New Adecco Survey Reveals What Employees Really Think About Their Bosses

In Honor Of National Boss Day, One Of The World's Largest Employers Attempts To Answer, "What Makes A Great Boss?"

Oct 11, 2010, 06:00 ET from Adecco Group

MELVILLE, N.Y., Oct. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- Economists have indicated that the Great Recession ended in June 2009 but experts agree that its effects will have a lasting impact on businesses and their workforces for years.  One silver lining coming out of the recession, however, is that there seems to be a stronger bond between manager and employee.  In fact, 78 percent of bosses say they feel closer to their teams than they did three years ago (pre-recession) and 61 percent of employees agree, according to a recent survey from Adecco Staffing US, part of the world's largest recruitment and workforce solutions provider.

The survey of 1,000 American employees and bosses, done in conjunction with National Boss Day, not only unveiled what brings leaders and employees together but also aimed to get to the bottom of one of the greatest workforce questions – what makes a great boss?  The results indicate that what employees want in a boss and the reality of what they are getting are not quite one in the same.  The survey also explored employee preference in boss management style, as well how much employees want to engage with their bosses online and offline, how much age, gender and generation play a role in the workplace and, the ultimate taboo topic – just how far some employees are willing to go to get their boss' job.

"This survey clearly shows that while the Great Recession has resulted in some stronger bonds between bosses and employees, there's still work to be done.  There is still a divide that exists between what employees want and what they feel they are getting from their leaders," said Tig Gilliam, Chief Executive Officer of Adecco Group North America.  "What this tells us is that as businesses continue to look towards economic recovery, building up their workforces post-recession, they should be mindful of the wants and needs of their talent – gut-checking both boss and employee feedback – while keeping a watchful eye on their talent with the highest potential."

Top Leaders and Leading Celebrities Are Favorites for Top Boss Spot

While 37 percent of survey respondents reported they would want Oprah as their boss, President Barack Obama came in as a close second, with 35 percent of the vote.  Only 4 percent of American employees would want former CEO of BP, Tony Hayward, as their boss.  Simon Cowell – former American Idol judge – ranked only slightly better with 8 percent.

Employees Mixed on If They Want the Boss' Job

Survey results indicate that the youngest employees in today's workplace are ambitious and are looking to get ahead – and they'll go to great lengths to do it.  Forty-two percent of Millennials think they're smarter than their boss and nearly half (45 percent) aspire to have their boss' job.

But not all workers are even interested in the top job – only 30 percent of employees indicated they aspire to have their boss' job.  Interestingly – and perhaps contrary to popular perception – employees who have more responsibility outside of the office – those with children 18 or under at home – are more likely to aspire to have their boss' job (39 percent compared to 23 percent).

Bosses and Employees are Friends – but not on Facebook

While 61 percent of employees consider their boss a friend, a majority of employees (82 percent) are not connected to their boss via a traditional social network*.  In fact, nearly one-third (32 percent) of employees who are connected to their boss via a social network site wish they weren't and almost half (45 percent) of those who are connected, have adjusted their privacy settings to keep certain aspects of their profile blocked from their boss.

The part of their online profile employees fear their boss seeing the most is their opinions or beliefs – via comments or posts – (35 percent).  Only 27 percent feel this way about photos or videos online.

However, differences exist between men and women who are connected to their boss online.  More than one-third (35 percent) of men are worried about their boss seeing their photos, compared to only 20 percent of women.  That said, half (50 percent) of all women connected to their bosses online are more likely to adjust their privacy settings compared to men (40 percent).

In addition, employees who do connect to their boss online do so via Facebook (14 percent) rather than LinkedIn (6 percent) – a bit surprising given LinkedIn's reputation skews more towards professional development and networking.

