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5 Traits Employees Want In a Boss

Adam Uzialko
Adam Uzialko
Freelance Editor
Business News Daily Staff
Updated Mar 13, 2020

Many of the traits employees deem most important in a boss are those that managers exhibit least often.

  • Great bosses are often hard to come by, and bad managers tend to have traits in common.
  • Research shows that the traits that employees want in their bosses are those that their managers exhibit least often.
  • There are five distinct traits that employees want in a boss.

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

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

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

Employees also appreciate when their bosses value their work. Although 86% of the workers surveyed said this is important to them, just 60% said their managers exhibit the trait. [See related story:]

“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.

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

  1. Encourages improvement. Nearly 80% of the employees surveyed said inspiring leaders encourage and help employees improve. Professional development is an important part of this trait. An example of encouraging improvement would be to allow an employee to sign up for training in a particular skill. Sometimes, managers think skill development makes employees more likely to leave. However, employees crave improvement, and they want to be given the opportunity to develop the skills necessary for them to be good at their jobs.
  2. Gives praise and appreciation. Nearly three-quarters of the workers surveyed said great bosses praise and express appreciation for employees’ work. While recognition is often not given and great work is expected, it is nice for an employee to receive a sense of gratitude from their managers and supervisors. For example, if your employee is consistently meeting deadlines and working hard to provide quality work, thank them for it. It is not hard or complex, but a simple token of appreciation goes a long way. This can also prevent an employee from feeling taken for granted or underappreciated.
  3. Recognizes improvement. More than 70% of the employees in the survey said one of the most important traits of a boss is acknowledging when workers’ performance has improved. If your employee needed improvement in a particular area when they started their job and they’ve improved that skill, say something. After all, you are ultimately benefiting from their growth and improvement. Acknowledge that they have come a long way, and potentially offer them even more opportunities to develop that skill.
  4. Acknowledges own shortfalls before criticizing. The study found that 68% of employees are motivated by bosses who, rather than criticizing others, recognize their own shortcomings. Let your employees know that you are human. Let them know when you made a mistake, apologize, and talk about what you can do to make it better. This creates an environment that allows your employees to come to you should they ever make a mistake. Having open communication is a great way to be more productive in the workplace, and it makes you more relatable.
  5. Allows employees to save face. Of the workers surveyed, 60% 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. Calling out your employees will make them feel as though they are constantly competing with others in the office. Instead, recognize and incentivize good behavior.

Making sure bosses give employees the support they need is critical for employers that 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%.

“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% of the workers surveyed said they are very satisfied with their jobs. However, when supervisors frequently exhibited developmental, interpersonal leadership behaviors, satisfaction increased to 33%.

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

Image Credit:

Ridofranz / Getty Images

Adam Uzialko
Adam Uzialko
Business News Daily Staff
Adam Uzialko is a writer and editor at and Business News Daily. He has 7 years of professional experience with a focus on small businesses and startups. He has covered topics including digital marketing, SEO, business communications, and public policy. He has also written about emerging technologies and their intersection with business, including artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and blockchain.