Is your direct manager the worst part of your job?

Image for post
Image for post

I feel like the relationship between employee and direct manager has been doomedfor years now. Some people have great immediate bosses, and that’s all good for them. But for most people, it seems as if the direct manager ends up becoming the worst part of a job.

Consider a little bit of research: per Hogan Assessments (2014), about 75% of employees report that “the worst part of their job” is their direct manager. 65% of employees would prefer a new boss over a pay raise. That’s all some heady stuff — you need money to have the kind of life you want, and people are still saying “Hold the money, and please remove my ass clown of a direct manager.” Almost 7 in 10 people are saying that? Wow.

Finally by way of intro: we know that 41% of employees globally will do a significant job searchthis year, and almost all of them list “bad manager” as the №1 reason why.

So where does all this suss out? What can we do?

Direct manager caveats

Take that 65% stat above. Find one of the people who fell into the 65%. Now offer them a raise and the same boss. They’re probably taking the raise. We all know that. People sometimes lie on surveys, or they give a contextual answer — like maybe that day, their direct manager was awful. This is why it’s so amazing that companies base so many decisions off surveys, which are snapshots in time. Anyway, that’s a whole ‘nother post.

Also, I don’t think there’s such a thing as a bad employee — and that goes for managers too. Some managers are terrible in one role/department, and if they switch companies/roles, they’d get better. That’s because of the monster we’re going to confront in the next section.

Why are so many direct managers so bad?

If the monster has multiple heads, they’d be:

All of us to some extent protect our own neck. As a result, we need to please our immediate boss. Well, your immediate boss probably has a direct manager too. He/she gotta please him/her. You just became less of a priority. The founder of Y Combinator has written about this.

Can we fix this?

Not really. At the individual level, sure. But work is moving much closer to automation, and relatively quickly. The guys making decisions at companies actually want to see less people around, and care about them less as well. (Not all decision-makers, but many, are thinking this way. It’s an effective cost playfor them.)

The other thing is that we pull the wool over our eyes about technology. Tech is good and connects people and scales businesses fast. That’s all nice. Here’s what it also does:

  • Easier to automate out certain roles for people

Employee engagement stats have been dropping for a decade-plus. So no, direct managers aren’t getting much better at working with their people. And I don’t see that as the direction we’re headed either. If anything, seeing young guys get rich off tech is going to make more people over-focus on product and process while ignoring people.

What would make a better direct manager?

Let me direct you to a few resources:

You could honestly pull up any article on this blog and probably be good. I talk about these issues almost every day.

What else you got on being a better direct manager?

Written by

Blogging, largely about work and how to improve it. How I make (some) money: http://thecontextofthings.com/hire-freelance-writer-ted-bauer/

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store