National Boss Day? Is That Why 70% of Workers Don’t Want to be a Boss?

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I’m all for the notion of better employee-boss relations, and by extension, that means that I’m also in favor of a new study released this week by Adecco North America on the qualities that make for a great boss, among other things.

The study has some interesting and noteworthy findings in it, but the reason behind doing it – something called National Boss Day – is the kind of brainless faux “event” that mocks and demeans the hard work that many unsung supervisors are doing the year round.

But before I get going on that, here are some details about the survey.

“Bosses are not meeting employee expectations”

Adecco, which bills itself as “the world’s leading provider of HR solutions,” polled 1,000 employed Americans (both employees and bosses, and both blue and white collar) “to find out first-hand what characteristics and attributes they think actually makes up a ‘best boss’ in today’s workplace.” It’s a good topic, especially given the state of employee-boss relations in the wake of the ongoing economic downturn.

Some of the key findings that jumped out at me included:

  • Generally speaking, the leadership styles of bosses are not meeting employee expectations. Employees are seeking visionary bosses with clear goals for the future. Too many bosses are commanding their team.
  • Most employees don’t think that a personal relationship with their boss is necessary. In fact, just about one in six employees actually connect to their boss via a social network.
  • Most employees feel there is mutual respect and trust between them and their bosses.
  • The recession seems to have had a significant impact on the way bosses lead – they are engaging more with their team, working longer hours, focusing more on work – all leading to higher levels of stress. The changes in work ethic aren’t limited to bosses – these changes have happened at all levels.

“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, in a press releasing announcing the results of the survey.

“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.”

Bosses more stressed than pre-recession

That certainly makes good sense, but the survey also found this: 70 percent of workers say they don’t aspire to move into their boss’ job. “Aspiration increases among those who are already in a management position,” the survey reports, “but even then, the majority (of workers) like the status quo.”

What are we to make of that? Perhaps that the job of a boss doesn’t look all that wonderful in this economic climate?

That’s probably the case, because the survey also found that “63 percent of bosses report being more stressed today than pre-recession, with the number of people a boss manages impacting 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.”

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If you are interested in boss-employee relations, as I am, you’ll want to spend some time sifting through the survey results although be warned – a few of the questions (and findings) are a little dopey. For example, do you really care that 37 percent of those surveyed would want Oprah Winfrey as their boss? Guess they haven’t heard about all the non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements Oprah makes you sign when you go to work for her.

And that’s as good a note as any to return to the subject of National Boss Day.

In case you haven’t heard, it’s coming up this Friday (October 15) and according to Wikipedia, “has traditionally been a day for employees to thank their boss for being kind and fair throughout the year. The holiday has been the source of some controversy and criticism in the United States, where it is often mocked as a “Hallmark Holiday.”

Why we DON’T need a National Boss Day

Well, I’ve done my fair share of mocking of National Boss Day, as I did back when I was Editor over at Workforce. I’ll spare you the extended version, but here’s the gist of it:

National Boss Day is a put-on, a fraud, a silly and senseless “event” that one would expect to find in a Monty Python sketch, an episode of The Office or a Dilbert cartoon. And in all cases, the mention of such an event should simply be to mock the pretentiousness of such BS.

Why do we need National Boss Day anyway? As a longtime boss, the last thing I want is for anyone working for me to engage in such nonsense because it seems to elevate being a boss for no other reason than because a boss has power and authority.

In my world, great bosses are honored for the good they do and the respect and loyalty they generate among those who work with them, not because someone concocted some fake day that people are expected to remember.

So, just remember this when you read or hear some dumb “news” story on Friday about National Boss Day. When you do, smile for a second and perhaps take a moment to wonder, “What kind of real news am I missing because some idiot editor fell prey to this PR crap about National Boss Day?”

Think I was too harsh when I wrote that last year? I don’t. Honoring bosses with another “Hallmark Holiday” DOES trivialize the hard work really GOOD bosses do.

In fact, most good managers would be aghast at the notion of National Boss Day. And, maybe that’s the real reason why 70 percent of workers don’t aspire to be a boss.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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