What Employees Want (in a Boss) and What They Get Differ

Employee respondents indicated they want visionary and coaching bosses – leaders that will guide them with clear goals for the future and provide them with the motivation and the tools to get there. Instead, survey results indicate many bosses are still too commanding in their management style, exhibited by simply giving orders and accepting compliance.  Ironically, however, bosses don't see this trend in themselves; while nearly one-third (29 percent) of bosses think they are great coaches, only a fifth (20 percent) of employees agree.  Similarly, only 15 percent of bosses think their management style is 'commanding', but nearly a quarter (23 percent) of employees said their boss exhibited this style most.  This difference could mean that bosses may not realize just how "bossy" they really are.

Survey respondents also valued bosses who are true team players – with 88 percent of employees agreeing that a good boss is one who is willing to roll up their sleeves and get the job done.

Age is Only a Number When it Comes to Who's the Boss

On an extremely positive (and somewhat surprising) note, almost all employees feel that they have mutual trust and respect with their bosses: 91 percent of employees think their boss respects them and they respect their boss and 86 percent of employees trust their boss.

However, that respect may decline as bosses get younger and employees get older; nearly three out of four (73 percent) of employees reported they could respect and work with a boss who is under the age of 25.  But what really matters is how wide the gap is in age difference between boss and employee; just over half (56 percent) of employees indicated they could work with and respect a boss 20 years younger compared to 68 percent who could feel this way if their boss was 10 years younger and 83 percent if their boss was 5 years younger.  All that said, more than half (55 percent) of employees said no amount of age difference would prevent them from respecting their boss.

Bosses with Children are Less Stressed

The manager/employee bond may have strengthened over the past few years but they also share an increase in stress levels.

Sixty-three percent of bosses report being more stressed today than pre-recession; with the number of people a boss manages impacting their stress levels.  Nearly three-quarters (71 percent) of bosses who manage 11 or more people feel more stressed now compared to before the recession compared to only 57 percent of bosses who feel this way that manage 10 or fewer employees.

Overall, white collar bosses are more stressed than blue collar bosses, 67 percent versus 59 percent.  However, children seem to help alleviate stress; bosses with children at home reported being less stressed (58 percent) compared to those without children (67 percent).

"Considering we just came out of the worst recessions since the Great Depression, there is a lot of good news here about the state of the workplace – lots to celebrate and recognize regarding the partnership and relationship between workers and bosses," said Gilliam.  "What businesses will want to focus on now – as America begins to 'rebuild' – is staying very close to their talent and giving both management and employees the tools, training and attention they need to stay engaged and committed."

* Social network channels referenced in this survey include Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Foursquare.

About the Adecco Group:

The Adecco Group, based in Zurich, Switzerland, is the world's leading provider of HR solutions.  With over 31,000 FTE employees and more than 5,500 offices, in over 60 countries and territories around the world, Adecco Group offers a wide variety of services, connecting more than 600,000 colleagues with over 100,000 clients every day.  The services offered fall into the broad categories of temporary staffing, permanent placement, outsourcing, consulting and outplacement.  The Adecco Group is a Fortune Global 500 company.

Adecco S.A. is registered in Switzerland (ISIN: CH0012138605) and is listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange (ADEN).

About Adecco Group North America:

Every day we provide our clients with the talent they need, and help solve the business challenges they face today – and will encounter tomorrow.  Our clients rely on us for a wide range of workforce solutions including:

  • Contingent staffing and direct hire recruitment for large enterprise organizations across all skill sets
  • Workforce solutions and consulting including Managed Services Programs (MSP) & Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO)
  • Career transition and leadership consulting
  • Specialty staffing, project solutions and consulting services

Additional information is available through our websites at and

About Braun Research, Inc. (BRI)

BRI is a well-respected and internationally recognized firm that employs techniques and standards approved by leading survey research academic organizations in the world.  BRI is an active member in a number of respected organizations throughout the industry, including The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), Council on Marketing and Opinion Research (CMOR) and Council on American Survey Research Organizations (CASRO).

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted via telephone within the United States by Braun Research on behalf of Adecco from September 3 - 13 among 1,000 employed American adults ages 18 and older.  This survey polled both employees and bosses from blue and white collar industries and bosses were defined as employees over the age of 30 who manage three or more people.  For complete survey methodology, visit:

SOURCE Adecco Group