes improvement: More than 70 percent of employees said one of the most important traits of a boss is acknowledging when workers' performance has improved.
  4. Acknowledges own shortfalls before criticizing: The study found that 68 percent of employees are motivated by bosses who, rather than criticizing others, recognize their own shortcomings.
  5. Allow employees to save face: 60 percent of workers said they appreciate a boss who gives them a chance to make up for their errors, instead of embarrassing employees when they have made mistakes.

Making sure bosses give employees the support they need is critical for employers who want to hold on to their top workers. The study found that supportive behavior from a direct supervisor increases employees' intentions of staying with an employer by 67 percent.

"Employees are more satisfied with their job and more likely to stay when their leaders are honest, trustworthy and true to their beliefs," Joe Hart, CEO of Dale Carnegie Training, said in a statement. "As the war for talent only gets more competitive, it is critical for leaders to develop positive behaviors that will inspire employees to stay and do their best work."

Better boss behavior also improves employee job happiness. In all, just 24 percent of the workers surveyed said they are very satisfied in their jobs. However, when supervisors frequently exhibited developmental, interpersonal leadership behaviors, satisfaction increased to 33 percent.

The study was based on surveys of more than 3,300 full-time employees worldwide, including 515 in the U.S.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.