Sticky Notes: The Boss Factor

Here's what employees—from high to low performers—are looking for in a boss.

What are employees looking for in a boss? Here’s what our research shows:

Low performers are looking for a boss who is hands-off and tries to treat every employee the same. They want a boss who doesn’t know who is doing what, where, why, when, and how; a boss who doesn’t keep track; a boss who ignores performance problems. They want to be left alone to hide out and collect the same paycheck as everyone else, regardless of their low performance.

High performers want a boss who is strong and highly engaged; who knows exactly who they are and what they are doing; who lets them know their work is important. They want a boss who spells out expectations clearly; who teaches them the best practices; who warns them of pitfalls; who helps them solve small problems before they fester and grow; and who rewards them when they go the extra mile.

What about the vast majority of employees who are somewhere in the middle between high performance and low? You will get out of them exactly what you put in: If you are hands-off and treat everybody the same, you are treating your employees like low performers. You will under-manage most of them into a slow downward spiral. And you will attract more low performers who want to “work for you.” If you are strong and highly engaged, you are treating your employees like high performers. You will manage most of them into a steady upward spiral. And high performers will beat down your door for the chance to work for you.

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