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Why Happy Bosses Equal Happy Workers

Why Happy Bosses Equal Happy Workers
Credit: Jirsak/Shutterstock

Companies trying to figure out the reasons behind their high employee turnover rate should do more than just focus on the relationship between the employees and their bosses. They should also investigate the relationship between those bosses and their supervisors, new research suggests.

Keeping middle managers happy with their bosses is the key to retaining lower-level workers, according to a study recently published in the Career Development International journal.

Ray Friedman, one of the study's authors and a Vanderbilt University professor, said middle managers’ treatment of employees reflects how their bosses treat them.

"If an organization wishes to address issues related to line employees’ work attitudes, it should address behavior and work attitudes from the top down." Friedman said in a statement. "The focus should not just be on employees and their managers, but also on the signals being sent by senior managers every day as they interact with their middle-level manager subordinates.

The researchers found that middle managers' satisfaction with their senior managers related positively to line employees’ satisfaction with middle managers, and when middle managers don't have good working relationships with their bosses, the effects are felt down the line.

This often leads to lower-level employees quitting, which can have a negative effect on the company. Previous research has discovered that high employee turnover lowers customer satisfaction. [Dealing with a Hostile Boss? Fight Fire with Fire ]

"Despite the lack of direct contact between senior managers and line employees, senior managers can have a significant influence on those line employees," Friedman said.

The way female middle managers treat their staff is particularly influenced by how their boss treats them, the research found.

"While the trickle-down effect is general, there may be subgroups especially influenced by the trickle-down dynamic and we have identified women middle managers as a group that is especially affected by the trickle-down effect," Friedman said.

While the research was based on the study of 1,527 full-time employees at 94 hotels in the United States and Canada, the study's authors believe that the results will apply to all industries.

The study was co-authored by Ying Chen, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Tony Simons, an associate professor at Cornell University.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad 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. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.