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Horrible Bosses: Are American Workers Quitting Their Jobs Or Quitting Their Managers?

3,000 American workers—from ten of the most popular job sectors in America—share true feelings about their managers; what their managers could do to improve; the management characteristics they hate the most; and much more.


At GoodHire, we surveyed a total of 3,000 full-time American workers, an equal number from ten of the most popular job sectors, to better understand the unique and sometimes poor relationship between managers and employees.

Throughout the survey, we uncovered an overall sentiment about managers in the workplace, but we also dug deeper into specific industries of employment to learn if management is disliked more or less by individuals from different occupations.

Our study revealed a number of timely and relevant findings related to remote work, digital communication in the workplace due to COVID-19, as well as if managers actually trust employees during remote working hours.

We’ll also share crucial data about whether or not employees would quit their jobs due to a bad relationship with their manager. Let’s just say the results might surprise you.

Before we get into the full report, below are the job sectors from which an equal number of the 3,000 total survey respondents were acquired:

  • Education
  • Finance & Insurance
  • Healthcare
  • Hospitality 
  • Human Resources
  • Legal
  • Marketing & Sales
  • Real Estate
  • Science & Tech 
  • Software

Now let’s dive into a quick data recap.

Summary Of Key Findings

  • 70% of American workers strongly enjoy or somewhat enjoy working for their manager.
  • 82% of American workers said they would potentially quit their job because of a bad manager.
  • 84% of American workers said they could do their manager’s job. 
  • 83% of American workers said they could do their own job without their managers.
  • Only 39% of American workers said their manager is open and honest about promotion opportunities. 
  • Only 44% of American workers said their manager is open and honest during salary and compensation conversations.
  • 63% of American workers said they have either too few or too many meetings with their managers. 
  • 62% of American workers said their managers virtually or digitally communicate too much or not enough. 
  • Only 22% of American workers said their managers definitely trust them to be productive and hard-working during remote working hours.
  • Only 32% of American workers said their manager really cares about employee career progression.
  • Only 46% of American workers said their managers respect personal time away from work after working hours. 
  • American workers are most annoyed by managers who micromanage and managers who ask employees to work outside of working hours. 
  • American workers most desire a manager who is honest and authentic.

Let’s get into the full breakdown of our survey and the information gathered.

How Do You Really Feel About Your Manager?

Work and management have changed more in the past two years than most of us could have ever imagined. COVID-19 has disrupted the workforce and a large number of employees and managers are still finding their way. From remote work to hybrid work to back-to-the-office mandates, navigating the workplace is currently more difficult than ever. 

When you dive deeper into workplace issues relating to managers and employees, the standard thought is to assume that employees dislike their managers because those are the people who can tell them what to do, how to do it, and where to go. It’s additionally commonplace to assume that all of the issues caused by COVID-19 might have put an even stronger damper on any manager-employee relationship. 

But these survey results, at the basic level, tell a different story. We asked American workers how they currently feel about working for their managers and 70% said they strongly or somewhat enjoy working for their managers. Quite a shock, right?

Additionally, when you look more closely by job sector, it turns out that hospitality workers most enjoy working for their managers (80%), while real estate (55%) and legal professionals (56%) least enjoy it.

So, what fuels an employees’ like or dislike for their manager? To find out, we asked American workers what irritates them most about their manager. We found out that a few specific traits remain consistent at the top of the list. 

Respondents said they are most irritated by a manager who is overbearing and micromanages, as well as a manager who expects them to work outside of working hours. Across the ten job sectors surveyed, these two answers were by far the most common.  

After uncovering the characteristics of an annoying manager, we asked respondents to share the traits that they covet most in a manager and the responses were overwhelmingly in favor of a manager who is both authentic and honest. Pretty simple, right? We’ll dive into more specifics related to honesty later in the report. 

Do Employees Quit Jobs Or Do They Actually Quit Bosses?

The ‘Great Resignation’ is seemingly here to stay. With historically high quit rates and millions of Baby Boomers suddenly retiring, the workforce is fundamentally different. COVID-19 has surely caused this overwhelming change for many, but for some, this once-in-a-lifetime event has given them the courage to start fresh or move on from a horrible boss. 

With the ‘Great Resignation’ in mind, we asked respondents whether or not they would quit their job because of a bad manager, and an overwhelming majority (82%) of all respondents said yes, they would consider quitting because of a bad manager. 

