Boss Factor Can Make or Break Retention

By Kathy Gurchiek Jan 15, 2008

Bosses have a lot more influence on their workers than the assignments they dole out routinely.

Their boss is the reason almost three-fourths of office professionals surveyed would be willing to change jobs.

Dislike of their boss’s management style or lack of mentoring would prompt 43 percent of U.S. workers to leave their jobs, according to the online survey conducted by Yahoo! HotJobs in September and October 2007.

Leaving for a better salary (36 percent) and the potential for growing in their career (34 percent) also would prompt them to leave, but having a good boss or supervisor is the most important factor in keeping them happy at work, 32 percent of the 1,200 surveyed office workers said.

A majority of respondents want a boss who lets them work independently but is accessible when needed. Communication and listening skills top the qualities that U.S. workers want in a boss, followed by effective leadership skills and trusting that the employee will perform his or her job well, according to findings released Jan. 8, 2008.

Other important qualities, in order of importance, were flexibility and understanding, intelligence, teamwork skills and an even temperament, interest in the employee’s development, ability to share credit, successful in finding and retaining talent, and skills in making presentations.

The same percentage that disliked their boss’s management style also said they could do as good a job or better stepping into their boss’s shoes for a day.

The importance of a good manager was underscored in a report from the Kenexa Research Institute that analyzed data from a representative sample of workers surveyed in 2007. That survey included workers from Brazil, China, Germany, India, the United Kingdom and the United States.

While there were cultural differences, Kenexa found—Brazilian workers consider ethical conduct in determining a manager’s effectiveness, for example—good managers “have a significant, favorable impact on how these workers rate their pride in their organization, willingness to recommend it as a place to work and their overall job satisfaction,” Kenexa said in a statement on its report.

“Additionally, those employees who are satisfied with their manager state a much higher intention to stay with the organization vs. those who are dissatisfied. Additionally, those who rate their managers as good also feel they have a promising future with the company and have confidence in the organization’s future.”

Effective managers are respectful, considerate and fair, and good organizers who are clear in communicating their work expectations, and they provide workers with feedback, Kenexa Research Institute executive director Jack Wiley said in a press release.

The institute, based in Pennsylvania, is a division of Kenexa, a provider of outsourcing, employee research, and software aimed at recruitment and retention.

“While this is easy to grasp conceptually,” Wiley said, “many managers struggle with implementation. But for those who get it, there are huge dividends.”

Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor for HR News. She can be reached at


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