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Lead Your Team Managing

Is Your Manager Holding You Back?

image for fizkes / Getty Images
fizkes / Getty Images
  • 58% of respondents to a new Korn Ferry survey said their managers fail to help them advance their careers.
  • While 65% said they learn from their boss, 56% said their boss "motivates them little to no extent."
  • Only 35% of workers consider their boss a friend.
  • 40% feel they could do a better job than their boss does, though only 32% said they would want to take over that position.

Workers and their bosses share an important relationship in the workplace. A good manager can lead workers to be more productive, while a bad boss can drag everything down. With Boss's Day coming up this Wednesday, a newly released survey highlights how many professionals believe their managers are failing them.

According to a Korn Ferry survey released earlier today, 58% of the 804 workers polled online last month said their manager "does not help them advance their career." While the case could be made that most managers and bosses are there to ensure daily operations continue without an issue, Dennis Baltzley, Korn Ferry's global solution leader for leadership development, believes the lack of support workers feel could stem from other workplace issues.

"Many professionals have complicated relationships with their managers," he said. "While most are eager for their boss to help them learn and grow in their careers, the reality is many time-strapped and career-stressed bosses often don't make the effort to nurture their direct reports."

Extenuating circumstances may be hindering managers and their ability to properly lead workers, but researchers found that employees largely feel their managers fail them when communication breaks down.

No one likes feeling out of the loop, especially when that feeling is directly tied to their work. A good manager knows this and will share information with their employees when necessary. However, respondents felt they didn't have a strong line of communication with their bosses.

While 49% of respondents said they learn "to some extent" from their boss and 16% said they learn "to a great extent," more than half (56%) said their manager "motivates them little to no extent." That disparity could be largely due to managers failing to provide context to the information they share, according to Baltzley.

"Communication gaps have been at the center of management and direct report disconnects since the beginning of time," he said. "Managers often feel they are communicating a great deal, and direct reports feel that they don't have enough context or information. It's important to keep an open and continuous dialogue between managers and their direct reports so everyone understands priorities, what success looks like and how responsibilities are divided to achieve shared goals."

Managers may need to rethink how they communicate with their employees, but researchers also found some bad behaviors that undermine workers entirely.

According to the survey, 48% of respondents said they'd experienced situations where their boss took credit for something they'd done. That kind of action not only leaves a bad taste in the employee's mouth, but it can keep them from advancing in their careers, as higher-ups attribute good work to the wrong person.

There may be even worse widespread behaviors from managers than taking credit for other people's work. Researchers also learned that 39% of respondents' bosses had "thrown them under the bus" at some point. When a manager fails to back up their employees during difficult times, it often leads to employees losing faith in their manager's ability to lead. As a result, only 35% of respondents said they consider their boss a friend.

When asked whether they could do a better job than their boss, 40% of respondents said they could. However, only 32% said they would take on the added responsibility if offered.

Ultimately, Baltzley said, employees shouldn't rely on their managers to steer their careers in a better direction.

"It's important that professionals understand that support from their boss is not the only path to success," he said. "Researchers point to the 70-20-10 rule, where 70% of what you learn is from on-the-job experiences, 10% is from formal academic learning, and 20% is from relevant other people, such as a boss. It's critical that professionals chart their own career."

Andrew Martins

I am a former newspaper editor who has transitioned to strictly cover the business world for business.com and Business News Daily. I am a four-time New Jersey Press Award winner and prior to joining my current team, I was the editor of six weekly newspapers that covered multiple counties in the state.