A deeper dive into job sectors shows that healthcare workers (88%) are the most likely group of professionals to quit their jobs because of bad management. On the low end, software professionals (73%) are the least likely to quit due to issues with their managers. 

While quitting because of a bad manager is a huge and important decision, oftentimes those decisions are made because of consistent unhappiness at work. When we asked respondents how many days per week their manager does something that annoys them, the most popular answer was just one day per week. Two days per week was the second most popular answer. 

It’s clear that most don’t feel terribly annoyed by management every day of the week, but over a long period of time, those annoying days definitely add up. 

Another managerial trait known to annoy employees is the lack of respect for the personal time after working hours and overall time away from work. To understand if this trait is a potential cause of employees leaving a job, we asked all respondents whether or not their managers respect their time away from work. 

Just 46% of all American workers feel as though their manager truly respects their personal time and time away from work. This is a true red flag in the workplace and can lead to the demise of any sort of work-life balance, especially in this new world of remote working in which employees are constantly in close proximity to their “office.”

Do All Employees Actually Need Managers?

It’s apparent that employees are somewhat unhappy with their managers. But one often underlooked aspect of the manager-employee relationship is the respect factor. Do employees think their managers are qualified? Do employees think they need a manager to watch over their every move? Well, let’s find out. 

We asked respondents if they believe they could do their manager’s job and it turns out that we live in a world full of extremely confident employees. 84% of all American workers surveyed said they could absolutely, probably, or maybe do their manager’s job. This is a massive number and one that clearly shows a potential lack of respect for management. 

More telling is a look at individual job sectors with regard to the same question. We found that 89% of hospitality workers and 87% of science & tech workers believe they are more than qualified to do their manager’s job. 

On the lower end, just 73% of real estate pros and 79% of legal workers think they have what it takes to handle their manager’s duties at work. 

We know that a huge majority of American workers think they could do their manager’s job, but what about performing in their current role without a manager? 

We found that American workers are incredibly confident, once again, in their ability to perform without a manager watching over them. Overall, 83% of American workers surveyed believe they can do their job without a manager. 

Those respondents in the finance & insurance spaces are most confident (89%), while real estate professionals (68%) are seemingly the least confident of the group in performing at a high level without management in place. 

Perhaps a huge piece of the “need-for-a-manager” puzzle is motivation. 

When we asked respondents if their manager understood what motivates them at work, 44% said their manager either does not understand what motivates them or they simply do not care. Pretty sad, right?

Next, we’ll dive into the key topic of honesty and transparency in relation to management.  

Do Employees Simply Want Managers To Care More?

Employees throughout the years have provided plenty of opinions and data on what makes a great manager and, alternatively, what makes a terrible manager. Thousands of studies have been performed and the data points are endless. But what if we simplify the process? Do we even know if managers truly care about their employees as people and as valuable parts of the companies they work at? Or are they just going through the motions and barking out orders?

To find out, we asked all respondents if they think their managers truly care about employee career progression and the results are quite shocking. 

Only 32% of all American workers surveyed believe that management really cares about their career progression. 

Further analysis shows that in certain industries — hospitality, healthcare, marketing & sales, real estate, and legal — less than one-third of those surveyed trust that their managers actually care about their career progression. 

Additionally, if managers don’t care about the career progression of their employees, can those same employees trust them to be open and honest about promotion conversations, as well as conversations about salary and compensation? 

It turns out that only 39% of all respondents believe that their managers are open and honest about promotion opportunities, while just 44% of those same respondents believe that their managers are open and honest in salary and compensation conversations. 

Overall, we’ve uncovered that trust and transparency are major issues that management must work hard to fix. If employees are concerned with honesty about career advancement opportunities and compensation conversations, then motivation and a drive to perform at a high level could be very limited across all industries. 

Are Meeting Burnout & Zoom Fatigue Killing Employee Motivation?

More people than ever are working remotely in 2022. And that means the majority are likely logging onto the most popular video chat platforms available. At first, it was convenient. But now, it’s extremely tiring and often annoying. Researchers have even come up with a name for this hot-button issue: Zoom fatigue (named after Zoom — one of the most popular video chat platforms).

