So much of the conversation about employee experience focuses on a company’s individual contributors. The manager experience gets far less attention.
How are your leaders? How does their experience with your organization differ from that of more junior employees? What unique challenges are they facing?
Being a manager is a career achievement, and the position has distinct advantages. But there are drawbacks too – and organizations need to consider both when determining how to improve the experience not just for direct reports, but also for leaders.
What are the pros and cons of being a manager?
Culture Amp took an objective look at both sides of the coin in our recent State of the Manager 2023 Report. To create this report, our people scientists compared the survey results of managers to the survey results of individual contributors from over 2,000 companies.
The data revealed some areas where managers are faring better than their direct reports but even more areas where they’re struggling.
The advantages of being a manager
Managers are in a position of power within the organization, which means the experience of managing offers some unique privileges – particularly regarding visibility, security, and control. Managers benefit from:
Greater access to information: 73% of managers say they have opportunities to discuss recent employee survey results, compared with 55% of individual contributors.
Better transparency: 58% of managers say they understand how pay and promotion decisions are made, compared to 46% of individual contributors.
Power over decision-making: 74% of managers say their perspectives are included in decision-making, compared to 63% of individual contributors.
Higher psychological safety: 81% of managers say they can express their true feelings (whether positive or negative), compared to 72% of individual contributors.
Disadvantages of being a manager
Management comes with perks and prestige, but that doesn’t mean the manager experience is entirely positive. The data revealed one major takeaway: today’s managers are extremely stressed.
Managers reported higher workloads, longer hours, fewer breaks, and worse work-life balance than individual contributors. Here’s how managers rated their agreement with the following statements:
My workload feels reasonable for my role: 62% of managers agreed, compared with 72% of individual contributors.
I accomplish all I need to during normal working hours: 43% of managers agreed, compared with 68% of individual contributors.
I am able to take regular breaks throughout the day: 53% of managers agreed, compared with 71% of individual contributors.
My work is rarely overwhelming: 53% of managers agreed, compared with 65% of individual contributors.
I am able to switch off from work and rest: 50% of managers agreed, compared with 67% of individual contributors.
The data shows that managers are overwhelmed – and the situation doesn’t improve as they climb higher up the org chart. If anything, it gets worse.
How does the manager experience impact the employee experience?
Higher positions offer more responsibility and more visibility. But those senior-level roles also include more direct reports. While only 18% of frontline managers have more than nine direct reports, 47% of senior leaders (meaning leaders with more than five levels of direct reports) do.
When managers spread themselves thin, their employees take notice. The data shows that the more direct reports a manager has, the worse the direct report’s experience with their manager and overall within the organization.
Our people scientists also found that employees who report to managers with more direct reports are less likely to agree with these statements:
My manager genuinely cares about my wellbeing
My manager is a great role model for employees
My manager makes me feel valued
My manager takes time to get to know me
My manager helps me find things that inspire me
My manager ensures I am in the right place in the company to be successful
As the number of direct reports increases, employees’ rate of agreement with those statements decreases – likely because employees can easily pick up on their manager’s stress levels. The number of employees who use words like “stressed” or “burnout” when discussing their manager’s areas of opportunity doubles when a manager has over nine direct reports.
Want to invest in employees? Start with your managers
Managers play a crucial role in shaping your overall employee experience. But when they’re strapped for time and resources, it’s increasingly challenging for them to pour into your employees.
The data highlights an interesting point: Improving your employee experience doesn’t start with your employees – it starts with your managers. They deserve adequate support, tools, resources, and training to do their best work. After all, an investment in them is an investment in everyone.
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