Whether you’re in the office or working remotely, management matters. A recent Gallup study revealed at least half of the U.S. workforce is “quiet quitting,” or simply doing their jobs without going above and beyond — without clear expectations from their bosses or a sense of human connection or community, why should work be more than just that?

To dig into the problem of the “bad boss,” we surveyed 1,000 American professionals about their experiences with managers. A majority (85%) of them said they would quit their jobs if their bosses were really bad. So, what can bosses do to prevent quiet quitting and boost employee engagement? Read on to find out.

Key Findings

  • 2 in 3 employees say their relationship with their boss is their most important one at work.
  • 6 in 10 employees prefer a pleasant boss to a competent one.
  • Employees say fair treatment and clear communication define the best bosses.
  • The three worst things bad bosses do: talk down to employees, communicate poorly and micromanage.

What Makes a Good Boss?

Your relationship to your boss is key to workplace happiness. Nearly 2 in 3 employees say their relationships with their bosses are more important to their job satisfaction than the rest of their team’s dynamic.

When assessing their bosses, employees say the most important management qualities they consider are:

  1. Management style: 60% say this is “very important”
  2. Interpersonal communication style: 57% say this is “very important”
  3. Feedback style: 42% say this is “very important”

When it comes to a “good” boss, behavior matters more to employees than experience does. Of the professionals we surveyed, 6 in 10 prefer a pleasant boss to a competent one — but what makes a boss “pleasant”? Nearly all professionals (91%) say fair treatment is the number one thing they want.

In fact, we found fair treatment from a boss is three times as valuable to employees as interest in their personal lives, which was actually the least-valued attribute. Clear communication (88%) and respecting others’ opinions (83%) are also key attributes of a good boss and connect to employees’ perception of a pleasant and fair manager.

What makes a good boss?

So, what sets the very best bosses apart from the rest? Clarity. Employees say communicating clearly (53%) and treating employees fairly (45%) are the top two distinguishing factors, respectively. Fostering supportive team environments (34%) is the third. Creating a tight-knit team takes time and dedication, but it can start with actions as simple as sending office swag to a small start-up team, or hosting virtual team-building events.

What Makes a Bad Boss?

If good communication is the foundation of a great relationship between an employee and their manager, then it’s no surprise that bad communication is a big problem.

The number one attribute employees dislike in a boss is condescension (78%). Poor communication and micromanaging are also problematic, with 3 in 4 professionals rating these as the other two defining attributes of a bad boss.

What makes a bad boss?

Poor communication is always an issue, but professionals say the very worst bosses take it a step further and create hostile team environments (45%) and talk down to their employees (37%). These kinds of behaviors put employees against each other and create discouraging hierarchies.

As it turns out, a quarter of the employees we surveyed believe they could do their bosses’ jobs better. The top characteristics of bad bosses paint a picture of rude and clueless managers — they include descriptions, such as “out of touch,” “pushy,” and “inept.”

Remote Employees Say Their Bosses Are Better

Does the physical distance between boss and employee make a difference? It might: According to their employees, hybrid and remote bosses are doing better across the board compared to managers who work primarily on-site.

As we learned, employees think management style is the number one most important aspect of a boss. About half of hybrid (51%) and remote (45%) employees, respectively, think their bosses are doing very well at managing — but only 39% of on-site employees agree. This discrepancy could be due, at least in part, to the fact that managers can’t literally stand over their employees shoulders when they’re working remotely.

We also found more than 4 in 10 hybrid and remote employees say their bosses are communicating well and giving good feedback these days, compared to just over 1 in 3 on-site employees.

Remote employees say their bosses are better

That said, improving feedback quality could turn some decent bosses into great ones — especially in the current climate. Over 1 in 5 professionals surveyed said their bosses are currently giving poor feedback, which could be hurting employee engagement. Providing actionable feedback linked to performance expectations can create more employee investment.

Ultimately, the best thing a good boss can do is be attentive and even-handed, whether their employees are calling in from home or from the next desk over. Treating everyone equally, creating opportunities for distributed teams to come together and uniting employees with company swag might make for happier employees willing to go the extra mile.


On August 17, 2022, we surveyed 1,000 U.S. professionals who are employed part- or full-time. Of those surveyed, 59% identify as men, 49% identify as women and 1% identify as nonbinary.

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