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Boss's Job Safe: Most Workers Don’t Want It

By SHRM Online staff  10/20/2011
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Most people aren’t eyeing their manager’s job, according to a recent survey of U.S. office workers.

More than three-fourths of 431 workers polled by phone August 2011 said they were not interested in taking on that role, and nearly two-thirds don’t think they could do a better job than their boss. Among workers surveyed, those between ages 18 and 34 were more likely, at 35 percent, than other age groups to want the boss’s job.

A similar survey, conducted September 2011 with 648 Canadian office workers, found that slightly more than half do not want their boss’s job and that half said they could do a better job than their boss. Canadians ages 18 through 34 were more likely, at 29 percent, than other age groups to want the boss’s job.

“Many aspects of management involve making difficult, sometimes unpopular decisions, and not everyone is comfortable in this role,” stated Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam, which created and commissioned the survey.

“Being a strong individual contributor does not necessarily equate to being an effective leader,” he said in a news release. “The most successful bosses excel at motivating others to achieve great results.”

Seven traits potential leaders possess, according to OfficeTeam:

  1. Integrity. The best managers foster trust among employees by placing ethics first. They acknowledge individual and team contributions consistently.
  2. Sound judgment. They can be counted on to make difficult decisions based on logic and rationale.
  3. Diplomacy. Effective managers handle challenging situations with tact and discretion.
  4. Adaptability. Leaders should be innovative while encouraging team members to develop creative solutions.
  5. Strong communication skills to motivate and guide employees. In addition, they are able to share their vision with others.
  6. Good listening skills. Successful bosses seek ideas from colleagues.
  7. Influence. Strong managers build strong networks in the organization to gain support for their ideas.

“The biggest mistake a leader can make is be stupid,” former Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) president and CEO, Mike Losey, SPHR, said in a 2010 SHRM video interview.

“It all starts with knowledge; you add to that experience. Intellect you’re born with, but knowledge you get through education and experience,” he added.

“You solve problems based on what you know. It’s more than just leadership; it’s competency,” ethics and interest. “Put all those pieces together,” he said, “and you can be a good leader.”

HR professionals that want to rise through the ranks to leadership positions need to get outside their comfort zones, advised John Barbieri, global head of HR for Ironshore Insurance, a private equity startup in the New York City area.

“You can’t be an HR person who’s afraid to deal with the business leaders,” he said in a video interview at the 2010 SHRM Strategy Conference. “And there are some HR people who would rather sit in their offices and do their HR tasks, which is fine. You need those people and those are critical tasks.”

However, “if you want to be a business partner, you have to go out of your comfort zone,” he said. “When you have an opportunity to work with the business, you have to be able to contribute beyond your day job.”

Related Resource:

Staffing Management, SHRM Online Staffing Management Discipline

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