So, while remote work has been convenient, and enjoyable, for most, are employees irritated by the number of meetings they have with their managers because of remote work?

The answer is … yes. 

We asked respondents how happy they are with the frequency of meetings they have with management and 63% of American workers said they have either too many or too few meetings with management. 

This data shows that perhaps some managers are struggling to keep in contact during these unprecedented times of remote work, and other managers are the key contributors to Zoom fatigue issues across the workplace. 

When viewed by job sectors, we find that real estate (69%), hospitality (66%), and software (66%) are the industries most unhappy with the number of meetings with management, while human resources (55%) and healthcare (56%) are the most satisfied with their meeting load. 

To learn more about manager meetings and interactions, we then asked respondents to share information about how they most prefer to be contacted by their manager. Overwhelmingly, employees across all industries prefer to be contacted via email and least prefer to be contacted via Zoom or video chat. 

So, there you have it — Zoom fatigue is real and very troubling. Employees have spoken and are officially tired of video meetings with management. 

Lastly, we asked employees about different types of interactions with management and which they least enjoy. Respondents shared that unscheduled run-ins or meetings are their least favorite interactions with their bosses — not a surprise to anyone. 

To wrap it up, let’s learn more about the hottest topic of them all — remote work. 

Has Remote Work Eroded Trust In The Workplace?

Remote work is causing trust issues

The Harvard Business Review shared that, “Research shows that managers who cannot “see” their direct reports sometimes struggle to trust that their employees are indeed working. When such doubts creep in, managers can start to develop an unreasonable expectation that those team members be available at all times, ultimately disrupting their work-home balance and causing more job stress.” 

With this in mind, we asked American workers to explain whether or not they think their managers trust them to remain hardworking and productive in remote work environments. 

We can officially say that the Harvard Business Review quote above seems to be accurate, as only 22% of American workers think their managers definitely trust them to be productive while working remotely. This data reveals that almost 80% of American workers have major trust issues with management. 

Furthermore, those working in hospitality (13%), human resources (18%), real estate (19%), and marketing & sales (19%) have even more trust issues than the general workforce. 

Respondents also shared that when it comes to remote work, 62% of them feel as though managers communicate virtually or digitally either too much or too little, and only 19% of those same respondents said remote work has led to less communication with their managers. 

Overall, American workers (55%) said that remote work has either worsened their relationship with management or it has not changed it. But it’s apparent that virtual communication and remote work are not improving manager-employee relationships and adjustments must be made in the near future as we all work to better understand the ever-changing American workplace in 2022 and beyond. 

Wrapping It Up

GoodHire’s research shows a plethora of issues between managers and employees. From mistrust to meeting burnout to a lack of honesty and transparency, the writing is on the wall — managers and employees need to find a way to communicate more effectively and build a bond that is secured by a caring nature and trustworthy actions. 

Americans are quitting their jobs in record numbers, but maybe they aren’t just quitting because of work they don’t enjoy. Instead, the data shows that managers are one of the most important pieces of a satisfactory and enjoyable workplace, so are workers actually quitting their bosses?

Without a manager who cares, who communicates, and who motivates, employees will continue to look for what’s next and for what’s better for them. 

It doesn’t matter what industry you work in, the search for a perfect job is at an all-time high, but perhaps the search for a better, more caring manager is the search that actually needs to take place across America. 

For more information on GoodHire’s research or to request graphics or an interview about this study, please contact press@goodhire.com.  

SURVEY METHODOLOGY

All data found within this report is derived from a survey by GoodHire conducted online via survey platform Pollfish from December 4, 2021 to December 9, 2021. In total, 3,000 adult Americans were surveyed, including an equal number from each job sector — Education, Finance & Insurance, Healthcare, Hospitality, Human Resources, Legal, Marketing & Sales, Real Estate, Science & Tech, and Software. The respondents were screened in order to ensure they were currently full-time employees at the time GoodHire conducted this survey. This survey was conducted over a six-day span, and all respondents were asked to answer all questions as truthfully as possible and to the best of their knowledge and abilities. 

disclaimer

The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.


About the Author

As GoodHire’s managing editor, Sara Korolevich produces educational resources for employers on a variety of employment screening topics, including compliance and screening best practices, and writes about GoodHire’s company and product news. Sara’s experience stems from 20+ years working as a B2C and B2B PR and communications professional.