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If you’re a manager, most employees say they don’t need you

Posted January 15, 2018

By Ed Zalewski, PHR, editor, J. J. Keller & Associates

According to a recent survey, 80 percent of employees believe they could do their jobs without a manager – and they’re probably correct. Once employees have the training and experience to perform their duties, they shouldn’t need a manager telling them how to do their jobs on a day-to-day basis.

A manager who feels the need to provide daily instructions may be assuming that he or she knows how to perform the jobs of each employee and could perform those jobs better than the employees. Those managers may simply be failing to give their employees the freedom to perform their jobs.

Survey highlights

The survey found that an employee’s relationship with a manager is the most important factor in job satisfaction and retention. It also revealed some discrepancies between managers’ and employees’ perceptions of their relationships, including the following problem areas:

  • Overconfidence: Nearly half of managers (45 percent) never received formal management training, yet only 16 percent believe they frequently make mistakes. Further, most managers (71 percent) believe they know how to motivate their teams, but a majority of employees (56 percent) disagree.
  • Communication: Most managers (80 percent) believe they are transparent, but nearly half of employees (45 percent) disagree.
  • Approachable: Three-quarters of employees (75 percent) said that approachability is the most important quality in a manager, but only half (50 percent) felt their manager was approachable.
  • Trust: Nearly all employees (93 percent) said trust in their manager is essential to job satisfaction. The survey did not include results on how many employees trust their managers, but given the other results, trust is likely another area needing improvement.

The survey of more than 2,000 employees was conducted by Ultimate Software, a provider of human capital management solutions. The results, published in December 2017, show that many managers are not leading their employees as well as they think they are.

Management and leadership

Management involves handling administrative tasks, while leadership involves getting people to work toward a common goal or vision. Managers need both abilities.

A manager who is overconfident, refuses to admit mistakes, doesn’t communicate, and isn’t approachable won’t be an effective leader. A leader who inspires others but fails to coordinate workloads or enforce rules won’t be an effective manager.

Both qualities involve building relationships. To start down the path of building (or improving) the relationship between managers and employees:

  • Admit mistakes. Managers will make mistakes and should learn from them rather than defending them. Admitting mistakes will also help build trust.
  • Communicate openly and honestly. Managers can’t be totally transparent because they can’t share confidential information, but they can be honest about what they share. Dishonesty will quickly damage trust.
  • Reach out to team members. The survey also found that more than half (57 percent) of managers wish their team members were more willing to share their concerns. If managers rarely approach their employees, they should not expect employees to approach them. Managers should ask what motivates employees, listen attentively, and regularly provide feedback.

Becoming an approachable leader isn’t about making friends. It’s about listening, showing genuine interest, and demonstrating understanding. In other words, it’s about building a relationship with employees.

About the author:

Ed Zalewski

Ed Zalewski is a certified Professional in Human Resources and an editor at J. J. Keller & Associates, a nationally recognized compliance resource company that offers products and services to address the range of responsibilities held by human resources and corporate professionals. Zalewski specializes in employment law topics such as the Fair Labor Standards Act, employee benefits, and discrimination and harassment. He is the author of J. J. Keller’s FLSA Essentials guidance manual and BottomLine Benefits & Compensation newsletter. For more information, visit and