Do Employees Really Care If They Have a Bad Boss?

There was a survey done recently by Michelle McQuaid to find out if given a choice, would employees choose a better boss or a pay raise – and guess what they found!? Yes, 65 percent of employees say they would rather have a “Better Boss” than more money!

Here are some other interesting findings from McQuaid's survey:

  • 31 percent of employees feel uninspired and unappreciated by their boss
  • Nearly 15 percent feel downright miserable, bored and lonely.
  • 38 percent described their boss as “great”; 42 percent say that their bosses don’t work very hard and close to 20 percent say their boss has little or no integrity.

But Tim Sackett of TLNT HRBusiness and The Tim Sackett Project blog isn't buying it.  He calls the survey "crap" and says,

"Telling yourself that your employees will pick a better boss over a raise is fool’s errand and makes you look like an idiot to your executives, because they know reality. People want a better boss AND people need and want more money. More!"

Well, while I can't vouch for the statistical integrity of McQuaid's survey, I must respectfully disagree with Sackett's rather cynical view of the American workplace. I spend most of my time helping people deal with terrible work conditions.  Americans spend the vast majority of their waking ours at work.  For many of us our work is a very large part of our personal identity.  I've got news for Mr. Sackett, people DO care about their working conditions and many would trade a few thousand bucks for a workplace that didn't make them feel like a refrigerator got dropped on their shoulders the instant the arrived at the office.

Mr. Sackett's attitude is unfortunately pretty prevalent in corporate America's boardrooms and HR departments.  They believe that employees are "just in it for the money" so it really doesn't matter how you treat them.  They see employees as fungible and easily replaceable.  When you burn one out, get rid of it and grab a new one.  And...they are wrong.

Great managers and great companies know that work is a huge part of who we are and they look for ways to inspire their employees and cultivate a true team attitude among their employees.  Do they pay market rate salaries? I'm sure they do. But that's not what makes their employees love their jobs and talk them up to friends and family throughout the community.

As a plaintiff-side employment lawyer, I know who these companies are in my area b/c I don't get calls from their current/former employees.  Their employees WANT to work there and they WANT to stay. And it's not because they are being treated terribly but earn an extra $2,500 a year.

Look, I know money is important.  We all know money is important. But arguing that it is practically all that matters to employees is just wrong. Having a job that you love, a boss that you respect and actually want to impress, and a company that you want to have a hand in helping to build and succeed is truly important.  And if that doesn't sound like your company then you are doing it wrong.




UPDATED: Corrected spelling of Sackett.